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01/05/12

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Conditions are right for a “perfect storm” says Assistant Director of Children’s Services

Schools face “unprecedented pressure” because of the Government’s policies, says a report by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS). Heads and teachers are “becoming increasingly alienated” at a time when the Government expects them to deliver higher standards. The factors contributing to what one Assistant Director of Children’s Services in a large county authority described as a “perfect storm” are:

1 Increased floor targets;

2 Tougher Ofsted which threatens the current rating of the majority of schools;

3 Reduced flexibility in 14-16 qualifications;

4 A tight funding regime made worse by the new funding formula which will results in many losers;

5 The question about whether to become an academy or not;

6 The new National Curriculum;

7 Inadequate capital funding to meet the increased demand for primary school places;

8 The possibility of regional pay for teachers.

All the Department for Education was offering of any significance to help schools cope with the “unprecedented changes” was adopting academy status (stand-alone or as part of a chain), National College programmes, free market providers and “rather grudgingly” local authorities with much reduced resources, says the report.

It’s noticeable that the ADCS has recognised that Government strategy includes “free market providers”, handing schools over to be run by for-profit organisations – something that Nick Clegg has ruled out and many Tory supporters are at pains to deny despite many other Conservatives supporting it. It’s clear, however, that the ADCS sees this development as being on the Government’s agenda.

The ADCS report says that local authorities are needed now more than ever: “There is no doubt that the local authority can be a very effective middle tier, and this is confirmed by international experience.” ADCS identified qualities demonstrated by effective LAs. These include: local knowledge, access to relevant data, convening regular meetings with schools, encouraging partnerships, handling parental complaints, intervening early when necessary and often before Ofsted, working closely with all partners including Unions and keeping schools informed of key developments locally and nationally.

The report concludes: “Local authorities, when they perform well, have demonstrated that they can be that necessary middle tier. Academy chains and to a lesser extent, the National College programmes, can meet some of the requirements but they cannot meet the whole range of functions …and their capacity is strictly limited. It is, therefore, perverse not to see local authorities as key, for the next five years, as one of the central providers of this effective middle tier. It is important that these arguments are properly understood as the future role of local authorities is considered by government later this year.”

Let’s hope that the Government recognises that local authorities can be the middle tier that both the Secretary of State and the Chief Inspector of Schools recognise is necessary. And let’s hope that the Government realise that if they keep on their present course they are steering into a “perfect storm”.

 

 

 

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. “if they keep on their present course”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/9238403/Paying-teachers-by-results-will-cause-staffroom-rifts.html

    Present course full steam ahead. I’m sure this will help the recruitment crisis for heads of maths. No longer will everyone want to pull together to address the most difficult classes and situations. Only stupid people would help others – if you’re sensible you focus on your own results and only on them. Says Gove. Because like he would know.

  2. Most graduates I know understand this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc
    I did it as an undergraduate and again in my MEd.
    A lot of it is just obvious.

    How come we got somebody who is trying to re-engineer the whole of state education without seeming to have the remotest level of insight into the basics of management?
    Somewhere in a previous life we must all have done something very, very bad.

  3. Ricky Tarr says:

    I doubt she’ll win much public sympathy by moaning about floor targets. They aren’t exactly onerous.

    • One school I know appears to have been put into special measures for not getting enough students from level 4 primary to Bs at GCSE. The students are happy to get their Cs and get into good career paths and the teachers are failing to sufficiently indoctrinate them with the belief that they are failures is that is all they achieve.

      It strikes you have no idea whatsoever of the reality of meeting the new targets Ricky.

      • Ricky Tarr says:

        One school I know appears to have been put into special measures for not getting enough students from level 4 primary to Bs at GCSE.

        I’m guessing that would be another school you’ve taught at, Rebecca. Maybe there’s some “Curse of Hanson” that brings special measures winging in from out of left field even years after your departure.

        If I were an HMI and found that only 35% of Middle Attainers were making expected progress in English compared to 95% in a much more socially challenged urban inner-city school, then I’d suspect something was wrong.

        Perhaps I’d want to check whether maybe the school was concentrating on other pupils – the trickier ones, maybe? But oh no – only 25% of them are making expected progress. So is all the effort going into stretching the high-fliers? Sadly, no. Nearly a third of them are failing to get there too. So, it’s hard not to conclude that this English department is doing no one any good.

        And with Maths, it isn’t much better. Only 9% of low attainers making expected progress. (Compare that with 93% at a good school like…..er….Mossbourne Academy).

        The students are happy to get their Cs and get into good career paths ….

        You’re forgetting that many of these kids (arriving with level 4) are supposed to go to uni….. the days when Uncle Colin could wangle them a job at Sellafield are over.

        the teachers are failing to sufficiently indoctrinate them with the belief that they are failures if that { a C} is all they achieve.

        The culture of low expectations in a nutshell.

        …. and if I guessed right on the school, the average grade per GCSE for middle attainers is actually a D.

        • K Campbell says:

          Let’s suppose that at this school the students received the grades that they worked for and at the inner London school the students were ‘assisted’ with their coursework/ controlled assessments.

        • “Curse of Hanson”
          No Ricky – it’s the curse of the schools in challenging circumstances.

          “I’d suspect something was wrong”
          So would you send in experts to diagnose what was going on or would you send in a team of people with no experience in schools like this who’ve watched a video of Mossbourne, know the school’s a failure the minute it doesn’t look like Mossbourne and write the report which justifies that conclusions based on an inappropriate misuse of evidence and the screening out of all the school’s strengths.?

          “the days when Uncle Colin could wangle them a job at Sellafield are over.”
          Absolutely. + most of these kids don’t have an Uncle Colin associated with Sellafied.
          So a large schools having no NEETS would be quite an achievement wouldn’t it?
          One you wouldn’t expect to be missing from an Ofsted report?

          “The culture of low expectations in a nutshell.”
          Absolutely. But anyone with eyes could see that’s despite the dedicated and inspirational staff and is due to the realities of endemic multi-generational social deprivation. Schools in tough areas with low expectations do not have substantial Oxbridge access programs which involve a wide range of students at the top end of their G&T programs Ricky.
          I’m surprised you find it appropriate to compare such a school with a school which selects the children with highly motivated parents, if funded to levels other schools can’t begin to imagine and has a vast excess of staff floating around their magnificently equipped building. Perhaps you don’t know what it’s like to teaching classrooms which have very limited technology are to hot and too small with tiny corridors and without surplus staff who can mop up problems? Perhaps you assume everyone has departmental computer rooms, lots of space and lots of spare staff around to deal with problems and prevent them escalating? Perhaps you don’t understand that schools with far worse facilities and low funding will struggle to produce above average results. If so why do you struggle to comprehend these things? I have no idea how you could fail to see it.

          “and if I guessed right on the school, the average grade per GCSE for middle attainers is actually a D.”
          So there’s a problem. Could it be that no schools in challenging circumstances round here can recruit heads of maths because nobody will do the job because of the unrelenting hell of ‘notice to improve’ and ‘special measures’? Or has nobody noticed that schools advertising for heads of maths in this area are advertising again and again?

          “You’re forgetting that many of these kids (arriving with level 4) are supposed to go to uni…..”
          Don’t be so patronising. I understand the problems of getting kids who live far from cities to unis. I’ve been working on it for a very long time with people with tremendous ability, experience and proven track records. You seem to be working with stats which recognise no difference between the data for the geographical areas where children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds where no-one in their family has ever been to university can go to city universities without leaving home and areas where they have to make long and difficult journeys and live away to do that. But please correct me if I’m wrong and you do actually understand these issues to any kind of coherent level by explaining them to me from your analysis for students who live far from university cities and who have no family who’ve ever been to university.

          You seem to share Gove’s view that every schools which is below the national average will be improved by:
          -banning them having newly qualified and trainee teachers.
          -ensuring plenty of teachers go off with stress.
          -ensuring everyone has all their professional dignity stripped away.
          -collapsing schools budgets as they lose numbers due to the negative press
          -collapsing the range of courses they can offer.
          -ensuring staff who have a choice will not apply there.
          -making it exceptionally hard for them to recruit key posts no matter how much they cut into other budgets to fund extra payments.
          -seriously undermining the school’s leadership and causing all sorts of political problems.

          Do you share this view Ricky? Special measures was a brutal process designed for the most serious of circumstances. It’s hugely counter-productive even in the most desperate circumstances where there are clearly also obvious benefits to it. It was not designed for all schools which are below average because their facilities, funding and catchments are below average. It was not designed for schools where all the staff are already dedicated and hard working and there are clear ways in which problems can be addressed with time, small amounts of appropriate support and a vague degree of realism from the external authorities.

          • Ricky Tarr says:

            it’s the curse of the schools in challenging circumstances.

            But the circumstances in rural Cumbria are not challenging.

            What’s challenging is when you have classes where three or four pupils have just arrived traumatized by having to flee Boko Haram, while another three or four have just arrived in this country not knowing whether their Dad has been killed by the Shebab.

            Challenging is where the class members have six to eight different languages as their first language and where more than a third do not have fluent English.

            Challenging is where kids live in high-density council estates where drug dealers rule the roost.

            Challenging is where half the kids (often more) do not have both birth parents in the home.

            Challenging is where they have never seen a field, a sheep or a cow (except maybe in Somalia).

            What is NOT challenging is a classroom full of white kids set on the edge of the Lake District National Park.

          • “What’s challenging is when you have classes where three or four pupils have just arrived traumatized by having to flee Boko Haram, while another three or four have just arrived in this country not knowing whether their Dad has been killed by the Shebab.”

            I understand how to deal with traumatised children Ricky. One of the most wonderful things about dealing with children is that they compartmentalise their worlds into parts in ways adults cannot. They will naturally ‘be normal’ in one situation and completely fall apart in others. If a child suddenly loses a parent you should expect them to ‘grieve in puddles’. I can be quite disconcerting at first – how can the child be so insenstive and be so happy and normal most of the time? But that’s just they way are. Provided you accept they way they are and create space for them to fall apart when they need to, they can be incredible students a great deal of the time. The key is being able to create that space. If you have sufficient staff who can see the warning signs and take that child off and give them some one-to-one attention and support of the right kind when they need it you have a child who will achieve wonderful things. If you do not have spare staff things escalate very rapidly and the child can end up doing themselves and others a great deal of damage and being rapidly alienated from society.

            “Challenging is where the class members have six to eight different languages as their first language and where more than a third do not have fluent English.”
            Absolutely. And schools facing these challenges need extra support to help them learn the systems of best practice which are succeeding in our schools which are doing exceptionally well in these circumstances and then they need funding for the interventions required.

            “Challenging is where kids live in high-density council estates where drug dealers rule the roost”
            Yes. Moderate density council estates where drug dealers rule the roost are challenging too.

            “Challenging is where half the kids (often more) do not have both birth parents in the home.”
            Yes. Challenging is also where both parents are at home and the dad is interfering with the daughters ever night or a parent is seriously and unpredictably violent.

            “Challenging is where they have never seen a field, a sheep or a cow”
            Challenging is also where they haven’t seen a major city and have no access to the resources they bring.

            Challenging is working with the students whose parents are completely broken, have never succeeded at anything, have no self-respect and do not believe they have the capacity to raise their children well.

            Challenging is working with adolescents. Because being an adolescent is very hard for many of our students.

            Challenging is surviving a lesson in which there is substantial failure because many of the children were up all night or are intoxicated – yet another lesson in which you fail to do justice by the good kids because you are fire fighting.

            Challenging is failing to teach properly again and again because you haven’t sufficient back up to deal with the needs of all the children who need support or you haven’t sufficient resources but carrying on anyway.

            “What is NOT challenging is a classroom full of white kids set on the edge of the Lake District National Park.”
            That’s right Ricky. They all dress in Victorian pinafores and britches and arrive at school neatly presented perfectly presented, well fed on best mutton off the farm and perfectly content on their route through life into farming. After school they go home to watch the squirrels and bunnies and complete their homework before tea with jam and bread.

            I remember when ‘The World’ moored up of Whitehaven and the local newpaper came up with a list of the top 10 places for the rich people who visit it to visit in Cumbria and Cleator Moor was on it……!!!!! On detailed scrutiny the justification was that Lowry painted it.
            Here’s the tourist guide: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7rxufMTIl0

          • I’ve been looking for the sister video – ‘God made Frizington’ which is essentially the same but dwells on the fact that there is a kids playground in Frizington where the fence posts have been painted to look like pencils….. and therefore Frizington has a feature.

            Never mind – the lads have made a video of themselves which I think give some insight into what the class who are targeted to get Bs and Cs instead of Ds look like if they managed to make it in on a Monday morning.
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vUwFmxe4KQ

            And to be honest Ricky they don’t look like the ones with the asbos and the convictions.

            Welcome to England Ricky – a place full of old pit villages. Rows of little terraces houses with council estates added where the tourists never go.

            Places where teachers work relentlessly day in day out to care for the kids and help them make the best of themselves. Where the task is often relentless and soul destroying and it can take years for the kids to show you that they valued how much you bothered with them.

            Places where everyone is proud and happy for the kids who make something of themselves my getting themselves into a decent career where they’ll be able to pay there way and have a few nice things and do right by the people around them. Where none of the kids and none of the families give a stuff whether the Secretary of State for education deems them all to be failures for not achieving his targets because they knew they were failures long ago.

            You think it’s NOT challenging to teach them?
            You think your average Ofsted hit squad recruit has any idea what it’s really like to teach in a decent school which is doing a good job by them?
            You really have no idea how they come in with a preconceived agenda and judge according to it because they are far to inexperienced to do any better?

  4. Ricky Tarr says:

    A school’s intake governs its results

    Janet, that rather implies that teachers have zero effect.

    But that is not always the case, is it?

    We know that pupils taught by a good teacher do better than those taught by a bad one.

    • Ricky – read the research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies which makes the point that the overall exam results of a school are governed by its intake. It does not follow that individual teachers cannot make a difference. Of course, a good teacher will provide a better education than a bad one, but good results can mask bad teaching. For example, pupils in a grammar school chosen for their high ability can still pass GCSE C even if they have a weak teacher. In 2009 a Trafford grammar school failed Ofsted for failing to provide an adequate education despite having a high GCSE pass rate.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7959129.stm

      This shows the danger of judging a school and teachers by looking at exam grades only. That’s where Contextual Value Added (CVA) was useful – it was praised by the OECD as being a more sophisticated marker of the effectiveness of a school than raw grades because it looks at the context in which a school is working. However, the Government has abolished CVA and pushes a “no excuses” mantra. I’m sure a teacher with bottom sets will feel encouraged by the thought that if their low-attaining pupils don’t reach a particular target despite all the teacher’s best efforts then s/he will be judged inadequate.

    • Tim Bidie says:

      Intuitively, a school’s intake is bound to influence its results.

      But we are not doing as well as a number of other countries in helping our most disadvantaged:

      ‘Figures show that the poorest 25 per cent of pupils perform worse than those in countries such as Australia, France, Spain and the United States.

      A major study shows that Britain was ranked 28th out of 34 nations based on the proportion of deprived children who exceed expectations in exams.

      Just a quarter of poor pupils succeed “against the odds” at school – below the international average and behind countries such as Poland, Greece, Mexico, Slovenia and Chile.

      It comes amid continuing concerns over poor levels of social mobility in Britain.

      The OECD study said: “Regardless of whether income inequality is high or low, an individual’s skills and abilities are a key factor in determining whether they can get a good job and move up the income ladder.

      “Yet in countries with higher income inequality – such as Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States – a child’s future economic standing is often closely related to the income level of his or her parents.

      The study, based on the results of a reading test, showed that 31 per cent of poor children across the world manage to exceed expectations at school for their social class. In Britain, the proportion falls to 25 per cent.’

      http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/4/15/50110750.pdf

      Diverse reforms of long established state educational systems have made a difference in many other countries:

      ‘in recent years, an increasing number of education systems in oecd and partner countries have welcomed the involvement of private entities, including parents, non-governmental organisations and enterprises, in funding and managing schools. Part of the interest in broadening the responsibility for schools beyond the government is to provide greater choice for parents and students and to spur creativity and innovation within schools, themselves

      In those countries where privately managed schools receive higher proportions of public funding, there is less stratification between publicly and privately managed schools.

      Canada, Finland, Japan, and Korea all have education systems that put a strong focus on equity – and all have yielded promising results. In each of these countries, relatively few students performed at lower proficiency levels on the PISA reading assessment, and high proportions of students performed better than would be expected, given their socio-economic background.

      Yet while each of these countries focuses on equity, they’ve pursued it in different ways. In Japan and Korea, for example, teachers and principals are often reassigned to different schools, fostering more equal distribution of the most capable teachers and school leaders. Finnish schools assign specially-trained teachers to support struggling students who are at risk of dropping out. The teaching profession is a highly selective occupation in Finland, with highly-skilled, well-trained teachers spread throughout the country. In Canada, equal or greater educational resources – such as supplementary classes – are provided to immigrant students, compared to non-immigrant students. This is believed to have boosted immigrant students’ performance.

      Income inequality is a challenging issue that demands a wide range of solutions.

      http://oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.fr/search/label/socio-economic%20status

      Changing the way we spend our not inconsiderable education budget, in particular in improving the quality of teaching, will make a difference:

      ‘The principle lesson I’ve learned is that focusing on teaching is going to be key. The second lesson is that there’s been an increase in educational spending (especially in industrial countries), but if we look at the way we spend the resources, they’re often focused on lowering class size rather than creating more engaging learning environments and raising the quality of teaching. The systems that are doing well are making more intelligent spending choices. There’s no way to short-circuit the need for upgrading teaching policies and practices.’

      http://dailyedventures.com/index.php/2012/04/12/you-cant-get-around-the-need-for-great-teaching-france/

    • Here’s something that has and effect:
      http://www.asdan.org.uk/About_ASDAN/uwe_research_report

      Or are we not able to talk about the elephant in the room yet?

  5. Tim – thank you for your thoughtful response and links. You are correct that UK does badly with disadvantaged pupils (see discussion below). The Government puts its faith in academy conversion but the National Audit Office 2010 found the gap in attainment between more disadvantaged pupils and others has grown wider in academies than in comparable maintained schools (see FAQs above). PISA in Focus 5 found that disadvantaged pupils who are self-confident, motivated and spend more time in lessons achieve better.

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/17/26/48165173.pdf

    http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/07/socio-economic-disadvantage-has-negative-impact-on-pupil-performance-%e2%80%93-what-can-be-done/

    And you are correct that equity in education systems in important. OECD found that the best-performing school systems tend to be those that do not segregate pupils academically or by virtue of where they live (see p 455 of link below).

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf

  6. Tim – Your quote “In those countries where privately managed schools receive higher proportions of public funding, there is less stratification between publicly and privately managed schools” was immediately followed by a qualification which you did not quote: “However, the results of the analyses do not suggest that providing more public funding for privately managed schools will reduce stratification between publicly and privately managed schools in all countries. The mechanisms used to finance privately managed schools with public funds vary across school systems, and they may also be related to stratification in different ways. Furthermore, other school characteristics, such as a school’s student-admittance criteria, academic performance, policies, practices and learning environment are also partly related to stratification. These aspects, which are not related to funding, also need to be considered when devising policies to reduce stratification between publicly and privately managed schools.”

    It is not just a matter of extending user-choice. Academics have found the evidence that market forces improve education achievement and efficiency was “fragmented and inconclusive” (see FAQs above) and the OECD has said the evidence about the effect of user choice on education outcomes is mixed. The OECD, while agreeing that Government policies will increase school choice in England, warned that they could increase segregation between disadvantaged and advantaged pupils. OECD actually recommended that new schools be allowed even if it led to excess capacity. However, this excess capacity would need to be funded and, as funding is only provided for places that are filled, this is unlikely to happen especially in a recession.

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/50/37/47319830.pdf

    • Tim Bidie says:

      Indeed.

      There is a lot of fragmented and inconclusive evidence about, all over the place.

      That is why I find it difficult to understand the degree of implacable animosity to coalition government reforms, particularly Academies (also favoured by Labour, so enjoying cross party support) on this forum.

      Why do the opponents of reform appear so dogmatically certain that they are correct in their opposition?

      Surely it is far too early to judge the reforms as they expand and evolve.

      There is a lot of good stuff going on:

      ‘The goal of Blairites and Goveites is to get to a system where funding really follows the pupil, where good schools can expand, parents can vote with their feet, and chronically failing schools are shut.

      In the early Blair years, before he changed his mind, Blair used to talk about “standards not structures”. But getting the structures right is so important: I hate to think how many children have had to put up with a third-rate education because local authorities have propped up failing schools for decades on end.

      Right wingers talk a lot about competition. But an important part of this new world is actually the growth of real cooperation between schools. Under local authorities there have been efforts and getting schools to cooperate and learn from each other. Some are not bad, but lots are pretty limp: occasional contacts between “twinned” schools that really change very little.

      In the market economy, there is actually a huge amount of cooperation, and it goes on within firms. The high street is not full of shops run on a one-off basis by gentlemen amateurs. Your car was not made by brilliant lone individual.

      But outside private schools, where there are big chains like GDST, most schools in the UK are one-offs. Most headteachers effectively do not have a boss. Most local authorities don’t really manage schools that much.

      Until now. Below the radar something even more interesting is happening in the Gove revolution.

      A chain reaction is occurring, as academies are increasingly grouping together into federations, or “chains” of schools.’

      http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/neilobrien1/100142620/phase-two-of-the-gove-revolution-is-about-to-hit-its-a-chain-reaction/

      ‘Academy chains are a positive development within the English education system.

      They are bringing innovation and systematic improvement and helping to raise attainment in some of the most deprived parts of the country.

      They are nurturing an able new generation of school leaders with experience and expertise in leading in different contexts………..

      They are using their economy of scale to drive efficiency and to organise support functions so that school leaders spend more time on their core business.

      They are reinventing the concept of school governance so that governors focus more clearly on strategy and performance.

      They are standardising the best aspects of school improvement and driving new learning and practice through joint work across the academies in the chain……

      But academy chains are not a panacea for all the problems of schools…….. The performance of weaker chains needs addressing.

      Converter chains too have a host of issues to consider as they consolidate and seek to maximise the gains from their new status.’

      http://www.nationalcollege.org.uk/docinfo?id=175243&filename=the-growth-of-academy-chains.pdf

  7. Tim Bidie says:

    Janet,

    The actual quote from the National Audit Office report that you reference is:

    ‘The performance of academy pupils from more challenging circumstances (those who are registered as eligible for free school meals, have English as an additional language or have special educational needs) has improved over time. However, the attainment gap between these pupils and others has grown wider in academies than in maintained schools with similar intakes, since less disadvantaged pupils appear to benefit more immediately from improved standards at the academy.’

    Furthermore, the report goes on to say:

    “Many of the academies established so far are performing impressively in delivering the intended improvements. It cannot be assumed, however, that academies’ performance to date is an accurate predictor of how the model will perform when generalised more widely.’

    http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/1011/academies.aspx

    It is far too early to judge academies but the big expansion in numbers of academies should give a clearer view in due course:

    ‘Half of secondary schools are now either academies, or on their way to becoming so. The programme started in 2002, but by April 2010, just before the election, there were 203 academies, As of 1 April 2012, 1,641 out of a total of 3,261 secondary schools were academies.’

    http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/media-centre/blogs/category/item/phase-two-of-the-gove-revolution-is-about-to-hit-it-s-a-chain-reaction

    Your final reference also makes clear the practical difficulties of not segregating pupils academically or according to where they live.

    ‘Increasing vertical inclusion is often difficult to achieve politically, as it can be challenging to convince parents of high-performing students that their children will fare equally well or better in mixedability schools.equality and equity can be increased through a compensatory allocation of resources to schools that have a disproportionate number of students from disadvantaged families (Willms, 2008). Policies that provide greater school choice could potentially increase horizontal inclusion, but this is not necessarily the case, especially if disadvantaged parents are less able to exercise that choice (Ladd, Fiske, and Ruijs, 2009).’

    We live in an imperfect world.

    Politics is the art of the possible.

    Politicians have, perforce, to give parents what they want.

    Democracy, the least worst system of government.

    • Tim – if you read Henry Stewart’s analysis of the 2011 GCSE results you will see that the performance of disadvantaged pupils has improved in all types of school – it’s not just in academies. This analysis was backed up by FullFact who investigated the figures: “Grouped by the percentage intake of pupils on FSM, the graph shows that of the 46 academies that were at least five years old, only the ones with the highest proportion of pupils on FSM performed better than their state-funded rivals. Even then, the difference is marginal.”

      So, while the NA0 was correct to say disadvantaged pupils in academies “has improved over time”, the same improvement was going on in non-academy schools. The NAO actually said, as both you and I have pointed out, that the gap between disadvantaged pupils and advantaged pupils widened in academies.

      The NAO report said “many” of the academies had impressive results. However, “many” is not all and some academies have failed.

      The expansion of academies will not give a clearer picture about whether academies improve performance. Converter academies are established from “good” or “outstanding” schools. Despite this, three have failed Ofsted already.

      There are, indeed, practical difficulties around not segregating children – but it is not impossible as Finland and other high-performing countries show. And there is a balance between giving parents what they demand and what is best for society as a whole. This tension was revealed in the latest British Social Attitudes survey 2011 which found that while 67% of respondents thought parents had a right to choose their child’s school, there was stronger support for prioritising equality over prioritising parental freedom.

      http://fullfact.org/articles/academies_schools_improvements_class-6845

      http://ir2.flife.de/data/natcen-social-research/igb_html/index.php?bericht_id=1000001&index=&lang=ENG

      When schools improve they use similar methods which have little to do with the status of the school (academy or other). PricewaterHouseCooper found this in 2008 but the message seems to have been lost on both the last and present governments. (See FAQs above for more info on PWC 2008).

      • Tim Bidie says:

        Janet – Yes, the gap widened between disadvantaged and less disadvantaged pupils in academies but that happened, as the National Audit Office made clear, simply because the less disadvantaged improved more immediately:

        ‘However, the attainment gap between these pupils and others has grown wider in academies than in maintained schools with similar intakes, since less disadvantaged pupils appear to benefit more immediately from improved standards at the academy.’

        (NAO reference in my post above)

        Nevertheless, an improvement in both groups of pupils within academies took place over time, as the NAO report makes clear; the point being that the NAO report you cite above is largely favourable to academies.

        Thus we can applaud all our schools in their achievements for disadvantaged children and give successful academies a special mention for their immediately beneficial effect on the less disadvantaged.

        • Tim – academies were set up to address underachievement in disadvantaged children yet the NAO found that the achievement of disadvantaged pupils did not improve. Henry’s analysis finds that non-academies are doing marginally better than academies with disadvantaged pupils except in academies “with the highest proportion of pupils on FSM performed better than their state-funded rivals. Even then, the difference is marginal.”

          http://fullfact.org/articles/academies_schools_improvements_class-6845

          I agree with you that all successful schools should be applauded – but that’s just what the Government isn’t doing.

          • Tim Bidie says:

            Janet – May I refer you to my referenced replies above.

            The NAO report I reference above clearly states that the achievements of disadvantaged pupils in academies did improve:

            ‘The performance of academy pupils from more challenging circumstances (those who are registered as eligible for free school meals, have English as an additional language or have special educational needs) has improved over time.’

            Whilst I yield to no one in my enthusiasm for Henry’s analysis, given that by April 2010, there were only 203 academies but, by 1 April 2012, there were1,641, he may have ‘jumped the gun’ a bit.

            We are, of course, never going to agree on this subject.

            By 2015, Henry will have a huge amount of supplementary evidence available to him, as, too, will others, which may or may not reinforce his findings.

            The electorate will, in that year, be able to make an extremely well informed judgement as to the merits or otherwise of this policy and I await their verdict with interest.

  8. Tim Bidie says:

    Janet,

    Always interesting.

    The 67% of respondents in your second reference are, of course, entitled to their opinion but will need to voice that opinion a bit louder to get the law changed.

    Hands up who thinks 67% of the population will get on the campaign trail to assert rights of equality over parental rights and, if successful, be happy to foot the bill?

    ‘What is parental responsibility?

    While the law does not define in detail what parental responsibility is, the following list sets out the key roles:

    providing a home for the child

    protecting and maintaining the child

    disciplining the child

    choosing and providing for the child’s education

    determining the religion of the child

    agreeing to the child’s medical treatment

    naming the child and agreeing to any change of the child’s name

    accompanying the child outside the UK and agreeing to the child’s emigration, should the issue arise

    being responsible for the child’s property

    appointing a guardian for the child, if necessary

    allowing confidential information about the child to be disclosed

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/parents/parentsrights/dg_4002954

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