Where the long grass grows

It doesn’t look like there will be rapid action on coasting schools. Neither, despite it having been an issue for many years, does it seem as if the DfE has yet completed work on a scheme for a national funding formula for schools; another two years work is estimated to be required. With coasting schools being judged on outcomes up to 2016 that presumably won’t be available until early in 2017, schools that can do so have time to meet the criteria announced yesterday by the Secretary of State.

I had suggested using data for two years in my earlier post on coasting schools, so measuring progress over three years up to and including 2016 provides an even longer time scale.

The DfE announcement suggests:

The new measure … sets out a clear definition of what a coasting school is.

Those secondary schools that fail to ensure 60% of pupils achieve five good GCSE grades and have a below average proportion of pupils making expected progress over three years, will be classed as coasting.

From 2016 onwards those secondary schools who fail to score highly enough (over a three year period) on Progress 8 – our new accountability measure that shows how much progress pupils in a particular school make between the end of primary school and their GCSEs – will be deemed to be coasting.

At primary level the definition will apply to those schools that for three years have seen fewer than 85% of children achieving level 4, the secondary ready standard, in reading, writing and maths and which have also seen below average proportions of pupils making expected progress between age seven and age eleven.

Of course, the Bill Committee might amend the definitions in some way or at least put a clear appeal procedure in place; perhaps for small schools where the introduction of one child not speaking English  late in the day might tip the balance for the school. As I suggested last time, schools must be able to recruit the staff to teach pupils effectively. It would be silly for the government to create a staffing crisis and then penalise schools that suffered as a result.

I was amused to read of the Regional Commissioners that the Secretary of State’s announcement said that the eight education experts had in-depth local insight supported by elected head teacher boards from the local community. How local is the knowledge for the Commissioner and associated Board of six about Oxfordshire when their remit stretches from Brimsdown in Enfield to Burford on the Gloucestershire borders seems questionable, but perhaps this statement is just government hyperbole.

However, of more importance is where the cash to pay for extra powers for Commissioners will come from? Surely, it is time that the Treasury asked how we can afford to run two parallel system of local authorities and Commissioners, not to mention the costs of transferring schools between the two systems. Money is still tight, yet the education department and the Conservative government seems willing to waste money on a governance system no longer fit for purpose. Either schools are run by elected officials or they aren’t: if not, then should the government not put all schools under the control of Commissioners and treat the issue of ‘coasting’ as a problem to be solved and not a reason to change the governance of individual schools.

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5 thoughts on “Where the long grass grows

  1. The ‘coasting’ school definition increases the threshold for secondary schools to 60% from 40% and for primary schools from 65% to 85%. This higher threshold will be applied retrospectively to 2013/14 and 2014/15. The DfE press release was full if misinformation about the wonderfulness of academies and high-sounding phrases including the vacuous ‘One Nation’ (only applies to England, though). I’ve written about it in more detail here: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/06/well-shine-a-light-on-complacency-says-morgan-perhaps-that-light-should-focus-on-dfe-propaganda/

    • Schools Week has also noted that schools with an intake skewed to the bottom end will be hardest hit by the ‘coasting’ school category. http://schoolsweek.co.uk/one-in-five-secondary-moderns-could-fit-the-definition/
      But schools with an intake skewed to the top end will not be classed as ‘coasting’ even if the results are lower than might be expected given their intake. For example, is a grammar where the 5ACEM result is less than 90% making sure their pupils ‘reach their potential’? Their pupils are selected for their ability to get at least Grade Cs – it’s legitimate to ask why more than 10% don’t secure 5ACEM (although this could be explained by using exams no longer included in league tables such as iGCSEs – according to league tables 0% of Bourne Grammar pupils gained 5ACEM).

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