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Drive to alter school structure seen as key to raising standards

5 Jan

I           Plans to convert every state school into an academy

Prime Minister David Cameron said that by the end of this parliament – i.e. 2020 – he intended to convert all secondary schools into academies.  The Times Educational Supplement (TES), in its first issue of 2016, wrote that ministers were considering publishing a White Paper to formalise plans to convert every state school into an academy.   Of the 23,500 (circa) institutions in the country, there are now over over 4,500 academies – 2,075 secondary (comprising 61.4% of all secondary schools) and 2,440 primary 14.6% of all primary schools).

Also, in a speech he made in March 2015, the Prime Minister pledged that he would open 500 new free schools in the following five years.   He averred that state-funded, start-up schools were “raising standards and restoring discipline”. Free schools can be established by academy sponsors, teachers and groups of parents. They operate outside local authority control. Continue reading

Teachers’ Performance Reviews – One Year On

3 Jan

I        Background and Context

The link between the performance management of headteachers and deputy headteachers in England and the salaries they receive has been in existence since 2000.   However, it was only in September 2013 that all teachers became the subjects of annual performance reviews linked to pay.  Performance reviews go by the name of appraisals in the business world. For the purpose of this article, I will stay with “performance reviews”.

Autumn 2014 saw the end of the first cycle.  During the term, governors formally reviewed how the system worked or didn’t.    The researchers are busily beavering away to assess the success of teachers’ performance linked with pay.  However, it would be apposite to make a few observations based on first-hand experiences and anecdotal evidence, and signal health warnings to improve the process for teachers, school managers and, most important, the children.

In the autumn of 2013, teachers were made aware of the fact that, for the first time, they would not receive increases if they simply performed satisfactorily – or, to use the Ofsted terminology – required improvement.   Previously, a salary increase was withheld only if a teacher was the subject of the capability procedure.

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The Pupil Premium – a financial lifeline for schools in deprived areas

3 Jan

The Pupil Premium is an invaluable resource which has lifted the progress and achievements of some of the most deprived in our country.  The government has informed schools what they will receive in the next financial year, i.e. 2015/16, under this heading, when the total allocation will be £2.545 billion.  The breakdown is as follows.

  1. £1,320 per (eligible) pupil of primary-school age (rising from £1,300 this financial year)
  2. £935 per (eligible) pupil of secondary-school age
  3. £1,900 for every pupil who has been looked after for one day or more or has been adopted from care or has left care under a special guardianship order, a residence order or a child arrangement order

For the first time, pupils in nursery schools and classes will also attract this funding if they and their families qualify under at least one of the following criteria.

  1. Income Support
  2. income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  1. support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  2. the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  3. Child Tax Credit(provided they’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  1. Where a child has been looked after for one day or more
  2. Where a child has been adopted from care
  3. Where a child has left care under a special guardianship order or residence order
  • A child must be eligible for free early education in order to attract Early Years’ Pupil Premium  (EYPP) funding. Children become eligible at different points in the year depending on when they turn three. Details of the dates when children become eligibleare available.

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New curriculum takes off on 1 September 2014

25 Aug

I           What is the Curriculum?

A new national curriculum is being implemented from September 2014 in all maintained schools.  However, academies and free schools may plough their own furrows.  Notwithstanding, the law requires that all institutions, including academies and free schools, offer a curriculum which is broad and balanced and which “promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils” in schools and within society and prepares them “for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”.

Despite the problems of time-constraints, the guidance has made explicit that “the school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils” and the national curriculum forms only “one part of the school curriculum”.

In addition to devising an eclectic curriculum, every school must also make arrangements for a daily act of collective worship of a wholly or mainly Christian orientation – unless exempt from doing so by the local Standard Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) – and “teach religious education to pupils at every key stage”.  Secondary schools must also have on their timetables Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).   Each school should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHEE), based on good practice.

Maintained schools, with the exception of academies and free schools, are subject to a legal requirement “to follow the …..programmes of study, on the basis of key stages, subject content for those subjects that should be taught to all pupils”.  A school may go beyond this and include other subjects or topics of its choice in planning and designing its own programme of education.   However, every school must publish its curriculum by subject and academic year on-line. Continue reading

Steering the school ship – Reflections

2 Jan

One of the key functions of governors is developing the school strategy.  Taking account of the school’s strengths and weaknesses, the educational landscape and the likely developments for the future, many governors spend away-days with senior school staff to shape the future.

Where this exercise is productive, governors keep as their central focus the pupils, their welfare and development, and aim to answer four important questions.

(1)        What do we want for the future and where do we wish the school to be in x year’s time?

(2)        Why do we want what we want?

(3)        How are we going to get from where we are to where we want to be? In search of the answer, what do we need to do and what must we avoid doing?

(4)        How long should we be taking to get to where we want to, given that our children have only one chance in life?     Continue reading

Chief Inspector sets sight on school governance

2 Jan

I           What the Chief Inspector said in his Annual Report

Ofsted released the second annual report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, in the second week of December 2013 based on the findings from inspections carried out in 2012/13. Almost 80% of schools are good or better, higher than at any time during Ofsted’s existence.  However, the spread of ‘good’ or better schools is uneven. In the Isle of Wight, 14% of young people attend a secondary school that is ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’; in Bath and North East Somerset 100% do. In Wolverhampton, 56% of primary pupils attend a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school; in Sandwell, 82% do and in Darlington the figure is 97%. Of the 13 local authorities (LAs) where fewer than half of the pupils attend a ‘good’ school, five are in Yorkshire and the Humber.  On the other hand, seven of the nine LAs in which all children attend a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ secondary are in London.

The three prominent (negative) findings in the Annual Report were as follows.

(i)         There was too much mediocre teaching and weak leadership.

(ii)        There were huge regional variations in the quality of education.

(iii)       Many children from low-income families – particularly White children – were underachieving.

Heralding his report, Sir Michael expressed cautious optimism about the future.  “Our statistics this year show that more schools are now getting to good at a faster rate than at any other time in Ofsted’s 21-year history. Some 78% of schools are now good compared with 70% last year,” he said.   He was convinced that if this trend were sustained, our standing in the next PISA (Programme for International Student Assessments) league table would be much higher. Continue reading