Category Archives: independent schools



UP 24% in 5 years

The cost of sending a child to private school in the UK has risen by 24 per cent in the past five years, according to a new survey commissioned by Lloyds Bank .

The survey  found some concerns among parents that they will not be able to afford the cost of tuition in coming years.  However, the vast majority of those polled said their final decision about which school to send their child to was not ­motivated by cost. One wonders for how long this will continue.

The FT recently pointed out that a private school education is soaring out of the reach of the professional classes whose income is not even remotely keeping pace with the rise in fees. These striving, financially stressed parents are now dubbed ‘cling-ons’.  It is estimated that sending two children to a private school from the age of 4 to 18 currently costs an average of £610,000. One example, given by the FT, by no means untypical it seems, is Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, a co-educational private day  school, where  day fees shot up 49 per cent in real terms in the years between 2003 and 2013. Day schools are less expensive than boarding schools, and last year there was a fall in the number of pupils attending boarding schools.

Even the top 1 per cent of earners – among the group the FT has named the über-middles, composed of people such as doctors, lawyers and bankers – have seen only a 9 per cent rise over the decade, opening up a big gap between the increases in school fees and in their own earnings. Many parents are now seeking  ingenious ways of  alleviating the burden of fee payments using various tax efficient payment schemes, often with the help of schools.

Tatler the up market style magazine, which targets middle class, aspirational readers, is now highlighting good state schools as the financial pressures take their toll on its readers.

The main pressure on fees comes from teachers pay and pensions in the independent sector.  There will always be demand for private education, and places in the best schools can always be filled by pupils from abroad. But most schools seek a balanced intake and don’t want to be filled exclusively with pupils from abroad. However, if UK parents are finding it harder and harder to raise the fees, it seems likely that over the longer term families who have for generations sent their children to private schools will look to the state sector, and the independent sector will find it harder to entice UK born children through their doors. Currently around 7% of children go to private school, although in London  its closer to 12% ,and 18 % pupils over the age of 16 are  privately educated.


1 Overseas pupils made  up 5.1% of the total ISC pupil population in

2 One payment scheme to ease the burden   sees parents paying  their children’s school fees upfront as a lump sum — anything from a term to several years’ worth  The school will take the money and invest it in low-risk investments. Any profit the school makes is tax-free because of their charitable status (ie they have to have charitable status to benefit from this scheme). The school then splits the benefit with the parents. Those parents are given what the schools class as a discount based on the profit the school makes from the investment. And the school keeps whatever is left over.


Private schools converting to academy status

Hardly a stampede


Lord Adonis who launched the Academies programme was always keen to encourage greater links between fee paying schools and academies and to encourage conversions of fee paying schools to academy status.

These conversions though,  from the private to the maintained sector ,remain rare. This may be partly because the financial incentives  to do so are less appealing than they used to be.

Just  14 former fee paying schools have converted to academy status over the past three academic years, 11 becoming free schools. They are funded on the same basis as other academies and equivalent to other local authority schools in the area.

Most of these schools received the standard project development grant of £25,000 given to mainstream schools to support them with the costs of conversion, although four received more.

All grants agreed since May 2010 are significantly smaller than the level of grants paid to independent schools moving into the state sector prior to May 2010. Between 2007 and 2010, project development grants given to converting independent schools ranged from £620,000 to as high as £1.7 million. In some cases, the Department for Education has also agreed to fund the existing debts of predecessor schools by securing a charge against the assets such as land and buildings. Consistent with the approach under the previous Government, some projects have also been provided with a contribution towards capital funding for the creation of new places.

Lord Adonis  memorably said that he would like the independent sectors DNA to be transferred into maintained schools. Its a great sound bite but the most successful independent schools are highly selective, have motivated and well educated parents, in support ,and can easily  get rid of coasting teachers.  Factors that do not apply to most state schools. In addition academies are still subject to interventions from outsiders unheard of in the independent sector.


Can Academy Trusts award contracts to companies in which their Trustees have a stake ?Yes but no profit


All academy trusts are required to openly procure any externally sourced services, including those related to their trustees.

When a business controlled by or belonging to a trustee bids for a contract the academy trust must consider if that service is the most appropriate for the academy and offers the best value for money. If the academy trust decides to award the contract to the trustee-related service, that business must deliver its services at cost, with no element of profit.

 There have been some questions raised in the media suggesting that academies might have lax financial accountability.  There is  little  evidence though that suggests  that academies have an easier  financial accountability regime than maintained schools. There have always been cases in the  maintained sector of financial irregularities.   They still remain across all  schools, rare. Indeed the government argues that in terms of financial accountability because academies  effectively wear three hats- as companies, charities and public bodies- their financial accountability is more robust than in maintained schools. Academy trusts are constituted as companies limited by guarantee, so are subject to the full rigour of the Companies Act. This means that, unlike maintained schools, academies are required to file independently audited accounts.

But it is clear that, despite all  this, a few of  those running  academy schools  have a rather  self-serving mind set when it comes to  using their autonomous status. Contracts should be put out to open tender, best value must be the lodestar.  And its probably not  best practice to employ family and friends in the school(s) you are running even if  the recruitment process is transparent.    The government must be careful that the academies/free school brand is not undermined in the same way that the Charter school  brand  in the States  has been ,where  some excellent schools and chains have co-existed with others that have failed  to measure up both in terms of business  practice and student outcomes.


August 15, 2013 10:14 pm-Financial Times

Fee rise and a fundamental indignity

From Mr Patrick Watson.

Sir, Jonn Elledge’s article on private schools (“Private schools are heading for a crunch”, August 15) and the relentless yearly rise in fees, well above inflation, reminds me of a Wellington College parent’s complaint to its master in the 1970s.

Receiving the dreaded letter announcing the yearly fee rise, he noted a misspelling of “per annum”, missing out, crucially, one of the letter n’s.

The parent with some alacrity replied that he would prefer, if it was OK with the master, to pay the fees in the accustomed way – through the nose.

Patrick Watson, London SW8, UK





The approach of the Department for International Development towards education in developing countries has altered significantly in recent years

Although the importance of education has never been in doubt, aid was aimed largely at supporting government’s public provision. The logic was clear. Help build up the education infrastructure and more children will be educated, particularly at the primary level where the initial focus rests.  But harsh realities on the ground led to a change of direction. The reality is that the infrastructure is so poor in many countries and there are  so few quality teachers available that  most young people have no access to  any education and those who do are not the most disadvantaged. Pumping UK taxpayers money into this sink hole was unlikely to get many returns any time soon.

On the ground  into  this yawning gap entered the private sector. Large numbers of low cost private schools and chains of schools have sprung up in poor areas to cater for the education needs of the poor. And  poor parents value education for their children , and are prepared to pay for it. It provides a ladder of opportunity for their children of course but also for them. Professor James Tooley has for years highlighted the role of the private sector in education provision for the poor. Professor Michael Barber now with Pearson is also a supporter of low cost (high quality) schools. Barber recently pointed out that 70% of Delhi’s children are educated in low fee private schools.

Some critics don’t like these developments seeing the DFID as some kind of neo-conservative outfit supporting profit makers. But the DFID under considerable pressure to support aid projects that are seen to work and deliver good value for money for taxpayers  have adopted a ‘what works’ pragmatic approach .

A recent education position paper from DFID looked, interalia, at support for Low-fee private schools in the developing world. . The Position Paper states that ‘The UK strives to get the best possible outcomes for poor people and takes a pragmatic stance on how services should be delivered. In some circumstances (parts of India, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan, for example), this includes developing partnerships with low-fee private schools. DFID works with the private sector in situations where the public sector is not sufficiently present (the slums of Nairobi for example) or  where state provision is so weak that the private sector has stepped in to fill the gap. Recognising that fees are still a major barrier to access for the poor, DFID’s support includes voucher schemes that subsidise access to low-fee private schools for the poorest.’

Parents may choose to pay fees rather than opting for fee-free state alternatives for a number of possible reasons. These include language of instruction, a belief that private schools are better quality and lack of local provision. Emerging evidence suggests that learning outcomes in low-fee private schools, where they exist, are relatively better than in the state sector, even though they may still be unacceptably low. A range of studies have explored the relationship between low-fee private provision and learning outcomes, in diverse country contexts. The effects are not uniform across contexts and empirical findings remain inconclusive.


However, some recent quantitative studies have shown a significant achievement-advantage for students attending private, fee paying schools even after social background is taken into account. Much of this research comes from India  and Pakistan, including French and Kingdon (2010) and Desai et al (2008). Javaid et al’s (2012) study in Pakistan finds that although controlling for a range of covariates causes the private school premium to decline, even with the most  stringent analyses private schools are no worse than government schools, with much lower levels of inputs. It should  be noted that many studies are unable to account for unobserved selection, on attributes such as parental choice of  who within the family attends private school, and the effort they put into improving the home environment for these  children.


The reasons for this need to be better understood together with consideration of what, if any, lessons can be shared between the private and public sectors to improve both. Evaluation is therefore central to DFID’s current work with low-fee private schools.  Education innovations, often driven by the non-state sector, are emerging in low- and middle-income countries to meet the rising demand for education. However, there is little objective information on the scale, scope, and, most importantly, on the learning impact on the poor of these innovations. The Center for Education Innovations (CEI) is a DFID initiative to help policymakers, education providers, researchers, and investors replicate and develop successful education models and approaches for poor people.  Launched in June 2013, CEI is an online global, public database that identifies and evaluates the most promising education innovations from pre-school through to skills training. It also hosts research and evidence on education innovations and brings together education funders through a virtual platform. The virtual platform operates through four connected channels: a database profiling education innovations from preschool to skills; a document library containing research and evidence on education innovations; a virtual platform for education funders; and education communities of practice.




There are more than 12,000 private schools in Lagos (Nigeria), attended by more than 1.4 million children (61% of primary school enrolment in Lagos) and employing 118,000 teachers.47 In response to this large and rapidly expanding sector, DFID is planning a programme of support to develop a better and more inclusive private education system that improves learning outcomes for children, especially from low-income households. The programme will work with a range of different organisations, from government to banks and mass media. It will have an emphasis on supporting the regulatory environment and research to establish a  sound evidence base for any future support.


In some areas of Pakistan’s Sindh province, nearly half of school enrolments are in private schools. Supported by DFID, the Education Fund for Sindh is an innovative 3-year pilot programme working in partnership with leading members of Pakistan’s business community. The Fund will provide vouchers to parents of out of school children to attend low-fee private schools, facilitate private management of public  schools and support organisations able to supply quality, cost-effective education. Up to 200,000 poor out of  school children in urban and rural Sindh will be supported to achieve minimum standards in literacy and numeracy

See also-Desai, S., Dubey, A., Vanneman, R., & Banerji, R. (2008). Private Schooling in India: A New Educational Landscape. ; Maryland: University of Maryland.

French, R., & Kingdon, G. (2010). The relative effectiveness of private and government schools in Rural India:  Evidence from ASER data. London: Institute of Education.

Javaid, K., Musaddiq, T., & Sultan, A. (2012). Prying the Private School Effect: An Empirical Analysis of Learning  Outcomes of Public and Private Schools in Pakistan. Lahore: University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Department  of Economics.

Source:DFID-Education position paper- Improving learning, expanding opportunities-July 2013


 93% of Education Secretaries attended private or grammar schools. Only two did not.

1        Rab Butler                     Marlborough

2        Richard Law                  Shrewsbury School

3        Ellen Wilkinson             Ardwick school

4        George Tomlinson       Rishton Wesleyan School

5        Florence Horsbrugh   Lansdown House

6        Geoffrey Lloyd              Harrow School

7        David Eccles                    Winchester

8        Edward Boyle                  Eton

9        Quintin Hogg                   Eton

10      Michael Stewart                Christ’s Hospital

11      Anthony Crosland           Highgate School

12      Patrick Gordon Walker   Wellington College

13      Edward Short                     College of the Venerable Bede

14      Margaret Thatcher            Kevesten & Grantham Girls’ School

15      Reg Prentice                        Whitgift School

16      Fred Mulley                         Warwick School

17      Shirley Williams                St Paul’s Girl School

18      Mark Carlisle                      Abingdon School

19      Keith Joseph                        Harrow School

20      Kenneth Baker                  Hampton Grammar

21      John MacGregor               Merchiston Castle School

22      Kenneth Clarke                Nottingham High School

23      John Patten                       Wimbledon College

24      Gillian Shephard               North Walsham Girls School

25      David Blunkett                  Royal National College for the Blind

26      Estelle Morris                     Whalley Range Grammar

27      Charles Clarke                  Highgate School

28      Ruth Kelly                           Sutton High School

29      Alan Johnson                   Sloane Grammar School

30      Edward Balls                    Nottingham High School

31      Michael Gove                Robert Gordon’s College

This reiterates the message, broadcast loud  and clear by the Sutton Trust, that those who went to private school and selective state schools dominate the establishment and professions. This was originally flagged up by Anthony Sampson in his book,  initially published in the 1960’s,‘An Anatomy of Britain’.  Social mobility is thought to have stalled over the last generation . The government is seeking to improve the lot of the most disadvantaged pupils and to narrow the achievement gap between them and their peers, through various interventions, including the Pupil Premium. There is no shortage of resource: the Sutton Trust estimates a total of £1bn is spent a year on initiatives to widen access to university , although some critics suggest that there is a poor return on this investment, and access to the elite universities  has barely improved. Disadvantaged pupils tend to  be in the worst  performing schools  and rarely have access to early high quality, face to face advice and guidance that could ensure that they make better  informed choices  that best suit them.   Poor , or no ,careers advice advice and guidance is seen as a major  obstacle to   social mobility. 



Not yet


Lord Adonis, the former Labour education minister, was asked to comment last month on the conversion of Liverpool Academy from a private school to a free school. He was quoted by the Independent as predicting that ‘within a couple of decades, as fee-paying schools become virtually extinct, people might look back and wonder why Britain ever had such a divisive system of education’.  Adonis has been a trenchant critic of the widening attainment gap between the state and independent sectors and believes that  private schools have a moral duty to work more  closely with   independent schools and get back to their charitable roots in order to address this.. He also rightly worries that isolation from mainstream pupils  hardly  assists these schools in delivering a rounded education, which is one of their selling points.   He also sought, through the academies scheme ,to transfer some of the DNA from independent schools to the maintained sector.

But could   he be right about the extinction of private schools ?

The Blog ‘Marketing Advice for schools’  claims that there ‘ is some evidence that private schools are finding it hard and converting to free schools. Two other high profile examples are QEGS Blackburn and Kings Tynemouth. Other schools have closed and consolidated under economic pressure’.

But this does not necessarily herald the imminent decline of private schools. The credit crunch and escalating salaries and pensions were supposed to squeeze independent schools .Certainly there has been a marginal decline in numbers attending private schools.  But if you drill down into the number The TES reports that only 9 private schools have become free schools. The Independent School Census (2013) shows the number of pupils in 1,200 UK private schools has dropped by only 0.3% this year and there are 9% more private school pupils that there were in 1996. A separate survey by the ISC (Attitudes Towards Independent Schools (2012)) showed that the percentage of people who would send their children to private school if they could afford it has reached the highest level seen – 57%.

Why is this, despite the massive investment by Labour into schools and the hard work of state school teachers? Here are three reasons given by Marketing Advice for Schools

1. Parents are encouraged to choose: Labour encouraged parents to look around and this has continued under Michael Gove. However, it has also paradoxically made many parents critically appraise the offerings of state schools, and realise they may not get into the ‘best’ state schools. As parents spend more time looking they start considering the private sector.


2. Parents want small class sizes and individual attention: When parents are asked why they want to send their children to private schools, research shows that what they most want are small class sizes and individual attention for their children (even if this is found to be a relatively poor way of improving overall achievement). Successful, over-subscribed state schools almost always have Y7 classes of 30 and most have tutor groups of the same size. Many private school parents I’ve met feared their children would be ‘lost’ in state schools.

3. Private schools are better at marketing. Teaching may be better in state schools. State school pupils may do better at university. Some private schools may just be exam factories. But the best private schools spend time and money creating the stories that resonate with parents and communicating with them. The gap may close in the future as faced with greater competition, state schools (and especially academy chains) improve their marketing and attract more parents and students, but is isn’t likely to disappear.

I would add another two points.  There is a shortage of capacity in the state sector, particularly at the Primary level.  Some Parents who otherwise might not have looked at the private sector may now be thinking they have to. Secondly, the top elite  independent schools are significantly over-subscribed ie in some, there are three or four applicants going for each place and the demand from overseas ,particularly the Far East has actually risen. Some schools could actually fill their first year intake with Chinese students, if they so wished. This demand is likely to continue for a few years as the Chinese middle class expands. (And schools will be hoping that rich Chinese alumni might help invest in their schools future.) The biggest pressure on private schools will be if more state schools can raise their game and deliver a good rounded education to their children. If the achievement gap narrows then private schools will be looking over their shoulders.   But Lord Adonis’ prediction that the independent sector may die within twenty years looks far-fetched. And  the big change over the next twenty  years is more likely to be a significant increase in the number of overseas pupils, as schools respond to demand and pursue fee income.

The challenge though will remain  for independent schools to  control  their costs  and to differentiate their offers, in a market that will become more rather than less competitive. Although the sector will almost certainly survive there will be those that fail to adapt, fail  to innovate  and fail to demonstrate that they  deliver value for money   to  increasingly well   informed parents.  Some of the smaller, less well endowed  schools will  fall by the wayside or seek refuge in the state sector.


Professor Dylan Wiliam says that there is no evidence that the independent sector has better teachers than the maintained sector nor  do the sectors teachers  achieve better outcomes for their pupils , than those in the maintained sector once ,that is  ,you take into account pupils socio-economic backgrounds.


 Tear down the wall

Many independent schools remain reluctant to help out with the academy programme, says Patrick Watson in Education Investor magazine

Britain has not one school system, but two, existing in parallel, hardly ever coming into contact. This is worrying some of our leading educationalists. Lord Adonis, the architect of the academies scheme, for example, used a conference at Brighton College this month to remind private schools heads that he wanted the “Berlin Wall” separating them from the state system to be torn down. Dr Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, meanwhile, talks about the “apartheid” that characterises our schools, and the widening performance gap between the independent and maintained sectors.

Those who support closer links between the two sectors use a number of arguments to make their case. Some argue that these schools are now so exclusive they are actively damaging to their students, because they see so little of the rest of society. Others say that, as charities, independent schools have a moral obligation to serve the many, rather than the few. Adonis argues that most major private schools, originally established as charities for the education of the poor and under-privileged, have in practice “entirely divorced themselves from these groups” over the last century.

His solution is that private schools should get involved with the running of academies, to bring their talents to bear in the state system. Seldon, meanwhile, has called on those organisations that represent private schools to actively broker linkages between private schools and academies. He put his money where his mouth was by establishing the Wellington academy in Tidworth.   A few other private schools – Dulwich, Eton, Uppingham, et al. – have heeded this advice. So far, though, most private schools have ignored the call.

To explain why, you need to understand independent schools. They jealously guard and treasure their independence, and are deeply suspicious of any political intervention that looks like it could threaten it. They are attacked so often, and given so little credit by politicians, that their mind-set is defensive. And they believe that it’s for their own management teams to decide – not only how to run the schools, but also how they should deliver the ‘public benefit’ that justifies their charitable status.

Schools are also sensitive to the fact that many parents are struggling to pay the school fees. They thus feel a pressing duty to use this income exclusively for the benefit of their existing pupils. Sponsoring an academy, though, would mean redirecting resources and staff time over an extended period. There’s reputational risk involved, too: some academies will fail. And private schools, most of whom have little experience of dealing with disadvantaged pupils with little parent support, will be taken out of their comfort zone. So, many think, why risk your reputation and the collateral damage that might follow?

Besides, independent schools can and do provide help to state pupils in many different ways. In 2012 the Independent Schools Council reported that over 90% of its members – more than 1,100 schools – were involved with some form of partnership activity. For some that meant academy sponsorship – but for others it meant offering state pupils access to specific lessons, activities, or facilities; helping prepare them for entry to higher education; seconding teaching staff to maintained schools to teach specialist subjects; and so on. Indeed, the Independent State School Partnership Forum now meets three times a year, to consider how further co-operation can be encouraged.

But it is true, nonetheless, that some schools are better than others at developing such links, and in delivering public benefit. We are told that the Charity Commission will come down hard on those schools that are seen to be ‘tokenistic’. It is hard to argue that a handful of bursaries deliver meaningful public benefit – and it is an uncomfortable truth that cherry-picking the best pupils from the state system harms the schools they leave or eschew. The aim, surely, must be to maximise public benefit and deliver it at scale.

This, then, is one key justification for academy support. Here is another. Education is about making connections and preparing pupils for the real world. How do you give a child a truly rounded education, if you isolate them from the mainstream and, in particular, from the most disadvantaged in society?

In any case, collaboration between schools is now widely seen by experts as the best means to deliver systemic improvement. And, of course, it isn’t a one-way street. Many progressive ideas in education and great teaching are in evidence in the state system, in those schools where socio-economic disadvantage is not seen as an excuse for poor performance and where the concept of adding value is understood.

And, whisper it soft, but some in the independent sector look to be more than a little complacent when it comes to adding value and leadership. For reluctant independent schools, it could be time for a re-think.

Article published in  Education Investor  June  Vol 5 2013



More take-up of languages in schools since the  Ebacc introduced 

Language teaching a reality in high proportion of Primary schools

But wide spectrum of practice and inconsistency and discontinuity between Primary and Secondary schools


CfBT Education Trust, on 20 March, published the results of national surveys of primary and secondary schools, revealing the multiple challenges for languages within the new English National Curriculum.

The ‘Language Trends’ report shows that while foreign language teaching is already a reality in most primary schools, there is a very wide spectrum of practice and a lack of consistency in both approach and outcomes. Teachers need further training and support as the subject becomes statutory in September 2014, particularly in those schools where provision is currently least developed.  However, on a positive note, schools in England have been encouraging more teenagers to take up languages since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate league table measure, the report suggests.

The report reveals a disconnect between the primary and secondary systems which means that the vast majority of pupils do not experience continuity and progression as they move from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3. Secondary schools cannot cope with the diversity of pupils’ language learning experiences in Key Stage 2, and it is not on their agendas to do so.

Teachers of languages in both independent and state schools would welcome reforms to GCSE and A level examinations which would encourage steady progression in the acquisition of language skills and improve pupil motivation. They would like to see wider recognition of the value of language learning as an essential tool for success in the modern workplace. On the evidence here, teachers would welcome a return to externally assessed final exams at both GCSE and A level. They would like to see changes which measure and encourage steady progression in the development of linguistic skills and their practical use in a range of contexts.

At 50% of state-funded secondaries, at least half of older pupils are now taking a foreign language GCSE.  In 2010, this was the case in 38% of schools. However ,  it might be the case that  anti-European sentiment may be turning teenagers off modern foreign languages.

There is  some  evidence an “erroneous” view that languages such as French and German are no longer useful when, in fact, they are still needed in the workplace, according to the language specialist Teresa Tinsley, who co-authored the report.

Tinsley acknowledged that current “anti-European discourse” is not helping the issue, She said that entries for A-level French and German fell by more than half between 1996 and 2012. There has also been a decline in students taking these subjects at GCSE.  “Entries for GCSE in Spanish and other foreign languages continue to rise, but not in sufficient number to compensate for the decline in French and German.”  Tinsley added that the falls in French may be more obvious because it is a widely studied language.  “It is possible that because French is the most commonly taken language, when you get a drop-off it affects these languages in the frontline more.”  Tinsley said she understood the popularity of Spanish.  “I think there’s a perception that French and German are not useful in the global economy, which is a totally erroneous perception.  “All the information shows that the languages that are most needed in the workplace are French and German and I think there is an erroneous perception that because Spanish is a global language, it is therefore going to be more useful – but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the structure of our economy and the trading links that we have.  “I think that the rhetoric and the discourse around Europe and the anti-European discourse is not helpful for languages.”

The report’s co-author, Kathryn Board, added: “I would say, from a perception point of view, that when you look at society in general in this country and you see that pupils are not motivated to learn languages, parents are not motivating their children to learn languages and generally, we’ve got a society that doesn’t recognise the value of languages, when you get a rhetoric in the media on a daily basis that feels anti-European, anti-eurozone, one might assume, over time, that it underlines an already unfavourable feeling about languages.”

Tony McAleavy, Director of Education at CfBT, said:

“A recent international study showed that English pupils were significantly behind their international peers in terms of foreign language learning. If we are to turn this situation around, we must capture the opportunity provided by the introduction of foreign languages into the primary curriculum, linked to the aspiration for improved standards in the reformed GCSE and A levels’.”

The report concluded that ‘This survey provides the first nationwide evidence on the situation of languages in primary schools since 2008 and shows that, despite anecdotal reports of a reduction in provision during the period of this government’s national curriculum review, language teaching is now a reality in a very high proportion of primary schools. Although 97% of respondents reported that they are teaching a language, this may be an overestimation of the national picture, in that primary schools not teaching a language may have been less inclined to reply. Nonetheless, the survey achieved a high volume of responses and clearly shows that languages are firmly on the agenda in primary schools. However, the report provides evidence of a very wide spectrum of practice and a lack of consistency between schools both in their approach to language teaching and in the outcomes they achieve. There is a strongly expressed need – as well as evidence of an implicit need – for further training and support, particularly for those schools without expertise or commitment to the notion of language teaching in primary schools’.

The report states ‘Following the introduction of the EBacc ,as a performance measure, an increasing number of schools report that the number of students taking languages at KS4 has risen. Among the changes made, many schools have made languages compulsory or highly recommended for some pupils. The figures suggest that most able pupils are now engaging – willingly or not – in language learning. However, there is a dearth of provision for less ‘academic’ pupils and no incentive for schools to provide this.’

Only 11% of state secondary schools have arrangements which allow all pupils to continue with the same language learnt in primary school. Secondary schools cannot cope with the diversity of pupils’ language learning experiences in KS2, and it is not on their agendas to do so. A perception of excessive disparity and diversity in language provision in primary schools – and, indeed, the reality in many cases – is leading secondary schools to dismiss the value of what has been learnt and to ‘start at the beginning again’.

Language learning in primary and secondary schools in England-Findings from the 2012 Language Trends survey – Teresa Tinley and Kathryn Board-CFBT Education Trust-March 2013




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.