Archive | April, 2014

Effective governors walk the learning talk

24 Apr

I           Why learn or train?

If an organisation is to survive if not flourish – whatever the work it does – it has to be a learning one.  This is more the case in a school, academy, college and university where the primary function is to promote learning.  The key recipients of this provision are, of course, the pupils and students.  However, young people in the charges of the governors, headteachers and staff must see the latter model what they expect of them, to spur the learning for the pupils and students. In such a milieu, governors – like the staff which they oversee – have to take their own learning and training seriously and invest time to improve their knowledge and practice of good and outstanding governance.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is not a staff monopoly at a school or an academy.   It has to encompass all the adults associated with the institution – including governors.  Modelling apart, training is necessary to improve the quality of governance so that governors become better critical friends and make decisions which aid in their effectively developing strategy and promoting accountability.  Continue reading

Free meals for Infants: Kitchen Crisis

24 Apr

From 1 September 2014 all primary and infant schools will provide free meals for pupils at Key Stage 1, i.e. those in the reception, year 1 and year 2 classes.   However, the government has come up short in ensuring that they are fully equipped to do so.  A number of schools are bereft of sufficient cooking facilities.   Over 2,700 schools in England will need to upgrade their kitchens if the provision of free meals for these youngsters is to take effect.  Altogether, 1,700 schools have no kitchens at all.    The government’s advisers had estimated that £150 million would be needed for this purpose.  The finance provided is inadequate and it is likely that some schools will have to find resources within their budgets.

Careers guidance in schools not fit for purpose, allege colleges

24 Apr

A survey carried out by the Association of Colleges (AoC), published in April 2014, reveals that schools are failing to give adequate careers guidance to students about further education opportunities.  In fact, several appear actively to be obstructive, stopping students from contacting Further Education (FE) colleges in an attempt to hang on to them for sixth form studies.  Since September 2012, it became a legal requirement for secondary schools to provide careers guidance and advice to their students though the government did not give them with any additional resources.

FE lecturers averred that schools had stopped them from speaking to the students and refused to distribute college prospectuses and/or display information on the provision they offer.   Continue reading

Scaling down inspecting good schools

24 Apr

On 21 March 2014, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI), announced that he was proposing to see the number of Section 5 inspections for schools deemed to be “good” reduced. Addressing the conference of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) in Birmingham, Sir Michael said that this would mean that Ofsted inspectors will visit these schools (60% of the total in the country) once every two years for one day.

“In my view, good schools no longer need to be subject to routine inspections in the way that they are now,” he stated. “Instead, they should have more frequent but light-touch visits every two or three years by an HMI, whose job it will be to engage in professional dialogue with senior staff. Only when inspectors see a steep decline in a good school or, conversely, great improvement, that a full inspection will be triggered.  Even if HMI does see some problems in a school, a full inspection may not be required as long as school leaders are tackling problems effectively and have the capacity to improve the school.”

In an interview, he told BBC’s Radio 4 (see here): “There is little point in school inspectors turning up once every four or five years to confirm what a good school already knows and what the data already says.  We would much rather use inspection resources – particularly HMI resources – in schools that require stronger intervention: in schools that are in special measures or that require improvement.”

He added that he was keen to ensure more inspectors were directly employed by Ofsted.  “Inspection, as far as I’m concerned, is just too important for Ofsted to simply have oversight of third party arrangements.”

School Teachers’ Review Body’s recommendations accepted

24 Apr

On 13 February 2014, the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, presented Parliament with the 23rd report of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) together with his response to the report’s recommendations by way of a Written Ministerial Statement.

The STRB, an independent body, makes proposals to the Secretary of State on school’s teachers’ pay and conditions in England and Wales.   It receives the views of stakeholders, carries out analysis, reflects on it and writes its reports which are then presented to ministers.

On this occasion, the STRB made three recommendations to the Secretary of State. Continue reading

Changes to Governance Regulations

24 Apr

The Secretary of State consulted in the Spring Term 2014 on proposed changes to the structure and procedures of the governing body. The consultations, launched on 13 January 2014, closed on 14 March 2014.  Regulations were laid before Parliament and come into force on 1 September 2014.  Three primary changes will take effect. Continue reading

Children and Families Bill 2013

24 Apr

The Children and Families Bill is making rapid progress through parliament and likely to receive the Royal Assent in the summer of 2014.   The provisions take forward the Coalition Government’s commitment to improve services for vulnerable children and support families.  The bill reforms the systems for adoption, looked-after children, family justice and special educational needs. It will encourage growth in the childcare sector, introduce a new system of shared parental leave and ensure children in England have a strong advocate for their rights.  Continue reading

All of us remember inspirational teachers – or do we?

24 Apr

I           Why Teach?

It is rarely the case that young people and mature folk decide to become teachers because of the monetary rewards.  Most do so to create a positive impact on future generations of youths and leave a permanent legacy. This is what attract recruits to the Teach First programme.   Jane, in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, must have been talking with tongue-in-cheek when she told Bob, who lamented that he was discouraged by his writing teacher who told him his novel was hopeless: “Those who can do; those who can’t teach!”

While teachers are quite well remunerated in this country, the teaching profession, per se is poorly rewarded.    Teachers work long hours.  Their salaries are not in line with those in the financial sector.   A survey carried out by the DfE in 2013 revealed that, on average, a primary teacher worked for 59 hours and 20 minutes every week and the average secondary teacher for almost 56 hours.  The 13 weeks’ holiday a year for which they are pilloried is well-deserved.  Continue reading

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Performance Management Pay

24 Apr

On the 27 March 2014, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) called on its members to take strike action against the government’s measures to increase pension contributions, raise the retirement age and institute performance pay.  (Performance management has been running for the last 14 years.) The response of the public was muted, to say the least.   Parents of pupils sent home because of absent teachers, like Queen Victoria, were not amused about having to take time off work to care of their wards.   Over the Easter holidays, 2014, the NUT and NASUWT have been sounding the war drums again and aim to strike again in June.

However, performance pay seems to be here to stay, albeit it has yet to be embedded.   According to right-leaning Policy Exchange, a think tank, performance-related pay would drive up standards.  Notwithstanding, it had a caveat stating that this would have little impact unless schools grasped the nettle of making “difficult decisions” and not give salary increments to those teachers that were deemed “satisfactory” in old English and required improvement in Ofsted’s new terminology.   Continue reading

Governors from industry add value to schools

24 Apr

(1)       Education’s secret garden is opened to industry

The business world has been quick off the mark to describe the shortcomings in maintained schools.   In its report, First Steps: a new approach to schools, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) heralds its approach by quoting Plutarch, “The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.”Industrialists have, with some justification, moaned about how we, in schools, fail to prepare our young people for the world of work.   It is always good, strategically, to ask someone who grumbles about the darkness to light a little candle.  This is precisely what the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his minister for education, Lord Andrew Adonis, did when they invited industrialists to sponsor academies which were to replace failing schools.

Accordingly, the picture changed quite radically, when, at the turn of the millennium leading businessmen like Lord Harris were invited to come into the education circle and spit out rather than stay outside and spit in.    Since then, the business community has assisted in sponsoring the creation of academies when failing schools were closed. They have also helped in other ways, i.e. providing career advice and offering work experience to students.

Headteachers and currently serving school governors have been swift to realise how invaluable industrialists can be.  They have energetically been recruiting governors from local firms, businesses and the arts.  By so doing, they have been able to harness much-needed industrial skills to benefit schools.  People from industry bring new perspectives – especially when it comes to making the curriculum relevant to the world of work.  They expand the horizons of headteachers and teachers and, often directly influence in myriad ways, occasionally transforming what transpires in lessons.   It is also not unknown for co-opted community governors from industry to encourage their colleagues to spend time in the classrooms to hear children read and talk about their own careers, so as to shape the futures of our children.   Continue reading