Nurse Morgan has the cure – it’s brimstone and treacle

Janet Downs's picture
Years ago I knew a man who swore only one treatment was needed for all ills: brimstone and treacle. Regular doses of this brew would fight colds, carbuncles and constipation.

There’s little concrete evidence for the efficacy of this concoction but his faith in it was undimmed. His doctor suggested there might be better remedies for his ailments but he was not swayed.

Academy conversion is Nicky Morgan’s brimstone and treacle. It’s a foolproof cure for ‘failing’ schools, ‘underperforming’ schools and ‘coasting schools’ which don’t convince her they’re going to speed up. Like Mrs Squeers at Dotheboys Hall, she will force the mixture down throats and coerce schools, under threat of sacking the head and imposing a sponsor, to ‘take in the whole of the bowl at a gasp’.

Nothing will persuade Nicky Morgan that there are other solutions which would help struggling schools – support from another school or guidance from a local authority, for example. In her medicine cabinet there is only one remedy: the brimstone and treacle of academy conversion.

She has been warned by an influential all-party House of Commons group, the Education Select Committee, not to exaggerate the success of her cure. But she ignores them. The National Audit Office found other, less formal, therapies are more effective. She ignores them too. Only half of the sponsored academies were pronounced Good or better after the imposition of her medicine. But that doesn’t matter. Schools will take brimstone and treacle whether they gag on it or not. And a proposed clause to be entered into the Education Act will force governing bodies and local authorities to take the drug. Their democratic right to oppose the therapy will be removed.

And if it doesn’t work (and it hasn’t done so in the 50% of sponsored academies which were judged Requires Improvement or Inadequate at their first inspection after treatment) what does Nurse Morgan propose to do? This isn’t clear. Will she offer a different brand in the form of a new sponsor? Or will she let sponsors carry on regardless?

Blind allegiance to one treatment has the whiff of fundamentalism about it. It doesn’t quite match the British Values rhetoric when one person has the power to enforce schools to take medicine whether they want to or not.
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agov's picture
Fri, 05/06/2015 - 16:43

While we're on the subject of sulfer and dragons Morgan perhaps we might note that the true meaning of British values is being drunk but still getting things done right.

Not that I would suggest the suppliers of the site's software are ever drunk but it seems they have fixed the posting problem (i.e for users of Internet Explorer).

Not actually any of my business (but I won't let that stop me) perhaps contributors previously having difficulty posting would say if the problem appears resolved or conversely if anyone previously posting without difficulty now has a problem.

Dom Sheeran's picture
Fri, 05/06/2015 - 19:28

Morgan's obfuscations & duplicity are a smokescreen. The real issue is the diversion of public funding streams into private pockets. The CEO of the Harris academy chain earns 2.5 times larger than the salary of the prime minister. This is grand larceny, the theft of taxpayers money.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 08:51

Dom - but they claim it's because they're worth it. Sir Bruce Liddington, once head of E-Act, was at one time the highest paid person in education in England. But under his watch E-Act operated in a culture of extravagance and performance at some of E-Act's academies was poor. Many of these have been transferred (at taxpayer expense) to another sponsor.

Three academy chains in the top-nine list of highest paid CEOs are ones that have been sent warning letters more than once by the DfE about performance in their academies: School Partnership Trust Academies, Academies Enterprise Trust and Kemnal Academy Trust. AET, like E-Act, has been 'paused' from taking on more academies.

I'm surprised Durand Academy Trust isn't in the top-nine. Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, told Sir Greg Martin, head of Durand Primary School, he had taken a 'a generous slug of money, which we believe to be public money' while still finding time to set up a members-only club initially registered at school premises.

Excessive pay of academy heads and CEOs isn't the only way money can be diverted from education - there's the millions which went in contracts to firms associated with academy trustees; academy credit cards being used for purchases which don't have much to do with education (eg Priory Foundation Trust - sex toys); unreasonable amounts on 'hospitality' and purchasing unnecessarily expensive furniture.

Barry Wise's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 09:51

To be fair though, Dom and Janet, some of the sponsors are putting in hefty sums of private cash to subsidise academies. I think actually that's true of Harris where Lord Harris has contributed millions personally, so you could say the CEO is being paid out of Harris's wedge rather than taxpayers' money. Not so much grand larceny as grand philanthropy!

Jenny Questions's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 11:05

A philanthropic model of educational provision. Is that something we should all be proud of? Or is it just Lord Harris himself who should be feeling proud with the rest of us looking on admiringly? It's a 19th century approach that only makes any sense if you believe the lie that there's not enough money in the system anymore.

Patrick Hadley's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 11:22

Barry, do you have any details of the amount contributed by wealthy benefactors to academies? I would be interested to know how much has been given in total and who else, apart from Lord Harris, gives money to state-funded schools.

I suspect that the amount given by donors is a tiny percentage of the amount paid by the taxpayer - and probably a lot less than the amount taken by most academy chains to cover their running costs.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 11:36

Barry - sponsors are no longer required, as they were under Labour, to pledge financial help. The NAO found in 2010 that a significant number of these pledges never materialised. It also found many sponsored academies felt under pressure to purchase services from the sponsor.

Accounts for y/e 31/8/13 for Harris Federation show the Federation received caritable donations of £35,000. In contrast, it received £45,649,000 from the DfE in capital funding, £104,786,000 from the EFA and £2,847,000 from LEAs.

It's appears, then, that Sir Daniel Moynihan's minimum salary of £375,000 isn't being paid for out of philanthropy.

Note: Harris Federation accounts for y/e 31/1/13 can be downloaded from School Performance Tables.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 11:46

Barry - and don't forget Lord Harris's donations to the Tory party. These include £33,500 given in a personal capacity to local Conservative parties/associations and £6,500 to Nuneaton Tories from Harris Ventures Ltd (chairman, Lord Harris) in the run-up to the election.

Barry Wise's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 14:28

Jenny - I don't see what is so 19th Century about educational philanthropy. It happens on a massive scale at universities - e.g. Robinson College, Cambridge; Nuffield College Oxford etc.and it has long happened in schools too with City livery companies funding schools and so on. It also happens in museums and galleries, hospitals, and other parts of the public sector.I think it should be encouraged.

Patrick - I don't have any idea how much they have contributed beyond what I read in the press. I believe Harris has handed over something in excess of £8m and I vaguely recall hearing that the various hedge funders associated with ARK had given millions too.

Janet - I admit I am biased regarding Lord Harris as he is a director of Arsenal and I refuse to think ill of any Gooner unless absolutely necessary. I think you are rather understating his gifts to the Tories. One paper said he had given them > £3m over the years.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 07/06/2015 - 08:39

Barry - attendance at universities, museums etc is not compulsory as is attendance at school between 5-16 (participation age increases this to 18, but participation can include employment). It is the responsibility of the state to fund universal, free education and NOT rely on charitable donations which widen the gulf between those schools which manage to attract generous funding and those which do not.

All state schools should be funded on an equitable basis. That's not to say schools shouldn't attempt to raise funds (all those Summer fetes and Christmas fairs) but these should be for extras NOT filling holes in funding. The danger with a Gov't inviting charitable donations, as Labour did with its academy programmes, is that this is used to fill such holes, lets the Gov't off the hook in funding schools properly and/or gives favoured schools an advantage. But as the NAO found, a significant number of these promised donations were never made.

Re Lord Harris's donations to the Tories - he has indeed given the Tories millions. I mentioned only donations given in the run-up to the election (a tiny proportion of the whole amount, I know).

Jenny Questions's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 21:42

Thanks Barry, that's a good point. I think what I was getting at in conjuring up images of the 19th century is that philanthropy arises when inequality grows. This quote is apparently something that Martin Luther King said: "Philanthropy is commendable but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice that make philanthropy necessary." Or here's Educardo Galeano: "I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person."
Such ideas inspire me, not the 'generosity' of the very wealthy; particularly in any discussion of the English education system! (see Terry Loans's comment below, or just look to the USA for a clearer picture of the marketised era that is being ushered in)

Barry Wise's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 15:30

It looks as if I may have considerably understated the charitable generosity of the ARK people.

From the 2014 accounts for ARK Schools:

Donation towards core costs by ARK: £4.71m
Donations - Capital £28.9m
Donations - other £1.1m
Grant from ARK UK programmes £226,000

In the above, ARK is the mothership charity, ARK UK Programmes is a fund largely paying for afterschool activities and ARK Schools is the academy trust.

The report also says the MD, Lucy Heller has a basic salary of £99k, of which the main ARK charity pays 50% and the schools trust 50%. She is the only paid director. The taxpayer therefore gets Heller's services for £50k plus pension+NI, which is surely cheap.

In their 2012 Annual Report ARK say that in the ten years they had existed (2002-12) they had raised £180m in charitable donations for their health and education projects round the world.

2014 accounts here

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 07/06/2015 - 08:25

Barry - ARK is, as you say, involved in charitable activities worldwide. It also has private companies with share capital (as opposed to the charities registered as companies without share capital). These include ARK Academies Projects Ltd which provided 'contractual design services' to its own academies' building programmes. From 1 September 2013, it's diverted to nursery education provision and lettings.

ARK Masters Advisers Ltd (AMAL), another private company with share capital, gave 'independent advice' to ARK Masters Management Ltd (AMML), a company registered in the Cayman Islands. According to the 2010 ARK accounts under 'related party transactions', ARK held 40-60% of its funds in the ARK Master Fund (AMF) which is managed by AMML. There's no mention of this in the 2014 accounts.

In any case, ARK is not typical of academy chains - very few have global interests. And Lucy Heller was not in the list of top-paid academy CEOs.

Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 07/06/2015 - 10:42

Janet -

It {ARK} also has private companies with share capital (as opposed to the charities registered as companies without share capital). These include ARK Academies Projects Ltd

Yes. And you will have seen from the accounts that this company had issued one share, worth £1, and that share was held by ARK such that Ark Academies Projects was a wholly owned subsidiary of the charity, ARK.

ARK Masters Advisers Ltd (AMAL), another private company with share capital, gave ‘independent advice’ to ARK Masters Management Ltd (AMML), a company registered in the Cayman Islands.

Again you will have seen from the document you cite that AMAL is wholly owned by AMML, which in turn has ARK as its sole beneficial owner.

I think any innuendo suggesting that ARK's backers are in it for personal gain, skimming off profits on the side, or squirreling away taxpayers' money in the Caymans is wide of the mark!

agov's picture
Sun, 07/06/2015 - 11:06

So would it be right to say ARK gets its income from government grants and selling services to government and other ARK entities?

Barry Wise's picture
Sun, 07/06/2015 - 11:37


No. ARK is a charity that gets its income from its investments and from new donations.
Mostly these donations come from hedge fund managers. ARK then gives some of that income to ARK Schools (a multi-academy trust), which operates a chain of academies and therefore does get per pupil funding from the DfE. It doesn't look as if ARK does go in for selling 'services' to its schools in the same way as has been reported in other chains. In fact, the point I've been trying to make is that it would seem the flow of resources is the other way, i.e. from the charity to the schools.

agov's picture
Sun, 07/06/2015 - 21:20

Well, if that's the case then the individual donors can be commended for their intentions no matter whether or not their means are misguided.

What they say however is that "Annual INDIVIDUAL patronage is £25,000 per year" and "Annual CORPORATE patronage is £50,000 per year" although "Ark has raised over £180m, and a further £460m has been leveraged from government and partners". They also say "100% of donations go directly to our programmes for children" but I'm not clear whether that refers to all the £ 640m or just £180m or only the £75,000. Right-wing types are often quite rightly keen to denounce charities that exist mainly by relying on income from government.

ARK also seem to have a number of rather handsomely paid employees. Personally I don't know why any financial organisation would have an association with the Cayman Islands other than to avoid tax or having other unsavoury activities they would like to keep hidden from the public. It doesn't seem particularly outlandish to consider their financial streams to be of interest. Personally I'd like to see their accounts given a thorough examination by a forensic accountant going beyond the usual honest and true account expected in a standard audit.

Benevolent giving to e.g. a university to provide an additional resource is one thing (although LSE ran into difficulties with gifts and PhDs for dictator types). Relying on charity for mainstream education is something else. I have an association with a school that benefits from gifts from a livery company, and we are grateful for their support, but they do not expect to fund basic provision.

If ARK has a superior type of school management then that should be transferable to other schools that exist without an additional input, if that's what it is, from a charity. If they feel that is the case then they should explain their system and show how it would work on a universal basis. Otherwise it doesn't seem unreasonable to wonder whether all they are actually doing is either producing additional output from additional input (that could not be reproduced on a wider scale) or doing a bit of hocus pocus with for example, teaching to the test etc (which can be done without a charity in the Cayman Islands).

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 07:23

Barry - no innuendo, just stating facts as you have done. ARK, like many academy trusts, has links with other companies. Nothing illegal in this BUT, as Margaret Hodge, chair of Public Accounts Committee, said: convoluted structures can increase the perception of wrongdoing. This applies even when there is absolutely no wrongdoing.

Terry Loane's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 09:27

Dare I move the discussion away from issues of funding, philanthropy and cash flows and go back to the content of your original post, Janet? I do think that your comparison between academisation and brimstone & treacle is brilliant – an allegedly ‘foolproof cure’ but based on no evidence. There is, though, an important difference. A belief in brimstone and treacle comes from nothing but tradition and superstition – it is for people who do not know what they are doing or why. But Nicky Morgan, I suggest, knows exactly what she is doing and why. Her proposals are designed to soften up educators, parents and public opinion so that schooling can eventually be removed altogether from the public sphere and handed over by politicians to their corporate friends (including, of course, Lord Harris).

And the great danger for those of us who care about real human learning is that we end up being distracted by petty, unwinnable squabbles about whether children’s learning is better managed by a local authority or a carpet magnate, and we ignore the damage that is being done to children (regardless of what type of school they attend) by the endless pressures on schools and students to ‘perform’, in other words to extract ever higher test and exam marks from ever more students. We get drawn into comparing different schools by nothing more than the extent to which they are efficient ‘exam factories’ without stopping to consider the damage that this pressure is doing to the mental health, the creativity and the curiosity of young people. We can only start to move forward towards education that enhances rather than damages our humanity, when we stop obsessing about ‘performance’. Real human learning is a complex system/phenomenon (using the word complex in its correct scientific sense) and as such it does not lend itself to linear measurement.

Terry Loane

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 10:25

Yes, Terry, we seem to have got sidetracked. I suspect you're right that Nicky Morgan, as Michael Gove before her, knows exactly what she's doing: repeating the mantra that academy conversion is the only remedy for 'failing' schools enough times to become accepted as 'truth'.

Michael Gove showed a cavalier disregard for evidence despite saying his reforms were 'evidence-based'. His deliberate ignoring of the OECD warning that no comparison should be made between UK PISA results for the years 2009 and 2000 because the latter were flawed is perhaps the most serious example. He based his whole policies on the lie that UK was 'plummeting' down league tables despite England being the top-performing European country in TIMSS tests at the time.

And Morgan's use of stats is suspect: she's twice been censured by the UK Stats Watchdog.

Terry Loane's picture
Tue, 09/06/2015 - 07:03

But Janet the problems with PISA are far, far more fundamental than the 'response bias' in the results for England in 2000 and 2003. Firstly the whole basis of PISA is the idea that human learning can be understood through linear measurement. Yet this idea is outdated nonsense, for reasons I alluded to in the final sentence of my earlier message in this thread. I would go so far as to say that people in the 21st century who continue to cling to the idea that learning can be measured are just like the people in the 17th century who continued to cling to the idea that the sun went around the earth - both beliefs are remnants of a tradition of thinking that had/has to be abandoned in order for true understanding to move forward. Actually PISA really draws attention to the inadequacy of linear measurement of learning, as the idea of using a single set of tests across the whole world flies in the face of what we know about how learning cultures differ - PISA is indeed culturally, as well as mathematically, invalid.

The second problem with PISA is that it encourages governments, schools and teachers to apply inappropriate pressure to push young people to perform ever better in ever more tests. Under such pressure education ceases to be about developing people's humanity, creativity and curiosity. Instead education turns into a form of exploitation of young people by forcing them to play a dysfunctional game of international competitiveness. I say that such an approach to education is a kind of global child abuse. If we care about young people's humanity, creativity and curiosity, we surely need to ditch both PISA and the whole 'exam factory' culture that has spawned it.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 09:38


What they say however is that “Annual INDIVIDUAL patronage is £25,000 per year” and “Annual CORPORATE patronage is £50,000 per year”

These figures are not TOTALS of patronage received annually by ARK, they are the (minimum) each patron pays per annum.

Personally I don’t know why any financial organisation would have an association with the Cayman Islands other than to avoid tax or having other unsavoury activities they would like to keep hidden from the public.

In the accounts they explain t (here I paraphrase) that because ARK is run by hedge-fund people and their donors are generally from the hedge-fund/investment world, the natural expectation is that they will adopt as smart an investment strategy for their charitable funds as they would for clients or, indeed, their own money.

John Mountford's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 21:06

That respite didn't last long then, Terry!!!

agov's picture
Tue, 09/06/2015 - 08:30

Well, moving on...

Thanks for clarifying the minimum patronage thing, Barry. Don't think the precise amounts donated affects anything I said though except possibly to up the £75,000 to some unknown percentage of the whole. (The £75,000 is what they chose to highlight.) That still leaves them getting money from government.

I'm sure they are indeed very smart with money. That doesn't mean they are not tax avoiders and might be thought to suggest they are, which would presumably mean some part of their charitable giving is with money they morally should perhaps not have had.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 09/06/2015 - 09:07

Terry - I agree there are problems with PISA's league table approach (although the underlying surveys about children's attitudes, teacher autonomy etc are useful). But if an Education Secretary uses PISA as the main justification for far-reaching, radical reforms than he should at least use them accurately and abide by warnings not to compare 2000 results with 2009.

But he did use the discredited figures - and spawned the 'plummeting' down league tables myth.

Terry Loane's picture
Tue, 09/06/2015 - 20:59

You are quite right, Janet, that Gove, Morgan and many other politicians simply ignore or twist evidence that does not suit their purposes. But there is a much, much bigger issue here than dodgy interpretation of data. I am talking about the damage done to children's well-being, mental health and creativity by the obsession with league tables, test results, OFSTED judgements, PISA, etc. - the whole 'compliance' model of managing schools. In one of his comments today Barry Wise has expressed concern that one school's "results are now several percentage points BELOW both LA and National averages". So what? Which is more important, some alleged minor statistical dip in 'performance' or the well-being of learners and teachers?

Our politicians and some educators seem to aspire to have a PISA ranking as high as South Korea. But would they like to have a suicide rate as high as South Korea? (There is a significant statistical correlation between national PISA scores and suicide rates.)

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 09/06/2015 - 09:27

Jenny - philanthropy is as King said 'commendable' but the largesse sprinkled by philanthropists is sometimes acquired by less than philanthropic means. Andrew Carnegie, for example, built '1,689 public libraries' but, as a book* review in last Saturday's Times (behind paywall) reveals, he could only be charitable 'because of his ruthlessness'. The review describes how he dealt with Unions:

No negotiations, close the factory down, let the strikers starve, and then take back only those who accepted his terms.'

*'Life: The Hidden Pleasure of Life', by Theodore Zeldin.

The Telegraph reported that poor children were more generous than better-off ones. I have issues with such research (small sample size, for example) but it does have the ring of truth. And a long pedigree - the Bible story of the widow who gave all she had to the Temple while the rich men gave from their surplus.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 09/06/2015 - 12:45

One school which improved without being given brimstone and treacle is Ellis Guildford School in Nottingham. It's gone from Inadequate (Autumn 2013) to Good (May 2015) in just 18 months. Inspectors said 'Leaders work closely and effectively with the local authority and the Quadrant C Leading Edge Partnership to improve the quality of teaching.'

No 'languishing' there but 'significant improvement in students’ behaviour and attitudes to learning'.

Monitoring in November 2014 said: 'The local authority advisers continue to provide effective support to the school.'

What was that Nick Gibb said about '‘liberating teachers from the dead hand of the local authorities'? A blinkered sound bite which ignores the good work that Nottingham LA is doing in encouraging cooperation within schools whether maintained or academies.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 09/06/2015 - 13:29

Other secondary schools full inspections published this week show schools which improved without brimstone and treacle. All were upgraded from RI to Good.

Friesland School, Nottinghamshire: 'The local authority has provided good support for the school'

Mary Webb School and Science College. The school makes effective use of local networks.

The Hurst Community College, Hampshire: 'The school’s improvement consultant from the local authority has supported the school effectively.'

Woldgate College, York: 'The local authority has provided highly effective support for the college.'

Purbrook Park School, Hampshire: 'The local authority’s contribution to school improvement has been strong'.

Turton School, Bolton: 'Support from the local authority has been good.'

West Moors Middle School, Dorset: 'The local authority has actively supported the school in improving the quality of teaching.'

St Andrews CoE High School for Boys, Worthing: 'The school has received good support from the local authority'.

It would be unfair, however, to suggest these weren't the only secondary schools which improved their inspection results. Academies did also. And both academies and non-academies also dropped down Ofsted's greasy pole. What the above shows is that it is not essential for struggling schools to become academies in order to improve as the Gov't persists in saying.

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 09/06/2015 - 14:34


I'm not sure that I will ever understand Ofsted reasoning.

For the three years running up to it being deemed to Require Improvement, the Frieseland School's GCSE results were significantly higher than both the LA and National averages. Now the with 'good support from the LA' the school is deemed Good, but its results are now several percentage points BELOW both LA and National averages.

I will start reading the full report to see if I can determine in what sense this an 'improvement'.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 10/06/2015 - 07:49

Barry - I never said I agreed with Ofsted's judgement. There was a time when I used to put a caveat under any post where I quoted Ofsted to the effect that quoting Ofsted didn't imply agreement.

That said, it's unreliable to judge a school on results alone. If that were the case Ofsted wouldn't need to visit schools. In the case of Friesland the low headline GCSE results seem to have been caused by early entry in maths and English (now abandoned). When pupils resat the exams they achieved higher results but, as you know, only the first results count for league table purposes.

Brian's picture
Wed, 10/06/2015 - 15:58

It's worth noting, though, that at the previous inspection both the school leadership and Derbyshire Advisory Service judged the school to be good and The school was 'shocked' by the Ofsted RI judgement. But, of course, a two day Ofsted inspection is always more accurate than the longer term judgements of the school and the LA!

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 10/06/2015 - 16:26

Brian - it's also important to note that Friesland had an improvement plan ready just seven weeks after the RI judgement. Inspectors notes the LA had helped with this.

It would be wrong to say one example proves a point, but here at least is one non-academy school (usually described sneeringly as 'council-run' schools) which hasn't 'languished' after a poor inspection.

One school that has 'languished', however, is Hanson School, Bradford. It's not been languishing in special measures since it was upgraded from Inadequate to RI in February 2013 although it's just been judged Inadequate again. Inspectors said the school was in the process of becoming an academy (the school sign says it's called Hanson Academy) but it hasn't got a conversion date yet. It's been waiting for four years. No, that's not a typo. The conversion process has taken four years to date. The chosen sponsor is SPTA which has had letters from the DfE about poor performance in some of its academies. This raises serious questions about the choice of sponsor and the length of time the DfE has allowed this school to languish in limbo.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 10/06/2015 - 08:04

Terry - as I said in my reply to Barry, judging schools on results alone is unreliable. First, there are bound to be schools which are 'below average' - that's how averages work. But politicians seem to think it's possible for all schools to be above average. I call this the Lake Woebegon effect.

Second, it's important to look at context (presumably that's what Ofsted should do). It's obvious schools with an intake skewed to the bottom end will not achieve results as high as schools with an intake skewed to the top.

Third, a school with a large proportion of disadvantaged children is likely to perform worse than an advantaged school. This is not an excuse but a statement of fact which doesn't just effect the UK but is found globally. Poverty does affect children's outcomes. True, some children are resilient and perform better than would be expected given their socio-economic background. But poor housing, poor diet, money worries do have a negative effect on children's ability to learn.

Fourth, changes to league tables have resulted in results in some schools falling between 2013 and 2014. At Friesland School, the focus of Barry's comment, a drop in results appeared to be caused by early entry in maths and English. Removing some vocational exams (some of which had been used to inflate headline results) also caused a dip at some schools. And removing IGCSEs meant Bourne Grammar is, according to league tables, the worst-performing state secondary school in Lincolnshire, if not England, with 0% of its pupils reaching the benchmark in 2014. Daft, of course - when IGCSEs are included about 98% reached the benchmark.

agov's picture
Wed, 10/06/2015 - 08:27

Ofsted inspections are supposed to focus on achievement rather than attainment. High attainment does not necessarily mean good progress. Low attainment does not necessarily mean poor progress. Perhaps Ofsted has started to take its own rules (more) seriously.

Barry Wise's picture
Wed, 10/06/2015 - 11:09

Well, on progress: back in 2012 in the run up to Friesland being told it Requires Improvement, 70% made expected progress in English against an LA average of 64%. Since the Great Leap Forward, that's declined to 59% against an LA average of 64%. That's a funny sort of progress!

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 10/06/2015 - 15:59

Barry - but as I said, inspectors noted early entry for GCSE Maths and English had a negative effect on published results:

'Leaders decided to enter Year 11 students early for GCSE examinations in English and mathematics in the winter of 2013 because they believed that, following detailed preparation, this provided students with the best chance of success. All students subsequently continued to study the subjects and were re-entered to give them the opportunity to improve their grades. This ensured that the school did not restrict the'achievement of students, including that of the most-able students. The school no longer uses early entry.'

'Published data are therefore based on the results obtained when the school entered all Year 11 students for English, and most students for mathematics, early. When students re-sat these examinations in the following summer, they achieved markedly better results. As a result of further good teaching, students currently in Year 11 are on track for much-improved results in 2015, including in English and mathematics.'

'The rate at which students make progress has increased rapidly. In 2014, the published results show that the proportion of students who made expected progress and the proportion that exceeded expected progress in English were below the national average. In mathematics, the proportion that made expected progress was in line with the national average, and the proportion that exceeded expected progress below average. Data supplied by the school indicate that all these proportions will be higher and inspection evidence confirms this.'

Progress is measured by the published exam results but, as we've seen, the published exam results don't reflect pupils' actual attainment because only the first (lower) entries for Maths and English counted.

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