Monthly Archives: November 2015

B2 Teacher Shortages Autumn 2015

B2 John Howson on Teacher shortages- November 2015

Address at the Conference: Reclaiming Education 14th November 2015 London

We are facing the largest increase in pupil numbers since the 1970s that even under normal circumstances would put a strain on the system in terms of producing enough teachers to meet the demands of the labour market. But;

With salaries uncompetitive in comparison with those for graduates a year after they have completed their degrees;

the pressure to teach every child to the maximum of their potential increasing workload;

a workforce with the largest number of women of childbearing age since maternity leave was introduced;

a housing market that makes it unattractive for teachers to work in large parts of the south of England and

a teacher preparation system lacking a long-term agreed plan that will guarantee places where they are needed to meet the requirements of schools

there are significant challenges if we are to continue to improve our school system. Additionally, the lack of a coherent governance system probably doesn’t help. Of course, if you are a PE teacher that trained in the North East you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.

You may well not have a teaching job, and if you do, it may well not be teaching PE or only for a part of the week. Even so, this is not just a problem of London and the South East, although that’s where it is at its worse; possibly in parts of Essex and Hertfordshire and other authorities where the out-dated funding formula affects the funds schools receive.

The DfE policy decisions that underpin the Teacher Supply Model will force secondary schools towards EBacc subjects and away from the other curriculum areas as despite rising pupil numbers training targets have been reduced for 2017 for almost all non-Ebacc subjects.

In primary, the situation is even more challenging. If the TSM figure is too low, as many seems to think it is, then by 2017 there may be recruitment difficulties that no National Teaching Service will be able to prevent. There is will almost certainly be more problems with equality issues in the profession as a result of the recruitment controls being used this year. I am on record in my blog wondering whether they might be imposed in PE before the end of this month in view of the number of applications already in the system.

Of course, the export industry that is using UK trained teachers to teach children from other countries won’t be affected by a teacher shortage so long as they can put up the fees to pay higher salaries to attract teachers.

In the end it will be an understanding of economics that will solve the problem of teacher supply. When something is in short supply you either ration it or allow the price to rise to a level that satisfies demand. I cannot see this government wanting to ration the supply of teachers into the market; at least not directly. In some ways the distribution of training places, and especially those through school direct, could be seen as a form of rationing, but a very crude one.

However, if price is used – and we can see the pricing of physics graduates has increased for 2017 with the rise to £30,000 in a small number of bursaries. Although I see that more as a marketing exercise to create a headline for the advertising campaign rather than a real attempt to tackle the problem. I think that will come later if greater efforts on the part of government and NCTL don’t pay off.

I expect when the ITT census is published we will learn that there are more trainees in 2015 than in 2014, but not I think enough to meet the TSM targets in many subjects. Still, the government is likely to announce any increase in EBacc subject recruitment as good news and I suppose it certainly isn’t bad news. Whether achieving increased trainee numbers by allowing around 50%+ of all applicants to be offered places is a good idea is something we can debate later.

So, on to solutions.

Well, better marketing is clearly stage 1 of the process and that is now happening.

Make teaching an attractive career. This helps retention and probably involves doing something about workload. What are the workload implications for teaching children as individuals rather than as classes, especially in the secondary sector?

As some of you know from my blog, I am not an enthusiast of the present system of bursaries that I think is difficult to market and inequitable. I would prefer a return to the pre-2010 situation of abated fees and a training grant for all entrants to the profession. After all, if it is good enough for cadet officers at Sandhurst, it should surely be good enough for trainee teachers wherever they train.

Without sufficient teachers in training not only will schools have to spend more money on recruitment until they have all switched to TeachVac our free service that matches school needs with teachers and trainees job requests. Why pay private companies and their profits when you can use a free service set up by those that understand the needs of the teaching profession.

Finally, shortages in training now have consequences for years to come. If we take D&T as an example:

In 2012 there were 1,200 trainees –about 103% of TSM need. This means about 500 remaining after 5 years, enough to satisfy the demand for heads of department and other middle leaders in the subject. In 2015 there were around 450 entrants to the profession meaning around 150 are likely to remain by 2020; not enough to provide an adequate supply of middle leaders.

*********************************************************************************************************************

But, there is no use just moaning. We need an agenda for action on teacher supply. Here are some suggestions;

As I have already said: pay the fees of all graduate trainees from 2015 entry onwards: this will be especially helpful to career changers that have paid off previous fees and will need to repay the £9,000 as soon as they start teaching– Look to how those training to be teachers that have links to communities can be employed in those communities and more mobile students can be encouraged to move to where they are needed.

Make sure teacher preparation places are more closely linked to where the jobs will be. This means reviewing places in London and the Home Counties – not enough – and the North West – probably too many in some subjects and sectors.

look at trainees that cannot find a job because we trained too many of them and see whether with some minimal re-training they might be useful teachers. This applies especially to PE teachers this year – some might re-train as science teachers or primary PE specialists and art teachers if they can work in design part of D&T.

ramp up the 2015 autumn advertising campaign spend, including an early TV and social media advertising spend that at least matches that of the MoD.

split the teacher preparation part of the National College away from the Leadership and professional development elements and put someone in charge that understands the issues-

look at the NQT year support now that local authorities don’t have the cash to help. This may be vital in keeping primary teachers in the profession, especially if anything goes wrong at the school where they are working.

None of these are new idea, and many were in my submission to the Carter Review. What is clear is that the new government cannot continue with an amateurish approach that marked some of the tactics towards teacher supply during the last few years. With many thousands more pupils entering schools over the next few years we cannot create a world class school system with fewer teachers.

John Howson

B2 John Howson on Teacher shortages- November 2015

Address at the Conference: Reclaiming Education 14th November 2015 London

We are facing the largest increase in pupil numbers since the 1970s that even under normal circumstances would put a strain on the system in terms of producing enough teachers to meet the demands of the labour market. But;

With salaries uncompetitive in comparison with those for graduates a year after they have completed their degrees;

the pressure to teach every child to the maximum of their potential increasing workload;

a workforce with the largest number of women of childbearing age since maternity leave was introduced;

a housing market that makes it unattractive for teachers to work in large parts of the south of England and

a teacher preparation system lacking a long-term agreed plan that will guarantee places where they are needed to meet the requirements of schools

there are significant challenges if we are to continue to improve our school system. Additionally, the lack of a coherent governance system probably doesn’t help. Of course, if you are a PE teacher that trained in the North East you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.

You may well not have a teaching job, and if you do, it may well not be teaching PE or only for a part of the week. Even so, this is not just a problem of London and the South East, although that’s where it is at its worse; possibly in parts of Essex and Hertfordshire and other authorities where the out-dated funding formula affects the funds schools receive.

The DfE policy decisions that underpin the Teacher Supply Model will force secondary schools towards EBacc subjects and away from the other curriculum areas as despite rising pupil numbers training targets have been reduced for 2017 for almost all non-Ebacc subjects.

In primary, the situation is even more challenging. If the TSM figure is too low, as many seems to think it is, then by 2017 there may be recruitment difficulties that no National Teaching Service will be able to prevent. There is will almost certainly be more problems with equality issues in the profession as a result of the recruitment controls being used this year. I am on record in my blog wondering whether they might be imposed in PE before the end of this month in view of the number of applications already in the system.

Of course, the export industry that is using UK trained teachers to teach children from other countries won’t be affected by a teacher shortage so long as they can put up the fees to pay higher salaries to attract teachers.

In the end it will be an understanding of economics that will solve the problem of teacher supply. When something is in short supply you either ration it or allow the price to rise to a level that satisfies demand. I cannot see this government wanting to ration the supply of teachers into the market; at least not directly. In some ways the distribution of training places, and especially those through school direct, could be seen as a form of rationing, but a very crude one.

However, if price is used – and we can see the pricing of physics graduates has increased for 2017 with the rise to £30,000 in a small number of bursaries. Although I see that more as a marketing exercise to create a headline for the advertising campaign rather than a real attempt to tackle the problem. I think that will come later if greater efforts on the part of government and NCTL don’t pay off.

I expect when the ITT census is published we will learn that there are more trainees in 2015 than in 2014, but not I think enough to meet the TSM targets in many subjects. Still, the government is likely to announce any increase in EBacc subject recruitment as good news and I suppose it certainly isn’t bad news. Whether achieving increased trainee numbers by allowing around 50%+ of all applicants to be offered places is a good idea is something we can debate later.

So, on to solutions.

Well, better marketing is clearly stage 1 of the process and that is now happening.

Make teaching an attractive career. This helps retention and probably involves doing something about workload. What are the workload implications for teaching children as individuals rather than as classes, especially in the secondary sector?

As some of you know from my blog, I am not an enthusiast of the present system of bursaries that I think is difficult to market and inequitable. I would prefer a return to the pre-2010 situation of abated fees and a training grant for all entrants to the profession. After all, if it is good enough for cadet officers at Sandhurst, it should surely be good enough for trainee teachers wherever they train.

Without sufficient teachers in training not only will schools have to spend more money on recruitment until they have all switched to TeachVac our free service that matches school needs with teachers and trainees job requests. Why pay private companies and their profits when you can use a free service set up by those that understand the needs of the teaching profession.

Finally, shortages in training now have consequences for years to come. If we take D&T as an example:

In 2012 there were 1,200 trainees –about 103% of TSM need. This means about 500 remaining after 5 years, enough to satisfy the demand for heads of department and other middle leaders in the subject. In 2015 there were around 450 entrants to the profession meaning around 150 are likely to remain by 2020; not enough to provide an adequate supply of middle leaders.

*********************************************************************************************************************

But, there is no use just moaning. We need an agenda for action on teacher supply. Here are some suggestions;

As I have already said: pay the fees of all graduate trainees from 2015 entry onwards: this will be especially helpful to career changers that have paid off previous fees and will need to repay the £9,000 as soon as they start teaching– Look to how those training to be teachers that have links to communities can be employed in those communities and more mobile students can be encouraged to move to where they are needed.

Make sure teacher preparation places are more closely linked to where the jobs will be. This means reviewing places in London and the Home Counties – not enough – and the North West – probably too many in some subjects and sectors.

look at trainees that cannot find a job because we trained too many of them and see whether with some minimal re-training they might be useful teachers. This applies especially to PE teachers this year – some might re-train as science teachers or primary PE specialists and art teachers if they can work in design part of D&T.

ramp up the 2015 autumn advertising campaign spend, including an early TV and social media advertising spend that at least matches that of the MoD.

split the teacher preparation part of the National College away from the Leadership and professional development elements and put someone in charge that understands the issues-

look at the NQT year support now that local authorities don’t have the cash to help. This may be vital in keeping primary teachers in the profession, especially if anything goes wrong at the school where they are working.

None of these are new idea, and many were in my submission to the Carter Review. What is clear is that the new government cannot continue with an amateurish approach that marked some of the tactics towards teacher supply during the last few years. With many thousands more pupils entering schools over the next few years we cannot create a world class school system with fewer teachers.

John Howson

C8 – Academies a failed experiment

The Failed Academy Project.

With a second Academies Bill being driven through parliament, the end of November 2015 sees dogma running riot at Westminster. Although Labour still fails to see that the Academy-Free School Movement has failed badly, that is the reality. Bringing Academy schools in all their guises under Local Authority control which is the current policy is contradictory, since the essence of the programme is to remove them from democratic accountability. And Local Authorities will not survive with their funding cut to the point they have only marginal staffing. But the future is still uncertain. The present poses a more substantial question – why given that Nick Gibb has admitted as Schools Minister that there is no reason to think Academy schools perform better than maintained schools – and evidence they perform worse – why in the Westminster bubble is the reality not understood, despite the reality that Naomi Fearon underlines in this article? TF

Academies and Free Schools – A failed experiment in education

Naomi Fearon

At the end of Autumn 2015, there are over four thousand academies in England. Originally introduced by New Labour back in 2000 in order to support failing schools in socially deprived areas, academies have long since remained a controversial topic. Touted by governments as the miraculous magic answer to improving standards and loathed quite rightly by teaching unions opposed to their undemocratic nature and the neo-liberal free market approach they are constructed around. ‘Academies equals success’ has been the long repeated mantra for many years now, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is the only approach to education and LEA controlled state schools have been an all-round epic failure, yet statistically does this add up?

Well in a word, no. A report by the cross party education select committee earlier on this year showed that there was no evidence so far that academies raised standards for either disadvantaged pupils or overall. In addition to this, the Local Schools Network data showed that a primary school rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted is 12 times more likely to remain ‘inadequate’ at its next inspection if it becomes a sponsored academy than if it had remained a maintained school. Secondary-sponsored academies are four times as likely to remain inadequate when next inspected. Even Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, conceded in September of this year that: “This government does not believe that all academies and free schools are necessarily better than maintained schools.” *

* Reported in Schools Week: Speech to the Ed Research conference, September 5th 2015

On top of the damning statistical evidence, the education select committee also recognised the serious lack of transparency, conflicts of interest with regards governance as well as inadequate oversight. A prime example of this being the Durand Academy Trust (DAT) which runs the Durand Academy in London as well as a boarding school in West Sussex. Not only was it served its final notice to improve from the Education Funding Agency (EFA), which is responsible for funding and monitoring academies but the linked Durand Education Trust (DET) is currently being investigated by the Charities Commission over what it describes as ‘lack of separation’ between the two charities as well as concerns over the lack of oversight of its investment assets. If this wasn’t scandalous enough, earlier on this year it was discovered that the academy’s Headteacher Sir Greg Martin ran a dating agency registered as the school’s address.

Free schools, the hideous turbo-charged offspring of academies with a penchant for employing unqualified teachers fare little better, The Anti-Academies Alliance April 2015 briefing noted that Ofsted has inspected 76 free schools and rated 30% as ‘Requiring Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’. Ofsted’s 2013/14 Annual Report on Schools said:“Free schools succeed or fail for broadly the same reasons as all other types of school”. In other words: free schools are no more likely to be outstanding or inadequate than other schools.

It is also worth noting that it is the decision of the Secretary of State to open a free school, not the LEA, with very little regard given to community views even when impact assessments have shown they may be detrimental to local schools. According to evidence provided to the Education Select Committee, “35% of the first four waves of free schools were in districts with no forecast need and that 52% were in districts with either no forecast need or only moderate need”. In other words a fair few free schools have been opened in areas where there is no shortage of school places at the expense of the taxpayer. It is difficult to mention free schools without noting some of the scandals they have been involved in, with one of the most notable being The Durham Free School.

The Durham Free School, which was set up in 2012, and founded upon Christian principles was closed earlier this year when it was found to be ‘inadequate’ in all areas of its Ofsted report. Originally lauded by Michael Gove upon its opening it was found by inspectors to be inadequate as a result of bullying, religious bigotry and financial mismanagement. In addition to the less than glowing statistics and media scandals, one criminally ignored aspect of the academies model for education is their attitude towards equality. The 2014 TUC report ‘Education Not for Sale’ found that while attitudes towards equality is a concern for all schools, academies were particularly prone to ignoring their Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). A 2013 study by Race on the Agenda (ROTA) commissioned by the teaching union NASUWT found that less than a quarter of them referred to their PSED duties, with an even lower figure for free schools. The TUC report also found that a number of cases whereby Free Schools had rejected the admission of disabled pupils and claimed their funding agreements exempted them from the appeal procedure. Furthermore, fewer than a quarter of free schools seem to know about the 2010 Equalities Act, and their duty to promote equality for women, black, LGBT and disabled pupils and staff.

All this paints a less than idyllic picture for the academies and free schools programme. The newly appointed shadow education secretary Lucy Powell stated in an interview with the Times Educational Supplement that handing control of schools back to local, democratically-elected officials would be at the “heart” of future Labour policy. Jeremy Corbyn’s position on academies has always been clear having been a staunch opponent to them since their introduction. Jeremy in his own words has stated, “Why was it believed the ability to run a business, to sell cars or carpets might make you best-placed to run a school?” Quite right Jeremy, quite right.

T3 A future going backwards

T3 A Future Going Backwards

The power of the past over the present has rarely been demonstrated better than by educational politics today. The attempt to return to grammar schools is only one part of a great nostalgia boom partly due to the sepia tinted view of the BBC4 programme criticised by Michael Pyke – though the Downton Abbey phomenon and the public school domination of social life – is more important than the middle class grammar schools as the public school background of the Conservative cabinet and its New Labour counterpart till recently has shown. Here Sally Tomlinson looks at the underlying reasons for a drive to the past which as Michelle Lowe has commented, is like bindweed choking English education. TF.

Sally Tomlinson

So here we are in the 21st century busy re- creating an education system that has more in common with a 19th version of public education than a system for the future. Nineteenth century schooling, influenced by religious and charitable interests, emerging business interests in mass education post-industrialisation, and growing working class political demands, resulted in a social –class based system organised around hierarchies of schools and strong central control. So what’s new?

A major ‘new’ may be that, despite the denigration of ‘low achievers’ and ‘failing schools’ mass education has so far been a qualified success. But a labouring class is now educated to much higher levels than can be accommodated in a digital economy. Rather than plan economies around this success governments are now in panic mode as to how to distribute education so that people once more ‘know their place’ ( Ranson 1984). Long-standing beliefs help here. The old Platonic distinctions that people are born as gold, silver, iron and brass, remains excellent political propaganda for keeping people in their allotted place. Behind the mantra that every child must be educated to fulfil his or her ‘potential’, lie long-standing deterministic assumptions that children are able, less able, average, unable or disabled. Nineteenth century eugenic beliefs in the biological and cultural inferiority of lower social classes and racial groups reinforced views that while genius and talent were ‘in-born’ so low ability ,mental defects, delinquency crime, prostitution, unemployment and other social evils were inherited (Galton 1869). One remedy was to control the family size of the lower classes.. (Oops, is current child welfare policy in England aimed at restricting the family size of poorer groups?)

Beliefs in fixed ability and innate intelligence influenced the men (and they mainly were public school educated men) who post second world war designed a tripartite system of education, which quickly became a dual system of state-maintained grammar and secondary modern schools. although the rich and influential always did and still do use private schools. But at least in 1945 there was some democratic input via elected local education authorities, and the types of mind not thought suitable for academic or technical education could find jobs. A recession in the 1970s and the disappearance of jobs, led to anxiety, not over the disappearing jobs, but over education as a preparation for work and an obsession with raising ‘standards’ of education. Policies of comprehensive schooling that allowed more young people to actually be taught for and take public examinations led to expectations that a national system of good local schools, funded by tax-payers and with local democratic input, could be a possibility.

But enter the Thatcher era, and re -commitment to a nineteenth century neo-liberal scenario in which free consumers embrace the laws of the market for personal and familial profit. Education was to become a competitive business, and by the 1990s local authorities were sidelined and ‘choice and diversity’ was the mantra. An expanded middle class competed for the best state-maintained schools if they could not afford the private schooling which increasingly led to the business, social and political networks that led mostly to secure and well-paid employment. Despite a rhetoric of ‘opportunity for the many’ and a vaunted concern for ‘ the disadvantaged’ governments of all shades persisted in the recreation of a class-based hierarchical school system. Overt and covert selective policies, still based on the notions of ‘fixed abilities’ legitimised ways of separating out aspirant and middle classes from the poorer groups, and who could blame them, now that competitive individualism and a desperate ‘my child needs to be better than yours’ now guides educational consciousness.

Avoidance of vocational education and practical training , and avoidance of the poor are emblematic of a system in which various groups, depending on their level of economic and cultural capital (think of the money being made in the tutoring industry) now struggle to maintain privilege for their children in preparation for a competitive global economy.. The coalition government of 2010-2015 extended the process of demolishing a democratic education system, with local education authority influence disappearing as supposedly self-sustaining competitive schools and chains of schools, sign individual agreements and receive funding directly from central government and their Boards and Trusts make money and the current Conservative government promises more of the same. The Department of Education carries out policies at ministerial whim, with no consultation. Power is centralised in the person of the Secretary of State and the running of a nation’s school system has been increasingly handed over to business, religious and, in the case of Free (actually free-market) schools, to the vested interests of some parental groups. The legitimation for all this now includes a resurgence of the old nature-nurture eugenic debates, where some children are regarded as less well endowed and need different kinds of schooling (Asbury and Plomin 2014), crocodile tears are wept for those children who nee better teachers and ‘school leaders’ and as in the late ninetieth century , punitive regimes for excluding those who are difficult to teach are extended. The irony is that the government is struggling to equate international comparisons of achievement with economic performance, despite persisting with a fragmented system increasingly shown to be dysfunctional in a global economy.

References

Asbury,K and Plomin,R (2014) G is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement Chichester Wiley Blackwell

Galton,G. (1869) Hereditary Genius London. Macmillan

Ranson,S. (1984) “Towards a Tertiary Tripartisim: new codes of social control and the 17+”

In (Ed) Broadfoot, P. Selection, Certification and Control London. Methuen

C7 – A head looks at Shanghai

Geoff Barton is a state school head whose comprehensive has links with Shanghai, and has visited recently. His views are an insight into a world often held up uncritically as better in every way than English schooling. TF

I don’t watch a lot of television but when I do it’s never – I mean never – programmes about education. An adolescence of Grange Hill taught me that lesson.

So I haven’t seen Waterloo Road. I haven’t seen Educating Essex or Yorkshire or Cardiff. I haven’t seen Chinese School.

But I have worked in education for thirty years and, in the past ten, been to several actual Chinese schools. Our Suffolk comprehensive has a longstanding partnership with the Yangjing-Juyan Experimental School, a highly successful junior high school in Shanghai.

As everyone knows, Shanghai is one of the top performing education principalities in the world – especially in Mathematics.

Suffolk, on the other hand, isn’t top-performing. Yet teachers and officials from Shanghai join the annual visit of Shanghai students to our school and warmly welcome our thirty or so students and staff when they make the return visit each autumn term.

Their interest is in something they believe they lack in their schools – creativity, a sense of independence in their students and a spirit of inquiry. They feel their teaching is mechanical and undifferentiated.

That’s why the Shanghai education authority continues to send so many students to us – as well as to schools in Australia and the USA.

And what we see during our return visits is that culture trumps teaching quality. The lessons we see are often textbook-led, focused heavily on closed teacher questions, short student answers, all conducted in an atmosphere of congenial, not oppressive, discipline.

But our strong view – after taking some of our Maths teachers to watch the teaching – is that it’s not what happens in the classroom that makes the real impact on Shanghai students’ performance. It’s what happens at home.

Because we see students who go home and do at least three hours of work each evening, who often attend private lessons on other days, and who know from from their parents that that they as students should aim to achieve more highly than their parents. They owe it to their family; they owe it to Shanghai.

In other words, expectations, aspiration and culture play a very significant part in shaping the motivation of the students. They ensure that there is no poor behaviour. They help to create a work ethic which, whilst impressive, also has an underbelly. We see the stress levels of students, the anxiety of parents, the exhaustion of teachers.

None of this is to belittle or decry the schooling we see in Shanghai. We are learning much from their relentless ambition. But it is a reminder for us to beware of the lure of international envy and its associated assumptions that if only we did over here what they do over there, then we’d be as successful.

Education is rarely that simple – except, perhaps, when depicted on television.

Geoff Barton is headteacher at King Edward VI School, a 14-19 comprehensive upper school in Bury St Edmunds.

.

C6 A Response to the Autumn briefing – Cliff Jones

C6 Response to the Autumn SOSS Briefing

First let me say how impressed I am by the briefing document. I shall merely try to outline some of what it has prompted me to think, though I freely admit to a lack of coherence and focus in what I have written.

Democratic disconnection

When I was an LEA advisor we might have moaned about councillors but the decisions that they took could be witnessed by the public and it was possible to look at the minutes of meetings. It was also possible to bring together educators of every level of provision, including HE in the form of polytechnics, to discuss matters of joint interest and concern. That combination of representative democracy and systemic coherence was, in my view, very important. Today we are not able to attend or scrutinise the decision-making processes of private companies controlling schools; further education is not only separated out but losing resources; and higher education institutions are behaving like members of the FTSIE 100. We have lost community based coherence and purpose.

When Tristram Hunt represented the Labour Party on education the signs were that none of this mattered to him. We need education at all levels to be reconnected to democracy, local and national.

Social fracking

I have used this term in a variety of essays on my website ever since 2010. For me the social fracking began in 1979 and although I could from time to time convince myself that New Labour still had some residual Old Labour values I believe that Cameron and Osborne are the consequence of Blair and his courtiers whose discourse of aspiration and choice and deployment of spin further cheapened politics. Our society really is being fracked in my view. Educational policy could help restore things but at present, in England especially, it is part of an intentionally socially destructive process.

Schooling is what you do to horses

My old boss David Hamilton used this phrase. When we look at the PISA scores of Finland our response is to have more and more ‘schooling’. Finland does the opposite.

The legislative urges of ministers

In his latest book Who Governs Britain (Pelican, 2015) Anthony King writes about the keenness of ministers to legislate too much, too fast and to, very often, exceed the capacity of Parliament to scrutinise. And now that we have a diminished and reactive civil service the spring from which all this law emanates is almost entirely the imaginations and prejudices of politicians plus their chosen advisors.

I am also rather concerned about the use by these politicians and by the media of the word ‘reform’. I acknowledge my nostalgic tendencies but at school I learned to associate that word with the abolition of slavery, the extension of the franchise, the Factory Acts, the NHS and more that I believe might come under that, perhaps rather simplistic and optimistic, label of ‘civilisation’: I grew up believing that ‘reform’ meant something to do with social fairness. For me politicians who are deforming society ought not to be allowed to claim that they are reforming it. We have lost ownership of the concept of reform.

Assessment and evaluation

For me ‘assessment’ is a process of making critical sense of learning and ‘evaluation’ is the construction of a judgment of its value. I know there are other ways of defining these two concepts but I like it like that. I once taught teachers in a country in which little thought was given to assessment, certainly not in the formative sense. The dominant concept was evaluation, carried out by means of end of course tests. If your salary or your success as a business depends upon scores then it is natural to place the emphasis on teaching to the test.

In the following link I refer to three people that I wish politicians with responsibility for education would read. The list of such people could have been very much longer. One of them is Stephen Kemmis who, with many others, in 1983 published a small book that is generally referred to as Towards the Socially Critical School (not its full title). I have used it a lot and now a number of UK universities specialising in education have introduced it to their masters degree students. I explain how to get a copy in the short piece on the link.

http://www.criticalprofessionallearning.co.uk/assets/Perspectives.pdf

And now let me tell you the story of The Sheep and the Pig.

Some years ago, in a Liverpool Nursery School where the headteacher was very keen on Records of Achievement, a four-year-old child asked the headteacher if she could put one of the two pictures she had done that day into her portfolio. The answer was “Yes, which one?”. Now the child had done one picture of a sheep and one picture of a pig. The picture of the pig was really very good: clearly a well-delineated and recognisable pig. The picture of the sheep, on the other hand, was not very good at all.

When she asked the child which picture she wanted to choose the head was surprised to be told “The sheep, of course”. Being an experienced teacher, and remembering that a purpose of Records of Achievement was that the child should own the decision about what went into the portfolio, the head refrained from intervening at this point. She did, however, ask the parent who came to collect the child why she thought her child had chosen the poor sheep rather than the much better pig. The mother replied, “Well you see, she has been doing pigs for months. Our house is full of her pictures of pigs. That’s her first sheep.”

In other words, the achievement identified by the child as worthy of celebration was the taking of a first step towards new learning.

Having heard the head teacher telling this story it has stuck with me for a long time and I often wonder what happened to that four year old girl when she ‘progressed’ through a school system that required her to submit the equivalent of better and better pictures of pigs and hide her pictures of sheep.

When talking about learning I often use this story and in the last paragraph I say that I often wondered what happened to that child. So, there I was at the checkout the other day in the Co-op in Waterloo where Cherie Blair was brought up and next to me was the head teacher’s deputy from then, back in the 80s. The head and her deputy are sisters. I mentioned how often I used the story and said I often wondered what happened to that little girl. Apparently she is now confidently publishing.

Unfortunately, you cannot tell an Ofsted inspector looking for impact to come back in thirty years to see it. Neither can you persuade a government minister that badly drawn pictures of sheep might signify more than well drawn pictures of pigs.

Cliff Jones November 2015

www.criticalprofessionallearning.co.uk

C5 On Damage Caused by Efforts to Improve Social Mobility

C5 On Damage Caused by Efforts to Improve Social Mobility

Leah K Stewart

After 16 years dedication to our national education system I’d climbed the greasy pole of success high enough to come head-to-head at job interview with some real competition; privately educated Oxbridge students. They were incredible. Their confidence, self-assuredness and fluency in intellectual conversations left me speechless. Counseling myself that I had a right to be there as an all-rounder doing well at a Redbrick University, with prizes for academic, sport and community efforts, my attempts to fit in were like a fool imitating the prince.

They were better, so they won the positions while I entered the working world on an appropriate rung of the ladder to watch, amazed, at the ways they fluidly and shamelessly moved up the ranks compared with my state educated peers. The latest from Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, backs-up my experience: “We know that graduates from less privileged backgrounds are under-represented in the top professions but today’s research shows that they face disadvantage when it comes to pay progression too.”

Seeing that peddling harder would never elevate me and acknowledging that truthfully, I’d not even feel confident in higher positions, it seemed fruitless to continue. That was two years ago when I left the corporate scene for a home-office admin assistant role, freeing up time and head-space to explore the inner workings of this very real social mobility issue.

There’s pain and hope in my findings. Well-meaning efforts to improve social mobility of poor and bright kids, through school’s select and accelerate schemes, are perpetuating this issue. We’re ignoring the underlying problem. On the whole, those schemes only ship students like me into a life we feel entitled to, while floundering among colleagues of a different class. This article is my humble attempt to express what’s missing and why.

First a question: how is it we’ve a general notion of what makes a ‘good student’ when there’s never been, or will be, any national consensus on good teaching? Good students, we all know, are the ones who learn from their teachers. Teachers must work within a system. Our current system aims to improve social mobility and has gone so far that today’s less privileged students are very aware of school’s needs to improve us against our family income. Accountability like this unintentionally separates us from our homes in a way the privately educated never experience.

Instead of being our best support, our communities are reduced to a point on a scale – to move away from. Through hard work at school we kick so far above them they no longer know how to help us. We’re then dependent on successful but busy people taking enough of an interest in our lives to guide our next steps.

If you ask without fear or expectation you’ll hear the ways we put our own interests, joys and quirks aside in pursuit of being good students. The problem? People we meet outside of school, those who can help us with decisions and progress in our working lives, have nothing to go on once we’ve learnt to dismiss what we care about in order to hold our place as ‘good students’ in our fast paced, data-driven school system.

Once students shut down their compass and perform well enough to strike further than their own social capital, the miss-meetings that inevitably follow keep them in their place. This is the glass ceiling. People doing real work have better things to do than teach ‘good students’ to think for themselves again.

The truth? Only through genuine, thoughtful pursuit of our own interests is it possible to find real mentors who’ll gladly guide, coach or encourage us to develop further than our home-contacts can reach. The solution? Amend school accountability so our wonderful teachers are free to honor what each student truly cares about bringing to this world. By not forcing social mobility, but fanning what’s already there, the result will be social mobility.

Leah K Stewart is founder of Beyond the Box Education for young introverted big thinkers who want to make real steps towards big dreams at LeahKStewart.com

B2 The School Revolution Briefing Autumn 2015

B2 Questioning the revolution – The School Revolution Briefing introduced

English education is in the middle of a Revolution, driven by the Conservatives and supported across the Westminster Bubble. All that currently exists is being undermined to allow a Brave New World to emerge. Starting from the government video The Schools Revolution, still the only official statement, this pamphlet looks at some of the key issues raised by the radical new agenda and its contradictions. The core of the Revolution – the Academy/Free Schools programme – is proposed as the means of raising standards. Independent observers cannot find conclusive evidence. The Education Select Committee of MPs drawn across all parties concluded earlier this year that

Current evidence does not allow us to draw conclusions on whether academies in themselves are a positive force for change… there is at present no convincing evidence of the impact of academy status on attainment in primary schools. The DfE should commission such research as a matter of urgency”

The research has not been conducted. The need for this to take place before the Academies Bill 2015 operates is vital.

It is equally vital to examine the chains of schools, replacing Local Authorities (LAs), increasingly favoured by government who will not allow OFSTED inspectors to report on them. Democratically elected councils are inspected, why not chains of schools?

The ‘opt out schools’ are not the only key problem posed by the Schools Revolution. This pamphlet looks at the way schools are being turned into Examination Factories, dominated by test results, and at the contradictions in the Academy-Free School opt out programme. In theory this is about giving power to individual schools, but in practice is transferring power to unaccountable figures in national – and international – Chains of Schools. There are serious risks of schools running out of supplies of teachers, buildings and money. Additionally, Conservative election claims that school budgets are protected from austerity are now in doubt – the TES (28th August) reports estimates of cuts over the next five years of 12 per cent in real terms.

Undermining the rhetoric of freedom is a an agenda of government control, with Primary Schools ordered to teach phonics and Secondary schools to teach the Ebac. Far from being a Brave New World, how close is the Schools Revolution to being an Orwellian nightmare? Is it not time to suspend the Revolution for a Royal Commission on improving schools to avoid the profound risk of long term damage to English schools?

Further reading

Department of Education Comparison of Different Types of School, (DfE Website), July 14th 2014.

House of Commons Education Committee, Academies & Free Schools, HC 258 27th January 2015

Mansell Warwick, Education by Numbers, Politicos 2007

National Union of Teachers Exam Factories? Merryn Hutchings with Dr Naveed Kazmi, 2015

Wolf, Alison – Heading for the Precipice – can further and Higher education funding policies be sustained? Kings College London, June 2015

Further copies of this pamphlet and discussion material from SOSS, at enquries(at)soss.org.uk.

Published by the Symposium on Sustainable Schools, edited by Trevor Fisher. Editorial Board Richard Pring, Michael Bassey, Richard Sidley, Trevor Fisher.

R3 – the academy phenomenon examined

ARE ACADEMIES UNLEASHING GREATNESS … or CHAOS?

Michael Bassey

Whether greatness or chaos is being unleashed by the political drive to ‘academise’ England’s schools is contentious. Anyone engaging in the debate should read “Unleashing Greatness”, the report by the Royal Society or Arts and Pearson of 2012, and then ask to what extent matters have changed since then. This article reviews the report and then briefly notes subsequent authoritative views.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

UNLEASHING GREATNESS” [2012]

The RSA and the Pearson Think Tank set up the Commission in June 2012 and it published its 148 page report in January 2013. The four Commissioners were Christine Gilbert (former Chief Inspector of Ofsted), Professor Chris Husbands (Director of the Institute of Education, University of London), Brett Wigdortz (CEO Teach First) and Professor Becky Francis (educational researcher at King’s College London).

THE FUTURE OF ACADEMISATION

Their task was to consider the future of ‘academisation’, not to challenge the decision to create academies. Their starting point was to define the academy vision:

Autonomy-driven improvement rooted in expectations of excellence, supported by outstanding leadership and governance. … The expectation is that these schools use greater freedom and independence to lead and manage more effectively and more innovatively so that pupil outcomes improve.” (p4)

This led them to ask:

What are the implications of complete academisation for school improvement and pupils’ attainment? How can improvement and attainment best be secured within an academised system? “ (p14)

I have not found a clear explanation of what the Commission means by ‘improvement and attainment’ other than the ubiquitous statistic of 5 A*-C GCSEs (at least a dozen mentions compared to two brief and unelaborated references to a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’). Education is not defined: a visitor from Mars might ask why young people are required to attend these educational establishments.

However the Commission recognised three imperatives to ensure that the academies programme fulfills its promise of a better education for every child. They are to ensure:

[a] “That there is a forensic focus on teaching and its impact on pupils’ learning so that the gap between the vision for academies and practice in classrooms is reduced and the words ‘academisation’ and ‘improvement’ become inextricably and demonstrably linked”.

[b]That an increasingly academised system is fair and equally accessible to children and young people from all backgrounds.”

[c]  “That academies demonstrate their moral purpose and professionalism by providing greater accountability to pupils, parents and other stakeholders. The role of governors is more important than ever in an academised system, and their scrutiny and challenge should ensure effective accountability.” (p4-5)

Imperative [a] is no more than an arcane way of saying what should be expected of every teaching institution. Likewise [b] should be true of every system. [c], in my view, is wrong if it means top-down accountability (from government) but right if it describes bottom-up accountability starting with collegial self-review by school. Top-down accountability is a feature of contemporary management theory that denies that professionals can be trusted to do their best. Society should trust teachers and, indeed, opinion polls show that parents do trust their children’s teachers.

25 RECOMMENDATIONS

The report gives recommendations under the headings: school improvement, academy freedoms, admissions, impact of academisation on local provision, school governance, and central government.

Some would be agreed by most teachers to be worthwhile, bland but obvious.

More academies should recognise the value of establishing 
a collaborative culture, both within and across schools, which recognises the importance of professional development focused on practice in classrooms and of learning in context, and resource it accordingly. (p42)

The government should articulate the case for innovation
and a vision for learning in the twenty-first century that draws on a full understanding of the knowledge, skills and dispositions that young people will need for life and work. (p59)

The DfE should pump-prime the establishment of a Royal College of Teachers that would be independent from, but work with the government, to promote teachers’ professional development, provide evidence to inform education policy, align practice and research and promote peer-to-peer collaboration. (p59)

Teachers should be expected to engage with research as an integral part of their daily work, and providers of initial teacher education … should ensure reflection and evaluation are developed as part of the repertoire of good teaching skills.” (p59)

Some are contentious:

Ofsted should support a school-led, collaborative approach to systemic improvement by recognising the importance of collaborative development as well as individual excellence. It could do this by: judging school leadership outstanding only if a contribution to system-wide improvement can be evidenced.” (p42)

The role of OFSTED is problematic. Local inspectorates supported by HMI are appropriate since they can be expected to understand the local situation, but currently OFSTED is part of the national problem in education.

The Commission seems to regard the difference between secondary and primary schools as a matter of size. It wants primary schools to ‘federate’ to make a larger unit, arguing.

Both local and central government should encourage the federation of primary schools without an immediate emphasis on academy status.” (p42)

This is questionable. Primary education is fundamentally different from secondary education, for example in terms of the essential role of class-teachers-for-a-year in the nurture and social development of the individual child, and, because there are fewer staff, of the opportunities for working collegially for school planning and mutual support. Moreover many primary schools already use informal networks to support each other.

The recommendations for local authorities read as though the Commission wanted to give them a new coat of paint but didn’t dare tell the national government that this means retaining them! Thus:

Local authorities should embrace a new role in education, not as providers of schools or school improvement services, but as champions for children. This would mean articulating
 a local and aspirational vision for education. The government should … acknowledge and clarify the primacy of the local authority as the lead body responsible for planning and commissioning sufficient school places to meet local need. Individual academies and groups of academies should embrace a new relationship with local authorities to ensure they all contribute to local planning, review and development that support both sufficiency and quality, and the needs of all children.” (p100)

And this is what they want national government to do:

The DfE should provide a clearer structure for enabling entry into and exit from the education market, including: ending the practice for appointing sponsors, commonly 
known as the ‘beauty parade’ … [and] intervening to terminate funding agreements (sponsor removal) on the basis of data shared with and recommendations from the local authority.” (p12)

Yet there is a fundamental contradiction between the desire to academise, ie put funding and control into the hands of central government, and the requirement for the LA to act given that the placing of key processes at school level is basic to the academy model. The money follows the powers to school level. The LA role is disappearing as it has less finance, and thus less staff.

ENTHUSIASM IN THE OVERVIEW, DOUBTS IN THE SMALL PRINT, NO FUTURE FORESIGHT

The ‘Overview’ starts with strong support for academisation. (What an ugly word). “The Commission strongly supports the aspirational vision that lies behind the academies programme.”

But the small print of the Report raises sufficient evidence to challenge the whole enterprise. It is not hard to find. There are – hidden away – little nuggets of profound criticism of the development of the academies: covert selection procedures used for admissions; bureaucratic and legal demands wasting the time and energies of heads and frightening off potential local governors; uncertainties as to what school improvement actually means; some academy chains not cutting the mustard; lack of local planning for school places; charismatic heads causing serious risks if unchallenged; development of ‘a highly marketised education system where “dog eats dog”.

The most startling criticism is in the Overview. The section in bold is also highlighted in the Report’s margin so it is impossible to miss).

The introduction of academies has provided much-needed vitality to the school system. At the same time, the evidence considered by the Commission does not suggest that improvement across all academies has been strong enough to transform the life chances of children from the poorest families. There have been some stunning successes among individual sponsored academies and academy chains, and these have raised expectations of what can be achieved even in the most deprived areas. But it is increasingly clear that academy status alone is not a panacea for improvement. While inspiring cases abound, and there are signs of a trend of longer term improvement among sponsored academies, the recent report from the National Audit Office (2012) highlights that Ofsted has judged almost half of sponsored academies as inadequate or satisfactory (the latter is now defined as ‘requiring improvement’). International evidence of the impact of similar systems continues to present a mixed picture”. (p4).

The statement that “academy status alone is not a panacea for improvement” undermines the government dogma that all schools must become academies because they are a magic bullet for better schools. But the Commission report seems reluctant to admit this.

Reading the report leads me to suggest that it would be better even now to give strong support to the many local authorities that try to be effective in their role of supporting schools, and actively tackling those local authorities that are ineffective. So many good local projects have been destroyed by national governments of both left and right because of their antipathy to local democracy.

So, that’s my analysis. My judgement? On the surface, utterances designed to please the secretary of state. Underneath, evidence that our school system is being lobotomized rather than academised, while this report puts another scalpel in the surgeon’s hand. Our visitor from Mars would think that teaching in schools is done by ‘sponsors’, ‘trusts’ and ‘governors’ and might wonder what the role of teachers is. Neither the Commission nor the present government seem to have the ‘vision for learning in the twenty-first century’ that is needed. This report is required reading for those concerned about the government’s academy project.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

BBC REPORT [2015]

So what has happened since this report was published in January 2013? A report by BBC News dated 3 June 2015 is helpful, as these quotes show:

As of June 2015, there are 4,676 academies open in England. There are hundreds more in the pipeline. The number has grown dramatically under the coalition government, from 203 in May 2010. Now over half of all secondaries in England are academies.”

The BBC report asks: are academies all about improving failing schools – and answers thus:

Not any more. The policy, which originated under Labour, aimed to improve struggling schools, primarily in deprived areas. And this continues under the sponsored-academy model, where failing schools are taken over and run by an academy trust, usually under a new principal and governing body.

But this was changed radically and accelerated by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. Now all schools – primary as well as secondary – have been invited to convert to academy status, but priority has being given to those deemed by education watchdog Ofsted to be “outstanding” or “performing well”. These are known as converter academies and are in part about spreading good practice from the best schools.”

So, sponsored academies are schools that were judged by Ofsted to be inadequate and converter academies those whose governing body has chosen for the school to become an academy.

What are the advantages for a school becoming a ‘converter’ academy?

On top of the £25,000 towards conversion costs from the Department for Education, academies can potentially top up their budget by as much as 10%. This is because in addition to the regular per pupil funding, it gets money that would previously have been held back by the local authority to provide services such as special needs support. If the school is able to buy in the services it needs more cheaply, or has less need of those services, it can benefit financially from becoming an academy. Now large academy chains run schools creating economies of scale themselves.

More freedom over staff pay can mean they make savings or attract and retain good teachers by paying more, while control over the length of the school day can allow them to teach more lessons.”

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

SELECT COMMITTEE [2015]

But the most significant comment on the merit of academies came six months earlier from the Education Select Committee of the House of Commons. Its report on Academies of 27 January 2015 concluded:

Current evidence does not allow us to draw firm conclusions on whether academies are a positive force for change. According to the research that we have seen, it is too early to judge whether academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children. … What can be said is that, however measured, the overall state of schools has improved during the course of the academisation programme. The competitive effect upon the maintained sector of the academy model may have incentivised local authorities to develop speedier and more effective intervention in their underperforming schools.”

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

TEACHERS’ AND GOVERNORS’ CONCERNS [2015]

Nevertheless the Government is pushing ahead quickly with its intentions of turning all schools into academies – ie removing them from the oversight of local authorities. The Education and Adoption Bill going through Parliament in the autumn of 2015 has raised a number of concerns including the lack of consultation – as expressed in this comment by the National Union of Teachers.

  1. If the Bill is allowed to become law without amendment, it could lead to thousands more schools being threatened with forced academisation.

  2. Under its provisions, the Secretary of State for Education will acquire a new ‘duty’ to turn so-called ‘failing’ schools – those Ofsted deems to require significant improvement or special measures – into sponsored academies. There will be no opportunity to consider alternative measures to improve the school – such as local support or entering into a federation – and there will be no time given for a school improvement plan to be set in place.

  3. Furthermore, there will be no consultation with parents, staff, the local authority or the wider community about whether the school should become an academy or the identity of the sponsor who will take over the school.”

And Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association, has said:

This Bill represents a further centralisation of decision making regarding our schools; it does not sit well with the Government’s rhetoric about school autonomy as it not only removes the right for parents to be consulted, but it will give the Secretary of State power to overrule the decisions of local decision makers, whether those are the school governing body or the local authority.”

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

C4 – A historical perspective – how did we get here (March 2015)

This important essay on the current perspective on state education was originally published in March 2015 as part of the Reclaim Schools initiative. The Full document is available on www.reclaimingschools.org site where contributions to the debate can also be found. The role of the Callaghan speech is vital and needs to be brought into focus along with the Black Papers and other attacks on comprehensive and progressive education in the 1970s who laid the foundation for what we experience today. TF

A historical perspective: how did we get into this state?

Jon Berry

It is a common complaint heard from all teachers in all sectors: if only we could be left to get on with the enjoyable job of teaching children and not have to spend so much time checking, reporting and writing down what we’ve done – or what we’re going to do – then our lives as teachers would be blissful. How have we reached the stage where finding interesting ways to get young people to learn has, for some teachers, become almost the last thing they think of as they prepare their working day?

It is worth starting by saying that there has never been a golden age of teacher independence. However, it was only as far back as 1976 that a leader in The Guardian newspaper could confidently proclaim that ‘no principle has been more hallowed by British governments than the rule that they should not interfere in the curriculum of state schools’. That was twelve years before the Education Reform Act (ERA) of 1988 introduced us to the National Curriculum, age-related testing in the form of SATs and the marketization of schools through open enrolment and local financial management – thereby diminishing the role of democratically accountable local authorities. In the following decade, the body charged with inspecting schools, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) was largely replaced by Ofsted – an organization whose whole tone and approach was, and remains, punitive and unsympathetic to teachers. This suite of measures has, over the quarter of a century following ERA, had the effect of making England’s teachers (things differ significantly in other parts of the UK) among the most scrutinised, controlled and publicly accountable educators anywhere in the world.

It was in the same year of that Guardian leader, 1976, that the Prime Minister of the time, Labour’s Jim Callaghan, made a famous speech at Ruskin College. Callaghan – who was one of only a handful of British Prime Ministers since 1850 not to have been to Oxford or Cambridge – acknowledged at the time that he was stepping into the ‘secret garden’ of education where few politicians before had dared to tread. To read the speech now, at a distance of nearly forty years, is to recognise much of the rhetoric of education policy since. Notions of value for money in straitened times, along with a bemoaning of a perceived drop in standards, inform much of what is said. Callaghan also seized on an episode in William Tyndale School in London to launch an attack on progressive methods, positing the notion that all of this educational experimentation flew in the face of the common-sense position that it was the job of educators to prepare young people for the demands of a modern economy.

By the time Callaghan’s successor, Margaret Thatcher, left office some fifteen years later, the apparatus for ensuring greater regulation and accountability was firmly in place, albeit that the NUT in particular continued to fight vigorously against this, most notably with an eventual, if short-lived, boycott of SATs in 1993. Throughout the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher and her close allies busily set about the business of applying the principles of the free-market and deregulation to all elements of social life. Everything was up for sale from council houses to nationally owned companies: the stage was well and truly set for the privatisation of the state education system as well.

When Labour’s Tony Blair took office in 1997 with the now infamous proclamation that his three priorities were ‘education, education, education’, mechanisms were fully in place for the market to work its magic on schools, teachers, pupils and their parents. Test results were used for league tables that were placed in the public domain so that parents could exercise free choice when deciding where to send their children. In reality, this so-called ‘choice’ was a complete fiction for most people and could be exercised only by a privileged few. The publication of the outcome of Ofsted inspections helped to further entrench the idea that the quality of schools could be categorised in order to help the ‘customers’ exercise this choice. By the turn of the new century it was unsurprising that this espousal of market values of competition, ‘driving up standards’ and customer choice resulted in the first academy schools, thereby irredeemably letting the privatisation genie out of the bottle.

The impact of this unremitting imposition of market values onto the school system has been profound. Test results become the driving force behind practically everything school leaders demand of their staff. The quest for high Ofsted ratings now manifests itself not just in the frantic scrabbling in the period prior to an inspection, but in competency-led, reductive lesson observations, at the end of which individual teachers are branded according to their ability to comply with whichever set of priorities enjoy current favour. So-called ‘middle managers’ in schools spend inordinate amounts of time checking and scrutinising a whole raft of meaningless actions and data as they chase the specious measurable outcomes that can cement their school’s market position.

Unsurprisingly, all of this has had an effect on teachers’ daily lives. Targets, questionable learning objectives, collection of all sorts of unreliable information and the unrelenting measuring of outcomes and ‘progress’ mean that many teachers spend their times on mind-numbing routines, drills and rehearsal. Fortunately, thousands of teachers still harbour a strong sense of what is right for young people and do everything in their power to subvert what Finnish author Pasi Sahlberg has dubbed the GERM – the Global Education Reform Movement. However, to understand just why those who wield the clipboards have become the demi-gods of the educational world, teachers need to look to a political system that, in a reflection of the wider world, has privileged market forces, privatisation and the so-called measurement of performance. And, of course, teachers will need to join forces with parents, students and others to point out the error of their ways to those who persist in foisting such unfairness on us all.

Further reading:

Ball, S. (2008) The Great Education Debate. London: Policy Press.

Cox, B. (1995). The battle for the English curriculum. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Sahlberg, P. (2011). Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? New York: Teachers College Press.