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Valuing Values in Education

18 Aug

We live on three plains – the physical, intellectual and spiritual – ‘spiritual’ in a non-religious sense.

On the physical plain, we engage in a zero-sum game. What one person gains another loses and vice versa.  For instance, if you and I have a pound, we each have a pound and together we have two pounds.  If you give me your pound, I have two and you have nothing.  The reverse is true too.  If we exchange other the pounds with each other, we will still have a pound each and together we will have two.

The next level to which we can rise is the intellectual one.   If you have an idea and I have an idea, each of us has one idea and together we have two.   If I gave you my idea, you will have two but I will still have one.  I do not lose the idea that I have because I give it to you.   The same will apply to you.  If we gave our ideas to each other, each will have two ideas, but in total we will still have two.

We live on a spiritual plain too where values flourish.  Nolan set them out clearly and they are the seven principles of public life, i.e.

  1. Selflessness
  2. Integrity
  3. Objectivity
  4. Accountability
  5. Openness
  6. Honesty
  7. Leadership

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Keeping children safe: basis for happiness and success

18 Aug

Creating the right environment for learning facilitates learning.   If children are to succeed at school, they must have excellent teachers.  But that is not enough.   They must want to learn.  Establishing the right conditions for this desire means that they should be happy.   Keeping them safe is one of the prerequisites of happiness.

Consequently, the Department for Education (DfE) has taken pains to develop advice in Keeping Children Safe in Education, which is 76 pages long.   Ofsted, too, places enormous store on the arrangements the school/academy makes to safeguard young learners.   Should a school/academy fail to safeguard them sufficiently well, it is immediately put into special measures.

All adults working and volunteering at a school/academy – including governors and trustees – must now have Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.  However, two groups of people associated with children are exempt from these checks.  These are children’s parents and carers and their peers studying at their schools/academies or neighbouring schools/academies.

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Chorus to support young people improve mental health swells

18 Aug

Localis, the think tank, published a report recently asking the government to make it compulsory for a mental health module to be included in initial teacher training (ITT). The report stated that mental health services for youngsters should be brought into schools/academies to prevent more than half-a-million pupils from being failed by the agencies.

Readers may recall that Prime Minister Theresa May announced recently that every secondary school in England would be provided with free mental health training.   Localis has now asked government to give school leaders more detail about what form this will take. It pointed out that in spite of the £1.4 billion recently committed to improving Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), more than 555,000 primary and secondary pupils who have mental illnesses will not receive NHS care and attention by 2020-21.

The Times Educational Supplement (TES) reported in the summer of 2017 that an increasing number of pupils had become suicidal in their attempts to secure help because CAMHS had raised the threshold for triggering that help.   A pupil of a school in South West London attempted suicide with an overdose. When her headteacher asked her how she was feeling when she was saved, she replied: “Pretty awful.” And then she revealed that she had attempted to kill herself to attract the attention of CAMHS.  In her school alone, three other pupils also attempted suicide for the same reason.

According to the TES, Heather Dickinson from Papyrus, the teen-suicide prevention charity, says that helpline advisers frequently hear from pupils who have expressed suicidal tendencies to see professionals from CAMHS.  “People either can’t access CAMHS or aren’t getting enough from them,” she told the TES.  “Sometimes young people feel that they’re not taken as seriously by CAMHS as they might be….So they escalate their behaviours.” Dickinson has seen a dramatic rise in calls and text messages the charity receives from teenagers with suicidal thoughts.

Growing numbers of pupils are being driven to make what look like suicide attempts just to get help, because the thresholds for accessing CAMHS’s services have increased. While CAMHS is planning school-based approaches to mental health, only 3% propose placing counsellors in schools.

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Clerking Governing Bodies Professionally

18 Aug

I        The Clerk Competency Framework and how it can be used

Not so long ago, the National Governors’ Association proposed that the clerk to the governing board should be renamed the “director of governance”.   This is unsurprising, as the responsibilities of the clerk have grown in proportion to those of the governors she/he serves.

In April 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) published a competency framework for clerking.  It provides non-statutory guidance on what it takes to make clerks effective in maintained schools, academies and multi-academy trusts.

How can the framework be used?

Governing boards can use the framework in several ways.

(i)         The first is to understand the role of professional clerking and how it can improve governance.

(ii)        They can treat the competencies as a template for a person specification when recruiting clerks.

(iii)       The framework may be used to set clerks their objectives and for performance appraisals.

(iv)       Finally, the document may be used to identify where improvements may be required in the service they receive from their clerk.

In turn, professional clerks can use the framework to assess their own practice and identify their training needs.

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Governors’ effectiveness: skills and knowledge not enough

18 Aug

The Department for Education (DfE) exhorts governing bodies to recruit governors in accordance with the skills.  This is best achieved if the governing board carries out a skills audit prior to the recruitment process to see what skills gaps exist.  The National Governors’ Association (NGA) has an excellent template for governors to engage in such a skills audit.  However, it is not possible to use the template unless the governors are members.

Tap into the Google search machine – Governors’ Skills Audit – and you will access 620 links.  Once the governing body knows what it wants, it begins the trawling process and, if savvy, seeks the help of the Schools Governors’ One-Stop Shop (SGOSS) and/or Inspiring Governors to help it get what it wants.  Both organisations carry out with great efficiency the task of finding governing bodies suitable persons – with legal expertise, financial nous, human resources know-how, curriculum proficiency and many other skills.

Over 300,000 school governors are required in England alone.   Our schools depend on their largesse to serve and contribute without the expectation of being remunerated or even given a stipend.   Several schools carry governor vacancies.  Inner city ones have several vacancies and are hard-pressed to find people willing to contribute their time and talent to their local schools.

At a time when the country’s economy is not exactly in good shape, many in society are scratching around for a living, providing for their families and making ends meet.   Altruism is in short supply and hard to come by.   The upshot is that a governing board is often keen to appoint anyone who breathes as a member.    However, it does so at its peril.

Skills are vital – more so than experience, albeit how many years someone has served as a governor could be advantageous.   The question is what is the quality of that experience.   Experience of engaging in bad practice is worse than having no experience of being a governor.  There is no fool like an old one.

So, what can be done to ensure that one’s governing board has members who are not just functional but also flourishing.  Having the right skills and experience are important but there are other requirements if governors are to be effective.

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New faces in education’s top team

18 Aug

Prime Minister Theresa May appointed two new ministers at the Department for Education – Mr Robert Goodwill and Ms Anne Milton.  The rest of the education team remains unchanged and will continue to be led by Ms Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities.  Mr Nick Gibbs remains as Minister of State for School Standards and Equalities, Mr Jo Johnson continues to be in charge of Universities, Science, Research and Innovation and Lord John Nash stays on as Under- Secretary of State for the School System.

While we know about and have had experience of the work and impact of the latter four, what do we know about the first two?

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Justine Greening gives education a financial uplift

18 Aug

I        Introduction

On 17 July 2017, the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, pledged an extra £1.3 billion to schools and academies over the next two financial years in an announcement in parliament.  The aim is to provide a per-pupil increase of at least 0.5% for every school/academy in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

While this is welcome, the reality is that instead of a significant cut in the budget, it will be a real-term freeze from now to 31 March 2020.  Over a four-year period up to that point, schools/academies will face a 4.6% cut in their finances, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). Education spending in the UK is expected to shrink from 4.4% of the gross domestic product to 3.8%. Today, the government spends 18% more on state pensions than on education.   Unsurprisingly, the teacher unions are calling for an extra £2 billion a year.

According to its manifesto in the run-up to the 8 June 2017 election, the Conservatives promised to raise the schools’ budget by £4 billion by 2022 to ensure that no school lost out under the National Funding Formula (NFF) which is to be introduced in the next financial year.   The IFS is of the view that Ms Greening’s promise is more generous than plans in her party’s manifesto and matches those of the Liberal Democrats.

While it will be up to Local Educational Authorities (LEAs) to act as post men and women when distributing the budgets to schools following the government allocation, Ms Greening is introducing a minimum level of per-pupil spending in 2019-20 set at £4,800 for every secondary school/academy.  (The minimum funding level per pupil for primary schools has yet to be announced at the time of writing.)   While youngsters in Berkshire will benefit from rise in the current per-pupil secondary funding of £3,991, those in Tower Hamlets where the per-pupil funding is £6,906 will have to endure the reduced pain of lesser financial cuts than expected.

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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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Ofsted’s new supremo sets out her vision

18 Aug

At the last Festival of Education conference in late June 2017, which was held in Wellington College, Berkshire, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI), Mrs Amanda Spielman, stressed how important it was for every school/academy to review the curriculum it is offering the pupils and for governors/trustees to recognise the importance of “leadership challenges and valuing management”.   She added that she would “use Ofsted’s powers responsibly and intelligently”, not only in her personal approach, but also “in the whole way Ofsted inspects and regulates”.

She set out her philosophy on education and its delivery and her vision for the future in leading Ofsted and presented her programme of action.   She acknowledged the successes of her predecessors, accepted the challenge that Ofsted faced in recognising the daunting task of schools in socially deprived areas and stressed the importance of excellent school/academy management – not just in “inspirational leadership”.

I        HMCI’s Objectives for Ofsted

She described three areas in which she would act.

(1)        First, she said that she would ensure that her inspectors provide fair, valid and reliable judgements about the performance of individual institutions.

(2)        She remarked that Ofsted was in a unique position in that it had evidence “from thousands of individual inspections on the ground as well as a bird’s eye view of the entire system”.   In the light of this, she said that the inspectorate would aggregate insights, triangulate findings with existing research and evidence and produce robust analyses of what was working well, both, at national level and individual school/academy practice.

(3)        Mrs Spielman added that she would “capitalise” on the information out there about the effect that Ofsted had on the sectors it inspects. Accordingly, she was keen to seek out the views of parents, teachers, governors, the government and all other users of inspection outcomes and Ofsted’s reports – the aim being to improve the work of Ofsted and  the quality of education offered in schools/academies.

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Educational choices at 16+ vis-à-vis T Levels and Apprenticeship

18 Aug

I        The Wolf Review

Readers will recall that in October 2010, Michael Gove, the then Education Secretary, asked Alison Wolf, the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College, to carry out an independent review of vocational education for the 14-to-19-year olds – especially how it could be improved to promote successful progression into training routes, higher education and the labour market.

The review focused on

(i)         institutional arrangements;

(ii)        funding mechanisms including arrangements for who bears the cost of qualifications;

(iii)       progression from vocational education to work, higher education and higher-level training; and

(iv)       the roles of the third sector, private providers, employers and awarding bodies.

Wolf’s key recommendations were as follows.

(i)         Young people should be given incentives to undertake the most valuable vocational qualifications pre-16, with the removal of many vocational qualifications that existed to the detriment of core studies.

(ii)        The government and providers should introduce principles to guide young people on study programmes leading to post-16 vocational routes to ensure that they were gaining skills which led to progression in a variety of jobs or further learning, so that those who had not secured good passes in English and mathematics GCSEs continued to study these subjects.

(iii)       The government was to ensure that there was a system for evaluating the delivery and content of apprenticeships so that young people had the right skills in the workplace.

(iv)       The government was also to ensure that the regulatory framework moved away from accrediting qualifications to regulating awarding organisations.

(v)        There was to be a requirement that all qualifications offered to the 14-to-19-year-olds fitted within the Qualifications and Credit Framework because its absence had had a detrimental effect on their appropriateness and left gaps in the market.

(vi)       FE lecturers and other professionals should be permitted to teach in schools, to ensure that young people were being taught by those best suited to do so.

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