100 days and counting

Mr Hinds has now been in post as Secretary of State of Education just beyond the 100 day point, regarded as the first milestone for a politician by many commentators. During the same period in 2010 Michael Gove had already achieved the passing of the infamous 2010 Academies Act, despite having had to wait for the creation of the Coalition. However much many of us dislike its contents, and the subsequent effect on schooling in England, one must admire the political foresight of Mr Gove and his team of advisers.

As with all Mr Gove’s successors, there has been little sign of the same degree of ambition from the present incumbent of the office at Sanctuary Buildings. Now it is true that a minority government is in an even weaker position with regard to legislation than even a coalition. However, one of Michael Gove’s first acts at Defra this January was to attend both the Oxford Farming Conference and it alternative unofficial counterpart down the road. In doing so, he was making a clear political statement.

So, what has been achieved in the first 100 days by the Secretary of State for Education? Judging by Mr Hind’s speech to the ASCL Conference in March, it is more a matter of emphasis and a nudge here and there, than dealing with the big picture issues. A pause on changes in assessment and testing; more emphasis on reducing workload to calm down the teaching profession and a nod to the importance of technology. A sort of steady as you go regime.

So, what’s still in the Secretary of State’s in-tray? School funding hasn’t gone away as an issue, although it doesn’t seem to be playing very big in local elections across England. Parents haven’t yet seen the real effects of tightening budget. The fact that two of the three remaining maintained secondary schools in Oxfordshire had deficits of more than £1 million each at the end of 2017-18 financial years tells of pain yet to come. School Funding could be a big issue for Whitehall if teachers’ pay increases this year are more than was estimated by the Treasury in its school funding models.

Such an increase seems likely, since the Secretary of State hasn’t managed to tackle the issue of providing an adequate supply of teachers and stemming the outflow of those already in the profession. National teacher shortages are always seen as the responsibility of the government at Westminster, and 2018 is still not looking very healthy on the recruitment into training front. Failure to recruit trainees will impact in 2019 on the ability of schools to recruit new teachers and allows plenty of time for profession to mount any number of campaigns. The joint letter from a number of organisations sent to Mr Hinds earlier this week may be just the first in a veritable salvo of concern about this issue.

For me, the Secretary of State could make his name by regularising the parallel systems of governance between locally overseen maintained schools and nationally managed academies. Although not exactly the same situation, Mr Hinds may recognise, coming from a hospitality industry background that the 2003 Licensing Act did away with the dual system of liquor licences being issued by Magistrates’ Court and entertainment licences by local authorities. Our dual governance system for schools is a mess and, as I have said before, doesn’t help some of our most vulnerable young people such as children taken into care that need a place in a different school.

But then, a concern with social mobility also didn’t seem to feature large in Mr Hind’s first 100 days.

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What are the aims behind a school funding formula?

Last week I attended a conference put on at the LGA’s conference centre in London by the f40 Group of authorities concerned about school funding, and how it is distributed. Despite its location close to Houses of Parliament, no representative from any London authority was listed in the delegate list. I suppose that’s not surprising in view of the relative distribution of funding across the different local authorities in England.

The historical differences between the funding of schooling across local areas in England goes way back into the history of State education and how it was funded. In an article I wrote in the Oxford Review of Education way back in 1982, I said that local government then managed eighty per cent of spending on education. Even then, recognition that monitoring of what was happening, as the education system developed from just a limited scheme of elementary schools into a more elaborate and widespread system, especially after the passing of the 1944 Education Act, was contained in an HMI publication of 1981 entitled Report of HMI on the effects of local authority expenditure policies on the Education Service in England.  (DES, March, 1982).

Over the next thirty-five years power flowed inexorably from local authorities towards central government. During this changeover period, school funding became more centralised, but also increasingly distributed directly to schools, without local government being able to do much more than try to influence what was happening.

Also, throughout the changeover period, there were calls for a recognition that the existing system was unfair and based upon factors that prevented some areas from funding education as they would have wanted. This was especially the case in the period between the 1944 Education Act and the late 1980s when local government funding, of which most education funding was a part, was not hypothecated and some authorities chose to divide up their spending in less generous ways in terms of funding schools than did others. However, the unfairness resulting from the local retention of business rates always meant some areas had to receive extra funding from central government once it was agreed that a minimum national level of funding was required to operate the school system.

After the Education Reform Act, the idea of curriculum lead funding gathered pace, and calls were increasingly heard for a National Funding Formula for schools. Despite work conducted during both the period of the Labour government between 1997 and 2010, and the period of coalition government, it was only the post 2015 that the DfE and Ministers grasped the nettle and produced the outline of a policy for such a Formula: possibly some Ministers might have wished that they had left well alone. Nevertheless, by 2018, a National Formula existed and was being implemented.

Despite the explicit basis of a formula for schools designed around four basic building blocks: basic pupil funding via an age-weighted pupil unit and a minimum guarantee per pupil; additional needs criteria; a school element including a lump sum and finally an area cost adjustment, the outcomes don’t seem to satisfy many as the f40 conference discussions revealed. Indeed, under the new formula the rank order of high funded and low funded local authority areas remains not totally dissimilar to what was there before.

Perhaps my greatest anxiety arising from the new formula, and expressed by others at the conference, as well as having been expressed before in this blog, is that small rural primary schools have generally not been given sufficient funds to survive the next few years in their present form.

Now, if that is what the government want in order to rationalise spending and cut out waste, so be it. Whether the votes in rural areas will see it in the same way, is entirely another matter. But, it does highlight how values and funding are inextricably linked. At one time Mr Gove, when Secretary of State, wanted to do away with the sump sum completely for all schools: marking certain closure for small schools. The present formula retains a lump sum, but as Peter Downes in Cambridgeshire has worked out, not one especially supportive of small rural schools. The triple weighting of additional needs through a deprivation factor, English as an additional language and prior low attainment of pupils can more than balance out the sparsity and lump sum factors when overlain by the use of a geographical area cost adjustment.

As was once said by commentators of a former system for allocating education funding in the 1970s. ‘..has a deceptive appearance of simplicity. If it is a cost projection of existing policies then there is often disagreement about each element – cost, projection and existing policy all means.

Perhaps not much changes in government.

Moving forward without compromise

Is the climate changing about how the education system should be governed? I have been to three different events over the past week where there has been discussion about the different places of local authorities and the academy sector in taking our school system forward to new levels. Mostly, the academy debate has focused on Multi-Academy Trusts rather than single converter academies, but the issue affect all schools.

I think that there is growing recognition of the point made here previously that ‘place’ is important in the provision of high quality education, and especially schooling. There are three key areas to consider; planning the local system within a national framework; operating the system for the benefit of all and ensuring high quality provision for all by both monitoring outcomes and through the effective deployment of resources.

Sadly, the present arrangements seem to fall down on all of these three key areas needed for a fully functioning high quality education system. As a politician, albeit only a local opposition spokesperson, I am aware that politicians have ideas, but that these needed to be challenged. We need a return to the ‘Yes, Minister, but’ culture within our officer core, rather than a ‘Yes Minister’ outlook where everything a politician says is immediately policy.

Let me cite some examples. Oxfordshire has a good track record of building additional schools where there is new housing developments, but cannot control the process in the same way where the need is in an established built-up area. This is especially true where there is an accepted free school bid on the table from a local academy chain. As a result, I was told at the county council  meeting held yesterday that these new school buildings will probably be two years late. Extra cost and disruption to pupils, but who takes responsibility for this outcome?

In terms of operating the system, in-year admissions remains a minefield, as I have pointed out in relation to children taken into care. These are some of our most vulnerable youngster, but schools can stall on offering those pupils places. In some cases, schools can also encourage inappropriate home schooling in Years 10 and 11 instead of working across the locality to solve the underlying issues creating the original situations. Finally, the disbanding of local advisory services and SEND teams was an important mistake that teaching schools have not fully been able to rectify. CPD is not only about the needs of the system, but also the needs of individual teachers. Sometimes these needs are not in the interests of the schools where they are working. But, that shouldn’t mean that such needs are ignored.

Returning responsibility to local authorities with the power of central government to insert Commissioners when the authority clearly isn’t fulfilling its duties would be one model. It has the benefit of being based upon the concept of democratically elected bodies. Unelected Boards at a much finer grain than the present RSC regions is another, NHS style, approach. There may be other models based upon say, Growth Boards or any other justifiable set of boundaries that work.

What is needed is the will to take the best of recent reforms and dump the bits that don’t work. Whatever the choice, we need a service that is just that, a cadre of professionals working for the good of all and prepared to make hard choices.

Time for action

Burnt out teachers in struggling schools where nobody has the long-term strategic responsibility for improvement. That’s what I take from the headlines about the Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman’s first annual report. Apparently, there are about 100 schools which have not reached “good” status in inspections since 2005.

None of this is news; none of it is unknown. Indeed, one might ask whether politicians of all Parties have created barriers to overcoming this situation. The two parallel systems of maintained schools and academies, created since Mr Gove’s revolution, have not led to a system of oversight that allows meaningful discussion on how to deal with the schools that need the most support.

Labour now plans a National Education Service, on the lines of the National Health Service, without explaining where any extra funding for improvement will come from. As readers of this blog know, the cost of just the minor changes the government are making to student funding is going to cost £800 million according to the Budget Red Book. That doesn’t leave much for schools and early years. The Conservatives having failed with a system to encourage teachers to work in challenging schools are now trying Opportunity Areas, a scheme seemingly not dis-similar to Labour’s Education Action Zones of the late 1990s.

Nowhere yet at Westminster does there seem to be a recognition of the need to re-energise local democracy into taking an interest in developing and improving education services. If you believe services such as schooling should be subject to democratic oversight, then that surely requires a coherent form of local government backed by Westminster retaining oversight for strategic matters and with the power to intervene should local government prove not up to the task. Central government will also have to bear the funding of schools, but must recognise that sending all the cash to schools is not the right way to either create economies of scale or aid schools that need help from time to time.

What the government at Westminster can do is end the era of schools competing with one another. All state funded schools are part of the same enterprise: the development of learning for all our children. We do need to work together for the common good and not just for the good of the school. If burnout is a real issue for those working in some schools then managed moves for teachers and periods away from the classroom may be necessary. This is challenging when schools in MATs are spread geographically long distances apart and downright impossible when maintained schools cannot fund such a system under the present rules.

Then there is the growing practice of putting secondary deputies into primary schools, either directly as heads or to work alongside heads. Dioceses can do this with their schools, as can MATs, but it is difficult to see how maintained schools can create effective systems without overall control. These are but two examples of why the present system won’t tackle the concerns of the Chief Inspector.

The time has come to end the present unworkable governance system in schools and return to a common framework with a single purpose: every school a good school.

Requiem Collegium

So the long journey for teacher recruitment, training and development has finally come full circle. From the establishment of CATE (the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) and creation of the TASC unit (originally, Teaching as a Second Career- Lucy Kellaway please note this is not a new idea) in the 1980s, to the brave new world of the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) as an NDPB or Quango in the 1990s and then its successor the TDA, through to the NCTL and the return to being an executive agency of the Department in 2012 (with a Chair but no board), to the final announcement of the re-absorption of teacher responsibilities, except regulation, back into what I assume will be the Teacher’s Branch or Unit of the DfE, the  journey has led us finally back where we started.

In practice, the latest change probably won’t really make much of a difference and, even at its height, the TTA didn’t manage all teacher recruitment programmes. For many years, employment-based routes and the short-lived Fast Track Scheme were outside their remint. Teach First has always operated on a different set of governance rules in relation to the DfE. Ministers will now be directly accountable for the success or otherwise of the annual teacher recruitment campaign and the presentation of data about recruitment. Once the writing was on the wall for the General Teaching Council in England, the return of all teacher matters into the Department was probably only a matter of time.

As a one time employee of the Teacher Training Agency, and a long-time monitor of the working of teacher supply, will I shed any tears over the latest announcement: probably not. There are fashions in government delivery mechanisms, as in so many other areas of life, and the trend has been for simpler and more direct reporting arrangements over the past few years.

If I have a concern about the announcement, it is over the responsibility for professional development and the articulation of what a teacher can expect in developing their careers during a working life of 40 years. It is general knowledge that preparation courses of all types in no way cover everything a teacher needs to know to undertake the basic work of a professional successfully.

To move to new levels and different responsibilities needs more development, alongside the general changes caused by both research outcomes and the march of technology, let alone changes in society. The College of Teaching, when it is fully successful will play an important role, but the Department, with its access to the purse strings, must create policy. It could start with ensuring there is adequate preparation for primary leadership across the country. The dual academy and local authority system of governance, complicated as it is by the extra layer in the primary sector of diocesan schools, needs much more careful monitoring and attention than it has generally received over the past few years in respect of this key development priority.

So long as civil servants continue to take advice and discuss with others the approach to the recruitment, training and development of the teaching profession this move won’t harm the profession. But, it is worth reflecting why the journey was commenced more than 30 years ago.

 

Psst …Want a physics teacher?

It is only somewhat ironic that the government chose the day the House of Commons was discussing Brexit legislation to invite schools to recruit from their newly minted stock of overseas teachers.

  1. Trained teachers ready to teach in England – international recruitment

NCTL has access to a pool of fully qualified mathematics, physics and Spanish teachers recruited internationally; further subject specialisms are in the pipeline. Every teacher has been recruited using a thorough sifting and interview process and meets the high standards required to teach in England. Schools will also have the opportunity to interview candidates.

All teachers will receive an extensive acclimatisation package, inclusive of continuing professional development that will both support their transition into life in England and increase their knowledge of the national curriculum.

The recruitment and acclimatisation service is free to schools; we recommend that schools assign a teacher buddy or mentor to support faster integration.

If your school has a vacancy for a mathematics, physics or Spanish teacher and you’d like to access this opportunity to recruit, please contact us at international.teacherrecruitment@education.gov.uk with a name, school name, telephone number and vacancy details.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-bulletin/teacher-recruitment-bulletin-16-february-2017

If the NCTL contact TeachVac, they can identify the schools currently recruiting, so that the government can offer these teachers directly and save schools the cost of recruiting. However, it seem a little late in the year for this exercise to be really effective. Hopefully, if allowed to continue as part of permitted migration post 2019, the timing will fit better to the annual recruitment round in future years. If it doesn’t, then there is the risk of a lot of disillusion teachers from parts of Continental Europe that signed on only to be told there was no job despite the shortages everyone knows about.

I am not sure how certain the government is about a shortage of teachers of Spanish say, compared with German or Mandarin? TeachVac is looking in depth at what schools are seeking in both languages and design and technology to better understand the market as Teachvac already does for Science and some other subjects.

For those that want to see the new 2017/18 TV advertising campaign to attract people into teaching as a career, it is apparently airing during the Educating Manchester TV series. I assume that the thinking is that those that watch aren’t ghouls, but potential teachers that can be persuaded to take the first step on the recruitment ladder. Not, of course, that they can apply until November when UCAS opens the application process for next year. If the government keeps to its timetable at least the allocations for autumn 2018 ITT places will have been published by then at the end of October, along with the latest version of the Teacher Supply Model.

Perhaps the new Select Committee might like to review the progress to a fully staffed education service as part of its work once the full membership is finally announced.

 

 

 

Celebrating Diversity

Twenty years ago this autumn, the then Teacher Training Agency (TTA) launched an advertising campaign to attract new recruits to train as a teacher. There were two adverts. The talking heads one with the strap line, ‘no one forgets a good teacher’ remains memorable, but the other, although more innovative as an advertisement, doesn’t register in the collective memory to the same degree. In a sign of how far society has changed since 1997, when published, neither advert contained either a web site or email contact address; unthinkable these days.

At the same time the TTA was launching its advertising campaign it was also starting its first drive to recruit minority groups into teaching, starting with a focus on ethnic minority groups. There were a series of conferences to launch the policy, including one in East London addressed by the new Minister, Estelle Morris, newly launched on her career in government.

A decade later I conducted a detailed study for the then TDA into progress in recruitment of minorities into teaching and some years later I replicated the work just on the progress of recruiting ethnic minority candidates both into training and into teaching. As a result, it is interesting to see the data in the recently published ITT provider profiles about the change in percentages of minority groups recruited into training. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2015-to-2016

n many respects, 2015/16 as a good year for minority groups seeking to enter teaching. The percentage of male recruits broke through the 30% barrier for the first time since 2010/11; the percentage of students with a declared disability increased to its highest in the past decade, to reach nine per cent of postgraduate students; similarly, students from a minority ethnic background reached a new high for the decade of 14% of postgraduate entrants. There was even an increase among older trainees over the age of 25, although, at 54%, is still well below the record 62% of trainees over 25 that was reached 2010/11.

How far these percentages reflect either a genuine change in policy or just the outcome of falling overall application levels isn’t clear from the data. An analysis of the provider data for trainees from an ethnic minority background, where numbers are large enough to be reported, shows that London providers dominate the scene, with half the top twenty providers with the best ratio of ethnic minority trainees to overall numbers of postgraduates recruited being located in London. Of the other ten providers, five are located in the West Midlands; two in Yorkshire and The Humber and one in each of the South East, East Midlands and East of England. There were no providers north of the West Midlands or in the South West in the top 20 providers for graduate trainees where data is reported. Indeed, six of the next ten are also in London and the first identified provider in the South West is only in the 39th highest position.

In this context, the reduction in offers to new applicants for 2017 by London providers, reported in previous blogs, will be watched with interest to see what effect it has on recruitment profiles. However, it won’t be until the summer of 2019 that we will know the outcomes.