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Ofsted chief calls for paid school governors

Ofsted chief calls for paid school governors

The Guardian  |February 27, 2013

Sir Michael Wilshaw

Sir Michael Wilshaw has, once again, criticised the professionalism of school governors by asserting that a lack of pay equates to a lack of ability to carry out the role. Whilst not all school governors consistently work effectively for the good of the schools that they serve this should not be used as a stick with which to beat all the hard-working school governors up and down the country. It is also worrying that he is advocating an increased role for so called ‘professionals’ while simultaneously minimising the use of volunteers from the local community.  In a climate of shrinking community volunteer places on boards of governors through the Coalition’s Academies and Free Schools programme this plan will simply further remove local and democratic accountability in the primary and secondary education system. There is far more to running a school than looking at figures on a  report card; using paid governors who have no wider understanding of the school in question and no long-term interest in or knowledge of the local community is not the way forward.


Businesses should order staff to become governors at their local schools, the Ofsted chief inspector has said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said more professionalism was needed among school governors, and again suggested that some should be paid for their work.

His comments came as he announced every primary and secondary school in England would be handed an annual report card detailing their exam results and attendance rates.

The one-page overview would be made available to the public so it could be used by parents to compare schools.

The move came amid concerns by Ofsted that governors need more information to hold their schools to account.

Wilshaw warned some school governors were not up to scratch and would rather spend time “looking at the quality of lunches and not enough on maths and English”.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange in central London on Wednesday, he argued there needed to be a “professional approach” among governing bodies, particularly in the most challenging schools.

He said: “Of course there will always be a place for the volunteer and those from the community who want to support their local school. That will always be the case. But where there is a lack of capacity and where there are few volunteers without the necessary skills, we need to consider radical solutions.

“I have said it before and I will say it again, we should not rule out payment to governors with the necessary expertise to challenge and support schools with a long legacy of under-performance.”

Wilshaw said he wanted to issue a challenge to the public and private sectors to encourage their best people to get involved in school governance.

“For example, all large and medium-sized companies could insist that their senior and middle managers join the governing bodies of local schools. I believe Rolls-Royce strongly encourage their managers to do this.”

The new report card – the school data dashboard – will give information on how well a school is performing in test and exam results, as well as attendance, compared with other similar schools.

Ofsted said it would publish the documents, updated annually, for more than 20,000 state primary and secondary schools.

Wilshaw said governors should have access to the right information to understand and challenge their school, with no excuses for those that fail to do so.

“The school data dashboard I am launching today raises the stakes,” he said. “Many governors know their school well already. But for those that don’t, there are now no excuses. Inspectors will be very critical of governing bodies who, despite the dashboard, still don’t know their school well enough.”

The 6,000 schools currently considered less than good by Ofsted usually have issues with their leadership, including governors, Wilshaw said.

“Poor governance focuses on the marginal rather than the key issues. In other words, too much time spent looking at the quality of school lunches and not enough on maths and English.”

Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “It is absolutely right that governors and parents should hold schools to account, and access to data is a part of this.

“However, all data, especially ‘simple’ statistics, comes with a health warning. It should encourage people to ask more questions, not to draw premature conclusions. Reciting statistics about how a school is performing is much different from really understanding its strong points and areas for development.”

The last Labour government set out proposals for a US-style report card in a white paper published in 2009. Under the plans, every school was to be ranked on a number of measures and given a final overall grade. The proposals were scrapped after the last election.


Teacher numbers fall by 10,000 in a year in England

Teacher numbers fall by 10,000 in a year in England

BBC |April 25, 2012

By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News

The number of teachers in England’s state school system fell by 10,000 in the year to November, new figures show.

Government data on the school workforce shows teacher numbers have dropped for the first time in years.

Ministers say three quarters of the reduction is among teachers employed directly by local councils – for example as tutors or schools advisors.

The head teachers’ body ASCL says budget pressure means heads are making difficult decisions to cut staff.

The drop of 10,000 is 2% of the full-time equivalent teaching posts in England’s schools.

Teacher numbers had been growing steadily in recent years, increasing by 32,000 (7.9%) between spring 2000 and November 2011.

The total number working in England’s state school system is now 438,000 – a fall of 10,000 from 2010, a workforce survey taken in November shows.

Meanwhile, numbers of teaching assistants in schools have almost trebled since 2000, rising to 219,800 in November 2011.

Academy expansion

A government spokesman said most of the reduction in teacher numbers was due to the loss of teachers from council posts and this was related to more schools becoming academies.

When schools become academies they are generally less closely linked to local authorities and may choose to “buy in” or provide for themselves services previously organised by local councils.

Under the expanding academy programme, schools are funded directly by central government and are given extra money which would have previously have been spent on their behalf by councils.

Among other things, councils would have spent the cash on tutors for sick or excluded pupils, or on “super teachers” who might help to train or advise teachers in schools.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said head teachers were feeling pressure on their budgets and were having to make difficult decisions.

“This [fall in teacher numbers] will be mostly explained by a fall in school budgets,” he told BBC News.

“In recent years, there has been more funding to bring people in for intervention work, but heads now have to reduce that.

“We are picking up from a lot of school leaders that they have to reduce staff. It is obviously worrying.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “The main reason for the drop in teacher numbers is because local authorities do not need to directly employ as many teachers, because more schools are becoming academies.

“Schools though are free to organise themselves as they see fit- they are best placed to make these decisions without undue or unnecessary influence from government. Head teachers are best placed to use their professional judgement to decide the most appropriate staffing structure for their school, including what role support staff play.”

The general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, said the census showed the “huge loss in teaching expertise and local authority support” that was occurring as a result of the government’s “disastrous cuts agenda”.

“Centrally employed teaching staff are very important to many aspects of teaching and learning from music lessons to SEN support,” she said.

Head teachers’ pay

The government’s data also shows there are about 700 state school leaders earning more than £100,000 a year in England. About 200 of those earn more than £110,000 a year.

The average salary of a school leader in England’s state schools is £55,500, according to the survey, which was carried out in November.

And 1,600 school leaders earned less than £40,000 last year; they were mostly in primary or nursery schools.

On average, a classroom teacher earned £34,400 a year.

Fewer than half of state school teachers encourage Oxbridge applications

Fewer than half of state school teachers encourage Oxbridge applications

The Guardian World News

Oxford University's access programmes are being ignored by some state school teachers

57% of students admitted to Oxbridge are from state schools. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Fewer than half of state school teachers would advise bright pupils to apply to the UK’s top universities, and the numbers are falling, research suggests.

The Sutton Trust, which commissioned the study, said it was deeply concerning that the majority of teachers would not encourage gifted students to apply to Oxford and Cambridge.

It said more needed to be done in schools to “dispel the myths” about the two elite institutions and other leading universities.

The study, which questioned 730 state secondary school teachers as part of the Teacher Voice Omnibus which regularly surveys teachers’views, found that just 44% would encourage their gifted students to consider Oxford or Cambridge, down from 50% five years ago.

A breakdown of the findings shows that 16% of teachers always encourage their academically gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge, while 28% say they usually do.

The survey also reveals that many state school teachers underestimate the proportion of pupils from state schools that study at Oxford or Cambridge.

Of the 86% that gave an answer, more than half (55%) said it was less than 30%, while just 7% said over half of the UK students at Oxbridge were from the state sector. Around 14% said they did not know.

In reality, 57% of students admitted to Oxbridge are from state schools, the Sutton Trust said.

The trust’s chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, said: “It is deeply concerning that the majority of state school teachers are not encouraging their brightest children to apply to Oxford and Cambridge.

“It is also worrying that almost all state school teachers, even the most senior school leaders, think that Oxbridge is dominated by public schools.”

He added: “The sad consequence of these findings is that Oxford and Cambridge are missing out on talented students in state schools, who are already under-represented at these institutions based on their academic achievements. We need to do much more to dispel the myths in schools about Oxbridge and other leading universities.”

These universities also needed to ensure they were accessible to bright students, regardless of background, Sir Peter said.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said pupils needed good careers advice from independent, qualified advisers.

“We agree that young people should be made aware of the opportunities available to them, which is why we have been so concerned about the removal of national funding for face-to-face careers guidance by a qualified adviser,” he said.

“This should be an entitlement for all students. Applying to Oxbridge is only one of many appropriate routes for our brightest young people. There are many good universities in the UK and other excellent employment-based routes into top careers, all of which are available to high-calibre applicants from all backgrounds. Social mobility is about far more than entry to Oxbridge.”

Lightman said teachers were not careers advisers and may not know, or have experience of, Oxbridge and their admissions processes.

Work experience ‘needs more than parent networking’

Work experience ‘needs more than parent networking’

BBC |April 19, 2012

By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent

The quality of teenagers’ work experience is strongly linked to future careers but must rely on more than just their parents’ connections, a heads and employers report says.

It calls for the potential of work experience to be better used to broaden pupils’ horizons.

Head teachers’ leader Brian Lightman says he has seen young people “transformed” by good work experience.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling says placements have a“significant impact”

The report from the Education and Employers Taskforce and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and with a foreword by Mr Lightman, says work experience makes a big difference to the career paths of young people.

As such it argues that this importance needs to be reflected in a more systematic approach, which does not rely on the networking skills of parents and friends.

Unfair advantage

The report, Work Experience – Impact and Delivery, Insights from the Evidence, says that a better organised work experience system would deliver much better outcomes.

“The problem is that half of placements are found by young people or by their families using largely existing social networks,” says the report.

As such, it warns that the potential value of work experience in raising expectations and improving social mobility can be“wasted”.

The importance of work experience has risen in a tight jobs market – with worries that it can be used as a way of giving an unfair advantage to well connected families.

Those arguing for an improved system say they want to make sure work experience opens new doors rather than reinforces old divisions.

The report says that work experience which relies on informal networks is not “equitably accessed”.

For example, it questions how children growing up in workless families are going to gain work experience, if it depends on family links with workplaces.

Job boost

Good work experience helps young people understand the jobs market and reduces the risk of youngsters becoming so-called“Neets” – not in education, employment or training, it adds.

It also helps young people improve their applications and chances of getting a place in university.

The report also claims that more than two-thirds of head teachers said pupils were more motivated when they returned from work experience.

But it warns that changes to work experience entitlement mean that many schools are considering moving away from organising work experience for some teenagers.

“Traditionally at this time of year more than 500,000 15 year olds are returning from their Easter holidays planning to do a two-week, summer-term placement with an employer,” said Nick Chambers, director of the Education and Employers Taskforce.

“However, work experience is undergoing major change, perhaps the most significant for a generation.

“These changes are being driven by the government encouraging work experience for older pupils aged 16-19, repealing the statutory requirement to work-related learning at Key Stage 4 [14 to 16 year olds] and schools now having to bear the full costs of organising it.”

Brian Lightman, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, said work experience could have a very positive impact on young people.

“However, this does not always happen automatically. Effective work experience placements need proper planning and need to be matched to the needs of students.”

Employment Minister Chris Grayling also emphasised the value of work experience for future job chances.

“I strongly support the concept of work experience because of the significant impact it can have on job prospects for young people through giving them an insight into the world of work, together with practical skills and knowledge based in a real world environment,” said Mr Grayling.

Should teachers dissuade bright pupils from becoming hairdressers?

Should teachers dissuade bright pupils from becoming hairdressers?

The Guardian World News

Hairdresser at work cutting customers hair

Students told inspectors they were not given good advice when considering apprenticeships in hair salons. Photograph: Mark Fairey/Alamy

Should teachers dissuade their brightest pupils from becoming hairdressers? According to Ofsted, teachers sometimes“deride” pupils for opting to leave school and work as apprentices in beauty salons or hairdressers.

Inspectors questioned 105 young people for a report on apprenticeships published on Wednesday. They found “several examples of bright young people who felt they had been derided by their teachers for wanting to progress to work-based learning, particularly in care or hairdressing, rather than stay on at school”.

One very skilled hairdressing apprentice told inspectors that upon excitedly telling her headteacher that she had received an offer of an apprenticeship with a top hairstylist, the head said to her: “Why on earth do you want to waste your time doing that?”

Right or wrong, is it any surprise that this is happening? From 2014, the government will measure schools according to the proportion of their pupils who go to university. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says the coalition government has already put teachers under “very great pressure to focus on academic, rather than vocational, subjects”.

On the other hand, the Education Act 2011, which came into force in November, places schools under a duty to give impartial careers advice to pupils. This advice must include information on all post-16 education and training options, including apprenticeships.

This doesn’t appear to be happening in several schools, according to Ofsted’s report. Many of the young people the inspectors talked to said the advice they had received on apprenticeships was “unsatisfactory”. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, teachers were apparently happier to give help on options that involved further study in school or college.

Schools also came in for criticism over work experience placements, which are particularly important for teenagers considering an apprenticeship. They help students decide whether they enjoy a line of work and enable employers to see whether those on work experience have the potential to be hired as apprentices in future years.

Schools cram work experience into one or two weeks at the end of the academic year, the inspectors complained. This short time period meant employers were limited in how many placements they offered. Schools should “improve the local co-ordination of work experience so that willing employers can respond to more requests for such experience across a wider timeframe,” the inspectors said.

But there is a good reason why they can’t do this: they’d be unable to accommodate GCSE exams if they did. Sometimes, it seems, schools just can’t win.

Gove Tells Head Teachers School Reforms Need To Be Accelerated

Gove Tells Head Teachers School Reforms Need To Be Accelerated

BBC |March 24, 2012

By Judith Burns BBC News, in Birmingham
Education Secretary Michael Gove has told head teachers the pace of school reform in England needs to accelerate. Speaking to the Association of School and College Leaders, Mr Gove said: “Over the next ten years the world we inhabit will change massively.”

He said education would need to keep pace as technology changed“how we teach and how students learn”.

But ASCL general secretary, Brian Lightman, said he feared schools could not take an accelerated pace of change.

Mr Gove told head teachers meeting in Birmingham: “Lest anyone think we have reached a point where we should slacken the pace of reform – let me reassure them – we have to accelerate”.

More flexibility

He said the education system should equip young people for all the challenges and opportunities of the changing world.

“Over the next ten years the world we inhabit will change massively,” he said.

“Technology will change out of recognition, millions more will go to university, the number of low-skilled jobs will fall, with more reward for those with good qualifications.”

Afterwards, from the conference stage, Mr Lightman told Mr Gove: “I worry about your wish to accelerate reform.

“We all know as leaders that we need to consider one very important issue before we implement any reform in our own schools, and that’s capacity.

“I think there’s a real issue of capacity in lots of our schools, and actually, by accelerating the reform too much, you actually prevent us from doing it properly.”

Mr Gove told the conference that heads were key to implementing change and to the overall success of the education system.

He praised several head teachers and schools for their outstanding achievements and said: “We have the best generation of young teachers ever in our schools. We have the best generation of heads ever in our schools. And our whole school system is good, with many outstanding features.”

But he added: “We have for generations failed to stretch every child to the limit of their ability – and we have for all our lifetimes, failed the poorest most of all.”

He said there was a lack of “rooted determination in some quarters to make all schools excellent”.

‘Negative messages’In questions to Mr Gove after the speech, the reaction was muted. A head from Crewe, Martin Kerridge, said the effect of constant announcements and reviews from government was of accelerating pace and uncertain direction.

Another head spoke of sustained pay freezes and negative messages from government leading to low staff morale.

In response to a question, Mr Gove hinted he would be in favour of a relaxation of Ofsted’s plan for no-notice inspections.

England’s schools inspectors had been planning on moving to no-notice inspections because of claims that they do not get a true picture of schools if notice is given.

“I know that there is a lot to be said for the principle that if you are going to have an inspection at no notice then it should actually be at short notice,” Mr Gove said.

“I think a head teacher would want to be in their school in order to greet the inspector; I think they would like to know the afternoon or evening before.”

He added: “I’m leaving that judgment to the chief inspector, because he’s independent,” which drew laughter from head teachers.

Mr Gove also said that a poll by the union and the Times Educational Supplement, which suggested that half of heads were considering quitting, had given him pause for thought.

However, speaking to journalists outside the conference hall, Mr Gove said the poll had not reached a majority of school leaders.

And his response to the union’s concerns about the pace of change was robust.

“If people say ‘It’s all just a bit too much’, my view is ‘man up!’”, he said.

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.

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