Has HMCI, Sir Michael Wilshaw, revealed a personal and professional alignment and preference for the Academy programme driven by the Conservative led coalition and latterly Conservative majority government?

Andy V's picture
by Andy V
 25

It appears to me that the tone, tenor and content of this year’s annual report has revealed Sir Michael’s and his department’s preference for academies and free schools (). As evidence I would refer readers to page 13 in the HMCI’s commentary which includes the following statements: 'Of the 3,300 secondary schools in England, 2,000 are now academies, outside local authority control and formally accountable to the Department for Education. The first sponsor-led academies were created around a decade ago to take over failing schools where aspirations and achievement were too low. Many of these schools were turned around by a combination of new investment, new leaders and a relentless focus on raising standards.' 'As last year’s Annual Report showed, most of the sponsored academies had the greatest impact on standards in the first few years after opening. Many of these continue to perform well because their leaders have worked hard to maintain their high standards but some have declined. Overall, the best performing sponsor‑led academies are those that have been open for five years or more. Fifty-three per cent of secondary sponsor-led academies, many of which were previously failing schools, are now good or outstanding, three percentage points higher than last year.' 'Undoubtedly, academisation injected more vigour and competition into the system. This drove greater improvement in some parts of the country and in some schools that had languished in serious underperformance for years. Academisation can create the conditions for remarkable improvements but structural reform can only do so much.' 'I believe it is right to give more autonomy to the front line but we must ensure that schools have the capacity to use their freedoms effectively. Without enough good leaders and teachers, effective oversight and governance, and a concerted effort to support the most disadvantaged, we will not bring about the improvements needed.' I do not subscribe to the position that simply by mentioning the number of schools that were good or outstanding converting to academy status and maintained their good or better grading is balanced or fair. What this approach effectively achieves is to sweep under the carpet the fact that becoming an academy has made no difference to each converter schools performance while simultaneously and falsely creating the message that academy status has provided the basis for their success (or more accurately, continued success). HMCI is right to highlight that there is regional underperformance which is sharply contrasted by comparing the primary school performance (the vast majority of which are not academies) in those areas with that of the secondary schools but, and for me this is both a relevant and important factor that is not mentioned, whereas deprivation and free school meal entitlement is taken into account there is no mention of any attempt to consider the critical issue of pupil motivation and hope. That is to say, there is little or no hope of employment within their locality which is thoroughly academically demotivating and disengaging. It is my position that primary phase children are more open and keener to please by doing well but this does not carry over per se into the secondary phase. Part of what I will call HMCI’s missing link is that as these children transition to teen and young adult they are more aware and influenced by discourse at home which is not always positive toward or predisposed toward education and qualifications. From this position it is entirely possible to see that family debates and perceptions of the employment market and future employment opportunities in the Midlands – and East Midlands in particular – and the North East and West are in all likelihood going to be downbeat through to despondent. This alone is hardly a fertile ground for Y7-11 pupils to aspire let alone be inspired by teachers or school leaders. This borne out on page 47 (50 and 51), which highlights the impact of good careers advice but this in its turn is starkly undermined if there are insufficient to barely any job opportunities locally or regionally: '50. Visits this year to schools that perform highly for pupils from low-income backgrounds found that these schools started early with encouraging pupils to think about their long-term career and education goals and promoted a wide range of opportunities and choices. Our report ‘Apprenticeships: developing skills for future prosperity’ found that the continued poor promotion of apprenticeships in schools restricted pupils’ access to reliable information. Poor advice in schools led to a small number of apprentices interviewed initially starting an A-level course that they felt had delayed their career. There is clearly still a misconception that apprenticeships are not for young people with a good academic record.' '51. Weaker secondary performance across the North and Midlands has an impact on Key Stage 5 and destinations from age 18 or 19 onwards. Learners in these regions perform less well in their A-level studies than learners in the rest of the country. They are more likely to progress to higher education and take up apprenticeships. However, the learners from the North and Midlands are less likely to attend universities that are most highly ranked,56 and a smaller proportion of the most disadvantaged young people are going on to higher education. Furthermore, a higher proportion of the most disadvantaged young people across the North and Midlands are not going on to any study or employment at all, or are not completing what they started (see Annex 1).' This runs over into page 48 and the messages about ‘Skills for employment’, which the key regions identified by HMCI may struggle with in terms of ‘Skills for WHAT employment?’ In overall terms, the report contains too much praise for the freedoms and independence readily available through academisation and the unavoidable inference that LA schools underperform because they lack these things, which is another example of promoting of academy status over that of LA schools and in this way flies the flag of government policy undermining – if not shredding – HMCI’s and Ofsted’s claims of independence.

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David Barry's picture
Thu, 03/12/2015 - 16:01

Janet I think you mean 2020 rather than 2000.

There is a very real issue regarding Academy conversion. The only way it can come about, in that timescale is by compelling a lot of schools.

(The next election is May 2020 so from January 2016 only three and a half years to get everyone converted. Does anyone know hpw long it usually takes a school to convert?)

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 04/12/2015 - 12:27

Barry - not sure about your comparison between the Chief Inspector of Schools who's in charge of Ofsted, a supposedly independent non-ministerial department, and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), a civil servant in the Department of Health who acts as an adviser. The CMO's annual report 2013 (dated because most of the data related to that year, and not date of publication) which focussed on mental health cited copious evidence and made recommendations. The CMO doesn't inspect hospitals in the way Ofsted inspects schools.

At one point, the CMO said the evidence about well-being was sparse and she was being asked to 'take a leap of faith'. She replied:

'As Chief Medical Officer I will not take a leap of faith with people’s health.'

Contrast this with Sir Michael's generalised comments about academies introducing 'vigour and competition'; his apparent ignorance of Doncaster and Bradford where his own inspectors had found the former was addressing areas which needed improvement with 'vigour and urgency' and 'cause for optimism' in the latter, and his seeming lack of awareness of the implications of small sample size in Knowsley and St Helens.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 04/12/2015 - 12:34

Janet - I replied to Barry yesterday quoting from two gov.uk links re the role and independence of HMCI abd Ofsted, and compared it to the CQC but that had more than one embedded link and needed moderators approval: any idea when it will be cleared for posting?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 04/12/2015 - 12:51

Andy - you're right to point out the importance of context, something that is ignored by the 'No excuses' brigade. They often point to London's success story which evidence suggests was brought about by a combination of London Challenge, a high proportion of hard-working, ambitious children of immigrants, and improvements in London primary schools in the 90s which fed through to secondaries. And London is, of course, one of the greatest cities in the world - vibrant, optimistic, a world-class cultural centre.

Contrast this with the northern regions you describe - depressed, often run-down, pervaded by an air of hopelessness. Cultural centres, if there were any, closed. Shops boarded up. Unemployment high and opportunities few. Such areas don't just have a discouraging effect on inhabitants but they have difficulty in recruiting teachers.

Exhortations to work hard because it will lead to 'good jobs' and apprenticeships sound hollow when there isn't much employment of any kind, whether 'good' or not.

Andy V's picture
Fri, 04/12/2015 - 13:29

Janet - No, but it says much the same as mine. So there is no point me reinventing the wheel by reposting mine - I'll pt it down the vagaries of the ether :-)

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 10:14

Barry - but for the first time, the majority of people in poverty are actually working said a 2014 report.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 11:27

Barry - Yes, the UK has one of if not the lowest overall rates of unemployment in Europe but that alone is a rather bald statistic sitting in splendid isolation.

The divide HMCI refers to has not occurred overnight nor over the last 5 years. It has been building since the inexorable collapse of British industry since the mid/late 70s, if not slightly before that. What replaced the car, steel, coal, cotton, clothing, fishing and ship building industries that were based predominantly in the Midlands and North (with fishing spreading along the south eastern coast and up to Scotland)? An effect of this has been families with 3-4 generations without employment. The period from the 70s - now has seen an explosion in part-time work and zero hours contracts which underpins Janet's reference to families trapped in working poverty. It has also been reported that self employment is at a boom and bust high as people try to escape the unemployment trap in regional hotspots. Young people growing up in families suffering ongoing generational unemployment tend to reflect their parents view of lost motivation compounded by a lack of hope caused by near zero tangible job opportunities.

This is the motivation context to which I refer and to which HMCI makes no reference. In essence I support a 'no excuses culture'. I also acknowledge that there are some schools whose HT/Principal and/or other senior/middle leaders are not of the right calibre to drive and sustain change and improvement, but this is by no means all schools, which is the crude and blunt message I read out of HMCIs report. The motivational issue is a key factor and for pupils born into families blighted by several generations of unemployment almost irrespective of the amount of quality teaching, aspiration and inspiration they are damn hard to reach let alone turn around. Add to that the media and modern teen culture and HMCI's blame game will only worsen matter.

It is not about making 'motivation' and 'hope' an excuse it is about acknowledging the ongoing impact of decades of political neglect by successive governments that failed to draw up and implement coherent regional economic (and therefore employment) strategies.

With regard to Europe, how much of the increased levels of unemployment - particularly in Spain and Portugal - has been a direct result of the crash and the Angela Merkel eurocratic austerity fiscal policy in the Euro-zone? If you scratch the surface of this I believe you will find much lower rates of unemployment.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 13:16

Barry - We have truly shocking in-work poverty, which will get much worse when Universal Credit is introduced. This is just the Tax Credits cuts postponed. The illusion of prosperity is based on utterly unsustainable personal debt that conventional economics requires to be increased even further in order to sustain planet destroying economic growth. The global crisis of capitalism is unfolding in ways not fully anticipated by Karl Marx.

Coming back to education, this thread explores the trend for schools to become increasingly abusive in their attitude to pupils in order to protect the executive management teams (that frequently have little background in learning theory) from the wrath of OfSTED and the Chief Inspector, who thinks the north south divide in apparently good and bad secondary schools is explained by such a discourse.

This from C2.6 in 'Learning Matters'

According to an article in the Guardian of 19 November 2013, “It’s around noon at a popular and successful Academy School. Through the glass walls of the classrooms children can be seen with their heads down over their work. Open a door and they will all jump to attention and stand silently, shirts buttoned to the top, ties neatly pulled up under pinstripe blazers. Tight discipline is something of a feature in many of the sponsored academies of north London.

Strict dress codes, daily uniform checks and long lists of rules about the different types of detention have won praise from some parents, but others believe it has gone too far.

At another nearby academy the behaviour policy says students are not allowed to go to the toilet between lessons or visit a local shop on the way home.

In another London Academy there is a five-stage ‘behaviour improvement path’ that begins with 20-minute detentions for minor matters such as not filling in a year planner properly, or bringing the wrong equipment, and escalates to exclusion for persistent rule-breaking or more serious offences.

A parent is quoted, “They are all Academies around here or are run on similar lines. There’s only one school that isn’t, and it’s hugely oversubscribed. We’re being given no choice about how our children are educated. Why is it only in poor areas that children are being made to do this?”

There are two great 'common sense' pedagogic fallacies.

TELLING IS NOT TEACHING
LISTENING IS NOT LEARNING

From this it follows that while learning is impossible in a disorderly classroom, top down, fear of punishment driven discipline is insufficient for personal, individual cognitive growth of the sort necessary to maximise the understanding of hard stuff in any subject in KS4. Schools that practise such approaches that have affluent and able intakes can achieve a degree of success despite, rather than because of the limitations of such regimes. My study of Mossbourne Academy in 'Learning Matters' celebrates its achievements as a comprehensive school, but no amount of imposed discipline could have saved its predecessor, Hackney Downs School. CATs driven banded admissions were the necessary foundation

From this it follows that the English education system is still rushing headlong in the wrong direction carried along by various myths about school improvement.

This, of course, is the theme of 'Learning Matters', which in Part 5 sets out a number of developmental approaches to teaching and learning that work with pupils of all abilities with or without blazers, ties and arbitrary punishments.

rogertitcombe's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 13:27

But Guest, unlike the CQC, OfSTED is NOT independent of the government. What we need is truly independent HMI.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 18:36

Other key factors in the success of the London Challenge - among many - were:

1. Political:

a. Government
b. Cross party across all the boroughs involved

2. A predetermined set of goals

3. Financial support amounting to £80m across the life of the challenge

4. An acknowledgement that at the time London schools - secondary phase in particular - were not improving at the same rate as those in the north and this meant that post school young people were not best placed to compete for jobs against the best of the oversea competitors.

Each of these factors, and those not mentioned, evidence the need for and powerful efficacy of collaboration and partnership. These things are near anathema to MATs and emphasise the polarisation between LAs and MATs.

I believe that before publishing his fourth report HMCI would have benefited from refreshing his memory of the reasons for and evaluations of the London Challenge. Why?

a. (4) above highlights an inversion of the divide he highlights in his report - as well as evidence of a London centric preference to addressing issues affecting London

b. (1) and (3) demonstrate the crucial part in the government of the day placing focusing political priority and finance behind effecting change and improvement. But only at central government level but cross party at local level.

c. (2) evidences the need to not simply identify what one thinks is going awry and holding back/blocking improvement but then constructing a strategy to do something about it

I recognise that to some extent I have stated the obvious here, and while it is ultimately possible to reconstruct and adapt the London Challenge in meet the needs and context of other parts of the country, this is highly unlikely (to the point of impossible) under a government that is myopic in its belief that academies are the silver bullet while no admitting that the goals of academisation are asset stripping state assets to give to quasi private groups to achieve the marketised privatisation of education. Thus there is absolutely no appetite to focus purely on improving education because this would derail a party political ideologic goal.

It is against this backdrop that I belief HMCI has undermined and helped sell out state education into a marketised and privately owned domain in England.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 04/12/2015 - 12:53

Andy - found one from Guest which I've just released. Is this the one you mean?

Andy V's picture
Fri, 04/12/2015 - 15:14

Janet - I recall that wrote a piece on the London Challenge in Nov 12:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/11/ofsted-contradicts-gove-su...

It is noteworthy that two of the key aspects of the framework were:

1. Joint political will and support
2. Collaboration

This comes back to the HMCI annual report in that, yes, it mentions political will but it singularly fails to mention collaboration. It strikes me that this may be more significant than a simple omission. That is to say, if I am correct in thinking that HMCI has tied his flag to the government academy programme then this could explain the absence. In a divided educational landscape polarised between academies and LA schools this surely hinders and reduces the benefice of collaboration.

I support this position by referring to the legacy of the 2003 London Challenge, namely the London Leadership Strategy, which states:

"We have an extensive network of National Leaders of Education (NLEs) and a network of outstanding schools leading learning in every borough" and "Our programmes support all schools at every point of their development journey"

http://londonleadershipstrategy.com/

Additionally, the following extracts are taken from page 68 of the Commons Education Select Committee report on Academies and free schools report published 21 Jan 15, which for me (a) highlights the importance of collaboration and (b) that whereas LAs have an effective track record on this it is clear that academies and free schools do not:

"Collaboration and partnership in a school-led system

19. Collaboration is essential in a self-improving school system in order to provide
challenge, support and economies of scale. Harnessing the effectiveness of partnerships to raise school performance is particularly important where schools are autonomous. More needs to be done to encourage collaboration and ensure that it happens. We recommend that Ofsted include evidence of collaboration in its inspection criteria and that a school must demonstrate effective partnership with another school in order to be judged 'outstanding'. (Paragraph 120)

20. Evidence to the inquiry suggests that collaboration is much more likely to occur and
be effective if it is brokered by a third party, such as a trust or local authority ...

22. We recommend that the DfE strengthen its monitoring of the collaboration of
converter academies with other schools. We also recommend that the Secretary of State seek to renegotiate all existing funding agreements to introduce a requirement for
collaboration for school improvement purposes and that all future agreements include
this requirement ..."

A fuller exposition of the importance and impact of collaboration can be found at Section 4 of the report, "Collaboration and partnership in a school-led system"

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmeduc/258/25...

It is my contention that across the academy and free school landscape is an almost total line - almost three line whip - of ingrained independence and therefore non-collaboration outside their academy chain group. If there are exceptions to this it is most likely to be among converter academies as opposed to the chains/MATs.

View through these lenses I believe this places HMCI and his report in difficulties regarding his role and responsibility to bring about school collective improvement across all state funded schools, and also further undermines his independence and impartiality.

Guest's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 13:54

Roger - That is the point I was making and it seems to me the point that Andy is both making and evidencing in his thread. What HMCI/Ofsted says on the tin - respective websites - is not what is in the tin.

What is needed is a wholly independent HMCI and Ofsted and while the framework is there for this to be the case, it cannot be done unless the SoS Education, education ministers and the DFE get the heck out of the frame and allow HMCI and Ofsted to operate independently. The latter is what the SoS Health and DoH do.

The biggest issue and challenge for HMCI/Ofsted is that it is the government through SoS Educ and DFE that set school peformance criteria/targets and the former can only inspect on that basis. So rather than there being a single approach to moving things forward i.e. HMCI/Ofsted it requires a concerted resolution of the government benchmarking and target setting which in its turn will create a different performance and inspection framework within which to operate.

agov's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 14:01

"self employment is at a boom and bust high as people try to escape the unemployment trap in regional hotspots"

To which might be added 'and the nightmare that claiming JSA has increasingly become'. To disguise the real number of the unemployed governments used to push as many as possible onto sickness benefits , which more or less pleased all concerned. Now they are pushed into self employment, for which few people really have much aptitude and from which most earn very little hence the failure rate - I gather Iain Duncan Smith is pleased.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 09:47

Andy - one side effect of academization is that multi-academy trusts (MATs) are unlikely to share expertise with schools outside the MAT especially if they are in competition with them for pupils.

The same is true in reverse, of course. LA schools and other academies outside the MAT may be reluctant to collaborate with the MAT academies especially if the latter crow about how superior they are because they are free from the 'control' of local 'bureaucrats'.

It takes local determination to surmount these barriers. Peterborough is one example. Its MP, Stewart Jackson, 23 June 2015, described how the LA supported English as an Additional Language teaching by taking the EAL element of the London Challenge and applying it to Peterborough. It brought together academies and non-academies.

But this came at a cost to mainstream school budgets, Jackson said. '...almost £750,000, a not-trivial sum for a medium-sized unitary authority.'

Academies, of course, receive all of their budget so in the case above this essential work in academies was being subsidised by the LEA. This is another factor which will impede collaboration between LA maintained schools and academies.


rogertitcombe's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 19:59

Quite so, Andy.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 21:04

Doh, *believe* not *belief*. More haste less speed methinks!

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 03/12/2015 - 14:38

Wilshaw seemed to be falling over backwards to criticise certain LAs' performance while not at the same time criticising academy conversion. He said structures didn't matter while also claiming academies had introduced 'vigour and competition'. There's no evidence for this - sponsored academies don't do as well as similar non-academies (Henry's number crunching); most converter academies were already Good or better (and some have slipped backwards since conversion although correlation isn't causation); and most academies, sponsored or otherwise, were already existing schools so it's difficult to understand how changing the structure of an existing school increases competition.

He tried to brush criticism of academies aside by saying discussion about structures was now 'sterile'. But it isn't 'sterile' when millions of pounds are spent on conversion and academies changing hands. It isn't 'sterile' when Cameron says all schools will be academies by 2020. It's isn't 'sterile' when the Gov't is pushing through legislation to make it easier to enforce academization.

CORRECTION. Oooops. I typed 2000 instead of 2020. David's noticed the typo and it's been corrected.

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 03/12/2015 - 17:24

Andy


I think you may be confusing the ideas of 'independence' and 'impartiality'. Sir Michael is HMCI, not the Director General of the BBC.

You wouldn't expect the Chief Medical Officer to go about being studiedly impartial about whether the NHS was a good thing; same goes for academies.

Guest's picture
Thu, 03/12/2015 - 18:01

Barry - I fear that I must disagree. It is my understanding that:

1. HMCI/Ofsted are the equivalent of the Care Quality Commission that is independent of the SoS for Health/DoH

2. HMCI is:

"... responsible to Parliament for the organisation, staffing and management of Ofsted, and for ensuring the efficient and effective use of our resources."
https://www.gov.uk/government/people/michael-wilshaw#current-roles

3. The Ofsted line is that they are independent, and I quote:

"We report directly to Parliament and we are independent and impartial"
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted/about

Thus for HMCI to fulfil their role in leading Ofsted they must also be independent and impartial.

rogertitcombe's picture
Thu, 03/12/2015 - 19:08

The Chief Inspector is saying that there is a Midlands/North secondary school under performance issue, compared with London and the south and that this has nothing to do with social deprivation because it only applies to secondaries and not primaries.

There is a parallel narrative hinted at here. A few nights back I saw on the news the TV cameras following an academy head into a classroom, whereupon the blazer clad pupils leapt to their feet in an immediate, tightly choreographed display of 'respect'. Aha, said the head - that is why my school is outstanding (or words to that effect). The implication being that all these 'less than good/outstanding' northern secondary schools have weak heads that fail to impose sufficient respect onto their pupils.

I am a retired science teacher. The problem of teaching science (and not just science but anything cognitively challenging) is how to help pupils understand hard stuff. What is the difference between mass and weight? Even though if you lift it and you can feel a heavy object obviously pressing down far more strongly on your hand than a lighter one would, how can it be that when you let it go the heavier one does not fall faster? Newtons 2nd Law of motion: force = rate of change of momentum. What does that MEAN!!?

Silly me - if only I had insisted that my students leapt to their feet when the head came into the lab instead of ignoring him and carrying on with their private and communal brain-hurting, developmental struggle for comprehension, all would have become clear to them in the time it takes to do up the top button on their shirts.

The trouble is how do we know that a secondary school is underperforming? Simple - Henry has explained how it is done. You track progress from KS2 to GCSE. This is what drives OfSTED judgements. Note that Wilshaw ran a 'fair banding' admissions policy at Mossbourne based not on KS2 scores resulting from high stakes SATs but on CATs scores not based on any content teaching at all.

CATs data show that less affluent postcode communities are characterised by lower than average mean cognitive abilities. Don’t shoot the messenger – this is a fact. See Section 4.8 of ‘Learning Matters’. The Primary Schools that serve such communities will be permanently at risk of failing the floor target, so who could blame their heads and teachers for concentrating their efforts at hitting the 4c target at all costs for the maximum proportion of pupils, at the expense of developing the cognitive development of all their pupils? This means concentrated revision type cramming.

Is there another explanation for the Wilshaw northern failure crisis? What, if on average, the 'less than good' secondaries DO tend to serve less affluent communities characterised by lower CATs scores? But wouldn't KS2 SATs be lower as well as GCSE results as the Chief Inspector argues? Not if the SATs revision regime is sufficiently sophisticated and intense. Such a SATs regime in a school of lower ability kids needs to focus on getting the maximum number up to 4c. But as Henry shows, 4c pupils tend to fail to get sufficient GCSE Cs.

A primary school with a greater proportion of more cognitively developed pupils (think Piaget and Vygotsky) will not need to focus so hard on 4c - less behaviourist drilling, more developmental, understanding promoting teaching rather than being trained to answer questions. 4b and 4a pupils CAN do the business at GCSE, even without their top buttons done up and a constant eye on the classroom door to spot when the Executive Principal might walk in.

So here is my hypothesis.

Northern schools (and seaside towns in Lincolnshire and elsewhere) may not be underperforming at all if the comparisons are soundly based on low stakes Y6 CATs rather than high stakes SATs.

See my post:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/11/coasting-schools-the-dfe-m...

And even though school performance is not causally related to social deprivation, the deeply flawed measures used by DfE and OfSTED to judge secondary schools certainly are.

If this does not make sense then 'Learning Matters' explains, but you have to read the whole book.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 03/12/2015 - 21:00

Roger - I too would prefer to see schools making more use of CATs to gauge, monitor and evaluate the capabilities and progress of learners but fear that for the sake of consistency this cannot be useful applied to HMCI's position and the annual report. I say this because irrespective of the CATs debate the common denominator for KS2 and transition through to end of KS4 is the (now old) SATs and soon to be new assessment regime.

For me HMCI reveals a marked flaw in his analysis, which runs throughout the report, and can be illustrated at page 11 when he says:

"The North East illustrates this concern more clearly than any other region. Ninety per cent of primary schools in the North East are good or outstanding. Nine of the 12 local authority areas in the North East can this year boast higher than average proportions of pupils gaining Level 4 or above at Key Stage 2 in reading, writing and mathematics combined."

This evidences a total reliance on data sets and completely disregards context. The latter has elements common all to schools e.g. social and economic deprivation but - and I make no apology for this - the Northern regions have suffered harshly over the last 30+ years with lost industries and jobs that has not been replaced, and therefore for very many children moving from primary to secondary phase and GCSEs the family impact through lost faith in education creates a markedly demotivating aspect to their lives.

With this in mind, it will make little or no difference whether all Northern secondary schools are targeted and prioritised for academisation or not it will be ineffectual in raising motivation without improving their job prospects in their locality and wider region.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Fri, 04/12/2015 - 18:00

Andy - surrounding context is indeed the elephant in the room that they stay clear of. This report highlights some of the issues our seaside towns have been facing http://archive.c4eo.org.uk/narrowingthegap/files/ntg_lincolnshire.pdf . Waiting for a Sea Change mentions the 11+ https://www.tes.com/article.aspx?storycode=6326724 Trouble is, shining a light on these issues means you need money to do something about them, and preceding the 2008 crash there has been no appetite to do that.

agov's picture
Fri, 04/12/2015 - 15:23

"there is no mention of any attempt to consider the critical issue of pupil motivation and hope. That is to say, there is little or no hope of employment within their locality which is thoroughly academically demotivating and disengaging."


Exactly so, Andy.

Barry Wise's picture
Sat, 05/12/2015 - 10:00

We are lucky enough to live in a country with the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, where the number claiming unemployment benefits has fallen to 2.3%, the lowest since 1975. Yet still people complain there is no hope. And things are no brighter by the sea side.

Perhaps we need to recover a sense of proportion?

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