This strategic round-up covers developments including the suspension of teacher strike action, Nick Clegg’s education speech, recent parliamentary debates and hearings on teacher training and school places, and publications on issues such as middle leadership development and accountability.
Announcements & developments
Teacher strikes suspended
The NUT & NASUWT have issued a joint press release stating that a planned national strike day of action, planned for later in the autumn term, has now been suspended. The decision comes after the Secretary of State agreed to engage in talks “on the union’s trade disputes on teachers’ pay, pensions, workload and conditions of service and jobs.” The unions will review their position in January 2014 when, if “in the absence of sufficient progress, a national strike in England and Wales will be held not later than 13 February 2014.”
The full press release can be found here: http://www.teachers.org.uk/
Teacher supply and recruitment debate
Hot on the heels of Nick Clegg’s comments at the weekend (that only qualified teachers should be allowed to teach in schools), a Westminster Hall debate on teacher training and supply was led by Bill Esterton MP (Sefton Central) on 22nd October.
The debate covered a range of issues including: unqualified teachers, recruitment onto School Direct, the future of universities in initial teacher training (including concerns around funding and capacity as the school-led route grows and a new OFSTED regime of ITT inspection becomes a key determinate of funding) and the capacity and experience of schools to deliver teacher training.
Our short summary of the debate can be read here: http://www.forumeducation.org/
The full debate can be read here: http://www.publications.
Nick Clegg’s education speech including ‘Champions league’ announcement: key points
This is a summary of the key points from Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg’s speech at Morpeth School, 24th October 2013
- Clegg stated that he and his party are motivated “by increasing social mobility; building a fairer society, where everyone can succeed, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.”
- He stated that they had come into government prioritising ending the micromanagement of schools and central government targets; levelling the playing field through the pupil premium – which he said was beginning to have effect; and investing where the biggest difference can be made – in the early years through more hours childcare for 3, 4, and now 2 year-olds and free school meals for infants.
- He said he was proud of increasing autonomy for schools. It is Lib Dem policy to give all schools freedom to attract and recruit excellent teachers.
- But he outlined difference of opinion “What is the point of having a slimmed-down national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it…What is the point of having brilliant new food standards, if only a few schools have to stick to the rules.”
- He stated that there should be “qualified teachers in all our schools….that means free schools and academies too.”
- “The Right”, he said, “are hostile to setting minimum educational standards….at least in academies and free schools. In maintained schools, however, the Conservatives seem to believe it is right to micromanage things down to which ancient British are taught in history class. All that I ask is that we seek to deliver the same balance of freedoms and core standards across our schools.”
- ‘Champions league’ of heads and school leaders: The government will be setting up a programme to get outstanding leaders into schools that need them most. “There will be a pool of talent within the profession, made up of Heads and Deputy Heads, who will stand ready to move to schools in challenging circumstances who need outstanding leaders.”
- The first leaders will be in position from September 2014. They will receive help to relocate to areas where needed and will receive “the necessary professional support to turnaround the school. These leaders will need to make a real commitment to the schools, its staff and its children.”
Changes to GCSEs.
Ofqual has confirmed some of the key features of new GCSEs in English literature, English language and maths to be introduced for first teaching from September 2015, with the first exams under the new system taking place in summer 2017. New GCSEs in other subjects will be introduced for teaching from September 2016.
Glenys Stacey (OFQUAL) said: “The changes will make sure GCSEs are better qualifications: better assessed and more resilient so that everyone can have greater confidence in the results.” Teenagers would no longer, she said, be “weighed down by assessment after assessment” .
Key features of the new GCSEs will include:
- A grading scale that uses the numbers 1 – 9 to identify levels of performance, with 9 being the top level. Students will get a U where performance is below the minimum required to pass the GCSE
- Tiering to be used only for subjects where untiered papers will not allow students at the lower end of the ability range to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, or will not stretch the most able. Where it is used, the tiering model used will be decided on a subject-by-subject basis
- A fully linear structure, with all assessment at the end of the course and content not divided into modules.
- Exams as the default method of assessment, except where they cannot provide valid assessment of the skills required. Decisions on non-exam assessment will be announced on a subject-by-subject basis
- Exams only in the summer, apart from English language and maths, where there will also be exams in November for students who were at least 16 on the preceding 31st August. Ofqual is considering whether November exams should be available in other subjects for students of this age.
The specific decisions about the GCSE subjects to be introduced for first teaching in September 2015 are as follows:
- English language: Untiered and fully assessed by an external exam with, as now, a speaking assessment that will be reported separately.
- English literature: Untiered and assessed by external exam only;
- Maths: Tiered with an improved overlapping tiers model. A foundation tier will cover grades 1-5 and the higher tier will cover grades 4-9. Assessed by external exam only, as now.
OFQUAL would not be drawn on how the new numbered grades would equate with those presently used, for instance, many commentators asked – which number is equivalent to the current Grade C? It is likely that this will become clearer once a consultation, set to begin next month, concludes in the New Year.
A-level subject consultation:
In March 2013 the Secretary of State announced that new linear A-levels would be available for first teaching in September 2015. The four awarding organisations for A-levels have since undertaken a review of subject content for the new qualifications. A consultation on the changes to A-level subject content (across a range of subjects) is now open, closing on 20th December. Please see the following link for more details:
Requirement for schools to support children with medical conditions
An amendment to the Children & Families bill, proposed by the Secretary of State, will place a requirement on schools to make arrangements to support children with long term health problems, such as diabetes and epilepsy. Statutory guidance will now be developed to help schools ensure they are putting correct arrangements in place. These will be subject to consultation early next year. For more on this, please see this link:
Select Committee hearing on school places:
The minister for schools attended the select committee’s inquiry into school places on 23rd October. The minister acknowledged that the issue of school places was “a massive challenge….the department expects prolonged increases in the student population in English schools” due to a birth rate that has been rising at the fastest rate since the post-war baby boom.
Government and local authorities expect to face an estimated demand for an additional 417,000 places in this Parliament, with most (382,000) being required in the primary sector. In the next Parliament (2015 – 2021), demand is estimated to be for an additional 500,000 places on top of that (but the working population will also grow).
The ten biggest increases in primary numbers (between 2011-12 and 2016-17) are expected in Croydon, Peterborough, Barking & Dagenham, Bristol, Hounslow, Manchester, Newham, Slough, Reading and Bournemouth. London faces particularly severe pressures. Whilst the rate of increase varies by region, there are “virtually no parts of the country where (we) expect a fall in primary population”. Only Dorset is expected to see a contraction in numbers.
The minister highlighted that the key thing is “to make sure that there enough money is going into the system to build places in time, so that children have the space.” Target basic need funding is intended to enable authorities to plan for extra provision: http://www.education.gov.uk/
On the issue for secondary schools, the minister said: “At the moment, there is a greater amount of spare capacity in the secondary sector than there was in 2004….That huge primary bulge will turn around in a few years’ time…and will become a secondary bulge. Some of that will be able to be dealt with by the spare capacity we have in the system, but I suspect that they will also need extra capital.”
The full hearing, which covered a range of issues including unqualified teachers, the growing number of school sixth forms (and risk of surplus places in the post 16 sector), class size, and the potential impact on facilities, can be found here: http://data.parliament.uk/
Research & thinking
Teaching Leaders on middle leadership
Teaching Leaders have this week produced their ‘Quarterly’ publication with a focus on strategies for developing middle leadership development.
The publication sets out some of the key challenges for the sector:
- Attracting the best teachers and leaders to work in the most challenging schools and contexts
- competition not only in terms of recruiting the best graduates into the sector, but also competition for them between schools.
Schools, it says, are “starting to become increasingly sophisticated at integrating professional development into personalised, differentiated, and diversified people development pathways” (an example drawn from an insightful article by Andy Buck of United Learning). Strategies includes: meetings to discuss career options (30%), mentoring/coaching (19%), opportunities to lead beyond the school (through a teaching school or academy group) (17%) and arranging secondments (6%).
The paper includes contributions from David Weston of the Teacher Development Trust (on issues such as career structures and the importance of challenging and evaluating CPD to ensure its impact on learning), Andy Buck (on talent management in a national chain of schools), and Christine Quinn of Ninestiles Teaching School Alliance (on developing generation y staff and the importance of middle leaders in enabling teachers to develop and succeed).
The paper also includes the results of the Teaching Leaders’ talent survey. Key findings include:
- Middle leaders are generally less confident in their school’s professional development and talent management than heads are (although the majority of middle leaders are confident about the opportunities provided for them). All see middle leadership as a key phase of career development.
- Middle leaders and heads were in agreement that the head was the ‘gate keeper’ to spotting talent. For heads, lesson observations and pupil performance in exams, as well as performance in informal leadership roles, were key methods of identifying future leadership talent.
- Heads and middle leaders were in agreement that the top three drivers of retention are,
– The opportunity for additional responsibility;
– Ability to see clear avenues for career progression;
– Access to professional development programmes
– Many middle leaders also cited the importance of mission and vision at the top of the school.
The full report can be read at: http://www.teachingleaders.
Data-driven Improvement and Accountability paper.
Andy Hargreaves and Henry Braun (Boston College) have, last week, published a ‘policy paper’ called Data-driven Improvement and Accountability.
The paper explores the policies and practices concerning the use of data to inform school improvement and in providing information for accountability. It considers the tensions between the use of data for improvement and its use for accountability purposes, and highlights the risk that data is neither being used intelligently enough to encourage, inform and add value to improvement activity or provide meaningful, accessible or constructive accountability.
“the challenge of productively combining improvement and accountability” it says “is not confined to public education.” It highlights the example of the US where data “has been skewed towards accountability over improvement….. (and) has focused on what is easily measured rather than on what is educationally valued. It holds schools and districts accountability for effective delivery of results, but without holding system leaders accountable for providing the resources and conditions that are necessary to secure those results.”
The paper concludes with twelve recommendations for establishing more effective systems and processes of Data-Driven or Evidence-Informed Improvement and Accountability.
The paper can be accessed at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/
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