ASCL Says Opening Free Schools May Be Waste Of Money

ASCL says opening free schools may be waste of money

BBC |March 24, 2012

By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News
Opening free schools in areas where they are not needed is a “shameful” waste of taxpayers’ money, according to the leader of a head teachers’union.In a speech on Saturday, Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders, will also say free schools may damage existing schools.

“Such experimentation is deeply and unequivocally immoral,” he will say.

A government spokesman said free schools would give parents more choice of schooling for their children.

Free schools are funded from the public education budget, like other state schools, on a per-pupil basis.

However, they are run independently from local authority control by not-for-profit trusts, which can buy in private sector services.

In a speech to the union’s annual conference, Mr Lightman will say: “ASCL has no objection to new schools opening in areas where there is a shortage of school places but we cannot condone the creation of costly surplus places when other services are being cut.”

The union suggests that free schools planned for Suffolk, Essex, Bristol and Teesside are all in areas where there are already surplus places. It is also concerned that free schools may receive more generous funding than other schools and accuses the government of being opaque when it comes to free school budgets.

Mr Lightman will call upon the government to publish spending figures for the next three years for each new free school.

‘Downward spiral’He will say that he wants parents to be able to see how these figures compare to funding for other schools in their neighbourhoods.

His speech will suggest that other nearby schools could be thrown into a downward spiral because of falling pupil numbers and lack of investment.

“Children are not guinea pigs in some educational lab. Schools that have been consigned to the dustbin of our education service in this way cannot be expected to create the conditions which enable them to raise standards.

“No-one in government should be contemplating standing by and watching as some schools fail in order to use it as a lever of change,” he will say.

In a statement, the Department for Education (DfE) said: “We cannot continue with a system where thousands of parents are forced to send their child to a school that is either weak or simply isn’t right for them.

“Our school reforms will help put this right by creating a system that works for – not against – parents, many of whom live in the poorest parts of the country.”

The DfE said that free schools would cost a fraction of schools built under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

Schools ‘Too Often Asked To Make Up For Wider Failings’

Schools ‘too often asked to make up for wider failings’

BBC |March 23, 2012

By Judith Burns BBC News in Birmingham
Schools are too often asked to make up for wider failings in families and communities, the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.“Schools can step into the vacuum, setting good examples where few exist at home,” he said.

He told the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders that schools’ moral purpose had never been more important.

But, he said, all was not wonderful in the garden.

Sir Michael was speaking on the first day of the Birmingham conference.

‘Lonely job’The association’s leadership has already complained that its members are demoralised with around half considering leaving the profession.

In his speech he said: “So much is expected of school and college leaders. Believe me, I know from my own experience what a tough job it is; and how leadership can be lonely, daunting and occasionally gut wrenchingly difficult. “

He echoed sentiments expressed by the ASCL general secretary, Brian Lightman, when he said: “It is also one of the best and most satisfying jobs in the world.”

And said society should occasionally just stand back and reflect on whether it is giving enough support to our schools and their leaders.

Double standards“A culture which is sometimes self obsessed and puts such emphasis on celebrity and instant gratification, doesn’t necessarily foster in our young people the essential virtues of effort and diligence which are so fundamental to success at schools and colleges.

“Our youngsters are too often exposed to double standards, where bad behaviour and violence are publicly condemned but endlessly available as entertainment,” he added.

He said this was not a counsel of despair but that schools in the most difficult circumstances often had no option but to be“surrogate parents” so that children can achieve.

He said he wanted Ofsted under his leadership to continue to help school leaders achieve better standards in schools.

“It is important we remember what it was like in the 70s and 80s before Ofsted when whole generations of children and young people were failed”

He said that many schools got away with “blue murder” during that era.

He added that changes in the Ofsted framework would not be brought in without considering the views of head teachers and invited heads to contribute to the ongoing consultation.

However many of the audience of head teachers were sceptical.

Graham Bett, a head teacher from Leicestershire said the cumulative effect of the chief inspector’s comments in the media in previous weeks had amounted to a “corrosive negative rhetoric”.

And Carol Buchanan, of Cardinal Newman Catholic School, in Coventry accused Ofsted of engendering a climate of fear, being inconsistent on the ground and failing to appreciate any teaching methods that did not fit a recognised pattern.

Nursery Staff Skill Concerns Raised In Nutbrown Review

Nursery staff skill concerns raised in Nutbrown review

The Guardian World News |24 March 2012 06.02 GMT

Nursery schoolchildren

Despite the importance of early education in children’s development, Professor Nutbrown concluded that the work was seen as “low status, low paid, and low skilled”. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Nursery staff and childminders are allowed to work at pre-school groups without displaying basic literacy or numeracy skills,according to a Government-commissioned review.

Colleges demand more qualifications for students training to look after animals than for those who will care for babies, the report said.

Professor Cathy Nutbrown, an expert in early childhood education from Sheffield University, conducted the research and discovered that there was no requirement to demonstrate competence in English and mathematics.

These skills are important in supporting the development of babies and young children, as well as communicating with parents, she stated.

Professor Nutbrown found that although there are “examples of excellence”, there remained “substantial concerns” about the quality of training.

Despite the importance of early education in children’s development, she concluded that the work was seen as “low status, low paid, and low skilled”.

She wrote: “The hair or care stereotype still exists for many considering a course in the early years; yet many other sectors have raised their expectations in relation to enrolment.

“It must be a cause for concern that early years courses are often the easiest to enrol on and the courses that the students with the poorest academic records are sometimes steered towards.”

The Nutbrown Review quoted Dr Celia Greenway, from the University of Birmingham, who said: “For too long early years work has been perceived as an alternative to hairdressing and a suitable route for those who fail in school.”
The Unison union said: “By allowing non-qualified people to work in childcare settings we undermine the status of the qualified workforce. In nearly all professions, staff can only be employed if they are qualified.

“This should be the case in early education and childcare.”

Helen Perkins of Solihull College told the report that students must achieve a higher level of qualifications on their courses for animal care than child care.

“Nobody demands the same level of qualification before you can be left alone with a baby,” she said.

Meanwhile Professor Nutbrown expressed concern that some learning centres “push students through a course” even if they are not suited to a career in pre-school groups in a bid to achieve high completion rates.

She considered the introduction of a licence for nursery staff, but conceded it was unclear which organisation would manage such a scheme or how it could be funded.

Her interim report was published last week, and she will make her final recommendations in the summer.

Church Of England Aims For 200 New Anglican Schools Over Five Years

Church of England aims for 200 new Anglican schools over five years

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Church of England aims for 200 new Anglican schools over five years

Lady Warsi last month warned of what she called the ‘militant secularisation’ of society. A review into the Church’s role in education now argues Christian culture in schools should be protected against ‘aggressive secularism’. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

At least 200 Anglican primary and secondary schools could be established over the next five years as the Church expands its role in education.

The Church plans to take advantage of the coalition’s academies and free schools reforms, which take schools out of local authority control and places them with parents, firms, charities and faith groups.

A review led by the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, who is also chairman of the Church’s board of education, said the number of Anglican schools – currently 4,800 – could rise to 5,000.

Free school groups and other state schools have already started to approach dioceses because they feel their ethos is similar to that of Anglican schools, the review – The Church School of the Future – states.

The report recommends that in future, dioceses could offer services to schools to replace those previously provided by local authorities until their budgets were cut and their role reduced.

Pritchard also called for the Christian culture and ethos in Anglican schools to be protected “against a rising tide of strident opposition” and the “onset of so-called ‘aggressive secularism’.”

Dr Priscilla Chadwick, a former headteacher who chaired a six-month review that led to the report, added that the public’s“default understanding of Christianity was disappearing”. Last month, the Tory party chairman, Lady Warsi, warned of what she called the “militant secularisation” of society and proposed that Christianity was given a central role in public life.

The Church’s review also warns that ministers are sidelining religious education from the curriculum.

The subject faces “multiple challenges” and the government has“no will” to address them, it argues. The English Baccalaureate, introduced in school league tables last year, recognises pupils who have achieved a grade C or better in English, maths, history or geography, sciences and a language. RE’s absence from the Ebacc is disappointing, and has led to fewer pupils taking the subject, the Church said.

“While the Church of England has received some encouragement to work together with other partners to address some of the issues related to religious education, the responses of the government to these concerns have been disappointing,” its report states.

The Department of Education said pupils still had to study RE up to the age of 18. “It is rightly down to schools themselves to make sure pupils take the exams right for them and decide how much teaching time to devote to RE – not politicians in Whitehall.”

Local Pay Rates Would Create ‘Real Teacher Shortages’, Says Union

Local pay rates would create ‘real teacher shortages’, says union

The Guardian World News |by Hélène Mulholland

Christine Blower

Christine Blower said teachers, trained in the same way and doing the same job, should be paid ‘the rate for the job’. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

One of the country’s largest teaching unions has warned that plans to introduce local pay bargaining in education will lead to “real teacher shortages” in areas where pay is dragged down.

George Osborne, the chancellor, confirmed in his budget statement on Wednesday that he wants to see public sector pay “more responsive to local pay rates” to help the private sector to fill jobs and expand.

But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) warned that any move away nationally set rates for the job would lead to a major shortfall in teachers prepared to work in some parts of the country.

The view is echoed by TUC union umbrella group, which says that moving towards local pay risks complex, costly and inefficient pay-setting for public sector employers as well as regional skills shortages as public servants opt to work in areas where pay rates are higher.

Christine Blower, the NUT general secretary, said the issue will be part of a priority motion being drawn up for the union’s annual conference over Easter, which will bundle together a number of grievances over pay.

Blower said teachers, trained in the same way and doing the same job, should be paid “the rate for the job” and adding that most high performing education systems have national pay scales and there was no evidence that “messing with pay” would improve the system.

The NUT says that national pay scales in teaching serve as a benchmark widely used by independent schools.

Her deputy, Kevin Courtney, said: “Private sector employers don’t use regional pay or local pay by and large – all the research shows that. So the idea that we are now going to impose it on the public sector we think will lead to real teacher shortages in some areas of the country if it actually is implemented.”

The chancellor sent evidence to pay review bodies on Wednesday to make the case for moving to local pay rates. The document suggests a pay “premium” of around 8% exists for those working in the public sector compared with similar jobs in the private sector, and that the public sector “pays more than is necessary” to recruit, retain and motivate staff.

It goes on to say: “The evidence suggests that the quality of public services would directly benefit if public sector pay became more responsive to local labour markets. In places where private sector firms have to compete for workers with public sector employers offering a large pay premium, the introduction of more local, market-facing pay could help private businesses, particularly in some sectors become more competitive and expand.”

But the TUC warns in its own submission to the consultation on local pay that a combination of pay freezes, pay caps and pension contribution increases will already have resulted in public sector workers taking an average 16% real-terms wage cut by 2015, and holding back pay even more will place a real strain on family finances and force them to spend less money in local shops and businesses, hitting the private sector hard.

“Reducing public sector wages by 1% would hit local economies by at least £1.7bn a year,” the TUC submission warns. “This would take nearly £200m out of the north-west economy, for example. Reducing public sector wages year on year would hit local businesses and lead to more business failures and job losses.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “Independent evidence shows that existing differences in local living costs lead to more vacancies for teachers and nurses in some areas. The introduction of more local, market-facing pay could address this while also supporting the expansion of private sector businesses in some areas. We await the proposals from the pay review bodies, which we will consider carefully.”

The latest flashpoint with the government over pay comes as the NUT prepares to debate the prospect of further action over pension changes at its annual conference.

The union took part in last year’s mass walkout on 30 November, and its London members are due to stage a one-day strike next Wednesday as part of the NUT’s continued campaign against the government’s pension plans.

Headteacher Sackings Reach Record High

Headteacher sackings reach record high

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

School maths class

More than 270 school leaders were sacked last year for failing to raise pupils’ results, a survey has found. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A record number of headteachers and deputies were sacked last year, a union has warned, drawing comparisons with the hiring and firing of football managers.

An annual survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) shows that at least 272 school leaders were forced out of their jobs last year for failing to raise pupils’results.

The number has almost trebled in the past five years, from 93 in 2007. It was 163 last year.

ASCL, which represents 80% of secondary headteachers and deputies in England, said school leaders now faced the sack if their school “had a bad season” or didn’t “go up for promotion in the league tables fast enough”.

“It’s all about this season’s results, rather than a long-term view of building up the ‘club’ and developing new talent,” Brian Lightman, general secretary of the union said. Many of the sackings were in academy schools, he added.

“We are not talking about incompetent heads or those fired for misconduct,” Lightman said. “These are overwhelmingly good school leaders who find themselves in difficult schools facing near impossible demands and timescales for improvement. It is perfectly possible to turn around under-performing schools but this does not happen overnight and too often the powers that be have unrealistic expectations about what can be achieved in a short space of time.”

John Howson, director of Data for Education, which analyses teacher recruitment patterns, said the number of assistant headteacher posts in secondary schools had dropped by 20% in the past three years. This would mean fewer teachers would be aiming for headteacher posts in the next few years.

A poll of 1,800 senior teachers has found that half of headteachers would not recommend headship to a colleague and three-quarters of deputy and assistant heads are less likely to want to be promoted than a year ago.

More than half the teachers questioned for the Times Educational Supplement/ASCL survey said they were considering leaving the profession because the government’s education reforms were having a detrimental effect on it.

A separate report by the qualifications regulator has found pupils do better in some subjects if they take their exams at the end of their courses, rather than throughout them.

Ofqual said there was a “noticeable difference” between the grades pupils achieved when they sat English literature, ICT and religious education GCSE exams at the end of the course. High-performing pupils were also more likely to excel in geography GCSE if they took the exam at the end, while the opposite was the case for maths.

Strike Pledge Over School Summer Holiday And Term Changes

Strike pledge over school summer holiday and term changes

BBC |March 22, 2012

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By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News

Attempts to shorten school summer holidays and change terms in England could lead to more regional strike action.

National Union of Teachers members in Nottingham City plan to strike over the issue next Thursday and have asked NUT conference delegates to back them.

Nottingham City Council is planning to move schools to a five-term year with shorter summer holidays.

Meanwhile London teachers are to strike on Wednesday over pension changes.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said the London action was the “next step” in the pensions campaign – but the Department for Education has called the action “irresponsible”.

The Nottingham City members hope support will be given to them at the Easter gathering.

With holiday prices rising dramatically in the summer and at other peak times, some argue that changes to terms could help families get away.

Most state schools in England have three long terms with holidays at Christmas, Easter and in the summer, as well as half-term breaks. The summer break is typically five or six weeks long.

Nottingham City Council says moving to a five-term year will be better for children academically, partly because the summer break will be shorter.

It says pupils can forget some of what they have learned during the summer holidays.

And it says the change would allow parents to book family holidays outside the peak season.

The plan is that from 2013, children would return to school in late August after a month-long break and then have a two-week break in the autumn, at Christmas, in spring and in late May.

There would be a long weekend break at Easter when this fell outside of the fixed spring break.

However, Nottinghamshire County Council is against making a similar change, meaning families in the area might have children with different holidays. It is consulting on the issue.

Longer hours fearUnder Labour, there was much discussion about schools changing their terms to this model.

And now, under the coalition’s academy programme, where schools take on greater independence, schools or groups of schools will have more freedom to vary their days and terms.

This makes the issue more pressing for teaching unions, who want to protect their members’ pay and conditions.

At its annual conference this Easter, NUT delegates will be asked to back a motion which calls for“appropriate industrial action up to and including strike action”where “negotiations to resist imposed changes have failed”.

The motion says the union is concerned that if the school day and year are extended, teachers may be expected to work longer hours for no additional pay.

It says the government wants to lengthen the school year and the school day, and adds that teachers need a long summer break to recharge their batteries.

“Conference is well aware of the long hours already worked by teachers and the essential need for a period of genuine rest and recuperation only found by many in the long summer break,” it says.

But any action would only take place where there were plans to make such changes.

At a media conference on Thursday, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers Christine Blower said: “Teachers and pupils in England and Wales already spend longer in the classroom than others.

“We are not saying we want to decrease the time for teaching.

“One of the things UNICEF finds is that children in the UK are the most unhappy children in the world. That isn’t because they want to be in the classroom for longer.”

She added that she did not think holiday companies would cut the price of summer holidays if terms changed.

“I have no confidence that the travel industry would respond in a philanthropic way,” she said.

The government wants schools to have freedom over when they are open. Some of the new academies and free schools are running classes on Saturdays and have made changes to the school day – such as beginning lessons earlier or finishing later.

Ministers are also concerned about parents taking their children out of school during term-time, saying this can damage a child’s education and leave them struggling to catch up.

A DfE spokesperson said it was down to schools and local authorities to decide their own term dates and holidays – not government.

“The education profession and academics have been debating this issue for years. There is an age-old problem of pupils falling back over the holidays because we’ve got a school year designed for children in the 1900s.

“It’s right that schools draw up term times in the best interests of their pupils. Creating four, five or six term school years is not easy. Heads need to make sure it doesn’t penalise families with children in different schools and get teachers on board.”

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