Archive | August, 2014

Pupils’ learning stalls during the long summer break

25 Aug

Variety may be the spice of life but no change in educational policy and practice is nearly as welcome for teachers as the long summer holidays.   Having worked their socks off during the academic year, they enjoy the prospect of hanging them (the socks) up during the much-deserved five-to-six-week break.   However, school leaders are concerned about the impact the lengthy summer break has on children’s learning.  Three-quarters of the 1,000+ headteachers polled by The Key, an educational consultancy,   expressed fear that the summer holidays are detrimental to children’s learning and cause them to regress.   Primary headteachers (77%) appear to be more worried than secondary ones (60%).

Across both, the primary and secondary, sectors 70% of headteachers established reading schemes during the recess and 27% used the last two weeks of the academic year to move pupils a year up to aid in preparing them for the trials and tribulations of the next academic year.   Around 11% of secondary headteachers introduced compulsory summer programmes to assist pupils who otherwise could have been kept back a year.   Continue reading

Nicky Morgan takes charge at the Department of Education

25 Aug

In the high summer of 2014, prime minister David Cameron decided to reshuffle his cabinet.   The education secretary, Michael Gove, was a casualty of the changes. He was relieved of his post and appointed Chief Whip. Nicky Morgan, previously the Minister for Women and Equality, who will retain these responsibilities, took up the reins of the education office as well.

(1)       Why the change?

Apparently, there were two reasons for this change of cards in Cameron’s pack.  The first had to do with the fact that Gove, the MP for Surrey Heath, was viewed as being one of the most polarising members of the Cabinet. His reforms – the establishment of free schools, the expansion of academies by opening up the academy garden to all schools, including those in the independent sector, the changes in the curriculum and the examination reforms, among other initiatives – invited criticism and opprobrium from swathes of the community and toxic criticism from the unions.

Lynton Crosby, Cameron’s key strategy adviser for the 2015 elections, had been uneasy that Gove was detrimental to the voting stakes, especially in the marginal constituencies and signalled that his position as secretary of state for Education had become untenable.  Accordingly, he was sacrificed.

The other reason for the change was that the prime minister wished to be seen as someone who was assisting women to break the glass ceiling and access the corridors of power.     Continue reading

Pupil Absence

25 Aug

Granting leave of absence to pupils has become a chestnut for many Headteachers.  Firstly, there is confusion on what they may or may not permit especially in the light of the strident direction that the former secretary of state, Michael Gove, gave about headteachers not being allowed to grant up to 10 days’ absence a year during term time for any except compelling reasons.

The headteacher can authorise absence only after taking account of the nature of the event for which leave is sought, the frequency of such requests, whether the parents give advance notice, the pupil’s attainment, and attendance record and ability to catch up on the missed schooling. Where leave of absence is granted, the Headteacher determines the number of days the pupil can be away from school.  Given that it is possible for pupils to engage in distance learning through the managed learning environment (MLE), administering the system should not cause that much grief either to families or for the schools.

However, schools also have to take account of what the Ofsted watchdog is likely to do when their inspectors visits.  Mindful of attaining an outstanding grade they are (not unnaturally) loathe having their pupil attendance statistics marred by pupils (legitimately) taking exceptional time off.

Sadly, there have been a number of horror stories recently that have been grabbing the media headlines.     Continue reading

British Values

25 Aug

On 23 June 2014, the DfE launched a consultation on the promotion of British values.  (Some snidely suggest that this could be Citizenship by another name.)  “British values” are being defined as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect, and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs.

This exercise is part of an invitation to review Independent School Standards, which require independent schools to promote British values.   The purpose of revising these standards is to promote British values.   How well this is done in independent schools will inform inspectors’ judgements on the quality of leadership and management.

Currently, maintained schools are not required to promote British values, though it is the DfE’s intention that schools should do so, particularly after the Birmingham alleged “Trojan Horse” saga.  Civil servants intend to amend the Governors’ Handbook to take account of this aspect of school life.

The government set out its definition of British values in the 2011 Prevent Strategy. The  definition has been used in the Independent School Standards since January 2013 and remains the same in the new standards.

Schools will be expected to focus on, and be able to show how their work with pupils is effective in embedding fundamental British values. Actively promoting these values also means challenging pupils, staff or parents, who express opinions contrary to basic British values, which make explicit that extremism should not form part of the curriculum or teaching, that students are encouraged to respect other people and no student is discriminated against contrary to the Equality Act 2010.

The School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) publishes 24th report

25 Aug

The School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), the government quango which examines and reports on school teachers’ pay and conditions making recommendations to the Secretary of State, published its 24th report on 10 June 2014 recommending how the average 1% public sector pay uplift should be applied to teachers’ pay.

The STRB mentioned in its report that the increasing demand for school places would require more and more teachers. As the economy recovered, it saw the pay between teaching graduates and other graduates widening, which could discourage people from entering the profession.

The STRB noted that schools had been given more freedom when making pay decisions, recognised that the system was in transition and took this into account in its recommendations. Its key recommendations were as follows.

(i)            A 1% pay rise should be applied to the minimum and maximum of all the pay ranges and allowances in the national framework.

(ii)           For those teachers on individual pay ranges (leadership posts or leading practitioners) it will be for the school to decide how to take account of uplifts in accordance with the sums in the leadership scale.

(iii)          The Department for Education (DfE) should increase discretionary reference points [included in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) 2013 to aid schools in the transition to performance-related pay progression] by 1% for the September 2014 pay decisions, but then remove them from the document.

(iv)         The DfE should make clear that all schools should revise their pay policies for 2014-15 and set locally determined arrangements for performance-related progression.

(v)          The DfE should clarify in its advice to schools the scope for the most able teachers to progress rapidly through the main and upper pay ranges where justified.

(vi)        In a statement issued on the same day, the former Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, indicated that, subject to consultation, he intended to accept the recommendations. This has now been done.

£7.4 million to set aside to develop future primary school leaders

25 Aug

On 6 June 2014, David Laws, Minister of State for schools, announced a scheme, Teaching Leaders Primary, to help develop primary school leaders of the future. The scheme, which is being run by the charity, Teaching Leaders, will recruit primary teachers already working in challenging schools with the potential to become outstanding leaders. They will go through a two-year training programme intended to develop their skills and help them get the most from pupils.

Altogether, 160,000 primary-aged children from disadvantaged backgrounds will benefit over the next four years. In its first year, the programme will be open to 1,200 primary teachers in London, Manchester and Birmingham, and in specific areas of need – like Hull, Norfolk and Blackpool.

David Laws said, “This funding will allow Teaching Leaders to expand their success with promising teachers in secondary schools to those at primary level. Now primary teachers with the potential to be outstanding heads will get the support they need to become the best school leaders of tomorrow.”

Schools were invited to apply to enlist outstanding middle leaders and applications closed on 19 June 2014.  The programme began in August 2014.   (See here for more information).

Bath University 2014 survey: Most school governors are white and professional

25 Aug

I           Recruitment

A nationwide survey carried out by Bath University in partnership with the National Governors’ Association (NGA) revealed that 96% of governors were white and 67% (about two-thirds) either in full or part-time employment with the majority working in professional or managerial capacities.  A quarter, who responded, described themselves as retirees having also worked in professional and managerial capacities.

The 2011 census revealed that 84% of the nation is white.  The governors surveyed failed to reflect this demography.  However, it’s worth sounding a health warning here as (only) 7,500 governors responded to the survey and we know that there are 350,000 governors (circa) across the country. It could just be possible that many governors from the ethnic minorities failed to complete copies of the form and/or send them in.

However, it was heartening to learn that, given the demands placed on governors, so many were professionals or had been in professions prior to their retirement.  Altogether, 89% of respondents considered it important to use their professional knowledge and skills to support and challenge their schools.   Altogether, 87% mentioned that their governing bodies had required them to embark on induction training.  Continue reading