There was a paragraph buried in the Statistical Bulletin published last week about the new key Stage 2 assessments that set me thinking. Although school level data won’t be available until the end of the year, and the current outcomes cannot be easily related to previous years, the DfE statisticians were able to say:
We have conducted provisional analysis of school level data (which is not ready to be published and remains subject to change) to examine the correlation between the ranked position of all schools on the percentage achieving level 4b or above in 2014 and 2015 and the percentage reaching the expected standard in 2016 (as for the LA comparisons comparing 2014 final data with 2015 provisional data and 2015 final data with 2016 provisional data). This gave correlation coefficients of 0.56 for 2015 and 2016 data and 0.58 for 2014 and 2015 data. This suggests that we are not seeing greater variability in the data at school level. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/549432/SFR39_2016_text.pdf
So, do not expect that schools with poor outcomes have suddenly improved, or that those with previously good results have achieved less well in all cases, even though some schools may have improved or deteriorated on an individual basis.
This raises a number of issues for the new government. After all, during the past quarter of a century much of the focus in education has been about improving standards through changing the organisational structure of schools; sweating the assets – mostly teachers – harder and measuring everything in sight, sometimes it seems as often as possible.
Within the structural muddle we currently have within our school system, especially in the primary sector, with a pedagogic revolution from class teaching to the concerns for the outcomes of every child, and too often a blame game by politicians of staff in schools lacking the tools to do the job properly, some good has emerged. We must not now throw that away.
The acceptance of the importance of the early years of a child’s development; the recognition of the importance of early literacy, numeracy and socialisation and at the other end of the system the opening up of higher education to the many and not just treating higher education as a state-funded privilege for the few. This last point is important because, as I argued in a previous post, the knowledge economy needs more educated individuals that an economy based upon brute force and simple tools. However, it rests upon the foundations of a successful start to the education process.
So, here are some areas of concern that I think need resolving though research and development in order to help schools more forward. My shopping list includes:
Identifying common factors associated with children that fall behind at the early stages of literacy and numeracy and creating solutions that work to overcome common issues whether they are above average absence rates; moving schools mid-year when learning patterns for the many are set; the digital divide between home and school; staff development and training for a teaching force a large number of whom are in the early stages of their career; leadership preparation and enthusiasm across all sectors and for all types of school or the often turbulent life of a child in care or on the edge of family breakdown.
So, let’s stop playing the blame game and focus on starting the new school year in a sense of hope for a future geared to improving education for all.