PROSPECTS JOINS MUTUAL JOINT VENTURE TO DELIVER PUBLIC SERVICES-GOVERNMENT KEEN ON EMPLOYEE OWNED MUTUALS DELIVERING PUBLIC SERVICES
Company part of a joint venture mutual ,offering school support services
Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society at the Cabinet Office was at the launch of the first ever joint venture mutual, 3BM ,in April. It provides a range of critical school support services. The business is made up of staff from three London boroughs; Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster. They are delivering services such as financial management, IT and building development to schools allowing them to focus on education.
3BM is the first ever mutual joint venture to spin out of local government. The business is owned by a partnership between the employees and the the education employment company, Prospects. The employees own 75.1% of the business, giving them a controlling stake. Prospects has a 24.9% share and brings capital and business expertise needed to make the business grow. As a result of 3BM spinning out, the local councils could see £1 million in savings over the next four years. The mutualisation project has been supported by the Cabinet Office which had previously designated Hammersmith and Fulham Council as a national Pathfinder in 2010 to explore new ways of delivering public services more efficiently. Prospects is an employee- owned private company, and was chosen in an innovative “dragons den” process but with the partner’s shareholding capped at no more than 25% in return for their input and support. All mutual staff will own shares, with Prospects, as stated, owning up to 24.9% of the company, but subject to them meeting key performance targets to the satisfaction of the mutual.
Ministers have talked in glowing terms about the John Lewis model in business. All 84,700 permanent staff of John Lewis are Partners who own the 39 John Lewis shops across the UK and the 291 Waitrose supermarkets , an on-line catalogue business a production unit and a farm. Policy Exchange, the Prime Ministers favourite think tank, published a report recently ‘ Social Enterprise Schools’ championing the John Lewis model in education. The report said Private companies should be encouraged to take over and run state schools as profit making enterprises under a “John Lewis-style” business model. It argued the new schools, in which teachers and staff are encouraged to become shareholders, would create strong incentives to drive up standards. Under the proposals, half of any profits made by the schools would be distributed as a dividend to its partners on an annual basis, while the remaining half would be reinvested.
There are quite a few ‘ co-operative schools’ operating in England. The Co-operative College, a Manchester-based organisation, is helping to support and promote the ground-up, democratically driven growth of Co-operative trust schools. The Co-operative College has over recent years worked with the Co-operative Party and schools to develop a distinct co-operative trust model that enables schools to embed co-operative values into the long term ethos of the school. These schools are part of the Co-operative movement, with a history dating back to the 19th century. Despite some legal challenges, in just five years, co-operative schools have become the third largest grouping within the English education system, with currently over 450 operating. 30 have become co-operative converter academies, a small number are co-operative sponsor academies and we have seen the creation of the first co-operative multi-academy trust.
Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, has launched a programme to introduce employee mutuals into public services and has endorsed the aim of a million public sector workers – around 15% of the total – transferring to staff-led mutuals by 2015.
Patrick Burns, Director of Mutuals Development for Prospects says that the reason for this Ministerial enthusiasm is the increasing evidence that employee ownership can help organizations perform better than conventional counterparts in the private and public sector; as well as the micro and macro benefits to the wider economy. Prospects had elected to make the transition from conventional ownership to employee ownership. It is a former spin-out from the public sector – formed from the careers services of four London boroughs in 1996 – which now offers advice and support to authorities and staff groups interested in forming employee-led mutuals [ELMs] alongside its extensive other work in education, training and employment. Prospects services include careers services for adults and young people; the Government’s Work Programme initiative to help long term unemployed people back to work; the largest Ofsted Early Years Inspection Services contract in the country; advice and guidance for offenders; and an extensive range of education consultancy and school improvement services.
Patrick Burns was until December 2011 Chief Executive of the Employee Ownership Association. He written a paper about employee ownership (see below) in the private and public sector of the British economy, and how Government can help it spread.
Knowingly Undersold- How Government can spread the John Lewis effect-Prospects Policy Paper-Patrick Burns
ASPIRE-THE NAHTS SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
Private operator, EdisonLearning, has secured a major contract with The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) to help improve student achievement in schools across the country as part of the NAHTs Aspire School Improvement Project. The project was briefly referenced in Michael Goves 25 April speech.
Working closely with the Department for Education and the Strategic Programme Board at the NAHT, EdisonLearning has been working with 30 primary schools, organized into three clusters of schools across three geographical areas in the UK.
Schools involved in the project in the western region are located around Bristol and Reading, in the southern region around West Sussex and Kent and in the northern region around Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield. The schools are very different in their size, diversity and urban and rural locations. To illustrate this, one school in a rural location near Bristol has less than 100 students and a large urban school in Sheffield has more than 500 students.
The NAHTs President, Steve Iredale flagged this idea up in a speech in 2012, when he said that NAHT ”is taking the radical step of looking at the possibility of offering a school improvement service to support schools which find themselves in challenging circumstances.
“It’s a big challenge, but it’s something we’re interested in exploring. We can see massive benefit but there’s a long way to go. Trade unions tend to operate as trade unions and offering that level of support is a form of CPD linked to improving teaching and learning. There’s a massive challenge in there as well. There’s no question of schools escaping: there would be the same challenges from us. School improvement would be the driving force as opposed to the current Ofsted regime.”
At the launch of Aspire, on 1 May, the NAHT said the project aims to fill the gap between higher expectations and declining levels of support, offering schools access to advice, resources and support as they continue to improve the outcomes they provide for their pupils.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, who has experience in senior management in the private sector, said: “Every school wants to be good but many lack the support and networks to achieve their vision. The Aspire project is designed to fill the gap with a collaborative, sustainable model of school improvement. Schools joining the project will work in small clusters to help and inspire each other, assisted by NAHT officials, their local authority and external project management.
“What is dramatic about this is who is doing it. NAHT is a trade union dedicated to the protection and representation of our members. But we know that our members want to do the best for their pupils – that is part of their ‘reward’. The NAHT Aspire project shows that no-one is more ambitious for the young people of our country than those who work in our schools. The profession holds the answers and has the resources; it is trust, collaboration and inspiration that will trigger the innovation we need.
“This phase, now going public, is a pilot project to prove the concept can work. Ultimately, we plan to expand the reach of NAHT Aspire more broadly. The scale is already significant however: if this was an academy chain, it would be the seventh largest in the country.
The Edisonlearning team has already begun the initial Collaborative Quality Analysis process with many of the schools.
The project has been part funded for three years by the Department for Education .It will be independently evaluated by the Open University.
Michael Gove, Education Secretary, said: “I am pleased to commit my department’s support for it. I wish the project and those schools taking part in it every success as they seek to raise their performance to ‘good’ or better. I will be following this initiative with particular interest over the next two years.”
Committee expresses concerns over poor cost controls and financial oversight
A Public Accounts Committee report on the Academies programme describes a system peppered with overspends and errors, but subject to little oversight.
Millions of pounds were wasted on England’s rapidly growing academies programme because of over-complex and inefficient funding systems, according to the Select Committee report.
It urges the Department for Education to tighten its financial grip on these privately run but state-funded schools.
Committee chairman Margaret Hodge, who has gained a reputation for her forthright attacks on government waste, said inefficient funding systems and poor cost control had driven up the cost of the programme.
“Of the £8.3 billion spent on academies from April 2010 to March 2012, some £1 billion was an additional cost which had to be met by diverting money from other departmental budgets.
“Some of this money had previously been earmarked to support schools struggling with difficult challenges and circumstances. £350 million of the extra £1 billion represented extra expenditure that was never recovered from local authorities.”
A DfE spokesman said the report failed to acknowledge “the significant progress that we have made in improving our systems.
“The academies programme has been a huge success. There are now almost 3,000 academy schools – more than 14 times as many as in May 2010 – with more than two million children now enjoying the benefits that academy status brings. The programme is proven to drive up standards. Sponsored academies are improving far faster than maintained schools.
“We make no apology for the fact that so many schools have opted to convert, and no apology for spending money on a programme that is proven to drive up standards and make long-term school improvements.
“The Department for Education has made significant savings in the last two-and-a-half years and has also set aside significant contingencies, which have been set against the growth in academies.”
He added that the costs of converting academies have already fallen by more than half per academy and that further savings were expected in the future.
Conclusions and recommendations
1. The value for money of the Academies Programme will ultimately depend on its impact on educational performance relative to the investment from the taxpayer. The Department has chosen to expand the Programme rapidly, incurring an additional cost of £1 billion since April 2010. While it is too early to assess the impact of the expansion on school performance, the Department will need to be able to demonstrate whether value for money has been achieved. It has yet to state how it will do so, or when. The Department should set out what outcomes it aims to achieve from the expansion of the Programme, and how and when it will demonstrate whether progress is on track and value for money has been achieved.
2. Inefficient funding systems and poor cost control have driven up the cost of the Programme. A large part of the £1 billion additional cost since April 2010 has been caused by the excessively complex and inefficient academy funding system which has reportedly led to overpayments and errors in payments to Academies There was around £350 million extra paid to Academies which was not recovered from local authorities. This system does not operate effectively alongside the local authority system, and makes it hard for the Department to prove that academies are not receiving more money than they should. The Department has not yet brought other types of cost growth under control, for example academy insurance. It should report back to us by the end of 2013-14 on how its funding reforms have reduced systemic problems such as the under-recovery of academy costs from local authorities, and on how far it has brought down other additional costs.
3. We are not yet satisfied that individual academies’ expenditure is sufficiently transparent to parents, local communities or Parliament. Despite some improvements, key information on what academies actually spend is still only available at trust, rather than individual academy, level. This limits the ability of parents to scrutinise how their child’s school is spending its money, and of communities to hold their local school to account. The Department must publish data showing school-level expenditure, including per-pupil costs, and with a level of detail comparable to that available for maintained schools, so that proper judgments can be made and comparisons drawn to assess value for money. The Department should state how it will make robust, line-by-line information on individual academies’ expenditure publicly available in the most cost-effective way.
4. New governance, compliance and oversight arrangements for academies remain vulnerable to failure. Some serious cases of governance failure and financial impropriety in academies have gone undetected by the Department’s monitoring, raising concerns that central government may be too distant to oversee individual academies effectively. Irregular expenditure by academies and gaps in the oversight framework led the Comptroller and Auditor General to qualify the 2011-12 accounts of the Department and the Young People’s Learning Agency. Academies’ compliance with mandatory monitoring is not good enough, and it is not yet clear how well revised audit arrangements will address these issues in future. The Department and the Education Funding Agency should review the operation of the new audit and oversight regime put in place this year, and assess whether it is reducing risks to regularity, propriety and good governance.
5. Forthcoming staff cuts at the Department and its agencies may threaten effective oversight as the Programme continues to expand. We are sceptical that the Department has sufficient resources to properly oversee the expanding Programme, especially as schools now joining are less high-performing and may require greater oversight and scrutiny. The Department should review the Programme’s central resource requirements, and the extent to which efficiency savings expected from new IT systems and assurance processes are being realised, and are sufficient to offset the need for further resources.
6. The Department has still not made completely clear the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of different organisations across the changing schools system. Roles previously carried out by local authorities around accountability, performance monitoring and intervention are unlikely to be operating consistently and effectively across different localities and academy structures. We are particularly concerned that interventions in failing academies may be delayed if the respective roles of central and local government, as well as academies and academy trusts, are not clear. The Department should clarify and properly communicate the roles and responsibilities of local authorities, academy sponsors, the Education Funding Agency, the Department, the Office of the Schools Commissioner and Ofsted regarding these aspects of the Programme.
Department for Education: Managing the expansion of the Academies Programme – Public Accounts Committee-April 2013
These are telling criticisms. They suggest the need to rethink the scrutiny and oversight of academies, while preserving the principle of school autonomy. Surveys suggest that around a third of converter schools opted for academy status for financial reasons. As part of the Budget Statement 2013, the Government announced that it would conduct ‘a review of school efficiency’. To inform that review, the government said ‘we have launched a call for evidence to learn more about how schools and academies make financial decisions and the techniques that they find particularly useful. We particularly want to hear your experience of how academies make financial decisions and your opinions/ideas of how academies can improve their efficiency.’ This suggests some concerns in government over the financial management in schools (not just academy schools by the way) and the additional risks that autonomy might bring. There is an on-going debate on the accountability of autonomous schools and whether or not another tier is required to ensure greater accountability, given the reduced role of local authorities.Academies are directly responsible of course to the Secretary of State, through individual funding agreements. Critics say that the Secretary of State , along with a slimmed down education department, cannot possibly hold these schools properly to account , even with Ofsteds support.
BIS to launch a new education industrial strategy
The BIS is taking the lead in developing an education industrial strategy. Three workshops have taken place so far, with stakeholders, to help inform this process. Two last year, one this (February). A group of education service providers met the exports Minister, Lord Green, last year complaining that not nearly enough was being done to support UK education exports, and what support that existed was piecemeal and lacked strategic direction, unlike our main competitors. (US, Canada, Australia etc).Our officials could ensure better information about local opportunities, potential partners, help with access and research and arrange targeted sector specific delegations. It is now anticipated that a new Strategy will be published in late May, or June of this year.
The BIS has tended to focus mainly on Higher Education, without paying much attention to other education export areas. UK providers are not only opening and running schools abroad, where our independent schools enjoy a formidable reputation, but are also involved with providing advice and support to governments, managing programmes on school improvement, schools inspections, curriculum development, teacher training, examinations and testing and so on. English language teachers and courses are also much in demand. A more activist approach towards industrial policy might help – if directed towards industries such as education where the UK has a competitive advantage. The Government talks big on the need for exports to help drive our recovery but has been remarkably slow about providing support and advice for companies looking at these potential markets, particularly in education. Hopefully the new BIS strategy will lead to a step-change in UK Plcs approach.
GREEN DOT SCHOOLS
Twigg warms to Charter chain in USA because of its collaborative approach
The Green Dot Charter schools network operates 18 schools in some of the toughest areas of Los Angeles. Green Dot operates a mix of independent charter and turnaround schools, serving more than 10,000 students in Los Angeles County’s highest need areas. Its student body is statistically identical to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s, mirroring the amount of students that are English language learners, who receive free or reduced lunches, and are students with special needs.
The network has caught the eye of Stephen Twigg MP, the shadow education secretary, (speech to ACSL-16 March). It is unusual for a Labour spokesmen to highlight the performance of charter schools in the USA, as they are private operators, both for profit and not for profit, running municipal schools under a contract (or charter). That said , some Democrats in the States , including the President, much admire charters for the leg up they can give to the most disadvantaged pupils, in the poorest areas. What resonates with Twigg is the fact that Green Dot’s teachers and management worked closely with the California Teachers Association (ie a Union) to develop a contract for its teaching staff that is at one with the mission of Green Dot and also supports a sympathetic professional environment for teachers. This is all about collaboration, a theme Twigg explored in his ACSL speech . He contends that only through collaboration ,within and between schools, can schools and the system improve. He criticises the current government for creating what he sees as an ’atomised ‘system, although, arguably, he helped lay the foundations of this system , when he was in the last government. Green Dot also worked with Randi Weingarten, now president of AFT, and the United Federation of Teachers to create the employment contract for Green Dot New York Charter School. So here is evidence of collaboration in this case not just between schools, but between teachers, students and parents, including on curriculum innovation. And, unlike some Charter schools, unions are recognised. Research conducted by UCLA showed students significantly increased their test scores and took more challenging subjects. Green Dot Public Schools averaged a 20-point increase on the Academic Performance Index scores released by the California Department of Education, with two of its schools exceeding the state’s API goal of 800 for the first time. The performance marked the fourth straight year of gains across Green Dot’s 18 schools.
In 1996, just 19 states had charter legislation in place, and there were only about 250 charters serving some 20,000 pupils. In 2013- 41 states and the District of Columbia had charter laws on the books, and there are more than 2 million students enrolled in 5,600 charter schools.
Strong statistically significant results for KIPP students that are better than their peers
As of the 2012–2013 school year, 125 KIPP schools are in operation in 20 different states and the District of Columbia (DC). Ultimately, KIPP’s goal is to prepare students to enrol and succeed in college.
KIPPs approach is different. It is particularly keen on structured, ‘meaningful’ approaches to character development in its schools This is rooted in the research of Dr. Martin Seligman (Universityof Pennsylvania) and Dr. Chris Peterson (University of Michigan) that identifies 24 character strengths as leading to engaged, meaningful, and purposeful lives. Its not just about academic attainment. Resilience and character matter even more, if students are to succeed in education and life.
There is a research partnership between KIPP NYC and Dr. Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), KIPP which informs the focus on seven highly predictive strengths: zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. They have integrated their own experiences as teachers with the research of Seligman, Peterson, and Duckworth to create a road map for the development of each strength. So KIPP schools seek to see how they can integrate a more structured and measurable approach to character development.
Prior research has suggested that KIPP schools have positive impacts on student achievement, but most of the studies have included only a few KIPP schools or have had methodological limitations.
This is the second report of a national evaluation of KIPP middle schools being conducted by Mathematica Policy Research. The evaluation uses ‘experimental and quasi-experimental methods to produce rigorous and comprehensive evidence on the effects of KIPP middle schools across the country. The study’s first report, released in 2010, described strong positive achievement impacts in maths and reading for the 22 KIPP middle schools for which data were available at the time. This most recent study, conducted by Mathematica, is the most rigorous research yet on KIPP schools and shows that the Knowledge Is Power Program, provides a significant learning boost to middle school students in multiple subjects. It also found that while KIPP serves more low-income students than public school peers, it serves fewer special education students and English language learners. The report states ‘The average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial. KIPP impact estimates are consistently positive across the four academic subjects examined, in each of the first four years after enrolment in a KIPP school, and for all measurable student subgroups’. Three years after students enroll in KIPP schools, they had 11 more months of maths knowledge than their peers, according to the study. The research showed KIPP students had eight more months of reading knowledge, 14 more months of science knowledge, and 11 more months of social studies knowledge. Charter schools are publicly funded, but can be privately run. KIPP is one of the best known chains. KIPP schools often feature a longer school day, carefully selected teachers, a strict discipline code, parental contract, and teachers available to parents after school hours. The Mathematica study accounted for the common critique that KIPP’s results are skewed because the school attracts the kids of highly-motivated parents, said Philip Gleason, who directed the research. In 13 of the 43 schools Mathematica investigated, the firm compared KIPP students with children who entered the KIPP lottery, but did not receive slots in KIPP schools. The researchers said the positive results held steady for the KIPP students. The study did find though that KIPP’s ‘behavioural’ modifications contributed to academic performance. KIPP schools that reported a “comprehensive” approach toward behaviour saw greater positive effects than schools that did not. But ‘KIPP has no statistically significant effect on a variety of measures of student attitudes that may be related to long-run academic success. The estimated KIPP impacts on indices of student-reported self-control, academic self-concept, school engagement, effort/persistence in school, and educational aspirations are not statistically significant.’ KIPP schools that had a longer than average school day had smaller positive effects on student performance. The report says this might be because the KIPP schools with longer days than others often focused their extended hours on non-academic areas. KIPP students do from 35 minutes to 53 minutes more nightly homework than their peers, yet reported they were more satisfied with school than peers, according to the study.
KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes Final Report- February 27, 2013- Christina Clark Tuttle Brian Gill Philip Gleason Virginia Knechtel Ira Nichols-Barrer Alexandra Resch
Charter schools are the fastest-growing sector of public education, taking root in most U.S. states, thanks to a big push by the education reform lobby and the federal government’s ’Race to the Top’ competition. One of the defining features of Charter schools is that they operate on the basis of a ‘charter’, i.e. a performance contract granted for three to five years, defining the school’s mission and goals, as well as the type of students it aims to attract. Charter schools are then held accountable to their sponsor (for example a local school board), which assesses whether these stated aims have been achieved and – if not – eventually revokes the charter.
New book argues for proper competition and incentives to improve quality within the education system
Gabriel Sahlgren, the head of research at the pro-market CMRE think tank, launched his new book ‘ Incentivising Excellence: school choice and education quality’ this week. He argues that there is much evidence that competition works in education but that when politicians introduce competition to schools systems it is always limited and hedged and rarely has meaningful incentives in place to improve outcomes.Certain conditions have to exist before competition can work to deliver improved outcomes. These conditions are often ignored or exist only in part. More often than not incentives are unrelated to quality . Vouchers can and do work but they must be differentiated and well targeted in order, for example, to help disadvantaged pupils. There is much evidence that autonomy works but it must be embedded within a high quality accountability framework. He wants competition between schools but collaboration between teachers . He said there is evidence that the initial academies have improved outcomes but overall progress has not ,to date ,been particularly significant, partly because academies have limited autonomy and partly because of limited incentives within the system.Failing schools dont close and outstanding schools rarely expand to meet demand. Profit making schools are important to drive systemic improvement. There is little evidence that Swedish reform would successfully have increased competition and educational attainment without the profit motive. This is something the UK government should learn from he says. Sahlgren noted that Sweden’s recent relative decline in Pisa ratings has nothing to do with introducing competition. Indeed competition has actually ensured that Swedens decline is less than it would otherwise have been. Sweden’s problem is that it has very weak accountability measures and poor on-going information on schools and student performance, compounded by changes in teaching practice that focus more on group teaching and learning than the needs of individual learners.
Sahlgren wants, among other things , to see a major pilot for vouchers, as well as profit making schools operating within the state system. Parents could be given a voucher for the cost of their childs education in a state school ie just over £5,200 pa in a secondary school (£4,100 pa- Primary). If parents shop around then some schools may fail but that is a price that has to be paid if competition is to benefit the system overall.
An innovative way of financing education is via cash transfers to schools based on enrolments or by providing cash to families to purchase schooling – in other words- through vouchers. It is often assumed that those who promote vouchers are from the libertarian right. Some may be, of course, but there are many on the left of the political spectrum who like the idea of targeted vouchers, specifically to help the most disadvantaged pupils to gain access to good public schools. It is often forgotten that in the USA one major vouchers supporter is Michelle Rhee, a Democrat, who was a reformist chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools from 2007 to 2010.
THE MIDDLE YEARS PROGRAMME OF THE INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE-RESEARCH SHOWS PARENTS PUPILS AND TEACHERS POSITIVE ABOUT ITS BENEFITS
THE MIDDLE YEARS PROGRAMME OF IB
Few schools run the MYP but teachers parents and pupils like it, according to NFER research
The International Baccalaureate (IB), it is often forgotten, operates at three levels: the Primary Years Programme- for students aged between 5 and 11, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) -for those aged between 11 and 16 and the Diploma Programme in the Sixth Form, 16 -18. The last format is the most common in the UK.
Indeed , the Primary and Middle Years levels are rarely taught in the UK . Currently,13 schools in the UK offer the Primary Years Programme , 11 schools offer the Middle Years Programme and 189 schools offer the Diploma Programme .
Wellington College is one of the select few to offer both the Middle Years and Diploma programmes of the IB. Wellingtons Master, Dr Anthony Seldon, admitted, when he introduced the MYP, a few years ago, that it was a risk. He introduced it because of his, ( and some pupils and parents) disillusionment with the GCSE format, and the GCSES perceived failure to enable the delivery of a rounded education. Many have criticised the GCSE format ,with Seldon one of its leading critics. But he did more than criticise. He offered an alternative.
The IB, generally, educates around 5,000 students, most of whom are in state schools. The UK is now the third largest user of the IB worldwide .However ,quite a few schools which offer the IB diploma , also offer, concurrently, A levels as an option. Perversely, recent performance tables on university entry subjects ignored the IB Diploma Programme and Pre-U, two existing alternatives to A levels.
In GCSEs subjects are discrete collections of facts grouped by academic disciplines. However there is a growing feeling among teachers that pupils need to explore the connections between subjects. Interdisciplinary, joined up learning, they believe, really matters. Subjects shouldn’t be taught in silos. With GCSEs there does seem to be an assumption that there is a finite body of knowledge and a right answer (known by the teacher, to be used in the exam).Examiners have strict guidelines to follow which some feel punishes the brightest who do not deliver formulaic answers. But knowledge is an “exploding”, ever expanding concept so the ability to be critical, to think outside artificial boundaries and to be reflective, is essential for life-long learning and individual development. In short, the IB in its various incarnations (not to be confused with the Ebacc) believes in the autonomy of subjects and academic disciplines, but also in their connectivity and for the need for pupils to be global in their outlook. It also encourages the kind of disciplines, including intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, much in demand among employers, and universities, but which are in short supply.
So, are there any downsides?. Possibly. The IB formats are demanding on both teachers and students and require a degree of self-reliance and discipline which in not always evident in pupils. And because they demand more teachers’ time they are more expensive to deliver than other formats. Anthony Seldon has pointed out too that there is a perception that the IB receives unsympathetic offers from some universities, and this is having a direct impact on the number opting to sit the diploma. Recent research by Anna Vignoles and Francis Green ,of the Institute of Education, uncovered a systematic underestimating of top applicants with IB qualifications. But those IB students who are accepted by top universities, they find, tend to perform better than similar A-level students and are more likely to achieve upper-second-class degrees or firsts.
But what of the MYP? One noteworthy aspect of the MYP is that it comes in two basic forms. Either a school, can take the more expensive route seeking the MYP as a full stand-alone qualification: ie with certification (which is what Wellington College has opted for), or schools go the other non-certification route and use it as a way station to the IB Diploma, which is what most schools, using the MYP in the UK, do. However if a pupil leaves school, at 16, for whatever reason, and has been studying the MYP, but not with certification, then they will leave with no qualification to show to future employers, which might be a consideration for some parents.
Dr Seldon will be particularly pleased by the findings of a recent an NFER report on the IB Middle Years programme. The NFER conducted an investigation into the teaching and learning benefits of the IB MYP, in the UK. The aim was to provide a rich qualitative picture of the programme implementation in the UK, including the impact of the MYP on non-scholastic attributes such as international mindedness and civic engagement, classroom learning environments and school culture. The research design included a comparison of IBMYP, GCSE and IGCSE curriculum and assessment documents, online surveys of teachers, students and parents, and four detailed qualitative case studies.
The Key findings:
IBMYP, GCSE and iGCSE curriculums covered broadly similar content, but IBMYP had a greater focus on thinking skills and international mindedness.
Teachers, students and parents were overwhelmingly positive about the programme and its benefits, although did acknowledge some challenges, especially in regard to public recognition in the UK.
MYP in the UK:
Promotes a teaching style and school ethos valued by teachers, parents and students;
Develops students as independent learners, critical thinkers and active citizens, and encourages involvement in local and global communities;
Impacts positively on school culture and classroom environments – promotes feedback and reflection, engaging and motivating for students and teachers;
MYP students demonstrate greater awareness of global issues, greater interest in understanding other cultures and greater self-efficacy and sense of civic responsibility (local and global) than other students in the UK.
Teachers had positive views on the programme, but some teachers held negative views about the MYP qualification. In particular, the lack of recognition in the UK was identified as problematic. Some uncertainty was expressed about how the qualification would be perceived by universities.
Offering the MYP alongside the National Curriculum was identified as the main challenge of delivery and development of the MYP. Some teachers expressed the view that schools cannot deliver both programmes effectively.
The majority of students said they enjoyed participating in the programme and acknowledged the benefits of its focus on critical thinking and reflection whilst accepting the greater workload they perceived, compared with other courses. Students, unlike parents and teachers, expressed less concern that the IB MYP qualification may be less useful than GCSE or IGCSE courses. A number of students felt that too much reflection was required and some felt that the assessment criteria could be clearer.
The survey found ‘IB MYP students reported high levels of awareness on issues such as diversity, social justice, human rights, sustainable development, conflict resolution and interdependence as well as understanding how cultural values and assumptions shape behaviours. Although ‘self-reported’, and therefore to be interpreted with some caution, the awareness levels of IB MYP students were significantly different from, and higher than, those of students in non IB schools; they were also more likely to cite school assemblies, lessons and trips alongside family and friends as major sources of learning about these issues. In terms of their attitudes and beliefs in relation to global issues, the responses of IB MYP students were significantly different; more said they like learning about 110 different cultures and people with different backgrounds than non-IB students. They also demonstrated more strongly positive views in terms of ‘self- efficacy‘ in relation to the global issues mentioned i.e. the extent to which, as individuals, could make a difference or contribute to the global community. In terms of citizenship self-efficacy, the belief in one’s own ability to participate in citizenship issues, identified as a driver of participatory citizenship in adulthood, IB MYP students were more likely than non IB students to report that they thought they could do the following well: argue their point of view about a controversial political or social issue; follow a television debate about a controversial issue; speak in front of the class about a social or political issue or discuss a newspaper article about a conflict between countries. Finally, when asked about actions they might become involved in the next few years, IB MYP students were more likely than non-IB students to report that they would volunteer time to help people in the local community, talk to others about their views on political and social issues and join an organisation for a political or social cause. All of the non-scholastic attributes displayed by IB MYP students and discussed above reflect the IB ethos and demonstrate that the students espouse the values the MYP strives to promote.
Whether or not the IB continues to expand probably depends on whether reforms to GCSEs and A levels offer, to some degree at least ,what the IB is currently offering to parents and pupils. (unlikely as things stand, but there is a way to go) The IB exists because there is a demand for what it offers to students, because it claims not to be subject to grade inflation and because of the perception ,among some stakeholders, that GCSEs, and to some extent, A levels, are not fit for purpose. Will the IB expand significantly into State schools? On cost grounds alone, this seems unlikely, over the medium term. And while this report on the MYP is broadly positive ,the big question is that -if its so good, why have so few schools opted to take up the qualification?
NFER-Report for the International Baccalaureate
International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) in the UK-2013
Performance pay-be careful what you wish for
From September 2013, the set “spine points” on teachers main pay scale are to be scrapped, with schools free to set teachers’ pay anywhere between minimum and maximum levels depending on performance.
While academies are already free to deviate from national pay structures, (very few have, to date) the plans drawn up by the STRB – and accepted in full by the Department for Education – will now give other schools greater power to link teachers’ pay to performance.
It is clear that the issue of performance related pay is high on this governments agenda. Ministers are trying to raise the quality of teaching to compare with the best in the world. The OECD (2009) concluded that “the effective monitoring and evaluation of teaching is central to the continuous improvement of the effectiveness of teaching in a school”. It is less clear that this issue is high on teachers and governors agendas.
The last Labour government introduced a PRP system in the late 1990’s and just about every teacher who was eligible met the criteria for a pay rise ,(96%) so it didn’t really work . In short, it failed effectively to link extra rewards to higher performance. Heads and governors dont much like dealing with this sensitive issue head on as inevitably it causes some conflicts and ill feeling within staff rooms, which may go some way to explaining why the last system failed.
Central to PRP or ‘merit ‘pay is the ability to accurately measure and evaluate individual teachers performance. The system you develop should be fair, efficient and not have a large bureaucracy attached to it. And that is why,frankly, it is problematic.
The three most common ways to evaluate teacher effectiveness, according to research, are gains in test scores, classroom observations and pupil surveys. Each method though has its known weaknesses. Teacher observation apparently is the least predictive method of assessing teacher effectiveness. Nonetheless, despite this, those involved with teacher evaluation say that each element has its place within a comprehensive and fair teacher evaluation system. The key they claim is to get the right balance between these different elements, which is easier said than done.
Of these elements, gains in pupil test scores are seen by most as the best available metric to measure teacher performance. However, as they are finding in the USA, it doesn’t come without its problems. (around forty states have introduced some form of merit pay, incentivised to do so by the Federal government) . Although schools can have a substantial impact on performance, student test scores can also increase, decrease or remain flat for reasons that have little or nothing to do with schools. Measurement errors can occur, while parental education levels, family’s economic circumstances, and parental involvement, can also play a role. There is self-evidently a strong incentive for playing the numbers to look successful on “quality” measures since the numbers carry substantial consequences for the teacher. This is a very high stakes game. Working out how to look good, through test results, becomes an end in itself, with the numbers becoming more important than the primary task of teaching students. Given that many politicians now worry about teachers being pre-occupied with teaching to the test, and children’s education suffering as a consequence, introducing test scores as the primary metric to evaluate teachers is going to encourage more (indeed all) teachers to teach to the test ,not less.
It would seem that Value-added or progress measures, rather than absolute test or exam results, should be the primary data used in evaluating performance, certainly this is what many experts recommend. But, and its quite a big but, measuring value added is itself not free from controversy and there are different models available, with their own strengths and weaknesses, and with no clear consensus identifiable.
There are ways, though, of using pay to encourage groups of teachers to work better together to improve outcomes. And, if one is honest about this issue, it sticks in the craw that outstanding teachers are not rewarded as they should be, while poor teachers can stay in the profession for life having a hugely negative effect on students life opportunities, and education outcomes, while acting as a drag on improving the system more generally (quite apart from irritating their better performing peers).
To recap-to make progress in this area you need to develop a system that is fair, balanced, transparent and not too bureaucratic. They are still struggling with this challenge in the States, where they are well ahead of us in both thinking and practice on this issue.
One recent study titled ‘The Use and Misuse of Teacher Appraisal’ (Laura Figazzolo- Education International Research Institute Consultant- January 2013) found: ‘ The evidence is that many dimensions need to be taken into account when evaluating teachers. Student achievements are but one dimension – especially when these are standardized tests. Where teacher appraisal is based on professional standards, classroom observations, curriculum development, and a wide range of associated factors which are associated with teaching and teacher perspectives, comprehensive methods seem to be able to provide more valuable information. When teacher appraisal arrangements and policies are conceived with the participation of teachers and their unions, comprehensive methods seem to be able to gain teachers’ trust and provide valuable information. As such, they are gaining growing recognition in the debate on teacher appraisal’
It is frustratingly true that schools here seeking expert advice and guidance on this issue will be confronted with much conflicting evidence and the issue is neither simple nor straightforward..
COULD SAT APTITUDE TESTS- DESIGNED IN THE US- HELP UK HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS DEVELOP A FAIRER SYSTEM TO MEASURE POTENTIAL?
Could they help UK Universities select students more fairly?
Universities are keen to ensure that they have a clear idea of a students potential in deciding admissions and not simply to rely on exam results. Measuring potential is not easy and cant really be done by looking at a students application (UCAS) form, contrary to the claims made by some admissions tutors.
They have looked across the Atlantic for inspiration looking in particular at the SAT aptitude test (the SAT Reasoning TestTM) as a tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE) either as a standalone tool or one used in conjunction with GCSEs and AS/A2 levels to determine admissions.
SAT are multiple-choice tests required for admission by several top US universities (although they are not the only test available). It is sometime assumed that SATs are similar to GCSEs or A levels . They are not. They are basically IQ tests designed to measure potential rather than to measure what you have learned at school.
So if SAT tests are supposed to measure potential, do they do this effectively? There is much debate about this. However, given that a cottage industry has developed in tutoring students to help them pass the SAT there are grounds for doubting that the tests truly measure potential. SAT questions are quite particular and the skills to answer them are not often taught in schools. Hence the cottage industry ,selling textbooks and extra tuition Students wanting to take SATs must usually register independently, pay for the test and travel to an SAT test centre. For rural students, the nearest location may be some distance And then there is the problem of revising. Poorer students inevitably are disadvantaged.
In the UK, back in 2005, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) was commissioned to evaluate the potential value of using an the SAT Reasoning TestTM as an additional tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE). This five-year study was co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS), the NFER, the Sutton Trust and the College Board. The primary aim of the study was to examine whether the addition of the SAT® alongside A levels is better able to predict HE participation and outcomes than A levels alone. And whether it might help identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.
The study found that of the prior attainment measures, average A level points score is the best predictor of HE participation and degree class, followed by average GCSE points score. The inclusion of GCSE information adds usefully to the predictive power of A levels. In the absence of other data, the SAT® has some predictive power but it does not add any additional information, over and above that of GCSEs and A levels (or GCSEs alone), at a significantly useful level. But could the SAT® identify economically or educationally disadvantaged students with the potential to benefit from HE whose ability is not adequately reflected in their A level results; and could the SAT® distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get straight A grades at A level.
The study also found ‘no evidence that the SAT® provides sufficient information to identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.’
In addition ‘the SAT® does not distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get three or more A grades at A level. The SAT® Reading and Writing components do add some predictive power for some classes of degree at highly selective universities, but add very little beyond the information provided by prior attainment, in particular prior attainment at GCSE.’
So it is pretty safe to conclude that the SAT is no panacea for measuring student potential and would have limited utility for Higher Education Institutions in this country to help them design a fairer admissions process that fully takes into account an applicants potential.
Use of an aptitude test in university entrance: a validity study Final Report-3 December 2010- NFER-Sutton Trust
- PAYING FOR RESULTS-CAN IT HELP RAISE PERFORMANCE- OR DOES IT CORRUPT THE LOVE OF LEARNING?
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- THE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF ACADEMIES-WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE ARE CONCERNS?
- PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE REPORT ON ACADEMIES-SOME CONCERNS OVER FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
- CAIRNS OF BRIGHTON COLLEGE BACKS ACADEMIES
- IS CAREERS ADVICE IN SCHOOLS EFFECTIVE OR IS IT TOO EARLY TO SAY?
- LEMOVS TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION -TOP TECHNIQUES USED BY THE BEST TEACHERS
- THE PUPIL PREMIUM AND SPECIAL SCHOOLS
- EDUCATION EXPORTS-NEW GOVERNMENT STRATEGY IN THE WINGS?
- INSPECTING ACADEMY CHAINS-ON THE AGENDA
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