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Adding Values

13 Apr

Ever since the Education Reform Act received the Royal Assent back in 1988, much energy has been expended in improving the outcomes in education.   This is displayed in a market-driven model.   League tables are the order the day. They are determined on the basis of test and examination results.   Annually and with boring regularity, The Sunday Times informs it readers about the 50 to 100 best state primary and secondary schools.  It carries out a similar exercise with private schools.  These are judged on the basis of – surprise, surprise – test and examination results.

Governors are exhorted to secure value for money in the provision of services. The litmus test is where a school features in the league tables.  If the annual expenditure is steep and the test/exam results poor – heaven help the governing body because Ofsted will come down on the school like a ton of bricks. At an increasing number of schools, governing bodies carry out benchmarking exercises on the purchase of goods and services.   The aim is to achieve more for less, to buy the maximum number of high-quality goods at the cheapest rates.

So, within the education system, everything that can be measured is being measured.  However, the most valuable things in life cannot be measured, cost nothing and are priceless.   The air we breathe is free; love is free; freedom is free.

It may surprise some that a similar situation exists in education.   How can you measure the ethos of a school?  How do you calibrate the satisfaction and feelings of safety that pupils experience in a school?   How can we assess the happiness that pupils and staff experience when work is well done?  What yardstick can we use to determine the depth of positive influence that a teacher may have over a pupil who was once disaffected but is now highly motivated? Continue reading

Campaign to improve young people’s mental health develops steam

13 Apr

(1)       Campaign of The Times

Children’s health and well-being have become national issues.   Schools are finding it increasingly difficult to promote them as they have to countenance a rise in the incidence of mental ill-health among their pupils.   In fact, mental ill-health has become such a big issue that The Times has been running a campaign Time to Mind to draw its readers’ attention to the inadequacy of provision and prompt the government to take action to do something about redressing the balance for our young folk.  It appears that provision for children’s mental health is being seriously denied.  The NHS allocates only 6% of its budget to mental health overall and 0.6% to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

An investigation by The Times revealed that vulnerable children with mental health problems are being forced to wait for up to three-and-a-half years for assessments and almost two years for treatment. Continue reading

Should governors be paid and if so, what and for what?

13 Apr

The responsibilities and workload of school governors have grown unbelievably in the last few years.  No chair of governors worth her/his salt works for fewer than five hours a week.   Most chairs average at least 10 hours weekly.   A survey by the National Governors’ Association (NGA) revealed that 65% worked for 17 hours a week and 23% for over 36 hours.  With the rank and file of the rest, it is not unusual for at least two to three hours a week to be spent on school governance.

Consequently, we need to address four issues.

(i)         Should governors be paid?  If so, do we restrict payment to the chairs of governing bodies or extend it to all the members?

(ii)        If governors are to be paid, for what should they be paid?  Should it be for the work that they do and their expenses or should it be simply for the work they do or expenses?

(iii)       If governors are to be paid, should it be by way of “salaries” or a “stipends”?

(iv)       From where will the finance come, if governors are to be paid? Continue reading

Honing the effectiveness of the Chair of Governors

13 Apr

I           Introduction

All governors are equal but there is a case to be made for stating that some governors are more equal than others – in particular, two – the chair and unless s/he has decided not to be a governor, the headteacher.  How well they perform, more often than not, determines how well the rest of the governors do.  To round the effectiveness circle, the clerk to the governors, who is not a governor, must operate with efficiency and aplomb if the governing body is to succeed.   This article focuses on the role of the chair and the knowledge, skills and commitment required of her/him to shape an excellent governing body. Continue reading

Schools being left in Assessment limbo

13 Apr

In September 2014, the government scrapped the use of levels, which teachers had previously used to assess the progress and achievements of pupils at Key Stage 1 and 2.  The government did so for good reason i.e. to lessen the workload of teachers.  However, parents still expect to know how well their children are doing and the education watchdog, Ofsted, requires schools to demonstrate that the quality of teaching and learning and the educational provision is impacting positively on our young folk.  So, it is now left to schools to determine what assessment system to use when judging pupils’ progress and standards.

The government began a consultation in the Autumn Term 2014 to establish tools to replace levels with something better.  It tested out the views of the professionals on introducing performance descriptors.  See also page 30 of Governors’ Agenda Issue 60.

The consultation closed in December 2014 and the government published the outcome of it.  While there was general agreement that something must replace levels, there were criticisms about the use of the performance descriptors which the government wished to introduce.  Continue reading

The Pupil Premium Grant (PPG): Questions for Governors to Ask

13 Apr

In the 60th issue of Governors’ Agenda (see pages 27 to 29) we set out what the Premium was about, how much schools entitled to the grant will receive and the manner in which Ofsted judges whether the pupils (and taxpayers) are securing value for money.

In the March/April 2015 issue of Governing Matters, produced by the National Governors’ Association, John Dunford, the National Pupils’ Premium Champion, praises governors for the manner in which they ensure that their schools are using the resource well quoting the three reports that Ofsted has written on the subject.   In HMCI’s annual report in 2013/14, Sir Michael Wilshaw wrote: “Governing Bodies offer heads challenge as well as support. They are increasingly aware of their responsibility to evaluate how the Pupil Premium funding is used and monitor the school’s performance management process.”

However, there is more to be done.  Many governors know little about the amount of funding that their schools are receiving by way of the Pupil Premium Grant (PPG), less about how it is being used and hardly anything about whether it is being used well.   Besides, there is no single method for using it well, but rather several methods depending on the schools’ contexts.  Continue reading

Special Needs Pupils in Mainstream Schools

13 Apr

The damage youngsters suffer in the name of inclusion

Two Cambridge University professors, John McBeath and Maurice Galton, visited 20 mainstream state schools that teach more than 2,000 pupils to observe and assess how well children with statements of Special Educational Needs [now re-named Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)] were doing.  Their findings were damning.  Continue reading