Daft, illogical or just plain stupid?

The DfE’s recently published revised statutory guidance for the Induction of NQTs is dated April 2018. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/induction-for-newly-qualified-teachers-nqts The DfE website shows the Guidance as having been updated on the 1st April. Now, were this Guidance published anywhere else but on the DE’s own website, one might assume it was an elaborate April Fool’ day joke. But, one must presume that some hapless official was charged with uploading these changes on the day that the Teaching Regulation Agency (presumably TRA for short) replaced the now departed National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL). Whether the TRA will follow in the footsteps of the RAF and have an illustrious history lasting more than 100 years is probably not even a matter for debate. If it lasts 100 months it might be said to have done well.

This Guidance is another example of a ‘fine mess’ our school system in England has become. To quote from the document:

All qualified teachers who are employed in a relevant school in England must, by law, have completed an induction period satisfactorily, subject to specified exemptions (see Annex B).

The list of relevant schools includes a maintained school; a non-maintained special school; a maintained nursery school; a nursery school that forms part of a maintained school; a local authority maintained children’s centre; and a pupil referral unit (PRU).

Keen eyed readers will notice that missing from this list of ‘relevant schools’ where Induction is mandatory are independent school in England; academies; free schools; 16–19 academies; alternative provision academies; and city technology colleges. Induction can be served in these institutions, even in some cases independent schools, but it isn’t a requirement, as it is for NQTs working in ‘relevant schools’ as listed in the appropriate paragraph of the Guidance.

Schools in special measure – no mention of the term inadequate here- generally, even if a relevant school, cannot employ NQTs or offer Induction unless HMI have granted permission. But, that is what you might expect.

Interestingly, a teaching school that is an accredited ITT provider cannot be the appropriate body for an NQT for whom it recommended that the award of QTS should be made. However, the ban doesn’t seem to extend to other schools in the same academy chain.

So two schools next to each other. Both state-funded and employing new entrants into the profession can have very different rules governing the Induction Period of that NQT. Is that satisfactory? Should the DfE now accept that regardless of the historical nature of a school’s governance, if it is state-funded the same rules should apply to the Induction of new entrants to the profession?

Although fewer Children’s Centres now exist than was the case a few years ago, I do wonder whether they are suitable places to serve an Induction Year.  One requirement is that the Induction Year involve(s) the NQT regularly teaching the same class(es). Can this really happen in a Children’s Centre?

Perhaps the next revision might be based upon recognising the common needs of NQTs regardless of the type of school where they start their teaching careers. But, perhaps, there will finally be a wholesale review of this part of a teacher’s career following the recent consultation exercise on Strengthening Qualified Teacher Status and career progression and perhaps, the term ‘Teacher’ might finally become a reserved occupation title, only usable by those appropriately qualified and with QTS: we can but hope.






A tale of two schools

Earlier this year Ofsted rated two secondary schools in the same county as inadequate. Their inspection reports are on the Ofsted website. One school was a community school; the other an academy. What happened next?

As a community school, the local authority was required to undertake an exercise about the future of the school, including the option of closing it. Whatever the outcome, the school would become an academy. As this happened just after the county council elections in May, the new Cabinet Member swung into action, working closely with officers to assist the school with its own recovery plan. There was a rapid change of head teacher and a general tightening up of standards and procedures. At the same time, a search was instigated for a nearby-by school that could partner the school as an academy in a multi-academy trust. With goodwill all round, the school looks set on a good future with the local community and parents backing its continued existence. Whether making the school an academy is helpful only time will tell.

The other secondary school is a faith school that is already an academy. It sits in a multi-academy trust with a number of primary schools of the same faith. Eighteen months ago it was placed into financial special measures as a result of misunderstanding about how much money it would receive ahead of changing to an all-through school and starting a primary department. The rules are different for existing school changing age range than for the creation of a new school. The school has had a high number of permanent exclusions, despite being a faith school, and appears to top the list of schools with the largest number of permanent exclusion in the county over a three-year period. Recently it has logged some of the worst GSCE Mathematics results in the provisional totals for 2017 outcomes that appeared in the local press. The school also has a very high percentage of days lost through persistent absenteeism, sufficiently high to place it well into the upper echelons of the national table for such outcomes. The head teacher has, of course changed. As an academy, it is up to the Regional School Commissioner and his Board to decide what to do with the school. The RSC has guidance from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/640916/SCC_guidance.pdf the DfE’s document on guidance on schools causing concern. Chapter 2 deals with academies causing concern. Between May and July there was no record of the relevant Head Teacher Board discussing any performance issues at any school in the region in the minutes of meetings and they also don’t seem to be note Ofsted decisions about academies rated as inadequate at any of their meetings.  They may be reported to sub-boards, but those minutes appear not to be public documents. The RSC has the power to take drastic action, including re-brokering the academy and in extremis effecting its closure. There was no requirement for a public consultation about the future of the school.

So, here we have the two governance systems dealing with the same problem:  a secondary school deemed inadequate. In one case, what happens next takes place in the full glare of publicity; in the other case, behind closed doors, where it is difficult to see if anything happens? It would be interesting to see how many parents have chosen to withdraw their offspring from each school since the Ofsted judgement?

How transparent should these issues be? In the world of local government, schools can less easily hide: in the case of academies, the new system of governance seems far too slanted towards secrecy and a lack of public accountability, let alone public consultation.

Does local democratic control matter in education?

How far has the education map of England become a picture of two nations growing apart? There are many different ways in which you can consider that question. One is to look at the governance structure of state funded schools. How many are still maintained schools of the various types largely linked to the 1944 Education Act and how many are now the product of the Ball/Gove academy revolution? Among selective schools the answer is that almost all are academies; only 23 remain as maintained schools and 10 of these are in Kent. At the other end of the spectrum, London is the only region where free schools, UTCs and studio schools comprise more than 10% of the total of secondary schools and even there it is still only 11%. This is despite the fact that London has probably seem the greatest demand for new secondary school places since 2010. In the North East and East Midlands areas, just four per cent of secondary schools fall into the category of these new types of nationally administered schools free from local democratic oversight.

However, academies are a group have become the dominant governance form for secondary schools, accounting for almost two out of three secondary schools in England. Nevertheless, the percentage is still lower in the north of England and, perhaps more surprisingly, in London and especially Inner London, where 81 of the 185 secondary schools are still local authority maintained comprehensives than in the rest of England.

Of course, just counting schools is a somewhat imprecise measure, since schools do differ in size from small 11-16 schools to large 2,000+ 11-18 or all-through schools. The same is true in the primary sector, where there as some very large schools coping with recent pupil growth, but still many small schools in rural areas. The percentage of schools that are academies or free schools differs from the secondary sector in some regions.

SW 632 1870 34%
EM 454 1635 28%
YH 466 1785 26%
WM 437 1776 25%
EE 485 1993 24%
L 363 1816 20%
SE 507 2598 20%
NE 155 861 18%
NW 249 2452 10%
ALL SCHOOLS 3748 16786 22%



However, there are fewer primary academies across much of the north of England and in London. The preponderance of Conservative controlled county councils in the south West many account for the relatively high percentage of primary academies in that regional, although it is still only around one in three primary schools, much lower than the percentage in the secondary sector.

As a Lib Dem politician, I wonder whether it is worth testing a campaign in the South West along the lines of ‘return our schools to community democratic oversight’. The membership has never seemingly taken to academies and control from Westminster in the manner that Lib Dem spokespeople and Ministers seem to have done. I am not sure where the present spokesperson stands on this issue?

Such a campaign might also highlight that there is no way back for schools entering MATs. The government may remove them to another MAT and MATs may voluntarily give up or even close a school, but neither the community not the local governors can seemingly force the trustees, those with the real power in a MAT, do so. Like much of the NHS, this is a denial of local democratic involvement in a key public service.

There is, however, one gain from the academy programme, the 140 academies that are selective schools can have their status changed to non-selective schools much more easily than when they were still maintained schools.