Closing the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged pupils – how far has the Government implemented OECD’s 2011 recommendations? Part 2

Janet Downs's picture
This is the second in the series which looks at how far the Government has implemented the OECD's 2011 recommendations (in bold) according to the OECD. The words in brackets are the author’s comments.

Increase focus and transparency of funding for disadvantaged students.

Schools have to say how they use the pupil premium. Results of disadvantaged pupils are included in Performance Tables. (The Sutton Trust Toolkit helps schools decide the most effective interventions – many of their recommendations contradict Government policy.)

Encourage high quality teachers to move to the most disadvantaged schools.

Schools Direct allows schools to “grow” their own teachers (It’s unclear how teachers who “grow” to fit one particular school could move easily to a different type. Schools Direct is not confined to disadvantaged schools so does nothing to encourage teachers to move to these schools. ATL argues that Schools Direct is “training on the cheap” and threatens University Initial Teacher Training. )

Teach First aims to put top graduates into challenging schools for at least two years. The Government wants to triple Teach First participants to 1,500 by 2014/15. (Teach First is not without criticism.)

Enhance user choice by proscribing use of residence criteria in admission to state schools.

(In theory, parents can state a preference for any school providing they pay transport costs if the school is not the nearest. It is only when schools are oversubscribed that distance is taken into account. If distance from schools were banned then other methods of choosing pupils would need to be put in place. The Government has ruled out ballots. It’s difficult to see how this recommendation could be implemented unless Local Authorities (LAs) were required to pay transport costs. This would place a greater burden on already cash-strapped LAs.)

Encourage entry of new schools even if it temporarily creates excess capacity.

(Some free schools have been established in areas with overcapacity. LAs have a statutory duty to manage school place supply. LAs would eventually have to deal with oversupply as permanent excess capacity especially during a period of austerity is not viable. This could lead to school closure although it’s unclear which organisation would be responsible for closing an academy or free school.)

Give LA maintained schools the same opportunity for hiring staff and negotiating wages.

Heads and Governing Bodies of LA maintained schools already have control of staff recruitment.

Author’s comments:

What is interesting about the OECD’s response is that it appears to have come from the Government (eg schools “growing” their own teachers is from the DfE). The Government, of course, wants to be seen to have acted on the OECD recommendations. BUT the Government’s proposed examination and accountability reforms go against OECD recommendations by increasing the focus on tests. The Government is bringing in performance-related pay even though there’s no evidence that it increases performance. Finance for statutory entitlement for pre-school hours for 2-year-olds comes from another part of the early years’ budget. £1 billion has been overspent on the academies programme which cost over £8 billion in total. Most of this went to schools already “good” or “outstanding”. £1 billion is allocated to free schools while there is a pressing need for places in primary school “hot spots”. And the Academies Commission* has highlighted concerns about social inclusion, educating hard-to-place children and the fragmentation of the education system.

The Government appears to have spun their policies to appease the OECD. The reality is different.

*seeThe Academies Commission 2013: what did the Commission say? in faqs above. The Academies Commission report was published in January. The Government is yet to respond.

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