Archive | August, 2015

Lessons learnt from the demise of Kids Company

25 Aug

Kids Company, the children’s charity, closed on 5 August 2015.  Reactions across the country were mixed because Kids Company was very much an exotic curate’s egg – magically good in parts – but questionable and self-righteous in many of its practices.

The charity’s founder, Ms Camila Batmanghelidjh, established Kids Company in 1996 in Camberwell, South London, providing a range of support for extremely vulnerable children, including runaways, the neglected and those permanently excluded from school.   It had a policy of never turning a child away.

Over the 19 years of its existence, the charismatic Ms Batmanghelidjh raised over £160 million from the good, bad and ugly – individuals, organisations and the government.   In April 2013, it received £9 million from government to cover two years’ work and £30 million over its lifetime.

However, for several years, a number of people expressed serious concerns about the waste of resources, the most recent being Ms Camilla Long, correspondent and feature-writer of The Sunday Times, who in May 2015 visited the Kids Company.  She wrote a semi-satirical piece on her findings on 5 July 2015 stating, in so many words, that she was mystified by what she saw during visits she had made over two days.  Continue reading

All change at Ofsted from September 2015 – again

25 Aug

I           Ofsted under attack

Ofsted is seldom out of the spotlight.  In April 2015, just prior to the general elections, it came under fire from politicians – left and right – teachers, school leaders, the unions  and think tanks, all demanding changes to the watchdog.    At the time, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector for Schools (HMCI), was recovering from major surgery.  Sir Michael returned to work and plans to stay on till 2017.

The Times Educational Supplement (TES) averred that he has been the most controversial chief inspector since the late Sir Chris Woodhead because of his blunt speaking.  Sir Michael lost the confidence of ministers when he criticised the government for sacking Baroness Morgan as chair of Ofsted.  He was “spitting blood” when he suspected that the Department for Education (DfE) was briefing against him.

Academics have been critical of Ofsted.   In 2012, Professor Dylan Williams of the Institute of Education University College London, said that Ofsted needed to show more “humility and demonstrate ‘integrity’ by allowing school inspections to be properly evaluated for reliability”.   Durham University’s Professor Robert Coe stated a year later that its practice was not research- or evidence-based and needed to demonstrate its lesson evaluations were valid by testing whether different inspection teams produced consistent judgements of schools.

A month later, the then special adviser to the former Secretary of State Michael Gove voiced concerns about Sir Michael’s leadership in an internal memo leaked in October 2014.  Sir Michael was furious but, following reflection, went on a charm-offensive making radical changes by deciding that his inspectors must cease making judgements on the quality of individual lessons.  Following the elections, Ofsted has now gone on to make major reforms to its inspection model.   Continue reading

Sharing the Role of the Chair of Governors

25 Aug

Part 3 of the School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances)(England) Regulations 2013 explains the process of electing the chair and vice chair.   As the role of the chair has become distinctly onerous in recent times, finding a governor who is willing to stand for this position has become daunting.   A solution would be for two governors to share that role.

The Department for Education’s (DfE’s) advice states that “It is possible to appoint more than one person to share the role of chair, or, similarly, the role of vice chair, if the board believes this is … the best interests of the school.   The board would need to ensure that any role-sharing arrangement does not lead to a loss of clarity in its leadership.” (Item 18) Continue reading

Publication of Information

25 Aug

From 1 September 2015, it becomes a requirement for every governing body to publish on its school website information about its members.  Minimally, the information should consist of the following:

  • every governor’s name;
  • type of governor – i.e. parent, staff, local authority, partnership, foundation, co-optee;
  • the body that appointed/elected the governor;
  • the length of the term of office;
  • the names of any committee/s on which the governor serves;
  • details of positions of responsibility such as chair or vice chair of the governing body or a committee of the governing body.

The school website must contain similar information for associate members, clarifying her/his voting rights on any of the committees on which they serve.

The governing body will be under a duty to publish on the school website its Register of Interests of its members.  The Register should set out the relevant business interests and details of any other educational establishments they govern.   Employees of banks and other financial institutions, who feel targeted because of the negative publicity they have had to bear in recent times, can state that they are employed in the financial services industry.

However, the Register must set out any relationships between governors and members of school staff – including spouses, partners and relatives.

The governing body must state in its code of conduct that this information on its members will be published.  Where applicable, the information will also cover the associate members.

A governor failing to reveal this information to fulfil the governing body’s statutory responsibilities could be in breach of the code of conduct and, as a result, bring the school into disrepute. In such a case, the governing body should consider suspending the governor.

The governing body must operate in accord with the School Governance (Constitution)(England) Regulations 2007 when suspending the governor – in particular, Regulation 27.

Registering and/or declaring a conflict of interests

25 Aug

Governors, like all public servants, are subject to the seven principles of the Nolan Committee which are as follows.

  • Selflessness, where governors take decisions solely in terms of pupils’ best interests rather than discussing and making decisions to gain financially or for other material benefit to themselves, their families and their friends.
  • They should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to external individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their duties.
  • In discharging their functions, including appointing other governors and staff and awarding contracts, governors should make choices based on merit.
  • Governors are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public – i.e. the pupils, parents, staff of their schools/academies, local authorities, Ofsted and the DfE, and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate.
  • Governors should be open as much as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands this.
  • Governors have a duty to declare any public interest relating to their duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the interests of all those who work in and benefit from their schools/academies.
  • Governors should promote and support the above (six) principles by leadership and example.

Continue reading

Effective Headteachers: In quest of the Holy Grail

25 Aug

(1)       Expectations

Headteachers of schools[1] live on the edge.   They work interminable hours and are expected to be all things to all people. Among other things, headteachers are required to engage in strategic planning, managing and supporting staff, working with parents, promoting the standards and welfare of pupils, working in partnership with other schools, dealing with a multitude of changes including the curriculum and assessment and being accountable to parents, governing bodies, the Department for Education (DfE) and, most of all, Ofsted.      Continue reading

Vacancies for governors and teachers

25 Aug

(1)       Governors

A survey commissioned by the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and carried out by the researchers of Bath University discovered that 67% of governing bodies found it difficult recruiting members.  Half of all chairs put in enormous time and effort to do so.  The schools most in need of knowledgeable and skilled governors found the greatest difficulty filling in their vacancies.   However, these schools expended the least energy and devoted little time to recruiting governors.   Continue reading

Number of young people not in education, employment and training rises

25 Aug

In June 2013 it became a statutory requirement for young people to remain in education and/or training up to the age of 17.  The education/employment-training compulsory age was raised (again) in the summer of 2015 to 18.   However, the law does not make arrangements for any one particular body to police the system leave alone take sanctions against the young people to flout the law.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that there is a substantial number of 16-18-year-olds not in education, employment and training (NEETs).  The number of NEETs, in fact, rose in England from 6.8% in 2014 to 7.1% in 2015.   However, the number of 16-year-olds remaining in education rose.

In the years leading up to 2008, the year of “financial bust” the percentage of NEETs fell but from 2008 to the current year it has risen.

It is anticipated that with the economy becoming increasingly buoyant and government supporting employers who hire apprentices, the picture of young people in education and/or employment will improve over the coming years.

Meanwhile, a senior Cabinet Office source informed The Times that the government will be announcing plans to require all 18-to-21-year-olds to attend 71 hours of training classes at Job Centres in the first three weeks of claiming out-of-work benefits.   The scheme will begin in April 2017,

The training will include practising job applications and interview techniques. Those attending will undertake extensive job searches alongside dedicated coaches with whom they will continue to work throughout the first six months of unemployment.

Teacher and columnist appointed Behaviour Supremo

25 Aug

In mid-June 2015, Mr Tom Bennett, a former nightclub bouncer, who retrained to become a teacher and is teaching at a secondary school in East London, was appointed by Mrs Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, to carry out a study of pupil behaviour and advise the nation on how teachers could be “better prepared to deal with the realities of the classroom”.  He has been asked to form a working party to assist him in this task.

Mr Bennett plans to work with people who have substantial experience of handling poor behaviour in schools, i.e. teachers.  Writing in The Times Educational Supplement, he said: “Together, we hope to come up with recommendations that can offer new and old teachers the tools they need to do what they were trained to do.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled to be doing this.  Just don’t call me ‘Tsar’, for God’s sake.”

Mr Bennett intends to draw up plans to help staff members deal with “low-level disruption”, a beta noire of the teaching profession and something onto which Ofsted inspectors constantly latch.  He will lead a group created by the Department for Education to develop better training for teachers to tackle pupil misbehaviour.

Teachers are turning in increasing numbers to the tips that he provides on the internet, to deal with difficult school situations.

Mr Bennett is a Teacher Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and the director of ReserachED. Since 2008, he has been writing for the TES and has written four books on teacher-training, behaviour management and educational research.

Writer attacks government plans for the new baseline tests

25 Aug

Mr Michael Morpurgo, the Children’s Laureate from 2003-5, has described the new baseline tests for reception pupils, which will take effect from September 2016, as “completely absurd”.   The reason for its introduction is to assess children’s level of development at the start of their formal education so that their progress can be measured at the age of 11, thus statistically holding schools to account for children’s progress in literacy (reading and writing), cognition (how children understand and act in the world), reasoning and mathematics.   Children are already being assessed at the end of their reception year.  However, the (new) tests will now be used as measures for determining the progress they make six years later.   Schools will be able to choose from a number of approved assessments.  Continue reading