Stories + Views
The White Paper: What’s in it for parents?
Parents, for so long treated as the main drivers of education reform, get scant direct mention in this week’s White Paper. Teachers are the flavour of this particular political month. Nevertheless, this fiercely political White Paper contains reforms that will affect parents directly.
It just depends on what kind of parent you are.
If your child is at a grammar school or in one of the newly freed ‘outstanding’ academies or burgeoning free schools, then this government has lots of treats in store for you; the chances are that the school’s highly academic curriculum, bolstered by a largely affluent/privileged intake, will win you a further hike up the league tables. There will be lots of English bacc certificates to flutter around. Your school may be in a better position to bid for the plethora of grants and endowments for artistic/scientific extension work increasingly available from private philanthropic schemes.
There are hidden dangers to the new school freedoms of course. There will be fewer checks and balances on your autonomous schools and the lifting of the requirement for Free Schools to have qualified teachers could leave your child prey to some pretty eccentric teaching. But the whole school population will definitely feel the financial advantages, in the short term certainly, of cutting loose from less privileged schools in your area.
It will be a very different story for parents at many local maintained non-selective schools, particularly in severely deprived areas. Whatever the hard work that has gone into improving results at you school, two significant proposed changes – raising the floor of so called failure from 30% to 35% in terms of GCSE’s including Maths and English, and further broadening the specification for what is considered five good GCSE’s – will inevitably make the job of these schools far harder especially at a time of overall cuts.
So if your school is one of those who fails to pick its results above the crucial 35% you will find your child’s school labelled a failure, however fantastic and hard working the leadership, teaching and pupils, and then be almost certainly converted into an Academy against your collective will.
As for the move towards an English bacc, without the extra resources/teachers required to introduce and consolidate modern languages, history, geography and separate sciences into the curriculum, schools like yours will inevitably slip back further in terms of league tables and local/national esteem.
And no, the much hyped pupil premium will not even begin to cover these extra costs; remember the government has axed the funding stream for one to one catch up tuition, so the pupil premium is going to have to re-invent the wheel on this, as on so many other initiatives. Newly slashed funding to school sixth forms will make it even harder for many schools to retain pupils beyond 16.
Parents will also be affected by potential reform of admissions policies, one of the major, if least publicised, elements of the White Paper. The growth in academies and free schools means more schools will become their own admission authorities, although still bound by the Admissions Code. But that might have less meaning if the government go ahead with proposals to weaken the part played by local authorities in overseeing schools admission policies and ensuring fairness.
Taken in tandem, such proposed changes make the emergence of a two tier system even more likely. We need to start lobbying against these damaging reforms as soon as possible.