‘We found that there was a lack of whole system strategic planning and commissioning with little collaboration between system partners. We could not find a compelling shared vision for the design and delivery of services. The significance of a shared vision is that it gives clarity to staff of all organisations and people who use services about what a system is trying to achieve.’
The quote above was taken from a recent report by the Care Quality Commission about services for the elderly in Oxfordshire. It set me thinking about whether a similar comment could be made about the current state of the schooling system and the manner in which it has been allowed to develop over the past decade?
Is schooling trying to achieve a free market for parents to select what they want from it on an individual basis, as they are ultimately responsible for the education of their children? Such oversight as there is in such a system can remain restricted to a national framework that is as light touch as possible and relies upon parents taking action where schools are not providing a good enough education.
The alternative view is that because most parents actually delegate the education of their children to the State, then the State has a responsibility to provide a coherent system that aims to provide a high quality education for each child. Such a system needs both national and local components since it is for too large to be operated effectively from one location.
At present we have two parallel school systems, with Regional School Commissioners the only person with direct oversight of potentially of all schools or at least those schools not performing properly. Dioceses straddle both systems, as some their schools are academies and others remain as voluntary schools within the maintained school system.
There is no shared vision over anything across the systems, even decisions about place planning and the effective use of resources are divided between local authorities, the Funding and Skills Council and the DfE Free School programme. UTCs and Studio Schools have literally been dropped into locations with no consideration of the effect on the budgets of other schools and where they were going to recruit pupils from: the results could have been predicted.
Indeed, the development of a common funding formula seems likely to affect 14-18 schools in different ways. According to the DfE KS4 destinations Statistical Report published this week, UTCs had a high proportion entering school sixth forms: presumably this means the majority staying on at the UTC, whereas only 27%, of the admittedly small number of KS4 leavers, from studio schools remained in a school sixth form after KS4. Waving goodbye to 73% of your potential income for two years isn’t a recipe for financial stability, especially when compared with selective schools that retain some 90% of their pupils in school sixth forms post KS4.
This lack of clarity over the consequences of a funding system on the different types of schools is but one example of the lack of clarity of what our school system is trying to achieve. Perhaps education needs someone to look over the way the whole system is operating and to make some bold decisions. Sadly, it doesn’t look as if that will happen anytime soon.
(footnote – This blog registered the 100,000 view since its inception five years ago earlier this week. This means that with more than 50,000 visitors, the view rate is 1.993 pages per visitor.)