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Impact of 8 June 2017 elections on education

18 Aug

In the run-up to the last general elections, several people in England were worried about the possible impact of the election outcome on education, especially when Prime Minister Theresa May kept on banging about wanting a “strong and stable” government.  You may recall reading in the Tory manifesto, released breathtakingly late, that it was the intention of government to increase the number of grammar schools in the country from the present 163.  The argument for it was that comprehensive schools were failing children.   That the additional children who would be attending the increased number of grammar schools would continue to fall well short of those that applied for it, causing disappointment, rejection and dismay failed to shake May from her avowed position.

These “several people” breathed a sigh of relief when the election outcome produced a hung parliament – clipping the Prime Minister’s wings and resulting in the ousting of her private advisers, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, the advisers of the grammar school initiative which would have taken us back to the future.

Perhaps we will now have some respite from educational policy initiative and the opportunity of bedding down the countless reforms heaped upon us – beginning with the assessment of pupils in the Early Years Foundation Stage, moving through curricular changes and ending in reforms in GCSE gradings. Unlike commentators like Warwick Mansell (writing in The Guardian on 18 June 2017), I don’t find education policy initiative anathema, per se.  Rather, the plethora of them (including some bad policies) does not make for the nurturing of a good educational system and sells our children short.  The hung parliament will place a brake on such initiatives.

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Green Paper: Schools that work for everyone

1 Jan

I        Preamble

On 12 September, the Government published the Green Paper, Schools that work for everyone, which the Department for Education (DfE) has taken off the websiteThe deadline for responses was 12 December 2016.   We now have to wait on the Secretary of State, Justine Greening, to give the nation a steer on where she wishes to go from here.

The Green Paper proposed a number of recommendations which, if implemented, will affect four discrete institutions:

  • Independent Schools
  • Universities
  • Selective Schools
  • Free Schools which are faith orientated

The proposals were issued against the background of increasing pressure on school places – especially good ones.  Primary numbers grew by 11% between 2010 and 2016. This will feed into the secondary sector for the rest of the life of this Parliament.   The most recent projections are that the primary school population is estimated to increase by a further 174,000 (3.9%) from the current year to 2020.  The secondary school population will rise by 284,000 (10.3%) over the same period.

While the Green Paper made it abundantly clear that the government would continue to support schools with the Pupil Premium Grant to promote the education of the most socially deprived children in our system – i.e. those entitled to free school meals (FSM) and in care – it expressed government concerns that those children whose families just fail to qualify – i.e. the just about managing (JAM) – were being short-changed.

Children entitled to FSM come from families in one of these classifications. Those in receipt of

  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

This effectively means that if either parent/carer is earning more than £16,190 annually, the child does not qualify for FSM.  In January 2016, the national average for those entitled to FSM was 14.3%. The government is, however, worried about children in families on modest incomes who do not qualify for such benefits but are, nevertheless struggling financially.

Information on the educational achievements of such children is opaque as it melds with data on those who come from well-heeled backgrounds.  Accordingly, the first two questions that the Green Paper posed for us were as follows.

  • How can we identify such children?
  • How can we better understand the impact of policy on a wider cohort of pupils whose life chances are profoundly affected by school but who may not qualify or apply for free school meals?

So what plans does the government has for the four groups set out above?

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Justine Greening takes over the education reins from Nicky Morgan

28 Aug

In the summer of 2016, Brexit led to the political demise of Ms Nicky Morgan, the ex-Education Secretary, and the appointment of Ms Justine Greening.

Ms Greening, representing Putney in London, was elected to Parliament in 2005.  Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, listed her as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom.  Born in 1969, Ms Greening was appointed Economic Secretary to the Treasury in May 2010, becoming Secretary of State for Transport in October 2011.   In September 2012, she took charge of International Development and continued in the post before being appointed Education Secretary on 14 July 2016 by Prime Minister Theresa May.

In June 2016, Ms Greening announced on Twitter that she was in a “happy same-sex relationship”. She campaigned strongly to remain in Europe, though she acknowledged that that sometimes the country was better off outside it.   Continue reading

The Education and Adoption Bill

5 Jan

The Education and Adoption Bill aims to empower the Secretary of State for Education to intervene and convert schools that are not providing suitable education into academies. She will also be authorised to make joint arrangements for carrying out local authority adoption functions in England.

So what are the categories of schools judged to be unsatisfactory which will come under the Secretary of State’s scrutiny? 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