Long awaited Education White Paper-focus on quality of teachers and teaching

The education White Paper contains few surprises as most of the ideas have been flagged  in advance and those that hadn’t  were leaked . ‘The Importance of Teaching’  confirms the central issue on the Governments agenda –the quality of teaching in the classroom and how to improve it. Ofsteds Annual report, just out, says that there is too much teaching that is inadequate  and we know that poor teachers are rarely sacked, simply recycled around the system. The Education Secretary says  “We know that nothing matters more in improving education than giving every child access to the best possible teaching. There is no calling more noble, no profession more vital and no service more important than teaching. It is because we believe in the importance of teaching – as the means by which we liberate every child to become the adult they aspire to be – that this White Paper has been written. The importance of teaching cannot be over-stated”  Sounds good, but specifics on  getting rid of poor teachers are in short supply. Gove concedes that  most poor teachers can probably improve with targeted support which may be true, but what about those who are unable to improve? There should be no witch-hunt but  if  bespoke support doesnt work ,incompetent teachers  should be encouraged to leave the profession  to protect the interests of our children and to help raise standards in our schools. Performance Management, if used effectively and  correctly, can identify areas of under performance relatively early. Support, training and the right approach can,   probably in the majority of cases  , bring about improvements so that the  quality of  teaching  meets the right standard.  The White Paper is not quite as radical as we were led to expect it might be but that is probably due to the  imperatives of  coalition government . However,most of the measures in the WP  deserve support and Goves reformist instincts, notwithstanding the contradictory impulses between autonomy and central prescription, are sound .  What remains perplexing is Goves reluctance to tap in to private sector expertise and capital, eschewing the profit motive at a time of shrinking public sector resources,despite advice from his favourite think tanks that this is the only way to transform the system.

Here is a summary of some of the key points.

Teacher Training

The Government  will cease to provide funding for initial teacher training for those graduates who do not have at least a 2:2 degree;

Teach First will be expanded

offer financial incentives to attract more of the very best graduates in shortage subjects into teaching;

enable more talented career changers to become teachers;

increase the proportion of time trainees spend in the classroom, focusing on core teaching skills, especially in teaching reading and mathematics and in managing behaviour;

Develop a national network of Teaching Schools on the model of teaching hospitals.

Former servicemen to be  encouraged to become teachers, by developing a ‘Troops to Teachers’ programme which will sponsor  them  to train as teachers.

National Curriculum:

Introduce a tighter, more rigorous, model of the knowledge which every child should expect to master in core subjects at every key stage.

Ensure support available to every school for the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics, as the best method for teaching reading;

Introduce the English Baccalaureate to encourage schools to offer a broad set of academic subjects to age 16, whether or not students then go down an academic or vocational route.

Reform vocational education so that it supports progression to further and higher education and employment, and overhaul our vocational qualifications following Professor Alison Wolf’s review to ensure that they match the world’s best.

Raise to 17 by 2013 and then 18 by 2015 the age to which all young people will be expected to participate in education or training.(Professor Wolf incidentally doesn’t think much of this idea)


at age 6, a simple test of pupils’ ability to decode words;

at 11, as pupils complete primary education;

and at 16 as pupils complete compulsory schooling.

Accountability/League Tables:

Reform performance tables so that they set out our high expectations – every pupil should have a broad education (the English Baccalaureate), a firm grip of the basics and be making progress;

Institute a new measure of how well deprived pupils do and introduce a measure of how young people do when they leave school;

Establish a new ‘floor standard’ for primary and secondary schools, which sets an escalating minimum expectation for attainment.

The main measure for “underperforming” secondaries the current GCSE measure will stay. Schools will be considered to be “underperforming” if fewer than 35% of pupils achieve five good GCSEs (those graded A* to C).

Ofsted inspections will be reformed , so that inspectors spend more time in the classroom and focus on key issues of educational effectiveness, rather than the long list of issues they are currently required to consider.

In place of the current  framework, Ofsted will consult on a new framework with a clear focus on just four things – pupil achievement, the quality of teaching, leadership and management, and the behaviour and safety of pupils. The new inspection framework will help to make sure that there is a better focus on the needs of all pupils, including the needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.  This new framework will come into force in Autumn 2011, subject to legislation.

All schools will be able to request an Ofsted inspection from Autumn 2011. Ofsted will be able to charge schools for this service, and will decide when and how many ‘requested’ inspections it carries out each year, and how it will prioritise requests.

School Improvement

Increase the number of National and Local Leaders of Education – head teachers of excellent schools committed to supporting other schools – and develop Teaching Schools to make sure that every school has access to highly effective professional development support.

Make sure that schools have access to evidence of best practice, high-quality materials and improvement services which they can choose to use. Free local authorities to provide whatever forms of improvement support they choose. (This should mean new business opportunities for providers )


Consult on developing and introducing a clear, transparent and fairer national funding formula based on the needs of pupils, to work alongside the Pupil Premium;

End the disparity in funding for 16–18 year-olds, so that schools and colleges are funded at the same levels as one another.

Increase the transparency of the current funding system by showing both how much money schools receive and what they spend their funds on.

Take forward the conclusions of the review of capital spending, cutting bureaucracy from the process of allocating capital funding and securing significantly better value for money.

Note that the original draft  proposal to  impose a clear national funding formula has been watered down.  Now it’s  out for consultation. However more schools  under the expanded Academies and Free schools programmes will be getting their  funds direct  from the centre rather than through Local authorities

Case for Change document: