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2017 / 2018
A Y E A R I N P E R S P E C T I V E
F O R E W O R D S The Rt Hon Theresa May MP The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP The Rt Hon The Lord Blunkett
N O R T H & W E S T L O N D O N R E P R E S E N T A T I V E S Fairway School & Children’s Centre Sunnyhill Primary School
Allfarthing Primary School TheWillow Primary School Earlham Primary School Lea Valley Primary School Duncombe Primary School Garfield Primary School West Lodge Primary School
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The Rt Hon Theresa May MP Prime Minister
That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting uK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the Eu and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. Providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education “ “
British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review . For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. We have already made good progress towards our goal of leaving the Eu, so that we take back control of our laws, money and borders, while negotiating a deep and special partnership with it after we have left that is good for jobs and security. The Eu Withdrawal Act is now on the statute books to provide legal certainty at the point of exit. We have reached agreement on protecting the rights of Eu citizens living here in the uK and British citizens living in the Eu, on an implementation period to give businesses time to prepare, and on a fair financial settlement. We are now pressing ahead to reach an agreement with the Eu on our future relationship that honours the result of the Eu referendum and sets the uK on course for a prosperous future. Getting the right Brexit deal is essential; but it will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future. But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately.
The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP Secretary of State for Education
If you had asked me last year where would I most like to work, I would not have hesitated: education. Nothing is more important than helping children to discover a love of learning and to leave school happy, well rounded and with all the qualifications they need for whatever they want to do. That is what England’s 450,000 teachers are devoted to. I have spent my first months as education secretary visiting as many nurseries, schools, colleges and universities as possible and seeing for myself the contribution offered and challenges faced by our early years professionals, teachers and lecturers. They are the ones in the front line of our drive to improve education for every child. My mission is for every child to have a world-class education and the chance to fulfil their potential, whatever their background. Thanks to the hard work of heads and teachers we’ve made huge progress. Since coming into government in 2010, 1.9 million more children are being taught in good or outstanding schools - representing 86 per cent of pupils compared to 66 per cent in 2010. Since the phonics screening checks were introduced, 154,000 more six year olds are on track to become fluent readers; and we have seen the attainment gap narrow by at least ten per cent at both primary and secondary school. We have reformed GCSEs, creating a new gold standard in qualifications, and A levels to better prepare students for university. Record numbers of disadvantaged 18 year olds are now going to university for full-time study. These are real tangible achievements that we will build on as we continue to improve the education that every child receives.
But in providing that education, I know that the most important factor is the person at the front of the classroom. I want this to be a profession which draws the best, most gifted and committed teachers and then develops and keeps them. However, it’s clear too many teachers are having to cope with a workload that makes huge demands of them before they even set foot inside the classroom. Working with Ofsted, we are challenging excessive and unnecessary marking and data collection, as well as reforming our accountability system to make sure good schools are not burdened by multiple inspections and multiple demands for data. This will free up teachers to do what they came into the profession to do: teach. One of the most important ways government can improve education is to give great schools the freedom to innovate and, then, to share their ideas and best practice. I’m pleased this year’s Parliamentary Review gives a platform to some brilliant and innovative schools. I look forward to continuing to work with this whole sector so we can make sure every child, in every classroom, can fulfil their potential. improve education is to give great schools the freedom to innovate “ “ One of the most important ways government can
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opportunity and a relentless drive from the centre to improve standards would be welcome. But for me, the truly “big” idea is to place further emphasis on lifelong learning. It is self-evident, not least in the responses from business, that a greater emphasis on technical education is needed. The so-called T Levels have proved extremely difficult to scale up from a small pilot. The Apprenticeship Levy, which is a good idea, has been handled with a degree of stubbornness which beggars belief. Why not redistribute the substantial underspend to those businesses willing to implement positive change? It is the world of tomorrow that both major political parties should be addressing. The development of robotics and the implications of geo-political change, not least in the replacement of oil as a key driver of industrial and transport needs, all bring very real challenges. At its simplest, we’re talking about a further wave of economic, industrial and social upheaval. We’ve all talked a lot about this, but preparation for the seismic change which is coming is significant only by its absence. While children aged 10 and 11 struggle with the exact name of a particular type of verb, the world is passing us by. In the post–Brexit era, it is a revolution not just in the delivery of the basics in the classroom, necessary as that is, but also a vision of the kind of education for and throughout life, which liberates the talent of each individual, and addresses the economic needs of the nation and the challenge of global competition. Let us hope that both the Labour and Conservative frontbench can move beyond the structural tinkering and political meddling, into something worthy of Britain in the mid-21st century. The Rt Hon The Lord Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1997-2001) and Co-Chairman, The Parliamentary Review
This summer has been a very unusual time for many young people and their parents. unusual, not because of the nerve-wracking wait for examination results that takes place each year but because this is the first set of full results since the process was changed substantially. Very simply, instead of A* to C grade as a judgment of academic ability to move on to post-16 education, as opposed to a vocational route, a 1 to 9 scale is now in place, with nine being akin to an A*, although judgment on exact comparators is very difficult. Final exams, without the previous assessment process, will benefit those who have an extremely good retentive memory. I did, when I undertook my own qualifications in my six-year battle to get the qualifications to go to university. Others aren’t so fortunate. So, in the Labour Party’s review of the present education system, there are many strands to pull together. My own review on behalf of the previous leader of the Labour Party back in 2014 was very much about how to reinforce partnership and collaboration, concentrating on standards and action in the classroom rather than structures. The National Audit Office estimate that around £745 million has been spent over recent years on academisation of schools. For some, this has resulted in the change needed, the boost required to bring about substantial improvements. For the system as a whole, according to the Office for Standards in Education, fragmentation and “atomisation” has led to a very mixed picture. In Labour’s manifesto for the election in June last year, a promise was given that there would be a National Education Service. While this clearly cannot mean centralising decision-making in Whitehall, equality of
Economy thrives while politics divides It’s been over two years since the country voted to leave the European
state when it comes to the customs union, the Irish border, immigration policy and the single market. Only recently, with the Article 50 deadline looming, has some clarity emerged – and not always. I believe this widespread prevarication has added to voter disillusion. Just as important, nearly all non- Brexit matters have been swept into a Brexit-induced Bermuda Triangle. This is understandable. But it has added to the gulf between parliamentary process has been generally unpredictable and often amusing. Left-wing Remainers now speak of the House of Lords as a bastion of democracy. Right-wing Leavers sound increasingly like peasants with pitchforks, determined to bring the whole edifice of the upper house tumbling down. Jeremy Corbyn, who’s spent his political career railing against the iniquities of the market economy, now poses as the champion of business (up to a point). Brexiteer Tories regularly mutter anti-business sentiments in unprintable language. Overarching all this turmoil and uncertainty, as I explained in parliament and the people. The impact of Brexit on the
The Parliamentary Review last year, is the resurgence of the two- party system in England, another consequence of Brexit. At the 2017 general election, the Leaver Right collapsed into the Tories and the Remainer Left flocked to Mr Corbyn’s Labour party. It is beyond strange that the two main parties should be doing so well when many regard them as weaker, less talented and more divided than they’ve been in living memory. But they got easily over 80 per cent of the English vote between them in 2017 and all polls since suggest that is the new status quo . The fundamental parliamentary fact in this post-referendum era is that there is no majority for what hardliners on either side of the Brexit divide would like. So, when it comes to determining the eventual shape of Brexit, parliament is very much in the driving seat, as the government has found out the hard way. The problem is it’s not sure what parliament wants that shape to be. Business might despair at what it sees as an increasingly dysfunctional political system. But it should take comfort from the fact that economics and politics are, for the moment, going their separate ways. No matter how much you might think politicians are mucking it up, the economy in general and business in particular continue to defy them. I have thought for sometime that business and the economy are in much better shape than established opinion would have it. There were signs in the early summer of 2018 that this was indeed the case. But, by the time you read this, you’ll have a much better idea if I’m right. Keep your fingers crossed – not for my sake, but for the country’s!
union, but Brexit continues to hang over British politics like an all-encompassing dark, brooding cloud, discombobulating established relationships and upturning traditional verities wherever we look. Social class no longer largely determines how you vote in the uK. The latest polls suggest the Tories now enjoy a lead among working- class voters. They’ve always won a chunk of working class votes – Disraeli called them his “Angels in Marble” – but never a majority. As for Labour, even under its most left-wing leader ever, it now garners considerable support among the professional middle classes, especially in the major metropolitan conurbations. The reason for this psephological seachange is Brexit. If you voted Leave, you are now more likely to vote Tory; if Remain, Labour. Brexit is now the dividing line within Labour and the Conservatives. It splits the cabinet and shadow cabinet, backbenchers of both parties and their voters in the country. The Tory divisions are more obvious to see because they are the governing party and make big news. But Jeremy Corbyn has managed to lose 103 frontbenchers, often through Brexit- related resignations, which doesn’t quite have the impact of Boris Johnson or David Davis walkouts, but must be something of a record nevertheless. Brexit has also induced something of rigor mortis on both frontbenches. For nearly all of the past parliamentary year, cabinet ministers and leading Labour spokespeople have been unable to answer the simplest questions on our post-Brexit
Neil believes the two-party system is the new status quo
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PRIMARY EDUCATION Review of the Year
Greening pushes for social mobility before leaving office
had nothing to worry about for schools. She was pressed relentlessly by school leaders on two key questions: worries about school funding and claims of shortages of teachers. Head teachers had been mounting public campaigns over pressures on school budgets, warning parents about a worsening financial situation and often calling on parents to make voluntary cash contributions. Ms Greening was not able to deliver on any major injection of new cash – although in the summer she had been able to reshuffle her department’s budget so that £1.3 billion extra was moved to frontline school spending. Her readjustments meant that funding would not decrease for the next two years, but head teachers complained that school incomes were still not keeping up with rising costs. But what she was able to pursue was a significant change in how the school budget was allocated. As well as concern about the overall size of the school budget, there had been longstanding unhappiness at how it was shared out across England. An example given by the Department for Education was that a school in Coventry could receive £510 more per pupil each year than a school with similar levels of deprivation in Plymouth. Ms Greening described this as a “manifest unfairness” and in September pushed forward with the national funding formula, which began the process of delivering a fairer allocation
Championing social mobility in our state schools had been put at the forefront of the agenda
When the academic year began in the autumn of 2017, the political landscape for education was still being shaped by the indecisive outcome of the general election. The lack of a parliamentary majority meant that there would be no bold initiatives or major changes. The all-consuming question of Brexit also added to the sense of ordinary business being put on hold. So, for the first time in many years, the autumn began without an education secretary delivering a raft of new measures for schools. It was a new academic year with no new school legislation. And in terms of political concern over education, the most pressing issue was in universities, with the promise of a major review of tuition fees. That did not mean that the then- education secretary Justine Greening
of funding and removing historic anomalies in local budget levels.
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There had been broad support for the principle of introducing a fairer funding system, but against a background of deepening concerns over overall budget shortages, the proposals had a muted reception. In terms of Ms Greening’s policy priorities, social mobility was a theme to which she repeatedly returned. She spoke of “unlocking the talents” of all young people and extending opportunities to all communities across the country. The education secretary, the first Conservative to have attended comprehensive school and hold the office, had warned that too often there was a waste of the ability of young people from poorer backgrounds. She argued for stronger and more co-ordinated links between education and businesses and local organisations that could help to improve the horizons for young people who might not feel that they were competing on a level playing field. It tapped into a growing concern about a new geography of disadvantage, with worries about underachieving schools in the north of England and a sense that the ladder of opportunity was not evenly extended. There were concerns about schools in isolated coastal towns slipping behind and white working- class communities missing out on the pathway to university. “Where you start too often decides where you finish,” Ms Greening told a conference in December. But the push for social mobility was clouded by the mass resignation in the same month of the board of the government’s own Social Mobility Commission, with complaints about a lack of substantive progress. There were also reports of differences of opinion within government. There
Former Education Secretary Justine Greening MP
were questions about when and how the university tuition fee review, promised by the prime minister, would be established. There was also speculation about the extent of Ms Greening’s enthusiasm for the promise to expand academic selection in more grammar schools. When it came to the cabinet reshuffle in January, Ms Greening was replaced by Damian Hinds, who writes the foreword for this publication. There were suggestions that Greening had turned down the offer of an alternative post in government, but either way she was heading for the backbenches.
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Hinds extends hand to teachers but faces questions on funding
School and College Leaders’ annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Hinds promised to cut back on unnecessary bureaucracy and to reduce workloads for teachers. He also pledged not to make any more changes to the testing and exam systems – although those already in the pipeline would continue. The most significant of these changes still working their way through the system have been the changes to GCSEs, with tougher content and a grading system that has switched from letters to numbers, with 9 now the highest grade. A raft of popular subjects, such as history, geography, physics and biology, have changed to the new format this summer. But the underlying intention of Mr Hinds’ message was that there would be no more unnecessary changes or extra pressure on teachers. He wanted teaching to be a more attractive profession and to discourage current staff from leaving. Teacher shortages are a big problem for many schools, and Mr Hinds promised to do what he could to remove any unnecessary barriers to recruiting and keeping staff. He said that teachers’ workload and unnecessary red tape and form-filling needed to be reduced as a key part of a recruitment and retention strategy. So far, it has been a balancing act from Mr Hinds as education secretary. He has pushed ahead with traditionalist policies already announced by the government, such as expanding existing grammar schools. And he has made no promises of extra money. career and wanted to encourage more young people to enter the
Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds visits the School of Education, university of Bristol
Damian Hinds became education secretary in the depths of winter, but the start of his time in office saw something of an early thaw in relations with the teaching profession. He arrived in his new department in January 2018 and was immediately faced with questions about some of the most contentious issues for schools: worries about funding, teacher shortages and whether he would pursue the expansion of grammar schools. But his approach so far has been to build bridges and to offer olive branches, rather than to generate provocative headlines. Whether this continues is likely to depend on what happens next with those thorny issues around funding, teachers’ pay and staffing levels. The education secretary seems to have focused on tackling some of the practical problems that have particularly annoyed teachers and that might have exacerbated staffing shortages. In his first major speech to the teaching profession, at the Association of
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Mr Hinds is also responsible for higher education, and he will be increasingly focused on the review into overhauling the university tuition fee system. This will report back in 2019, and there will be intense political interest in the outcome.
At the same time, he has struck a teacher-friendly note, recognising their annoyance at excessive paperwork and promising to put a freeze on any new announcements that would cause further changes to the exam system.
Green light for more grammar school places
Grammar schools might be relatively small in number, but they have always played a big symbolic role in arguments over the direction of England’s school system. Going into the general election in June 2017, the Conservatives were committed to ending the ban on creating new grammar schools and promised to build a new generation of selective schools, adding to the existing 163. But the outcome of the election, with no parliamentary majority for Theresa May’s government, meant that the opening of new grammars was put to one side. The parliamentary arithmetic meant that changing the law would not be possible. While Justine Greening, the education secretary, accepted that the ban on new selective schools would stay, there was less certainty about would happen to the rest of the grammar school plan. As well as building new schools, there were proposals to allow existing grammars to expand or to set up branches on other sites. There had already been a contentious test case, in which the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge had been able to open an “annexe” in another town ten miles away. Other grammar schools wanted funding to increase their intake on their existing sites. Even though there is a ban on new grammars, many current
The equivalent of seven new grammar schools will be created over the next five years
grammars have been growing in size in recent years. The decision on extra support for grammars seemed to have been put on hold during the autumn, with Ms Greening focusing on social mobility as the biggest challenge for England’s school system. The expansion of selective places remained official policy, but there seemed to be no imminent sign of it being implemented. But her successor Damian Hinds, in an announcement in May, decided to press ahead with the expansion of selective places. He confirmed that there would be £50 million per year that existing grammar schools could use to build capacity for extra places.
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To bid for the money, schools would have to show that they were working to make sure that disadvantaged youngsters were not being excluded from access to the new places. Mr Hinds said that funding more places in grammar schools would increase choice for families and was part of the government’s wider plan to create more good school places.
The announcement was met with hostility by the opposition parties and teachers’ unions. Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, accused the Conservatives of being obsessed with grammar schools and said that increasing selective places would do nothing to improve social mobility.
Schools warn parents about worsening budget pressures
In November, ahead of the autumn statement, a delegation of head teachers, representing about 5,000 schools across England, marched on Downing Street, protesting against “inadequate” funding and inequalities in budgets between schools in different parts of the country. As well as the teachers’ unions, there were also high-profile campaigns by regional groups of school leaders, who lobbied MPs and appeared on news outlets, arguing that funding levels were unsustainably low. They warned that staff would be made redundant and that schools would offer a narrower range of subjects. Support services, such as pastoral care and counselling, would be stopped and music and art would be cut. The government’s response seemed to shift during the year. When Justine Greening was secretary of state, the Department for Education had argued that funding was at record levels and that the new national funding formula meant that no school would end up with less than before in the redistribution of funding. Ministers made the case that school funding had been protected and had been even further enhanced by shuffling more of the Department for Education’s budget towards school spending.
Schools warn of more cuts to come as budget pressures bite
There was one subject for schools that kept recurring throughout the year – and that is likely to keep coming back next year too: money. Schools are warning that their incomes are not sufficient to meet rising demands and that a financial crisis is looming. It was a topic that was quite literally brought home to parents, as millions of families received letters sent home from school warning that head teachers would need to make tough choices without extra cash. Many parents were also directly asked to help to make up for budget shortfalls, with requests to sign up for cash payments to their children’s schools.
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This was challenged by teachers’ unions and funding campaigners, who pointed to the evidence of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which said that over the five years between 2015 and 2020, increases in costs would outstrip rises in school incomes, meaning that schools would see reduced budgets in real terms. There were also protests about how budgets were being divided. Funding campaigners, such as those in West Sussex, remained unconvinced that the new funding formula had done enough to rectify the regional differences. They argued that schools in London were still disproportionately better supported, compared with those facing similar levels of deprivation in other parts of the country. But after Ms Greening’s departure, and the arrival of Damian Hinds, the response from the Department for Education seemed to have changed in tone. There was greater empathy for the financial pressures facing schools, and there was public recognition that this was one of the biggest concerns for school leaders. Mr Hinds also publicly acknowledged that much more was expected of schools than a generation ago. They were expected to look after young people’s emotional well-being, not just to ensure that pupils achieved in their exams.
Schools warn of more cuts to come as budget pressures bite
But if school leaders welcomed Mr Hinds’ acceptance that there was a problem over funding, they might have been less enthusiastic about the absence of any signal that he was going to deliver short-term bailouts. The indications now were that any changes to core levels of funding would be pushed towards the next round of long-term public spending plans from 2020, with a review of departmental budgets expected next year. Significant increases in funding before then seemed to have been ruled out. The arguments over school funding, which were there at the beginning of the school year, look like they will still be continuing when schools return in the autumn.
Labour promises a National Education Service
But there have been no substantial new government initiatives for education at the school level, leaving the opposition to try to create its own debate in something of a policy vacuum. The job of the opposition is usually to oppose, but with so much political energy being invested in
More than a year after a general election, an opposition party might have expected to have been engaged in some set-piece parliamentary battles over legislation, denouncing the plans of the government and in the process defining its own alternative vision.
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This was Labour’s big idea for education for the last general election, and it has remained Labour’s rallying point through this year. For schools, there is a promise of significantly higher levels of funding. But free schools and grammar schools would see less support, and schools would not be forced to become academies. There would be a bigger role for councils, local accountability, plans for simpler admissions and “joined-up” admissions between schools. The SATs tests at the end of primary school would be put under review, and there are promises for less “teaching to the test”. There would be free meals for all primary pupils and a limit on class sizes. These policies mark a continuing trend away from the approach of Labour in government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which stuck with tests, tables, targets and metrics as a way of measuring progress. Labour invested heavily in schools when in office, and the use of tests and targets was seen as a way of making sure that standards were improving. In opposition, Labour seems now to be closer to the views heard at teachers’ union conferences, with a lack of enthusiasm for academies and what they would see as excessive testing.
Labour promises to set up a “cradle-to-grave” National Education Service
Brexit, the opposition on education must have felt like a cricket team trying to get a game in mid-winter. Labour criticised the announcement of £50 million for more grammar school places as a “vanity project”, and it echoed the head teachers’ and teachers’ warnings over school funding. But Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, had few opportunities to take on her opposite number directly. Instead Labour took its own education showcase on tour, in a political roadshow promoting its idea for a National Education Service, taking as its model the free and universal access principles of the National Health Service.
Head teachers struggle with recruiting teachers
This year’s school staffing census showed that the number of teachers had fallen at a time when pupil numbers were continuing to rise. The number of state school teachers in England is at its lowest since 2013. The biggest decline was in secondary schools, where teacher numbers fell by
almost two per cent compared with the previous year. This was despite secondary schools having to cope with the biggest increases in pupil numbers, having to find places for more than 35,000 extra pupils compared with last year. The annual workforce survey also raised concerns about who might fill the gap,
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as the figures showed a fall in the number of people coming into the profession. It means more pupils per teacher, with the pupil–teacher ratio now at its highest point in the survey’s figures, which go back to 2011. It is not simply a question of getting enough teachers into the classroom, head teachers said repeatedly. It is about getting staff with the right specialist skills. The quality of teaching staff is as much of an issue as the quantity of potential recruits. They want well-qualified maths and science teachers to teach those subjects, not simply someone to stand in front of a class. And there were many stories from head teachers of advertising for staff and getting no suitable candidates even applying. Schools relying on temporary staff to fill the gaps faced an additional financial cost, as well as the disruption of not having permanent people in post to teach a subject. There was an annual bill of over £800 million for using supply agencies, with fees and charges on top of salaries. Chris Keates, leader of the National Association of Schoolmasters union of Women Teachers (NASuWT) , said that unless there was “urgent action” to tackle the recruitment problems, “the current crisis affecting schools and children’s education is set to get even worse”. Ms Keates highlighted the importance of improving pay and reducing workloads as vital to making teaching more attractive. Education secretary Damian Hinds has publicly acknowledged the need to make teacher recruitment a priority. But it is a long-term problem, with new teachers needing time to be recruited and trained. It is also a challenge that is shaped by the rest of the job market, with teaching traditionally tending to become less popular as a career when employment levels are higher.
Workforces have been shrinking at schools as cash and staffing pressures clash
Mr Hinds has also inherited staffing levels weakened by years of failing to meet recruitment targets. For five years in a row, the government’s teacher training targets have been missed, with gaps in subjects such as religious education, computing and geography, as well as maths and physics. The House of Commons’ public accounts committee admonished the government for failing to respond to the problem in previous years and for having allowed the recruitment problems to keep deteriorating without intervening. “A crisis is brewing in English classrooms, but government action to address it has been sluggish and incoherent,” said committee chair Meg Hillier. The committee’s report warned that there had also been a lack of attention paid to how teacher shortages could be particularly bad in some parts of the country and to recognising the impact for schools that were unable to find any suitably qualified staff. In response the Department for Education said that 32,000 trainee teachers had been recruited and that financial incentives had been offered to attract the “brightest and best” into teaching. As well as problems with finding new teachers, the other side of the staffing shortage challenge is to prevent existing teachers from leaving the profession.
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The education secretary’s promises to cut workload and to take away some of the fear factor from how schools are held to account have been direct responses to this.
The latest workforce figures do not show any particular increase in teachers quitting the classroom in recent years, but any improvement in retention would help the overall pressure on staffing.
Baseline testing back on primary timetable
unions. There have been arguments that it is wrong in principle to test such young children, adding unnecessary stress. Opponents say that it is unreliable and unnecessary to carry out a formal assessment on children who have only just stepped into school and that it adds more tasks for teachers. Critics of baseline testing have warned of a wider culture of over-testing and over-reliance on data and targets. The advocates of baseline testing have said that if there are going to be Key Stage 2 SATs tests at the end of primary school, there needs to be a consistent and credible test at the beginning against which to compare the results. Otherwise, they would argue, it is like trying to measure the time for an athlete to reach the finish line without an accurate measure for when they started. This argument has gone back and forth, and plans to implement baseline testing have previously been announced and then delayed. The testing should already be in place in schools but was stopped by problems with the use of three different types of tests, which were found not to be directly comparable. This threatened to introduce inconsistencies in results, which would have undermined the whole point of a reliable benchmark. That meant the government had to abandon its original baseline testing plans two years ago, amid accusations from head teachers that primary school assessment was descending into “chaos”.
Baseline testing in primary schools had previously been supported by the Labour Party but they are opposed to the idea
The proposals for baseline tests for children starting primary school have taken a step closer to being implemented, with the Department for Education setting out a timetable that will see the assessments introduced to reception classes from autumn 2020. It is been a complicated path for what has been a controversial idea. The idea of baseline testing is to draw a clear starting point at the beginning of school, against which pupils’ future progress can be measured. So pupils will be tested in reception class, and that will become a marker against which subsequent achievement is measured. When they get to the end of primary school, it will be possible to show the overall progress of a year group and to see how well they have performed individually and collectively. But this has always drawn criticism, particularly from some of the teachers’
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from autumn 2019, before a national roll-out in 2020. As this baseline testing appears in primary schools, so the Key Stage 1 tests taken by seven-year-olds will become non-statutory. This trade-off, adding and removing a primary school test, will happen once the baseline testing has been established, with the Department for Education saying that this would be 2022–23 at the earliest.
But this year has seen the proposals for baseline tests relaunched, with a timetable for their phased introduction. under the latest plans, the 20-minute tests will be developed by the National Foundation for Educational Research and will assess maths and “communication, language and literacy”. From autumn 2018, the baseline tests will be trialled in a sample of schools, with a wider pilot to run
Less pressure for schools to become academies
There can be few more striking examples of how much education policies can change than the approach towards academies. It was only two years ago that Nicky Morgan, the then-education secretary, was pursuing a policy that would have required all state schools in England to become academies, regardless of their quality or whether parents, governors or head teachers approved. Academies are state-funded schools that operate outside of local authority networks, sometimes as standalone academies and sometimes as part of chains known as “multi-academy trusts”. The plan for the compulsory conversion of all schools into academies was controversial and short-lived, failing to convince Conservative backbenchers, as well as facing strong criticism from the opposition parties and teachers’ unions. The proposal for so-called “forced academisation” was dropped after a matter of weeks, in a major u-turn. But there still seemed to be a strong current behind the push for more schools to become academies. High- achieving schools were nudged towards leading groups of academies; when schools appeared to be struggling,
Government policy in how they deal with both academies and non- academy schools is due to change
they were also often steered towards academy status as part of their recovery. This included “coasting” schools that were seen as not making rapid enough progress and those that fell below the “floor standards” in terms of exam results. abandon plans to convert all schools into academies, it was still using other levers to keep pushing as many schools as possible in that direction. But that had been the thrust of David Cameron’s government’s approach to schools. under Theresa May there It seemed that even though the government had been forced to
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high pay for those running multi- academy trusts, with letters being written to trusts asking them to explain high salaries. But even if the current government is no longer such a cheerleader for academies, it still has to oversee a school system in which academies are a prominent component. The long drive in support of academies has changed the secondary school landscape in particular. Figures from the National Audit Office in February showed that 72 per cent of secondary schools in England are now academies. But in the primary sector, only 27 per cent of schools have become academies. Because there are many more primary than secondary schools, this means that, overall, 35 per cent of state schools are academies. As the National Audit Office observed, this means that local authorities remain responsible for many primary schools in their area but might have much less involvement in secondary schools. That in turn raises questions about strategic planning between local authorities and multi-academy trusts, with the National Audit Office calling for more attention to be paid to how to create an “integrated, efficient and effective” school system, in which academies and local authority schools can work together. With less pressure for schools to become academies, the split system between local authorities and academies seems to be a long-term arrangement. It is no longer a case of waiting for local education authorities to wither away, leaving a fully academised system in their wake. Instead – as the following Parliamentary Review articles indicate – local authority schools and academies are both likely to be here for the foreseeable future.
Primary academies, such as this newly opened one in Putney, are likely here to stay
had never quite seemed to be as much enthusiasm for academies. That impression was made clearer in a speech by the education secretary Damian Hinds to the National Association of Head Teachers conference in Liverpool, when he spoke of wanting to end the use of academy status as a kind of threat or punishment for schools. “I want to move away from forced academisation being seen as this punitive threat that can hang over schools that are not failing,” Mr Hinds told the conference. It was a message that went down well with head teachers, as did the education secretary’s call for more clarity about when schools would be considered to be underperforming. He promised an end to the system of “coasting” schools and “floor standards”. He told head teachers that “fear of being forcibly turned into an academy” could contribute to “stress and anxiety” for school staff. Mr Hinds also promised tighter financial scrutiny of multi-academy trusts and called for improvements in how they were governed. Even before this speech, education ministers had raised questions on the
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice
Fairway School & Children’s Centre
Developing a love of reading
Alison Edmonds, head teacher
B ased on the western side of the London borough of Barnet, the eponymous Fairway School is a unique one- form entry primary school. The school offers wraparound childcare for children from two years of age and is also attached to a children’s centre. Fairway shares its building with Northway School for children with complex special educational needs. All three establishments moved into a fabulous new building in 2011. The school has a diverse reach area, situated within a short distance of the most affluent areas in Barnet, although the neighbouring estates have high levels of social deprivation. Here to discuss how the school navigates this terrain is its head teacher, Alison Edmonds. Fairway School currently has a high percentage of children eligible for free school meals, and we serve an ethnically diverse community; indeed, most of our children are from minority groups. There are more than 34 ethnic groups within our school and over 35 different languages spoken by our children – Fairway is an exceptionally inclusive school. We have an increasing number of children with complex physical and learning needs at our school. We are fortunate enough to work with and learn from specialist colleagues from our neighbouring special needs school, such that we can offer excellent, tailored provision to all of our children. Our motto is “Success for all” – and by “all” we mean our whole school community, as we promote learning at all levels. We deliver high-quality learning opportunities to our children, staff, parents and local residents. We really do consider our school to be at the heart of our local community.
REPORT CARD FAIRWAY SCHOOL & CHILDREN’S CENTRE » » Head teacher: Alison Edmonds » » Founded in 1952, rebuilt in 2011 » » Based in Mill Hill, Barnet » » Type of school: Mainstream primary school » » No. of pupils: 343 » » No. of staff: 60 » » We love any opportunity to dress up, for instance, charity events, World Book Day » » Our year 4 children study our favourite topic: “Burps, Bottoms and Bile” » » www.fairway.barnet.sch.uk
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Our journey The school and the children’s centre work co-operatively, sharing a strong commitment to developing a learning community. In recent years, following a period of uncertainty, we’ve been on a journey of rapid improvement, and Fairway School and Children’s Centre have seen considerable changes. The main priorities for the leadership team at Fairway have included: appointing and inducting new staff and building staff morale; developing a rigorous cycle of monitoring and identifying and meeting the training needs of all staff via robust performance management systems; updating key policies and establishing an enriched curriculum; and introducing assessment and data management procedures that meet the 2014 national curriculum and government requirements. We enable our children to learn through encouraging trial and error, deduction and analogy-making, problem-solving of a practical and intellectual kind and imaginative and exploratory work. We have a strong belief that if learners were to be treated merely as passive recipients, their learning would be severely circumscribed. We value the fact that children bring their personal experiences, interests, habits, culture and heritage to the learning process. We strongly believe in active learning, which is not to be confused with simply having practical things to do, with lots of activity. It is much more complex than that; it is intellectually critical engagement with a task or a problem. Active learning can be applied to a practical task, to a conversation or to simply thinking things through. We aim to provide a lively and creative curriculum in order to challenge and An inspiring curriculum
Success for all!
motivate our children and ensure they fully participate in a range of high- quality learning opportunities. We have developed a topic-based style of learning in order to develop the children’s knowledge and skills and enable them to become fully immersed
Fairway School is committed to providing high- quality learning experiences that lead to a consistently high level of pupil progress for all
in their learning. Our curriculum requires all of our children to be innovative and proactive.
Back to basics Fairway School is committed to providing high-quality learning experiences that lead to a consistently high level of pupil progress for all. Emphasis is placed on developing the core skills of speaking and listening,
Forest school learning
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice
Family focused The strong community philosophy at Fairway is greatly enhanced by having a well-respected children’s centre and nursery on site. Local families have access to an array of services such as antenatal, baby and toddler groups, employment advice, health checks, adult learning and access to the early years foundation stage provision. Partnership working is a real strength, with a multitude of services being delivered under one roof. Key stakeholders include Health, Barnet & Southgate College and members of the voluntary sector. We are able to provide tailored family support to those that require advice, guidance and reassurance. An exciting development is Fairway’s strategic role in the creation of a “0 to 19 Hub” in the west of the borough of Barnet. This new way of working promotes an integrated approach linking services across the age range. The goal is to deliver a seamless experience for children, young people and their families and to support access to services. With children’s centre services and the nursery provision starting from two years, we have the capability to know a child and their family from pre-birth and now into adulthood. I am incredibly proud to be the head teacher of Fairway School and Children’s Centre. Our success is testament to the hard work and dedication of every member of our school community. We continually reflect upon and strive to improve our practice. We are quick to respond to the ever-changing needs of our children and their families, always striving to be creative in our thoughts and actions in order to constantly deliver excellent education to all.
Sustainable travel champions
reading, writing and mathematics. We believe we have a duty to ensure that children become literate and numerate as early in their education as possible. At Fairway, we aim for morning sessions to be devoted to the teaching of the key English and mathematics skills. We deliver a systematic and synthetic phonics programme to our children from the age of three years. Many of our children say that the phonics session is the best part of their day because it’s fun and active. Our children are assessed regularly for English and mathematics and, where possible, this information is used to place them into small groups according to individual learning levels. These groups may cross traditional age group settings. In this way, all children receive focused teaching specifically matched to their current learning levels. These groups are organised across the school and trained teaching assistants are effectively deployed to support the delivery of the school’s English and mathematics programmes. This means that children are often taught in groups that are significantly smaller than the average class size. Our staff are excellent role models for the children and maintain high expectations for all children, all of the time.
Partnership working is a real strength, with a multitude of services being delivered under one roof
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