Does the Department for Education actually know what it is doing?
… tinkering with structures is a distraction from the real needs of schools – developing great teaching and great leadership.” (Russell Hobby, NAHT)
Not only was the Education Excellence Everywhere (March 2016) White Paper hideously named, but it has already been partially shelved by Justine Greening MP.
Original policies included the following:
- plans to force schools to convert into academies and/or join MATs (Multi Academy Trusts)
- new performance tables for academy trusts and MATs
- reform the (NCTL) National College of Teaching and Leadership
- web tools for recruitment
- QTS (Qualified Teaching Status) to be replaced
- the role of local authorities in education; including admissions
- brokering school improvement
- increasing role for all of the RSC (Regional School Commissioners)
- a National Citizen Service as well as a National Teaching Service
- alternative provision reform
- removal of teaching and learning grades from OfSTED reports
Rather than fixating on school structures the government should focus relentlessly on what really matters, attracting enough excellent teachers into the classroom and ensuring schools have enough resources, both of which are under grave threat from this government.” (Lucy Powell MP)
So, with a u-turn on several policies that were announced in March 2016, what can we predict next from the DfE?
These are my 5 predictions for the remainder of 2016 and early 2017:
- Apprenticeships: DfE guidance says “employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million will need to spend 0.5% of their total pay bill on the apprenticeship levy … introducing a ‘levy allowance’ of £15,000 per year. This means that the total amount [employers] need to spend is 0.5% of your pay bill, minus £15,000. I admit I need to re-read the guidance, but it is advertised on the DfE as: “apprenticeship trains you to provide support in the classroom. Learning support staff work with teachers, carry out duties like lesson preparation, and work with small groups or individuals.” Despite reducing budgets and schools paying up to 85% of their budget on staffing, this appears to be the only way the government can get costs down enough to make privatisation viable. By employing young people to be trained and qualified whilst working on the job; jeopardising longevity of qualified teacher status in exchange for cheap labour and increased employment.
- Assessment: apparently, a two-year freeze is to be upheld. I can see this happening after the key stage 1 and 2 fiasco last summer. Lack of exemplar materials and little or no knowledge about how the 100 average point school will not ‘fail’ 50% of students, is yet to be worked through. Some breathing space for primary colleagues who can get back to teaching …
- OfSTED: In 2015, the watchdog promised no significant changes to the School Inspection Handbook for at least two years. Next year, I suspect a pilot will commence to consider inspecting schools and not grading teaching, learning and assessment in the overall report. Although this sounds like a fabulous idea, it is my belief that ‘calling for the teaching, learning and assessment judgement’ to remain within the framework is essential is we want inspectors to focus on teaching, and not solely on (data) outcomes. If we don’t want this to happen, we must push for the judgement to remain.
- English Baccalaureate: well, if you haven’t noticed by now, I’ve been politely asking the DfE to inform us when they will report back on the EBacc consultation period and provide school leaders with the feedback. It’s been 9 months already! My prediction is this: the 90% benchmark will be dropped, but the push to have a secondary pathway will continue, despite government not yet addressing the fact that there are not enough language teachers to make it viable.
- and finally, Grammar schools: the government and Theresa May are fixated on the ideas that selection is in the interests of all, despite the DfE wanting to increase teachers’ access to high-quality evidence to make informed decisions about what works, they ignore the evidence. Their next bill will be to reverse the ban on grammar schools.
The Schools that Work for Everyone consultation, which I announced in an oral statement to the House on 12 September, remains ongoing. This consultation asks how we can create more great school places in more parts of the country – including selective places for local areas that want them – and asks our independent schools, universities and faith schools to play their part in improving the quality of our state-funded schools. (Justine Greening MP)
I wonder if anyone is still pulling the strings?
” … comprehensive schools can do a fantastic job.” Michael Gove
Of course I could be accused of conspiracy theories yet again, but one must consider the team of people behind Justine Greening and her office. It’s not just Lord Nash and Nick Gibb making the decisions.
There’s a reason Gove is back on the scene. He is looking for another job to do, so for now we will have to put up with his commentary on education until March 2017. This is the time when Article 50 is initiated by Theresa May; the Brexit process will keep him busy!
Take a final moment to read this historical comments (May 2014) from Michael Gove on school selection:
“… you can have lots and lots of social mobility in a society without having to have selection at 11. There’s nothing wrong with grammar schools, and there’s a lot to celebrate in the existing grammar schools that we have, but it’s also the case that comprehensive schools can do a fantastic job.”
Of course this is all speculation, but at least we have avoided any possibility of strike action with the removal of forced academisation. I suspect grammar schools may put this back on the table.
Keep up to date with all of the Department for Education’s announcements here.