Cameron's speech - help required

Trevor Fisher's picture
I would like help from LSN on tracking the text of Cameron's speech of February 2nd - the one where he threatens to sack 3500 heads if kids don't learn their tables.

Googling produces reports of the speech, but not the text. And it is the text that I need. The government site has plenty of ministerial speeches, but not this one.

I may be missing something obvious, but if there is a site where Cameron puts his speeches I would like to find it. Can anyone help?

Trevor Fisher.
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Andy V's picture
Thu, 19/02/2015 - 17:17

Try here:

“On school standards, the prime minister said the government “won’t tolerate failure” and would raise achievement in 3,500 schools rated “requires improvement” by Ofsted. They would have new leaderships imposed – such as being taken over by academy trusts. Struggling academies would be switched to other academy sponsors. Schools labelled as “requires improvement” are above the lowest “inadequate” rating, but below the levels of “good” and “outstanding”. Mr Cameron, speaking at Kingsmead school in north London, said that every secondary school in this “requires improvement” category would be expected to become an academy.”

Albeit not the full speech it nonetheless provides vidclips that can be used to produce a partial transcript.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 09:39

Trevor - if the speech transcript isn't published then it might require a Freedom of Information request. It would not be immediate but you should get in within 20 working days.

I've just noticed the poster behind Cameron when he visited Kingsmead. It seems to be party political. It says, 'Our Commitments to Build a Britain that Gives Every Child the Best Start in Life.'

As the speech was made in front of pupils, could it be an infringement of the school's statutory responsibility to remain unbiased?

Or is Kingsmead planning to host similar meetings with Miliband, Clegg, Farage, Bennett, Sturgeon, Wood et al?

Trevor Fisher's picture
Fri, 20/02/2015 - 20:30

thanks andy for giving us the speech text. As Janet has commented elsewhere, its full of holes.

However the mysterious nature of the speech is still there. THe press widely reported that there is a plan to sack 3500 heads and others. THe editor of the Times Ed wrote on the 13th about "threats to primary school teachers with the sack if pupils do not know their times tables" and the editor has heard this from somewhere. Yet where is not findable.

Where is the threat as this has to be an issue for the election?

Trevor FIsher.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 21/02/2015 - 09:27

I've attempted a transcription of the BBC vid-clip, which produces a speech that reads as follows. That said, it would be prudent to listen to the clip while following the delivery to proof-read what I have (e.g. punctuation pauses and verbatim accuracy):

“We are waging war on mediocrity. We are saying that no more sink schools and no more bog standard schools either. How will we do this? By saying that if you are not good or outstanding you have to change. If you can’t do it yourself then you have to let experts come in and help you, people that have a track record of running great schools and turning round failing ones. Under a Conservative government any school that Ofsted says requires improvement and cannot demonstrate that it has the capacity to improve will have to become a sponsored academy. Academies have turn round hundreds of failing schools so just think what they could do for hundreds of coasting schools. This is the next step. The next huge step in our education revolution and another part of that revolution are free schools. These are schools that are set up and run by parents, charities, faith-groups, businesses and today there are over 250 of them. The majority in places where education places are most needed, and all the evidence so far shows that free schools work. They are more likely to be good or outstanding than other schools and I’ve seen some incredible results, like the London Academy of Excellence in Newham, one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. Now three years ago this school didn’t exist. Last year it got as many pupils into Oxford as the private school that built it. That’s what I mean by the best start for your children regardless of where you are from.”

Length: 1 minute 34 seconds

From this a figure can be arrived at for the number of schools and HTs at risk of academisation and by implication the removal of incumbent HTs (and others). That is to say, any school graded 3 and failing to attain grade 2 within the 1-2 years (currently) permitted. Additionally, any HT of school placed in special measures - as now - faces the very real risk of being removed.

Having said that, it would be prudent to listen to the Ms Morgan clip featured in the same BBC link (beneath the Cameron clip). This has a softer edge to it but nevertheless admits to the strategy of removing HTs that don't/can't demonstrate the ability to take their school to grade 2 or 1. Perhaps someone else could listen to it and produce a transcript to set alongside Cameron's.

Here’s an additional clip from the Q&A session that maybe of interest. It focuses on the issue of flat cash being a cut in real terms:

Andy V's picture
Sat, 21/02/2015 - 15:39

There is also an interesting viewpoint put forward by Tristram Hunt further down the same BBC link:

TH: “… and what we know makes the real difference in schools is the strength of leadership and the quality of teaching. I went to a school in Sedgefield recently that was under requires improvement and over four terms it went to good and that was because of getting a great head teacher in and a great quality of teaching, not changing the structural nature of that school. We’re gonna need academies in parts of our country but we shouldn’t think that that’s the easy answer to the challenge we face in our school system. “

Interviewer: “But isn’t it right that if some schools that are not performing as they should then there should be some sanction offered against them?”

TH: “But the question isn’t about sanctions, the questions about results for pupils and as a select report committee said last week there’s no evidence to suggest that simply converting a school from a maintained or local authority status to an academy status improves the results for young people and look the real challenge we face in our schools isn’t necessarily at our primary level, actually our primaries are doing pretty well. Our real challenge is in the early years of secondary where we are letting young people down in terms of continuing the attainment that they need to make and what the Labour party thinks is that the best way to deal with that is to have really high quality teaching in the classroom, and I think your viewers will be shocked to know that under this government we are seeing more and more unqualified teachers in our schools who are lowering standards and under the Tories the gap young people on free school meals and disadvantaged pupils and their better off peers is growing. So if we want our country to succeed all young people will need to do well and this government is letting them down.”

Length: 1minute 32 seconds
(vid clip running order: Cameron, Morgan, Young, Hunt)

As with DC's Kingsmead speech the content of TH's comments are also ridden with inaccuracies and concerns. For example:

1. In the first part of his comments he appears to be in favour of the removal of HTs in requires improvement schools; he lauds the progress of the /Sedgefield school that got “in a great new head teacher”.

2. He went on to imply that “a great quality of teaching” can like hiring a great new head teacher be somehow magically parachuted in .

3. He states the profoundly obvious about the need for strong leadership and quality teaching and promotes it as evidence knowing something about education that the government don't. But this doesn’t acknowledge the coalition’s document, The Importance of Teaching, published on 17 Dec 10 on exactly this and a lot more.

4. He affirms the continuance of academies.

5. He fails to mention free schools.

6. He makes an unequivocal statement and causal connection between about the government allowing more unqualified teachers into the classroom and that this is causing pupils results / attainment to fall. To the best of my knowledge there is no evidence linking a fall in attainment and the use of unqualified teachers. Yes, there have been one or two faith-based free schools that have hit the headlines and have been criticised both for poor provision to support NQTs and over reliance on UQTs but countrywide the picture is one that does not support his assertion. Although there is evidence that Academies and Free Schools employ more UQTs than their maintained school counterparts.

6. Even worse is his uncorroborated statement linking a widening gap between PP pupils and non-PP pupils to the increasing use of UQTs.

In overall terms, I took away from this interview the very strong sense that when the gloss and frippery is stripped away from Conservative and Labour on education there is not a huge difference between them.

Another great sadness of British politics is that the parties can still rely on a significant raft of the electorate to vote for them out of loyalty as opposed to a thinking persons conviction based on evidence and reality.

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