SSAT –seeks reform that builds on current consensus
Building on Consensus covers 10 themes with policy recommendations attached
An SSAT paper ‘Building on consensus’, launched on 23 April, explores the key areas of educational policy that are likely to be pursued by any political party post May 2015.
SSAT states ‘Rather than create a manifesto suggesting a whole new set of policies, we believe that it is more valuable to look for areas of consensus, agreement and compromise across the main parties, and build on these.’
The paper was launched in conjunction with the publication Vision 2040 a forward-looking pamphlet written by nine practitioners, from the Vision 2040 group.
The ideas and policy recommendations in the Building on consensus paper were informed by a series of Discussion Dinners hosted by SSAT over the last year, attracting key academics, policymakers and teachers that looked at various education themes ranging from collaboration through to evidence informed practice , careers guidance and accountability. It is predicated on the fact that there are a number of issues that will remain on the education agenda after the election, whichever party or coalition is in power and that there is some cross party consensus around these issues. It is therefore sensible to build on this consensus and work with the grain to achieve positive outcomes over the next five years.
A common thread running through this paper is the importance of hard- edged collaboration and partnership working, to improve outcomes, combined with a plea to politicians to respect the teaching profession. It says ‘the core of an effective self-improving school system is sound collaboration and partnership working to improve student outcomes.’ The importance of good research, and in particular teacher- led research, is highlighted. As far as structures are concerned, SSAT calls for autonomous schools to be given more support and in particular for chains to be incentivised to take on small schools. It sees an important role for a genuinely independent new College of Teaching, in establishing ‘a truly profession-led’ system. On social mobility (missing from most manifestos) it supports targeted funding for the most disadvantaged, with interventions informed by evidence, and says that every student should have a personalised learning experience ‘– a key to social mobility. The plight of rural and coastal schools is acknowledged too, with a new more nuanced approach needed, and with funding and resource arrangements reviewed in order to ensure that rural and coastal schools are receiving appropriate support for their needs. On character education, we need more research, but schools can ‘systematically plan, deliver and track experiences and opportunities that will allow students to develop resilience, confidence and other character traits’. It warns that Politicians and school leaders should stop striving for parity of esteem between vocational and academic education; they are different and these differences should be valued for their own sake. Young peoples’ careers guidance is both patchy and fragmented, so a much better approach is required in which the key stakeholders collaborate more effectively, and all young people have easy access to professional face to face advice. And, on accountability, SSAT believes while there will always be a need for an external inspectorate, the current inspection framework needs further reform. Greater efforts must be made to increase faith in the accountability framework. This could be achieved, it believes in part,’ by the promotion of peer reviews and professional learning dialogues between schools.’
SSAT is particularly concerned by the impact of the published point’s allocation for the legacy GCSEs and ‘wants review of the legacy GCSE points allocation.’ In 2017, when we move from an 8 point to a 9 point scale, the gain between lower grades will be less than the gain between higher grades (moving from F to E is a gain of 0.5, whereas moving from B to A is a gain of 1.5). This will unfairly disadvantage schools that have a majority of students predicted lower grades, and undermines Progress 8’s principle that every child’s progress should count equally’.
The SSATs recommendations, for politicians, under the ten consensus themes, were as follows:
Collaboration and Partnership Working
Support the development of an enabling environment in which schools can collaborate with one another to raise student outcomes.
Create incentives which promote collaboration and regulate perverse disincentives.
Evidence informed Practice and Policy
Change the way that research is currently funded and commissioned so that it becomes closer to school needs.
Design policies that allow school leaders to make their own professional decisions informed by a range of evidence, including local context.
Support a more strategic and comprehensive system of knowledge management, dissemination and sharing
Systems and Structures
Where increased autonomy is given to schools, also give increased support.
Incentivise chains to take on smaller, vulnerable schools
Teacher quality and professionalism
Continue support for the independent College of Teaching as a body to inform teaching standards and develop teachers’ education.
Continue support of teaching schools as a vehicle to improve teacher quality locally.
Agree a common curriculum for ITT, with schools and universities working in partnership.
Continue to fund disadvantaged students at a whole school level in order to close the achievement gap while ensuring that interventions are informed by sound research.
Rural and coastal challenge
A new approach to understanding rural and coastal deprivation is needed.
Establish more equitable funding, as well as incentives for partnership working for rural and coastal schools.
Character building and employability
Establish more systematic efforts to identify and share best practice in character education.
Conduct research into how to measure or assess character education.
Ensure that all accredited vocational courses have a significant practical assessed element.
Implement vocational education courses that are valued byschools, employers and young people for their own sake.
Careers education, information, advice and guidance
Develop a brokerage system that is effective and ensures a good interface between young people, employers, careers advisers and other stakeholders, based on an open, collaborative approach.
The system must offer easy access to face-to-face independent professional careers advice and guidance to all young people
Further reform the inspection framework to ensure schools have real autonomy to make decisions in the interests of their students.
Undertake a review of the legacy GCSE point’s allocation, and make a public statement confirming how this data will be interpreted.
Building on consensus-SSAT policy Recommendations 2015