Coasting Schools

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Do you have middle-of-the-road days? I know I do …

In a recent speech, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

Our one nation approach is very much about making sure children are being properly supported to achieve their best in school. But for too long a group of ‘coasting’ schools, many in leafy areas with more advantages than schools in disadvantaged communities, have fallen beneath the radar.

Last term, I wrote an article in @SchoolsWeek called “Promises, promises, promises”, in which I discussed the post-election results and how the government now needs to make good on its election promises. I particularity addressed the Workload Challenge Report and the action plan on page 19. On the comment thread, a teacher of 37 years left an interesting comment which has sparked the title of this blogpost;

“Interesting points but just tinkering at the edges. It feels like the teaching profession are treated as adolescents. And the teaching profession itself acts in that way too. The profession has to ask the grown-ups (the government) for permission to work less than 60 hours per week, and all the other things listed above. If the profession want to act as grown-ups they need to find a way to take the decisions themselves. Teachers should be partners in deciding education policy in all its aspects, from the curriculum and school structures, to working conditions. If we think that Ms Morgan is going to do anything to improve working conditions we need to think again. She has just presented a bill to sack head teachers of “coasting” schools but has not defined what “coasting” means. So she can effectively sack anyone she wishes. And what has the profession done to oppose this crazy situation? Absolutely nothing!

Politicians do not respond to adolescents saying “please Miss it’s not fair”. They are in government because they are brutal in their ability to grab power. The teaching profession cannot even organise a single clear representative response to what is being done to them. We need to become grown-ups and start to make grown up decisions. A good place to start would be with a reform of who represents the profession. We have teacher unions that battle one another and sabre rattle, and head teacher organisations that do not co-ordinate with one another or talk to the teacher unions. If we cannot even get that sorted the profession is doomed to further decline as a second class job. I say this sadly after 37 years as a teacher.”

What a powerful, yet disheartening comment.

Policy Poster If Teachers Can Mobilise Themselves They Can Move Policy

A New Measure:

After much delay, Nicky Morgan and the DfE finally released a publication defining ‘coasting schools’ in June 2015. I write this post for my own benefit to help understand the definition. I hope it helps you too. According to Schools Week;

The new measure will first be used in the summer of 2016 to define schools eligible for intervention if they cannot show a “credible” improvement plan.

In the DfE statement, this “new measure which for the first time will identify those schools which are failing to push every pupil to reach their potential. These schools, which have been deemed to be ‘coasting’ for a number of years, will be offered help from the best education experts in the country to improve their results and will be required to produce a clear plan for improvement.”

Really? Do schools go on coasting for a number of years?

Well, it all depends on the definition and how it is measured.


Apparently in this statement, Morgan says this measure is designed to help the school. “The measure is expected to ‘help’ hundreds of schools that previously fell beneath the radar – which could be because they have high-attaining intakes, or focused on getting lots of pupils over the C/D borderline.” What is clearly stated and needed from any identified ‘coasting school’ is this;

  • a credible plan to improve and ensure all children make the required progress.
  • those that can improve will be supported to do so by our team of expert heads.
  • those that cannot will be turned into academies under the leadership of our expert school sponsors

and I kid you not, it is written within the article and Morgan’s speech; “one of the best ways of improving under-performing schools.” The new measure will be introduced through the Education and Adoption Bill and the time-line is shown below.

Education and Adoption Bill DfE The criteria goes on to define;

  • Schools eligible for intervention will be those which fall below a new ‘coasting’ level for 3 years.
  • In 2014 and 2015 that level will be set at 60% of pupils achieving 5 good GCSEs or an above-average proportion of pupils making acceptable progress.
  • From 2016, the level will be set based on Progress 8 – a new accountability measure, which shows how much progress pupils in a particular school make between the end of primary school and their GCSEs.
  • At primary, the definition will apply to those schools who have seen fewer than 85% of children achieving an acceptable secondary-ready standard in reading, writing and maths over the course of 3 years, and who have seen insufficient pupil progress.

What next?

The government announced plans to tackle ‘failing schools’ by introducing a new measure to turn all schools rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted into academies.If you read the small print, it says that the new Education and Adoption Bill ‘will close loopholes to speed up the turnaround of failing schools.’ The move is expected to help a further 1,000 schools between now and 2020 improve by sweeping away bureaucratic and legal loopholes that previously prevented schools from being transformed. You can download the Education and Adoption Bill below.


The article goes on to share some statistics from the Academies Annual Report for the 2013/14 academic year which (apparently) provides clear and credible evidence of the positive impact academies are having on young people’s life chances. Having work in ‘academies’ for the past 8 years, I still cannot ‘with-hand-on-heart’ say that these schools I have worked in, have performed any better than the state schools I have worked in preceding this period; dating back to the years of Tony Blair and Labour when the ‘academies movement’ first started. What I can say confidently, is that teachers work very hard, regardless on ‘school type’ and that every teacher wants ‘the best for every child.’


  • Hundreds of ‘coasting’ schools to be transformed – DfE.
  • Up to 1,000 failing schools to be transformed under new measures – DfE.
  • Funding for disadvantaged pupils – National Audit Office.
  • Education and Adoption Bill – Houses of Parliament.


Despite the terminology and sub-referencing, the Bill is only 12 pages long. So, it is well-worth a quick skim-read!

The Eduction and Adoption Bill is written to;

  • to close loopholes and speed up the turnaround of failing schools
  • powers have been backed by leading heads as ‘very positive step forward for families’
  • move is part of the government’s plan to give every single child the best start in life.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 09.12.32

  1. Education and Adoption Bill PDF
  2. Link to holding page.

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