Yesterday, the Department for Education (DfE) churned out a press release outlining what education secretary Damian Hinds was ‘expected to say’ in a speech to the NAHT.
The actual speech wasn’t available when the press released was published so it wasn’t possible to check whether the DfE’s media department was putting words in Hinds’ mouth (they’ve got form). But now it’s available.
Did Hands say what was attributed to him?
The answer is Yes. What Hinds was ‘expected to say’ in his speech was, more or less, what he did say.
Did he repeat the statement about 1.9 million more pupils being in good or better schools since 2010 which appeared in the press release? No, he did not. But this wasn’t one of the things he was ‘expected to say’. The stock phrase was inserted into the press release by the media department, perhaps by a computer which spews out sound bites.
However, Hinds did say that 89% of schools were good or outstanding. That figure, according to Ofsted, is the same proportion as in August 2016. No change in over a year then.
Hinds praised the 90% of primary schools which were good or better but avoided mention of the secondary sector. The ‘small improvement’ in secondary inspection results (up to 80% from 79% at the end of August 2017) was ‘driven by school closures’. That’s because inspection results for predecessor schools are removed from the data when they become sponsored academies.
Ofsted noted that during the academic year 2016/17, more secondary schools ‘actually declined from good or outstanding to requires improvement or inadequate’.
This isn’t good news for the heavily-academised secondary sector. No wonder Hinds didn’t mention it.
As I wrote yesterday, it’s encouraging that Hinds recognises the importance of support for schools which may be ‘at risk’. He said this help ‘would come from Teaching Schools or other high quality school improvement providers – people with a proven track record’.
The document* launched to coincide with Hinds’ speech gives more details about this support: it ‘will come from a MAT, an accredited system leader such as a teaching school, or a school improvement provider using evidence-based programmes.’
It appears, then, that Hinds sees no role for local authorities in school improvement other than being recipients for decisions made by Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs). This is disappointing given that the majority of schools are not academies. And the words ‘evidence-based programmes’ is ominous given this government’s inclination to value only ‘evidence’ which supports its prejudices.
*The full ‘Principles for a clear and simple accountability system’ is here. Thanks to Mark Watson for tracking it down.