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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National Careers Service falling short on supporting young people

18 Aug

In 2011, the former coalition government disband the careers services designed to launch students on their careers in the world of work.   The government passed responsibility for careers advice to schools/academies.   In 2012, the National Careers Services (NCS) was founded to provide anyone aged 13 and over with “access to up-to-date, impartial and professional guidance on careers, skills and the labour market through an online and telephone helpline.   Adults aged 19 and over or 18 and over if out of work and on benefits can access one-to-one support from an adviser of the NCS.

Last year, the Department for Education commissioned consultants, London Economics, to assess the impact of the work of the NCS.   They issued their report in March 2017. The consultants “could not identify a positive impact of the NCS on employment or benefit-dependency outcomes”, despite a government injection of £380 million to its work.

The consultants compared the progress of NCS’s customers with a group of people who did not use that service and discovered that the former spent less time in employment during the months that followed.  Their evaluation found that the employment outcomes of those engaging with the NCS worsened in the first few months following its support.  Half-a-year after receiving help, NCS customers spent 3.5% less time in employment than peers who did not use the service.  While the gap narrows with the passage of time, after two years’ intervention, they spent 2% less time being employed.

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Two teacher unions wed to become the National Education Union

18 Aug

On 1 September 2017, the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers joined to become one in holy matrimony, forming the National Education Union (NEU).  The purpose of such a move was to strengthen the hands of rank-and-file teachers following the systematic emasculation of both, the unions and local education authorities (LAs).  The teacher unions and LAs are strange bedfellows in that both have seen their powers weakened considerably with the creation of academies and free schools.   The NUT-ATL marriage is an attempt to change the state of play.

The NEU has brought together the majority of the 457,300 full-time equivalent teachers in England.   Some members have campaigned over recent years to unite all the teacher unions.  The creation of the NEU is the culmination of those attempts.

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Giving all children a head-start to their educational experience

19 Apr

I           Catch them young and grow them well

Eons ago, Aristotle said: “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the main.”  Several centuries later, the Jesuits adopted as their maxim: “Give me a child for his first seven years and I will give you the man.” So why is it that the nation continues to spend so much more on pupils on the cusp of leaving school than those who are starting out on their education? Would it not be a much better investment, in the words of the title to a compelling piece written by Helen Ward for The Times Educational Supplement on 24 March 2017 if we “flip the system”?

In 2012, the Sutton Trust found – as reported in its Social Mobility Report – a 19-month gap in school readiness between the richest and the poorest four- and five-year-olds in the UK.  IN 2016, 54% of children entitled to free school meals were at a good level of development by the end of the Reception year.  It was 72% for the rest.  The Sutton Trust suggested unequivocally that we can do much to close the gap with high-quality early years education.

According to Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), “There is emerging evidence that, particularly for disadvantaged children, people giving them a chance to get a flying start in early learning is one of the best ways to close the gap.”

A Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) statement declared that a good quality pre-school experience for a child has a positive impact on her/his results at the age of 15.  The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE) tracked 3,000 children as they entered school to find that at seven those who had attended pre-school did better than those that hadn’t.  This was most pronounced for the poorest pupils.  The report said: “While not eliminating disadvantage, good quality pre-school provision can be seen as an effective means of achieving targets concerning social exclusion and breaking cycles of disadvantage.”

In Michigan, USA, the Perry Pre-school Study, which took off in 1962, found that disadvantaged young people who had attended an educational programme were less likely to show delinquent behaviour by the age of 15 than their peers. In another Chicago study, the Child-Parent Centre followed 1,400 children through to the age of 28 to discover that attending pre-school was linked to higher educational attainment and income and lower rates of imprisonment or drug-use.

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Trusts need to do more to curb the salaries of MAT CEOs

18 Apr

On 15 December 2016, the government launched the second-stage consultation on a National Funding Formula – the same day on which the National Audit Office warned that schools in England were facing a cut of 8% per pupil in real terms by 2019/20 which translates into £3 billion.

The proposed formula – for which consultations have now closed – will result in over 9,000 schools/academies losing out.  Money will disappear from London and other urban areas and moving to schools/academies – mainly in the shire counties – which currently receive less.  However, 11,000 (circa) schools/academies will gain, albeit they will see much lower increases than they had been made to believe because at the 9,000+ schools/academies the reductions will be phased in.

Education has enjoyed more than seven years of plenty with those in the profession drinking deeply from the financial well of generous governments.   Schools/academies that have been spendthrifts will suffer. Those who have been over-careful had been severely berated by their local authorities and the government for not giving their (current) pupils their just financial desserts.   Those that had been judicious and saved enough for a rainy day, will postpone suffering for a few years.

In the long-term, most schools/academies will have to provide more with less simply to survive, if not flourish.

It is, therefore, not with a little surprise and angst that I read the piece written by The Secret CEO (in The Times Educational Supplement of 31 March 2017).  The poor guy (his silhouette at the end of the article suggests that it is a “he”), who leads a multi-academy trust “somewhere in England” is “fed up” (the unfortunate devil) with reading “article after article about the ‘shocking’ salaries CEOs of MATs receive”.  He spends the entire article criticising critics for criticising the Chief Education Officers of Multi-Academy Trusts over the salaries they receive.

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