Richard Cairns, the Head of Brighton College, is regarded, by many of his peers in the independent sector, as one of their brightest, though, some might say, the competition is not fierce. He told a conference this week that ‘Private schools are “obsessed” with using means-tested bursaries to defend their charitable status and could help far more children by supporting academies. Too many independent school heads are “congratulating ourselves for saving Oliver Twist from the streets but we have lost sight of the Artful Dodger and his gang”, he said.
Cherry picking pupils from state schools, with tempting bursaries, it can be argued,plausibly, damages the schools that they leave, as they are important role models. Some pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds can also find it difficult to adjust to the rarefied environment of ‘public’ schools and there are many hidden costs in a private education ie parents are asked to fork out for pastoral and extra curricular activities that can be a huge ,and embarrassing, burden on the poorer parents. Charities should deliver public benefit and the aim, surely,should be to maximise public benefit. Self- evidently single bursaries, here and there, deliver limited benefit, so there is a logic to supporting academies as this broadens and up-scales the benefit. Cairns, though, is well behind the curve on this. Though the LAE, a free school sixth form college in Newham, was founded in 2012, with the support of Brighton College, and several other schools, including Eton College, it was Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, who first put his head above the parapet on this issue four or five years ago. At the time he was a lone voice in the independent sector preaching the benefits of academy and state school links, while putting his money where his mouth was ,by setting up a Wellington academy, in Tidworth. It does look as if Cairns has jumped on a passing bandwagon.But he wont be the last to do so. Isn’t it about time that Heads in the independent sector, stepped up to the plate and provided some err…real leadership in education, after all they are supposed to be the best?
WHATS WRONG WITH THE PROFIT MOTIVE?
According to Collins, a shortage of capital to fund extra capacity may force the governments hand
Profit makers could help raise vital capital for new school places
Philip Collins, the former speech writer to Tony Blair, now a Times columnist, Leader writer and Chair of the Demos think tank , argues, in the Times on 29 March , that as there is a critical shortage of school places and not enough money in government to fund the new places, the solution to meet this demand has to be found in the profit making sector. The National Audit Office, somewhat off the pace, as ever, recently produced a report that told us the blindingly obvious- that there is a shortage of school places, something that was flagged up or ‘predicted’, way back in 2010, for those who bothered to look at the statistics and projections, based on ONS data. What on earth is the point of spending taxpayers money on producing a report that is two years out of date by the time its published?
Collins is not sure why so many people object to the notion of profit making state schools. He wrote ‘ There is never any objection when a profit is made from supplying children with writing implements or books or when people make a living from managing school facilities, making the school dinner or training the teachers. There is never an objection, in fact, when large chains look after children of pre-school age. As soon as a child hits school age it is, for some reason, an ideological crime to make money.‘
Collins writes ‘The school building programme has been a victim of austerity and although David Laws, the Schools Minister, has found £4.3 billion, he needs more. The deficit means he hasn’t got any more.’
The price of being allowed to make a profit in running a state school, suggests Collins ‘is that the company, rather than the taxpayer, has to find the initial capital costs of building extra classrooms or schools. The financial constraint on expansion is suddenly removed.’
Thursday September 13, 2012 16:04
The ASCL union in its submission for the Report stage of the Education Bill says it would like to see the parts of Clause 27 that relate to repealing the duty on schools in England to provide careers education removed from the bill. It said ‘We strongly believe that the provision of careers education must remain a compulsory part of the curriculum. This will leave careers education in the position it currently occupies; schools are required to teach it but free to determine how to do so. Removing the requirement to teach careers education it claims is not cost effective because careers advisers will have to cover a good deal more ground in individual interviews and group sessions with pupils who not have been prepared through a programme of careers education. ASCL would prefer a single, simplified duty on schools to secure access to independent, impartial careers guidance for all pupils aged 13-18 through the new all-age careers service. We strongly believe that the duty should continue to age 18, particularly in light of the raised participation age, and that it should be secured through the all age service. ASCL supports the principle of an all-age careers service but is extremely worried about the lack of clarity regarding core funding, transition arrangements and new expectations placed on schools. The requirement that the bill places on schools is based on a service that does not yet exist and about which few details are available. There is huge uncertainty at a time when careers advice and guidance is of critical importance due to the cumulative effect of many changes to the system (particularly the loss of the Education Maintenance Allowance and increase in tuition fees).
The number of new schools now likely to open their doors this September is around 10. Not a particularly impressive number, given that Primary schools are also part of the FS initiative.
It is already clear that the Government is shifting its main effort to expanding the Academies programme which has its own momentum. A momentum that is signally lacking, for now, at least, in the FS programme. The Independent has learnt that since the Free School programme was launched last year, just 40 out of 323 proposals have been accepted for consideration. Of those, just four have received a promise of Government funding. Another application has been withdrawn and most of the remaining 35 schools will not open until 2012. The remaining 283 have been turned down and the applicants told they must re-apply under stricter criteria. These are designed to show they are “fit and proper” people to run a school. The high failure rate is regarded by some as reflecting much needed rigour in the vetting process, identifying flawed bids early on, so saving time effort and resources. However ,some close to the FS programme suggest that it has little to do with quality control and everything to do with money. Or lack of it.
There are two big interrelated problems facing Free schools and their supporters. Lack of money,and buildings. Of course there have been some dubious bids and bidders but can that seriously explain the punishingly high failure rate? And what effect will such a failure rate have on prospective bidders and confidence in this initiative, more generally ,one wonders?
Advisers behind the scenes have been saying that you don’t really need much money to set up a new school. Taking a leaf out of the Charter School movement in New York, they point out that there is no reason why new schools need to own a building. They can rent. And some districts in New York provide incentives to do just this. There is the potential too to make clever use of other property, old office blocks, apartments and shops for instance, to set up a Free school. And, of course, where there are empty classrooms in existing schools, these too might be utilised. This ignores two important points. First just how appealing will it be for parents to send their child to a school in an old shop when set against all those shiny new neighbouring £20m Academies. Secondly, and of greater import, converting old buildings, and getting planning permission, into a school that is fit for purpose and safe is as much of a logistical challenge as it sounds and requires capital too. (interestingly the Guardian points out that a majority of Free schools are taking over listed buildings which is clearly potentially expensive) . It all looks quite attractive on paper but in practice, well, its not quite so easy. As Jonn Elledge of Education Investor has pointed out ‘Free school groups don’t have a credit history, so no one will lease them a building. (The government has said it’ll guarantee such leases; but it’s yet to put its money where its mouth is.) And, unsurprisingly, neither free schools nor existing comprehensives seem all that keen on shacking up together.’ The fact is most of the first tranche of new free schools look like they’re mostly going to be in buildings purchased for the purpose, using government money (which is as we know limited). It is still not clear how much money will be added to the initial pot for Free schools. The Partnerships for Schools quango, looks to have a new lease of life on the property front though. It had supported the recently abolished BSF schools building programme, and had looked to be on its way out as part of the government’s quango cull having been heavily criticised for presiding over its waste and profilgacy. It also caught the blame for embarrassing the Secretary of State when he issued a flawed list of school building projects that were being cancelled or put on ice. Now, however it seems to have found redemption and been given the job of finding buildings for these new schools. This Government like all before it talk tough on quangos but then keeps most of them in place. Its a painstaking task seeking the right place for a new school and the Partnership for Schools is hardly renowned for its speed of delivery. For a time the Government thought that the big Academy chains might move in and help but although they have the expertise and mostly a pretty sound track record they are short of capital and are heavily committed already to the Academies scheme. They would also encounter too the problem of a shortage of appropriate buildings. Yes, some are backing Free schools, but on a small scale. (There aren’t very many of them)
And the Government’s flirtation with the big chains, although making much sense in terms of seeking to secure efficient delivery, has sent out confusing signals to parents groups intending to set up schools. The original Free schools scheme came out of the Big Society mould. It was conceived to encourage and empower groups of local parents fed up with the choices being offered in local schooling to set up their own schools –essentially community driven and from the bottom up. But new regulations look to make it much harder for parents to do this (see above). Indeed some critics are now asking what the Free schools initiative is for, if its main raison d’ Etre appears to have been put on the backburner. Its future looks to be as a very junior sub set of the Academies scheme. But what some people forget is that the DFE is not awash with capital and this while obviously affecting the FS initiative it will also impact over the medium term on the Academies scheme too.
Looking to the private sector for support in terms of both expertise and investment could provide one way out but has been dismissed, it seems, by the government as too politically contentious. Indeed the private sector is generally fairly miffed that the Government is perceived to be cold shouldering them more generally in other public policy areas too. The Cabinet office, the Department taking a lead on public sector reforms and procurement, trips over itself in championing mutuals, co-ops, social enterprises and the third sector (look at its Business Plan) but barely mentions the private sector. Essential though the charities and the third sector are in public service delivery, it is surely bizarre that this Government appears to have turned its back on the private sector, at a time when public money is in short supply and those responsible for delivery are suffering significant cut backs. Joined up thinking it certainly isn’t. Jonn Elledge editor of Education Investor wrote in the New Statesman (9 May): ‘The government wants three things: to create enough new schools to really shake up state education; to keep the profiteers out; and to keep the cost to the taxpayer down. But it can’t win on all three fronts. One of them is going to have to give. And right now, it looks like the revolution will be the one to get tossed aside.’ Possibly overstated-but there is no doubt that the Free schools initiative is facing significant short term challenges.
Note Katharine Barbalsingh has just formally launched a campaign in support of the setting up of a Free school in Lambeth, backed by Wellington College.
The Guardians front page headline today was a classic ‘State Reliance on Private Sector Revealed-shock, horror and a large dollop of awe thrown in. Whats in store for Guardian readers next? Mans reliance on oxygen for life revealed? Cant wait.
THE PROBLEM WITH BOYS
As the performance gap opens up between boys and girls- is it time for a re-think on how to educate boys
Advances in neuroscience may help here
Tony Little, Eton’s Headmaster, claimed at a recent conference that the different sexes required different teaching methods to bring out students’ potential and that GCSEs favour girls more than boys. GCSE exams became much more verbal than the old O-levels, he said, thereby favouring girls over boys. Boys, he believes, require a more physical and active style of learning. He said that an increased verbal element of GCSEs favoured girls over boys and that educational techniques had become skewed because of the male-dominated society of the past. In short, Little’s argument is that, when it comes to learning, boys need to be taught in particular ways, which take account of the fact that “they are hardwired differently from girls and they need different approaches in terms of their education”.
Research submitted to the same conference claimed that boys and girls benefited from different teaching techniques which could be administered either in single-sex environments or at mixed schools. It also said that boys were more likely to be labelled “disruptive or rebellious” in mixed classrooms where the presence of girls might encourage them to try and be “cool” rather than studious. This situation affected the learning experience of both girls and boys, it stated.
Concurrently it emerged that one of the country’s biggest exam boards is developing different GCSE courses for boys and girls. The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) said it was looking into creating a science GCSE with more coursework in it for girls, and one which gave more weighting to exam marks for boys. Studies have shown that girls perform better in coursework than boys, while boys do better in exams. AQA said it would not prevent boys from taking the girls’ course and vice versa. The courses in English, maths and science could be available from September next year.
Dr Tony Sewell who has a particular interest in addressing Afro-Caribbean boys underachievement claims that boys are being failed by schools because lessons have become too “feminised” in recent years. Dr Sewell called for more nurturing of traditional “male” traits, such as competitiveness and leadership.
Schools focus too much on “feminine” qualities such as organisation and attentiveness, he told an NASUWT union conference in 2008. Sewell, a former lecturer at Leeds University, said some coursework should be replaced with final exams and there should be more emphasis on outdoor adventure in the curriculum. He also wants extra efforts to recruit more male teachers and to introduce more “excitement” to lessons. Interestingly, new figures show a surge in pupil numbers at single-sex prep schools in the independent sector which cater for boys up to the age of 13. This trend is a reversal of the picture only a decade ago, when demand for girls’ schools was growing strongly. And some schools felt the need to become co-educational as demand shifted.
John Gray’s book Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars was a best-seller for a very good reason. It struck a chord .Anecdotal evidence has long suggested the case that males experience – and react to – life quite differently to females .And the corollary of this is that boys learn differently from girls . Neuroscience is catching up on this. Over the past decade or so, researchers have attempted to determine what, if any, natural differences exist between male and female brains when it comes to learning. Research in neuroscience has found clear gender variation in human brain anatomy, chemical processes and function. In girls, the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres (or halves) of the brain, is generally larger than in boys. This enables more “cross talk” between the hemispheres of the brain. Boys’ brains, on the other hand, are structured to compartmentalize learning. As a result, girls are usually better than boys at multitasking and can make quick transitions between lessons and tasks (Havers, 1995). On the other hand, a boy’s ability to compartmentalize learning might result in better clarity and focus in certain situations. Studies have shown that girls tend to use the areas of the brain devoted to verbal and emotional functioning, while boys generally use the areas of the brain geared toward spatial and mechanical tasks. (Moir and Jessel, 1989; Rich, 2000).
In 2008 researchers from Northwestern University (USA) and the University of Haifa showed both that areas of the brain associated with language work harder in girls than in boys during language tasks, and that boys and girls rely on different parts of the brain when performing these tasks. The findings suggest that language processing is more sensory in boys and more abstract in girls – and they suggested that this could have major implications for teaching children and even provide support for advocates of single sex classrooms. Given boys’ sensory approach, boys might be more effectively evaluated on knowledge gained from lectures via oral tests and on knowledge gained by reading via written tests. For girls, whose language processing appears more abstract in approach, these different testing methods would appear unnecessary.
The male brain needs to recharge and reorient by entering what brain scientists call a rest state. Boys may naturally drift off or “space out” during a lesson. However, they are able to stay engaged in visual or hands-on learning that involves symbols, objects, diagrams and pictures but zone out when too many words are used (Gurian, 2001). There is also evidence that different areas of the brain develop in a different sequence in girls compared with most boys. So, while it’s too simplistic to say that boys mature more slowly than girls it is probably correct to say boys mature faster than girls in some areas, but slower in others. Self-evidently this should be taken into account when deciding how to teach ,what to teach and when to teach.
Professor Alan Smithers, director of education at Buckingham University, is somewhat sceptical about all this, though. He believes that we already know the main variables relating to exam success-these are pupil characteristics, social background and the quality of the teacher. So this leaves very little space for gender in the classroom to make any real difference. This has all re-opened the debate about single sex versus co-ed education and whether, for instance, boys should be taught separately from girls either generally or in certain subjects. But a greater understanding of how the brain works, and what neuro science tells us about gender differences and the way we learn and its implications for the learning environment and teaching, is becoming the new frontier in education . As more information becomes available Professor Smithers may have to adjust his position.
PRIMARY CURRICULUM UP IN THE AIR
Rose proposals popular with teachers but in limbo
At the end of the last Parliament in the final horse-trading over what legislation would be rushed through to completion and what clauses would be dropped from Bills to fast track Bills onto the statute book one of the biggest casualties was the new Primary curriculum .
Most Primary teachers had clearly warmed to the idea as they see it of a more flexible, joined up and less prescriptive curriculum as suggested in the so called Rose Review . Indeed many had already invested time and energy to curriculum planning and development to incorporate the changes, given that officials were indicating until the eleventh hour that the proposals were signed and sealed. Apart from the wastage involved in production, distribution and digestion of a primary curriculum that is now not to be implemented, many Heads are bemused as to how the Government managed to run out of Parliamentary time with such a key piece of legislation. The Conservatives and Lib Dems blocked the measures.
The Tories believe that the Rose approach lacked rigour and did not afford sufficient weight to key academic subjects and, crucially, a sound knowledge base. The Tory position itself has been misrepresented by some in the media. With ‘Knowledge’ grossly parodied as not much more than trading obsolete facts.
So ‘what now?’ for the primary curriculum.
There were two recent fine reviews of Primary education and the curriculum. The broader, independent review, led by Professor Alexander known as the Cambridge Primary Review was almost instantly dismissed by a Minister in the last Government as out of date, to the Governments shame . The remark was patently untrue and such lengthy definitive research from some of the top academic experts on Primary education was clearly deserving of a more considered response. It certainly wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the Rose Report. It was part of a three-year enquiry into primary education as a whole, the most comprehensive for 40 years. It drew on its own considerable evidence, provided its own analysis, proposed its own solutions, and above all keeps in view that basic question: what is primary education for? It talked of eight curriculum domains : arts and creativity; citizenship and ethics; faith and belief; language, oracy and literacy; mathematics; physical and emotional health; place and time; science and technology.
The other Review, under Sir Jim Rose, had been commissioned by the Government ,with a narrower remit. Rose said that the problem is ‘quarts-into-pint-pots’: finding ways to cram 14 subjects into a finite week or year. Sir Jim proposed six areas of Learning- Understanding English, communication and languages; Mathematical understanding; Scientific and technological understanding; Historical, geographical and social understanding; Understanding physical development, health and wellbeing; Understanding the arts
And you would have thought from the simplistic media coverage that the two reports were entirely different in their conclusions and recommendations.
In truth there were considerable overlaps. Both called for more holistic curriculum, incorporating more flexible approaches to teaching and learning that facilitated pupil and practitioner creativity and cross-disciplinary connections. While the two reports differed slightly in their recommendations concerning curriculum subject areas, they effectively shared a pared-down model, with Rose reducing the current thirteen subjects to six areas of learning, and a devolution of responsibility to schools for shaping delivery. This reduction of course worried the Tories as they interpreted it as eroding academic rigour and pupil’s knowledge base. The Tories want to sort the curriculum out on their terms and don’t want to be painted into a corner by a Review that took place under another Government.
Within the teaching profession and among educationalists there is a feeling that the Tories have actually misunderstood what the Rose Review is actually saying, preferring to see it through the prism of media reports and scary headlines . Indeed within the teaching community in the maintained sector (this doesn’t seem to apply though to the independent sector) there is considerable consensus and momentum towards the embrace of a more flexible and devolved curriculum, in policy but more importantly ‘on the ground’ in schools and even local communities.
Schools seem to want to take more responsibility on themselves and for making a new Primary curriculum more relevant, engaging, flexible and innovative and there was a degree of excitement surrounding the proposed reforms.
Tory policy, of course, is to help raise the status of the teaching profession, to give teachers back their professional voice in the classroom, to stop central interference in the running of schools, to give schools more freedom over the curriculum they deliver, and what happens in the classroom and to deliver real schools autonomy. But the paradox is that they also want to prescribe the content and structure of the Primary curriculum and ignore most of the advice afforded by two expert reviews. We know that Primary curriculum reform is needed- but are we really going to see the launch of another review? It seems so-certainly the coalition government wants fundamental changes at primary and secondary level, and both Michael Gove and Nick Gibb are intent on prescribing a core, more traditional curriculum to be enabled by an (Second) Education Bill in the autumn but with schools being given flexibility outside this core
The Lib Dem manifesto talked of getting rid of the “overprescriptive” National Curriculum and replacing it with a 20-page minimum curriculum guarantee but said nothing about the Rose recommendations. They are also in favour of less centrally driven initiatives and school autonomy. If pushed the Tories lean towards the Cambridge Review but fall short of giving its recommendations their unqualified endorsement.
There will be efforts made by the education establishment to persuade the Coalition to re-think approaches to Primary curriculum reform , for sure and not to entirely drop its approach.
WHO IS DAVID LAWS?
David Laws was a high-flying investment banker with JP Morgan and Barclays who gave up six-figure bonuses for a backroom research job with the Liberal Democrats. Born into a banking family, Laws was educated at St George’s College, Weybridge and Kings College, Cambridge. He was elected as MP for Yeovil in 2001 after Paddy Ashdown stepped down. Laws co-edited the ‘Orange Book’, which was instrumental in politically re-orientating the Lib Dems and shedding high tax-and-spending traditions for a more economically liberal platform. His right-leaning instincts have prompted several invitations to join the Conservatives, all which have been politely, but firmly spurned.(Similar to Clegg in this respect). Laws earned his spurs leading delicate negotiations resulting in the early coalition north of the border with the SNP. Widely seen to have won the TES pre-election education debate, he is anti-state interference in education, wants powers devolved to schools, to ensure that all schools have Academy freedoms but also sees local authorities as important for the accountability framework. (differs from Tories on LA role)He believes that some education quangos can be cut back-and feels that most are unaccountable. An economic and social liberal, but fiscal conservative, Laws is an advocate of more competition and choice in public services . He shares Michael Goves view that the Government has largely failed the most disadvantaged pupils and he wants a pupil premium which will be part of the new coalitions education programme. Also keen to reduce class sizes and to abolish, over time, tuition fees. He was a key member of the Liberal Democrats negotiating team forging a new coalition with the Tories. He has a cabinet role in the coalition Government as First Secretary to the Treasury. Michael Gove has been one of the most impressive performers in Cameron’s shadow cabinet and would like to see his free schools reforms through , so although it was initially rumoured that Laws would get Education, it has just been confirmed that Gove is the new Education Secretary.
- PAYING FOR RESULTS-CAN IT HELP RAISE PERFORMANCE- OR DOES IT CORRUPT THE LOVE OF LEARNING?
- PROSPECTS JOINS MUTUAL JOINT VENTURE TO DELIVER PUBLIC SERVICES-GOVERNMENT KEEN ON EMPLOYEE OWNED MUTUALS DELIVERING PUBLIC SERVICES
- PROFESSOR TONY WATTS RESIGNS FROM THE NATIONAL CAREERS COUNCIL
- EDISON LEARNING AND THE NAHT UNION LAUNCH A SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT INITIATIVE WITH DFE BACKING
- 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
- Careers advice and Guidance
- Charity Status
- Charter School
- Coalition Education Policy
- Conservative policy
- Discipline and Truancy
- early years learning
- education market
- education quangos
- education reform
- Free schools
- higher education
- Home Education
- independent schools
- primary schools
- Public Services Reform
- published letters
- Pupil Support
- quality assurance
- quality assurance and inspection
- school governance
- secondary schools
- Secure Estate
- SPECIAL NEEDS
- teachers and teaching
- Think tanks
- us education system
- Youth policy