No need to look to Charter schools in the Land of the Free – the freedom they’ve got has been enjoyed by UK schools for the last twenty years!

Janet Downs's picture
Autonomy in schools drives up standards – Michael Gove is clear. And he’s right. But there’s no need to look to the United States for autonomous schools – they’re here in England and they’re not just academies.

It’s a myth that only academies have freedom. In 2009, international research found UK schools were among only four countries that gave the greatest autonomy to schools. And in 1996 a report on grant-maintained schools which, like academies, were independent of local authorities (LAs) and received funding directly from Whitehall, acknowledged that “powers and responsibilities” given to the governors of GM schools were also available “though to a lesser extent” to the governing bodies of LA schools under Local Management for Schools (LMS).  The report stressed that LMS resulted in LAs delegating "a high proportion of budget and all management responsibilities" to the governing bodies of all schools.

The “lesser extent” comprises those “freedoms” which academies have. They are:

1. Freedom to opt out of the national curriculum. But a report in March 2012 by the Schools Network and Reform conceded that two fifths of academies believed the National Curriculum already allowed them sufficient freedom to innovate without needing to convert. As far as opting-out was concerned, one head said: “Freedom from the NC is somewhat illusory when Ofsted are likely to judge us on it.”

2. Freedom to vary teachers’ pay and conditions. The Schools Network/Reform report found two thirds of academies had not altered staff terms and conditions and had no plans to do so. The OECD found that UK teachers were already working “fairly long” when compared with other countries. Attempts to increase teacher work load could back fire if teacher burn-out results in high levels of absence or teacher turnover.

3. Freedom to change the length of the school day, week or year. All schools could vary the school day – but LA schools needed to consult which is only reasonable. Non-academy schools in the same LA usually have the same term dates which minimises problems for parents with children in different schools. And steps to increase the compulsory school day in a Great Yarmouth school have been unpopular and raise questions about how schools can enforce attendance above the statutory entitlement.

4. Freedom to spend the small proportion of their budget previously retained by local authorities to pay for back-room services. Academies still have to pay for these services.

5. Increase the number of pupils allowed into the school. There are warnings that academies, rather than accepting more pupils, could refuse to take extra pupils. This would leave equally-full LA schools having to cope with an increased demand for school places.

UK schools, whether academies or not, already enjoy a high degree of autonomy. And the extra freedoms available to academies have to be balanced against extra legal and administrative responsibilities. In any case, these extra “freedoms” may not necessarily be in the best long-term interests of academies and pupils.

But Gove perpetuates the myth that it is only by becoming an academy that schools can be free. But UK schools have had considerable autonomy for over twenty years. And far from spreading autonomy, academies in chains could have less freedom than when under LA control.

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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 19/07/2012 - 17:26

State schools are not free. The have no rights to protect themselves from from abusive behaviour by Ofsted:

Gove creates the myth that he is granting freedom while he actually does precisely the opposite by making Ofsted more ignorant in the way it operates.

Andy's picture
Thu, 19/07/2012 - 19:19

I fear that I must repeat my comments made back on 10 June 2012 here on LSN:

"I think the issue of the Hampton review – unveiled in 2004 and full report publsihed in March 2005 – and the principles that flowed from it needs a fresh airing:

“02 December 2004

Hampton Review of regulatory inspection and enforcement Interim Report
In Budget 2004 the Chancellor asked Philip Hampton to lead a review into regulatory inspection and enforcement with a view to reducing the administrative cost of regulation to the minimum consistent with maintaining the UK’s excellent regulatory outcomes.

This interim report, Reducing administrative burdens: effective inspection and enforcement, outlines the issues relevant to the administrative cost of regulation, and suggests possible solutions. A list of questions for consultation form part of the interim report. The consultation period is open until 4 February 2005. A final report with recommendations to Government will be published in spring 2005”

The full report gained international recognition acknowledged by the OECD (I will return to this later) and gave rise to legislation in 2007 in the form of the ‘Statutory Code of Practice for Regulators, 17 December 2007’:

Part One: General Introduction section 1.2:

“This Code supports the Government’s better regulation agenda and is based on the recommendations in the Hampton Report1. Its purpose is to promote efficient and effective approaches to regulatory inspection and enforcement which improve regulatory outcomes2 without imposing unnecessary burdens on business, the Third Sector3 and other regulated entities.4

1 Reducing Administrative Burdens: Effective Inspection and Enforcement, Philip Hampton, March 2005.
2 Throughout this Code, the term ‘regulatory outcomes’ means the ‘end purpose’ of regulatory activity (for example, reduction in accidents/disease, less pollution).
3 This is defined as non-governmental organisations that include voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals.
4 Throughout this Code, the term ‘regulated entities’ includes businesses, public sector bodies, charities and voluntary sector organisations that are subject to regulation.
5 The term ‘regulator’ is used in this code to refer to any organisation that exercises a regulatory function.”

Part Two: Specific obligations of the Code

[Rather regurgitate verbatim I have limited the quote to the headings for each obligation. The link will enable readers to verify the full extent of the scope for themselves]

Economic Progress
Risk Assessment
Advice and Guidance
Inspections and other Visits
Information requirements
Compliance and enforcement actions

The foregoing provides an auditable trail from conception to implementation between 2004 and 2007. The efficacy and recognition of these actions was evidence in the OECD 2010 report focusing on Compliance and enforcement actions:

“The practical roll-out of the Hampton recommendations is a fundamental and comprehensive effort to embed risk-based regulatory management at ground level.
This is an area where there have been significant developments since the 2002 OECD report. There appears to be steady progress in taking forward the Hampton recommendations, energetically spearheaded by the BRE (Better Regulation Executive). The changes proposed by Hampton were innovative and have been a source of inspiration to other countries (everybody has heard of Hampton). Change was also particularly necessary in the United Kingdom, given its complex and overlapping structures for enforcement.”

“An important Hampton recommendation was that the number of national regulatory agencies should be reduced. Specifically, Hampton recommended that 31 bodies should be merged into 7 thematic ones. This had already started to happen, with the consolidation of regulators that led to the establishment of OFCOM (communications) and the FSA (financial services), among others. The establishment of OFSTED (education inspections) has reduced the number of education inspectorates from 11 to 4. Funding cuts have helped the process along, and not least, encouraged the take up of the new approach to enforcement8. More mergers are in the pipeline.

8. For example OFSTED’s budget was cut from GBP 240 million to GBP 180 million.”

“The Regulators Compliance Code
[At this point I will interject my personal understanding of this appears to be reflected in Ofsted’s activities]

The Regulators Compliance Code is a statutory code of practice which came into force in April 20089. The aim of the code is to ensure that inspection and enforcement is efficient, both for the regulators and those they regulate. The code gives the seven Hampton principles relating to regulatory inspection and enforcement a statutory basis:

9. Under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.

• Regulators should recognise that a key element of their activity will be to allow, or even encourage, economic progress and only to intervene when there is a clear case for protection.
[Economic progress may be understood in terms of value for money and return on investment in relation to taxpayer funding for state schools e.g. public examination results against floor targets. Thus if such schools are deemed not to be meeting government targets then the value for money legitimately trigger scrutiny from the regulator (Ofsted). It can also be argued that the reduction of the target areas covered by inspections contributes to this.]

• Regulators, and the regulatory system as a whole, should use comprehensive risk assessment to concentrate resources in the areas that need them most.
[See above: fall below prescribed performance expectations and trigger an inspection, meet or exceed the targets and benefit from a reduced frequency of type of inspection visit. The reduced scope of the inspection framework is relevant here also.]

• Regulators should provide authoritative, accessible advice easily and cheaply.
[The Ofsted and DFE websites both meet these criteria]

• No inspection should take place without reason.
[See earlier comments: only triggered by failing to meet prescribed and published performance measures]
• Businesses should not have to give unnecessary information or give the same piece of information twice.
[The scrapping of the formal DFE SEF requirement is an example of meeting this criterion. Withdrawing KS3 SATs is another example]

• The few businesses that persistently break regulations should be identified quickly and face proportionate and meaningful sanctions.
[Schools that either demonstrate inadequacy and/or consistently fail to meet prescribed and published performance expectation and/or breach Child Protection issues face the imposition of ‘notice to improve’ or ‘special measures’ – the former being enhanced by ‘requiring improvement’ from Sept 12]

• Regulators should be accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of their activities, while remaining independent in the decisions they take.”
[The new streamlined and fewer foci for school inspection contribute to this. Ofsted is doubly accountable in that individual schools have the right of appeal and the organisation itself is answerable to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Education. The Ofsted annual budget has also fallen by £60 million.]

Based on this dispassionate overview of formal codes of practice and external authoritative reports it would appear that despite personal interactions with Ofsted, and irrespective of whether it formally falls under the appropriate legislation or not, Ofsted is complying with the Hampton principles. This indicates that the problems arising within the operation of Ofsted are not regulatory as much as a flawed/skewed approach to the operation of the framework in which it is supposed to operate.

I doubt anyone would argue that a failing or underperforming school doesn’t need action to redress the situation. What is worrisome is that, and as highlighted by Janet elsewhere, schools that Ofsted adjudged ‘Good’ or ‘Satisfactory and improving’ within the last 12-24 months are now likely to be adjudged Satisfactory/Requiring improvement at best and all too often placed in special measures. Yes, there will be some that slipped backwards but by no means all of them. I would argue then that Ofsted have made a rod for their back and damaged even further their reputation for effectiveness and accuracy of judgements. However, for me this is an operation/tactical issue not a policy problem regarding regulatory codes of practice or Hampton’s principles."

To which a well-known Ofsted critic responded:

“no doubt Rebecca will point out where you are wrong”

“”Ofsted is complying with the Hampton principles.”"

Thus the latest contribution is, how can I put this, bemusing - particularly the embedded link which was authored a week or so after the acceptance cited above.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 19/07/2012 - 22:39

I'm glad to hear the issue is now being discussed in the House of Lords (column 186)

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 10:43

This thread is about the transference to ALL schools of ALL management responsibilities and a high proportion of the budget (between 84%-92% depending on the amount kept back by LAs for the services they provide).

I am pleased that exemption from Ofsted inspections is being debated but that is not the subject of this thread It is about Mr Gove's constant assertions that autonomy is only enjoyed by academies (wrong) which he couples with international research showing that more autonomous schools tend to have higher results (right). This is typical Gove propaganda - linking a correct statement with an incorrect one in the hope that the former will give credence to the latter.

Gove says autonomy is good (correct) but then he becomes deliberately misleading by suggesting that LA schools are controlled (ie under the iron hand of) local authorities. The truth is that academies only have a few more "freedoms" than other schools (listed above). In exchange for these they have more legal and administrative duties.

Andy's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 11:17

Freedom within school education is relative. That is to say, yes, compared to the international scenario English schools have immense freedoms but within the UK or even purely England those freedoms are not so expansive or for that matter real.

The only true school freedoms are to be found in the fee paying sector who are not straightjacketed by the national curriculum or GCSE/IGCSE examinations e.g. some choose the IB route and some other flex GCSE/IGCSEs and IB pathways.

The alleged curricular freedoms of the so called independent state sector are false in that with the exception of the the core subjects they are allegedly free from the national curriculum but clearly aren't because they are held to account for performance against the school league table performance criteria which Ofsted uses in its inspection framework. In that regard I suppose one could argue that the new Studio Schools have the greatest curricular freedom (i.e. Eng, Maths, Science and vocational including work placements).

I wait with bated breath for the unveiling of the national curriculum review, which it is rumoured may reduce the statutory curriculum to Eng, Maths and Science and leave the rest as options for schools to pick and mix from. That would mean little change in KS4 although if true it would see the demise of the EBacc. There would opportunites for radical freedoms in KS3.

The teachers pay and terms and conditions of employment freedoms, such as they are and as potentially divisive as they could be, are really focused Academies and Free Schools. To the best of my knowledge GM, LMS, Foundation and Trust schools are broadly autonomous from their LA but limited to hiring and firing. They cannot step outside the national pay bargaining and must employ appropriately qualified teachers to deliver/supervise in the classroom environment.

So while I agree we can learn little if anything from the Charter Schools - other than what to avoid (or expect) - and, yes, compared to other countries our schools have greater freedoms, our schools do not have real freedom and until governments of all persuasions can agree to remove politics from education there will only ever be the illusion and rhetoric of freedom and autonomy.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 11:57

andy - you mention the "straightjacket" of the national curriculum which appears to becoming more mandatory despite the supposed "freedom" of academies to opt-out (they won't because Ofsted will judge them on it). I would agree, therefore, that on this point the much-hyped freedom given to academies to opt-out of the NC is illusory.

However, whether freedom in English schools is illusory or not was not the point of this thread (interesting though this discussion would be). It was to point out the misinformation surrounding charter school "freedoms". Gove says free schools are modelled on US charters and their supposed autonomy, but, as TES revealed when discussing New Orleans:

"And while charter school principals may enjoy much greater autonomy than conventional US state schools, they do not possess many more freedoms than those long taken for granted by the average community school in England."

So, English schools have for years taken for granted levels of freedom which have only just been given to US charter schools. And yet Gove holds charters up as models of autonomy. It would be interesting to consider why he should do so.

Andy's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 12:11

Janet, I am in agreement with you about the frequency that the SoS issues patently misleading information. What concerns me is also the lack of high profile public refutation of his claims. I don't really care who does it but it is about time a credible group - other than the unions and opposition - compared and contrasted Mr Gove's statements with the reality of the situation.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 13:54

Andy - I don't think there's a lack of refutation but it gets little publicity. International reports on Maths and Reading by Eurydice and the Trends in Maths and Science 2007 results are ignored; major critiques by education experts like Sir Tim Brighouse and Sir Peter Newsam are unreported; OECD research which stresses the importance of equity and warns about excessive emphasis on raw grades is swept aside; painstaking reports by the Institute of Fiscal Studies are now no longer available freely on line (fortunately I reported on them - see link below) and any negative comments in reports by PriceWaterhouseCooper, the National Audit Office, the Sutton Trust, the University of Birmingham (see FAQs above for summaries of these) are unheeded. The mixed evidence about market mechanisms in education is sifted so that only the evidence favourable to charter schools is cited (see FAQs).

Oppostion to Gove, however credible, well-researched and evidenced is squashed under broad accusations of being "enemies of promise" promoting "bankrupt, backward, bigoted ideologies." Academics who express qualms are dismissed as "a few professors" toadying to the Labour Party. At the same time the DfE publicity machine churns out misinformation which is lapped up by the media. Incorrect statements are unchallenged by most of the media who prefer to go along with Gove's propaganda about "plummeting" down league tables.

Credible opposition exists, Andy, and it will not be silenced.

Further information on the above:

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 11:05


There are many aspects of school life in which academies are able to be more autonomous, if they so choose.

One little example: LA schools are nearly all bound to observe agreements with the unions limiting lesson observation. For most schools, this means no teacher can be observed for more than 3 hours per academic year.

This is absurd. In any other walk of life peer review is normal and daily.

A school really keen on improving itself will want a culture where lessons are frequently observed. Good teachers can thereby pass on good practice and weaker teachers can be helped to improve.

LAs that hobble their schools by agreeing to performance management restrictions with unions are doing their pupils no favours. This is just one of thousands of ways in which the culture of education needs to change.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 11:09

Janet, further to that last, here's a flavour of quite how narrow and bureaucratic the unions are about this sort of thing:

Learning walks and drop-ins

The NASUWT regards ‘learning walks’ to be lesson observations. Teachers should only be observed in accordance with their performance management planning statement. Teachers should not agree to any observations, including learning walks, that are not in their statement or that take them over the three-hour lesson observation limit.

A headteacher has a duty to evaluate the standards of teaching and learning and has a right to use ‘drop-ins’ to inform their monitoring of the quality of learning. Where the headteacher genuinely operates a drop-in of a few minutes and this does not involve formal observation of teaching but focuses on pupils’ learning, it would not be classed as a lesson observation. However, if the headteacher focuses on the teacher or makes notes on the teacher’s performance or uses the visit for any other purpose the visit would be classed as a lesson observation.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 11:30

As I go into schools it worries me greatly to see the dramatic increase in the number of teachers who are showing obvious physical signs of stress. Teachers I have appointments to see are physically shaking because they are going to be subject to yet another observation next lesson and have been told that if they get a bad grade the consequences will be immediate and serious.

When I was trained to teach it was considered important teachers learn to tune into the experiences students are having and to adapt what they are doing in response to how students respond to it. To do that you have be able to focus on doing that. If you are focusing instead on meeting narrow targets set by people who don't see what's already going on (which of course they don't if they are figures in authority entering your classroom because the dynamic changes the moment they are there - Schrodinger's cat) you not only can't respond to your children you are not in a mental state where you can and you learn not to. When someone in authority comes in to your classroom everything changes so you can't really see and learn from what's going on in normal circumstances anyway.

The unions have no power to stop the relentless observations. They are going on everywhere despite all directives. They are just trying to draw attention to their counterproductive consequences and their negative impact on teaching. Of course if you've got a very seriously brilliant head then being observed can be great. But there are fewer and fewer of those around and being observed is generally just hell and you get left with a load of directions to follow which focus only one what the observer could see in the artificial observation situation and are likely to contradict what needs to be done during normal teaching. It's like the social worker effect which can occur social workers start intervening in families in inappropriate and counterproductive ways because of their own prior beliefs and experiences and their need to justify their existence or because they are ticking boxes.

The problem with you, Ricky, is that you see the world as you think it is, not as it really is. Lots of people who don't understand classroom dynamics do that so you're not alone. The people in the unions do understand it and that's why they're trying to draw attention to the issue despite it leading to them being mauled in the press by the many who have no idea what they're talking about.

Andy's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 11:53

Ricky, what you cite is accurate in terms of the NASUWT take on lesson observation but it is rather too black and white and doesn't reflect actuality. I say this because there are different criteria for student teachers on placement, GTPs in training and NQTs during their probationary year. In the case of the first 2 categories this explains the higher incidence of anxiety/stress they often encounter. The NQTs is more a matter of nervousness that one expects in a newbie.

For experience teachers it is the case that over and above the 3 hour annual limited for formal performance management observations there is no limit whatsoever on teaching and learning based drop in observations. These can be undertaken by the headteacher who can delegate/share this role with deputy heads and other appropriate colleagues (e.g. heads of faculty, subject leaders and Key Stage Co-ordinators). These 'drop-ins' are a crucial method of quality assuring and evidencing the self evaluation of teachng and learning, following schemes of work and gauging pupil engagement and learning. These latter issues are vital for monitoring the implementation and progress of subject/faculty improvement planning and the whole school improvement/development planning etc.

Aside from that many schools also make very good use of voluntary frameworks for identifying and sharing best classroom practice through the vehicle of personalised CPD opportunities.

So what I realy saying is please don'tbe misled by the written word on a union website and potential government misinformation. The reality within schools is always very different and flexible. And contrary to the opinion of some the vast majority of schools (headteachers) do not hound or harrass their colleagues.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 11:50

As a head of department I was always in an out of people classrooms. Quite a few of my staff were none specialists. It never bothered anyone - they were happy to see me because they knew my purpose in being there was to find out more about what was going on so that I could better support them and more deeply understand the issues they were facing.

But in many, many schools now the whole emphasis is on finding people to fail and blame and scapegoat so the who atmosphere in which these processes are going on has changed and their effects are therefore different.

The unions and all other professional bodies in education have fought hard to keep CPD and disciplinary processes separate and it's tremendously important that they are kept separate if both are to function effectively. Unfortunately the tide seems to keep coming in on this and so you get this situation where teachers are constantly under threat of being judged as being failing by people who don't properly understand what they are doing or why they are doing what they are doing. There's a book called 'The Success Zone' which clearly describes two mind states people can be in.
Fear puts you into what they call the red mind zone. It's not a state in which you can easily make professional decisions and behave with responsibility.

Pasi Sahlberg talked about responsibility and accountability and how they substitute for each other. If you are being accountable you are not being responsible. You could pretty much substitute the word 'professional' for 'responsible'.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 12:35

Andy - thank you for pointing out the reality of what really happens in schools. And you're correct in your warning to readers not to be misled by information on websites. Neither should the information on websites be used as evidence to "prove" what is happening in all schools. It is ludicrous, for example, to use the stance of one union as "proof" that this is what goes on in the entire state education sector (except academies and free schools, of course). And it goes without saying that any DfE announcement about academies, free schools, charter schools, Sweden and the current flavour of the month, Singapore, should be treated with a healthy dose of scepticism.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 12:40

The reality within schools is always very different and flexible.

That's not what I'm hearing from heads, Andy. I'm hearing about academies binning national agreements not because they want to pay teachers less (they're often paying more) but because they want to be free of restrictions on directed time and performance management.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 13:13

I'm a bit curious about your mechanisms for understanding the views of heads Ricky.

You've dismissed the views of the NAHT and ASCL and you've clearly never worked in education so please could you link to the reports, research, or methodologies you've used to inform you?

Andy's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 15:37

Ricky, you must remember that Academies and Free Schools are not bound by the Burgundy Book. As such they can throw away the rule the book so to speak. I have comment elsewhere (including briefly in my comment at 11.17 above) about the freedoms of Academies and Free Schools, for which employment strands are concrete whereas the curricular freedoms are false. Another chief difference is that whereas some maintained schools are heavily unionised the Academies and Free Schools utiltise their employment freedoms to lessen the potentially negative impact of overly assertive unions. That said, the majority of academies and free schools have, for whatever reason, elected not to use their freedoms preferring to use them as a bargaining measure. So by and large the picture I outlined above re performance management and lesson observations holds true.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 13:35

Never worked in education?!
Not sure where you got that idea.

I’m a bit curious about your mechanisms for understanding the views of heads Ricky.

The mechanism is probably unfamiliar to you, Rebecca. It's called 'listening'.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 16:40


Ricky, you must remember that Academies and Free Schools are not bound by the Burgundy Book. As such they can throw away the rule the book so to speak.

Of course I remember. That's precisely my point. It is one of the reasons some heads are keen to go the academy route.

employment strands are concrete whereas the curricular freedoms are false

I absolutely disagree with this. The curricular freedoms are very real. Particularly in terms of freeing up the timetable from clutter. The freedom not to have to teach stuff is a real one!
You seem to be suggesting that because academies and free schools have to deliver attainment at GCSE, this is restricting to the curriculum. Not really. It puts them in more or less the same position as independent schools.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 17:10

By education I mean being on the front line in schools Ricky. I understand your interpretation is wider.

Listening is not so easy a thing as you think Ricky. We've discussed M level education before and one of the reasons I think it's important it's the level at which most people begin to have a significant understanding of ethnographics, and be that I mean the disciplined processes of understand the role you yourself play in what you hear from what you are told and how you start to learn to adjust what you take from what you have heard to work with this. Not all Masters degrees cover this thoroughly but it's often there embedded in the research element of the course and it's a pre-requisite to have studied it to start a PhD, as of course are wider aspects in the treatment of evidence which you seem to have only a partial grasp of. I recognise and respect your ability to process figures but you seem to lack understanding of the use of qualitative evidence.

Alison Wolf puzzles me because she doesn't seem to have an understanding of these things (or many of the things she's supposedly expert on) and yet she's a professor. Is it some kind of honorary professorship or has she actually got a PhD? If so who passed it or why has the quality of her work deteriorated so substantially since then? Well done to the education select committee for seeing through the posh references and contacts.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 17:16

In analysing issues associate with freedoms I often find it useful to distinguish between positive and negative freedoms. Negative freedoms occur when legal barriers which prevent change are removed but the individuals affected by the change in the law do not have the resource, opportunity or knowledge regarding how to make use of that change. Positive freedoms occur when they have sufficient resource, opportunity and knowledge regarding how to take advantage of those freedoms.

I think this definition might be useful because it reminds us of the resource of time CPD required to develop and change a curriculum and of the many circumstances in which schools do not have this resource. They may also not have knowledge of the possible alternatives to the status quo.

Andy's picture
Sat, 21/07/2012 - 13:41

Ricky, I am sure there will be issuses we disagree.

The curricular freedom is essentially to delivery Eng, Maths and Science in conjunction with a broad and balanced curriculum. So in theory, yes, this represents tangible freedom but the straightjacket comes in via league tables and their centrally driven targets, and Ofsted who measure all state schools against the DFE targets expressed through the league tables. It is this latter issue take effectively removes the curricular freedoms and thereby makes the latter illusory. No school is currently held to a target for the EBacc but Ofsted still consider it. Every school must meet the Eng and Maths floor targets. Every school is judged against their Science and MFL indicators. Every school has their value added judged against their best 8 GCSE results (incl. E&M). So I fear that all this does is serve to highlight the lack of credibility/substance between the SoS/DFE rhetoric on freedoms and the hard reality of what Ofsted inspect and expect.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 14:02

...... but if its research/reports you want (actually this one's for Janet....):

At the same time as delivering an apparent increase in the autonomy of schools through trust status the legislation {2006 Act} gives LEAs a significantly greater degree of control over them. The White Paper clearly flagged up, and the Act delivers, a significant increase in the power of LEAs to exercise a strong influence over all schools, irrespective of their governance...

Parker, A., Duncan, A. and Fowler, J (2007). Education and Inspections Act 2006, NFER.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 17:21

do you have a link to that document Ricky? The ones I can find don't seem to be working. I'm interested in it.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 21/07/2012 - 09:05

Rebecca, It's a c 200 page book, so not online. You can get a used copy from Amazon for less than eight quid:

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 21/07/2012 - 09:40

Thanks Ricky - I'll look into that when I get back.

On forums we only ever talk about our differences and we neglect the many things we have in common - most importantly that we care - and it's part of they way that forums work that we rarely see or acknowledge each other's strengths.

Have a peaceful break from me and I'll meet you all again in a couple of weeks. It's time for me to try to cope with my family. Happy holiday one an all.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/07/2012 - 09:48

Rebecca – there’s no need to purchase a book. A summary of the powers given to LAs in the 2006 Act is contained in NFER 2007, “School Autonomy in England”. The Act imposed a duty on governing bodies to have regard to the Children and Young People’s Plant (CYPP) produced by their LA. The 2006 Act also strengthened LA control over school admissions which reduced (but did not remove) the freedom enjoyed by voluntary and foundation schools to set admissions policies. This change was made because of concerns that the “balance of power was slipping away from parents choosing schools for their children towards schools as admission authorities choosing the children that they wished to admit”.

This shift was less a power grab by LAs than a reduction in the ability of individual schools to act “without regard to the impact on the local family of schools”.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/07/2012 - 09:56

NFER 2007, “School Autonomy in England” concluded: “The powers of schools to run their own affairs are extensive, but must be considered in the context of the strong framework of accountability within which all schools operate.” This framework comprised:

(a)the system of school governance;
(b)provision of information;
(c)monitoring, evaluation and professional challenge (eg School Improvement Partners or SIPs, Ofsted, LAs)
(d)powers of intervention (LAs and Secretary of State).

So, NFER 2007 and OECD 2009 found that English schools had a high degree of autonomy. NFER pointed out that this was tempered by accountability.

And yet Gove and his supporters still peddle the myth that it is only by converting to academy status that schools can escape being controlled by local authorities.

Sarah's picture
Sat, 21/07/2012 - 12:38

The controls on schools are principally controls by central rather than local government - local authorities don't dictate education policy, the inspection framework, the national funding settlement, the admissions rules etc. Local government only has the powers given to it be central government and if this government had wanted to give all schools more autonomy they could easily have done so without taking local authorities out of the picture altogether which is what makes it so clear that the current policy is political rather than anything at all about school autonomy. The so called freedoms that schools get by becoming academies could quite easily have been given to schools without any change of status - and in fact the vast majority of schools only converted to get their hands on more money not to avoid local government interference. They've long been able to take all the key decisions about how to organise themselves, what staff to appoint, how to spend their money.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/07/2012 - 14:41

sarah - thank you for highlighting the the controls on schools come not from local authorties but from central government and this, of course, is increasing. Few secondary schools will opt out of EBacc, few schools will opt out of the national curriculum if even when they have the "freedom" to do so. If Gove really thought schools would benefit from being free of the national curriculum he wouldn't have bothered setting up a review. Of course he expects schools to follow it.

This raises the question as to why Gove is pushing "freedom and autonomy" when all UK schools already have a great deal of freedom - more than in most parts of the world. The answer is in a joint Policy Exchange/New Schools Network* document published before the last election called without a trace of irony, "Blocking the Best". It says that private providers will gain a toe-hold when schools are classed as "independent" which, of course, academies and free schools are. Gove spoke at the launch of the document and said he didn't care if organisations like Serco ran schools.

*Rachel Wolf's name has been removed from the list of authors on the main page. Perhaps it's to make the link between the New Schools Network and profit-making schools not too obvious.

Paul Reeve's picture
Fri, 27/07/2012 - 15:35

Now this.....

"Ministers say academies will be able to hire staff who are experts in their fields who do not have qualified teacher status"

Andy's picture
Fri, 27/07/2012 - 16:38

Sadly, Paul, this has been kicking around in academies and free schools from their inception. The Telegraph finally twigged to it just over a week ago but its been a bone of contention for some time - particularly in conjunction with the drive on local/regional pay v national pay bargaining, undermining the teachers pensions situation, and eroding union influence on performance management etc. All this begs the question, is this really about new flexibility and options or making schools cheaper to operate (and possibly make a profit from ...).

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/07/2012 - 12:27

Andy and Paul - Teachers in maintained schools must have QTS or equivalent. Academies have full freedom over appointment of staff ie they don’t have to appoint qualified teachers (See Table 2 Schools Network/Reform report link below).

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (2008) noted that “Academies employ more teachers without qualified teacher status (QTS) (12%) than Local Authority (LA) maintained schools (5%), despite the fact that the funding agreements for our sample all require teachers to have QTS.”

Andy's picture
Sat, 28/07/2012 - 13:35

Janet, I am aware of the QTS requirement but not the PWC data, which is useful thank you. It reinforces my understanding that - even at this stage - the majority of academies and free school are still choosing to employ QTS (and degree level) teachers. This is particularly true of converter academies who are tied by the statutory requirements of TUPE.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/07/2012 - 14:25

Andy and Paul - I've just started a new thread on the subject of academies being given permission to employ non-qualified "teachers". This has actually been allowed for some time (see Schools Network/Reform report linked in my post above) but it just hasn't been well publicised (for obvious reasons). Funny it should come out now just at the start of the Summer holidays and the Olympics.

Onviously a good time to bury inconvenient news.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 28/07/2012 - 08:32

It's about flexibility and the freedom to run schools they way they want them to be run, not as the unions insist they be run. No need to panic. Schools like Mossbourne have 'no-hours' contracts, but don't treat their staff like galley slaves.

Andy's picture
Sat, 28/07/2012 - 11:40

Ricky, if only governments were unfettered by blinkered ideologicial goals and employers were all reasonable, balanced and fair then wouldn't the nation let alone education be a wonderful place to work in. Yes, one can find schools that are well led and by and large are mindful that people are not machines to be overworked, burned out and replaced. But equally, there are school leaders whose foci are results and league table focused to the exclusion of all else - including the well-being of students and providing a broad and balanced education. This explains the continuing need for employee representative groups, whether these be professional associations or unions. hate to say this but history, the developing countries and new 'tiger' economies (e.g. China, India and Brazil) amply demonstrate that without them employers apply abusive practices.

It is then about balance and the attempts to drive through some of the employment and remuneration practices so keenly desired by this government are not about flexibility for the benefit of educational outcomes but the single minded political agenda of the right wong conservative values and current policies that want to break the national pay structure for teachers, diminish the teachers pensions structure and pave the way for school bank rolled by the state but run for double profit by private companies. I say double profit because I foresee a situation wherein the companies will be paid on a lucrative contractual basis and also be allowed to keep all or the significant share of any reduction in operating costs. Notice that nowhere in this scenario do the real outcomes for pupils get a mention.

Politics is littered with masses of evidence that parties of all persuasions have wasted untold £millions of taxpayers money on ill-fated ventures where they thought they could use private contractors to undertake operations more efficiently and effectively (loosely interpreted as cheaper in wages and with fewer people) than national and local government organisations. Yes, a few have worked but by and large the majority have not.

Returning to the man theme, academies and free schools, I have no issue with a policy whereby suitably experienced and qualified, but not exclusively degree level, people could take up teaching posts but, and I stress but, only with an appropriate recognised teaching qualification.

I am indefatigably opposed to local/regional pay for teachers.

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