15th November: Weekly strategic round-up

This week’s strategic round-up includes news on a new select committee inquiry into aspects of the academies programme, developments around potential strike action in the New Year, new PISA tests for individual secondary schools, and a summary of a survey of NQTs.

Announcements & developments

Select Committee opens new inquiry into academies.

The education select committee has opened a new inquiry into certain aspects of the academies programme. Hot off the heels of the publication of its report into school partnerships and co-operation (see last week’s strategic round-up), the committee is gathering evidence on a range of issues including the alternatives to academy status for struggling primary schools and also the accountability of academy chains (both issues that were highlighted in its report of last week). The issues covered by the new inquiry are as follows:

  • The effectiveness of academisation in narrowing the gap for disadvantaged children, and what further steps should be taken within the academies system to bring about a transformational impact on student outcomes;
  • The process for approving, compelling and establishing academies and free schools, including working with sponsors;
  • The role of the Secretary of State in intervening in and supporting failing academies, and how this role will work as the programme expands;
  • The functions and responsibilities in relation to academies and free schools of local authorities and other organisations operating between the Secretary of State and individual schools; what these functions and responsibilities should be; and what gaps there are in support for schools at this level;
  • What role academy chains play or should play in the new school landscape; how accountable they are; and what issues they raise with regard to governance arrangements;
  • The appropriateness of academy status for primary schools and what special factors apply;  and what evidence there is that academy status can bring value for money either for individual primary schools or for the system as a whole;
  • What alternatives to sponsored academy status should be offered to failing primary schools.

The deadline for submissions is Thursday 19th December. For more information please view: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/education-committee/news/academies-and-free-schools/


Teaching Unions confirm that plans remain in place for a strike by 13th February

The NUT and NASUWT have responded to the Secretary of State’s letter of 6th November, in which they believe he has ‘resorted to provocation’. The unions had welcomed the SoS’s confirmation of willingness to engage in talks and, as a result, called off any potential further strikes planned for the autumn term. This recent letter, in which the Secretary of State stated that other education sector unions should be involved in talks, has led to NUT and NASUWT confirming that plans remain in place for a national strike in England and Wales no later than 13th February 2014. The two unions said: these trade disputes are only capable of resolution by agreement between the Secretary of State as a Minister of the Crown and the NASUWT and the NUT…..The NUT and NASUWT confirm that plans remain in place for a national strike in England and Wales no later than 13 February 2014 in the event of insufficient progress through negotiation.”  More here:  http://teachers.org.uk/node/19843


PISA tests for individual secondary schools

Individual secondary schools in England will be able to take a version of the OECD’s PISA test from next year – benchmarking themselves against the world’s best educations systems. The tests will help teachers to see how 15 year-old pupils can apply their knowledge of reading, maths and science. Leaders and teachers will also benefit from confidential feedback from students on how much they enjoy school and on the classroom environment. Andreas Schleicher, Advisor to the General Secretary of the OECD said“This new OECD Test will enable individual schools in England for the first time to see where they stand internationally. This will help teachers and school leaders understand where to focus their efforts to raise standards and learn from successful school systems in other countries.” More here: http://www.oecd.org/unitedkingdom/oecd-to-launch-pisa-test-for-schools-in-uk-in-2014.htm

Meanwhile, the results of the international PISA 2012 survey will be released on 3rd December. The results are always influential on system thinking and policy development.


OFSTED report on music hubs

OFSTED has published a report on the impact of music hubs. Music Hubs are, in effect, federations of local organisations with an interest in music education. In most cases, however, local authority music services, or their successor organisations, are the dominant or lead partners delivering most of the work in schools. The Hubs were launched from 2012 following a bidding process led by the Arts Council.

The report finds that the hubs have not been successful enough in improving music education for all children in schools” and that while “many hubs do valuable work in providing instrumental teaching and supporting local orchestras, choirs, festivals and music courses as well as building local partnerships…..this work reaches only a minority of pupils.”

It found that:

  • The long term issue of wide variation in the quality of music education continues to persist.
  • The hubs’ work was in most cases little different to that provided by the former local authority music services. Too little had changed. In nine schools, however, the advent of the hub had made some difference, not least by beginning to improve the quality of dialogue about music education with the school.
  • In all but a few of the 31 schools visited, the music curriculum lacked depth and rigour. Most school leaders in the survey understood neither these weaknesses nor that the local music hub could be a source of expert advice and support in bringing about improvement.
  • The provision delivered by many Hubs, such as the First Access Programme, is not generally part of a coherent music curriculum in each school.
  • Too often, hubs provided or sold music services to schools without asking about the schools’ existing music provision and failed to challenge the school to improve it.
  • Some more successful hubs had started tackling weaknesses in schools’ music teaching, for example by introducing systems whereby hub staff had periodic discussions about how it could support the school in improving music education

The full report and recommendations can be found here: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/music-schools-what-hubs-must-do


Research & thinking

Providing effective feedback

Lee Elliott-Major of the Sutton Trust has written a thought provoking blog on the provision of effective feedback. In it he states that: “if delivered well by teachers it can lead to a whopping extra 8 months in development in just one academic year. Could this be one of the keys we have been looking for to narrow the UK’s stark attainment gap between poorer pupils and their more privileged peers?”  Providing effective feedback has held the top spot in the Sutton Trust’s teaching & learning toolkit since it was launched in 2011. Lee includes some ‘top tips for teachers’ and cites some of the scientific learning and developments in this area: http://www.suttontrust.com/news/blog/bridging-the-knowledge-gap/


NQT survey 2013

The NCTL has surveyed approximately 6,700 newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who successfully completed their initial teacher training in England during the 2011/12 academic year.

Amongst Primary NQTs, 90% gave a good or very good rating when asked about the overall quality of their training. The figure for secondary trainees was 92%. Both figures represent a continued trend of year on year improvement. NQTs trained on the SCITT route gave the highest rating for the quality of training.

At primary level, particularly substantial improvements were noted around the preparation to teach systematic synthetic phonics and also the preparation to teach reading and writing. At secondary level there were substantial improvements in how well prepared NQTs believed they were to teach pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds, those with English as an additional language, and special educational needs pupils.

95% per cent of primary-trained NQTs and 94 % of secondary-trained NQTs responding to the survey were in employment compared with 92 % and 91 % respectively in the 2012 survey.  When asked how good their training was in helping them to apply confidently for teaching positions; 62% of primary-trained NQTs and 70 % of secondary-trained NQTs rated this aspect of their training as very good or good.

In terms of those NQTs that had started an induction at the time of the survey:

  • 97% of primary-trained NQTs and 96% of secondary-trained NQTs indicated that they were receiving ten per cent free time in addition to planning, preparation and assessment (PPA). In 2012 the figures were 96 and 94 % respectively.
  • 89% of primary-trained NQTs and 84 % of secondary-trained NQTs indicated that they had a personalised programme of planned professional development. In 2012 the figures were 88 and 83 % respectively.
  • 98% of primary and secondary-trained NQTs indicated that they had the support of an induction tutor. In 2012 the figures were 98 and 97 % respectively.
  • 98% of primary and secondary-trained NQTs indicated that they were receiving observations followed by reviews with their induction tutor. In 2012 the figures were 97 and 96 % respectively.

The full report can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/255659/DFE-RR306.pdf


Please Note: Forum Education Limited updates are intended to help colleagues keep up to date with national developments. Information is correct at time of writing and is offered in good faith. No liability is accepted for decisions made on the basis of the information given. Briefings are not intended to be exhaustive and some developments will not be included. Whilst we take due care to ensure weblinks are to reputable sites, we cannot be responsible for the content of external websites.



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