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Primary education in Northern Ireland Peter McAllister on the curriculum changes at the heart of primary school success




Changes to employment law are bad news for workers’ rights

The Aspect Group speaks up for the professions involved in education and children’s services

A subterranean struggle is taking place in the Coalition over league tables






An emerging consensus regards the middle tier as key to the local drive to raise school standards, reports Nick Wright

Leslie Manasseh explains the rules changes which will be tabled at the union’s biennial general meeting Mervyn Wilson argues that co-operative principles are ideal for education

Community hero youngsters meet football heroes

David Smith looks at Ofsted’s survey of education and disadvantage over two decades

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NEWS Admission ‘unfair’ Academy sex education probe TUC guest arrested by Colombian secret police Poor children after 50 years

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Regulars 04













ASPECT RULES, OK! Leslie Manasseh explains the rules changes which will be tabled at the union’s biennial general meeting.


CO-OPERATION Mervyn Wilson argues that co-operative principles are ideal for education


BRIDGING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP David Smith looks at Ofsted’s



McAllister on the context of the curriculum changes at the heart of Northern Ireland’s primary school success



AN EXIT OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE? Changes to employment

law are bad news for workers’ rights



consensus regards the middle tier as key to the local drive to raise school standards, reports Nick Wright



01 New Terrain – New Models of Education and Children’s Services Delivery

Improvement is the quarterly magazine from the Aspect Group of Prospect. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior permission of the Aspect Group. The Aspect Group cannot accept any liability for any insert or classified advertisement included in this publication. While every reasonable care is taken to ensure that all advertisers are reliable and reputable, the Aspect Group can give no assurance that they will fulfil their obligation under all circumstances. The views expressed in Improvement are the contributors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Aspect Group policy. Official policy statements issued on behalf of the Group are indicated as such. All information correct at the time of going to press.

survey of education and disadvantage over two decades


FOOTBALL JOY Community hero youngsters meet football heroes

ANNUAL REPORT The Aspect Group speaks up for the professions involved in education and children’s services

02 Improving Children’s Services: Lessons from European Social Pedagogy

03 Learning – The Key to Integrated Services

Improvement magazine is published by the Aspect Group of Prospect in partnership with Archant Dialogue Ltd


Email: ADVERTISING Lisa Marrison

04 National Standards for Educational Improvement Professionals

05 United Minds, United Purpose: A Charter for Modern Professionalism in Children’s Services


International House, Turner Way, Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF2 8EF Tel: 01924 207890 Fax: 01924 369717 email: website: COVER PICTURE: West Belfast primary children

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autumn 2013 | Improvement | 3


Think nationally, plan locally IN THIS ISSUE, we report on the LGA’s dire warning

“ It is somewhere between a tragedy and a farce that approximately one third of free schools funded by the taxpayer are opening in areas where there is already a surplus of places ”

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about the imminent shortage of places in primary schools across the country. By 2015, almost half of schools will have more pupils than places – with some facing shortfalls of 20 per cent. Let’s be clear what this means. Many thousands of children will not get the start in their school life that they deserve. Many thousands of parents will not be able to choose a school for their children. Many classes will be overcrowded. Many schools will have to use unsuitable accommodation. Many teachers will be overstretched and teaching standards could suffer. And, almost certainly, it will be within communities already suffering from various forms of disadvantage that these problems will be most keenly felt. Far from meeting ambitions about a good education for every child, parental choice and a range of opportunities for all, there will be a large group of children whose primary school life is blighted from the word go. There is no better demonstration of the discriminatory and divisive impact of the Coalition Government’s education policy than the LGA’s stark forecast. And the Government’s response? To sidestep the real issue, introduce every statement with the standard “It’s all the fault of Labour” and claim that the answer lies in free schools. In the world according to Michael Gove, the market will magically provide – offering choice and quality for all. But schools are not the same as pop-up burger bars. They do not appear overnight, fully formed and ready to go. One does not have to believe in Soviet-style command and control to understand the benefits of planning, and planning has to be done locally. It may not be fully scientific, but at least it can be systematic and ongoing. Mapping demographic trends, monitoring supply and demand, checking on the state of school buildings and teaching resources are all essential ingredients in the process of providing a good education for all. Free schools and academies approved directly by the Secretary of State throw a huge spanner into these works and make an already difficult job practically impossible. As resources and responsibilities are progressively taken away from local authorities, it seems that many can only wring their hands from the sidelines. It is somewhere between a tragedy and a farce that approximately one third of free schools funded by the taxpayer are opening in areas where there is already a surplus of places. Meanwhile, 15 local authorities expect to face a shortfall of at least 10 per cent in less than two years. We should, therefore, applaud the LGA for

speaking out in such robust terms about this looming scandal and the Government should not be let off the hook with simplistic protestations about providing £5bn to fund school places. Money is a key part of the issue, but it is not the whole story. Schools and classrooms also have to be in the right places. Of the 15 local authorities in most need, nine are in London – yet just seven of the 91 primary free schools opening this month are in London. Just as schools cannot be created overnight, so the damage being inflicted on the capacity of local authorities will take some time to repair. Cutting them to the bone risks the permanent loss of expertise and the kind of local infrastructure which enables genuine community engagement in schools. It is no surprise that the LGA warning is accompanied by a call for the DfE to work more closely with local authorities. Of course there were problems under the old regime – there always will be in large organisations trying to address complex issues – and few people believe that the education clock can be rewound completely, but local authorities are well placed to be part of the solution to the coming crisis. More effective than glamorous maybe, but then pragmatism rather than dogma often is. Leslie Manasseh


Friday November 8, 2013 – 2pm Leicester Marriott Hotel The general meeting is open to full current members of the Aspect Group of Prospect. Those attending will receive information about activities undertaken in the previous year and receive and vote upon motions which will help shape the Group’s policies. If you are interested in attending the meeting or would like to receive further information, please email or telephone the Aspect Group of Prospect on 01924 207890.


NCB: “50 years on and poorer children are still born to fail” Britain compares badly with other developed nations while a lack of ambition for children growing up in this country causes children to suffer unnecessarily and risks these patterns of disadvantage becoming a permanent feature, says the National Children’s Bureau. In a report published in August, the NCB called for urgent action to address the poverty and disadvantage that still wreak havoc on children’s lives, causing them to lag far behind their more affluent peers in almost all areas of their lives from health to education, early development to housing. Greater Expectations compares data on different aspects of children’s lives today with a ground-breaking national cohort study of 11-year-olds published in 1973. It finds that significantly more children grow up in poverty today (3.5m compared to 2m) and these children suffer devastating consequences throughout their lives, including: A child from a disadvantaged background is still far less likely to achieve a good level of development at age four, to achieve well at school age 11 and do well in their GCSEs at 16 compared to a child from the most well-off backgrounds Boys living in deprived areas are three times more likely to be obese than boys growing up in affluent areas and girls are twice as likely Children living in deprived areas are much more likely to be the victim of an unintentional injury/accident in the home and are nine times less likely than those living in affluent areas to have access to green space, places to play and to live in environments with better air quality Greater Expectations goes on to compare our children’s quality of life with other industrialised countries and finds that, if the UK was the best place to grow up: Almost one million children could be lifted out of poverty The deaths of 172 children through unintentional injuries alone could be prevented every year 320,000 more 15- to 19-year-olds would be in education or training Nearly 45,000 fewer 11-year-olds would be obese A staggering 770,000 fewer children under five would be living in poor housing conditions

NCB Chief Executive Dr Hilary Emery says: “Our analysis shows that, despite some improvements, the inequality and disadvantage suffered by poorer children 50 years ago still persists today. There is a real risk that we are sleepwalking as a nation into a world where children grow up in a state of social apartheid, with poor children destined to experience hardship and disadvantage just by accident of birth and their more affluent peers unaware of their existence. “All our children should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential regardless of their circumstances. We cannot afford to let them grow up in such an unequal ‘them and us’ society in which the talents of the next generation are wasted, leaving them cut adrift to become a costly burden to the economy rather than a productive asset. “This is a critical moment of opportunity to tackle the child poverty and inequality that has been a permanent feature in our country for five decades. Government has a major role to play in leading the way to address this, but there must also be a wider mobilisation of efforts and resources led by politicians from every party and involving charities, businesses and communities all playing a part in having greater expectations for every child.” The National Children’s Bureau is calling for the creation of a central government board with full ministerial representation, tasked with the development and implementation of a cross-government strategy to reduce the inequality and disadvantage children and young people face today. In order to underpin progress, the National Children’s Bureau recommends that the Office for Budget Responsibility discloses the impact that each Budget would have on child poverty and inequality in a report published alongside the Chancellor’s annual statement. In addition, parliament and civil society should create a common set of indicators to annually hold government to account and provide the basis for a shared vision of what we want to achieve for all our children. More information and video at


DfE to probe academy sex education A Department of Education pledge to urgently investigate the sex education curriculum content of dozens of academies accused of anti-gay prejudice has been welcomed by the Personal Social Health and Economic Education Association. Governors in 40-plus schools identified as implementing sex education guidelines that ban teachers from “intentionally promoting” homosexuality are accused of endorsing policies that echo the infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act introduced under Margaret Thatcher, which was repealed by Labour. The PSHE Association said: “All schools, whatever their status, have legal duties (including those under the Equalities Act 2010) to ensure that they cater for

all pupils, irrespective of disability, educational needs, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, gender, religion or sexual orientation or whether they are looked after children. The overarching principle of education should be to ensure the present and future wellbeing of all pupils at all times and to meet their learning needs. Direct or implied prejudice in any school policy, either by accident or by design, is clearly incompatible with these basic principles and should be immediately addressed.” Secular campaign group the British Humanist Association said it had found 44 schools that were “overly vague” on the issue or replicated Section 28. Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg said: “Michael Gove must intervene to ensure

that all schools obey their duties under the Equality Act. “Labour got rid of Section 28 in 2003 to ensure that schools taught about homosexuality in an open and honest way. Homophobic bullying is still too common in schools – we must ensure that we redouble our efforts to tackle such prejudice.” The Department for Education (DfE) said that all schools can draw up their own sex education policy, but that they must ensure they do not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. “What these schools have done by singling out homosexuality is unacceptable,” said the DfE. PSHE ASSOCIATION

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News in brief Hypothetical freedoms


Half of parents would not send the children to a private school even if it were free. According to a survey by YouGov, parents in Scotland and Wales have the highest loyalty to state education, with 62 per cent most likely to stay. London parents were the least likely – 35 percent would remain even though London state schools record the greatest school improvement figures in the country. The survey asked whether they would send their children to private schools if fees were removed from the equation. Almost a third said they would, compared to just under 10 per cent who actually do so. More than four out of five parents who said they would send their children to private schools said private schools provided better education and more than half cited better teachers. Better networking opportunities for their children were cited by 52 per cent. More than a third, 37 per cent, said it was the duty of the government to provide good quality education for all the nation’s children.

London Oratory admissions criteria ‘unfair’

Walk your brain A survey of Spanish teenagers seems to show that a student’s cognitive performance may be enhanced if they walk to school. Research by the University of Granada, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Zaragoza and the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid discovered a link between physical activity and performance in class. During adolescence, the research authors say “the plasticity of the brain is greater than at any other time of life, which makes it the opportune period to stimulate cognitive function”. However this is also the period of life where physical activity declines the most too, and this is greatest in girls. They argue that inactive adolescents could be missing out on a very important stimulus to improve their learning and cognitive performance.

Secularism rules, OK French Education Minister Vincent Peillon has proposed that schools should provide a forum for school students to debate ‘secular morality’ for an hour every week. This follows an earlier scheme for schools to post a nationwide ‘secular charter’ to remind student and teachers of republican and secular values. Philippe Tournier, Secretary-General of France’s union of headteachers, told Europe 1 radio he welcomed the secularism charter in principle, but worried about its implementation. “The intentions are absolutely positive, but the essential thing still remains – putting into force what [the charter] affirms,” he said.

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The Office of the Schools Adjudicator has ordered the London Oratory School to comprehensively rewrite its admissions criteria after identifying 10 separate breaches of the School Admissions Code. The determination follows on from a complaint made by the British Humanist Association (BHA) alleging that the school was prioritising parents who would practically support the Catholic Church (for example, by doing flower arranging and, therefore, engaging in social selection) in a manner not permitted by the school’s Diocese and did not appear to allow for the admittance of pupils from families with no religion (if the school was not sufficiently oversubscribed). Since making the complaint, the BHA has helped launch the Fair Admissions Campaign, which has welcomed the ruling. As well as agreeing with all of the main points of the BHA’s complaint, the adjudicator determined that the school’s

admissions criteria are also unfair, are not easily understood and breach the Code in a number of other ways including asking to see predicted GCSE results, asking to see birth certificates and giving priority to pupils attending Catholic primary schools without naming specific feeder schools. BHA education campaigner Richy Thompson commented: “This statefunded school is one of the most socio-economically selective in the country, taking in below 20 per cent as many pupils requiring free school meals as live in the area in which it is based. The degree to which the school’s admissions criteria enabled social engineering to take place was appalling and we are very pleased that these parts must now all be removed. “We hope that the school will think carefully about how it can redraft its criteria in a way which does not select children from wealthy families but is inclusive of all, regardless of social standing.”


Capital cash crisis for school places London councils have accused the government of failing to adequately fund much-needed new school places. An analysis by the capital’s umbrella body, London Councils, says local authorities are spending £9,000 on every pupil to make up for the government funding shortfall. The capital needs 83, 470 school places to be created between 2014 and 2017 – equivalent to 151 full-size football pitches. Between 2010 and September 2013, boroughs created more than 46,039 school places – equivalent to 1,535 classrooms. “Councils are pulling out all the stops to create places but London’s rising population, particularly at school age, means they are running to stand still. Frankly, this is just not sustainable,” said Cllr Peter John, London Councils’ Executive Member for Children’s Services.

“Families will rightly be asking why the government isn’t doing more to avoid putting pupils’ education at risk. Councils need sufficient funding to do this job and can’t simply be left to pick up the tab.” While other regions are also facing pressures to create additional places, the problem is most acute in London. The analysis notes that London accounts for 42 per cent of the future school places need. However, the government has only provided London with 36 per cent of the funding shortfall – leaving local authorities to pick up the shortfall in order to provide each child a school place. Councils spending £9,000 per pupil picking up costs of government’s school places crisis:


Frances O’Grady – September 10, 2013


TUC sets out plan for growth “Restore the goal of full employment and give young people ‘a cast-iron job guarantee’ is our goal,” said Frances O’Grady, in her first address as TUC General Secretary. Opening with a sharply worded analysis of Britain’s economy, she said: “If we’ve learned anything since the financial crash, then it’s this: politics is too important to be left to the politicians. People don’t need us to tell them how tough life is for them. They want to hear the alternative. They want hope. And they want action. “It was five years ago this month that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in New York, citing debt of more than $600 billion – a price tag on obscene greed and monumental stupidity that sent shock waves around the world.” But the roots of the crash go deeper still, she said – more than three decades to the election of Margaret Thatcher’s government when the Right set out to break the post-war consensus. “Once, it seemed everyone agreed that the State should provide decent public services and social security as a human shield against boombust capitalism. Everyone saw the value of a mixed economy that put the brakes on private monopolies and guaranteed a public realm.” But no longer. What followed became the articles of a new economic faith, with a fire sale of public assets, deregulation of the City and weaker worker rights.

Frances O’Grady mocked Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Chancellor George Osborne for leading Britain down the road to economic ruin. Australian spin doctor Lynton Crosby has been hired by the Tories to attack immigrants, benefit claimants and unions to make up for their failures. She said: “I know Conservatives are fond of referring to PR man Lynton Crosby as their very own Wizard of Oz. But what does that make Cameron, Osborne and Clegg? “When it comes to the vision for a new economy, they are the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion – no brain, no heart, no courage.” Osborne had slashed infrastructure investment, hurt homegrown manufacturers by handing contracts to the lowest bidder and failed to build affordable homes. “The government is rehearsing the same old arguments, repeating the same old mistakes, rehashing the same old busy model of an economy built on sand,” said Ms O’Grady. In contrast, the general secretary set out the trade union’s “popular programme that can inspire voter confidence”. Restoring the goal of full employment and a “cast-iron jobs guarantee for the young” was top of her proposed general election pledge card along with a million new council and affordable homes, fairer pay and the restoration of the NHS as a truly public service.


TUC delegates back key role for local authorities A well-funded state education system that supports all children was backed by delegates representing millions of Britain’s trade unionists. The 2013 Trades Union Congress put on record the key role played by local authorities in providing a democratically accountable comprehensive education service for all and went on to oppose measures which would give undue control to unrepresentative individuals or business interests, fragment “coherent and harmonious comprehensive education” or act as vehicle for privatisation and marketisation. Attacking the Conservatives for wanting to turn English schoolchildren into cash cows in for-profit schools, Beth Davies from the NUT said more than half of secondary schools and more than 1,000 primary schools were being run by academy trusts – charities that have been set up by private companies. Public land and assets are being handed over to academy trusts while free schools are eating up a disproportionate amount of the education budget at a time when other schools are trying to balance their budgets, she said, and Education Secretary Michael Gove will “allow schools to be run for profit” if the Government is returned in the 2015 election. Alison Sharratt for the ATL said Michael Gove’s national curriculum meddling would result in children learning “facts for pub quizzes”. Delegates condemned the Education Secretary for ignoring expert opinion and

regretted the lost opportunity for a broad and balanced curriculum which includes not only academic subjects but the understandings, skills and behaviours which will equip young people to become successful citizens and workers, and prepare them for apprenticeships and employment. Larry Flanagan from the Educational Institute of Scotland spelled out the distinctive features of Scotland’s education system. There is a huge political consensus around comprehensive schooling, he said, and teachers were not regarded as obstacles or enemies while there was a sense of social partnership around shared aims. To laughter, he said “Mr Gove is one of Scotland’s less successful exports” and should not be repatriated in the event of independence. Delegates gave strong support for teaching assistants under attack, with Brian Sutton from the GMB sharply critical of the present government’s actions in dismantling the education workforce machinery. “These are not a collection of mums cleaning out paint pots, they are vital professionals providing a valuable service,” he said. Labour leader Ed Miliband told delegates: “We have been absolutely clear we are not going to have new free schools under a Labour Government.” More than half of free schools had been opened in areas of surpluses, he said.

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Ed psychs backed over training A powerful speech by educational psychologist John Drewicz for the AEP supported the Children and Families Bill and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Pathfinder Projects in seeking to improve joined-up working between professionals who provide services for children and young people. However, he was sharply critical that there were “no secure, long-term arrangements in place to fund the initial training

of educational psychologists”. “Our work helps improve learning and developmental and welfare outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the education system,” he said. The government should guarantee long-term funding for the initial training of educational psychologists and ensure there is sufficient to meet the growing needs of local authorities,

schools and students. Former Aspect president Mike Hardacre – speaking for Prospect – said the failure to guarantee funding would make it difficult to operate the new Education, Health and Care Plans. The bill is typical of the Government's approach, he said: “The failure to put in place funding arrangements is the action of a snivelling, mean-minded government.”


Ofsted: ‘A damaged brand’ REPRESSION

TUC guest arrested by Colombian secret police British trade union leaders have protested at the arrest of a Colombian trade unionist by secret police two weeks before he was due to address the TUC Congress in Bournemouth. Colombia agricultural workers union FENSUAGRO Vice-President Huber Ballesteros was held on a charge of ‘rebellion’ by intelligence officers in the capital Bogota. Agents for the right-wing government swooped at 3.30pm local time on Sunday. Just hours before he was due to visit the British embassy for a visa to attend the annual trade union parliament, the secret police took him into custody. Huber Ballesteros is a key figure in the opposition and a leader of the Patriotic March coalition, and is active in the massive strike movement shaking the right-wing regime. A target for death squads, he travels with armed bodyguards. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has demanded his release. “We know that since August 19, 2013, various trade unions have been engaged in strike action and that Huber, in addition to his roles in the CUT and FENSUAGRO (which are both involved

8 | Improvement | autumn 2013

in the strikes), is one of 10 spokespersons in the Mesa de Interlocución y Acuerdo (MIA), the body set up to negotiate with the government,” she said in a letter to the Colombian ambassador. “We are outraged and disappointed to see what appears to be the old tactic of imprisoning highprofile civil society leaders by alleging involvement with terrorist groups being used again.” Colombia has been described as the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. The nationwide strike in Colombia started as a rural peasant movement and now includes miners, teachers, medical professionals, truckers and students. Twenty thousand people blocked roads in protests against privatisation, poverty and free trade deals with the US and the EU. Mariela Kohon, from the British trade union-backed Justice for Colombia, said Mr Ballesteros’s arrest was “an act of intimidation against the strikers”. She said: “What we fear is that this is the start of a witch-hunt of all the leaders of the opposition and the trade union movement.”

The role of Ofsted was at the centre of a controversy with a motion from the ATL which characterised Ofsted as “a damaged brand”. ATL wanted Congress to record its distress at the suicide of an ATL member, where the coroner had accepted that the prospect of an Ofsted inspection of the school she led was a factor. Delegates gave the speaker a sympathetic hearing and applauded the agreement to remit the motion to the TUC general council. The union had called for all political parties to review their policies for the quality assurance of schools and colleges – replacing a centralised and politicised agency with local arrangements for accountability and institutional improvement.


The Aspect Group has moved to: Aspect Group of Prospect, International House, TurnerWay, Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF2 8EF Tel:01924 207890 Fax:01924 369717 Email:


Taking stock Taking stock The Aspect Group’s biennial general meeting in November gives the union’s members and leadership an opportunity to consider the vastly changed terrain in which education and children’s services professionals work. The gathering always provides a forum for informed discussion of trends in opinion and practice. This year, it will be empowered to make the necessary changes to our working practices, constitutional arrangements and services provision that better reflect the situation we are in. Improvement will report on the meeting in the Winter edition. This issue contains the annual report and details of rule changes.

Top ranking in the North An earlier report in Improvement set the remarkable progress made by children in Northern Ireland’s primary schools in the wider context of comparisons with other countries, including Britain and even international pace setters like Finland. This sparked an interest in the nuts and bolts of the processes, pedagogical and political, that have resulted in such advance. In this issue, Peter McAllister, our union’s Council representative from the Six Counties, takes a clear-eyed view of the contradictions and paradoxes, problems and shortcomings of education in Northern Ireland as well as the clear achievements.

A policy begins to take shape Labour is beginning to get a grip on the education debate. For a while, it seemed that the dismantling of the Department for Families, Children and Schools, the dissolution of the last Government’s thicket of national, consultative and advisory structures and the disaggregation of the vital middle tier – combined with Michael Gove’s audacious hijacking of the academies initiative – had left the opposition mute. Under Andy Burnham’s brief interlude as shadow education secretary, there was a hint that the comprehensive principle could become, once again, a stronger thread in Labour’s thinking. In recent weeks, his successor Stephen Twigg has begun to shape a more coherent approach to the controversies that surround the Coalition Government’s policies. Now that David Blunkett has been asked to consult widely and recommend on how a Labour Government would bring

“entitlement, accountability and a positive approach to raising standards back on to the agenda”, the union has a chance to help shape an alternative policy to that pursued by the current government.

Helping employers to give you the sack Employment law in every jurisdiction provides a perfect measure of the balance of power between employers and workers. In Britain, successive governments have been found to be in breach of ILO Conventions by the UN’s International Labour Organisation Committee of Experts as well as being found to be in breach of the European Social Charter of 1961 by the European Committee on Social Rights. The United Kingdom was found to be in breach of ‘freedom of assembly’ Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Defeats inflicted on both Labour and Conservative governments in the 1970s taught Thatcher that a frontal assault would be unsuccessful and, ever since, attacks on employment rights have taken the form of salami-thin slices which have individually proved unlikely to provoke entrenched resistance but in aggregate have greatly weakened our rights at work. According to a leading lawyer who acts for employers, the latest proposal by business secretary Vince Cable is “a potentially useful method for employers to exit employees where there are concerns about their conduct or performance issues… without necessarily having to go through lengthy legal procedures.”

Co-operative dividend Mervyn Wilson, the principal of the Cooperative College, argues that co-operative principles provide a more sound and ethical basis for shaping the ethos of schools than the mentality of the market place. The Co-operative movement wants to grow its network of primary and secondary academies to better serve the life chances of children from deprived communities and it values a productive working relationship with Aspect Group members who, it recognises, are a valuable reservoir of professional expertise.

Measuring what matters Where the technocratic Labour tendency temporises with the Liberal Democrats and

even reform-minded Tories, student attainment measures are a surprisingly significant issue. These trends intersect at the CentreForum think tank, and some of its worked-out ideas are reviewed here.

Football treat Aspect member Christine Williams organised a real treat for community activist youngsters when football heroes Emmanuel Eboué, Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder turned up for their awards ceremony.

THEN AND NOW The persistence of child poverty and deprivation is an enduring feature of British society. David Smith reviews the latest Ofsted survey of education and disadvantage over two decades, sees reasons for optimism and concludes that nothing in the report suggests that golden keys will be found in structural change or in altered assessment systems. Much more important are two short phrases early in the report: “children’s life chances are rooted firmly in their first five years” and “gaps in achievement are clearly established by the age of five”.

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CURRICULUM Fermanagh boy at the G8 Summit


Peter McAlister on the context of the curriculum changes at the heart of Northern Ireland’s primary school success

10 | Improvement | autumn 2013



orthern Ireland primary education has undergone many changes since the introduction of the Northern Ireland Common Curriculum in 1990. The present programme followed by all primary pupils has been in place since 2010 and has been phased in over a three-year period. From 2007, Curriculum Advisory and Support (CASS) officers and their Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) colleagues collaborated in the design and delivery of INSET to support teachers in their implementation of the ‘Revised Curriculum’ (as it was originally labelled). This curricular approach is less contentdriven than the previous programme and promotes ‘thinking skills and personal capabilities’ – the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ of learning. There is more of a balance among knowledge, skills and understanding. There are seven ‘Areas of Learning’, incorporating the ‘Cross-curricular Skills’ of Communication (reading, writing, talking and listening), Using Mathematics and Using ICT. Science and Technology, previously a ‘core’ subject along with English and Maths (or Language and Literacy and Mathematics and Numeracy, as they are now defined) has been subsumed into the ‘World Around Us’ area of learning, which also includes Geography and History. As a consequence of this ‘downgrading’, it is no longer an element of the transfer procedure tests. These tests, unlike their pre-2009 equivalents, are not sanctioned or supported by the Department of Education because the policy of the party which holds this portfolio (Sinn Féin) is ideologically opposed to

selection at 11(the 11-plus). As a general indicator of party political positioning on this issue, most nationalists are in favour of the abolition of selection at the end of the primary phase while most unionists are supportive of the process if not necessarily the present system.

“Northern Ireland pupils were ranked fifth out of the 45 participating countries” Grammar schools are still permitted to use academic selection. The Association of Quality Education (AQE) and a group of Catholic grammar schools set separate grammar school entrance tests. The AQE serves non-denominational grammars while the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) provides tests mainly for Catholic grammars, along with some integrated colleges and non-denominational schools. The two not only differ on the format of the tests, but also in presenting results and charging for the exam. A majority of primary pupils are entered for the exams and sit them on Saturdays in November. Some parents attempt to increase their children’s chances of a grammar school

place by entering their siblings in both sets of assessments – the ‘grammar’ designation seems to take precedence over the possible resultant religious destination. Many grammar schools admit pupils with less than the highest transfer grade to ensure they reach their enrolment capacity. Grammar schools are often full to capacity, with many of those who only accept the ‘top’ grade being oversubscribed. The knock-on effect of this for the non-selective schools is twofold. Some do not have enough of an intake to remain viable and children with the ‘lowest’ transfer grade outcomes tend to make up the majority of their catchment in a lot of instances. The primary schools are instructed to teach the Northern Ireland Curriculum and not take cognisance of the unregulated tests. The official assessment regime in the primary phase is extensive and includes Computer Based and End of Key Stage assessments. The latter element has been recently revised with the introduction of Levels of Progression in Communication and Using Mathematics (2012/13) and Using ICT (2013/14) in an attempt to introduce more rigour and accuracy to the Levels appended to children in Primaries Four and Seven. Principals and staff members also received training on this aspect of change, again courtesy of CCEA and CASS officers – many of whom are Aspect Group members. Many classroom practitioners think that several key aspects of the existing evaluation and assessment framework are overburdensome and not fit for purpose. The Computer Based Assessment system was changed recently and the new replacement has been plagued by technical hitches, to

Primary Education in

Northern Ireland

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CURRICULUM the consternation of both pupils and their mentors. The response of the Department of Education was to make them voluntary rather than statutory, which seems to be a quick but unsatisfactory fix to the problem. The new Lines of Progression-based End of Key Stage assessments, in the opinion of many teachers (as reflected by their unions’ lobbying), have become labour-intensive, unwieldy and disruptive, and at least one union has instructed its members to boycott the revised arrangements. Add to this mix the continued existence of the transfer tests which may impact upon school-based assessments, add to teacher workload, are at odds with End of Key Stage Assessment requirements, might demotivate children and undermine the importance of official forms of assessments in the perceptions of parents. Where, then, is it all going right? The 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) is an international comparison study of reading achievement at ages nine-10 and the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is a parallel study of mathematics and science at ages nine-10 (and ages 13-14, although Northern Ireland only participated at the younger age range). The reports’ key findings concluded that Northern Ireland pupils were ranked fifth out of the 45 participating countries in reading, significantly outperforming pupils in 36 of the countries that participated in PIRLS 2011 – the highest-ranking in an English-speaking country. Northern Ireland pupils were also ranked sixth in mathematics,



Improving literacy and numeracy in schools (Northern Ireland) Second Report of Session 2006–07 A FOLLOW-UP EVALUATION OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE REVISED CURRICULUM IN PRIMARY, SPECIAL AND POST-PRIMARY SCHOOLS: 2009 E.T.I

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significantly outperforming pupils in 44 of the 50 countries that participated in TIMSS 2011. Again, Northern Ireland was the highestperforming English-speaking country. Northern Ireland had the highest proportion of schools that were categorised as safe and orderly, and one of the highest levels for discipline and safety. These factors appear to relate to higher pupil attainment. Principals and teachers in Northern Ireland reported the highest levels of emphasis on academic success; no other participating country had higher overall averages on this scale, and teaching time for English and mathematics was higher than the international average. Pupils reported relatively low levels of bullying and teachers reported that their teaching was rarely limited by disruptive or uninterested pupils. Northern Ireland had one of the highest levels of computer provision among all participating countries, with more than three quarters of pupils taught in schools where a computer was available for every one to two pupils.

“Socio-economic background is one of the strongest predictors of academic performance” A higher proportion of children in Northern Ireland reported having many resources for learning at home compared with the average internationally. Pupils with access to more home resources for learning had higher average achievement in reading, mathematics and science. There were also less positive conclusions drawn. A higher proportion of pupils reported that they did not like reading (20 per cent) or learning mathematics (26 per cent) compared with their international counterparts (15 per cent and 16 per cent respectively). The proportion of pupils whose teachers reported lack of sleep as a limiting factor was greater in Northern Ireland than the international average in all three subjects. Pupils in Northern Ireland whose teachers reported that pupils’ lack of basic nutrition and lack of sufficient sleep limited teaching had lower average achievement than those pupils whose teachers reported not having these limitations.

Achievement of Year 6 Pupils in Northern Ireland ISSN 2049-8942RB 4/2012 December 2012 PIRLS 2011 and TIMSS 2011 Discipline, order, high expectations and availability of resources underpin the successful features of primary education in Northern Ireland. Disadvantage and lack of the above positive attributes, maybe in the home as opposed to the school environment, accentuate the less desirable attributes. The recently published Chief Inspector’s Report 2010-12 (Northern Ireland) highlighted a number of findings in relation to underachievement in the Province. This included almost one child in five leaving primary school not having achieved the expected level in English and maths. Only 32 per cent of school leavers with Free School Meal Entitlement (FSME) achieved five GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and maths. In non-selective schools, 22 per cent of school leavers with FSME achieved this benchmark – compared to 87 per cent in grammar schools. Socio-economic background is one of the strongest predictors of academic performance. Nonetheless, the evidence indicates that school success is possible for students from less well-off backgrounds. A range of other factors may contribute to underachievement. These include parental qualifications, the home learning environment, high levels of absenteeism from school and issues around male literacy. There are a number of other features of educational attainment in Northern Ireland. Boys consistently have a lower level of achievement in English and mathematics than girls at both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3. This has been attributed to the problems some boys experience with engagement and experience of schooling. Moreover, in schools with high levels of social deprivation within the Belfast area, there are disturbing differences in achievement between pupils of different religious backgrounds. The evidence shows that Catholic-maintained schools achieve, on average, at a higher level than pupils in Protestant-controlled schools among non-grammar schools in Belfast with 40 per cent or more pupils entitled to free school meals. House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts Improving literacy and numeracy in schools (Northern Ireland) Second Report of Session 2006–07 The evidence suggests that a range of approaches are required to address underachievement. However, it is important


“A significant minority still underachieve” to note that classroom teaching is known to have the greatest impact on student outcomes. The Chief Inspector’s Report has highlighted issues around the quality of teaching here, with half of primary school lessons and 60 per cent of post-primary lessons not consistently rated ‘very good’ or better. The international evidence shows that access to high quality early years education and care has significant and lasting benefits for children, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The economic return from investment in this stage of education is thought to be higher than the rate of return in the later years. What are the implications of all of the above for Primary Education in Northern Ireland? The official Department of Education policy to raise standards and achievements is called ‘Every School a Good School’ – a laudable aim. Success is attained by the majority, but a significant minority still underachieve. The assessment regime is in a state of confusion, but the new curriculum seems to have bedded in even though literacy and numeracy tend to be emphasised to the detriment of the other areas of learning.This is mainly due to the fact that the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) judge a school’s performance largely on the standards achieved by the children in English and Maths in relation to their benchmarked levels of attainment at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2. To make every primary school a good school, it might be worth considering:

Consulting primary teachers about the most appropriate methods of assessment for their pupils (most have faith in Progress in English and Maths tests, which are widely used) Achieving political agreement on the appropriate age for assessing pupils rather than operating the present system at the end of primary education that satisfies no-one, causes children stress and allows a minority of schools to exert a disproportionate influence on assessment processes Investing heavily in early years and preschool education to ameliorate the negative effects of disadvantage Addressing disadvantage by increasing the pupil premium and providing effective and appropriately funded initiatives to assist low- and underachieving children Providing high-quality Continuing Professional Development to classroom practitioners In relation to the penultimate point, the education minister announced (on June 11, 2013) the provision of an additional £30 million targeted directly at schools teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds over the next two years. Mr O’Dowd also announced an extension to the free school meals eligibility criteria that will see, by September 2014, an additional 15,000 children entitled to free school meals and support with uniform costs. In October 2012, it was revealed that 230 recently qualified teachers would be employed on fixed-term contracts to help deliver tuition to children who are currently struggling to achieve expected levels in literacy and numeracy. The validity of the last point – very relevant to Aspect Group members – is illustrated by the fact that the majority of primary schools reported that the CASS training which took place from January to

ASPECT GROUP 2013 Aspect Group of Prospect Bienniel General Meeting Friday November 8, 2013 – 2pm Leicester Marriott Hotel Theme: the future of children services within the local authority and the role of school improvement services Keynote speakers: Andrew Webb, DCS for Stockport and President of ADCS Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Solihull and lead CEO for SOLACE The general meeting is open to current full members of the Aspect Group of Prospect, who will receive information about activities undertaken in the previous year and receive and vote upon motions which will help shape the Group’s policies. If you are interested in attending the meeting or would like to receive further information, please email or telephone the Aspect Group of Prospect on 01924 207890.

June 2009 and related to the development of the curriculum in years 3, 4 and 7 was good or better. In addition, the schools considered that the clustering of year groups 2 and 6 with support from the CASS officers was an effective way of clarifying key messages about pedagogical change and responding to the individual needs of the teachers during the implementation year of the Revised Curriculum.Very good, well focused and contextualised support was also provided by the CASS link officer to individual schools. A Follow-up Evaluation of the Implementation of the Revised Curriculum in Primary, Special and Post-Primary Schools: 2009 ETI In summary, Northern Ireland – like many other regions – is experiencing educational change in the primary phase and it is important that all interested parties, including the objective middle tier professionals, are consulted and involved in shaping and implementing the initiatives and amendments. Peter McAlister represents Northern Ireland on the Aspect Group’s Council.

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 13


An offer you can’t

refuse? Changes to employment law are bad news for workers’ rights


t sounded innocent enough. Business Secretary Vince Cable – in his customary tones of reasonable concern – told MPs that the new Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill would allow employers to offer settlement agreements (the renamed compromise agreements) to employees before a formal dispute arises and the former would be legally protected from such offers then being used against them in any subsequent unfair dismissal claim. The discussion in parliament and the media has been wrapped up in a cocoon of fine-sounding platitudes about the need to “remove unnecessary business burdens and obstacles to growth” and fits neatly into a tabloid discourse about the burdens on business in which the issue of workers rights was conspicuously absent. Earlier, in 2011, Cable was more frank about the effect of such a change in the law. He suggested it would enable employers to have “frank discussions” with employees. Mr Cable is a reasonable man. Employers, as men of honour, surely should have the right to make their employees a reasonable offer and, if the content of their conversation is to be ‘protected’ (and surely protection is good for business), then our honourable employers should be able to make their employee an offer they could not refuse. Especially as the employee would be

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prevented from referring to these conversations in evidence in any subsequent unfair dismissal case. Lawyers who act for employers have been frank about the purpose of the change. One referred to it as: “a potentially useful method for employers to exit employees where there are concerns about their conduct or performance issues... without necessarily having to go through lengthy legal procedures.” Another said it: “provides employers with a mechanism to discuss openly the basis for offering severance terms without the employee being able to build a constructive unfair dismissal claim around that discussion.”

“While the worker would not have to accept the offer, they may feel that there is no option but to do so” In practice, the change to the law allows an employer who initiates a conversation with an employee with the aim of ending her or his employment under a settlement agreement to do so without the employee being able to rely on the details of the conversation as evidence in an unfair dismissal claim. Thus, your employer will be able to take you to one side and, without notice, start a conversation in which you are offered money to leave – and it is this discussion that becomes “protected” and is not able to be used in future tribunal proceedings.

The key change is from the previous position where that protection for the employer only applied where a formal dispute had already arisen – an example might be where disciplinary proceedings had taken place. Prospect says that it is unsatisfactory that an initial offer of settlement does not need to be in written form: “This would have been a helpful safeguard and a clear means of alerting the employee to the seriousness of the discussion,” it says. Unless the parties agree, workers get ten days to think about the proposed formal written terms of a settlement agreement and to receive independent advice. In its response to the original consultation, the union argued for a longer time frame. The new rules do not apply to ‘automatically unfair’ types of unfair dismissal cases such as dismissal for whistle blowing, trade union activities, asserting a statutory right or being an employee representative.They do not apply to claims under the Equality Act or breach of contract claims. Employers will lose this protection if there was ‘improper behaviour’ in the course of the negotiations. What constitutes ‘improper behaviour’ is determined by tribunal and includes all forms of harassment, bullying and intimidation, including the use of offensive words, aggressive behaviour, physical assault, the threat of physical assault and other criminal behaviour. It includes all forms of victimisation; discrimination because of age, sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, transgender, pregnancy and maternity and marriage or civil partnership, plus putting undue pressure on a party. Prospect legal officer Marion Scovell says: “While settlement agreements can be a useful way to resolve a dispute, until now confidentiality would only apply where there are without prejudice discussions in relation




ACAS STATUTORY CODE Acas-Code-of-Practice-onSettlement-Agreements.pdf

From July 29, workers must pay a fee to lodge a claim in the Employment Tribunal or an appeal in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Fees are payable in advance.

“By charging upfront fees for harassment and abuse claims, the government is making it easier for employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour”.


Claims for breach of contract, wages claims, equal pay claims, holiday pay, redundancy pay and some time off rights will incur a fee of £390 – if the case goes all the way to a full hearing – while claims for unfair dismissal, detriment and discrimination claims will cost £1,200.

She said the initiative was just the latest move by the coalition to undermine people’s rights in the workplace. “These reforms are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers’ basic rights at work. Its only achievement will be to price vulnerable people out of justice.”

The TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said that July 29 was a great day for Britain’s worst bosses.

A new cap on unfair dismissal compensation came into effect. The new cap will be the lower of £74,200 or one year’s gross pay.

“The new law seems to seek to legitimise employers buying off workers rights to claim unfair dismissal. It is a watered-down version of the notorious Beecroft proposals of ‘no fault compensated dismissals’, where small employers could dismiss employees without giving any reason in return for a fixed compensation payment – which the Government abandoned. The new rules (from July 29) have been dubbed ‘Beecroft

Lite’ and give employers additional scope to dismiss workers without proper reason and for limited compensation.” “This new provision, together with the other employment law changes in June and July, the introduction of fees for tribunals, power to limit unfair dismissal compensation and greater tribunal powers on strike out and to order deposits and costs, is extremely bad news for workers’ rights,” she said.

CONFIDENTIALITY OF NEGOTIATIONS BEFORE TERMINATION Prospect Employment Law Update Number 357 – July 8 2013 Obtainable from Prospect Head Office to an existing dispute. The problem with the new rules is that employers could decide to completely bypass existing disciplinary or capability procedures. They would be able to identify that they want to dismiss a particular worker and can make them an offer to leave without having gone through any proper investigation or procedure. While the worker would not have to accept the offer, they may feel that there is no option but to do so. What should you do if your employer (or manager acting on your employer’s behalf) strikes up such a ‘conversation’? Ask if it is a protected conversation Take notes Ask for the proposal in writing

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 15


Local matters An emerging consensus regards the middle tier as key to the local drive to raise school standards, reports Nick Wright

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ormer Education and Employment Minister David Blunkett has been asked by Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg to produce a report on local authority oversight of schools. His brief is to draw together a wide range of views and expertise and to recommend how a Labour Government would bring “entitlement, accountability and a positive approach to raising standards back onto the agenda”.

The initiative moves Labour into a more active posture after a period in which the field has been dominated by Tory education minister Michael Gove’s drive to re-engineer the school system. As the new term starts, pupils will enter the gates of schools that – in their bewildering variety of structures, funding, selection procedures, governance and curriculum content – are further from the ideal of a comprehensive education system since the school-leaving age was raised in the mid-1960s. While the government rhetoric around the notion of “a more autonomous school system” (connected to the cult of the charismatic head and the promotion of ideological and pedagogical diversity) underpins its drive for academies (and, especially, free schools), it expresses a deeply individualistic sense of autarky that sits uneasily with shallow references to collaborative working and partnerships. This is the reality. Gove’s most favoured option – ‘free’ schools – function as the shock troops of an education anti-system in which almost everything in the smorgasbord of religious, ethnic, ideological and pedagogical identities can find a cash pile and a patron. Set against a decisive trend in public opinion which desires good local schools that serve local communities above all, it represents a startlingly bold triumph of ideology. It is as if Gove has made a dogma out of diversity. However, for all the fuss about free schools, it is the academies programme which provides the most systematic challenge to the post war consensus which – setting aside the existence of private schools for the most privileged – paid tribute in words, if not always in deeds, to the comprehensive ideal. The factor that gives extra power to the majority desire for children to attend local state schools is that extra 22 per cent who want the quality of different schools and their social mix of pupils to be more equal. In parallel to this, the professional discourse around school improvement presents further challenges to the Government’s policy rationale. The 2010 Schools White Paper states that: “The primary responsibility for improvement rests with schools, and the wider system should be designed so that our best schools and leaders can take on greater responsibility.” The practical effect of this, as demonstrated by the experiences of Aspect Group members working in a wide variety of middle tier settings, is that the human and material resources available to local authorities (who remain the key providers) are reducing. Inevitably, key players in the sector are beginning to devise strategies that mitigate the brutal consequences of the policy that lies behind these anodyne phrases.

The Association of Directors of Education and Children’s Services (ADAC) alluded to this in its early response to the changing landscape, The Missing Link:The evolving role of the local authority in school improvement: “The ever-rising bar of school performance, as defined by floor standards, Ofsted inspection frameworks and the proliferation of changes to funding, curriculum and qualifications require a significant system of school support and improvement for all schools to keep pace with requirements. There is a clear conclusion from these papers

“Labour will not continue with Michael Gove’s Free Schools policy” that chimes with the wider academic research into improving school systems – schools don’t improve alone and, where leadership is lacking, performance can decline quickly; this is true for all schools. All school systems should have a transparent and robust means of dealing with failure in individual schools and, where possible, preventing decline from affecting the education of its pupils.” Stephen Twigg has a delicate balancing act to perform. Asserting the rationale for Labour’s original academies programme – that it was essentially a compensatory strategy that targeted resources at schools serving deprived working class areas – is not entirely consistent with the current policy stance to extend ‘academy freedoms’ to all schools. Thus, he accused Cameron and Gove of “threatening school standards”, arguing that, under Labour, academies were driving up standards in some of the most challenging schools in the country. “Now, under this Government, underperformance and mismanagement are being spotted far too late,” he said. Around a critique of the Government, something like a policy is beginning to take shape. His pledge that “Labour will not continue with Michael Gove’s Free Schools policy” draws a clear boundary. Twigg has a powerful array of arguments to deploy against Gove’s centralising and bureaucratising tendencies. The contradictions between the minister’s words and his deeds provide rich pickings. Set against a blizzard of official words about collaborative working, he can point

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 17

SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT to the clear majority of academies that now stand outside the local authority structure but remain outside of existing partnerships. The new policy of permitting academies to employ unqualified teachers alarms teachers and parents alike. The drive to impose academy status on the unwilling has inevitably generated local opposition and, where the inspection regime is seen as a lever to compel schools to become academies, it undermines the authority of Ofsted itself.

“Many schools want local authorities to remain players in school improvement” The inevitable idiocies that arise when ministerial prerogative and free market impulses overwhelm local planning mean new schools open where a surplus exists, while shortages (especially of primary places) occur in other areas. One of Twigg’s problems has been that, in mounting an increasingly effective assault on aspects of Gove’s policies, he has highlighted just how unformed Labour’s stance has been. Nevertheless, a train has been set in motion. Twigg identifies as a key problem that academies and ‘free’ schools are overseen only by central government. He criticises the fact that local authorities do not have a clear role in monitoring and challenging schools’ performance. He argues that thousands of schools cannot be run from Whitehall and that, as the numbers of academies and ‘free’ schools have risen, underperformance and mismanagement are being spotted and acted on too late. Twigg points out that local oversight only exists for maintained schools under this government. “We need stronger local oversight for all schools so that struggling schools are spotted much sooner, local support is on hand to drive up standards and schools have a clear relationship with their community. Evidence shows that local challenge is important to drive school improvement,” he says. Education politics is full of paradoxes. The Conservative chair of the Local Government Association Education Committee carefully articulates the reservations that his members, councils of varying political colours, have with the direction of government policy.

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Similarly, the Conservative chair of the Commons Education Select Committee expertly represents a cross-party consensus that is markedly distinct from the Department of Education vision. The DfE, purged – in some cases by self-immolation – of many of its officials, smoulders with policy initiatives that, while almost exclusively derived from the prejudices and predilections of right-wing think tanks, lack a sense of strategic direction. This goes against a long-standing Tory tradition that takes careful account of the manpower needs of industry and commerce, has a bias towards the vocational and subordinates ideology to pragmatism. Gove himself points out that “the sainted Margaret Thatcher, when still Education Secretary, shut down more grammar schools than any of her Labour colleagues”. Gove himself is never entirely free of the suggestion that his unending search for novelty is more connected to his political ambitions for higher office than a deeper engagement with pedagogy. Consistency and a close attention to the fit between theory and practice is what Labour needs if it is to convince both public and education professionals alike that a Labour Government would make a positive difference. Stephen Twigg is emerging from Labour’s long policy slumber with one eye to Labour’s own record in government and another to pressures from parents, teachers and other education professional unions. With the active agenda of Andrew Adonis in play, he needs an additional pair of eyes in the back of his head. It is in this context that the Aspect Group – with its unrivalled pool of experience and legions of school improvement professionals – can make a (perhaps decisive) contribution to the shaping of what might become a government policy. Aspect Group Secretary Leslie Manasseh understands how difficult it is to influence the policy of the existing Government, but is very clear that we should take every opportunity – consistent with the union’s status as independent of all political parties – to try to do so. “We have a well-worked evidence-based and rational approach to the key issues,” he says. “On professional standards, on the relationships between the various agencies and interests in education and children’s services, on the necessity for an integrated approach to provision for children’s development and safeguarding and on the need for an harmonious balance between inspection and improvement”. “Our approach to school improvement – based on collective understanding, on an analysis of the evidence and on the hard-learnt

lessons of the recent past – is that the middle tier is a critical element in monitoring, evaluation, inspection and improvement.” He is encouraged that Labour has picked up on the increasingly widespread concerns that the fragmentation of the system is eroding the vital pool of experience that local authority school improvement professionals embody. Leslie Manasseh cites the finding of the National Foundation for Educational Research that local authorities are adopting a more adaptive style of leadership and are prepared to move radically to enable schoolto-school support. “The key finding,” he says, “is that many schools want local authorities to remain players in school improvement.” He argues that if there are to be effective school improvement partnerships between maintained schools, academies that operate both within and outside of academy chains and the local authorities that carry key responsibilities, these must rest on clear measures of accountability and mutual obligation. “Local authorities are ideally placed to both provide and broker services, but there must be a mechanism for mutuality whereby each school that benefits from what Stephen Twigg refers to as those ‘shared services’ such as school improvement, human resources and SEN provision makes a contribution to resourcing those services,” he says.

GOOD LOCAL SCHOOLS? A 2011 British Social Attitudes Survey showed that more than 80 per cent of people think parents should send their children to the nearest state school. The data showed that 63 per cent took this view outright, with a further 22 per cent saying they would agree if the quality of different schools and their social mix of pupils was more equal. archives/2011/12/schoolchoice.aspx Department for Education (2010) The Importance of Teaching: the Schools White Paper 2010 (Cm. 7980) London: TSO. P14. Aston, H., Easton, C., Sims, D., Smith, R., Walker, F., Crossley, D., Crossley-Holland, J. (2013) What works in enabling school improvement? The role of the middle tier Slough: NFER /


Aspect Biennial Report


his is a report which covers the main developments within the Aspect Group since November 2011. One of these was the merger with Prospect, which took place in February 2012, but that was designed to enable the Group to continue its work and activities rather than change or disrupt them. Therefore, this report focuses not on internal matters but principally on how the Group has sought to navigate the very turbulent waters in which our members find themselves.

The changing educational landscape The world in which our members work in England is being transformed. The fragmentation of the education system and the reducing role, responsibilities and resources of local authorities are having a major impact on the nature of their jobs and their terms and conditions. Where they were once employed by local authorities on specialist pay and grading systems, they now find themselves in a much more diverse and less certain world. Increasingly, they work in different ways for different employers and on differing terms. Although it is much less dramatic in the devolved administrations, change is also on their agendas. But, whatever their differing circumstances, our members remain united by a common professional ethic and a belief that every child is entitled to a good education.The objectives of the Aspect Group are similarly clear.We aim to protect the individual and protect the profession. The Group Council has agreed a strategy to address the challenges ahead and this report sets out its various elements in more detail.

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1. A voice for the profession As the educational system is being radically transformed, the work of the Aspect Group to speak up for the professions involved in education and children’s services has become more important. We have focused on two key areas: the need for an independent, properly resourced educational improvement service as part of the vital role of a ‘middle tier’ and how best to approach early years provision. We have used a number of routes and means to promote the professional interests of our members. Lobbying Westminster and the devolved administrations; responding to public consultations; producing briefings; working through the media; working with other organisations and using Improvement as a forum for debate have been some of the ways we have sought to articulate the needs of the profession for effective standards, recognition and resources and to influence public policy on education. For example, in relation to educational improvement, we have produced an Aspect Group manifesto as a clear statement of where we stand and why those employed in the profession should join us.

2. Relations with external bodies We have worked with a variety of stakeholder organisations including: Ofsted, Early Childhood Forum, National Foundation for Educational Research, Standing Committee for the Education and Training of Teachers, AQA Advisory Committees and others. Unfortunately, our relations with DfE have become much less frequent, reflecting the overall decline of any kind of consultative

machinery (formal or informal). However, we have sought to establish a dialogue with shadow ministers. Our relations with the Local Government Association in England, on the other hand continue, both in terms of industrial relations and on other issues from time to time (e.g. the employer’s Standards Working Group). We have continued to convene the Children’s Services Professional Network. The devolution of all education services in Wales to the Welsh Assembly Government means that Aspect works closely with ministers, elected members, government officials, the GTC Wales and other unions to discuss issues of common interest and respond to various public consultations. In particular, Aspect has championed the importance of the middle tier in all the Welsh School Improvement Education Consortia across Wales. In the light of the plan for a new Education and Skills Authority (ESA) in Northern Ireland, Aspect has sought to protect the interests and jobs of our members in relation to its structure and functions and the shape of the School Development Service. We have worked with and lobbied the NI Assembly, the Department of Education, employing authorities, higher education institutes, GTCNI and other stakeholders such as Education and Training Inspectorate. We have been active in the development of government policy on school improvement, school funding, area planning and leadership development via a number of working parties and other joint bodies. The Early Years National Committee has worked hard to raise their concerns about

ASPECT GROUP proposals to change Early Years qualifications and ratios within childcare settings. With support from Prospect’s Parliamentary Officer, we secured meetings with the DfE’s ministerial team and the Shadow Minister for Children and Families. We were regularly cited in the national and professional media as controversy grew around the proposal to increase ratios. The Government eventually shelved this proposal and representatives from the DfE accepted that it would be beneficial to work together and listen to our members who work on the frontline and understand the early years world. The Committee continued to respond to the many Government consultations including More Affordable Childcare, Teacher’s Standards in Early Years and Early Years Educator Criteria, ensuring that our members’ views are considered at the highest level and that we continue to build our reputation as an authoritative commentator.

3. Improvement The Aspect Group members’ magazine Improvement has continued to be published on a quarterly schedule with 48 A4 pages in full colour plus a four-page continuing professional development pullout. In Spring this year, the paper was redesigned to increase the word count, use of visual material and depth of content and reflect the trend towards longer and more developed feature material arising from the changes taking place in the sector. In addition to the paper being available in printed form mailed direct to members and subscribers, a downloadable PDF version is available on the website and by request. Page-turning versions of editions are now also available via a link on the website to a web-based facility. The link to the summer edition is at: docs/summer_2013_improvement Advertising content has been maintained at a constant level despite difficult economic conditions.

4. Membership Organisation and Reps’ development We have sought to recruit and retain members during a period of unprecedented turmoil in the world our members serve and the world in which they work. As core membership areas have declined, we have produced new targeted recruitment materials and are in the process of mapping the changing educational landscape to identify potential recruitment areas. We have worked to build local organisation and support and develop local representatives. The biannual local representatives training days have continued. These have enabled local

representatives to access training days tailored to specific children’s services concerns as well as the more generic extensive Prospect training programme. The format of the training days has changed to focus on more specific skills. The first of these – held in mid-2013 on ‘bullying’ – received very positive feedback.

5. Collective Bargaining We have succeeded, in the context of everchanging consultative structures and bargaining machinery, to maintain a discrete voice for Soulbury grades at national level. This provides welcome opportunities to ensure that issues specific to our members are regularly raised with the employers. We have sought to strengthen the work of the Soulbury Committee by conducting a membership survey and commissioning a specialist report on job evaluation.The data from the membership survey enabled the Group to highlight the nature and extent of membership concerns about pay and conditions which have helped shape both the dialogue with the employers and the 2013 pay claim which was submitted in June. This called for a significant increase on all Soulbury pay scale points and all pay-related and London allowances from September 1, 2013, and the restoration of the Essential Car User Allowance where travel and work patterns justify it (this emerged as a significant issue in the membership survey). A new Soulbury workforce survey will seek a clearer picture of the changes affecting the workforce in terms of job losses, outsourcing and changes to pay and conditions at local level. Of particular concern to members is the growing tendency for local authority employers to seek to integrate Soulbury jobs into the single pay and grading structure using a job evaluation (JE) scheme which does not properly assess specialist roles. Almost 60 per cent of those who had been assimilated into a single structure were not satisfied with the outcome of the process. We have therefore commissioned Incomes Data Services to consider the various JE schemes in use and identify how and where they fail accurately to evaluate the roles our members perform. The aim is to use this expert analysis to assist the Group to challenge inappropriate pay and grading decisions.

6. Continuing Professional Development CPD for members is a major component of the work we do. It enables the Aspect Group to advance the interests of the profession and ensure high quality training. The CPD programme has included:

A full suite of courses for teachers and school leaders which focus on leadership and management, self-evaluation and classroom improvement A coaching and mentoring programme A suite of tailored BTEC programmes A ‘Thinking of Going Independent’ course for members developing their careers as consultants A Foundation Degree in Special Educational Needs and Disability run in conjunction with the University of Derby

7. Protecting the individual The Aspect Group Officers spend much of their time representing individuals involved in local authority reorganisation and restructuring. The last two years have been particularly challenging due to the pace and extent of change and hundreds of members have been supported through difficult times, often involving a change of employer. As services have been cut, many individual members have been faced with increasing workloads and pressure to meet unrealistic targets. More than 70 per cent of members employed by local authorities report higher workloads, declining morale and a concern that cuts are adversely affecting the quality of service that can be delivered. Regrettably, we are also seeing an increase in bullying and harassment in the workplace. In such times, union membership has never been more important.

8. Resources including finances The Aspect Group has maintained largely separate finances since the merger but, as the process of integration with the wider union proceeds, these will be incorporated into the union-wide system. The Group has maintained a dedicated group of officers and support staff, but we have also been able to take advantage of the resources and services provided by Prospect which includes support from the specialist research, legal, communications, parliamentary and organising teams. Members and local representatives have benefited from the Prospect training programme and a wider range of publications. The Group Council has continued to meet three times a year to manage the affairs of the Group. Some of its previous responsibilities as the principal governing committee of Aspect have been relinquished as a consequence of the merger. This has enabled the Council to focus more closely on strategic challenges and develop a practical workplan to help ensure that the Group continues effectively to recruit, retain and represent professionals in education and children’s services.

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 21



FdA Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) University of Derby in conjunction with the Aspect Group of Prospect


his highly relevant and up-to-date course has been developed with employers in the sector to develop key skills and knowledge. The course features several different pathways that enable specialisation in areas that are particularly relevant to your work and interests. It will develop you as a confident, knowledgeable and effective practitioner suitable to work with children and young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities and their families. It places emphasis on the knowledge and skills you will need to work effectively with this group of children and young people in ways that will bring them positive outcomes. You will study core modules and optional modules, and you will be able to specialise in SEND in Education or Health and Social Care. You will be able to reflect on your practice and enhance this through the theory you learn. Your work setting is used for work-based projects, activities and research, so everything you study will be relevant to your everyday work. Your tutors are knowledgeable, have academic and practical experience in the field and will support you on your journey. The course is flexible to suit you. You can study during the day, in the evening and at weekend study days, although some routes require you to attend specific days for specialised lectures. You’ll study a mixture of theory and practical work.


The development of your practice in your workplace Applying theory to practice and applying practice to theory Multidisciplinary working Reflective practice, attitudes and values Continuing Professional Development Policy and legislation At Stage One, you will study these core modules: STARTING TO STUDY

An introduction to learning at university – study skills, selfmanagement, being critical, reflective practice, learning with others and academic writing.


professionals, working with other agencies.

Reflective practice and action learning in your work context.



Safeguarding, policy and practice.


At Stage Two, you will study these core modules:

An exploration of competing theories of language development, developmental diversity in language development, interventions to support language development.


Developing a deep understanding of theories and research on human development (such as Bowlby, Erikson and Levinson) and applying these to practice. ACTION RESEARCH


Small-scale action research within your work setting to support you in tackling a problem or issue.

The historical context for SEND, different ways of understanding special educational needs and disabilities and the relevance of these understandings to practice.



Empowering parents and families, the implications of legislation, theories of participation.

An introduction to theories of human development (physical, social, emotional, sexual, identity, psychological, intellectual). ATTITUDES AND VALUES

Understanding the relevance of your own attitudes and values on your work with children and young people with SEND and their families.

You will choose from these optional modules: SUPPORTING CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WITH SEND

Exploring how specific learning difficulties and disabilities are understood and responded to. THE CHANGING WORLD OF THE SEND PRACTITIONER

Professional skills (management of case work, communication, interpersonal skills), roles of

Evaluating the diagnoses, treatment and responses to mental health problems among children and young people with SEND.


Policy and practice as this relates to employment, continuing education, social inclusion and participation. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Our entry requirements are usually 80 UCAS points from A Level or equivalent qualifications such as a BTEC National Diploma, Scottish Higher etc. You should already be working in the sector for two days per week, have a relevant vocational Level 3 qualification and be doing two days’ voluntary work in the sector. You will need five GCSEs including Maths and English, but we also accept Key Skills, Functional Skills and Higher Diploma Qualifications as the equivalent of GCSEs. We will also consider all the information that you have included in your application. We will also want to see that you’re enthusiastic and motivated to take this course, and that you have the potential to benefit from coming to university. HOW TO APPLY

UK/EU students – Part-time students should apply directly to the University.

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 23


Developmental Dyscalculia specialist works with children from St Richards with St Andrews C of E Primary School, Richmond. © Philip Wolmuth/


Fees for 2013/14 (this is a classroombased course) – UK/EU students: Currently £965* per module (you usually take 12 of these modules in total). *These fees apply if you are starting this course between September 2013 and August 2014. We recommend that you check fee details with us, as they can change. Costs can increase each year. HOW YOU WILL LEARN

You’ll learn through reflective tasks, presentations, work-based activities, tutorials and using online resources. There are no exams and you’ll be

24 | Improvement | autumn 2013

assessed using your work-based activities, creative presentations, essays, discussion papers, case studies and portfolios. CAREERS AND EMPLOYABILITY

There’s a growing demand for highly qualified practitioners working in a range of sectors with a deeper knowledge in Special Educational Needs and Disability, so you will be well-placed to get a job when you graduate. You’ll have the knowledge, understanding and professional skills to progress in your practice and bring positive outcomes to children and young people.

After completing this course, you will have the opportunity to progress to Stage 3 of an honours degree (either a taught course or through a work-based online course). You can then progress on to other professional courses such as the Early Years Teacher course or take an initial teacher training qualification. In recent years, graduates have: moved ahead in their vocational field in senior roles, leading practice and settings; continued on to achieve BA Honours degrees in Child and Youth Studies, BA Honours degrees in Early

Childhood Studies, BA Honours degrees in Education Studies (SEND pathway), Joint Honours with Science or Health and Social Care; and continued on to teacher training.

General enquiries about admissions and applications, UK and overseas: Phone: +44 (0)1332 591167 Fax: +44 (0)1332 597724 Email: Course enquiries: Debs Robinson: 01332 591121 Rosemary Shepherd: 01332 592296


Going independent? Want to be your own boss? Facing redundancy? Fancy becoming a freelance consultant? Still motivated by school improvement? This is the course for you…


he union has provided high quality support and training for more than 1,000 members in the last year through its highlyregarded course for members. Thinking of becoming an independent consultant? If you are ‘thinking of going independent’ in the current economic climate, you need to consider:

The professional context for independent consultancy Credibility from new skills and approaches to effective consultancy Marketing your unique contribution The practicalities of setting up a new business e.g. record keeping and financing an office Quality assurance, accounts, tax, insurance, professional indemnity, contracting and invoicing


1 The very popular national course – covering the topics above (and more) THIS TAKES PLACE ON:

November 19, 2013 – Birmingham January 28, 2014 - London £245 + VAT for Aspect Group members £295 + VAT for non-Aspect Group members

2 A bespoke in-house course for groups of colleagues in a local authority or coming to the end of limited contracts – costs negotiated. 3 The Thinking of Going Independent programmes are overseen by John Pearce, one of the union’s longest serving and most successful independent associates.

Aspect’s BTEC Qualifications The Aspect Group of Prospect’s BTEC Professional Advanced awards and certificates have won great credibility across the range of children’s services


t the core of the professional development programme is the union’s highlyesteemed BTEC programme of advanced service training and professional career development for children’s services. The study programme provides an opportunity for reflection, review and assessment of your professional role. The portfolio is a great opportunity to focus on your achievements in your job, asking others for informal and formal feedback and gathering the evidence to show that your professional contribution makes a difference. Creating a persuasive and well evidenced portfolio that demonstrates your effectiveness and impact is of great use during performance management reviews, SPA 3 assessments, job

reviews, recruitment interviews and re-organisations. The programme provides a chance for teams to work together on what matters most to them, and confirm the impact they are having. Local authority children’s services teams have found that building portfolios together enables them to create a persuasive and comprehensive account of their work, their skills and the impact of their interventions. For some, this can also mean that a whole team portfolio, which is useful during reviews, audits and inspections, is produced. Employers, partners and client organisations are coming to realise the potential of the BTEC accreditation process as a useful quality assurance mechanism that enables individuals, teams and organisations to demonstrate the range and level of their professional skills, and to identify and work with other professionals with similar profiles and qualifications.

The first group of candidates for the new Advanced Professional Certificate in Improvement in Children’s Services, which is particularly designed for those who work in the multi-agency context, started last May and attracted interest from team leaders and other senior local authority professionals. The Aspect Group of Prospect’s BTEC Programme provides a powerful process that can make a significant contribution to demonstrating your competence, effectiveness, achievements and impact. More than 100 candidates have successfully completed one of the four courses available. THE BTEC QUALIFICATIONS AVAILABLE ARE:

BTEC Advanced Professional Certificate in Improvement in Education and Children’s Service Development – Level 7

BTEC Advanced Award in Governor Services in Education and Children’s Service Development – Level 3 BTEC Professional Certificate in Co-ordinating Governor Services in Education and Children’s Service Development – Level 6 PLEASE CONTACT THE ASPECT GROUP OF PROSPECT FOR DETAILS OF WORKSHOPS

Discounts are also available for groups and for upgrading onto higher levels. We have introductory workshops running throughout the year for those interested in undertaking any of the above courses. For further details, application forms, or if you are interested in forming a local authority group to undertake any of the above BTEC programmes, please contact Cheryl Crossley – email: or tel: 01924 207890

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 25


Coaching and mentoring A national qualification in coaching and mentoring is in your grasp


rofessional practice in education and children’s services entails a synthesis of training and experience with strong elements of developmental psychology and of child and human development. There are discrete areas of expertise and professional boundaries command respect but, at the same time, there is a developing consensus around the theoretical foundations and core assumptions of the sector. Flexibility and innovation are at a premium as a core cadre as many thousands of practitioners adapt to a new organisational framework that is emerging from a challenging terrain of sharp reductions in funding and a precipitate reduction in the middle tier of local authority services. At critical points in their career, education and children’s services professionals are compelled to draw on deep reserves of experience and understanding as they face greater responsibilities. It is in this context that the Aspect Group’s highly rated professional development programme is able to offer a range of innovative courses that are tailored to aid people in shaping both their own development and that of their professional colleagues. In partnership with training providers xué, the Aspect Group has developed two coaching and mentoring programmes of special value aimed at developing the professional skills of those who use coaching and mentoring in their work setting or who intend to establish an independent coaching practice. The courses are validated through the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), which is the UK’s premier management organisation, and xué is an Approved ILM Centre for the provision of coaching and mentoring programmes and qualifications. The qualifications are nationally recognised and part of the QCF (Qualifications and Credit

26 | Improvement | autumn 2013

Framework). Thus, the credits obtained on successful completion of the programmes contribute towards other nationally recognised awards offered by other bodies, including universities, and are a valuable resource for further professional development. The aspect group is currently offering two programmes. At postgraduate level, the ILM Level 7 in Certificate in Executive Coaching and Mentoring (which can be extended to the Diploma). Exact dates depend on the participants, but this course will start in Autumn 2013. At first degree level, the ILM Level 5 in Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring (which can also be extended to the Diploma). Again, additional coaching hours and an assignment are required for this course, which will be starting in October 2013. Sue Spencer-Harrison of xué leads the Coaching and Mentoring Programme. xué – pronounced “sh-way” – is Mandarin for ‘to learn’. She says: “We aim to provide holistic, wrap-around support and development to aspiring, new and experienced coaches and mentors as well as working directly as coaches with individuals and organisations. We support individuals, teams and organisations facing change to clarify exactly what they want and then to achieve it with integrity. We all have a deep well of untapped potential, which we can unlock to enable us to achieve our goals.” She argues that the challenging environment faced by people working in the sector means they need to deepen their ability to manage change while developing their individual capacity to control their own learning and professional development. “It is also about growing as an individual. We believe you become an effective coach by experiencing excellent coaching and mentoring yourself, which is why we ‘coach’ on all of our Programmes rather than ‘train’,” she says. First-hand accounts from people who have followed the courses are a testament to the potential that can be developed. Sara Weech, who has nearly completed the Level 7 Diploma in Executive Coaching and Mentoring

Programme, says: “Sue is a passionate, knowledgeable and experienced coach with the highest of integrity. I am gaining so much personally and professionally from the Diploma course in Executive Coaching that she runs. It’s coached every step of the way – not just theory – and you experience its impact from the start.” Mike Fleetham, who has just finished the first module of the Level 7 Diploma Programme, comments: “It is the most effective CPD I’ve had in 19 years in education because coaching and mentoring is role modelled throughout the Programme – you learn about excellent coaching by experiencing it.” Tracey Sharkey, who has successfully completed the xué ILM Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring, says: “I just wanted to feed back on how useful the programme has been. I am an experienced NPQH coach, but this programme developed my expertise hugely. “The course was very challenging and required a lot of deep self reflection, and – as a result – I know my coaching has improved enormously. Sue Spencer-Harrison and the xué team were fantastic throughout. “I am now at the point where I am developing my coaching business and wanted to say many thanks. “If future programme groups would benefit from any input from an old hand, then do not hesitate to ask.” Sue Sanford is very positive about the small group study format. “Having undertaken the Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring with xué over the last 12 months, I’d recommend it to anyone who felt that coaching and mentoring might be for them,” she said. “Studying in a small group with xué was a very positive and enabling experience with great coaching skills modelled throughout the taught elements. Quite apart from wanting to develop coaching and mentoring as a formal part of what I offer, I found that what I learned through the study has been invaluable in improving the way I work anyway in terms of supporting colleagues in children’s services to innovate and improve. “The support from xué throughout the modules and after has been brilliant,

and I look forward to continuing to work with xué as I develop my coaching practice.” For further information, please contact cheryl.crossley

HOW THE PROGRAMMES ARE CONSTRUCTED Element 1 –Programme introduction and preprogramme preparation Element 2 – completion of and feedback on a diagnostic/ assessment tool chosen to support each participant to gain personal insights and growth Element 3 – face-to-face full day modules supporting skill development and practice spread across the Programme Level 5 Programme – five days (typically spread over nine months) Level 7 Programme – six days (typically spread over 12 months) Element 4 – live coaching and/or mentoring practice, supported by a coaching diary Element 5 – coaching/ mentoring supervision by a trained supervisor Element 6 – personalised learning, supported through access to online materials Element 7 – completion of a Personal Learning Log Element 8 – completion of three written assignments. This element is supported by tutorials Element 9 – Personal Interest Study (for those taking the Level 7 Programme)

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SUBJECT ASSOCIATIONS National Association of Advisers in English NAAE is a subject association that, historically, has focused on supporting local authority advisers and consultants, reports John Hickman. However, with the drastic cuts now being made in local authorities across the country, the association is looking to widen its membership base by recruiting increasing numbers of independent consultants, lecturers in English and Education from universities and any members of senior management teams in schools whose roles encompass training, staff development, coaching and classroom support. One of the main activities of NAAE is its annual conference, which is always extremely well received by the people who attend. The last two years have seen members gathering in Liverpool and Bristol to be inspired and entertained by such eminent academics as Professor Debra Myhill, Professor Gemma Moss and Professor Teresa Cremin. The 2014 conference will be held in Birmingham on March 14-15, 2014 and the details are on the NAAE website. This year, there will be a research exchange as part of the conference to facilitate the attendance of our colleagues from higher education.

There are active NAAE branches in the West Midlands and in London, with the latter attracting at least 25 members to its termly meetings (which always have a guest speaker). The Association also has strong links with the Common English Forum (CEF), whose members represent all the main English teaching organisations; the Partners in English (PiE) Group with its range of contacts across the arts world; the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE); the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) and the English and Media Centre (EMC). We respond to every government request to engage in consultative processes and so, over the past six months, we have written extensively on the first and second drafts of the revised National Curriculum; on the new proposals for English Language and English Literature GCSEs and on the Ofqual paper about reforming GCSEs. These have been sent out to members, displayed on the NAAE website and circulated to colleagues in other English associations. We have also sent a delegation to the DfE to represent the views of members to the relevant civil servants.

NAAE is also heavily involved in the Looking for the Heart of English group and helps to sponsor its main activities as it strives to give teachers and advisers a voice in the development of an English curriculum that has creativity, rigour, independence and choice at its core. There have been conferences at the Globe, the RSA, the EMC and the Orange Studios in Birmingham and there is now a publication – Meeting High Expectations – as well as a website ( which will soon be publicised on various social networking sites. Our core aims are: To represent members’ views in as many contexts as possible To gather relevant information and material, and to disseminate it efficiently to members To provide a range of opportunities for members to network with colleagues and a range of institutions To provide support and leadership as and when appropriate Please send any enquiries to John Hickman is chair of the NAAE

Biennial General Meeting

Aspect Group2013 report/subject associations 28 | Improvement | autumn 2013


AAIA is a voluntary, non-profit-making organisation with membership open to anyone with an interest in educational assessment – whether they work in an advisory or support capacity, in schools, in higher education or in research. In recent years, the membership has become more diverse but the majority of members support schools as part of a local authority, another body or as independent consultants. AAIA’s vision continues to be for all learners to be successful learners and for all learning communities to value effective assessment. Our aim is to achieve this by securing effective assessment practice within the education community. AAIA maintains its commitment to represent members’ views on the national stage in order to challenge and influence assessment practice. For example, the Association has recently responded to consultations on the Secondary Assessment and Accountability Consultation and the Royal College of Teaching proposals. A response to the Primary Assessment and Accountability Consultation is currently being prepared. AAIA representatives have regular meetings with Ofqual and play an active part in the Council for Subject Associations (CfSA). Links have also been established with Ofsted, DfE and 4children. Regional groups provide a valuable structure for members to network and share information and views through meetings and email contact. Some regional groups have run highly successful conferences and moderation meetings, such as the recent SW regional conference. However, in some areas, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit regional representatives to lead and coordinate meetings and activities. This stems from members finding it harder to justify to taking on additional external responsibilities to their employers. The executive is working on several possible solutions to this difficulty. The Association’s website serves to keep members up-to-date, makes available relevant key information, offers a directory of independent members offering assessment-related CPD and provides links with other useful sites. AAIA is also present on Facebook and Twitter. The 2013 Annual Conference for members entitled ‘Too much testing, too little learning – getting the balance right’ is taking place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Birmingham from October 3-5. For further information or to join AAIA, please see the website at


Association for Achievement and Improvement through Assessment

Year 8 Arabic class at Sarah Bonnell Girls’ School, Stratford, London – a specialist language college

National Association of Language Advisers Despite the very large reduction in local authority language advisers, NALA’s membership has remained steady and is currently on an upward trend, reports Pam Haezewindt. Membership requires members to have taught and to be giving professional language teaching and learning advice and support to language teaching colleagues. This may be in any of variety of institutions from schools, colleges and universities to national agencies and cultural establishments, privately or web-based. Members have made it clear that they value the networking opportunities NALA provides nationally, as well as the up-todate information posted regularly on its website. This year’s annual July conference, Sustaining Support in an Uncertain Future, held at the much-favoured venue in Stratford, was well-attended and very successful. Members not only appreciated the up-to-date and thoughtful inputs on the title’s theme and the chance to discuss the latest initiatives such as the new National Curriculum, but also the opportunity to take part in a discussion on ‘NALA in the new world’ and give their views about how NALA might make changes to benefit membership. The executive committee has felt ever more strongly this year that NALA must be an association responsive to needs which are changing rapidly in the current climate and that it needed to consult its membership about these. The first executive meeting of the new academic year will provide the opportunity

for executive to debate the outcomes from conference and to decide how to move forward. The executive will also welcome new committee members to its fold in September. NALA responds to all pertinent language consultations and recently made substantive responses to the new National Curriculum proposals and GCSE reform. NALA is pleased about the proposals for mandatory language learning in the primary sector but, given the decrease in learning languages in primary schools since the 2010 levels, NALA is very concerned that the initiative will need a very good support structure and that it is difficult to see how this can be constructed unless funds are available. NALA’s regional provision continues to thrive in some areas, but others have found it more difficult to hold day-long meetings each term both in terms of members being free to come along and in finding appropriate, reasonably priced venues. However, new regional convenors are coming on board this year, and along with holding afternoon or evening meetings in venues provided by schools and academies, we see renewed vigour in our regional events. NALA continues without any paid clerical support, all administration being done by volunteers on the executive committee, and regionally by the regional convenors and helpers. Our membership fee is £60 and details are available on the website: Pam Haezewindt is the honorary secretary of NALA

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 29

SUBJECT ASSOCIATIONS Early Childhood Education Group Those of us working in early years are well aware of the impact that the economic and financial climate is having on young children and their families, reports Sandra Simmons. Many nursery schools, integrated children’s centres and family support services continue to face an uncertain future due to cuts in their budgets. Most local authorities have reduced the size of their early years support teams and an increasing number of ECEG members have become independent consultants. There seems to be little money available or incentive for professional development. The Early Childhood Education Group (ECEG) felt it was vital that the committee strengthened its representation at this critical time when the early years are going through such radical political changes. We were, therefore, delighted to co-opt an additional member volunteer to the committee. The ECEG Committee is keen to ensure that the Aspect Group benefits from a strong voice from those with strategic leadership experience and depth of understanding in early years. The ECEG Committee representatives are: Sandra Simmons, Chair of the Group – represents the North Sue Rath, Treasurer – represents the Midlands Carolyn Poulter, Secretary – represents South Yorkshire Andrew Lockett, represents West Yorkshire Linda Ross, Events Organiser – represents the South West Julie Quinn, represents the South East The ECEG would like to co-opt more members on to the committee from other areas of the country currently not represented so, if you are interested, please ask the Aspect Group of Prospect Head Office staff for contact details – we would love to see you. The ECEG Committee submitted a robust response to Cathy Nutbrown’s review of Early Education and Childcare Qualifications consultation and were pleased to see that

30 | Improvement | autumn 2013

their views were reflected in the recommendations. They were not so pleased with the Government’s follow-up and subsequent debacle over qualifications, ratios and regulations outlined in More Great Childcare. There is further work to do and many more consultations and expert groups to influence if government policy is to be shaped in order to meet the interests of young children. After all, there is significant research evidence that supports the development of universal integrated early childhood services and the importance of quality in the earliest years that the Government appears to have forgotten. There are concerns with the continuing muddle over the qualifications and status of Early Years Professionals (EYPs) and the proposed re-badging to become Early Years Teachers (EYT) with no evidence that this will improve the quality or qualifications of EYPs. The Early Years Teacher status will not be the same as a qualified teacher. It would seem that early years professionals appear to be treated as less important than the rest of the education service and this remains a concern. Never was it so important that Early Years Professionals share their views and work constructively together. The ECEG is represented at the national early childhood forum (ECF) along with a wide range of other early years providers, services, agencies, professional associations and charities to ensure that members are represented at the highest level and kept informed. The Early Childhood Forum (ECF) puts forward joint responses and speaks directly to government ministers. The chair of ECEG attends Aspect Group of Prospect Executive meetings as well as the Early Years Professionals (EYPs) group of members supported by Aspect’s officer Claire Dent. The two groups, the ECEG and EYP groups, share meetings and agendas. The ECEG Committee decided not to run a conference in 2013 due to the economic climate, but they are committed to the principle that improved quality provision and practice is

best provided through knowledgeable and wellinformed practitioners.Therefore, access to high quality professional development is essential. The ECEG Committee are planning a revised format conference so that costs are kept to a minimum but which provides early years members the opportunity to hear national and international early years experts.This will provide insight into new research, challenge perspectives and provide the opportunity to network with others across the country. It is hoped that this event will both motivate and inspire members. The date planned for this exciting new event is June 27, 2014 with the title Leaders of Learning in the Early Years. Please keep this date in your diary – further details about the speakers, venue and costs will be advertised in Improvement as soon as they become available. Sandra Simmons is chair of the ECEG

Association for Physical Education It has been a difficult and challenging year for the Association. However, despite the challenges, there have been some significant achievements for the Association during 2012/13 – not least of which has been afPE’s involvement in national policy debates, signalling the recognition that we have an important part to play in national debates. During the year, afPE has had representation on the National Curriculum Advisory Group, the Department for Education (DfE) subject expert group, and has given evidence to select committees. afPE has also introduced the Quality Mark, an award which has won the respect of the DfE and National Governing Bodies, and is now of great interest and value to many schools. The afPE regions have had varying successes and, while some continue to thrive, some have struggled to continue to exist and the Strategic Manager has been trying to get out to all the regions to ensure there is a clear link between the central office and the members. The monthly e-newsletter continues to be well received, as does the revamped members’ journal – Physical Education Matters. For those who have Twitter accounts, the association now has a successful profile on this form of social media (@afPE_PE). In the current economic climate where subject associations are all struggling, afPE is bucking the trend and doing well. So, while this has not been an easy year, we should celebrate that not only are we still in business but that we continue to support high quality experiences for young people in physical education and school sport.

Professional Indemnity Insurance for Consultants in Education or Children’s Services • Preferential terms for members of Aspect & Prospect

• Retroactive cover includes all previous educational or children’s welfare consultancy work

• Optional levels of Professional Liability Insurance starting from £100,000

• Optional Employers’ Liability Insurance where staff are engaged

• £5 million Public Liability cover included as standard

• 5 years’ run-off cover as standard on retirement

• Reduced rates for earnings below £30,000 per annum

• Terms available for Corporate Entities

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Aspect rules, OK! Group Secretary Leslie Manasseh explains the rule changes which will be tabled at the biennial general meeting


he Aspect Group’s Rules were substantially amended by the Instrument of Transfer to take account of the merger with Prospect. However, no other review took place and some of the rules have continued very largely unchanged for many years. The Group Council (GC) believe it is time to update them, and in particular to establish a more fitting structure for the Council itself. We therefore intend to table a set of rule amendments at the biennial general meeting. We do not believe that the Aspect Group needs a Council of 27 members – the

largest in Prospect – nor do we believe that the longstanding system of electoral constituencies of regions and sections remains relevant. It was designed for a different era when the education world was simpler. Now we need to be able to cope with constant change and reorganisation. We therefore believe that the GC should be very largely elected by and accountable to the whole membership, but should be able to ensure that all the different areas and groups can be heard.


1. Reduce the size of the GC from 27 members (five officers, 12 members drawn from the regions, four members drawn from the sections and six observers) to 18 (three officers and 12 members elected by the whole membership and a reserved seat for a representative from each of the three devolved administrations) 2. Remove the outdated electoral constituencies


This is the Rule Book for the Aspect Group of Prospect, hereinafter referred to as the “Group”. The purpose of these Rules is to provide a democratic structure for the Group’s trade union and professional activities on behalf of its membership. The Group promotes the provision of sustainable and highquality education and children’s services, for the benefit of all children, young people and adults in society, delivered by professional practitioners. The Group therefore participates in national and local negotiations and

32 | Improvement | autumn 2013


4. 5.


Establish biennial elections for all GC members. The first such elections would take place in early 2014 Establish two-yearly terms of office for all Group Council members and officers Give the GC the freedom to co-opt additional members to seek to ensure that all areas of the membership are represented Delete the transitional rules which were designed exclusively to facilitate the merger with Prospect

consultations over such matters as salaries, conditions of employment and pensions via such relevant machinery as the Soulbury Committee, and also promotes professional standards, training, events, research and accreditation as appropriate. The Group recognises the distinct policy context to be found in different parts of the United Kingdom and the need for autonomous professional activity for the distinct occupations and professions in which Group members are engaged.

THE RULES OF THE GROUP 1. MEMBERSHIP (i) Membership of the Group is open

These amendments will be debated at the biennial general meeting in November and, if agreed, will then be referred to the Prospect NEC for endorsement in accordance with the terms of the merger. The present rules will apply up to that point. Included here is a revised version of the Rule Book with the proposed changes in italics. A copy of the current Rule Book is available here: ITALICISED SECTIONS INDICATE CHANGES

to any Prospect member who is employed or contracted to provide, or advise upon or lead or manage, the provision of a class of professional service deemed appropriate by the Council of the Group, within an organisation or activity with educational or children’s services objectives, or has qualifications, training and experience acceptable to the Council of the Group. (ii) A member of the Group shall be expected to comply with any Code of Practice from time to time issued by the Group Executive Council.


The Group Executive Council (hereinafter in these Group Rules called “the Council”) shall consist of a President and two Vice-Presidents (all of whom shall, for the purposes of these rules, be described as the “Officers of the Group”), and 15 other members. ii) The Council shall be empowered to elect from its membership additional officers for the purpose of advancing the aims of objectives of the Group. iii) Members of the Council shall be elected in accordance with the procedures laid down in, and for the terms provided by, these Rules and Schedules 1 and 2 to these Rules. iv) There shall be reserved seats on the Council to provide for at least one representative from each of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. v) The Council is empowered to coopt a maximum of three additional members in order to provide for the representation of a specific group of members. vi) In the event of any member of the Council of the Group being unable to complete their full term of office as provided under these Rules, a new election shall be called by the Group Secretary as soon as

RULES practicable thereafter and nominations shall be invited for election to the vacated post during the unexpired period of the term. In the event of no nomination being received in response to this invitation, the Council shall be empowered to appoint such person as it deems suitable to fill the vacancy. Such person shall be a Working Member of the Group and shall stand down at the next following Biennial General Meeting and the Group Secretary shall act in accordance with these Rules and the Standing Orders currently in force. vii) The Council of the Group shall have the power to invite any member to attend and speak at some or all of the meetings of the Council, for the purpose of providing the Council with technical or professional advice information or with technical or professional advice with respect to matters taken into account by the Council in carrying out its functions. Members so invited shall not vote in the Council of the Group. viii) The Council of the Group shall appoint any such committees as may be considered necessary in order to further the interests of the Group. The Council may invite members, who are not members of Council, to membership of such committees should they so determine. ix) In the absence of a quorum at either a Biennial General Meeting or an Extraordinary General Meeting, the Council of the Group shall have the power to make decisions on the issues on the agenda of such meeting. x) The Council shall be consulted over the expenditure of funds designated to the Group under Prospect Rule 7 which remain subject to the overriding authority of the Prospect NEC.


Group shall not be less than one third of the voting members.

5. DUTIES OF THE GROUP SECRETARY The Group Secretary shall act as executive officer to the Council and its Sub-Committees. He/she shall be responsible for drafting the agenda for all the meetings in consultation with the President or Chair of the meeting, and for the recording of all Group business. The Group Secretary shall conduct the correspondence of the Group and shall report to the Council all that relates to the business of the Group. The Group Secretary shall be responsible for directing the officers and staff allocated to the Group by the General Secretary, subject to the instructions of the Prospect NEC and/or the General Secretary. The Prospect General Secretary shall, in consultation with the Council of the Group, appoint a permanent official of Prospect to act as Group Secretary of the Aspect Group.

6. MEETINGS OF THE GROUP Biennial General Meeting A Biennial General Meeting of the Group shall be held every two years. The business of the Biennial General Meeting shall include: i) The Biennial Report of the Council of the Group. ii) The Declaration of the elections of Officers and Council of the Group. iii) Amendments to the Rules and Standing Orders of the Group put forward in accordance with the procedures laid down in these Rules. iv) Resolutions put forward in due form. v) Such other business as the President shall determine in consultation with the Group Secretary and which is duly notified in writing to the Group Secretary.

General Meeting shall be in writing and shall state the business of the meeting. The meeting shall be held on a day not less than 14 days from the date of posting of notices to members. iv) The quorum for the Extraordinary General Meeting shall be the same as for the Biennial General Meeting.



The Group’s membership shall be allocated to Regions and Sections as set out in Schedule 2 to these Rules. ii) The Working Members within each Region shall be entitled to gather together to conduct the business of the Group provided that such conduct of business is governed by a Regional Constitution which is: a) subordinate to these Rules; b) approved by the Council of the Group iii) Schedule 3 (Local Representatives) to these Rules shall have effect.

4. QUORUM OF COUNCIL The quorum of the Council of the

Extraordinary General Meetings may be held on the determination of the Council of the Group to deal with any matter pertaining to the business of the Group. ii) An Extraordinary General Meeting shall be held to deal with any matter pertaining to the business of the Group on receipt by the Group Secretary of a written request of not less than 100 Working Members working in not less than two Regions as defined under these Rules. iii) Notice of an Extraordinary












The business of the Biennial General Meeting shall be notified in writing in accordance with the Standing Orders appended to these rules as Schedule 1.


Amendments shall be carried by a two-thirds majority of those Working Members present and voting. iii) The amendment or deletion of Schedules 2 or 3 to these rules shall be by resolution of a simple majority of those present and voting in a Biennial or Extraordinary General Meeting and shall only take effect if and when approved by the National Executive Committee of Prospect.



Meetings of the Council of the Group shall be held at least three times every calendar year and at other times as determined by the President in consultation with the Group Secretary. Such meetings may also be held on receipt of a written request to that effect, signed by not fewer than six voting members of the Council of the Group, or a written request signed by not fewer than 50 Working Members of the Group, such members being representative of not fewer than two regions as defined under these Rules.

Ordinary General Meetings may be held on the determination of the Council of the Group for all, or any, members of the Group to deal with any matter pertaining to the business of the Group. Such Ordinary General Meetings shall not be empowered to pass resolutions in the name of the Group or instructing the Council of the Group.


Standing Orders for the conduct of meetings and other business of the Group shall be appended to these rules as Schedule 1. The amendment or deletion of any Standing Order shall be by resolution of a simple majority of those present and voting at a Biennial or Extraordinary General Meeting.



These rules (except the schedules to them) shall not be amended except at the Biennial General Meeting or at an Extraordinary General Meeting in accordance with this rule, and shall only take effect if and when approved by the National Executive Committee of Prospect. Notice of any proposed amendment shall give the full text of the proposal and shall be in writing and shall be given to members not less than four weeks before the meeting.

Elections for all Group Executive Council of the Group positions shall take place biennially and shall be conducted by postal and/or electronic ballot as determined by Council. The Group Secretary shall be responsible for the proper conduct of these elections. Any dispute in respect of the election shall be referred to the National Executive Committee of Prospect for determination. Every nomination shall be in writing. It shall be signed by one proposer and one seconder, each of whom shall be a Working Member of the Group, and shall include the signature of the nominee indicating acceptance of the nomination. Nominees may submit an election address of up to 250 words which shall be circulated to members with the ballot paper. In the event of a member being the person with the highest number of votes for more than one post on one occasion he/she shall be deemed to be elected to the post highest in the order of precedence in Rule 2 (a) (i), and another election shall be held for the other post or posts for which he/she was nominated.


Biennial general meeting and extraordinary general meeting 1. 2.


The quorum at meetings shall be 30 Working Members present. Except in the case of any proposed amendment to these Rules, a motion shall be carried if it obtains a simple majority of those voting. Any motion failing to obtain the requisite simple majority shall be declared to be not carried. In the event of a tie, the member in the Chair shall exercise the casting vote. The Chair shall be taken by the President, or if unavailable, a Vice-President, or by any Working Member proposed and approved

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 33





by a majority vote of the Working Members present. Speeches from the floor, other than those by movers of motions, shall not exceed two minutes. No individual, unless representing the Council of the Group, shall speak more than twice in each motion, except that the mover shall have the right of final reply to the debate before the motion is put. The member in the Chair shall have the power to curtail any speech which he/she deems to be not relevant to the motion under debate. Except as otherwise provided above, proceedings shall be conducted by reference to the latest available edition of A.B.C. of Chairmanship by Lord Citrine.


1. 2.



There shall be no specified quorum. A motion shall be carried if it obtains a simple majority of those voting. Any motion failing to obtain the requisite simple majority shall be declared to be not carried. The Chair shall be taken by a person designated by the Council of the Group. In the event of the unavailability of such a person, the chair shall be taken by any other person selected by such members of the Council of the Group as are present at the meeting. Except as otherwise provided above, proceedings shall be conducted by reference to the latest available edition of A.B.C. of Chairmanship by Lord Citrine.





A motion shall be carried if it obtains a simple majority of those voting. Any motion failing to obtain the requisite simple majority shall be declared not to be carried. In the event of a tie, the person in the Chair shall exercise a casting vote. The Chair shall be taken by the President, or, if unavailable, a VicePresident or, if also unavailable, by any other voting member agreed after a proposal and a majority vote of the voting members of the Council of the Group present. Except as otherwise provided above, proceedings shall be conducted by reference to the latest available edition of A.B.C. of Chairmanship by Lord Citrine.



The quorum for a sub-committee meeting shall be determined by the Council of the Group and shall

34 | Improvement | autumn 2013



be specified in the minute establishing that sub-committee. A motion shall be carried if it obtains a simple majority of those voting. If any motion fails to obtain the requisite simple majority, it shall be declared to be not carried. The Chair of any sub-committee shall be such person as the Council of the Group may decide and, in all cases, in the event of the unavailability of that person, any other person selected by such Council of the Group members as are present.


In relation to any matter of urgency, whoever is in the Chair may accept a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. The member moving such suspension must state clearly the nature and urgency of the matter, the numbers of the Standing Orders to be affected and the length of time (not exceeding 30 minutes) that such suspension is to last. The motion shall then be put to the meeting. On expiry of the above-mentioned period during which the Standing Orders have been suspended, a motion may be accepted for one further extension of the period of suspension and that motion shall immediately be put to the meeting. No suspension of the Standing Orders, or extension of a period of suspension, shall take place except in consequence of a vote of the meeting in which not less than two-thirds of the members present at the meeting have voted in favour of the suspension or (as the case may be) the extension of the period of suspension.


(i) All Members of the Group shall either: (a) be assigned to the Region in which the Local Authority by whom they are employed is grouped; or (b) be assigned to one of the following sections:Self-employed consultant section Private companies section Voluntary and voluntary-aided section National Association of Youth and Community Education Officers section Another distinct section of Group members accepted and approved by a General Meeting of the Group In the event of any dispute, the decision of the Council shall be final.

(ii). a) Regions shall be defined geographically. The self-employed consultant section shall comprise those members who are self-employed consultants and such other categories of members as the Council may from time to time determine. The private companies section shall comprise those members employed by private companies and such other categories of members as the Council may from time to time determine. The voluntary and voluntary-aided section shall comprise those members employed in the voluntary and voluntary-aided sector and such other categories as members of the Council may from time to time determine. The National Association of Youth and Community Education Officers section shall comprise those members employed or contracted as managers or senior professionals in young people’s services and such other categories as members of the Council may from time to time determine. There may be other such sections of members as accepted and approved by a general Meeting of the Group. b)



The Council of the Group shall decide within which Region any particular Local Authority is to be grouped and, in reaching such decision, the Council of the Group shall take into account the views of the membership in that Authority. The Council of the Group shall decide to which section any member not assigned to a Region shall be assigned. The Council of the Group shall review the regional grouping of Local Authorities from time to time. Following a review of Regions, the Council of the Group shall publish and circulate to the membership, a list of Local Authorities, indicating to which Region each has been allocated.


The term of office for the Officers and Members of the Council shall be two years. Officers and Members can be re-elected to serve additional terms of office.





The Working Members working for each employer shall annually elect one of their number to act as the Local Representative. It shall be the duty of the Local Representative to inform the Group Secretary of the result of the election. The duties of the Local Representative shall be such as are



from time to time determined by the Council of the Group and to act as branch secretary for purposes of the political fund rules of Prospect. Where a Local Representative is unable to complete the term of office, the Working Members concerned shall immediately elect one of their number to serve for the unexpired part of the term of office. Where a Working Member works within more than one area, he/she shall be entitled to one vote in an election for Local Representative, to be exercised in the area of his/her choice.


(to be deleted following the Biennial General Meeting in 2013) The following rules, which shall be part of the rules of Aspect Group, shall apply from the effective date of the transfer of Aspect to Prospect (“the effective date”): A. From the effective date the members of the Group shall comprise all those who were, immediately prior to the effective date, either Full Members of Aspect or members of Aspect under any Joint Membership arrangement under the rules of Aspect. B. The first Officers of the Group and the Regional members of the Group Executive Council shall be those members of Aspect in the corresponding post within the Aspect Council immediately prior to the effective date. C. The first Sectional members of the Group Executive Council shall be those members of Aspect who were Sectoral Representatives of the corresponding class of members of Aspect within the Aspect Council immediately prior to the effective date. D. The first Group Secretary shall be the person who was the General Secretary of Aspect immediately prior to the effective date. E. The first General Meeting of the Group shall take place in 2013. F. Except the election of the Vice President, the first election of the members of the Group Executive Council shall take place in 2014. G. The first Vice President of the group shall become President in 2012, and shall become the Immediate Past President in 2013 and vacate office in 2014. H. The first President shall become the Immediate Past President in 2012 and vacate office in 2013. I. The first Past President shall vacate office in 2012.




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The Co-op: Good with

children Mervyn Wilson argues that co-operative principles are ideal for education


or many in the education sector, the last 12 months have followed a familiar course with a string of DfE ministerial statements highlighting ‘failings’ and/or ‘weaknesses’ and the need for stronger and more rapid school improvement. Combine this with stories of the need to reverse the ‘devaluing of ’ and ‘confidence in’ examination results by raising grade boundaries and we are left with a clear impression of a schools system in crisis, as reflected in the recent Centre for Social Justice publication – Requires Improvement – the causes of education failure. Perhaps that perception of crisis and failure is essential to give legitimacy to the rapid marketisation of the English schools system – and to its spearhead, the forced academisation programme, which has at last started to come under greater scrutiny.

36 | Improvement | autumn 2013

It has also become clear that, following changes within the DfE ministerial team, greater emphasis is placed on quality rather than quantity in academy conversions. More challenging questions about how the change will bring about improvement are being asked of converter academies as well as sponsor academies. This is clearly impacting on the number of academies when contrasted to the government’s desire to see all schools become academies. DfE figures indicate that while 50 per cent of secondary schools are now converter or sponsor academies, just six per cent of the much larger primary sector and 6.5 per cent of special schools take taken this course. Add to the mix the Select Committee’s comments on the enormous overspend in the academies budget and concerns at the disproportionate amount of DfE staff time

spend on them, and it is hardly surprising that many schools have been looking for alternative models in the face of structural changes and the rapidly reducing role of local authorities. Despite the financial incentives for academy converters, more and more schools are looking at co-operative models based on the belief that collaboration and cooperation, active engagement of local communities and a shared ethical approach are more likely to bring about sustainable improvement than coercive command and control models. Schools are becoming aware that the 2006 Education and Inspections Act – which allows schools to become foundation schools with a trust – remains on the statute book. Many see the potential resilience of this model, the core characteristics of which have been used by Church schools for decades.

SCHOOLS The co-operative model for trust schools was developed under the Pathfinder scheme that followed the 2006 Act. It incorporates – into the Memorandum and Articles of Association – an ethos based on globally shared co-operative values and mechanisms for the direct engagement of key stakeholders: parents/carers, staff, learners and the local community through membership and a members’ forum. These are also features of a co-operative model for converter academies. More than 30 schools are now co-operative converter academies including the first co-operative multi-academy trusts. The first school to use the co-operative trust model, Reddish Vale Technology College in Stockport (now a co-operative converter academy), implemented its Trust in March 2008. Since then, the numbers of co-operative trust schools have grown rapidly – generally doubling each year. By September 2013, more than 500 schools had become full members of co-operative trusts together with 85 schools (generally church schools) as partners. The vast majority are in shared trusts involving a number of schools. An additional 150-plus schools are currently at various stages in the legal consultation process, with expectations of well over 700 co-operative trust schools by the end of 2013. The co-operative trust model has become firmly embedded in many parts of the country. In Cornwall, more than 100 schools have adopted the model and are part of 13 trusts. Most of these are geographicallybased clusters, enabling small village primary schools to be part of a learning community with a secondary school that most of their young people will move on to. One of the leading advocates of the co-operative model in the South West, headteacher of the Helston Community College Dr Pat McGovern, has made the reasons for this clear: “There is a strong sense of community in Cornwall and it is natural for us to think of how we do things ourselves through shared action. The last thing that the people of Cornwall want to see is a big education chain coming in to run school services and take money out of the area. That money is best kept serving the local economy and the local community. Our co-operative is about a mutual solution to local needs.” It is a view that is reflected in other parts of the country. In Leeds, a significant proportion of the city’s schools are already in co-operative trusts and others are in the consultation process. The Brigshaw Federation, one of the first trusts in Leeds, now provides a wide range of services to its member schools. Its development director, Peter Laurence, described the reasons for this: “We could all see the direction of travel of

government policy and the rapidly changing role of the local authority. To us, self-help is a natural solution. We are now working as a co-operative to support schools improvement and a wider range of opportunities across our partnership for the benefit of all the young people in the communities we serve.” That inclusive vision and commitment to raising achievement for all learners is a common characteristic of co-operative trusts. Co-operative schools have also established their own national network, the Schools Co-operative Society (SCS). This is organised as a secondary co-operative, owned and controlled by co-operative schools together with representation from the Co-operative College and the Co-operative Group, who provided financial support to enable the network to get established. Regional groupings are emerging, with like-minded schools exploring how to develop joint CPD programmes and other activities previously provided by local authorities. Following pioneering agreements between SCS and UNISON and subsequently with NASUWT and SCS, the Co-operative College have worked with the TUC on a national agreement with its affiliated education sector unions that is expected to be adopted this autumn.This ground-breaking agreement builds on the commitment given by cooperative schools consulting on the change in status to recognise and work with trade unions and actively engage all employees as key stakeholders in the work of the Trust. In the light of government priorities, attention has also been given to developing a co-operative framework for schools improvement. While many co-operative schools have transformed their achievement outcomes, including the co-operative National Challenge Trusts, a small number have either experienced dips in performance or face other issues in areas requiring urgent attention following Ofsted inspections. “One of the characteristics of the cooperative movement,” says Dave Boston, chief

executive of the Schools Co-operative Society, “is that they automatically look for mutual solutions to address issues that arise. We have already been in discussions with the Aspect Group on the development of a quality assured schools improvement service, so that schools have access to high quality schools improvement professionals in what remains an unregulated industry.We are working to launch this with the Aspect Group, and are currently piloting a health check system for schools.” SCS became aware of the need for a cooperative vehicle to support schools in particular difficulties and where an academy solution was required. “Essentially, we are in a similar place to the diocese”, says Dave Boston. “We knew that, in cases where a VA school got into difficulties, the diocese were establishing their own multi-academy trusts so that they could broker support from stronger schools within their networks and have what is essentially an ‘in house solution’. We have sought to develop the same approach, as we have many strong and outstanding schools with NLEs and LCEs all committed to developing strong cooperative schools and sharing experience.” SCS is now an approved academy sponsor and, in October, it becomes the sponsor of Beaufort Community School in South Gloucestershire which will become known as the Beaufort Co-operative Academy. Richard Williams, the recently retired principal of Wrockwardine Wood Arts College, a co-operative trust school in Telford and now the schools improvement officer for SCS, is clear on the significance of the development: “We knew that the issues at Beaufort were ones that SCS and its member co-operative schools were capable of addressing. Having initially been seriously concerned at the prospect of forced academisation, the governing body at the school has enthusiastically supported a solution which guarantees that the cooperative ethos they were starting to develop at the school will be safeguarded and it will

CO-OPERATIVE SCHOOL GROWTH Co-operative schools Co-operative Trust schools: Associate Members Co-operative Academies Sponsored by the Co-operative Group Converters Total

September 2011

September 2012

September 2013

145 30

313 36

513 72




3 5 183

3 18 370

6 33 624

autumn 2013 | Improvement | 37

SCHOOLS remain part of the growing family of co-operative schools.” The Co-operative College, which continues to help schools through the process of adopting co-operative models, is convinced that numbers will continue to grow. Sean Rogers, College Lead on Trust Schools, argues: “More and more schools, particularly in the primary sector, are realising that the local authority’s traditional role is changing forever and they need to consider the best solution for their learners and the communities they serve. Many already benefit from local collaborative arrangements, co-operative trusts provide a good way of embedding these in the longer term and they are attracted to the ‘values driven but faith neutral’ characteristics of co-operative trusts.” He also sees the vital importance of building their own local capacity for schoolto-school self-improvement: “It should be all about being done with, not done to, as is all too often what lies behind the forced academisation agenda.” One challenge that co-operative schools face is implementing the Trust, making sure that the membership grows and the democratic structures provide an effective means of communication and accountability.

New resources have been developed by the Co-operative College to support the process, together with CPD sessions and workshops, as well as joint modules for CPD-based Masters programmes with Manchester Metropolitan University and Keele University. “Developing membership and making democratic structures work effectively takes time,” says Sean Rogers. “Start by working organically to strengthen and accelerate what is already working well across a cluster, then to build a culture of putting the values into everyday practice.” The College has introduced a Co-operative Identity Mark (CIM), a self-assessment tool to help schools implement the values throughout the school. The CIM has already been enthusiastically taken up by a number of schools. With growing interest from other parts of the education sector exploring the potential for a co-operative model for sixth form colleges, FE colleges and even the university sector, there is every prospect of a strong co-operative element emerging in an increasingly fragmented and marketdriven education sector. Mervyn Wilson is principal of the Co-operative College


Sean Rogers, Lead on Trust Schools, Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS Tel: 0161 819 3008 Mob: 07545 925326 Email: SCHOOLS CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY

Dave Boston, Chief Executive, 1 Angel Square, Manchester, M60 0AG Mob: 07713 314728 Email: A short animation on co-operative schools can be seen at

Win a case of wine! Sign up a new member to the Aspect Group of Prospect and you are entered into a draw for a case of wine. Your new recruit gets a case of wine too!

Professionals working in education and children’s services are facing unprecedented problems – shrinking budgets, vanishing jobs, burgeoning workloads and a pay freeze. We need the strength of our union more than ever. Professionals working in our sector need individual advice and support.They need individual protection and the collective protection that only a trade union can provide. The union protects the interests of thousands of professionals who are playing

38 | Improvement | autumn 2013

vital roles in shaping and influencing the lives of millions of children and young people in unprecedentedly difficult circumstances. The Aspect Group’s range of members is constantly growing and now includes directors and managers of children’s services, school improvement and early years advisers, education welfare officers, youth service managers, early years professionals, 14-19 coordinators, social workers in education, heads of Sure Start, social care professionals, Ofsted inspectors, specialist foster careers, parent partnership staff and self-employed consultants. You will know many of these people through your work and professional life. Ask them if they are a member of the Aspect Group of Prospect. If they are not, sign them up! You are an ambassador for the union in the work environment and individual members are often the most effective recruiters of their peers and colleagues. For those who do not

immediately see the value of membership, you can let them know that the union’s expert negotiators across the country are on hand to represent them. They will be joining a union with an unrivalled pool of knowledge and experience with a pioneering track record on policy, contacts unrivalled in our sector – in government, children’s services and education – and links through Prospect with professionals working across the public and private sectors. The Aspect Group’s programme of continuing professional development and its highly competitive professional indemnity cover are there to lend a real sense of security.

What to do! Recruit a member. Join Aspect Group forms are downloadable at Alternatively, contact 01924 207890 or email for a recruitment pack.



measures A subterranean struggle is taking place in the Coalition over league tables, reports Nick Wright A new report by the CentreForum thinktank has sharpened the debate around measures of accountability in the secondary sector and, in doing so, has opened up some fault lines in Coalition thinking about pupil achievement, school improvement and, implicitly, the reliability of the evidence base on which education policy is being shaped. CentreForum, sponsored by educational publishers Pearson, is most intimately connected to the ‘Orange Book’ Liberal Democrat strain in government and has on board a clutch of former SDP figures like Andrew Adonis – now back in the Labour Party – and Tory universities minister David Willetts. The focus of the report is on the measures by which secondary school are judged to have performed and the nature of the incentives that shape their performance and the achievements of the students. CentreForum argues, uncontroversially within the market liberal circles that they influence, that secondary schools should be ranked in league tables according to the progress made by their students. The critical issue is the tendency of schools to focus on the C/D borderline of

REFERENCES * The Sutton Trust, ‘Research Summary: Attainment gaps Between the most Deprived and Advantaged Schools’, May 2009, p.4. ** Machin and Silva, School structure, school autonomy and the tail, in Marshall, P. (ed.) The Tail, 2013.

achievement. Existing league tables rank English schools on the number of students achieving five GCSE grades at A*-C. The report says that this measure harms the prospects of students in the bottom 20 per cent, or ‘tail of underachievement’, who leave secondary school with literacy and numeracy skills below the level expected of children leaving primary school. The government plans to replace the existing ‘five A*-C’ measure with two new measures: an eight subject progress measure reflecting student progress and a new threshold measure. CentreForum is happy with the new progress measure. However, it warns that the newly created threshold measure will tend to encourage the same perverse incentives and ‘gaming’ strategies as the current ‘five A*-C’ measure. It argues that the more prominence is given to the proposed new threshold indicators, the more its flawed incentive structure will drive attention towards some and not all. By contrast, the more prominence achieved by the progress measure, the greater the coherence between the drivers in the system and the admirable goals set for it. The report then recommends that proposed new English and Maths threshold indicator should be replaced with an alternative measure that – it argues – can provide the desirable additional focus on these core subjects without these problems. “This should be achieved by double weighting pupil performance in English and maths within the underlying APS 8 measure against which progress is gauged,” says the report. CentreForum thinks league tables based on this new measure will give parents an understanding of how much students in a school learn rather than what some of its students achieve in examinations. The rationale for this is couched in language that stresses ‘pupil centred’ teaching that encompasses all children

and focuses attention on a category of “poor, unseen children” recently identified by Ofsted and – it is argued – hidden by the existing and proposed threshold measures. Some interest has been generated by the foreword written by the chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, Conservative MP Graham Stuart, which is taken as a rebuke to Michael Gove and a criticism of his league table proposals. The DfE made an uncharacteristically uncombative response to the report, noting its main point that the C/D threshold can create perverse incentives and lead to gaming, and claiming that its consultation proposals were designed to minimise this behaviour and encourage high achievement across the board. Graham Stuart argues that: “If implemented, the incentives acting in the system would match the two admirable objectives that have been set for it: improving outcomes for all

“Retaining a threshold measure based on the percentage of pupils achieving a C grade in English and maths would be a serious mistake” and closing the shameful gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and the rest. “If you create a system with incentives, you can’t blame people and institutions for responding to them. League tables are a real driver of school behaviour and we must make sure we get them right. “Retaining a threshold measure based on the percentage of pupils achieving a C grade in English and maths would be a serious mistake,” he said. The report is structured around a critique of the post war ‘high autonomy, low accountability’ modes of evaluation and of hitherto existing headline accountability measures and, while it is concerned with governance issues, it conducts a wide discussion around the design principles that should underpin headline measures.

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Maths lesson

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remains trapped in the logic of it own assumptions. Under the preferred rubric of ‘high autonomy, high accountability’, a technical discussion is grounded in comparisons between the performance of a range of schools. This is illuminating and a useful model for other studies in different local authority areas, but the unseen elephant in the room is the systemic perversity of Britain’s highly stratified and selective secondary education system which results in disadvantage for poorer and working class students throughout the country. The report is not blind to this but discusses parental choice and school performance while discounting the profound inability of the parents of most disadvantaged students to exercise real choice over which school to attend. Indeed, it argues that the

“If you create a system with incentives, you can’t blame people and institutions for responding to them”

Admissions Code militates against ‘exclusionary practices’ – as indeed it does. The issue is how effectively. The report points out the Sutton Trust finding that: “disadvantaged pupils are less likely to be entered for core subjects over and above any differential that would be expected based on ability levels.” * It leaves untheorised the perverse effects of grounding a national policy in a fetish for school autonomy when the local capacity of communities is reduced and their elected authorities are both stripped by resource cuts – and the academy programme itself – and rendered less capable of intervening to support schools that fail to make progress for all their students. Nevertheless, while there is no challenge to the main direction of the government’s schools policy, the report is quite scrupulous in taking account of its negative features. For example, in discussing the powerful incentive for a school to focus attention and resources towards the middle, it draws on evidence which shows that while overall performance rose in schools attaining academy status, there has been no improvement whatsoever in the performance of the tail. ** This is a conclusion that Labour, as well as the Coalition, needs to take account of.

Secondary school accountability indicators that benefit all Chris Paterson CentreForum ISBN: 978-1-909274-05-1


Powerful arguments are deployed in the central section dealing with the failings of the existing headline measure and later in supporting the proposed alternatives. Although the author Chris Paterson makes the point that “headline measures of school performance (along with the performance tables derived from them) fill an important crossover role between the spheres of administrative and market accountability,” the report nevertheless glides over the practical and theoretical problems that inevitably arise when public service provision, supposedly grounded in comprehensive principles, collides with market imperatives. As the report notes: “The coalition is engaged in a process of far-reaching supply side reform through mass ‘academisation’ and granting schools greater freedoms across the board.” The weakness of the proposals lie not so much in their internal logic. Clearly, there is an important discussion to be had about the inevitable appearance of perverse incentives in any system that ranks schools in a hierarchy of achievement and which rewards and punishes on the basis of these measures. Although this is an honest, and well-grounded, attempt to modify the operation of the system, it




the achievement


David Smith looks at Ofsted's survey of education and disadvantage over two decades. Twenty years ago, Ofsted published Access and Achievement in Urban Education, a report looking at seven urban areas with high levels of deprivation. An update appeared 10 years later, in 2003. Over the past year Ofsted has North London undertaken a review in order to street corner understand the current pattern of

disadvantage and educational success across England, to learn the lessons of recent policy initiatives, and to come forward with proposals that would really make a difference. This report from HMCI sets out some of the main evidence that informed the review. It draws on test and examination data, inspection outcomes, and published reports and research.

Unlike the two previous reports, the 2013 version covers the landscape from early years services to further education, and shows that the distribution of underachievement has shifted. Previously it was particularly to be found in big cities. Today, pockets of underachievement exist in deprived coastal towns and rural, less populous regions. There are also a significant number of poor children underachieving in areas of relative affluence, where raw outcomes mask gaps in attainment between free school meals (FSM) and non-FSM pupils.

“It is not acceptable that disadvantaged children attain less well than their peers�

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REVIEW As the report says, it is not acceptable that disadvantaged children attain less well than their peers. In the past two decades the seven areas identified in 1993 have undergone considerable change. “Although [they] are still marked by consistently high levels of deprivation ... three quarters of the schools still open were judged to be good or outstanding at their last inspection” and levels of attainment have improved, especially at Key Stage 2. Some of the schools still reflect stubborn challenges, and their pace of change has not been quick enough to close gaps in achievement for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. One of the many charts in the report shows how they diverge in overall effectiveness - after 20 years - from the picture for England, at primary and at secondary level. Several of them are at or above the national picture, but not always at both primary and secondary level. The second chapter of this attractively produced report shows that the educational landscape is more positive than it was 10 or 20 years ago. Among the major headlines identified are these, each of them expanded on in the text and followed by two detailed case studies: material poverty is not an insurmountable barrier to achievement (though PISA results show some countries surmounting it better than us) for too many disadvantaged children failure starts early, as teachers in early years know all too well schools are improving too slowly in areas of high deprivation - the proportion of outstanding schools in the least deprived areas is nearly double that in deprived and most deprived communities outcomes at the end of KS3 and KS4 have improved for all, but the attainment gap is not closing fast enough, and it varies too widely across the country attainment at GCSE has improved for pupils from different ethnic backgrounds and for pupils with English as an additional language white British pupils from low income backgrounds perform poorly. Chapter three focuses on investing in high quality early years education and carefor the most disadvantaged children, and proposes that scarce resources should be targeted at increasing these children’s access to high quality early

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years education. Gaps in achievement are clearly established by the age of five. Chapters four and five discuss tackling underachievement of disadvantaged pupils at school and at area level. The most successful areabased initiatives, government funded, have been the City Challenge programmes, which have included a high level of political accountability, teams of challenge advisers and systems leaders, “forensic use” of performance data, effective schoolto-school support and the power to employ radical solutions where schools were underperforming. The London Challenge is discussed in some detail. Nowadays, pupils do better on average in London than elsewhere in the country, regardless of minority ethnic and/or FSM status. That is a real turnaround. Chapter six is about getting the best school leaders and teachers where they are needed most. “More of the best school leaders will need to be encouraged to work in challenging contexts.” Recruiting the best teachers to schools serving disadvantaged pupils is a priority. Strong incentives are needed to encourage the best teachers to work in the most challenging schools, especially beyond London. Comparisons of OECD countries indicate that most education systems that demonstrate both high performance and very low between-school variation in PISA assessments attract teachers equitably across the school system.

“Gaps in achievement are clearly established by the age of five” To recruit the best teachers to schools serving disadvantaged pupils several possibilities are discussed. making teachers’ salaries competitive within a well-targeted package of multiple incentives to attract good teachers to disadvantaged schools and keep them there offering incentives for trainees in challenging schools extending Teach First beyond London finding a way to identify where the best teachers are employed

learning from other countries’ approaches to these areas for development. The seventh chapter deals, all too briefly, with issues in further education and vocational skills, including a brief and welcome section on the German system of vocational training, with its clear mission and specialist institutions, strong employer leadership, and a very high likelihood of employment after apprenticeships, which “are the vocational qualification”. Unfortunately this section ends weakly, almost seeming to suggest that since apprenticeships in Germany are part of an old and deep cultural heritage we can do little to learn practically from them. Some of the facts illuminated in this report we have always known. One is that where you are born and to whom, and where you live determine how well you do at school and in life. This is a variant on the postcode lottery theme currently so popular in discussions of the NHS. A child on free school meals has only half the chance of getting good grades as children from wealthier families and in some areas of the country significantly less than that. This is wasting young talent on a massive, unfair scale. The positive news is that some areas have seen dramatic improvements in closing the gap for children from low income backgrounds in about ten years, showing that change is possible not just in individual schools but across an entire city or region. In what sectors to invest over the next decade to remedy remaining deficiencies is a challenge. Unseen Children illustrates that approaches need to be systematic and sustained, lasting over the life of several governments, with high quality leadership and teaching being fundamentally important. To my mind, nothing in the report suggests that golden keys will be found in structural change or in altered assessment systems. Much more important are two short phrases early in this lengthy report - “children’s life chances are rooted firmly in their first five years” and “gaps in achievement are clearly established by the age of five”. If we get it right there we might be able to watch the other pieces fall securely into place. David Smith is a governor in two primary schools in deprived areas and a former education officer.

Unseen Children: access and achievement in education 20 years on June 20 2013, Ofsted, Ref: 130155, accessandachievement




This handsomely produced volume is a practical distillation of work on child development over four decades, starting in the early ‘70s with George Stroh’s work with autistic children and combining, from 1976, research by Geoffrey Walden into wider questions surrounding developmental delay Their approach to learning – Functional Learning – for children whose development is delayed (and the authors shy away from using labels which are more specific) starts with the acute and detailed observation of children in general, including those who have little difficulty mastering the skills and understanding needed to make sense of the world and function appropriately in it. The spontaneous play of children, they note, passes successively through eight identifiable but mutually illuminating steps or levels. These are “the learning-howto-learn tools: mental tools which all children use to learn about the world around them”. The Learning tools are discussed in turn: placing, piling, banging, pairing, matching, sorting, sequencing and brick-building. They are all observable in almost all children. Developmental delay can arise when a child, for one or more of a number of reasons, does not acquire them properly. When this happens, the child needs to be directed to acquire the missing tool and those succeeding it, using the Functional Learning programme. Furthermore, because they acknowledge a vital link between cognitive and emotional processes, the authors insist on the importance of working within the emotional context of child and family. For example, children’s secondary defensive behaviours which they acquire to protect themselves against fears and anxieties and to avoid change have to be managed appropriately until they cease to be an obstacle to learning. The book is very detailed, with a careful definition of terms and thorough discussion of the steps to

be expected as the use of each Tool for Learning becomes more fluent and more sophisticated. The book is very practical. Detailed examples of activities which have been found to work, and the apparatus mostly easily acquired or simply made to support them, is given in each chapter. More detail is on the included CD, where colour photographs illustrate how apparatus can be selected to support the acquisition of more than one of the learning tools. The CD is indeed essential viewing despite its old-fashioned feel. In addition to information on materials and equipment, the 15 minute video illustrates the approach clearly. Showing a ‘typical’ child to start with, it moves on to illustrate Functional Learning as experienced by children with different kinds of disability. The method of developing the successive Learning tools is clearly demonstrated. A brief test drive by a family with an autistic six-year-old led to favourable comments about the Functional Learning approach. It seemed sensible and adaptable to them, and it sat comfortably with other contemporary approaches such as the SCERTS model. At £87 (£50.99 for the paperback), the book is very expensive. At first sight, it is perplexing that a book based on forty-year-old research should appear now. Indeed, its purpose is partly (it seems) to record the development and outworking of a particular approach to helping children with delayed development, celebrating its pioneers. However, it also has much contemporary relevance and can provide parents (and carers) and teachers with knowledge, understanding and skills which will help them with children whose needs have hitherto baffled them. Many with experience of small children, especially if they have worked with children struggling to learn to read, will find themselves nodding in recognition of many of the points made in the initial discussion. Some from a teaching background may find themselves sympathising with the parents quoted in the book as reacting against the very directed use of prescribed activity on the grounds that the child’s autonomy was eroded by the approach. However, when viewed as a process of re-establishing appropriate neurological traces in the brain in order for conventional

learning to take place – a concept readily understood by many piano teachers – it is more easily understood. The book will be helpful reading for teachers working with children with delayed development, whether or not they fully adopt the approach. It will provide much good material for more than one teachers’ training session. It seems a lot of money for parents to pay and a trip to the library might be a better option for them, but it will be worthwhile.

Every Child Can Learn: Using learning tools and play to help children with Developmental Delay Katrin Stroh, Thelma Robinson, Alan Proctor £50.99 (paperback) £87.00 (hardback) 232 pp. SAGE Publications Ltd 2008

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Football joy for community hero youngsters Community-spirited youngsters got more than they bargained for when they celebrated their achievements at England’s plush football training centre


pproximately 100 youngsters aged between 14 and 16 gathered at St George’s Park in Burtonupon-Trent to mark their success in the Staffordshire Challenge, which aims to build confidence and promote community responsibility among those who take part. Being the Football Association’s National Football Centre, the teenagers knew that they might see a player here and there, but they didn’t expect to be rubbing shoulders with no fewer than three top-flight international pros. To the delight of everyone who had assembled at the centre for their awards and certificates, Galatasaray players Emmanuel Eboué, Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder all turned up for a chat and mingled with everyone, posing for pictures and signing autographs. “The excitement among the children was impossible to describe,” says Aspect member Christine Williams, education consultant for Entrust Education Services, who organised the event.

were happy to stay and speak to the children, so it was a great reward for all of the hard work they had put in. I was thrilled for them.” The Staffordshire Challenge was joined by 11 schools across the Staffordshire and set community-based tasks for the people involved. The idea is two-fold: promote a sense of social responsibility among the youngsters and provide them with skills for life. Christine says: “Each school gave pupils the opportunity to find out what was ‘good’ and ‘bad’ about their local area and then they decided to do something to improve it. This included one in which the children

carried out a survey of the dog mess in their local area and spoke to dog walkers and other people to find out if it was a particular problem and then did something about it – providing bags for dog walkers and even collecting up the mess and disposing of it safely.” “They worked with the local parish council and managed to get a number of dog mess bins installed, which was a major victory and did wonders for their confidence.” The St George’s Park ceremony was the culmination of months of hard work and was marked by speeches, videos, presentations and a slap-up barbecue at the centre’s Hilton Hotel.

“The excitement among the children was impossible to describe” “The heroes of many of them had just walked into the room and started wandering around them all, so they just couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was a once-in-alifetime thing for them.” She added: “I was delighted to see that the players were just normal people and

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Emmanuel Eboué and Didier Drogba with Dale Elder, Nathan Humphries, Luke Buckley, Stacey Capper, Chantelle Millington, Beth Large and Georgina Sewell from Newcastle and Kidsgrove Blackfriars High School


Specialist help and advice Aspect Group regional and specialist officers GLENN JOHNSON



London/Southern England and East Midlands

London and Southern England






South West and West Midlands

Head of Professional Learning



North of England

NE England, Scotland, Northern Ireland

Aspect Group National Council – Regional and Sector Representatives

We’r Movineg !




Region 1 North East

Region 11 Northern Ireland



Region 2 Yorkshire and the Humber

Region 12 Scotland



Region 3 East Midlands

Self-employed Educational Consultant Sector

The Aspect Group is moving. From this month, the union’s head office is moving from Woolley Hall near Wakefield. Staff and union officers have fond memories of the elegant if elderly building, which has housed the union since it was the National Association of Education Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants.




Private Education Company Sector


Region 5 East of England NIGEL HOLMES

Region 6 South East REGION 7 SOUTH WEST


Region 8 West Midlands



Voluntary and Voluntary-aided Sector

Aspect has happily shared it with Wakefield’s education service and the authority’s in-service training facility, but is now moving to a modern building in Wakefield. Staff from Prospect’s Doncaster office will be co-located in the building to form a new hub for the Yorkshire region.




Aspect Group of Prospect, International House, Turner Way, Wakefield WF2 8EF Tel: 01924 207890 Fax: 01924 369717 Email:

Region 10 North West

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School improvement: job round-up EARLY YEARS August 28 – Barnet Community Play Worker – £14,686 7 August 28 – Salvation Army, London Early Years Operations Manager – £37,629 7 July 11 – Rainbows Childcare, Rutland Early Years Practitioner – £14,999-£16,999 7

July 29 – Monkey Puzzle Nursery, Finchley Early Years Professional – £17,000-£20,000 7 July 29 – Hackney Community College Early Years Teacher – £34,107-£36,933 7 July 29 – Teeny Tots Nursery, Birmingham Graduate Leader Early Years Professionals – £16,000-£18,000 7

August 28 – Hackney Learning Trust Nursery Education Officer – £22,920-£24,819 7 August 28 – Battersea (Little Red Hen) Nursery Teacher/SENCO 7 July 11 – Southwark Senior Early Years Practitioner – £29,571-£31,935 7

OTHER July 5 – Hertfordshire Educational Psychologist 2-7 – £33,512-£39,079 6 July 5 – Hertfordshire Educational Psychologist Team leader/manager 4-6 – £35,714-£37,920 6

June 28 – Essex Pre-School Manager 11-14 – £43,792-£47,268 6 SENIOR July 5 – Bridgend Lead Officer for School Improvement – £55,658-£58,741 2

LIT/NUM CONSULT August 23 – St Helens Primary Strategy Teaching and Learning Consultant – 7-13 – £39,079-£46,152 4 TEACHER ADVISER July 5 – Essex Specialist Teacher Pre-School 2-5 – £33,512-£36,817 5 Teacher Adviser

Need expert legal advice? Call the Aspect Group’s 24-hour legal helpline on 0161 830 4511 Please have your membership number to hand, as you will need it for identification purposes Russell, Jones & Walker, part of Slater & Gordon Lawyers

46 | Improvement | autumn 2013

Have you or one of your family been injured in the last 3 years? The Aspect Personal Injury Line, run on our behalf by Slater & Gordon lawyers (formerly RJW), could help you. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the Aspect Personal Injury Line oĆŠers Help for injuries at work, on the road or at home Specialist legal advice on personal injury matters No win, no fee Help on any claim, large or small.

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Improvement autumn 2013  

Autumn 2013 edition of Improvement, the magazine of the Aspect Group, the trade union for education and children's services professionals