Author Archives: montrose42



Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, was  on mischievous form recently at the Spectators Education conference. He attacked the governments Free schools policy as both wasteful and shambolic . But he also   took great pleasure  in winding up the Spectator’s Editor,  Fraser Nelson,   by  using quotes from the  Economist to support Labours education policies. ( slender on the ground at present)) He also  dug up  a quote from Joseph Addison, the co- founder of the Spectator, which  rather beautifully articulates the importance of education.

“I consider an human soul without education like marble in the quarry, which shews none of its inherent beauties till the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discovers every ornamental cloud, spot and vein that runs through the body of it.” Joseph Addison –November 1711-  Co-Founder of the Spectator


No recruitment of lay inspectors

Recruitment and selection of inspectors rigorous and fair according to Ofsted

Ofsted has been under attack recently on a number of fronts, but it would be wrong to assume that it is sitting on its hands or is complacent. One charge against Ofsted is that it  has contracted too few good teachers and Heads as inspectors and there has been some criticism about using outside contractors.  However, Ofsted has recently changed its approach to recruitment in order to attract more senior leaders, such as serving headteachers, to inspection roles. Sir Michael Wilshaw says that ‘This new approach will enable current heads to work part-time as inspectors for up to two years, on secondment. Ofsted has recently recruited 50 Associate Inspectors under this scheme from both good and outstanding schools.’

Once recruited, HMI undertake a six-month probation period and ’are provided with comprehensive and high-quality training to equip them for their role. Trainees are subject to regular evaluation and feedback.’ According to Ofsted, ‘Established HMI have access to a wide range of professional development opportunities, including a number of dedicated national training events and conferences on specific topics.’

Significantly, Ofsted no longer employs Lay Inspectors, but currently holds contracts with three Inspection Service Providers (ISPs) who deliver school inspection services through Additional Inspectors (AI). The ISPs currently holding contracts with Ofsted are CfBT Education Trust, Serco Education and Children’s Services and Tribal Group.

Schedule 6 of each contract sets out the obligations of each ISP in relation to the  recruitment and selection of AIs who undertake schools inspection. The Schedule states that recruitment and selection procedures must be rigorous and applied fairly.  The Schedule clearly defines the role of AIs as well as the qualifications, experience and essential competencies that they must hold.

ISPs are required to provide AI training, and Ofsted works closely with them to ensure both the quality and consistency of approach. Each AI must be signed off by an Ofsted HMI as part of the training process

Source -Letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw to Lord Storey 31 March 2014


The NASUWT wants  inspected teachers to report on the quality of  Ofsted  inspectors , following an inspection, and to provide on line feedback



Professor Tony Watts claims the Government has broken promises on Careers Advice


The Government has, this month, published new Statutory Guidance (SG) and Non-Statutory Departmental Advice (NSDA) on ‘careers guidance and inspiration’ in schools.

Careers England, in its latest Policy Commentary- Careers England(CE) Policy Commentary 27, April 2014)-   authored by Professor Tony Watts , a guidance expert, describes the recent up dated Statutory Guidance and the accompanying  Non-Statutory Departmental Advice  Careers Advice  as ‘ a deeply disappointing if predictable  coda to the evolution of the Coalition Government’s policies on career guidance’.

Tony Watts also suggested that the government had broken two promises .

The commentary states ‘The Government started by making a series of inspiring promises, including:

• Establishing a new all-age careers service, to build on the best of Connexions and Next Step.

• Revitalising the professional status of career guidance.

The first of these promises was undermined by the removal of all the Connexions funding and the reduction of the remit of the new National Careers Service to exclude face-to-face guidance for young people. Now, the second promise too has been betrayed. Far from revitalising the professional status of careers guidance, the Government is undermining this by using the term loosely, by marginalising professional careers advisers, and by ignoring the importance of underpinning quality-assured careers programmes.’

Ministers have recently promoted the idea that Careers advice is as much about inspiration as it is about information, looking to employers to go into schools to deliver advice and inspiration.

However, on this Tony Watts says, ‘The ‘inspiration’ agenda, involving employers much more actively, would have been widely welcomed by the whole careers sector had it been added to the implementation of the initial promises. But the SG and NSDA present it as a substitute for, rather than a complement to, professional career guidance and professionally managed careers education programmes in schools. There is no basis in evidence or  reasoned argument to support such a position.’

Statutory Guidance


Non-Statutory Guidance-Careers Guidance and Inspiration in Schools



No formal moves yet  but in practice chains are being scrutinised

When will Ofsted formally inspect Academy chains? After all, Sir Michael Wilshaw seems to be in favour of chain inspections.  The truth is that Ofsted is already pretty much on the case. Witness Ofsteds   treatment of the E-ACT  chain .It was  subjected to what was   termed a’ focused inspection’, although  it was, in effect, a chain inspection, in all but name  . Ofsted inspects academy chains currently through what it calls ‘batched inspections of schools within chains’. Ofsted, of course, has previously inspected a group of academies within the AET chain. The AET approach in the eyes of ministers is seen as  effective ,  so there are no plans to widen Ofsted’s role, for example,  in   inspecting  chains head offices.  But for how much longer? Particularly as the government itself is expressing concerns over some  of the chains’ impact on outcomes,( a minority it has to be said), and the  apparent unwillingness  of some to innovate ,  while  concurrently preventing some chains from  expanding (around 14 at the last count).

Ministers though look unlikely to budge on this, and believe that Ofsted is doing more than enough at the moment , combined with the DFEs own efforts ,to hold chains  properly to   account without burdening them with more red tape.






Partnership grows out of partnership

And Partnerships  are improving outcomes in Lincolnshire

CfBT Education Trust has just published a research report  ‘Partnership working in small rural primary schools’ .

Robert Hill and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) were commissioned  to investigate the most effective ways for small rural primary schools to work together in order to improve provision and raise standards. The project sought to examine the circumstances and context of small rural schools in Lincolnshire and evaluate their different leadership models (such as collaborations, federations, partnerships or academy chains) to:

identify successful approaches to collaboration likely to have a positive impact on pupil achievement

identify barriers to successful collaborative models

understand the role of the local authority in enabling effective partnership

place the Lincolnshire approach in the context of approaches being adopted in other areas in England and best practice in partnership as identified in research literature

identify issues and recommendations for policymakers to consider.

The report provides three sets of ten lessons for schools, policymakers and local authorities.

As well as the main report of findings there is a secondary report composed of supporting materials which is also available to download.

Although the researchers looked specifically at partnerships involving small schools, which have their own distinctive challenges ,some of the lessons learnt will be of interest  and utility to secondary schools.  The authors do not think that academisation and the establishment of teaching schools will , by themselves, address the problems and challenges facing small primary schools. There are 4,000 schools in England with fewer than 150 pupils and 1,400 with fewer than 75.

CFBT Education Trust provides school improvement support in Lincolnshire  and the report states ‘Lincolnshire provides a test-bed for how far it is possible to foster partnership working, address previous obstacles and build a school-to-school improvement model for small rural  schools’

 Ten Lessons for schools:  

Build on existing partnerships and relationships

Keep local partnerships geographically focused

Ensure that head teachers leading a collaboration develop strong relationships, shared values and commitment to each other

Be clear about governance, funding and accountability

Involve middle leaders in the leadership of partnerships

Use business plans and action plans to prioritise what partnerships will do together

Use action plans to prioritise and clarify what partnerships will do together.

Focus partnership activity on improving teaching and learning through teacher-to-teacher and pupil-to-pupil engagement and learning – including the use of digital contact between staff and pupils.

Focus any dedicated resources on providing dedicated leadership or project management time to organise activity and/or cover transport costs.

Be prepared to engage in multi-partnership activity and for the form and membership of partnerships to evolve over time.

Monitor and evaluate the impact of partnership activity


Ten lessons for local authorities:

 Provide a clear vision of the future in terms of school-to-school working.

Be flexible about the structural arrangements for partnerships but encourage a direction of travel   that moves to more structured arrangements – and formalise the arrangement, whatever form it takes.

 Expand the use of executive headship, using soft influence and hard levers (for example, intervening when schools are failing or struggling to recruit a new headteacher) to reinforce the growth of local clusters and the recruitment and retention of high quality school leaders.

Insist on schools agreeing on measures of progress and success – which they track and monitor

Focus any allocation of ring-fenced resources on providing some dedicated leadership or (start up) project management time to coordinate partnership activity and/or cover transport costs.

Reinforce a partnership strategy by the way that other policies on areas such as children’s services and place planning are framed and implemented.

Use simple practical initiatives to help foster partnership depth – such as time at headteachers’  briefings for cluster heads to work together, appointing the same professional link adviser to all the  schools in a partnership and enabling partnerships to jointly procure CPD.

Identify headteachers to champion the strategy, build ownership among their peers and provide a guiding coalition for change.

Support networking and communication between schools and partnerships through newsletters,  micro-websites and conferences.

Stick with the initiative – recognising that elements of the programme will evolve and that the full benefit will take time to come through.

Ten lessons for policymakers:

Set a clear, consistent vision and strategy for primary schools – and small primary schools in particular – to work together in small clusters but without being prescriptive on the form it should take.

Recognise in the way that policies are developed that schools are likely to engage in partnership with other schools on a number of different levels.

Affirm the role of local authorities in steering and enabling clusters to develop and grow.

Work with faith bodies to encourage and facilitate cross-church/community school partnerships.

Aim to develop 3,000–4,000 executive leaders of primary schools and provide a career path and training and development to match this ambition.

Encourage governors to work and train together across clusters, and encourage moves towards exercising governance at cluster level through federations, trusts and multi-academy trusts.

Reinforce the strategy of cluster working by enabling school forums to allocate lump sums to clusters as well as to individual schools.

Communicate the value of partnership working to parents and the wider world in order to provide more support for the efforts of small schools in developing partnerships.

Ensure that the accountability regime balances the competitive pressures among schools to recruit pupils with measures that value partnership working.

Evaluate the impact of partnership working at national level and provide tools to help schools assess the impact of partnership initiatives.

 There is a spectrum of partnership models in evidence. This ranges from loose, informal collaboration between schools, through informal collaboration underpinned by a memorandum of understanding , to more  formal collaboration, for example, including  a management agreement with an executive head, and on to a Federation or multi-  academy trust with  executive head teacher  and single governing body.

 Of the 99 small schools in Lincolnshire just 7 are in no form of collaborative arrangement.

As far as outcomes are concerned, the report says ‘Identifying the impact of Lincolnshire’s partnership programme is both difficult and easy. It is relatively easy to establish whether there has been progress and improvement but much more difficult to be sure about the causes for that improvement. There are three useful sources of evidence that deal with the first issue – whether there has been improvement.’

‘In 2009 the performance of pupils in small schools was significantly below that of their  peers in larger schools and was lagging behind the national performance.(As   measured by the proportion of pupils achieving level 4 or above in English and mathematics (and, for  2013, in reading, writing and mathematics). However,  in  2012 pupils in the  smallest schools were matching the national benchmark and also the achievement of the largest  schools in Lincolnshire. In 2013 results indicate that small schools were just above both the national performance level and the average for other groups of Lincolnshire schools – apart from those with  181 to 270 pupils.’

Second, the number of small primary schools with fewer than 90 pupils falling below the government’s  floor target for primary schools fell from over 20 to single figures in 2012 and to just one in 2013. This is despite the threshold for the floor target having been raised twice during this period.

Third, the Ofsted inspection outcomes of the smallest primary schools inspected during the school years 2011/12 and 2012/13 show significant improvement. The number of ‘outstanding’ and ‘inadequate’  (respectively Grade 1 and Grade 4) small rural schools in Lincolnshire has remained the same but  there has been a sizeable reduction in the number of ‘satisfactory’/’requiring improvement’ (Grade  3) schools and a corresponding increase in the proportion of ‘good’ (Grade 2) schools. The 65 Lincolnshire schools, taken as a group, have moved from having inspection outcomes that are much  poorer than other primary schools in England to having, on average, better inspection outcomes. ‘

Partnership working in small rural primary schools: the best of both worlds Research report Robert Hill, with Kelly Kettlewell  and Jane Salt-April 2014



Lincolnshire has 21 Special schools, 276 Primary schools and 59 Secondary schools, including 83 Academies. In addition, Lincolnshire remains one of the few areas in the UK to retain Grammar Schools and there are also a range of Primary and Secondary schools provided by the independent sector. CfBT Education Trust  took responsibility for school improvement in Lincolnshire in 2002 and since then the performance of schools and settings has shown sustained improvement year on year.

In 2012, CfBT won the Education Investor award for ‘Best School Improvement Service’ for its work in Lincolnshire.


Surely many teachers  have a foot in both camps?
The educational and political uses of the term progressive have different provenances. Most, if not all policies advocated by the Labour party, are labelled progressive, for example. However, so frequently is the term used by our politicians ( its normally broadly  associated in some form with pursuit of equality, social justice and redistribution) that it has become virtually meaningless.
But what about progressive education? Well, we know what its not, don’t we?. Progressives, as a rule, tend to know what they are opposed to much  better than they know what they are for . So they frequently identify themselves by what they are not. Traditional education for sure is the enemy of progressives. (you would have thought the opposite of progressive is regressive, yet in education its ‘traditional’-which is not the same as regressive)
Progressive education is not whole class instruction, (which traditionalists see as the most efficient way of delivering knowledge and skills), and its is not chalk and talk, nor is it the sage on the stage, nor is it didactic.
In the early 20th century, progressive education reformers promoted a pedagogy that emphasized flexible, critical thinking and looked to schools, rather ambitiously it has to be said, for the political and social regeneration of the nation.(one reason why education has become such a political football ) . The approach was informed by Freudianism and child psychology; progressives focused on child-centred methods. In this the teacher positions each child at the centre of the learning process by focusing activities around the interests of the individual pupil-another way of expressing this is personalisation of education. Here children are encouraged to take more control of their learning. But traditionalists argue that you can personalise education, without using progressive methods.

Progressive teachers warm to group and study work and are the ‘guides on the side’- ‘enablers’ and ‘facilitators’ rather than the ‘activators ‘ who populate the more traditional world. Progressives encourage, too, student participation and activity through discussions and group projects.
Traditional teachers are experts or scholars, encouraging drill, practice and memorisation, building up a core knowledge base in their students , which begets ,in turn, more knowledge. Progressive teachers are guides and listeners who perceive themselves as democratic, or certainly not authoritarian in approach, with a  more ‘humane’ approach to learning. This is an over – simplification but gives some sense of how each side sees themselves.
Tom Bennett, a respected education blogger, has produced a table-that seeks to identify ‘progressive’ methods -on the left- and ‘traditional methods’ -on the right. But Bennett rightly points out that many teachers are flexible and in practice have a foot in both camps. Indeed he suggests that they are not inherently in opposition and might even be considered to exist in a symbiotic relationship.
Sir Michael Wishaw recently recollected that he had two outstanding teachers when he headed Mossbourne Academy whose teaching styles were at opposite ends of the spectrum. One was a young female teacher who espoused progressive methods, another older male teacher followed very traditional methods. But both were highly effective, and highly rated. He used the story to reiterate that Ofsted was not seeking to promote any particular teaching style, although he also later claimed to be rooting out inspectors who favoured the progressive style and said that progressive teaching had damaged the chances of many children in the 1960s.
How effective are the respective approaches? Professor John Hatties effect sizes are lined up to show how traditional methods (Teacher as Activator) clearly beat progressive methods (Teacher as Facilitator) in their effects on outcomes. However there is some debate over whether some of the interventions on Hatties lists can be exclusively labelled  as either in the progressive or traditionalist camp. Which rather reinforces the notion that it is not that easy or clear cut  to clearly define ‘progressive ‘ and  ‘traditional’ methods.
If you look at the work of Dewey one of the leading exponents of progressive education its pretty difficult to comprehend his dense prose. And one suspects that quite a few have misunderstood what he was saying or at least mistranslated it into teaching practice.
Although this is an interesting debate and will continue, much of it gets us not very far and serves to polarise teachers and educators. It must be sensible for inspectors not to favour one particular style and as Sir Michael Wilshaw said in 2012 Inspectors should “ simply judge teaching on whether children are engaged, focused, learning, and making progress, and in the best and most outstanding lessons, being inspired by the person in front of them”.(Ed-if the teachers in front of them isn’t that tradititional?)



Almost certainly not according to the experts


‘Schools now have a legal duty to secure independent careers guidance for all 12-to-18 year-old pupils. They can choose the type of careers advice they offer: for whom and by whom, whether by telephone, through a web portal, or face to face. All this is in line with the government’s drive to make schools, and their decision-making, more autonomous.

The only problem is, it isn’t working: rather than getting careers advice more appropriate to their local job market, many pupils are now forced to make do with advice that’s barely up to scratch. In early March, business secretary Vince Cable triggered a row when he said that teachers weren’t even in a position to give good careers advice. The teaching unions reacted angrily to his suggestion that their members were unfamiliar with the world of work – but few seem to have a response to suggestions that they can’t do the job the government has handed them.

The range of providers from which schools are now buying services includes local authorities, private careers guidance companies, sole traders and new social enterprises. Elsewhere in the market you’ll find education business partnerships, which offer schools integrated careers guidance or work-related learning support services, as well as FE colleges and universities, all selling careers guidance services to schools.

At present, though, relatively few schools are buying in face-to-face careers guidance from an external specialist careers provider. Even those which are commissioning services are buying fewer days than they had received before.This matters, because schools’ own efforts don’t seem to be up to scratch. A 2012 Careers England survey found that there was a postcode lottery in both the quality and the scope of careers guidance on offer to pupils. Overall, what’s more, provision was deteriorating.

A range of other organisations have also expressed concerns about the quality of schools careers guidance. Ofsted has found that three out of every four schools they had visited had not been delivering an adequate service. The CBI’s John Cridland has said that “careers advice is on life support in many areas”. As for Parliament, the Education Select Committee said in 2013, “We have concerns about the consistency, quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance now being offered to young people.” In February, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced that schools were to receive new statutory guidance on what was expected from them in providing careers advice – hardly a ringing endorsement of the status quo.

None of this has surprised the guidance profession. Its members had warned ministers from the outset that, with no additional funding allocated to schools to pay for this new duty, many were likely to pick the cheapest, rather than best, option for their pupils. There were no prescribed quality standards, nor even a recommended professional guidance qualification; and the accountability framework was weak to non-existent. In short, schools do not need to account for the quality of careers advice they offer their pupils. The result is a growing perception that the government is marginalising careers professionals and careers education in schools.

In the past, there’s been an overarching consensus that young people need access to high quality, independent careers education and guidance: to make the right choices for them, to manage the transitions from one stage of their education to the next, and to ensure they have access to information on the local job market. There’s been a consensus, too, that all this is best delivered by an independent, qualified professional, and to come with embedded contributions from employers. Some experts have argued, plausibly, that the delivery of interlinked government policies – improving social mobility, reducing exclusion and NEET figures, filling the skills gaps or improving the opportunities and access for disadvantaged pupils – all stand a better chance of success if young people have easy access to good advice.

But not everyone agrees. Education secretary Michael Gove is on record as doubting the need for “a cadre of careers advisers”. He recently claimed that the new guidance, due out this month, is “all about cutting out the middle man and getting inspirational speakers in front of students to spark their ambitions”. The line seems to be that young people need inspiration, not just information. But does Gove really believe you can cut out the careers advisers in favour of employers? Few doubt the importance of employer engagement, but they and careers professionals have important complementary roles. Young people need access to both.

When the government introduced its overarching National Careers Service as part of the 2012 reforms, many hoped that this would be the organisation tasked with ensuring that no one fell through the guidance net. That, though, has turned out to be a re-branded careers service for adults. For those under 19, access is limited to its website and telephone advice service. NCS has no remit to provide face-to-face careers guidance to young people, no remit to work with schools, and no funding for services to young people beyond its online and telephone facilities.

The government has a number of possibilities open to it. Radically tightening up accountability measures with some additional funding targeted on careers guidance is one option. Bolstering the NCS, and extending it to providing face-to-face careers guidance in schools, possibly with regional contracts, is another. Or perhaps schools could be required to employ their own qualified careers advisers, responsible for providing face-to-face careers guidance to pupils, with teaching staff planning and delivering programmes of careers education.

But one thing is clear: carrying on as things are today is not an option.

(Published in Education Investor- March 2014 Edition)




Charlie Taylor, CEO of the National College for Teaching and Leadership, has talked about his aim of an ‘irrevocable shift’ towards a school-led, self-improving system by September 2016. Collaboration within schools and between schools and groups of schools is seen as essential if we are to improve schools.   But  what  exactly  does the Government mean by a self-improving system? Professor Toby Greany of the IOE  says that The Importance of Teaching white paper boils it  down to four criteria:

teachers and schools are responsible for their own improvement;

teachers and schools learn from each other and from research so that effective practice spreads;

the best schools and leaders extend their reach across other schools so that all schools improve; and (by implication)

government intervention and support is minimised.

Greany however is not convinced ‘that either the system capacity or the policy conditions are yet right for an ‘irrevocable shift’ to be achieved, even by 2016.  ‘My worry is that if the self-improving system becomes no more than a narrative device to justify the removal of central and local government support as quickly as possible, then a two-tier system could rapidly emerge in which strong schools thrive but large swathes are left behind’,he writes in a blog.

What does seem clear is that some regions are benefiting  more from collaborative practice,  than others, and collaboration is not the default position across the system.  The government believes that chains of schools are raising performance. But most schools are not part of a chain.  So, to advance this agenda, incentives may be required to help fill the yawing gaps and to encourage a  more collegial approach. Chains, of course, are not the only answer. There are other types of partnerships that focus on school improvement.  But  more research needs to be done in this area , as well as more systematic dissemination of best practice-and maybe its time for some carrots and sticks to be introduced to drive forward this agenda.



Seeks to ensure that places are allocated fairly

More schools using banding and random allocation of places


The School Admissions Code exists ‘to ensure that places in all state-funded schools are allocated in a fair and transparent manner.’ The Code is occasionally reviewed and up-dated.

It is the responsibility of the admission authority for each school to ensure that they comply with the Code and related admissions law when setting its admission arrangements. The School Admissions Code is available online at:

The Code sets out the requirements for those admission authorities who decide to use random allocation for allocating places, and those who use banding to select a proportionate spread of children of different abilities.

Any person or body who considers that these particular arrangements are unfair or unlawful can make an objection to the Schools Adjudicator. The Adjudicator’s role is to consider whether these arrangements comply with the Code and admissions law. The Adjudicator’s decisions are binding and enforceable; if found to be unlawful the admission authority must revise their admission arrangements as soon as possible, and no later than 15 April following the Adjudicator’s decision. Further information on the Office of the Schools Adjudicator can be found here:

As Conor Ryan, former adviser to David Blunkett, when he was Education Secretary, now  of the Sutton Trust, has said “School admissions is a minefield at the best of times”. Well informed parents are good at playing the system, and some schools are too.  Most schools, including most academies, still use distance from school and the presence of siblings at the school already as their main criteria in admissions.

However, there is evidence of a small but significant growth in the use of banding and random allocation – or ballots – to achieve a more comprehensive intake. The Sutton Trust ,in a recent report, found that  schools in striving to achieve balanced intakes,  sometimes use banding for the purposes of  admission which,   while no panacea, ‘can contribute to creating more balanced intakes than  would otherwise be the case’.

Banding and Ballots – Secondary school admissions in England: Admissions in 2012/13 and the impact of growth of Academies Research by Philip Noden, Anne West and Audrey Hind ; February 2014-Sutton Trust



 Some Academy expansion put on pause 

According to the government ‘The number of approved sponsors with open academies that have been restricted is reviewed regularly in the light of the latest assessment of performance. At 27 February 2014, 14 sponsors were restricted in full from sponsoring new academies or free schools out of a total of over 350 approved sponsors that currently support academies.

They are:

1. Academies Enterprise Trust (AET)

2. Academy Transformation Trust (ATT)

3. Barnfield Academies Trust

4. City of Wolverhampton Academy Trust

5. Djanogly Learning Trust

6. E-ACT

7. Grace Foundation

8. Landau Foundation

9. Lee Chapel Academy Trust

10. Prospects Academies Trust

11. South Nottingham College Academy Trust

12.The Learning Schools Trust

13. University of Chester Academies Trust (UCAT)

14. West Hertfordshire Teaching Schools Partnership

There are other sponsors that have decided to consolidate their growth, preferring to focus on improving the performance of their open academies.


The list of sponsors on pause changes on a regular basis and 7 of the sponsors that were on the original  list, of  25 October 2013, have subsequently taken on more academies.



Source Hansard 18 March