Whats pressing on her agenda ?
Justine Greening, the new Education Secretary ,has attracted headlines over her apparently relaxed attitude to Grammar school expansion. But arguably she has other more pressing priority issues to address. Here are some:
Schools funding shortfalls. School budgets are stretched. Income is down on average around 7% so Heads and governors are having to make significant adjustments. Some may be tempted to use the Pupil Premium to make up the shortfall, as there is no obligation to ring fence the PP.
National Funding Formula– there are funding inequities in the system and these need to be addressed but there are on-going delays because its not easy . And there are political sensitivities ie there will be both winners and losers.
Teacher recruitment and retention crisis. – Around 40% of teachers who begin their initial training are not in a state school job five years later. That means of 35,000 or so individuals training to become teachers each year some 14,000 are not teaching five years later. And only about 40% of Teach First graduates are still in teaching five years on. Its costly training teachers and this all looks wasteful. There is a shortage in Stem specialist Teachers . Remember the government says ‘ High-quality teachers are the single most important factor determining how well pupils achieve in schools.’
Leadership crisis – there is a shortage of high quality Heads particularly in disadvantaged areas. How do you transform schools in deprived areas, if you are short of leaders? The National College is not really set up to deliver a pipeline of good heads, so what is the short term solution? Many Heads are close to retirement. Its estimated that maybe as much 40% are due to retire or move out within 18 months.
The ITT system in a bit of a mess as there is now a mismatch between demand and supply. Although Primary places are pretty full, the same cant be said for Secondary.
School Places An additional 750, 000 school places are required by 2025. There is a significant shortage of Primary places across the system, but critical in some areas. Recent projections by the Local Government Association suggest that the population bulge that has hit schools at the Primary level is having a knock on effect now at the Secondary level
An incoherent assessment and accountability system– which lacks easy comparability with the past – how long will it take before we know if the system is improving? Try giving a brief verbal overview of the new accountability framework and you will see that its complex and therefore not easily understood by key stakeholders (ie parents)
An incoherent system of school governance – the transition from an LA-based system to a school-led system is struggling . There is a shortage of good governors with the right skills particularly where there is most need (ie deprived areas). And the government has signalled that it wants more skills based governance to drive improvements. But where exactly will these new governors come from, and where are the incentives?
Autonomy/Accountability-There is confusion over the implications for the system of autonomy and accountability and getting the balance right. . Increased regulation is creating a new bureaucracy (DFE,RSCs and Ofsted) perhaps stifling innovation, and reducing autonomy. So making it more challenging surely to deliver improved outcomes?
Academisation programme- a shortage of funding, sponsors and unrealistic time frame suggests a need for a re-think on the programme (New Bill?) Too many MATs are still underperforming. The rate of free school starts appears to be slowing and academy sponsors appear put off by mixed messages from the government and its agencies about expansion and the lack of incentive to do so. In addition there has been a signal lack of transparency in the process of approving schools. It is unclear- its a secret garden, in which people are making important decisions according to criteria that are opaque . Indeed no one seems to know the ultimate criteria for deciding on competing proposals for different types of schools
The Free Schools Programme– The government is committed to 500 Free schools in this Parliament .But there is some evidence that local authorities are doing their utmost to stifle the growth of new Free schools ie through planning permission etc. But local authorities are very aware of the demand for new places. There may be a case for developing two separate programmes: a basic need new schools programme, on which the school commissioner’s office and the Education Funding Agency would work closely with local authorities to identify the local need and find a suitable provider to meet it; and on the other hand a free schools programme, through which the DfE would allow new schools to open in areas or poor provision or where parents have very little choice
The new Careers Strategy has been delayed-both Ministers (Gyimah, Boles)who had responsibility for adult guidance and schools guidance, are gone. Will a new strategy be ready by the end of year? It seems that Robert Halfon has taken over the mantle. But does he get that good Careers guidance is not just about getting more employers into schools? Gyimah and Boles didnt.
New Skills Strategy and establishment of Institute of Apprenticeships, needs the setting of clear milestones. Taking forward the Sainsbury panel recommendations, streamlining the system and creating a common framework of 15 routes across all technical education. The routes will group occupations together to reflect where there are shared training requirements. Rather than the current crowded landscape of overlapping qualifications, the aim is to ensure that only high-quality technical qualifications which match employer-set standards are approved. The new, employer-led Institute for Apprenticeships will regulate quality across apprenticeships and its remit will be expanded to cover all technical education
HE Bill-Overseeing significant reform of HE- the Higher Education and Research Bill through Parliament (Second Reading -19 July). At least the new SOS will have a very capable Jo Johnson to help guide this through.