Leadership Incorporating Managing Schools Today
Why are other countries progressing faster than us? Chris Husbands reports on the Oatesâ€™ Review of the National Curriculum www.teachingtimes.com
talking pictures Thinking through photographs By Åsa Andersson, Sara Liptai, Radmila Sutton, Steve Williams and Catherine Fehily
Price: £65.00 Inc VAT Digital photography and scanning encourage creative exploration – pupils can view their images straight away and experiment with new ideas. Talking Pictures grounds this creative empowerment in the analysis and evaluation of images through critical thinking and classroom discussion. The result is an exciting pack of resources to enliven lessons in Art, ICT or English. The pack contains: ●
A 64-page guide for teachers on discussing and making photographs with pupils ● Sixteen laminated images for instant classroom use ● A CD with 42 photographers’ images for printing or viewing via computer/whiteboard, examples of pupils’ photographs, articles on digital photography from world-famous photographer Pedro Meyer and printable templates for image analysis The activities and materials in the Talking Pictures pack have been tested, with impressive results, in schools.
Realise the creative potential of digital photography at KS2–3 309 Scott House, Gibb Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B9 4AA
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From the Editor
f you put two articles from this issue of SLT side by side they will clearly show up the gulf that is widening, not just between schools in the UK but, English education policy and the rest of the world. The two articles are the Trends article on the headteachers’ responses to inspection under the values of the new Ofsted Framework and the article on the Oates’ Review of the National Curriculum. Although couched in reserved terms, the heads were more than a little disturbed at the way their schools were judged by arbitrary references to national average levels of attainment, regardless of the progress the schools had made in lifting student achievement. None of the latter mattered. The new mantra of ‘below the national average’ was enough, if evidenced in a key subject, to throw a school into special measures. There was also disquiet about the way EBacc was being promoted at the expense of vocational courses and local strategies developed to link the school to its community and deliver a realistic vision for students in danger of becoming permanently unemployed. Of course, the schools bristling most were those sponsored academies that have picked up a legacy of massive under-achievement against national averages. Their contextual problems are getting worse as benefit cuts take hold, yet contextual factors are increasingly being marginalized in the judgement criteria, despite some token commitment to ‘progress’. It’s going to lead to a situation where such schools are going to find it increasingly hard to maintain any parity of esteem with schools in the leafy suburbs, or maintain any localised responses to social conditions. The rationale for introducing ever more draconian judgement standards are that we have to force up student attainment standards because we are falling behind other countries. Yet Chris Husbands’ article and the Curriculum Review itself suggests that the international community is moving in exactly the opposite direction to us in not allowing assessment criteria and national averages to drive teaching and learning. They are also refusing to narrow the curriculum as early as us, and in fact we are almost unique in the modern world in demanding such a narrow force to our teaching post. In no other country is so little attention given to the arts post 14, and virtually all the countries made citizenship and civics mandatory throughout compulsory schooling. And contrary to Gibbs’ now famous dismissal of ‘all this skills rubbish,’ the research analysis of the report says that in high performing jurisdictions oracy skills and language enrichment are closely linked to cognitive development and educational achievement. Deeper still, Husbands cites the report’s analysis of how the whole idea of assessment by levels is corroding our educational system and its values. ‘England’s current assessment system encourages a process of differentiating learners through the award of levels and has a significant effect of exacerbating social differentiation.’ Exactly! The report says that the peculiar selection and differentiation of students in England by level is more a product of ‘historical legacy than evidenced-based decision’. Husbands’ article lays bare the fact that the old elitist concepts of intelligence being fixed and hereditary are alive and well and lurking in the bowels of the English assessment system, often carrying a ‘progressive’ banner. In high performing Asian education systems, which Gove is constantly quoting, they are more interested in a mastery model of progression. The ‘labelling of differential attainment’ is not considered significant, rather all students are expected to have adequately mastered key concepts before moving on, and that this is the focus for assessment and accountability. If implemented here, this ‘readiness to progress’ assessment could be more involved, but it would also tell us much more about where the children need targeted help. Husbands has helped recover the Oates’ Review of the Curriculum from the charge of being a conservative commentary, and therefore easily dismissed. Rather, his article has opened up a debate about reconstructing the Key Stages and assessment systems so that they are more about mastery for all children, with education having a broader social purpose than just passing tests and exams. His plea, and that of the Oates’ Review, is for educational evidence to be taken seriously. Howard Sharron is editor of School Leadership Today and author of ‘Changing Children’s Minds : Reuven Feuerstein’s Revolution in the Teaching of Intelligence’
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How we differ from other nations
Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
What’s in this issue
How we differ from other nations
Why schools are continuing to be prudent with expenditure; Ofsted’s threat to ‘weak’ teachers; the DfE’s scheme to boost phonics levels, and more.
Major concerns raised by Heads over inspection under the new Ofsted framework. Plus, the devaluing of vocational qualifications suggests a tough time ahead for academies. And, why the UK is lagging behind international competition in getting more young people into technology careers.
Our regular digest of important new documents and studies for school teachers.
FEATURES Looking beyond exams
The call for curriculum reform Tim Oates and fellow panellists review the National Curriculum and find a constrained and restricting English system. Chris Husbands reports. p22
To prepare young people for the future, we must break free from educational conventions and broaden skill sets, argues Marius Frank.
Overcome geographical barriers by accessing a virtual world to nurture a class of global citizens. Cliff Manning explains how.
Collaborating to fight deprivation
To tackle the effects of social deprivation on schools, solidarity at the top must come first.
Rescued from the brink of failure
Loic Menzies presents a case study to prove how a strong support structure can help trainee teachers to flourish.
Academies: where does all the money come from? Peter Downes investigates the financial incentive behind schools’ decisions to convert to academy status.
What’s in this issue
Teaching schools: following their lead
The need for excellent leadership has never been greater. Here, Andy Buck and Liz Day look at the value of the teaching school.
Putting Oxbridge in your sights
How an inner-city college is defying social and economic conventions to get a record number of students into Oxbridge. Howard Sharron reports.
Classroom conversation commended by Ofsted!
Ann O’Hara explains why dialogic learning is crucial for children’s academic progress, and praises Ofsted for recognising this.
The disengaged parent trap
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The success story of a Staffordshire initiative to promote educational aspiration at school and home.
Is wellbeing the root of all learning?
The government have decided against making PSHE a statutory subject. Here, Barbara Steill looks at comprehensive research into PSHE’s effectiveness.
The paradox of future safeguarding
What does the future hold for safeguarding in schools when the two key visions seem to be contradictory? Kate Fitch investigates.
Embracing a school-commissioning culture
LAs are no longer a feasible service-provider; this is evolving into a school responsibility. Katie Paxton-Dogget offers professional advice.
The rise of the computer cloud
Does the innovation of cloud computing suit the needs of your school? We help you to decide.
The natural answer to school improvement 102 Reaping the rewards of a naturally engaging environment. Hugh McNish reports on one school’s journey to get closer to nature.
This issue’s section for primary school leaders includes a Manager’s Briefcase on the Ofsted Framework’s key judgements and the implications for the SENCO. Plus a special focus on the Early Years – the creative classroom, effective ICT and a look at what the future holds for EYFS.
Editor Howard Sharron
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Schools plan for frugal times ahead
D Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
ata on school balances shows that schools are reducing their spending as education funding cuts start to affect budgets. Schools across the country are planning for more financially stringent times ahead, according to the school balance data document released by the Department for Education. The figures published by the DfE demonstrated trends indicating that school leaders are preparing for a reduction in their budgets by reducing spending in schools. However, they also revealed an overall reduction of the number of schools in financial deficit. The document also revealed evidence of funding inequality between schools in different authorities and different places across the country, adding to calls to alter the current school funding formulae. The report shows that in 2010-11 the total revenue balance across all LA maintained schools was £1.96 billion, an increase of £290.2 million (17.4 per cent) over the 200910 revenue balance figure of £1.67 billion. This equates to an average surplus in each school of almost £91,000. There were 1,511 schools with a revenue balance deficit. The total deficit across all LA maintained schools that had a deficit was £143.5 million, a decrease of £17.9 million (12.5 per cent) over the 2009-10 total revenue balance deficit figure of £161.4 million. This equates to an average deficit in each school with a deficit of almost £95,000. The total revenue balance across all secondary schools
was £650.9 million, an average of over £208,000 per secondary school. There were 2,608 secondary schools with a surplus revenue balance totalling £756.2 million, an average surplus of £290,000 per secondary school with a surplus. In addition there were 457 secondary schools with a revenue balance deficit of £105.3 million, an average deficit of just over £230,000 per secondary school with a deficit. General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Brian Lightman said: “It is a concern that there is significant variation between schools in different LAs and between schools in different phases. “This underscores the need to move to a funding formula that delivers a fair level of funding to schools, no matter where they are in the country. It also makes the point that this formula must be activity referenced and clearly modelled so that it does not create a whole new set of inequities,” he added. “As the statistical release itself points out, the growing number of schools converting to academy status makes year-on- year-comparisons in school expenditure difficult, as academies are not represented in the data.”
Barclays to offer expertise and support to schools
arclays is to offer its expertise and support to schools across England, and will target academies, Free Schools, University Technical Colleges (UTCs) and Studio Schools in particular. Under the scheme, Barclays will:
encourage hundreds of senior staff members with transferable business skills to sit on the governing bodies of state-funded schools – including academies and Free Schools provide local access to free financial advice to help academies and Free Schools to manage their new financial duties offer structured work experience opportunities at Barclays branches and offices to pupils from academies and Free Schools widen the Barclays Money Skills programme, which
helps young people build the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to manage money more effectively provide free online access for school staff to ‘selfservice’ functional and business skills training materials provide free banking to new Free Schools and academies, helping them get off the ground work with the New Schools Network, Baker Dearing Trust and Studio Schools Trust with the aim of offering funding of £5,000, on average, to selected Free School, UTC and Studio School groups in the pre-application stage.
Schools that want to participate should visit the Barclays academies and Free Schools website: http://www. barclays.co.uk/SupportingBritainsFreeSchoolsAcademies/ P1242599887777
new report has identified the key challenges facing the creative sector and what needs to be done if it is to fully realise its potential for growth and international competitiveness. The skillset report identified eight challenges that cut right across the creative industries, from industry ownership of investment in skills, to the fusion of creative and technical disciplines in education and the need to cut red tape for businesses employing freelancers. The Skillset Group has been working with employers, training and education providers and industry organisations from throughout the creative industries to produce the report which has been fully endorsed by the Council, chaired by Secretaries of State, Vince Cable and Jeremy Hunt. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “This report gives us a clear picture of the issues we face in making sure that those working in our creative industries have the skills needed to drive growth. “We need to do all we can to develop the talent in
Plans endorsed to boost creative skills and talent our creative businesses. I urge all involved in the creative industries to take these recommendations on board.”
Key recommendations include: ■
Reform the ICT syllabus in schools. Computer science, arts and/or a creative subject (music, film, media, and photography) should be included in the National Curriculum as core subjects, and also as options within the English Baccalaureate. The creative industries and the National Apprenticeship Service should lead on a promotional campaign to raise the profile of apprenticeships and challenge traditional notions that they are for those unable to study at university, or that they are ‘just for boys’. Education and training providers collaborating with the creative industries need to combine arts, design and technology and business, reflecting how the creative industries are being transformed by the fusion of these disciplines.
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Schools sign up for phonics funding
so I am naturally concerned at the number of areas where few schools have not yet taken the opportunity to do so. “The money is available until March next year so there is still time to claim it. “This is an open invitation to all schools to improve the way they teach systematic synthetic phonics – the tried and tested method of improving the reading of all our children, especially the weakest.”
ew Department for Education figures show that thousands of primary schools have signed up to spend more than £7.7 million on new phonics products and training to drive up their pupils’ standards of reading. So far 3,211 schools have taken advantage of the government’s match-funding scheme to buy the products, which include a range of teaching resources, including books, software and games. Additionally, 987 schools have booked phonics training for their staff to improve their teaching of phonics, the method internationally proven to improve reading, especially among younger children. The scheme went ‘live’ in September last year with the publication of the phonics catalogue of approved products and services. Under the scheme, any state-funded school with Key Stage 1 pupils – including academies and Free Schools – can claim up to £3,000 to buy products and training until March 2013. Ministers have previously warned that children were being left with poor reading skills because of a refusal to use phonics – the traditional system that breaks down words into individual sounds. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “This is a chance for schools to gain extra funding to improve reading standards
Lack of specialist ICT teachers must be addressed
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ust 35 per cent of ICT teachers are specialists, compared with, for 74 per cent of maths, 76 per cent of history, 80 per cent of English, and 88 per cent of biology, according to a report from the Royal Society. The report ‘Shut down or Restart? The way forward for Computing in UK schools’, analyses recent declines in numbers of young people studying computing at schools and the reasons for the declines. Professor Steve Furber, Fellow of the Royal Society and Chair of the report, said: “The most significant factor affecting how well young people learn is the teacher in their classroom. The majority of teachers are specialists, but ICT is an exception to the rule. “Our study found some fantastic examples of teaching, but the fact remains that the majority of teachers are not specialists and we heard from young people that they often knew more than the teacher giving the lesson. Action is needed not only on the curriculum itself, but also to recruit and train many more inspiring teachers to reinvigorate pupils’ enthusiasm for computing.”
Analysis in the Royal Society report showed marked trends in the numbers of students achieving ICT or computing qualifications, including a 60 per cent decline in the numbers achieving A level computing since 2003, a 34 per cent decline at ICT A Level over the same period, and a 57 per cent decline in ICT GCSE. The report identified a chronic lack of specialist teachers who can teach beyond basic digital literacy and the breadth of interpretation of the current National Curriculum, which allows the subject to be taught at its lowest level. The report recommends that targets are set for the numbers of Computer Science and Information Technology specialist teachers and that training bursaries are provided to attract more suitably qualified graduates. Teachers’ skills should be developed with a specified minimum level of continuing professional development (CPD) in order to ensure that schools can deliver a rigorous curriculum and engaging learning environment
Weak teachers should not get pay rise, says Ofsted
he chief inspector of Ofsted has warned that heads should only be rewarding committed and hardworking staff, and weak teachers should not be given pay rises. Sir Michael Wilshaw suggested that good teachers are ‘irritated’ when their under-performing colleagues are given the same financial incentives. Teachers see their pay rise, on average, by around £1,800 a year if they are judged to be performing well
enough against a set threshold. However, in some circumstances it can rise by up to £5,000 a year. Speaking at an RSA event on satisfactory schools in central London, Sir Michael suggested that 92-93 per cent of teachers go through the threshold, “but 40 per cent of lessons are less than good. “Teaching is a noble profession. The thing that irritates good teachers, people who work hard and go the extra mile, is seeing the people that don’t do that being rewarded. “Head teachers and governors should worry about performance management more than they have been doing.” He added: “I know from my own experience that heads need to performance manage their staff properly. This means only promoting and increasing the pay of those who are committed, teach well and show the desire and capacity to improve. “It means not rewarding everyone indiscriminately…I want Ofsted to focus more sharply on how well heads are doing this.”
The Teaching Times
New on the Professional Learning Community School Leadership Today is part of an extended online Professional Learning Community providing articles and pedagogic strategies from our best practice library, to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for the continued professional development of all school staff.
Articles recently published on the Professional Learning Community: Creative Teaching and Learning The power of questions Asking the right type of questions unlocks the door to a deeper level of thinking. The 100 word challenge Inspiring young creative writers to flourish in a safe online environment. Cross Curriculum Project Plan: Contemporary Slavery Unearthing a modern day evil to develop global awareness in this comprehensive project plan.
Every Child Journal Operation safer schools Investigating the impact of increased police involvement in day-to-day school life. A city-wide vision One school’s efforts to break out of special measures prompted a city-wide restorative practice revolution. New Kids on the block Examining the psychological minefield of early years’ groups and the risk of parental ‘group-phobia’.
Every Child Update Parental engagement – what works! An overview of the recent DfE report on interventions that aim to support and improve parental engagement in education. Don’t let children with Autism lose out! Guidance on improving the levels of support offered to children with autism and their parents. Fitter or fatter? Schools falling behind in PE and sport A look at the major research prompting concerns over young peoples’ fitness levels.
Professional Development Today Professionals take control! - A series of articles dedicated to coaching and mentoring to help teachers take greater control of their professional development. ■ How to…embed coaching and mentoring into the everyday life of school ■ How to…use tools and resources to build skills and capacity ■ Coaching options for change
How secure is your school’s data? With tough new penalties in place for breaching data protection laws, ensure your school is compliant with the aid of the latest technologies.
Coping with an emergency Investigating the best methods of alerting parents to an emergency at school. The use of social media by teachers Getting to grips with the advantages of social media whilst raising awareness of its potential risks.
Learning Spaces Sustainable cities, sustainable minds, sustainable schools Schools take the lead on urban renewal by evolving into pop-up farms! Good design can survive in a cold climate The death of BSF does not mean that good design has to cost more, plus its societal value is priceless. The fire next time Guidance on producing an efficient, tailoredto-suit-all evacuation plan.
Leadership Briefings Summaries of the following reports keeping you up-to-date with the latest educational developments: ■ ■ ■
Children’s Care Monitor 2011 What Kids Are Reading 2012 Choice cuts: How choice has declined in higher education
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Ofsted Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Ofsted worries Heads
Inspection under the new framework is proving to be tough. Is a broader basis for judgement jeopardising a robust system for rating schools fairly? Here, recently inspected academies share their experience.
eadteachers are beginning to report back on their experiences of being inspected under the values and criteria of the new Ofsted framework, even though it doesn’t start formally until September 2012. They are reporting that the bar has undoubtedly been raised, particularly over the quality of teaching, with heads saying that experienced ‘good’ teachers are being marked down because there was insufficient evidence of learning taking place. The lesson observations were much longer than expected –25-30 minutes – and a lot of time was spent with students to assess how their learning is progressing and their views on teaching quality.
Reaching above national average All the heads responding to a forum said that the bar had been raised to above the national average and that this was a new obsessive mantra, particularly in maths, science and literacy. “When they say the new framework raises the bar there is absolutely no doubt that it does”, said one headteacher who did not wish to be named. “Securing satisfactory, good and outstanding judgements are significantly different now than they were before 1st January. Whilst agreeing with our percentage of good and better teacher figures they judged our previously outstanding teachers as good, and some of our good as satisfactory due to the fact that student attainment is not at national average levels in those subjects (maths, science and English). She continued: “There was a clear focus on learning, progress attainment and the quality of work in books and not just in the observed lesson but over time, in the tracking and monitoring of data and in quality assurance documentation. The comment to one teacher was: “to achieve outstanding progress for a lesson observation under this framework, there must be outstanding progress and attainment over time, as well as in the lesson observed.” However, the playing field seems a little tilted against schools in socially deprived areas, as this headteacher, and other heads, made clear. “To give a concrete example, our 2011 Maths A*- C attainment was 65 per cent. This was described as ‘satisfactory’ as it’s broadly in line with the national average. Progress in maths was 75 per cent 3+ levels and 28 per cent 4 + levels. Given starting points and national average progress rates this is outstanding. However, maths was described as ‘good’ because attainment is ‘satisfactory’. The built-in bias against schools from disadvantaged areas was also evident at the Wellington Academy in Wiltshire. The Principal, Andy Schofield, said: “We’ve been open for just over two years but there was no allowance made for progress achieved during that time, which in Section 8 terms was ‘outstanding’. “Our maths results were 45 per cent A*- C, which is well below national average (and so assumed a significant minus) but we inherited 32 per cent, English was 72 per cent A*- C up from 52 per cent. Our 5 A* - C (English and maths) was 40 per cent up from 29 per cent. Overall our A*- C were 97 per cent from 43 per cent and our value added went up to 1027 from 984. “On these figures, though HMI was adamant that you could go straight into a category for a major weakness in a key subject and our maximum grade overall would struggle to get past a 3. To do so, we would need robust data to demonstrate that all individual students and groups (boys, girls, FSM etc) in maths in all current years were progressing at least in line with national averages – and this would need to be triangulated with quality of teaching, progress with that class overtime, progress seen in lessons, progress seen in written work (with specific student response to formative marking), student learning behaviour and student survey and interview data (ie that maths was enjoyable and well taught and that progress was being made). Other dangerous conclusions were drawn on the maths results alone, he added: “They centred on the argument that if all students hadn’t made adequate progress, then by default we were letting down FSM and SEN even though they were no worse off than the rest of the year, and had done really well in English.” In Andy Schofield’s view the ‘pre-inspection briefing’ seemed to be disappointingly influenced by national policy questions without reference to evidence, such as whether the curriculum was stretching the more able, and with lines of enquiry which pitched EBacc and GCSEs against BTEC. And although the inspectors agreed with their figures that 50 per cent + teaching was good with very little inadequate, they tipped this over to a 3 because of maths. “‘It’s a 3 because of maths’ became a bit of a catch phrase”, he said.
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They centred on the argument that if all students hadn’t made adequate progress, then by default we were letting down FSM and SEN.
Ofsted 10 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Broadening judgement for the better? “Theoretically, under the new framework it’s possible to have attainment below national average and still be judged to be outstanding because of the progress being made. It’s supposedly a broader basis for judgement. But it all depends on the vagaries of the inspectors doing the job. They go on training and come back with new guidelines on low-level disruption, literacy across the curriculum, whether the curriculum is suitable for ‘gifted and talented’ and a very strong underlying implication that BTECs are ‘dumbing the curriculum down’…something which I don’t accept at all. You get hit by four or five new whammies at the same time. The fact that they have got rid of Contextual Value Added does not help either. “50% of schools nationally must, by definition, be below average results wise. This is clearly at odds with an Ofsted expectation that everyone is good or better on attainment.” James Eldon, Principal of Manchester Enterprise Academy agreed that the new RAISEonline was much more geared to the national average and this was used to judge schools in difficult communities in an ‘inadequate’ way. Measuring progress was the key measure but this in turn was facilitated by the consistency and the quality and quantity of support outside the school. “I am all for high expectations but if you measure by the national average, 50 per cent will be below national average. My school is in one of the most deprived communities in the country; we have 50 per cent of children on FSM and SEN (mostly behavioural) and the children simply don’t have the resilience and support mechanisms of children in schools where they have ‘helicopter parents’ and strong support mechanisms. The work needed to get children to the national average is of a different order than other schools. “The changes in benefits’ regulations were beginning to make the situation even more difficult in his school,” James added. “ We are beginning to see a much bigger take-up of free school breakfasts and our hardship funds are being used more to make sure children come to school in decent clothes so they don’t feel belittled.”
EBacc favoured over vocational courses A further worry was the changes to the way vocational courses were being regarded. “We work very closely with the major employers in the area and have a very localised strategic vision centred around getting our children into work when they leave us. Whereas the EBacc is a good pathway for some children, for many of our students it’s not an appropriate pathway. If the EBacc was strengthened as a judgement criterion –and we had some indication of this in the inspection – this could be very problematic for us. “There was much greater emphasis on learning in the inspection”, James Eldon went on to say, “and some of our excellent teachers were marked down to ‘good’ on the basis that learners hadn’t made adequate progress. On the inspections I saw with them I tended to agree, and I generally support the new stress on learning – I do feel that teachers now need to be aware that demonstrating learning in half an hour is the skill that is important for OFSTED. “Heads should check that their lesson observation form prioritises learning over teacher”, he advised. Overall he felt a little dispirited by the process under the new framework. “If you don’t take into account context, where is the encouragement for ambitious school leaders to take on difficult environments if the core issues are never recognised? You want your best leaders to go into the most challenging schools, but if they do their back is against the wall... it’s much more of a risk…you are always up against the national average. We don’t want people thinking ‘this is just too risky’. “We must guard against a situation where headteachers are treated like football managers, sacked if they don’t meet the national average or better. But the big difference is that unlike football managers we don’t choose teams in terms of the children we get. The number of safeguarding issues we address and complex families we support is intense and it would be really uplifting if this work, around helping students to flourish and thrive in a healthy way, could also be recognised.”
At a Glance…some common themes from a range of Section 5 and Section 8 inspections: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
■ ■ ■ ■
SEF reports were not often digested properly or used extensively by inspectors. The national attainment averages were a key measure and schools with below averages in key subjects risk being placed in a category of grade 3, with context being a wild card, depending on the inspectors. Any defence relating to context needed very robust data of progress being made, which tied into data on monitoring information, assessment for learning, progress in workbooks, group progress data. Lesson observations were frequent and longer with learning taking a greater emphasis on learning than teaching. Lots of interviews were conducted with children about enjoyment and engagement. Good quality ‘live’ data with a coherent narrative is necessary at school, faculty and classroom level. In lesson observations student attendance, behaviour, prior attainment and progress data should be to hand with the lesson plan, as inspectors wanted to see this ‘in action’ during the observed lesson. Teachers are marked down a grade if learning evidence is not visible and strong. A much greater focus on SEN and safeguarding, which involved data on progress, attendance, detentions, exclusions, participation in after school clubs, learning walks, meeting SEN students, meeting TAs, looking at safeguarding/CP policies, meeting with the Safeguarding Governor, pastoral team CPO . Zero tolerance or room for negotiation of poor student behaviour. Strong emphasis of how well the curriculum is adapted for the able and talented, with a corresponding ‘coolness’ toward vocational qualifications. Gender variation is often a key issue. Performance outcome variation between teachers and middle leaders was a key focus in some inspections.
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Academies under fire I Following last year’s review of vocational qualifications for the government by Professor Alison Wolf, thousands of equivalent qualifications have now been devalued - meaning that only 70 will now count in league tables from a previous figure of more than 3,000. In this new landscape, which comes into force in 2014, will academies still do better compared with all schools nationally?
t isn’t easy, or straightforward, to compare academies’ performance with other schools. To make useful comparisons you have to compare like with like. Are you comparing, for example, GCSE to GCSE performance? Or perhaps GCSE with GCSE equivalent performance? Over the past few years, the government has looked at the GCSE/equivalents results of academies, and compared them to those of the schools these academies replaced – and on average, they have tended to find academy results improving at a faster rate than those of the predecessor schools. But with so many equivalents being banned from league tables, what will happen now to academy results? Equivalent exams have been a contentious issue for some time, with many academies use of equivalents being described as ‘excessive’. Dr Wrigley, editor of the international journal Improving Schools and visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan University, recently said: “equivalent exams seriously inflate the attainment figures for academies, compared with all schools nationally…creating a false impression that they are successful.” He made this statement following an analysis that discovered that 68 per cent of academies rely more
heavily on equivalents than the average state school. Vocational courses for example - in subjects like catering, travel and tourism, life skills and IT - currently count for up to four GCSEs. Plus there have long been claims that some schools get borderline pupils through the five good GCSEs including English and maths benchmark by focusing on those two subjects plus an equivalent worth four GCSEs. This claim is important because it is the same measure used by the government to quantify school performance. To many, it seems that at the same time as scrapping these equivalents for league table purposes, Mr Gove is also relying on them as part of his argument that academies are better. Clearly, he can’t hold on to both policies. If you look at the performance of England’s 269 academies with results in the 2011 school league tables against the average performance of state secondary schools, you find that in all maintained schools, 59.1 per cent of pupils attained five good GCSEs including English and maths, including equivalents. But when equivalents are not included, it drops to 53.2 per cent - a gap of nearly six percentage points. For academies, 50.1 per cent reached the benchmark if equivalents are included in the figures, but without equivalents it drops to 38.3 per cent. This is nearly the double the gap for all state schools. Dr Wrigley found that of the 269 academies, some twothirds (183) had gaps of more than six percentage points and more than half (141) academies had gaps of 10 percentage points or more. In one academy, 70 per cent of pupils achieved five good GCSEs, but this reduced to zero when equivalents were discounted. So what conclusions can we draw from this? It seems that compared to the national average, many academies would have performed no better than maintained schools if they hadn’t made extensive use of equivalent qualifications that the government is about to abolish. According to the government, however, the vast majority of academies in these statistics are sponsored academies transforming previously under-performing schools and serving some of the most deprived communities, and so they initially concentrate on improving the basics. The government also says that academies’ results, including those in the core subjects of English and maths, were improving faster than the national average.
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Many academies would have performed no better than maintained schools if they hadn’t made extensive use of equivalent qualifications that the government is about to abolish.
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Making the Every Child Matters agenda work on the ground
A government spokesperson said: “If you look at the major sponsors, there is a clear trend that once academies have been opened and established they move to more academic subjects.” Civitas is due to deliver another report covering the performance of academies versus schools, but the issue of whether or not academies have actually performed as well as at first seems is unlikely to be resolved even then. What is clear is that the new Ebacc - introduced partly to flush out schools that were gaming - i.e. using GCSE equivalents to inflate their performance - has seen academies perform poorly on the new Ebacc measurement. Furthermore, the proportion of academies with zero score on the Ebacc was twice as high as it was with a comparison group of schools with similar intakes. With public opinion opposing the invitation for every school to become an academy, the whole issue is sure to face tough questions ahead. The essential principle for all education reform must be that it raises educational standards. So far, independent evidence only confirms that academy schools do not deliver better educational outcomes for pupils, cost more money, and create widespread inequality and social segregation.
The need to co-ordinate the service response to vulnerable children has never been greater. Every Child Journal is a unique practice journal for professionals working in this field, providing solutions across the education, health and care sectors, to help practitioners improve the life outcomes of disadvantaged and vulnerable children. By subscribing to this bi-monthly journal you will receive: ■ Advice on recognising learning, care and physical problems and conditions ■ Evidence of effective interventions ■ Co-operative good practice between agencies ■ Legal advice on such things as information sharing and safeguarding ■ Research that can help professionals support individual children at risk ■ Monthly email briefings on policy, research reports and practice developments
Recent Every Child Journal articles have included: ■ The ABC of neglect ■ Empowering the bullied child ■ Early intervention, not emergency intervention ■ How to make a ‘bad’ school better Up and coming: ■ Policing schools ■ Peer support for bullying
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Creative skills and technology careers
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There have been a number of reports published recently on the teaching and take-up of technology careers, prompted by the downturn in the economy, international competition, and the changing face of business. So why is the UK doing worse than other countries? Is it the quality of teaching, or the availability of technology apprenticeships?
n the United States, Europe and China, the investment in technology and innovation continues to outstrip that in the UK, presumably in the hope that some bright young thing will discover the next Google or FaceBook, creating jobs to replace those lost in the financial crash. Now a new report by Skillset has identified the key challenges facing the creative sector and what needs to be done if it is to fully realise its potential for growth and international competitiveness. Skillset, the Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the Creative Industries, identified eight challenges that cut right across the creative industries - from investment in skills, to the fusion of creative and technical disciplines in education and the need
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to cut red tape for businesses wanting to employ freelancers. The goal of the report was to come up with a plan to boost future global competitiveness and UK innovation. According to Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European Commissioner responsible for research, innovation and science, a million new jobs will be needed to match global rivals in areas such as health, energy and the digital economy. Maire recently announced funding of £6bn to support projects in 16,000 universities, research teams and businesses. The aim of this is to challenge overseas economies such as the United States who are able to successfully commercialise ideas like the iPhone or Facebook. What’s profoundly different about these new digital industries is that they expand at a speed and scale that is impossible in traditional industries. Because of this, the government is now trying to respond quickly to ensure that young people in the UK leaving education are welleducated, creative and adaptable. Take South Korea, for example, where the government invested heavily in raising education standards a decade ago. As a direct result of this up-skilling, the West is now importing South Korean cars and televisions. In China, some children start school as early as 6.30am and stay there until 8 or 9pm, concentrating on science, technology and maths. The result is that China now has 12 per cent of graduates in the world’s big economies - approaching the share of the UK, Germany and France put together. For the UK to catch up is going to be difficult, if not impossible, without a strong commitment to developing a knowledge economy, which in turn means higher-skilled jobs, many of them requiring degrees. Against this background, a number of reports have been published around technology and ICT, and the requirements of education in this field. Another recent report by the Royal Society analysed the recent declines in numbers of young people studying computing at schools and the reasons for the declines. The report was the result of an 18 month study and follows the Department of Education’s consultation on plans to remove the statutory programme of study in ICT. It found that the most significant factor affecting how well young people learn is the teacher in their classroom. The majority of teachers are specialists, but, incredibly, ICT is an exception to the rule. The majority of ICT teachers are not specialists and young people often knew more than the teacher giving the lesson. It came to the conclusion that action is needed not only on the curriculum itself, but also to recruit and train many more inspiring teachers to reinvigorate pupils’ enthusiasm for Computing. Analysis in the Royal Society report showed marked trends in the numbers of students achieving ICT or computing qualifications, including a 60 per cent decline in the numbers achieving A level computing since 2003, a 34 per cent
In China, some children start school as early as 6.30am and stay there until 8 or 9pm, concentrating on science, technology and maths.
decline at ICT A Level over the same period, and a 57 per cent decline in ICT GCSE. The report identified a number of problems with current ICT in schools that have led to these declines, particularly a chronic lack of specialist teachers who can teach beyond basic digital literacy and the breadth of interpretation of the current National Curriculum which allows the subject to be taught at its lowest level. The report found that just 35 per cent of ICT teachers in England had a qualification considered by the Department for Education to be relevant. This compares to 74 per cent of maths teachers, 69 per cent of physics teachers, 73 per cent of chemistry teachers and 88 per cent of biology teachers. Similar figures are found when ‘Arts’ subjects are examined, for example 80 per cent of English teachers, 76 per cent of history teachers and 87 per cent of music teachers all have a relevant post A-level qualification. But making improvements is going to take a serious commitment to train the next generation of creative entrepreneurs. For one thing, teachers’ skills will need to be developed with a specified minimum level of continuing professional development (CPD) in order to ensure that schools can deliver a rigorous curriculum and engaging learning environment. For another, employers are going to have to do their part in providing apprenticeships to appropriately trained school leavers. Without addressing both of these issues, nothing will change, and the UK will continue to lag behind the rest of the world.
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Key recommendations in the Skillset report: ■
Reform the ICT syllabus in schools. Computer science, arts and/or a creative subject (music, film, media, and photography) should be included in the National Curriculum as core subjects, and also as options within the English Baccalaureate. The Creative Industries and the National Apprenticeship Service should lead on a promotional campaign to raise the profile of Apprenticeships and challenge traditional notions that they are for those unable to study at university, or that they are ‘just for boys’. Education and training providers collaborating with the creative industries need to combine arts, design, technology and business, reflecting how the creative industries are being transformed by the fusion of these disciplines.
Key recommendations in the Royal Society report:
There is a need to improve understanding in schools of the nature and scope of computing. In particular there needs to be recognition that computer science is a rigorous academic discipline of great importance to the future careers of many pupils. The status of computing in schools needs to be recognised and raised by government and senior management in schools. The review of the National Curriculum in England should be used as an opportunity to look at a radical overhaul of ICT in schools including rebranding and providing clarity on the different aspects of computing currently lumped together under this heading. Targets should be set and monitored for the number of specialist computing teachers. Training bursaries should be available to attract computer science graduates into teaching. Education Scotland should ensure that the entitlement of all learners to third level outcomes in computing science is fully implemented. Government should set a minimum level of provision for continuing professional development (CPD) for computing teachers, should seek support from business and industry to make that provision, and should ensure that the provision is well coordinated and deepens subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy.
Royal society: Shut Down Or Restart? The Way Forward For Computing In UK Schools http://royalsociety.org/ uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_ Content/education/policy/ computing-in-schools/2012-01-12Computing-in-Schools.pdf Skillset: Report To Creative Industries Council http://cicskills.skillset.org/goto. php?url=aHR0cDovL2NpY3NraWxsc y5za2lsbHNldC5vcmcvZGF0YS9 0aGVfY3JlYXRpdmVfaW5kdXN 0cmllc19jb3VuY2lsX3NraWxsc2V 0X3NraWxsc19ncm91cF9yZXBvcn Q%3D
Leadership Briefing 18 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Report update Leadership Briefing is a weekly online summary of all that’s new and relevant to education, linked to original source documents that can be downloaded or viewed on screen, and available to everyone in your school leadership team. The briefings here give a sample of what’s on offer.
The framework for the national curriculum
Summary This DfE report represents the collective findings and recommendations of the Expert Panel on a range of fundamentally important issues, which are crucial to defining an overarching conception of the purposes, shape, size and structure of the curriculum. The report focuses in particular on a number of recommendations, some of which have the potential to result in radical change to the National Curriculum, beyond change to curriculum content. Recommendations Knowledge, development and the curriculum The Expert Panel recommends that the National Curriculum review should be framed by awareness of fundamental educational processes so that the necessary attention to curricular detail does not take place without regard to its consequences for the curriculum as a whole. In particular, this should include consideration of the basic interaction between subject knowledge and individual development. Aims and purposes of the curriculum It is essential to be clear about the purposes that the curriculum is expected to serve; this will support the best possible selection of curriculum content. The Expert Panel recommends that aims should be expressed at the following levels: ■ ■ ■
Level 1: Affirming system-wide educational aspirations for school curricula Level 2: Specifying more particular purposes for schools and for their curricula Level 3: Introducing the goals for the Programmes of Study of particular subjects
The Expert Panel believes that reinforcing aims will help to align assessment, resource development and allocation, teacher recruitment and training, and inspection The structure of the school curriculum (for primary and secondary) The available evidence suggests that there is currently some uncertainty within the school system about what exactly constitutes the National Curriculum and the differences between core subjects, foundation subjects and other compulsory requirements. The Expert Panel believes that there needs to be greater clarity to dispel this confusion. In particular, the Expert Panel agrees with the stated intention of the National Curriculum review to draw a clear distinction between the National Curriculum and the school curriculum, (i.e. the whole curriculum as experienced by the pupils in the school). This will help to ensure that pupils, parents, teachers and the wider public understand that the National Curriculum is not the totality of what is taught.
1. To remove subjects altogether from statutory curriculum requirements 2. To retain subjects as statutory but not specify what should be taught in these subjects 3. To retain subjects as statutory, but to reduce the extent of the specification of what is to be taught. The Expert Panel recommends that some subjects and areas of learning should be reclassified so that there is still a duty on schools to teach them, but it would be up to schools to determine appropriate specific content. The structure of key stages The four-year span of Key Stage 2 (as currently configured) is too long, and this can result in a lack of pace and ambition in Year 4 and Year 5. The Expert Panel recommends that the present Key Stage 2 be split in two to form two new key stages, each of two years’ duration. The Expert Panel is also considering the benefits of reducing Key Stage 3 to just two years to enable Key Stage 4, and GCSE preparation, to expand to three years in duration and thus provide a higher quality curriculum.
Subjects in the curriculum through the key stages of schooling A key intention of the review is to slim down the statutory curriculum requirements on schools. The Expert Panel have identified three possible ways to achieve this:
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The organisation of programmes of study The Expert Panel does not support use of the established key stage structure, without modification, to present new Programmes of Study. An alternative option would be to follow a year-on-year approach. The form of programmes of study and attainment targets The Expert Panel emphasises the importance of establishing a very direct and clear relationship between ‘that which is to be taught and learned’ and assessment. Imprecise Attainment Targets and the current abstracted, descriptive ‘levels’ are of concern since they reduce the clarity of this relationship. Attainment Targets in the presently established level descriptor form should not be retained. Instead the Expert Panel suggests a new approach. Programmes of Study should be stated as discursive statements of purposes, anticipated progression and interconnections within the knowledge to be acquired, with Attainment Targets being stated as statements of specific learning outcomes related to essential knowledge. Assessment, reporting, and pupil progression The Expert Panel suggests a new approach to judging progression that, in principle, will be more educationally sound. The focus should be on ensuring that all pupils have an appropriate understanding of key elements prior to moving to the next body of content i.e. when they are ‘ready to progress’. The Expert Panel recommends that resources should be prioritised for pupils who have either fallen behind or are identified as at risk of falling behind the rest of the class. Oral language and its development within the National Curriculum There is a compelling body of evidence that highlights a connection between oral development, cognitive development and educational attainment. The Expert Panel are strongly of the view that the development of oral language should be a particular feature of the new National Curriculum.
Summary This report gives an overview of class size and education in England. In particular, it considers how class sizes have changed over time; the impact of the increase in birth rate on pupil numbers and how this could affect the teacher requirement and class sizes; and the impact of class size on educational outcomes. Key Findings ■ Annual births in England have increased every year since 2002, with the exception of 2009. Births in 2010 were around 20 per cent higher than in 2002 and 13 per cent higher than in 2004. ■ Pupil numbers and average class size follow similar trends over time. Therefore
Class size and education in England report
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The fall in the proportion of pupils in classes of over 30, the change in the Key Stage 1 class size distribution, and to some extent, the fall in average Key Stage 1 class size can be attributed to the legal limit of 30 pupils per class and the government funding and LA planning that preceded it. However, the fall in average Key Stage 1 class size was also the result of a fall in pupil numbers during this period. Given the projected rises in pupil numbers, the large number of schools with classes of around 30 could place demands on LAs to ensure that infant class sizes remain within the 30 legal limit. The evidence base on the link between class size and attainment, taken as a whole, finds that a smaller class size has a positive impact on attainment and behaviour in the early years of school, but this effect tends to be small and diminishes after a few years. Research findings from England show that in smaller classes, individual pupils are the focus of a teacher’s attention for more time; there is more active interaction between pupils and teachers; and more pupil engagement. In larger classes, there is more time spent by pupils interacting with each other; more time spent by teachers teaching the substantive content of the subject knowledge and more time spent on non-teaching tasks like taking registers.
the recent and projected population increases are likely to increase demand for teachers and the number of classrooms, making it more challenging for LAs to keep Key Stage 1 classes within the legal limit of 30 pupils per class. There is regional variation within the average class size and population projections. London is expected to experience greater population increases, and thus greatest increased demand for teachers and classrooms than other regions, in particular North East is expected to experience the smallest increase in population. From 1998 to 2001 there was a fall in the average class size for Key Stage 1. Average Key Stage 2 class size fell from 1999 to 2011. A fall in pupil numbers during this period coupled with the introduction of legislation and funding to reduce class size in anticipation of the law help explain these falls. The percentage of pupils in classes of over 30 pupils decreased significantly between 1998 and 2002, and has remained very low since 2002. The majority of those classes that are over 30 are lawful. The proportion of pupils in unlawfully large classes has wavered between 0.3 per cent and 0.7 per cent every year since records began in 2006. The distribution of Key Stage 1 class sizes has shifted considerably between 1996 and 2002. In 1996, the distribution was approximately centred at 30. By 2002, while 26 per cent of pupils were in classes of 30, very few (1 per cent) were in classes of above 30.
Smaller classes have been found to lead to a small increase in the number of years a student spends in post-compulsory education. A study from Denmark estimated that a reduction in class size during the whole of compulsory schooling by 5 per cent (from an average class size of 18) provides a rise in post-compulsory education by approximately 8 days. Research on parental opinion on class size in 1996 found that 96 per cent of parents believed that the number of children in a class affects the quality of teaching and learning. The UK has one of the largest average primary school class sizes amongst the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries but also has one of the highest overall Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) scores for Science and Maths. The UK has experienced a fall in average primary school class size from 2000 to 2009. The majority of OECD countries have experienced falls in primary average class size. Average secondary school class size has fallen in the UK since 2004. Average primary school class size is more varied between countries than average secondary school class size. There is no clear relationship between average primary or secondary school class size and educational attainment amongst OECD countries.
Summary The NFER survey focused on ICT and Computing as a school subject in the 5-19 curriculum in a small number of countries or regions outside the UK: Finland, Japan, USA (Massachusetts), Canada (Ontario), and Singapore. These were not intended to be exhaustive, but were chosen to exemplify the range of curriculum experience available to students internationally, and for their potential relevance and/or interest to policy makers. Key findings from this survey highlight variability in ICT and Computing education internationally, as well as some areas of common ground. They are potentially useful in informing discussions about how to motivate students to pursue their ICT and computing education. They may also be useful in considering what works or might usefully be developed in the curricula in the UK. Some key findings are presented below. Others are included in the report, along with more information about the survey. Key Findings ■ A wide range of labels are used internationally to describe the subject areas of ICT and computing, ranging from Information Technology or Technology Literacy to Informatics and Computer Sciences, Computer Studies or Computer Engineering Technology. ■ In some educational systems, the subject is not represented in the curriculum. In some it is optional and in others mandatory. ■ Approaches to the subject vary. Use of ICT as a tool is generally integrated and cross-curricular at the elementary stage of schooling, even in countries where it is not included in the curriculum. At upper primary and secondary level, the subject areas are usually taught as discrete elements.
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The use of ICT is included in the curriculum more commonly than the technical aspects of computing, such as programming. The age at which the teaching of ICT is expected by the curriculum varies, from introduction at or before age 6 in Ontario and Massachusetts to first introduction at the age of 12 in Singapore and 14 in Italy. There is evidence, however, that many students use ICT earlier than the curriculum implies. Younger students are generally expected to use ICT for activities such as producing and presenting text, making presentations and carrying out Internet searches. Computers are also used across the curriculum, in subjects as varied as the arts, physical education and mathematics.
■ ■ ■ ■
Safe and secure use of ICT tends to be included in the curriculum. Massachusetts, unusually, sets out an expectation for keyboarding skills. The introduction of more technical computing skills occurs later, typically from the ages of 12-14 upwards. In terms of basic technical computing skills, students are generally expected to know common terminology, to understand concepts such as ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ and to be able to name parts of a computer system, among other elements. Programming is covered in most computing curricula investigated. In some, specific languages are identified, while in others, there is flexibility (e.g. Ontario simply specifies that programming languages should be ‘industry standard’). Only the older students are exposed to the technicalities of networking and systems management, and even then not in all countries/regions. Curriculum design varies. Most courses are linear, while Ontario offers a menu of computing courses at the higher levels, from which students can select courses tailored to their different interests and aspirations.
International comparison of computing in schools
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The call for curriculum reform
Through an international comparison emerges the picture of a constrained English National Curriculum, where ‘learning without limits’ is hampered and assessment rife. Here, Chris Husbands reports on the findings from Oates’ review and the potential benefits of a curriculum overhaul.
r Podsnap, in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, had a very clear view of the natural order of nations. “No other country”, he asserted, “is so favoured as this country”. “And other countries”, said the foreign gentleman, “They do how?” “They do, Sir,” returned Mr Podsnap, gravely shaking his head; “they do - I am sorry to be obliged to say it - as they do.” Tim Oates and his fellow expert panellists take a different view of other countries in their ‘Review of the National Curriculum’.Throughout the report, implicitly
in some places and explicitly in others, they draw on examples of practice in other high-performing jurisdictions. Annex 3 of the report makes the comparisons plain: all countries have a national curriculum structure; few have so narrow a post-14 curriculum structure as England. In no other country is there so little attention given to the arts post-14 as in England. In almost all the countries cited, civics, or citizenship, is a requirement of the curriculum throughout compulsory schooling. As they conclude in paragraph 4.16, ‘international evidence supporting the provision of focused breadth at Key Stage 4 is extremely strong…and it appears that England narrows its curriculum earlier than many of the high-performing jurisdictions’. Here – as elsewhere in the report – is a profound challenge to current curriculum practice. The report is a careful, often sophisticated distillation of research and knowledge about curriculum, which is a profound challenge to many of the underlying assumptions of policy and practice. It is difficult to pigeonhole the report – as much of the instant press and Twitter commentary tried to do – as either ‘traditional’ or ‘progressive’ – whatever those much-abused labels really mean. ‘There is…a
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compelling body of evidence that highlights a connection between oral development, cognitive development and educational attainment…Oral language should be a strong feature of any new National Curriculum’. Oracy, and language enrichment, matter. If this appears to lean in one direction, the challenge to pedagogy in chapter 8 pushes in a somewhat different one: ‘Teachers in (high performing Asian) systems see their task as ensuring that all pupils have developed an adequate level of understanding of the key concepts…in a block of learning before moving on’. So the model of pupil-centred differentiation, which has increasingly permeated English pedagogy, is rejected. Throughout the report, the panel plot a careful, evidence based line. Much press reporting – often on the basis of press releases rather than the report itself – saw the National Curriculum report as highly conservative in its assumptions. In fact, the underpinnings are more sophisticated. The influential common core knowledge curriculum of E D Hirsch – much beloved of culturally conservative commentators – is referenced three times in the report, but only in the third reference do the review panel conclude that the assumptions it makes about progression in learning are unconvincing. They excoriate one of the underlying, difficult to move, assumptions
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of English and American education ‘that capacity to learn, and achieve, is determined by innate endowment of fixed intelligence’, and celebrate the fact that in successful systems ‘labelling of differential attainment is of secondary importance’. Indeed, ‘selection and differentiation in secondary education often arise from historical legacy rather than evidence based decision-making’.
Structure, shape and function
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This is a report, which is predominantly concerned with the overall structure, function and shape of the curriculum rather than with the details of what is to be taught and how it is to be taught. Its recommendations are thoughtful, and often radical. In place of the now familiar 2-4-3-2 structure of Key Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4, it proposes a 2-2-2-2-3 structure, in which Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11) is split into two, Key Stage 3 (currently 1114) is reduced from three years to two and Key Stage 4 increases to three years. The last two, of course, are changes a considerable number of secondary schools have made, though often for ill-thought-out reasons - to maximise teaching time on GCSE examination subjects, without giving sensible thought to the structure of Key Stage 3 and pupils’ level of maturation. The Oates panel offer a re-framing of this issue: cutting Key Stage 3 to two years to address the widely acknowledged dip in performance and pace in Year 9, but requiring a broader Key Stage 4 curriculum in which history, geography, and the arts are compulsory. In a slightly acerbic aside, the panel comment that the ‘E(nglish) B(accaluareate)...is unlikely to achieve the breath, balance and depth of learning sought as an entitlement for all pupils’. Splitting Key Stage 2 follows a similar logic: splitting the key stage strengthens the progression model and might well raise expectations and focus in teaching at upper Key Stage 2. Within this new structure for the management of progression, a re-framing of the overall curriculum is achieved by rethinking its component parts. English, mathematics and science would continue to be core subjects with detailed programmes of study and attainment targets, whilst art, geography, history, modern languages, music and PE would be foundation subjects with ‘condensed’ programmes of study and ‘minimal or no’ attainment targets. Citizenship (‘of enormous importance’ and required in all high-performing comparators), ICT and design and technology should form part of the basic curriculum with school-designed appropriate content (the Arts would fall into this category post-14). Here, the panel have steered a difficult course: responses to their call for evidence were clear in that ‘the existing breadth of the National Curriculum was broadly supported...(and there was) a strong argument for retaining most existing curriculum subjects in some statutory form’. They have had to square this desire for breath and specification with the government’s expressed desire to allow schools greater autonomy in curriculum matters. The resultant distinction between a specified national curriculum and a locally determined basic curriculum makes good sense, and, indeed, some twenty years on, makes sense of a distinction between ‘core’ and ‘foundation’ subjects which has always been uneasily articulated in policy and practice.
The resultant distinction between a specified national curriculum and a locally determined basic curriculum makes good sense, and, indeed, some twenty years on, makes sense of a distinction between ‘core’ and ‘foundation’ subjects.
A ‘mastery model’ of progression One of the most important implementation lessons of the last two decades has been the extent to which assessment drives curriculum, and the rapidity with which schools and teachers respond to assessment policy nudges. The panel mark a highly significant departure in thinking about English educational practice. Although Professor Paul Black is quoted twice in chapter 7 of the report – and offered appropriately fulsome praise in footnotes – the Oates panel effectively bring an end to the TGAT paradigm of levels
The autonomous school challenge There are other challenges for the system more widely. School autonomy has been a powerful mantra for government. The proposals on Key Stage 4 constitute a respecification of an extended entitlement curriculum, itself a challenge for schools, and for a government which may have to rein in some of the curriculum autonomy schools have adopted. A wider question is, of course, about the importance of a National Curriculum in a largely autonomous school system. The government has largely dismantled the structures – local authorities, national strategies, much of the inspectorate – which might have enabled it to manage a national approach to
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which Black instigated in 1988. They are clear that the use of levels to assess pupils – for all the arithmetic precision levels have brought to thinking about pupil attainment and patterns of underperformance – is flawed. ‘Summary reporting in the form of grades or levels is too general to unlock parental support for learning, for effective targeting of learning support or for genuine recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of schools…Constant assessment to levels is itself over burdensome’. More generally, ‘England’s current assessment system encourages a process of differentiating learners through the award of levels’, which ‘has a significant effect of exacerbating social differentiation’. Instead, the panel propose a ‘mastery model’ based on ‘readiness to progress’, and a new format for programmes of study setting out, for each two-year stage, the key learning and the expected pupil outcomes. “Other countries”, as Mr Podsnap definitely did not remark, “we might do, sir, as they do”. The Oates panel have outlined a comprehensive reappraisal of the purposes of the curriculum, holding together the economic, cultural, personal and social purposes of the curriculum. They draw extensively on educational research from a variety of perspectives: their footnotes pull together two decades of work on curriculum and pedagogy including the work of Robin Alexander’s Cambridge Primary Review, the Teaching and Learning Research Programme, Michael Young’s re-thinking of knowledge as a basis for curriculum construction and a host of other English and international evidence. This is an erudite and thoughtful report, providing an insightful solution to some thorny problems, even if few would agree – as paragraph 8.25 appears to suggest – that a well-designed curriculum will consign the bell curve distribution of attainment to history. Much now depends on a series of factors. Most importantly, there are challenges for the government. The review report provides little easy comfort: it does not suggest that English schools are systematically weak, but that the current curricular and assessment arrangements constrain what might be called (in another apposite quotation from research) ‘learning without limits’. However, the likelihood of almost any politician accepting in full an expert report with extensive policy implications is always small. Once sophisticated mechanisms are taken apart there is a danger that some of the critical components are lost. Some challenges feel on the verge of being too difficult. Perhaps the largest and most obvious is the proposal that Key Stage 4 become three years long. If implemented, this would have extensive implications not only for curriculum breadth at Key Stage 4 but also for the content and structure of individual examination syllabuses. It is not clear whether the government is prepared for structural change on this scale. But without this change, Key Stage 4 will become crowded and the difficulties of pace and challenge at the end of Key Stage 3 will remain.
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curriculum implementation, and it lacks the resource to fund a large-scale programme of professional development on teaching the new curriculum. In this context, the tools for reforming the curriculum are difficult to identify. The temptation for government may be to seek to mandate conformity through a reenergised national assessment system. Something of this may be implied in the panel’s proposals for end of key stage ‘readiness to progress’ assessment: translated into ‘readiness to progress’ national testing, this would produce a more extensive testing system than is already in place. Moreover, given that the panel has preserved age-based structures for the curriculum, such testing might encourage the idea of retaining pupils deemed unready to progress – even though the international evidence on holding learners back a grade is devastatingly poor. A final challenge is to the detailed working out of these proposals at the level of individual subjects – the next stage of any curriculum review. ‘What is learned must be broad and balanced but also deep and secure, not superficial or transient’, assert the panel. The key test for everyone is to keep that key issue in mind. In turn, it depends on teachers’ ability to plan powerful learning experiences – ‘learning without limits’ – for all, and to have high expectations of what can be achieved. Tucked away in a footnote (57) – is the panel’s view of disciplinary knowledge as a ‘distinct way of investigating, knowing and making sense with particular foci, procedures and theories reflecting both cumulative understanding and powerful ways of engaging with the future’. If this can be translated into classroom, the Oates panel will have succeeded triumphantly. Professor Chris Husbands is Director of the Institute of Education, University of London
Creative Leading Learning
Teaching & Learning
Recognised as the most cutting edge curriculum magazine in the country, Creative Teaching and Learning investigates innovations in the curriculum, exploring how thinking skills approaches can be embedded within learning environments through subject and project-based teaching.
Knowledge trails 1) Review of the National Curriculum in England: Summary report of the call for evidence 2011 https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/ eOrderingDownload/NCR%20-%20Call%20for %20Evidence%20Summary%20Report.pdf 2) Clash of the Titans: Rose vs Alexander - Looking at the conflicting visions for the National Curriculum - which was better? http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/ clash-of-the-titans-rose-alexander.htm 3) A fair deal for international learning - Are immigration laws undermining moves towards an international curriculum http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/fairdeal-international-learning.htm 4) Standards in English primary education: The international evidence - A review of the performance of English primary school children in relation to those from other countries. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/ standards-in-english-primary-education-theinternational-evi.htm Article available in Leadership Briefings in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
Recent Creative Teaching and Learning articles have included: • Drama and Proud! • Hands up, hands down! Who thinks they can teach music? • I want to tell you a story • Excitement in Science Recent Cross-curriculum project plans: • Ocean environments • Making your own country Up and coming: • Cross-curriculum project plan: Contemporary Slavery A comprehensive and thought-provoking resource plan for use in the classroom with key stages 2 & 3.
Teachers at all levels will benefit from shared best practice, expert advice to make learning more imaginative and inspiring, and project resource plans in every issue, giving project work more pedagogic depth.
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Assessing Maths and Phonics Skills Reception – KS2 GOVERNMENT RECOMMENDED Understanding the numeracy strengths and weaknesses of your children
The Sandwell Early Numeracy Test – Revised (SENT-R) Price: £99.00 + vat
SENT-R enables practitioners to assess children’s ability with numbers. Designed for use with children from ages 4 years – 7 years 11 months, it explores five strands of basic numeracy skills: identification, oral counting, value, object counting and language, and provides a baseline of a pupil’s number skills. It is particularly useful in helping to identify targets for pupils who are having difficulties with numeracy up to Key Stage Two. The two parallel tests allow for the monitoring of progress every three months and there is an online marking tool for easy analysis. SENT-R is easy to administer and enjoyable for the children. Images in the test book are engaging and relate to tasks in every day activities. Any member of the school staff who has some basic training can use the tests.
Recommended by the DES and the Every Child Counts programme, the revised version of the Sandwell Early Numeracy Test is proving hugely popular as schools try to lift their maths teaching in the light of tougher new Ofsted assessment-for-learning and teaching quality requirements. Every Child Counts describes the Sandwell Early Numeracy Test as an ‘Essential Teacher Resource’ to be used as a standardised baseline test to establish children’s levels of numeracy at the start and end of their programme, and to monitor children’s progress throughout. The assessment is now used in schools in most local authorities.
It is essential that pupils understand the language used to talk about phonological awareness before trying to address any difficulties highlighted by testing.
Are your children ready to read? Assessing phonological skills
The Sandwell Phonological Awareness Readiness for Reading Kit (SPARRK) Price: £150.00 + vat Phonics is the main way of teaching reading to Reception,Year 1 and Year 2 children. But the starting point is how phonologically aware are your children? If they are not, they will struggle with putting sounds and letters together and their reading readiness will be adversely affected. The SPARRK assesses: ■ Concepts (Linguist concepts associated with phonological awareness) ■ Syllable ■ Rhyme ■ Beginnings ■ Middles ■ Blending and segmenting It can be used as a diagnostic tool with individual/groups of children who are experiencing difficulties with phonic acquisition/reading and spelling. It can also be used as a screening tool within the Early Years in order to identify children who might require early intervention before they embark on formal phonics teaching.
Pupils need to be able to recognise pictures and symbols that are the same and different. This forms the basis of an ability to recognise same and different letters and words.
SPARRK provides an Excel data recording spreadsheet for data collection, that has been specifically designed to provide an overview of the phonological awareness skills of individuals, groups and whole classes of children. This can be used to identify which skills are established, identify potential groupings for intervention work and measure progress over time.
Concepts in Pictures
Black Sheep Press
Methods: 34 35 37 38 42 45 48
Matching Skills Sherston Skill Builders
Sherston Skill Builders
Sherston Skill Builders
The ability to distinguish long and short sounds, especially vowel sounds, is a prerequisite of reading and spelling.
(Short PHONEME FRAMES
small group activity)
and to demonstrate in half vertically. or small groups Cut each card blending. individual pupils segmenting and Use these with of phoneme teach the principles vocabulary is expected picture ensure that the activity Before starting understood and and ‘end’ are known. to the sounds ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ concepts of each card and Ensure that if this is the the boxes on be related to ‘medial’ and ‘final’ that they can ly, use ‘initial’, (Alternative within a word. familiar vocabulary.) SUGGESTED
Concepts in Pictures
Activity 1 phoneme by (middle or end) or third) For beginners: principle of beginningcounter in first (second adult. ce • Establish is spoken by to indicate/pla getting pupil or final) phoneme indicate initial (medial phoneme then box when the to identify required asking pupil • Extend by as above. Activity 2 have 3 counters. down on table. and face Each pupil should name the picture of picture cards up the top card, Place the pile turns to pick • Pupils take as each under each box. the box above place a counter counter into pushes each • Pupil then activity is completed. phoneme is identified. be repeated as the word should • The whole activity through the should be guided to repeat. and get pupil difficulty they If pupils have model the activity If necessary step. step by
Black Sheep Press
CIP9 Methods: 28 29 30 32 36 41 43 47 49
This concept is introduced so that pupils will be able to apply existing skills to unfamiliar (i.e. nonsense) words
Methods: 39 40 44 46
1 Concepts Expected response
Long/short 1a 1b 2 eg 2a
Show me the long pencil. Show me the short socks.
Is this sound long or short?
2b 2c 2d 2e
Show me the silly picture. Show me the sensible picture.
Same/different 4a 4b
Which dogs are the same? Which cars are different?
Are these sounds the same or different?
Are these sounds the same or different?
5b 5c 5d 5e
(2 - 6 players
Before starting the game Ensure that ensure that concepts expected of ‘vowels’ understoo picture and d. Decide which vocabular ‘medial or middle vocabulary is known. consisten letter or t in its use. y will be used phoneme’ to play the are game and Activity 1 be For beginners , game could to be used be preceded are sorted by a matching into sets identified k short activity where by the players . cards and medial vowel phonemes ffffff long Activity 2 Each player ssshhh long needs a baseboard One player and 6 counters. is designate d as the • The caller has the cards caller. phoneme of each card. and turns them over • If any saying the player has medial a picture medial phoneme, on their baseboard they can • The game containing place a counter continues Name over the picture.the same • When this happens until one player has covered all they call “BINGO” their pictures. and the game Activity 3 is over. As Activity 2 except: • The caller m–d differentItem numbe • The playersnames each picture r as the card have to work Date k - k same is turned the same over. medial phoneme. out whether they 1 Quest have a picture Show f – t different ion containing me who’s Activity 4 at the 2 eg As p - l different beginn Activity 2 (Point Expec ing of except: to and ted the line. • What name respon s - sh different CorreThe caller turns over else begins each pictur se ct • The the picture players have 2a with /d/? e.) duck, fish. duck, without naming ? to identify o-o same picture on Is it duck car, dog, bag, fox. it. What the medial egg else begins phoneme – car? Wher • Each playertheir card containing Fish Duck and cover Is it duck begins the same (or one chosen e next? 2b with /f/? begins with any one elepha medial with /d/. and say the nt, egg, – dog? /f/. common medial by the caller) should phoneme. What house Is it duck else begins , giraff name both phoneme. - egg? pictures with /e/? e Elepha 2c sun, moon, nt begins mouse What with /e/. fox else begins , sock Sun 2d with /s/? begins web, whale, with /s/. fox, What egg else beginsfly Web with /w/?begins with 2e parrot /w/. , What duck, pencil sock else begins , ship 3 eg with /p/?Parrot begins Mat begins with /p/. with What whale else begins /m/. 3a with /m/? Tiger begins What with pencil else begins /t/. 3b with /t/? Shoes begins What with /sh/. monke else begins y with /sh/? 3c Octop us begins What teeth else beginswith /o/. 3d with /o/?. Car begins with What shop else begins/c/. with /c/? 3e Zoo begins with What orange else begins/z/. with /z/? cap
Listen to this sound – ssssss. It’s a long sound. Listen to this sound – t. It’s a short sound. Is this sound long or short? - g short short long
4 Beg inni
SPARRK also provides ready to make games and activities and signposts to other commercially produced materials in the “Where Next” pack. This provides practitioners with ideas and teaching suggestions to implement if difficulties have been identified by the assessment. SPARRK also links directly to the SALLEY programme (Structured Activities for Language and Learning in the Early Years) a well researched programme that can be delivered as a Wave 1 programme during the Foundation Stage, but also as a Wave 2 and/or 3 intervention by selecting specific activities.
Available April 2012
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Curriculum innovation 28
Looking beyond exams
Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
In a challenging climate, heading into an uncertain future, young people need to be equipped with so much more than a traditional kind of knowledge, argues Marius Frank.
n twenty years time, I hope I am around to write an historical text evaluating the last tumultuous eighteen months in education. ‘Was Gove right?’ I am sharpening my pen already. ‘Back to Basics!’ cry the Right Wing. ‘The destruction of the state education system’ bemoan the Left. Whatever your view, the pace of change has been unprecedented, and the impact on service delivery profound. As usual, the classroom teacher and the school leader are left to pick up the pieces. You will try to make sense of conflicting and at times apparently irrational and dogmadriven policy statements and decisions; you will implement these changes as best you can; you will do this in the knowledge that, inevitably, you will be blamed yet again for
What do employers want from the workforce of today and tomorrow? The CBI produced a detailed report in 2010, ‘Ready to Grow’, and another, in 2011, called ‘Future Fit’, each report concentrating what business and industry expect from the education system, from school and college leavers to graduates. The key findings may come as a surprise: ■
‘failing to improve education standards quickly enough’, justifying another policy kneejerk, and yet more chaos and unnecessary change, and yet more blame. It is tempting to become bleak, fatalistic and introspective when faced with political leadership that doesn’t listen and policy change that puts a wrecking ball through your social and moral imperatives. Could this be me, the CEO of a charity whose qualifications have been caught in the performance measures cross-fire and downgraded to ‘worthless’?! Well, yes, it hurts. However, I am also heartened by the courage and vision of many school leaders and education practitioners, who, despite the carnage, see beyond the immediate battle lines. So, before we launch ourselves back into the fray, I would like to take an opportunity to stop and share some personal reflections, take the politics out of the situation for a moment, look at the world our young people will inhabit, and suggest some ways to help them get there.
29 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Although 63 percent of employers surveyed wanted to see action to raise standards of literacy and numeracy, over two thirds of employers (70 percent) wanted action to ensure that school leavers entering a tough labour market have the underlying employability skills needed for success in any job. Similarly, over four-fifths (81 percent) of employers believed that ensuring graduates possess employability skills should be the priority for higher education (a bit of a challenge for the ivory towers!).
This quote from the latter paper states clearly the expectations: ‘…A modern, competitive economy needs workers who possess skills, knowledge and attitudes they can take to any work situation and have the ability and willingness to continually adapt and prosper in a changing world…’
These attributes, along with good applied Numeracy, Literacy and IT skills, and a sense of entrepreneurship and enterprise, are cited often as the key factors that could make a huge difference to any business, from shop floor to the boardroom. One has to ask oneself: will the ‘return to subjects’, the inevitable swing to more narrow and formulaic teaching to secure high grade passes in GCSEs and GCEs, and preparation of two hour written tests, alone, prepare our young people for such an environment? I think not. Our children will need so much more than the traditional kind of ‘knowledge’.
What about PISA, OECD and the top performing education jurisdictions in the world? Michael Gove has often cited our reduced standings in the international comparator PISA (Programme for International Study Assessment) tests as a reason to galvanise
1. Self-management – readiness to accept responsibility, resilience, flexibility, self-starting, appropriate assertiveness, time management, readiness to improve own performance based on feedback/reflective learning. 2. Team working – respecting others, co-operating, negotiating / persuading, contributing to discussions. 3. Problem solving – analysing facts and situations and applying creative thinking to developing appropriate solutions.
system change and force higher standards. But PISA says otherwise: ‘…The variation between countries is relatively insignificant compared to the variation within countries (due to social context).’ PISA Tests 2010
30 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
The OECD also sounds a compelling and chilling warning, that the demand for the competencies the 20th century school systems were good at imparting (routine cognitive and manual skills) is falling sharply among employers around the world. Young people will have to be prepared to deal with more rapid change than ever before, for jobs that have not yet been created, using technologies that have not yet been invented. 21st-century systems need to prepare young people with the skills to undertake non-routine analytic and, especially, non-routine interactive tasks, not the regurgitation of facts. As a consequence of this forward thinking, PISA are bringing in collaborative problem solving tests from 2014, to help systems evaluate how well they are preparing their rising generations for a future uncertain. Finland, a country that regularly tops the world rankings in terms of education system performance, is not standing still. They are responding to the ‘21st century imperative’ by engaging teachers, researchers and political leaders in a united attempt to weave learning seamlessly across time, place and space, incorporating planned skill growth and development with content and context, blending the acquisition of knowledge with its application and development through personal skills for the 21st century.
What can we do in the current educational/ political climate? A return to traditional ways will not work on its own. Traditional methods will fail to prepare our rising generations for the future uncertain. And one size DOES NOT fit all. Before we reach for the comfort blanket of GCSEs, consider for a moment the hundreds of thousands of young people every year who are not A* pupils; young people who have personal skills and competencies in abundance, but who, at best, may feel an ambivalence towards the narrow measures that have been used to ‘celebrate’ their eleven years of state education, and at worst, may feel de-motivated and marginalised by a system designed to rank them according to scores in academic tests. School league tables have become the dominant driver in shaping education today, forcing teachers to spend inordinate amounts of time on a narrow, formulaic activity, preparing learners for assessment; forcing some schools to change the curriculum to maximise narrow assessment outcomes (rather than consider what’s best for the learner); and, most tragically, forcing learners to think about the test, rather than open their minds, and enjoy the learning journey. Gove and Wolf have simply replaced one set of ‘perverse incentives’ with another. We are obsessed with issues such as ‘what are the exact exam criteria for an A* pupil, so that I can prepare them fully for getting the grade?’, or, ‘what school has the highest proportion of A* pupils, so that I can send my son or daughter there?’ And here’s a thing: how can every school be good if schools themselves continue to be ranked according to norm-referenced performance testing? It is statistically impossible! We are ignoring, at our peril, the personal growth and development of the skill set of learning, for employment and for life. Knowledge-based teaching and assessment is easy. Teaching and assessing personal learning and thinking skills, and the application of knowledge to solve unfamiliar problems, is much harder. There is a relevance and a chance for success open to every learner in every setting if improvement in personal effectiveness is acknowledged and celebrated. Bedminster Down (where I had the privilege to be a head for over a decade) serves
School league tables have become the dominant driver in shaping education today, forcing teachers to spend inordinate amounts of time on a narrow, formulaic activity, preparing lessons for assessment.
a solidly white working class community on the south side of Bristol. Few families had aspirations of university and graduation, but our Aim High programmes ensured that preconceptions were challenged, pathways cleared and a different future made possible. However, many young people simply aspired to get a job and keep it. We needed a curriculum that engaged, motivated and supported them; academic subjects alone did not inspire them, but a sensible and balanced mix of academic, vocational and skills-based accreditation did. In one of my assemblies as Head teacher I would give an example: “I do not want an office junior from Bedminster Down School in their first job, when the photocopier breaks down, to sit there like a lemon staring at it until their boss gets back: I want them to have the literacy skills to read the manual, the technological skills to kick it in the right place in response to ‘Error Message 42’, then have the personal skills, confidence and capability to get on the phone and demand that a service engineer gets ‘round here pronto’ to fix the machine before the boss gets back.” I challenged our pupils to think about who was more employable? I challenged them to decide who will be kept on if the company down-sizes, and who will be ‘let go’? This resonated with the most able, as well as with those who, by 14, were clear that an academic pathway was not for them. If you develop self-competency, you develop self-worth. If you develop self-worth, confidence and independence will follow. You may be familiar with the saying, ‘Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Give a person a fishing rod, and they can feed themselves for life.’ There should be a 21st century addendum: ‘Give a person the template to make a fishing rod, and they can feed their community; teach a person to think creatively, to apply accumulated knowledge to solve problems, to work effectively with other people and to manage their own personal development, they will come up with innovative and sustainable food production for their community and for generations to come. One day they may even sell you fish back!’ We have to urgently re-open the debate about what is meant by success in education. Is it knowledge piled on yet more knowledge, and the narrow, constrictive and formulaic assessment based on reconstruction and regurgitation? Or is it about the skill set to put that knowledge to good use? We need to encourage the growth of creativity, innovation, employability, and the regeneration of community, selfconfidence and self-worth. And we CAN do this.
31 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Plan for personal and employability skills development, don’t leave it to happenstance In response to Curriculum 2000, many schools attempted to introduce curriculum change to supplement traditional methodologies with skills-centred approaches, some more successfully than others. Either they were home-grown initiatives, or off-the-shelf solutions, such as Building Learning Power, PLTS (Personal Learning and Thinking Skills) or ASDAN’s suite of materials, resources and accredited learning programmes. Look to grow and nurture these programmes further, rather than allow them to wither on the vine. The pendulum will swing back sooner than you think!
Acknowledge, accredit and reward skills for learning, skills for employment and skills for life A coherent approach to personal development, in a consistent and programmed manner, leading to celebration and some kind of certification (informal or formal) will help embed best practice. ASDAN programmes and qualifications, for example, not only articulate an overarching structure for personal skills development; they can articulate clearly levels of competency (Entry, Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3), and also offer a supportive methodology to help learners and teachers recognise the progressively
Some top tips for future proofing your curriculum… and your learners
higher expectations of each level. ASDAN qualifications also enable the accreditation of non-formal and informal learning beyond the classroom, be it through participation in local sports clubs, youth and community groups, hobbies and part-time jobs, giving young people an opportunity to ‘join up’ their learning experiences like never before: as the Finns would say, ‘learning across time, place and space’. ■
Skills-centred qualifications really do count, and success outside the performance measures can have significant impact inside the performance measures ASDAN qualifications may not count from 2014 for the purposes of school performance measures at Key Stage 4, but young people were never awarded ‘points’ at 16, nor ever will be. 16+ is a completely different story, with our Level 3 qualifications attracting UCAS points, and higher education endorsing fully the broadening of the curriculum that our qualifications enable when programmed with A-Levels. ASDAN qualifications for example stand proud in a learner transcript, valued by learners, colleges, higher education and employers. And there is now available compelling research data to back up assertions from our centres, that learners exceed expectations if a GCSE diet is complemented by ASDAN’s Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE). University of West of England are undertaking a detailed study of the 2009-10 national outcomes. This is a notable data set, because, for the first time ever, a significant number of young people within the national cohort achieved a skillscentred qualification as a supplement to GCSEs. “These emerging findings paint a clear picture that completing CoPE is associated with improved outcomes at Key Stage 4...” Neil Harrison, Senior Research Fellow, Bristol Centre of Research in Lifelong Learning, UWE, Jan 2012 We at ASDAN are clearly delighted by these findings, which clearly illustrate the power of explicit skills-centred teaching, learning and accreditation. We expect to run a series of national briefing sessions in the summer of 2012 to share the results of this project
Finally, look out for the Modern Baccalaureate ASDAN Education is delighted to be a strategic partner for the national rollout of the Modern Baccalaureate. Together with Imaginative Minds, TLM (Transition Learning Mentors) and Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull (where the first ideas were developed), a new way of looking at the curriculum is being developed. Not only will it encourage the highest possible academic standards, it will also encourage the specific development and accreditation of skills and competencies, from primary school to degree level.
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School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
ASDAN into the future In summary, I would like to thank the head teachers, senior school leaders and practitioners who have already contacted ASDAN to express both support for us, and
dismay at the recent government decisions. ASDAN qualifications were caught in the political cross-fire between the academic and vocational lobbies. Despite our best efforts, including numerous trips to Whitehall, the DfE either did not understand our compelling case... or chose to ignore it. As the dust settles, perhaps the biggest challenge facing schools is not what counts, but demonstrating robust and sustained progress across the ability range, as well as the moral imperatives preparing our young people for a future uncertain. More demanding written terminal assessment at GCSE and A-Level must be a school priority: so too must be the need to develop a sophisticated personal skillset to deal with life and work in competitive, ever-changing and unpredictable conditions. ASDAN has a relevance as never before, because we can fully support these potentially conflicting demands.
33 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Marius Frank, Chief Executive of ASDAN Education www.asdan.org.uk
Knowledge trail 1) Working towards your future: Making the most of your time in education - An overview of the findings from the CBI / National Union of Students survey showing that students want, and indeed need, universities to better explain employability skills and provide the necessary support. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/working-towards-future_230511.htm Article available in Leadership Briefings in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
This series is based on Edward de Bono’s Thinking Hats concept Thinking Hats By Anna Forsyth All books priced at £17.99 each
Thinking Hats - Book 1 Ages 5-7 Thinking Hats - Book 2 Ages 7-9 Thinking Hats - Book 3 Ages 9-11
Creativity is the wealth of tomorrow. Developing laterality in approach to issues is exciting, challenging and critical learning. World-renowned Edward de Bono’s concept of ‘Thinking Hats’ has proven itself to be an excellent way to ensure that students consider problems and issues from different perspectives; ‘actively thinking’. This series of three books teaches the use of Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats; white for facts and information, yellow for optimism, green for creativity, blue for the overall picture, black for negative, red for emotions.
A series of 40 lessons in each book spans almost all the curriculum areas so that students practice using thinking hats in many contexts.
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Global education 34 Vol 3.6
School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Can effective global education be conveyed from within the classroom walls? Cliff Manning discusses how we can transcend geographical barriers to nurture a generation of global citizens.
iogenes Laertius, Greek philosopher (AD 220) once said: â€œI am a citizen of the worldâ€?, as he looked at his life in a wider context. The concept of global citizenship is not a new one, but in our present time we have the ability for this to become a reality. Christopher Columbus and co. would be glad to hear that the journey for information to travel across the world today no longer need take weeks, days or even minutes as technology has made the world seem increasingly smaller. This globalization has caused increased focus on interdependence, interconnectedness and cultural diversity meaning that today more than ever, the world is a part of our everyday local lives. Young people are aware of global events, and understand that issues and events across the globe affect them too. Globalization is one of the most significant changes
taking place in societies around the world today, and it is vital that the future generations are educated to become globally conscientious learners; to acknowledge and understand the enormous variety of cultures and information that exists on earth.
The global citizen Being a ‘global citizen’ incorporates a framework of values including understanding, concern and respect for others and the natural world. Today’s youth will face decisions on a wide range of issues for which people have differing, contradictory views worldwide. To develop as global citizens all young people should have the opportunity to engage with these issues, starting in the educative process. Encouraging young people to explore potentially debatable and emotive issues can encourage them to develop their thinking skills, contributing positively to their information processing, reasoning, enquiry, evaluation and creative thinking development. It is not just educators who recognise the need for young people to learn more about the world around them though; they themselves express an ongoing desire to learn about global issues. The Department for International Development (DfID) conducted a poll of young people aged 11 to 16 on the subject a few years ago. The report showed that of those people polled, 79 per cent wanted to know more about what is happening in developing countries, with 54 per cent believing that they should learn about these issues in school. According to the same report, the majority of young people currently receive this information through electronic methods of communication; resources such as the Internet or television that they have become familiar with in the home environment. There is little doubt that technology can have a vital impact on this learning process.
Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
The curriculum and schools have an important role to play in helping pupils make sense of the complexity of the world and their place in it. If we want to create a world of global citizens, then education is a priority. Most schools might teach some form of citizenship, or include it as part of PSHE. However, this does not have to be an additional subject; it is an ethos that can involve all those in the educative process - it can be promoted in class through the existing curriculum. It covers such a wide range of topics, it can be incorporated across the curriculum; learning about other beliefs in RE, the environment in geography and biology, and other cultures and societies in history and languages. Educators should take these opportunities to encourage children and young people to explore, develop and express their own values and opinions, whilst listening to and respecting other people’s points of view. This will in turn encourage a wider appreciation amongst young people of the world around them. Cherry Duggan, Head of Schools and Communities, WWF said: “Young people will shape the future of our world. They also have a huge influence, here and now. Working with teachers means together we can encourage and support young people in building the knowledge, skills and values to safeguard our world.”
Educators should take these opportunities to encourage children and young people to explore, develop and express their own values and opinions, whilst listening to and respecting other people’s points of view.
The role of schools
Teaching through technology A feasible way of accessing these valuable learning experiences is through technology. The growth of the Internet has provided a valuable source of information and international communication with free teaching resources, VoIP and endless reference sites. Social media has the ability to take this one step further as a hub for learning, sharing thoughts, and to collaborate on or voice their support for a cause or campaign, putting them in the position to be able to affect change. The possibilities go beyond entertainment to educate, inform and connect people regardless of their background, culture or religion. This is where technology can have a large part to play, helping bring the world into the classroom in an easily accessible and understandable format. It breaks down the traditional walls, and opens channels of communication, allowing them to collaborate and broadcast videos, podcasts and blogs.
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As a safe social network, at Radiowaves we are lucky to work with a number of international charities and not for profit organisations looking to connect with young people in a safe and responsible way. These organisations have valuable lessons to share with young people across a wide range of topics; speaking with knowledge and experience. The classroom provides the ideal platform for these charities to introduce students to the world around them. Nadia Robinson, commissioning editor in the British Red Cross education team said: “Creating opportunities for children to gain an understanding of the world around them is fundamental to what we call humanitarian education. Engaging with our materials provides a valuable opportunity for students to explore humanitarian and global issues, while increasing their confidence, ability and willingness to help themselves and others in a crisis” Topics are far-reaching; currently organisations are looking at encouraging a love of nature with the WWF, questioning the role of robots in war with the British Red Cross, and raising awareness of refugees from conflict with the Imperial War Museum. With resources available to support both students and teachers, it is important that
Creating opportunities for children to gain an understanding of the world around them is fundamental to what we call humanitarian education.
“We can share what is at the heart of our mission; enabling people’s stories and views to be heard by a global audience that can learn from their experiences to make a real difference for the future.”
both parties recognise the valuable opportunities that are made accessible for the classroom through technology. Catherine Roberts from the Imperial War Museum is one representative who believes in the impact of technology:
These charities can help provide ‘real experiences’ of the world, through a rich diversity of material, sources and topics. Competitions, blogs, reallife interviews are just a selection of resources and opportunities that can help draw students into activities, both inside and outside of the classroom, providing a holistic understanding of the world around them.
Access the numerous global teaching resources available online – these can help students tap into the issue effectively with interesting insights. Take a variety of starting points for discussion or research. These could include exploring basic human needs, environmental issues, exploring a variety of cultures, democracy or global issues such as peace, war and poverty. Within your classroom, it is possible that a variety of ethnic backgrounds, cultures and languages are represented. Encourage children to explore each other’s backgrounds by perhaps conducting mini-interviews, creating projects that involve researching another country or culture and writing a blog about what they find. This not only encourages understanding, but tolerance and acceptability. Make the most of your school community. Encourage parents, or local community members to come in and share their knowledge and lifestyles with the pupils. Why not record these interactions to share with other schools online? Reverse the situation and explore local issues from a global perspective. How would children in other countries view the UK? Remember to ensure each young person has the environment to safely and confidently express their opinion and to respect the view of others. This could be in person, or perhaps through a blog entry if they are not comfortable speaking. Take part in competitions and challenges set by charities and organisations to encourage participation and an understanding of the topics. Set up your own school award ceremony. This encourages children to explore and research projects throughout the year in the hope to be the ‘best environmentalist’, or the ‘best global citizen’ etc. Consider linking your school to another one in a different country or culture to broaden the pupil’s understanding, share ideas and help develop friendships. The My World Network from the British Council can help with setting up these connections across Europe. Find out more at www.radiowaves.co.uk/myworld.
Cliff Manning, Director at Radiowaves www.radiowaves.co.uk
Knowledge trails 1) Educating children for a future – the global village – Looking at the need to educate our children to work in an ever-evolving world alongside other nationalities http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/educating-children-for-a-future--the-global-village.htm 2) Contemporary slavery – Cross curriculum project – A comprehensive project for Key Stages 2+ connecting students with a hidden modern day evil to raise global awareness and prompt a proactive repsonse.
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Top tips for creating your global classroom:
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Collaborating to fight deprivation To tackle the effects of social deprivation on their school, a head teacher, chair of governors and chair of the trust unite in a shared vision to transform their school.
n the last two years, the Cressex Community School in High Wycombe has moved from its crumbling old building into a state-of-the-art new school. It has also become a Cooperative Learning Trust, with partners from higher education, the independent sector and a high achieving grammar school. In 2010, its GCSE results were the best ever and enrolments to the school last year showed significant increase. OFSTED in 2010 described the ‘strong and determined leadership at all levels’ that was bringing about improvement at the school.1 So how did this happen?
SECTION ONE: A governor’s view – Katy Simmons
Cressex Community School is a small secondary school in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, a county that has retained selection at 11. It is an upper school or what once was called a ‘secondary modern’. The Local Authority is one of the most affluent in the South East of England, with household incomes 34 per cent higher than the UK average. However, the county has pockets of disadvantage and the area served by the school is one of them. The Governors have always been advocates for the young people in our area, arguing the case, and on occasion campaigning for improved funding and a better school building to replace our inadequate premises. Our governors are local people who are well aware of the challenges faced by local families.
In 2005, the governors did a study that showed that Cressex students and their families experience levels of disadvantage equal to those experienced in urban, Northern cities. Nearly half our students live in parts of the town that are within the most economically disadvantaged in England, with entrenched poverty, low skills levels and inadequate education. Interfacing with this disadvantage is the further factor of ethnicity. Although High Wycombe has a minority ethnic population of approximately 20 per cent, 75 per cent of the school’s population is of black and minority ethnic heritage. The majority of these students are of Pakistani heritage, from the Mirpur district of Kashmir, in Northern Pakistan, an isolated rural area among the foothills of the Himalayas. Evidence shows that students of black and minority ethnic heritage do not share in the high level of performance seen elsewhere in Buckinghamshire. Locally, while white students outperform not only pupils nationally but also pupils from comparable areas, with over two thirds finishing Key Stage 4 with results well above national norms, only about one third of minority ethnic students leave school with that level of attainment. Consequently, the gap between the results of minority ethnic pupils and white pupils is much greater than the gap observed nationally. In 2009, Ofsted commented that the pace, in Buckinghamshire, of narrowing the gap between pupil groups ‘generally remains too slow’.2
We wanted give the school a future, in a building that was fit for purpose. As a school, we felt invisible – our job as governors was to make the school visible.
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Challenges and goals
The challenges faced by this school are, to some extent, shared by all upper schools in the Authority. However, the levels of deprivation experienced by the students at the school and the ethnic composition of the student body have made those challenges acute. Governors identified the raising of achievement as our major task. Linked to that, we needed to re-position the school as the school of choice for the people who live near us. We wanted give the school a future, in a building that was fit for purpose. As a school, we felt invisible – our job as governors was to make the school visible. The journey to visibility has been a long and difficult one. Funding for improvement was one of our first targets. The governors actively sought inclusion in the Excellence in Cities initiative introduced in 1999 and designed to drive up standards in urban areas. With the then Headteacher, the Chair of Governors went up to Whitehall to lobby for inclusion in the scheme. The clarity of the civil servant took them aback: ‘We’re giving you the money,’ he said, ‘because you need it.’ The school was finally visible and the benefits of EiC were to be felt in the area for years to come.
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The new school, with its soaring atrium and well resourced classrooms, inspires gasps of admiration from those visiting for the first time.
The school building was another long term challenge. Every day students and teachers worked in decaying buildings and freezing classrooms, with inadequate sanitation and multiple, defective forms of heating. The Local Authority’s Asset Management team logged 114 instances where aspects of the school building actively worked against effective teaching and learning. The local community, staff and students joined with enthusiasm in the governors’ campaign and in September 2006, the school was nominated for rebuilding under the Building Schools for the Future initiative, having been identified by the Local Authority as their ‘school in greatest need’. The new school, with its soaring atrium and well resourced classrooms, inspires gasps of admiration from those visiting for the first time. “Miss”, said one open-mouthed Year 7 student, on seeing the building for the first time, “Miss, is this really ours?”
More than a building But buildings by themselves are not enough. Part of the governors’ task has been to strengthen the resources available to the school in a sustainable way that will outlast individual effort. We already had good links with other local institutions, including the local University and the local independent school, so the formation of a Cooperative Trust, to include them and other strong partners, seemed a natural development. The Cooperative element of the Trust, where the local community is represented on the Trustee Board, provides exactly the kind of participative, inclusive framework that suits our local community. The new Trust has re-positioned and strengthened the school at a turning point in its history.
SECTION TWO: A Headteacher’s view – David Hood When I took up the post of headteacher at Cressex in April 2008, the school had been through a short, debilitating period of instability at senior leadership level. Continuity of commitment to the school had been provided by the exceptional governing body, and many staff had continued to work extremely hard to ensure that students continued to learn and progress in their lessons. This strong identification with the
school and its students among those who dedicate themselves to working at and with it is an enormously impressive feature of the Cressex community. However the absence of a permanent senior team meant that key aspects of day-to-day management and functional leadership had become shaky at best and absent at worst. Performance management – a key tool for turning a binding vision for the school into reality, recognising positive staff contributions and challenging underperformance – was in abeyance; there was no school improvement plan. It was also evident that the student body had low morale. Incidences of anti-social behaviour were unacceptably high and attendance was low. The question I was most frequently asked by students during my earliest days at the school was “How long are you staying?”
New opportunities The Summer Term 2008 and the following months offered the opportunity of a new beginning for the school. A completely new senior team came together. The deputy head had taken up post at the start of the previous term and was already making her mark in winning the confidence of the staff. Two new assistant headteachers had been appointed. One, an internal appointment, had the advantages of deep knowledge of the local community and a record of success in previous posts at Cressex. The other, an external appointment, brought knowledge of practice from a contrasting school in a different part of the country. In addition, new leadership appointments were made in key departments: English and science. The mathematics department was already well-led and in recent years had consistently been one of the highest performing departments in the whole of England in terms of ‘value added’. Further new opportunities came in the form of Building Schools for the Future programme and by the National Challenge, which was launched within a couple of months of the start of my headship. Much of the planning and excellent design work had been undertaken prior to my appointment. The additional funding provided enabled us to increase our capacity at leadership level by appointing a third assistant headteacher to take on the critical responsibility for assessment, recording and reporting.
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Underpinning principles 1.
2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Create, declare and implement a simple, binding vision, based on clearly articulated values, which places the students at the heart of everything we do (this is summarised in our mission statement as ‘High achievement for all is oour shared responsibility’) Pay attention to detail Acknowledge and celebrate success Tackle (and be seen to tackle) areas of weakness Be brave Communicate, communicate, communicate
The fruit of our labour is seen in such quantifiable ways as: improved results; improved behaviour, attendance and punctuality of students; improved staff attendance; improved profile of the quality of teaching and learning in lessons. We have also had positive feedback from a range of visitors on the less easily
Over the past three years the pillars of our work have been:
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measurable indicators relating to the school climate. The outstanding new environment of the school clearly plays its part, but I am firmly of the view that while a building can enhance a good school, it does not make a good school. A great strength of Cressex over the years has been the quality of its partnerships with other organisations and educational institutions, which all increase the opportunities available to students. The creation in 2010 of the Cressex Cooperative Learning Partnership, an educational trust in which we are formally linked with a National Support School, a leading girls’ independent school, the local university, the Local Authority and the Cooperative College consolidated some of these partnerships and provide a framework within which others may flourish. The Cooperative College’s support for education, that is ‘faith neutral; values driven’ absolutely chimes with us, while the Cooperative values are completely consonant with ours: self help; self responsibility and social responsibility; equality; equity; solidarity; and ethical values (honesty, openness, social responsibility, caring for others). It is a source of strength to us to know that as we move forward in an ever changing educational world in pursuit of excellence for our students that we have such a committed group of partners working alongside us to help shape and also to complement our day to day efforts in school.
The Cooperative College’s support for education, that is ‘faith neutral; values driven’ absolutely chimes with us, while the Cooperative values are completely consonant with ours.
SECTION THREE: A Trust Chair’s view – Mark Fenton The governors of Dr Challoner’s Grammar School had for some time been considering how we could share our vision of ‘Excellence with integrity’ across the wider education system. My appointment as a National Leader of Education in 2009 and the associated designation of Dr Challoner’s as a National Support School coincided with the early stages of the Trust development at Cressex Community School. Our involvement posed a range of challenges. How could a school operating in a very different context work successfully in partnership with a completely different type of school? Although only a few miles away from Cressex, most of the students at
Working together The next phase of the Trust’s development broadened the partnership concept beyond ‘head to head’ level. One of the key roles of the Trustees in a Trust School model is to appoint some members of the governing body. The Trust agreed to appoint two members of staff and a parent from Dr Challoner’s to the Cressex governing body and so, alongside one of our Deputy Heads who has considerable expertise in learning and teaching, I became a Cressex governor. Bringing together our two staff groups started on a small scale with individual discussion taking place between teachers at the two institutions. A major step forward was taken when we arranged a joint staff training day at Cressex to include the entire teaching staff of Dr Challoner’s. Our intention here is to deepen mutual understanding and to identify specific partnership working opportunities which can be developed. At the same time, work began on the first projects bringing together the pupils from each school. The tragedy of the Pakistan floods inspired a team of students from the three partner schools to devise
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Knowledge trails 1. Governors at war – What happens when governors come into conflict with a head teacher? http://library.teachingtimes.com/ articles/slt_governors_at_war.htm 2. Governors – a hidden role in school improvement – Exploring the influence governing bodies can have in the pursuit of higher attainment. http://library.teachingtimes.com/ articles/slt_governors_a_hidden_role_ in_school_improvement.htm 3. Legal Briefing: Trust schools and the law – An education law expert looks at the legal implications of becoming a trust school. http://library.teachingtimes.com/ articles/trust-schools-and-the-law.htm 4. Life after BSF – The government may have discarded BSF, but there are ways to secure funding for new premises. http://library.teachingtimes. com/articles/lifeafterbsf.htm
I realized that a successful partnership could only be based on mutual respect and understanding and that it was vital that the Trust was genuinely founded on trust. Like all new relationships, there was much ‘relationship building’ to be done. As Lead Education Partner we found ourselves in the middle of a range of different views emanating from the (then) Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Local Authority, the school’s governing body and the National Challenge Advisor. Reconciling all these differing agendas into a coherent plan for the school’s future development proved extremely challenging but ultimately successful. As so often, such solutions are underpinned by good relationships between professionals. The model of two headteachers working closely together, one from the outside and one from the inside, has proved to an effective one. The Cressex Co-operative Learning Trust is unique both in terms of the range and number of its partners: there is no other trust in the country which features such diverse partners. Such diversity of experience and perspective bring great strength to the Trust. However, it is also a considerable challenge to ensure that all the partners are pulling in the same direction and that they are all making a meaningful contribution to the learning opportunities of the students. In the early stages, it was extremely important to ensure that the governance of each partner institution was fully behind the Trust concept. So the entire governing body of Dr. Challoner’s visited the ‘old’ Cressex School to meet students and staff and to tour the school. Governors were able to get a better understanding of the issues and to appreciate the reasons for our involvement. A few months later, many of the same governors were very proud to attend the launch of the Trust held in the new Cressex building.
Dr Challoner’s come from an entirely different background, being principally affluent, middle class and white. The obvious differences between the institutions created both challenges and opportunities on both sides.
and deliver a fundraising campaign with different events at all three schools. This project was a great success and much enjoyed by the students who took part. The future of the Cressex Trust is very exciting. It now benefits from relationships which are built on solid foundations and is well placed to support the continued improvement of a school which has already come such a long way. In the current world of rapid educational change, there are many opportunities for groups of schools and other organisations working in partnership and the Cressex Trust intends to grasp these with both hands. At our last Governors’ meeting, our head boy, an associate member of the Board, reflected on the changes he had seen in his time in school. He closed by saying: “High achievement for all is certainly our shared responsibility and I can say for a fact that Cressex is a rising star. It’s climbing to the top and I am proud to be a head boy at Cressex Community School. “ We knew then that our efforts had been well placed.
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Six rules of transformation
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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Be totally focused on the central goal of better opportunities and better outcomes for students at the school. Judge every proposal by this criterion. A proposal may sound good but actually be a distraction. Acknowledge that partners have their own agendas but ensure the focus stays on students – not on institutional or political agendas. Build on existing partnerships but be open to new opportunities. Work towards turning the partners you have into the partners you want. Be sure that your Governing Body is firmly rooted in the community served by the school and includes a good number of local people who know the area well and have a strong commitment to the school’s success. Actively seek new input from your community. Use every opportunity to tell people what you are doing – the local paper, local magazines and radio.
Building good partnerships Partnerships can release social, political and financial capital to your project and can provide innovation and inspiration, but they require careful nurturing and managing. 1.
Be aware of your own strengths and be clear that your partners are also gaining from the relationship. It’s not a one-way street and it’s important to resist any sense that you are the only one to benefit from the links. Resist any sense of patronage. Keep reminding your partners of what you expect from them – have a clear, shared agenda and if there are disappointments, keep that agenda to the fore and hold partners to account. Expect the best from your partners but accept that they too are facing challenges in other areas and may not always have you as their priority. Keep reminding them of what they have signed up to. Persist and keep making your focus explicit. Remember that relationships take time to develop – it’s work in progress. Celebrate and publicise every success.
Footnotes 1 Ofsted (2010) inspection Report, Cressex School http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/oxedu_providers/full/ (urn)/110500/(type)/8192/(typename)/Secondary%20education 2 OFSTED (2009) Annual performance assessment of services for children and young people in Buckinghamshire County Council 2008. http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/oxcare_providers/la_download/(id)/4751/(as)/APA/apa_2008_825.pdf
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Underperforming teachers 46
Rescued from the brink of failure
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Failing trainee to flourishing teacher. Loic Menzies presents a case study to demonstrate how a united support structure can help trainee teachers to reach their true potential.
orking as a tutor on the Canterbury Christ Church (CCCU) Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) I supported one trainee who found the transition from learning support assistant (LSA) to teacher a real struggle. Sean (not his real name) went through two ‘action plans’ to help improve his performance and then managed to achieve a judgement of ‘good’ from the outstanding school in which he completed his training. The biggest factor in Sean’s success was of course his hard work and determination but in this article I will describe how university staff and the school based training team in two schools worked together to enable him to succeed.
Sean was previously an LSA who worked with small groups of challenging pupils in his training school. During my second visit (the first was an introductory meeting) this seemed to be yielding dividends. Sean engaged some of the most challenging pupils and displayed excellent relationships with them. However, an important aspect of school visits in the CCCU GTP programme is that we spend much of the time in discussion with the school based training providers since they work with trainees day in day out and are therefore in a better position to assess their performance. Sean’s mentor and the Employment Based Trainer (EBT) seemed far less happy with Sean’s progress. They raised the issue of transitioning to whole class teaching. Our focus on communicating with the school based training team meant that these issues were immediately flagged up and I could feed these back to the team leader. In my report I noted that: ‘I thought his delivery was very confident and his relationships excellent... My biggest concern was that most of the time he just taught and interacted with the 7 pupils at the front…Other colleagues have picked up on this tendency in his teaching.’
We also see the role of tutors as quality assuring the school based training. This meant that I made a priority of tracking how this was progressing and uncovered concerns here too. I did not feel that Sean was receiving the support he needed and therefore ensured that his mentor recognised this. His mentor was very co-operative and we agreed five action points with regard to the training programme. Whilst there was a lot of concern about Sean’s progress it was important to remain positive and to encourage Sean’s obvious dedication to becoming a teacher. In my report I stated that: ‘I actually think Sean has got a lot of potential. The way he interacts and delivers shows that he is able to engage challenging pupils in an extremely positive and learning focused way. If he can develop the technical skills to teach I think he could go on to do very well.’
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Whilst there was a lot of concern about Sean’s progress it was important to remain positive and to encourage Sean’s obvious dedication to becoming a teacher.
My second visit therefore revealed three of the factors that helped turn Sean’s experience around: effective communication, quality assurance of training and belief in the possibility of improvement. The third visit escalated my concerns. Sean had not made any progress and I observed him with a larger class teaching an unsatisfactory lesson. The school was going through a difficult period and this was clearly making his job particularly difficult. A fight in the corridor made for a testing lesson start but aside from this, his teaching skills did not seem to have developed. His delivery was aggressive and planning weak to the point where even if the lesson had gone to plan, pupils would have been unlikely to progress.
Positive intervention I therefore decided to use our formal procedure for registering causes for concern. This identified three areas of concern, actions to be taken and success criteria. By using this process my response was seen as positive and action orientated rather than punitive. Thus it was welcomed by all involved. The formality of the process ensured accountability since lack of progress would lead to a defined response. Since CCCU plans extra capacity to support trainees in such situations, I also scheduled an extra visit and requested weekly updates from the very helpful EBT.
Figure 1: Extract from Individual Training Plan to improve Sean’s performance
Focus of Concern 1. Establishing a calm, purposeful environment for learning
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Actions to be taken
Success Criteria for next visit
Observations of 3 identified teachers (NAME1, NAME2, NAME3)
Variation in tone of voice and use of quieter less aggressive delivery
Videoing Sean teaching and watching with subject mentor/ EBT
Increased pace All pupils included in teaching delivery Range of behavioural interventions (e.g. standing next to a pupil, speaking to them individually, taking homework diary, quietly recording name on board) Positive behaviour management (e.g. praise in front of whole class, writing name on the board on smiley side, use of positive language)
2. Enabling all pupils to make progress
Review of one of Sean’s lesson plans to form an item on the agenda of mentor meeting. Sean and MENTOR to analyse what will and won’t help pupils to progress, appropriateness of objectives and work on how to improve it.
Activities in lesson plan are tailored to the objectives
SEAN to collect and review lesson plans from 3 named teachers: NAME1, NAME2 and NAME3 and evaluate how the plans help pupils to progress
Objective moves beyond existing knowledge
All pupils have their hands up and answer questions 3. Attending all meetings prepared
Sean recognises that meetings are the number one priority and that pupil detentions etc. do not take priority
Sean attends all meetings with all required paperwork
Sean to inform EBT if this is not the case
Subject mentor to attend meeting each week and record comment each week
EBT to check that meeting has taken place each week and inform Loic of ANY meeting missed.
My next visit was an interim visit focused on reviewing progress on the action plan (see Figure 1 and providing the support necessary to help Sean succeed when his progress on the action plan was formally reviewed at the end of the term. Progress on each area was reviewed and Sean was praised on the improvements in area 1. He related his progress directly to the actions we had previously agreed which suggested they were well planned and had a positive impact. Disappointingly an additional cause for concern had to be added. I described this in my report:
It was also clear that Sean was still not receiving the level of support he needed to succeed.
‘Following a review of the ITP (Individual Training Plan) a new area of concern was added as, despite feedback on how to improve the ITP by Loic made on the 3 previous visits and on a core day and several comments made by Sean’s EBT, progress was insufficient. Targets remain too general. So for instance, ‘Professional Development’ reflections are not reflective e.g. ‘this was interesting/this was enlightening,’ QTS standards addressed are not included and there are many empty boxes. The weekly plan aspect seems to be filled in at the end of the week and this is not conducive to effective training.’
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It was also clear that Sean was still not receiving the level of support he needed to succeed. Indeed, the EBT had to take much greater responsibility than would normally be expected as the original mentor was no longer in school. Despite her good will and the numerous efforts she was making to provide worthwhile training experiences this was adding an extra pressure to her workload. The review ensured that there was a clear focus for Sean’s actions in the run up to his next review as was noted in my report: ‘I was really pleased with progress on priority area 1. In the next week it’d be great to see you concentrate on preparing for a good show on area 2 and the new area 4.’
Taking critical action
The situation was clearly becoming serious and this led to a discussion between
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myself, the team leader and the programme director in order to create a contingency plan should Sean not be judged to have made sufficient progress. We felt that Sean was extremely committed and had strengths in some areas but that the challenging circumstances of his training were making it very difficult for him to progress. We judged that a more structured environment would give him greater chances of success. We wanted to be certain that Sean had been given every chance to succeed, particularly as the next step was a final action plan and failure to achieve the measures in this would have ended his training. The team leader therefore drew on the strong relationships he has built up amongst the training partnership to identify where Sean could best be supported and opened discussions with an outstanding school which has a strong track record in working with our trainees. The excellent relationship we have with partner schools was key in making this possible. The action plan review took place with the EBT, team leader and myself. We recognised that some progress had been made but that this was insufficient. Having planned for this possibility we were able to move straight to action and to put arrangements into place for Sean to move school. Sean was welcomed with open arms by his new school and quickly became embedded in an outstanding department. There, all the teachers he worked with contributed to his training. He was able to observe outstanding practice on a day- to-day basis and received detailed feedback from different teachers on his lesson plans before teaching them and on how the lesson had gone afterwards. The consistency of approach that defined the school through its clear policies, routines and procedures meant he could focus on pedagogy. This helped him develop his practice extremely quickly and to progress to an increased timetable much quicker than was expected. The structure and predictability of the environment also helped him develop the self-discipline to keep on top of the training programme.
All the teachers he worked with contributed to his training. He was able to observe outstanding practice on a day-to-day basis and received detailed feedback from different teachers on his lesson plans before teaching them and on how the lesson had gone afterwards.
Capacity to improve
Meanwhile, additional university visits continued. On one occasion I observed a detailed feedback session from one of the teachers he worked with and this assured me that he was receiving high quality support. I also observed a lesson one afternoon when he had been observed by a subject tutor in the morning. In this lesson he acted upon the advice he had been given earlier that day. This showed me that he was receiving and responding to support and so proved that he had the capacity to improve. Again, my role here was not to provide the training since I could only visit for a few hours per half term whereas the school could do so all day, every day. My central objective was therefore to maximise the school based capacity. By the time of my final visit I was convinced that Sean had reached the standard for passing QTS with a satisfactory grade but given his rapid upward trajectory and his poor overall experience up until Easter we were keen to delay assessment until the latest possible opportunity. This would maximise his chances of succeeding at the highest possible level. His assessment was to be carried out by the team leader who showed flexibility and adaptability in making a late assessment possible. On the day of assessment the Team Leader was aware that my previous assessment had been ‘satisfactory’. However, this was only a small part of the judgement and recognised that Sean might improve further before final assessment. The team leader’s assessment was based on
Believing in Sean Sean achieved a remarkable turnaround in his practice and this is testament to his hard work and dedication. He described teacher training as the “most difficult thing I’ve ever done” and faced numerous personal challenges involving illness and family bereavement over the course of the year. Yet throughout, his commitment remained undimmed and ultimately it was the combination of his commitment, the programme design and the hard work of all those involved which made his success possible.
a ‘professional conversation’ in which Sean discussed his learning, reflective practice and Professional Development File. His judgement was only one factor in the overall judgement, which also took the views of the school’s EBT and Sean’s subject mentor into account. The judgement of ‘good’ came from a combination of these three views. The degree of turnaround achieved was particularly emphasised by the fact that this outstanding department said that if they had a vacancy they would like to employ Sean.
51 Key factors in turning Sean’s experience around ■ Sean’s own dedication and hard work ■ Good communication between the university team as well as time spent communicating with the school based team ■ A focus on quality assuring the school based training experience ■ Belief in trainees’ potential and the possibility of improvement ■ A clear, process for dealing with concerns which is action orientated and creates accountability ■ Capacity to provide extra support for struggling trainees
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Loic Menzies is a tutor for Canterbury Christ Church University’s Graduate Teacher Programme. He is also director of LKMco, an education and youth development organisation which provides school improvement services and teacher training and development; carries out project development for third sector youth organisations and which bases its policy research and advocacy on this experience. You can find out more at www.lkmco.org.uk or follow him on twitter: @LKMco.
2) The ideal mentor – An investigation into different models of mentoring and the impacts, positive and negative, on the trainee teacher. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/the-ideal-mentor.htm Article available from Professional Development Today in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription). 3) Losing the joy – A look at the difficulties trainee teachers can face in schools and the effect on their professional learning. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/losing-the-joy.htm Article available from Professional Development Today in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
1) A helping hand for NQTs – Why support of fellow staff is vital in helping NQTs through their first testing years in the job. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/a-helping-hand-for-nqts.htm
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Academies: Where does all the money come from? Despite the government promise to neither incentivise nor discourage the conversion to academy status, the prospect of a financial ‘bonus’ has done just this. Peter Downes investigates why Gove’s academy policy is, seemingly, so successful.
ichael Gove’s great ‘success’ as Secretary of State for Education is perceived to have been the popularity of the conversion of schools from Local Authority control to the quasi-independence of academy status. Eighteen months on from the new government, the educational landscape has changed: in January 2012 there are 1529 schools converted to academies, of which 274 are Sponsored Academies (i.e. Labour-invented). five per cent of secondary schools are not yet academies (1767) and 96 per cent of primary schools are not yet academies (15053). In 70 per cent of Local Authorities the majority of secondary schools have not applied and no Local Authority has lost the majority of its primary schools to academy status.
How did it start? Within weeks of coming into power in May 2010, the coalition government rushed through Parliament a wide-ranging bill to shake up the structure of education in England. The opportunity for existing schools to convert to academy status is built on the previous government’s efforts to raise standards in the poorest areas by the creation of academies. However, this vision was completely distorted by the coalition government – conversion was now to be offered to schools currently classed as ‘outstanding’. There was minimal consultation and the parliamentary process was short-circuited to keep scrutiny of the proposals to the minimum. The policy of allowing more schools to become academies was in the Conservative election manifesto and Mr. Gove had been preparing the ground behind the scenes for some months prior to the election. It was not in the manifesto of the coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, nor was it included in the Coalition Agreement cobbled together in those five hectic days when Britain’s first post-war coalition was created. The new academy policy is clearly a personal crusade of the Secretary of State.
By any standards, this is a remarkably rapid transformation in the provision of education in England and, as we shall see, it has been brought about at enormous expense to the government.
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Why has it been so popular? Schools converting to academy status are given a range of ‘freedoms’, some of which are illusory or relatively trivial:
1. Freedom from LA control The government appears not to have been aware that since 1988 LAs have not ‘controlled’ the day-to-day management, discipline and structure of schools. Compared with pre-1988, the greatest control of schools has come from central government with the imposition of a National Curriculum, national testing and the publication of results, national inspection etc. The role of the LA has been to ensure, as far as possible, that teachers and schools are well supported: they organise, for example, governor appointment and training; they are responsible for making sure that there are enough places; they organise in-service training, provide legal, technical and buildings advice,
personnel guidance and are on stand-by for emergency situations. Some of these services are available already on a buy-back system. When ‘freed from LA control’, the academy is in the hands of the Secretary of State or, more realistically, one of his employees based either in Coventry, Darlington or London. This person will have no knowledge of the academy other than through data and written information. In other words, ‘control’ by somebody close by is being replaced by remote control. 2. Freedom to change the school term and length of the working day This is a freedom that academies will approach with caution because to make major changes would cause great disruption to families with children at different schools and disrupt the established patterns of domestic routines. Where schools are dependent on buses, irregular day patterns will increase the cost of home to school transport if extra buses have to be provided and the cost of this would fall on the academy.
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3. Freedom from the National Curriculum This is superficially attractive as the National Curriculum has become increasingly burdensome since it was first introduced 20 years ago and it has had many layers of extra requirements. However, the government has already promised a slimmed-down National Curriculum for all schools from 2013 and their proposals are currently out for consultation. Moreover, even if academies are released from the detail of the National Curriculum, their pupils will still have to sit tests based on it so this is a freedom which is not as significant as it appears at first sight.
Freedom to set pay is assumed, unwisely, to mean that some teachers may get more, but, like shares, pay could go down as well as up.
4. Freedom to vary teachers’ pay and conditions This particular freedom is one that most would-be academies are shunning like the plague because they know that they are opening up many problems for teachers and governors if they start setting their own pay scales. Freedom to set pay is assumed, unwisely, to mean that some teachers may get more, but, like shares, pay could go down as well as up. At the moment, teachers are protected by nationally agreed pay scales and conditions (the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD)). The STPCD has been arrived at over many years of negotiation and has produced a system now which is clear, flexible and equal across all schools. 5. Freedom to control your own budget Once again, this freedom is misleading. Schools have been able to control their own budget since Local Management of Schools was introduced in 1988. What this ‘freedom’ actually means is that the converting academy gets more money than maintained schools because it gets a pro rata per pupil share of what the LA uses to provide its services to pupils and schools. This Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant (LACSEG) has been miscalculated by the government and has produced a net bonus for academies. It is this extra money that has been the driving-force behind the rush to academy status. In response to a questionnaire from the Association of School and College Leaders, over 70 per cent of Heads in schools converting have said that they are mainly doing it for the money.
The rush to academy status and the financial consequences The policy of encouraging schools to convert to academy status has turned out to be far more expensive than anticipated. In recognition of the extra responsibilities taken on by a school leaving LA oversight, each converting academy receives from the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) an extra grant, ‘LACSEG’. The mechanism for calculating LACSEG was devised in a hurry and without any significant consultation with local authorities or professional associations. It derives from two funding streams:
However, this element of the LACSEG is relatively small, usually accounting for about five per cent of the overall LACSEG grant to academies.
a. The first is the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). This is the ring-fenced sum allocated to an LA to spend directly on pupils. The vast majority of that, typically 90 per cent, is distributed to schools via a formula agreed within the Schools Forum, providing each school with its Individual Schools Budget (ISB) which it is free to spend as it wishes. The remainder of the DSG is held back, with the agreement of the Schools Forum, so that the LA can provide services to individual pupils whose needs are so extreme that they could not be met from within the school’s normal Individual School Budget (ISB). The incidence of these cases is not amenable to a formula. The LACSEG procedure allows a converting academy to have a pro rata share of those set-aside sums, irrespective of whether they have the kind of pupils that may need that extra support. The policy of encouraging outstanding and good schools to convert to academies has inevitably transferred funding towards schools and pupils least likely to need it and away from those who are more likely to need it. This directly contradicts the government’s published commitment to fairness and ‘passionate concern’ (Michael Gove) for the most vulnerable. Even within one Local Authority there are wide extremes of wealth and poverty. The removal of centrally held DSG exacerbates the gap within an LA.
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b. It is the second component that has caused the greatest difficulty. Councils carry out a range of functions (adult social care, children’s social care, transport, road maintenance, trading standards etc) including the provision of education. To fund this they raise council tax and receive general grant from the DCLG. This grant is not ring-fenced; the LA decides what it needs to spend to carry out its functions. The expenditure for Children’s and Young People’s Services is recorded on the S251 return made to the DfE. The functions recorded on the S251 return are much wider than school-related. They bring together the previous section 52 (school specific activity) and a proportion of the former Personal Social Services (PSS) returns. For example, a proportion of the money used for the organisation of children’s social services is included and this has no relationship with school-based provision. The LACSEG formula gives converting academies a pro rata share of this money based on a simplistic per pupil divisor and is therefore completely wrong and grossly over-estimates the LACSEG for academies.
The outcome of these two sources of funding, together with certain direct grants made to converting academies (£25,000 set-up costs, payment of insurance etc) has meant
that academies receive in their LACSEG grant far more than they need to replace the services they are no longer getting from the LA. The ‘bonus’ element of the LACSEG grant amounts to between 60 per cent and 75 per cent. A specific example: A large secondary school in Surrey explained on its website that by becoming an academy, the school would get a LACSEG grant of £625,000. They claimed that it would cost them £60,000 to buy in the services no longer provided by the LA. After challenge, they revised that figure to £180,000, which still left them with a net bonus of £445,000 i.e. 71 per cent of the LACSEG grant. The exact percentage of the bonus varies from academy to academy according to local circumstances. The main variable is school size. The largest schools, especially those with Sixth Forms (whose pupils count for LACSEG purposes even though their revenue funding does not come through the DSG) have the highest ‘bonus’. The existence of this ‘bonus’ is not a secret. It quickly became apparent during the summer of 2010 after the Academies Act was passed. This is what explains the unexpected ‘success’ of the academy policy. Heads and Governors have quite blatantly and openly told parents and staff that they are converting to academy status because they ‘can’t afford not to’. A few dress it up with warm words about ‘greater freedoms’ but there is very little evidence of how new academies propose to use those new freedoms. Indeed many have explicitly said that they will not, for example, change the salary and conditions of staff, nor will they change the school day or term lengths, nor will they vary the curriculum significantly because the national curricular demands are stringent for league table purposes.
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Where is the money coming from?
The crux of the problem is the over-funding of academies. This over-funding directly contradicts the government’s statement that ‘it is clear that there should be no financial advantage or disadvantage for a school converting to academy status’. Fortunately, this is a short-term problem as from 2013 there will be a new national funding formula for schools and LAs. This will provide a clearer definition of roles and will ensure that funding for maintained schools and academies will be equitable. Paragraph 2.4 of the Consultation on School Funding Reform which took place from July to October 2011 states: ‘It is a fundamental principle for the government that Academies are funded on a fair and equitable basis in relation to maintained schools and that any school wishing to convert to an academy is neither put off nor incentivised by the financial consequences.’ The present method of calculating LACSEG fails because it has been directly incentivising schools to convert to academies.
Recouping the funding shortfall Last year the DfE agreed with the DCLG to top-slice the general grant to councils for 2011-12 by £148 million to offset the cost of LACSEG. This top-slice was applied across all councils with an education role, whether or not they had any academies. The justification for this crude and simplistic approach was that it was impossible to predict where academy conversion would take place. It was also announced that this top-slice would rise to £265 million in 2012-13. It was left to LAs to decide whether to apply this cut to education or to diffuse it across the wider range of council services. The unfairness of this rightly provoked a sense of outrage in local government circles and a judicial review was initiated. But now it has become clear that the £148 million falls far short of what is needed to balance the books. The excessive LACSEG and the consequential flood of applications for conversion has left the DfE with a shortfall of between £212m and £227m. If the estimated rate of continuing academy conversion is correct, in 2012-13 the shortfall will be between £315m and £415m. Taking the worst case scenario for both years, the total overspend for the two-year period 2011-2013 could be as much as £642m. In a time of national financial crisis, it is impossible to justify spending this amount of money on a minority of schools, predominantly the most favoured. How can the government recoup this shortfall? In August 2011 they consulted, indicating that they would either:
If the estimated rate of continuing academy conversion is correct, in 2012-13 the shortfall will be between £315m and £415m.
a. increase the general top-slice on all councils (with education responsibilities) which would further enrage many councils, or b. take funding specifically from councils according to the number of pupils in schools that have converted. A simpler solution would have been to recoup the money from those who have actually benefited from the flawed process, i.e. the schools that have become academies. It is unlikely that the Secretary of State would have done this because it would have exposed the fact that this whole operation has amounted to bribing schools to convert to academies.
Just before Christmas 2011 the government announced its decision on the recoupment issue outlined above. Their answer is to follow neither option, so somewhere in the bowels of the Treasury, somebody will be finding over £600 million to rescue Gove from the problem he has caused by his ideologically driven obsession with fragmenting and marketising the English education system. Peter Downes was a comprehensive school Headteacher for 21 years. In 1994-5 he was President of what is now the Association of School and College Leaders. In 1998 he was awarded the OBE for ‘services to languages teaching and education management’. He is Vice-President of the Liberal Democrat Education Association.
Knowledge trails 1) Are academies doing their job? – Reading between the lines of academy success. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles areacademiesdoingtheirjob.htm
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2) Gove’s recipe for disaster? – Arguing against academies – unfair, divisive and inefficient? http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/slt_goves_recipe_for_ disaster.htm 3) The secret of academies’ success – Does exemption from Freedom of Information laws allow academies to ‘dumb down’ their assessments to boost league positions? http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/academies-success_ 110110.htm Arcticle available in Leadership Briefings in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
A Journey into Children’s An introduction to ‘Philosophy for Children’ through the eyes of pupils at schools in Swansea and Cardiff
minds PRICE £29.95 plus VAT
This DVD is about children, teachers and schools and how they learn to think together. This DVD is an introduction to Philosophy for Children through the eyes of children in ten schools in Swansea and Cardiff. What do the children say about philosophy? ‘Philosophy is like going to a disco, except your mind dances instead of your feet.’ ‘It’s like a dive into a whole new world.’ ‘You can go to places you can’t go in reality.’ But most of all, this DVD presents the voices of children who tell us what philosophy means to them. We hope you enjoy the film and are inspired to take up Philosophy for Children in your school.
A Journey into Children’s minds presents the voices of children who tell us what philosophy means to them.
Commissioned by Dr Sue Lyle, Swansea Metropolitan University Supported by the General Teaching Council for Wales and Swansea Met.
To order call: 0121 224 7599 or Fax orders: 0121 224 7598
An amazing decision
Teaching schools: following their lead
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The autonomous school is a symbol of 21st century education reform. Here, Andy Buck of the National College and Liz Francis of the TDA show how teaching schools are leading the way in professional school development by sharing the best leadership and school practice.
xcellent school leadership has always been a valuable commodity. It is even more valuable today. We’re living in fast changing times and it’s never been more critical to focus on what is best for the children and young people we serve. What our organisations need more than anything else at this time is great leadership. The role and influence of great leadership will become even stronger as schools take on more autonomy and independence. We’ve seen the acceleration of this process since last May: for example more than 1,300 schools now have academy status.
Our view is that great leadership for every school can’t be realised if it is controlled from the centre. We need to build on a movement that has been growing steadily for the past few years, in which the profession leads and develops itself. This system ensures that excellent heads, middle leaders and teachers have the power to lead and support the development of great practice across the system because the quality of teaching is the most significant factor in raising standards. Teaching schools are central to this vision. Teaching schools will be grounded in two things that we know great leaders prioritise when achieving school improvement: learning through ‘the work’ and collaborative leadership.
Developing staff is key It’s an approach that works around the world. In an international study on school leadership carried out by the National College with McKinseys we looked at eight education systems around the world and found that heads and principals in all the countries surveyed worked for an average of 60 hours a week (Barber, Whelan and Clark 2010). What distinguished the highest performing heads from the rest was what they did with that time. They dedicated a significantly greater proportion of their working weeks to the tough but core business of developing their staff in order to improve teaching. This finding is also backed up by Professor Viviane Robinson’s research (Robinson, Hohepa, Lloyd, 2009) which identified the leadership practices that had the most significant effect on student outcomes were when leaders promoted and participated in teacher learning and development. It is clear that more and more leaders are doing this, in fact, two out of every five schools in England do much of this themselves.
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Developing on the job
■ ■ ■
Effective whole-school leadership of continuing professional development (CPD) The opportunity to access and to observe excellent practice, not just in one school but in others as well Time for reflection – because leadership and teaching is intense work Access to high quality research and to external expertise when appropriate, such as subject updating Opportunities to discuss with peers and to work with them on common issues.
The Teaching School alliance All teaching schools will work with a number of schools and other strategic partners, forming a teaching school alliance. Working together, the alliance will deliver support for other schools in their wider network. It will be up to the teaching school to decide who their partners will be and, in the case of schools, if they wish to give them any share of the core teaching school funding. We expect that all teaching school alliances will name at least one university partner. Teaching schools, together with their partners, will need to plan and manage a coherent, school-led approach to teacher and leadership training and development, linking this to the priorities of their partnership and their own school improvement planning.
That’s encouraging because all the evidence shows us that the most profound way to develop teaching and leadership skills is ‘on the job’. However, learning on the job on its own can be risky – particularly if you aren’t surrounded by excellent leaders who act as role models and support you through coaching and mentoring. So this needs to be complemented in five main ways:
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Specialist Leaders of Education Senior and middle leaders have for a long time made a major contribution to school improvement within and between schools. The vital role played by these individuals will be recognised in the teaching schools programme with the new role of Specialist Leader of Education (SLE). SLEs are part of the teaching schools vision and we expect that teaching schools will hold the core responsibility for the designation of SLEs, along with managing the negotiation and arrangements for their deployment in schools. An SLE will be both an outstanding leader and an outstanding specialist in their field of expertise. They may be a head of a curriculum stream, a head of teaching and learning, an expert in behaviour or a school business manager. They will all be highly accomplished in what they do and will have a strong track record in coaching or facilitation and real evidence of impact in developing others. They will also have the capacity and commitment to support other leaders in schools that are struggling, just as staff in our National Support Schools already do. Unlike other outstanding designations like Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs), who concentrate on sharing their skills with teachers in their own and other schools, SLEs will focus on the improvement of middle and senior leaders in other schools. All schools in the alliance will have strengths and something to offer, so an SLE might come from a background of outstanding practice in one of the partner schools. This role has great potential and will play a part in untapping excellent leadership practice wherever it exists.
A guide to teaching schools – the basics The role of teaching schools spans both school improvement, ITT and professional development. Their main role will be to provide strategic leadership and to help a partnership of schools to improve. To be successful a teaching school will need to build relationships that draw on the strengths of the different partners, recognise the key areas for improvement across the area and focus collective effort on building capacity and addressing these priorities.
Teaching school designation is open to all schools in England that meet the criteria, regardless of type or phase. Teaching schools will need to demonstrate: • a clear track record of successful, long-standing collaborative relationships with a significant number of partner schools based upon trust and mutual respect and which has resulted in substantial school improvement across the local area of a group of maintained schools • an Ofsted rating of outstanding for overall effectiveness, teaching and learning, and leadership and management • show consistently high levels of pupil performance or continued improvement over the last three years and are above floor standards • that they have senior and middle leaders who have proved that they can make a significant and high quality contribution to the training of teachers, provide highly effective professional development for teaching and or/leadership, provide significant and successful support to under-performing schools within a school-toschool partnership, federation or chain of schools, and provide evidence of improvement supported by selfevaluation, coaching, mentoring, quality assurance and engagement in practitioner-led research with strong links in higher education Heads of teaching schools will need to show that they are: · Judged outstanding · Have at least three years’ experience as a head at the start of the teaching schools designation and expect to remain in headship for at least two years after designation · Are accountable for one or more schools or academies that meet the teaching school criteria · Have the support of their governing body for the school to become a teaching school. Quality assurance Teaching schools will also be responsible for assuring the quality of the work that their strategic partners and SLEs do on behalf of the alliance and the impact it makes. The National College and the TDA will make available guidance on self-evaluation and quality assurance but it will be up to schools to decide how they undertake this role.
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Leading professional development Teaching schools will coordinate CPD and lead peer-to-peer learning across the group of schools. In particular, teaching schools will draw on the expertise of experienced and accomplished professionals across the group to support the learning and development of others. Teaching schools will, in many cases, already be delivering significant leadership development opportunities for teachers and support staff in their own and other schools. This may be through one of the Collegeâ€™s existing middle leadership development clusters, or by offering placements, mentoring and coaching to trainee heads as part of the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH). Talent spotting Although the National College will continue to play a key role in supporting succession planning, teaching schools will increasingly move into the role of talent spotting and developing the leaders of the future. Part of their co-ordination role will be to work with all schools in the teaching school alliance to identify potential leaders from the start of their careers and help them on their career journey, for which they will receive additional funding. Teaching schools may also want to work in partnership
Practitioner research There will also be a role in supporting practitioner research and development work and contributing to a teaching schools national network which will focus on a small number of research and development themes agreed by teaching schools.
Meet the new teaching schools The first 100 teaching schools met at the National College’s Nottingham learning and conference centre in September for an induction event which represented the official start of the teaching schools programme. There will eventually be 500 teaching school alliances throughout England by 2014. The following gives the perceptions of some of the early Teaching School leaders. Cotgrave Candleby Lane Primary in Nottinghamshire is among the first cohort. Headteacher Chris Wheatley said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been designated a teaching school. At this stage of our school’s development, collaborations have been valuable and we feel that the teaching school status can only enhance this and enable the development of further effective collaborations in the future.
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“The opportunities that the teaching school will bring are vast, continued professional development opportunities both inside of school, across the alliance and beyond as well as provision for aspirant leadership, provision to support national programmes and development of initial teacher training opportunities are an extremely exciting prospect.” Daniel Moynihan, Chief Executive Officer of the Harris Federation of schools in London added: “We are absolutely delighted that Harris Academy Crystal Palace has been designated a teaching school. We have been sharing our expertise across the federation with other schools for a number of years. “Teaching School status will help us to provide more choice for schools and teachers and to contribute to the creation of vibrant market for school improvement support, professional development and teacher training.” Headteacher Vicky Beer, of Ashton on Mersey School in Sale, Trafford, said: “Our staff, pupils and governors recognise that we have an important role to play in ensuring that all children receive the best education possible – regardless of which school they attend. “This collective vision, together with our history of collaboration and partnerships, will ensure the success of our teaching school. A key component is the strong partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University who will provide some additional significant expertise and some exciting new ways to deliver initial teacher training.”
References Barber M.; Whelan F.; and Clark C (2010) Capturing the leadership premium: How the world’s top school systems are building leadership capacity for the future. National College and McKinseys Robinson V.; Hohepa M.; and Lloyd C (2009) Identifying what works and why. University of Auckland; Education Counts Publications.
with local authorities or with the National College to determine the likely demand for new headteachers for the different types of schools in their area.
Partnership Teaching schools are a culmination of a significant movement in school leadership which has gathered momentum over the past decade, delivering real benefits for participating schools. To succeed they need to be flexible, as well as informed by the views and experience of schools that are already out there working in close partnership with other schools. We’ve been working closely with school leaders for the past few months, using their comments and suggestions at a round of consultation events to develop the teaching schools vision. But it shouldn’t stop there and it is crucial that we continue to work closely together as we move forward so that the reality of teaching schools fulfils the profession’s hopes. Andy Buck is Director, Teaching Schools at the National College. Liz Francis is Director, Workforce Strategy, Standards and Qualifications at the TDA. To download the latest teaching schools prospectus go to www.nationalcollege.org. uk/docinfo?id=146256&filename=teaching-schools-prospectus.pdf
Knowledge trails 1) Teaching schools: Sharing the expertise - The proposal for teaching schools in England accelerates the partnership approach to school improvement already adopted by many top school leaders, says Steve Munby of the National College. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/teachingschoolssharingtheexpertise.htm 2) Teaching the teacher - Better teachers should mean better teaching – but how successful will the government be in its efforts to improve the quality of new entrants to the profession? http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/slt_teaching_the_teacher.htm
This book includes a broad selection of exciting and enjoyable poems that can be used to develop enthusiasm for poetry, reading and writing. For ease of use each poem is specifically linked to both a ‘Key Objective’ and accompanying ‘Teachers’ Notes’.
All of the poems in this book have been used successfully in school workshops with 4-8 year olds. Most are written by Alan Peat, but the collection also includes poems by Wes McGee and Andrew Taylor. A broad range of poetry styles is included, and related ‘language play’ activities are discussed. This book is a companion volume to the popular Teaching Poetry with 7-12 Year Olds.
POETRY with 4-8 year olds
Price: £17.99 each For postage and packing add: £5.00 UK - £12.00 Overseas
Essential Poetry Teaching Resources
Order both books for £30.00 plus p+p and save over 15%
with 7-12 year olds Many teachers are devoting substantial amounts of time searching for resources to effectively teach poetry. This pack has been specifically developed to link poems with key objectives and a wealth of practical teaching ideas.
• Each poem is accompanied by ‘teachers’ notes’. • As a teaching aid it will save valuable time by • • •
explicitly linking each poem to one or more of the objectives. It includes both suggestions for using the poem with either a whole class or a group, and extension activities. All the poems in the book have been used in school workshops with 7-12 year old children children. The poems cover a variety of forms including rhyming and non-rhyming verse, Haiku, expanding/contracting poems, shape poems, rap and free verse.
Price: £17.99 each For postage and packing add: £5.00 UK - £12.00 Overseas
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Further Education 64 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Putting Oxbridge in your sights Despite its inner-city location and catchment area, Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College is getting record numbers of students into Oxbridge when more privileged colleges are struggling. Howard Sharron reports.
t is one of the few truly comprehensive sixth form colleges in the country with one of the poorest socio-economic profiles for its intake of students from the roughest inner-city areas of Digbeth, Highgate and Balsall Heath in Birmingham. Yet Joseph Chamberlain got a record five students into Oxbridge last September at a time when the number of successful applicants from state schools to Oxbridge is falling. Why is Joseph Chamberlain such a unlikely beacon of social mobility when all the other indicators of social mobility have gone into reverse? It out-performs, in its Oxbridge entrants, schools and colleges with infinitely ‘better’ intakes. “There are no smoke and mirrors”, insists Chris Hall, the Assistant Principal who is the architect of the Oxbridge success. “We are not sucking in the brightest and best from the whole school system in South Birmingham, with our location in the inner-city just being incidental. Quite the reverse. The vast majority of our children come to us from local schools, in one of the most deprived areas of the country.
The commitment to inspire and prepare Commitment is certainly a large part of the mix of features that promotes such a large group into Oxbridge every year. Chris Hall’s own provenance is some of the source of that commitment; he came from a poorish working class family in inner city Birmingham. There were no books in the home at all and he miserably failed his 11 Plus. He went to a secondary modern school where, he
recounts, if he had worked really hard he would come out with a couple of GCSEs. Fortunately, riding around the city on his bike, he spotted a new comprehensive opening in a nearby district of the inner city and he applied, got in and never looked back. The drive to get inner-city children into the best universities is part of his drive to give children the same opportunities he had. But by unpacking the support programme for the children at Joseph Chamberlain a little, you realise that 25 years of commitment has produced a sophisticated programme of interventions to both create the aspirations in students and then prepare the most academically able to get in. Even before they arrive at college Chris Hall is taking children from the local feeder secondaries on trips to Oxford or Cambridge to induct them into what can be possible. “It’s a sort of prize for those who have done well at school that they come with us to Oxford and Cambridge, and we introduce them to students from Joseph Chamberlain, who are already there. They can see”, Chris Hall says, “that children like them can get in and cope with Oxbridge. It’s not all Brideshead Revisited. And they are often amazed. We raise their ambitions and take away the fear. “Often children who never go any outside of Birmingham, except perhaps back to Pakistan, can’t believe what they are seeing. We get ex-students to show them round,
The college was really helpful with my application to do Medicine and with advice on choosing which university. I have no regrets about coming to JC. I wouldn’t have got as far as I have without their help. Sahdeea, now reading Medicine.
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Chris Hall with students from the Joseph Chamberlain College
“We are also”, he adds proudly, “a truly comprehensive sixth form college. We take national and Level 3 diploma students and GCSE resits, as well as A Level students. Many of our children have English as a second language and we have the highest penetration of students on the EMA, or at least its successor scheme, than any other sixth form college in the UK. “The simple truth”, he insists, “is that any school or college could do as well as Joseph Chamberlain if they had the same level of commitment to getting their children into Oxbridge. Many schools”, he maintains, “shy away from this objective out of trepidation at the scale of the task, or believing that it’s an elitist goal”. But Chris Hall believes it’s within any school’s reach, and that far from being an elitist ambition it electrifies the rest of the school and the local neighbourhoods with pride and ambition.
people like themselves, from their areas, who have made it and who can reassure them that they will fit it, that if they are religious, there are places for Islamic students to pray and that they will find friends.”
Thinking critically from the word go From the moment they start at Joseph Chamberlain, including the fresher’s week, students have critical thinking/ philosophy sessions built into their routines. These are delivered by their tutors in groups which they keep throughout their time at the college. These tutors report to an assistant principle, are highly trained in pastoral care but also see their role in raising students’ aspirations, providing opportunities for self expression and encouraging them to engage in big issues through political and philosophical
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A former student, now studying at Cambridge, mentoring current Joseph Chamberlain students
discussions. It’s education in the broadest sense. The tutor groups and the critical thinking/philosophy sessions help identify the students right from the start who might be Oxbridge or redbrick university entrants. But they orientate the children to the type of thinking they will need to pass the very difficult, the dreaded, Oxbridge interview. This is often the hurdle at which most state school children fall. The interviewer will, famously, throw at the applicant a question from the very far left field just to see how the student responds. With their very limited opportunities for meaningful discussions with their teachers and little room for critical reflection, most state school child immediately look for the right answer, which might not exist, or might be totally unrealistic to even attempt at the interview. But this is not what the interviewer wants”, explains Chris Hall. “The admissions tutors are far more interested in the way the student responds to the question, whether he or she enjoys the challenge and can follow spontaneously different paths from which an answer might emerge, rather than any immediately correct answer. They want to see whether a student can reflect and think in creative ways and enjoy it. This is why I tell them that the statistical likelihood of them getting in is very low, and just to relax and enjoy the interview experience.” Other than the critical thinking sessions and debate in the tutor groups there is no special Oxbridge entrance training. But it seems to be a very important aspect of the College’s approach. “It gives students practice in creative and critical thinking that normal school studies don’t,” says Chris. “A typical question to a science student might be ‘why are plants green?’ The student might respond with the answer ‘chlorophyll’ to which the interviewer might respond: ‘Yes, but why green?’ If the student responds ‘because chlorophyll makes it so’, the interview is basically over. “We do give them practice interviews, not to train them in presentation but to get them to relax, to be themselves and not to bullshit. We tell them to treat the interviews as mini tutorials of the sort they get here, and to just enjoy them.
I knew I wanted to do Medicine and the teachers have been there from day one. I was given guidance on doing more GCSEs to get science subjects, so I spent three years here.” Haweya, now reading Medicine.
Building relationships to last One of the criticisms of the public school system is that it has long established links between schools and particular Oxbridge colleges that provides entry routes which are closed to state schools. Chris Halls also does the ‘networking thing’ with admissions tutors at particular Oxbridge colleges. Over the years he seems to have found those most receptive to state school students and, as the College has built up a track history of providing good students he has found that he is listened to more seriously. In the relationship with Kings College, Cambridge, matters went much further and, together with the then admissions tutor, Colin Sparrow, Chris Hall developed a new nationwide access scheme for children from state schools. It gives schools the chance to write a supplementary reference for students who have been at an educational disadvantage. He has also been approached by Birmingham University – one of the leading Russell Group Universities – to find ways to level the playing field. It’s very similar to the Cambridge scheme, Chris Hall explains, but children get a slightly lower offer of A level points to gain a place if they have passed an ‘a-b module’. This is an assignment set by the University which they must do well in, a day shadowing another student in a department they hope to enter, and an online test which measures study skills. If they pass all this they could get an offer which is lower by two grades. These days it tends to be a reduction from three As to one A and two Bs.
The best thing about JC is the quality of teaching, and teachers are always available when you need their help. I enjoyed my two years because of the friendly student environment - both socially and academically.” Hira, now reading Sociology.
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“But we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of the tutor and pastoral system as a whole”, insists Chris. The College looks after the individual needs of young people, their emotional and intellectual lives, and this allows it to respond to the needs of students and address the personal or familial pressures that might lead them to under-perform. This is particularly so with Asian girls whose parents, normally the fathers, are very reluctant for their child to go to another town to study. The College will go to extra-ordinary lengths to get the parents to relax their fears, including home visits from Chris or their tutor, and visits by Oxbridge graduates known to the family.
The hardest thing, Chris Hall finds, is getting children into prestige medical courses. “In medicine it isn’t just about AS Level grades it’s about GCSE passes…without eight or nine passes at A* it’s very hard to get in and our children didn’t go to the type of schools where this was ever going to be a possibility. Schemes like the ‘a-b module’ can help enormously here.”
So, what’s the secret? But the two key factors in Joseph Chamberlain’s Oxbridge success are undoubtedly the Pastoral/Tutorial system in the college and the emphasis on broadening young people’s minds and deepening their thinking. “We are trying to give the students something that students get at Eton and Harrow – the pastoral care and attention making them feel important and valued and getting them to discuss the big issues – including taking ownership of their own learning. We survey the students regularly to get feedback on the teaching and learning and the tutorial groups and we take them very seriously – we recently abandoned a unit they found boring and replaced it with a different, more complex one. “We also participated and hosted the first conference of the schools’ Model United Nations project, which involved going on visits and getting the students outside of Birmingham…making them feel they are being extended in many different ways. The non-curriculum side of their experience is absolutely critical to our programme.” Although Chris Hall believes any college can achieve this level of Oxbridge entrants, he feels that sixth form colleges are shooting themselves in the foot by going down the ‘FE route’ of employing tutors who are not involved in the students’ academic work. “Sadly a lot of sixth form colleges are moving away from strong pastoral systems and employing non-teacher tutors on much lower rates of pay with very limited briefs. Our personal tutors have a group of 20 children and they deliver the pastoral programme, provide support and guidance with careers and UCAS, and interview preparation. They also help the students to think analytically and to monitor their academic progress. The tutor groups become very strong units and we have a proliferation of societies and clubs. They become real learning communities. “We believe very strongly in the pastoral tradition where there is a strong bond between teachers and students. We try to mimic the small Oxbridge college, the small collegiate style of learning and care. Even our building is designed like an Oxbridge college, with a courtyard and lots of places just to sit and talk. If it’s good enough for the social elite”, Chris Hall declares, “it’s good enough for our students too.”
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Chris Hall is the Assistant Principal at Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College
Knowledge trail 1) Use of an Aptitude Test in University Entrance: a Validity Study – The desire to widen participation in HE raised concerns about whether exams reflect true potential, especially the potential of disadvantaged students. Here we provide an overview of the resulting report. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/aptitude-university-admissions_210311.htm This article is available in Leadership Briefings in the Professional Learning Community.
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f asked, would your pupils say, “I learn a lot in lessons”? Do you talk to them and with them about what they have learnt, or about what has been done, finished, or completed? Over recent years there has been growing recognition of the importance and value of involving learners in learning. The phrase ‘giving pupils a voice’ has become commonplace. Initially, pupil questionnaires and School Councils were seen as the tool by which schools could pay due attention to pupil voice and prove it. These were our first, valuable steps. However, all too often, pupils’ opinions and ideas were ‘ring fenced’, with School Council terms of reference restricted to developing the playground, and pupil questionnaires being what a HMI colleague once termed ‘happy sheets’ designed to seek positive responses rather than actively enquire and explore. As ‘Assessment for Learning’ and ‘personalising learning’ developed, we began to ask pupils to reflect on ‘learning objectives’ or ‘learning
Under the new Ofsted Framework, the dialogic journey to learning is fully embraced. Here, Ann O’Hara rejoices in the recognition of the value of talking.
Classroom conversation commended by Ofsted! I
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intentions’ to explore ideas and understanding with a partner and to talk about their next steps in learning. Good schools rapidly realised a need for adults and learners to have developed an understanding of learning and the skills to use talk for learning. A sharp realisation had emerged. The pressure and accountability for coverage had inadvertently created learning experiences that looked for what had been done, finished or completed, rather than what skills, knowledge and understanding were secure. All too often we gave little time to look for where there was uncertainty, where consolidation and development was required, where learning was secure and could move rapidly on, or where pupils’ learning was broader and deeper than teachers had anticipated. Now, in 2012, we have an Ofsted inspection framework that is looking closely at learning in a lesson and over time, seeking pupils’ opinions not only by questionnaire but also by inspectors talking with pupils about their learning experiences. We should not perceive this as a threat, but should celebrate the importance now given to reflecting on and evaluating how effectively our pupils are learning and how we enable them to communicate this. A new Ofsted framework always gives rise to a plethora of advice on what schools could do. Indeed, this framework does encourage leaders to ‘seek out best practice’ and generate ‘professional dialogue’. When I am working with schools, the pressure on leaders often emerges in comments such as ‘Not another new thing’ and ‘How do we know that will work?’. So rather than offer hypothesis and conjecture, I would like to share some examples of what has been achieved, so that others can draw from these experiences to evaluate and develop their own practice. Learning is not about the transference of knowledge from the adult to the learner, that is, ‘curriculum delivery’ - what Professor Neil Mercer has aptly termed ‘monological teaching’. It is about promoting, enabling, motivating, engaging learners in learning, in other words, learning focused dialogic teaching.
When I am working with schools, the pressure on leaders often emerges in comments such as ‘Not another new thing’ and ‘How do we know that will work?’
Dialogic teaching has five underlying principles. It is: 1. 2. 3.
Purposeful: teachers plan dialogic teaching with particular learning targets/ objectives in mind Collective: teachers/adults and children address learning tasks together, as a class or group Reciprocal: teachers/adults and children listen to each other, share ideas and consider alternative viewpoints Supportive: children articulate their ideas freely and help one another to reach common understanding to support learning Cumulative: ideas are chained into coherent lines of enquiry (with reference to RJ Alexander 1)
For any of this to take place effectively, the unwritten requirement is that pupils understand and ‘buy into’ successful learning. Once again, there is an evident link to the new inspection framework, which has a strengthened focus on the behaviour of pupils and whether this is contributing to, or restricting learning. Do not mistake this for a desire to have ‘passive and compliant’ pupils for this does not equate to active learning. In essence, we are looking for pupils who understand: ■ ■ ■
that learning is a journey that everyone can develop the tools to be a successful learner that questions are not about ‘right answers’ but about exploring, sharing and developing understanding
Underpinning all of the above is an adult understanding of the skills of learning and the ability to create talk for learning.
Being ready to learn - this is more than being physically ready to learn, it is about positive attitudes to learning, a ‘growth mindset’ (Carol Dweck). Being resourceful in your learning - learners knowing how they learn best, knowing how to be successful by using resources to support them in their learning. Being resilient in your learning - understanding that effort helps to overcome difficulties, using ‘resources’ and the ‘growth mindset’ to succeed. Being active in remembering - knowing strategies that support the memory and reinforcing new skills and knowledge by applying learning, for example, by explaining it to someone else. Being reflective - this is about recognising what has been new learning, it is the essence of peer and self-assessment and understanding the next steps in learning.
‘A Learning Journey’ is not a platitude but a skilful analogy that draws a parallel for learners with the experience of a physical journey. Using the ‘5Rs’, developed by Professor Steve Higgins, the journey is about:
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Schools have used this analogy as the basis of work to develop pupils’ understanding of the skills that underpin the ‘growth mindset’ of successful learners
The visual racing track started in the pits (preparation for learning as racing drivers might prepare their cars). Once they had everything they needed they could set off. After the first bend there might be immediate difficulties, for example, getting lost in a forest – ‘not being able to see the wood for the trees’. Support from outside might be needed and pupils were encouraged to seek help. Learning then might take different routes for different pupils – this could be a detour on the racetrack, allowing learning to take off at a different tangent. The next part of the Learning Journey may mean a pupil becoming completely stuck and not able to move on in their learning. This might be a break in the visual racetrack and outside support is needed. The pupils learn to accept that it is normal to experience problems, or even some failure in learning as this can lead to improved learning. The next stage, to embed new learning, might involve practising. This is portrayed as a series of hills – practising can be hard going up hills or easy going downhill. Finally as pupils near the end of their Learning Journey they must accept a final challenge – the final lap. Once they have passed the final challenge, gaining a chequered flag, they have to be able to teach somebody else what they have learnt – a vital step in verbalising their new skill and evoking a sense of pride upon gaining recognition from others. Very quickly pupils were planning what their next Learning Journey would be alongside staff. This independent system allowed them full participation with their learning, knowing some of the pitfalls that might happen along the way, but with the excitement of a race that they will win at the end.
School Case Study: Oaksey C.E. Primary School (NACE Challenge Award School)
The head teacher at Oaksey, talking at the NACE Challenge Award conference 2011, noted that: “Gifted and talented pupils were challenged to take ownership of their own learning journeys by planning projects and challenging themselves to make sure that they were always learning at their own pace. Staff used the Learning Journey in a range of lessons where appropriate – sometimes the journey taking a whole term, sometimes a week, depending on the subject and the skills being learnt.” Oaksey C.E. Primary School enhanced this work with the support of Dr Tom Robson from Wiltshire Local Authority, to develop pupils’ understanding of specific learning skills identified in ‘Power Gems’: The Power Gems are really learning skills:
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Ruby: Make others feel good about their success Emerald: Bounce back if you make a mistake Diamond: Solve your own problems; know what to do when you get stuck Amethyst: Share ideas with others Topaz: Get other people’s ideas into your head and help other people get ideas into their heads Sapphire: Cope with distractions
They set out to help pupils to link the use of the Learning Power Gems to skills or behaviour needed on the Learning Journey. So secure is the pupils’ understanding of these skills that one group confidently observed not only their peers but also a group of experienced consultants undertaking a task – feedback told even the adults which skills they had displayed and which needed strengthening. I am sure these pupils would make a conversation about learning with an inspector a very informative one! Ofsted 2012 aptly describes successful learners as ‘Showing excellent, enthusiastic attitudes to learning (behaviour descriptor)’. It may be argued that this occurs when pupils such as those at Oaksey have self-belief - a ‘growth mindset’ based on a belief that with effort they can succeed. This is supported by an understanding of the skills they need to apply in order to achieve success. Diana Pardoe has worked extensively with schools and pupils to develop ‘Successful Learners’, concluding that: ‘As a priority learners need to understand what it means to be a learner and to do this they need to:
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develop the language that will enable them to have a meaningful dialogue about learning recognise the ‘movers’ and ‘blockers’ of their own learning understand that real learning is about overcoming difficulties’3
Sometimes, when I go into a class a teacher will tell me, ‘We do Talk Partners here’. Occasionally I am told, ‘These children just can’t do Talk Partners’. It is in these instances that we take time to objectively look, listen and describe what is actually happening. The reality we discover is that all too often ‘Talk Partners’ are seen as a system, rather than the essential core of quality in learning. Not at all what the work of Shirley Clark or Dylan Willam proposes. Questions and how they are presented set up failure and disruption – for example, a closed question with one second to talk and share ideas is hardly going to succeed in exploring and developing understanding, and sadly it is not intended to do so. Believe me, I have seen it! Researchers such as Myhil, Jones and Hopper have noted: ‘When a teacher asks a question, as is well understood by children, she already knows the answer or a range of possible answers. The child’s response therefore is measured against the expectation.’ 2
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How much more powerful is the learning environment when a question genuinely seeks to explore and extend understanding? Teacher questions at the start of a unit of work establish known skills, knowledge and understanding recorded in mind maps so the planned curriculum accurately extends from ‘known to new’. The example above shows questions pupils generated to direct their own learning as an outcome of teacher questioning that prompted the sharing of existing knowledge and the unknown. In such schools, there is an expectation that pupils will ask questions of each other in paired or group talk, or through the use of strategies such as ‘hot seating’, tapping into the application of knowledge and understanding as a minimum. Where talk and questions focus on learning, there is a secure base for the evaluative feedback of peer and self assessment, for learners really knowing what they have achieved and being able to talk about this and their next steps. This makes the difference between pupils that reiterate a given target without understanding, and those who really ‘know how well they have done and what they need to do to improve’ (Ofsted 2012 Quality of Teaching). The understanding of learning is palpable: “I like other people marking my work because I can see what I have done well in my writing and when we use EBI (even better if!) we know what to improve on next time” Year 5 Pupil, Uplands Community Primary “You need to make the middle bit a bit clearer, you got the order a bit muddled up. Try and use ‘who’ and the action to help you” Year 2 Pupil, Rowanfield Infant School “Parents describe how their child’s enthusiasm for learning means they can’t wait to share their learning when they return home.” Hampstead Norreys C.E. VA Primary School (NACE Challenge Award School)
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The following ‘key questions’ have been used by schools to promote objective reflection, discussion and development: ■ ■
How does the learning environment develop and focus talk for learning? To what extent does teacher questioning promote high expectations and talk for learning?
So, if our pupils are to be aware of, reflect on and evaluate their own learning, we must first establish an understanding of the learning journey, that is, an understanding of the skills of learning and the language required to talk about learning. It is essential to take time to objectively reflect on the language of learning in our classrooms and schools.
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Ann O’Hara is an NACE Challenge Award National Adviser, author of Leading Assessment in your School - Tribal Group, member of the Association for Achievement and Improvement through Assessment and a member of SEC. Ann works with schools, Local Authorities and national organisations and can be contacted through the addresses below:
References 1. Alexander, R.J (2008):Towards Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking Classroom Talk, Dialogos, Thirsk 2. Myhil, Jones and Hopper (2006) Talking, Listening, Learning, Open University Press, Maidenhead 3. Pardoe, D (2005) Towards Successful Learning, Network Educational Press Ltd, Stafford
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email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, www schoolimprovementservicesltd.com
Knowledge trails 1) Easier said than done: Collaborative learning - Professor Chris Watkins looks at collaboration between pupils - what they enjoy and what works. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/collaborative-learning.htm
2) Making the difference with Dialogic Talk - Fiona Lovell explains what ‘dialogic talk’ is, and describes the North Yorkshire LA ‘Talk for Learning Project’. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/making-the-difference-with-dialogic-talk.htm Article available in Creative Teaching and Learning in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
Drama Strategies for Personal, Social and Moral Education For Children aged 6-14 years By Michael Littledyke
Fairness, Social Choices, Discrimination, Sexual Responsibility, Religion, Morality, Environmental Issues. These are some of the Personal, Social and Moral themes that are explored through an imaginative and stimulating collection of drama structures assembled by Michael Littledyke, Lecturer at the Department of Professional Education, at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education.
309 Scott House, Digbeth, Birmingham, B9 4AA • Fax: 0121 224 7599 • www.thinkingonlinecatalogue.co.uk
A complete resource containing L Over 30 dramas backed up with a comprehensive exploration of dramas in all areas of the curriculum L Approaches to teaching morality L Drama techniques L Stages in teaching drama
Format A4 200 pages – spiral bound For postage and packing add: UK Delivery upto £90.00 + £5.00 p&p UK Delivery over £90.00 + £8.00 p&p Overseas Delivery upto £90.00 + £12.00 p&p Overseas Delivery over £90.00 + £16.00 p&p
Order hotline: 0121 224 7599
The disengaged parent trap
he West Midlands has the highest proportion of people in the UK with no qualifications and one of the highest proportions of children living in workless households. Although Staffordshire does not score highly on deprivation indices, there are significant pockets of deprivation and rural isolation in the county. One in three children live in low-income families and one in six in workless households. In addition, there is a lack of aspiration which translates into a lack of engagement in a childâ€™s education and school life. Staffordshire had to face the challenge of improving educational outcomes for these children. Traditional routes into employment such as farming and heavy industry have almost vanished. Areas like Tamworth have a high level of deprivation. In East Staffordshire the deprivation combines with a large immigrant and ethnic minority population, while in the rural areas of Staffordshire Moorlands and South Staffordshire people face rural isolation with pockets of deprivation.
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A lack of aspiration at home translates to a lack of engagement at school. Barbara Hine looks at a new Staffordshire initiative aiming to plug the parental engagement gap by lowering the social care threshold.
In 2009 Staffordshire County Council carried out a consultation with over 2,000 parents. The results showed that parents had difficulty accessing advice and support partly because they didn’t meet the needs threshold. In other words, families needed to be in crisis to access support. In addition, schools reported that there was a shortage of services offering swift and easy access to support and guidance to less well off families. Staffordshire’s answer was to create a role of Parent Support Worker to work with families of low aspiration in order to break the cycle of school failure and support them to engage in learning and education. The Parent Support Advisor/Workers worked was based around three main principles: ■ ■
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rights and responsibilities – supporting parents to meet their responsibilities to their children progressive universalism – support for all, with more support for those who need it most prevention – working to prevent poor outcomes for children, young people and their parents from developing in the first place helping every parent do the best for their child The Parent Support Worker service in Staffordshire used an integrated model working in a local community enabling easier access to support for vulnerable families. It works across a variety of agencies, including health, social care, schools and where necessary CAMHS and acts as a first point of contact for parents and carers.
Families First The Parent Support Worker Service has evolved within the restructuring of Staffordshire County Council’s Children’s Services; they, along with Family Support Workers, Educational Welfare Officers, Children’s Centre Outreach Workers and other experienced family service professionals, make up the Families First Local Support Teams. Families First aims to deliver the right help at the right time to ensure children, young people and families in Staffordshire achieve positive outcomes. There are 20 Local Support Teams across Staffordshire, each supporting children, young people and families in their local areas. Services are primarily delivered through these Local Support Teams (LSTs), Specialist Safeguarding Units (SSUs), Looked After Children’s Services (LACS) and Children’s Disability Teams.
Families First aims to deliver the right help at the right time to ensure children, young people and families in Staffordshire achieve positive outcomes.
Originally, the role of parent support workers included:
work with parents, in a schools context, to help improve behaviour and attendance ■ overcoming barriers to learning and increase the number of parents involved in their child’s education, both at school and at home ■
One role of the parent support worker as part of an extended school is to provide a hub for services for parents including the following:
information sessions for fathers and mothers of pupils joining reception and on transfer to secondary school. information about nationally and locally available sources of advice and support access to parenting groups using structured evidence-based parenting programmes, as well as more informal opportunities for parents to engage with the school and each other. family learning sessions to allow children to learn with fathers and mothers where there is demand shown through consultation.
Swift and easy access The Parent Support Worker’s role was to respond to early indications that children and families could benefit from additional help. Where a need for outside help was identified, PSWs provided signposting, access to the relevant specialist services, and one-to-one case work. PSWs also tied in with the work of children’s centres and children’s service teams. Currently, the focus of the PSW role is on prevention and early intervention activities, where the parents’ and children’s needs are below the thresholds that trigger the involvement of specialist services and other agencies. The core duties and responsibilities of the PSWs include:
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Helping parents at key transition points to identify children’s problems as early as possible. Using family learning sessions to address emerging issues in families. Parenting classes to enlist the support of parents in early identification. Parenting support and information, including: Understand the primary rights and responsibilities of parents to raise their children, and to support parents by helping them to improve their parenting skills. Parental engagement with their child’s learning including working with parents in a school context, supporting them and building their engagement with their child’s learning. School attendance and exclusions to identify, with parents, reasons for their children’s non-attendance, and to work with parents and others to achieve regular attendance and reduce exclusion.
A PSW tells of one girl who was regularly missing school on Fridays and sometimes on Thursdays. “When we met with her mother we found that she was in debt, and by the end of the week she had run out of money to drive her daughter to school. She lived in a rural area where there was no bus route. So we helped her with her financial management – for example, she wasn’t claiming for free school meals – and put her in touch with the CAB because she wasn’t claiming all her benefits.“ The previous system hadn’t caught her because attendance hadn’t dropped below the threshold that would have triggered educational welfare service. But the school picked up the regular patterns of non-attendance so the PSW was able to intervene and support.
When we met with her mother we found that she was in debt, and by the end of the week she had run out of money to drive her daughter to school.
As in many cases underlying the issue of attendance were a range of issues that could be resolved before the problem escalated.
Working with schools Another crucial role of Staffordshire’s Parent Support Workers is to identify the most effective ways of delivering early intervention and preventative support to parents and pupils from within schools, and how the school can help to deliver this. The gathering of case studies and evidence-based outcomes provides effective tools for use both nationally and locally to inform good practice.
Strategies & synergy with stakeholders There are a range of guidelines about working with parents and schools
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National Service Framework “Parents or carers are enabled to receive the information, services and support which will help them to care for their children and equip them with the skills they need to ensure that their children have optimum life chances and are healthy and safe.” Standard 2, National Service Framework, Department of Health. Respect Action Plan (2006) Demonstrates that parents play a critical role in assisting the development of a child’s values and behaviour and calls for an improvement in parenting provision nationally, through Children’s Centres, Extended schools and measures to improve the workforce capacity. Parenting and Family Support Strategy The vision outlined in the strategy: “Universal information and education for parents should enable parents and carers to make informed decisions about the care of their children. There will be a need to promote strong links between schools and parents to promote and foster school and community support for pupils and parents and give them access to and involvement in school based programmes for social and emotional wellbeing.
Implementation and induction programme All Staffordshire’s parent support workers attend a seven day induction programme comprising of five generic modules utilising CWDC materials plus Parent Support Worker role specific modules, Level 1 Child Protection Training, CAF Awareness Training, Artemis Induction Programme, Personal Safety and Lone Working Training, Level 2 Child Protection Training. In addition there is a Level 3 Diploma in SWiS (Support Work in Schools) which was funded and facilitated by the schools’ workforce development team. To ensure protocols for safeguarding were embedded into policy and practice, the integrated work with the Education Welfare Service is delivered with seamless support from universal to tier 3 interventions. The provision of professional support from the EWS ensures that the Parent Support Worker’s are supported and Child Protection procedures are implemented.
Outcomes Historically, the parent support worker project adds value to Staffordshire’s desired outcomes for children and families linked into the Children’s Trust work streams, particularly the parenting strategy, family support and children’s workforce development, in particular: ■ ■ ■
improved attendance rates and reduction in lateness improved engagement of parents and carers with schools (including fathers and new arrivals) increased multi-agency family support work
increased supported learning at home improvement in settling into school routines and expectations by new year groups
The premise that Parent Support Workers are on the first level of support both for families and for schools, fits with Staffordshire’s service delivery model. Their focus on early intervention, prevention and support is a crucial one and by linking the professional case management through the Education Welfare Service enabled a more ‘joined up’ response across the services. As a service they have consistently seen families crying out for help very early on, knowing full well that their crisis will not meet the thresholds of social care. The Parent Support Workers therefore play an intrinsic support role for families and schools and underpin the function the Education Welfare Officer takes up with hard-to-reach families. Impact analysis was embedded into the development of these new roles from the outset. Through reflective working, outcomes are continually monitored and reviewed in order to make sure the role of the PSW is fit for purpose within Families First. The impact on outcomes for schools, services and customers (young people and families) are incorporated into the working protocols and processes of the Parent Support Workers. The impact of intervening effectively at an early stage in a child’s life can be enormous. Because the PSW has unparalleled access to the wider family means they are perfectly placed to spot potential problems early and to identify and facilitate the right intervention at the right time. Equally, the cost of failing to intervene can be massive. A child’s early development has a huge impact on their outcomes later in life and their ability to contribute to society. Recognising and supporting the parental role in children’s emotional development is fundamental to the Parent Support Worker role, and their work in helping parents who are struggling to cope is key to successful interventions with children. The initial benefits of the role – such as engaging parents, tackling underachievement and removing barriers to learning – are the minimum now expected. Now, more and more people are recognising and tapping into the huge potential benefit PSWs can offer. These benefits include freeing up specialist services and enhancing safeguarding through early intervention and prevention; joining up parenting support at a local authority level; improving attendance, attainment and behaviour in schools and building parenting capability. By averting negative outcomes, early intervention and prevention can deliver tangible cost savings. According to research carried out for the Think Family initiative from the (then) Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), an anti-social behaviour order costs £5,768, a parenting order £781, a police arrest £1,930 and a vehicle theft £5,376. It costs £336,653 a year to keep a child in care and the lifetime cost of dealing with truancy can reach £344,468. There are also other, non-quantifiable costs associated with wasted potential and the negative impact that the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour can have on communities. Therefore, this research demonstrates
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A child’s early development has a huge impact on their outcomes later in life and their ability to contribute to society.
that if a Parent Support Worker is able to provide early support, to prevent issues coming to a crisis point, the cost of specialist intervention in the longer term is greatly reduced. We have evidence that supports this from CAMHS and other health professionals. Using attendance figures, the PSW service is able to monitor its impact.
Attendance figures for closed cases from a high school The figures below are for closed cases where either attendance was the main reason for referral or where it was considerably affecting the child’s attainment. The Parent Support Worker meets twice a week with the attendance officer, the Education Welfare Officer and all the heads of year to discuss and review families where attendance is an issue. Research shows that if the whole school attendance rises by 1per cent then the whole school attainment will increase by 4 per cent.
Attendance at point of referral
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This is an average rise of 6.4 per cent per child. Staffordshire’s strategy demonstrates that by putting children and families at the centre of their services, by consultation, and by providing local, approachable and integrated services, the problem of low educational aspiration can be tackled. In doing so, children’s potential is being more fully realised and the problems that they face are captured early, often when a relatively simple presenting problem is identified. Barbara Hine is a Targeted Services Manager in Staffordshire responsible for multi-agency teams supporting children, young people and their families in education, social care and health.
Knowledge trails 1) I’m stuck, can you help me? - This report highlights the important role technology plays in engaging parents, by giving them the tools and advice to enable them to help their child with homework. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/parent-involvement-work-home_060410.htm Article available in Leadership Briefings in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription). 2) The magic ingredient: parents! - The winning parental engagement formula to improve teaching and learning. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/parental-engagement-pupil-achievement-school.htm 3) Reach a little further – It may be the case that ‘hard-to-reach-parents’ actually find school an inaccessible environment. So how can this be improved? http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/reach-a-little-further.htm 4) Parents and teachers: bridging the gap – Exploring the pros and cons of online reporting as a way of keeping parents engaged in their child’s progression. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/elt07_parents-teachers.htm Article available in e-Learning Update in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
PSHE 81 Vol 3.6
In the country’s most comprehensive research on the effectiveness of PSHE, Barbara Stiell investigates just how successful the programme has proved to be in meeting the needs of young people.
Is wellbeing the root of all learning? P
ersonal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education deals with the social and economic realities that affect children and young people in their everyday lives – now, and in the future. PSHE education’s importance is in helping a young person become life-ready and work-ready, and therefore sits alongside other core academic skills pupils acquire through school. The real-life relevance of PSHE education is particularly marked in more disadvantaged areas where the greater challenges at home and in the community mean that meeting the social, economic, health and wellbeing needs of young people is even more pronounced. This article outlines some of the findings from independent research conducted by Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of DCSF (now DfE)
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in 2010, mapping the delivery and effectiveness of PSHE education in primary and secondary schools in England, and exploring - in particular - the ways that some primary and secondary schools have used PSHE education to address the needs of more vulnerable pupils in disadvantaged areas.
PSHE education – the bigger picture
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In the recent Schools White Paper (November 2010)1 The Importance of Teaching, the Coalition Government stated that: ‘Children can benefit enormously from high-quality Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) education. Good PSHE supports individual young people to make safe and informed choices. It can help tackle public health issues such as substance misuse and support young people with the financial decisions they must make.’
It can help tackle public health issues such as substance misuse and support young people with the financial decisions they must make.
But given its marginal status in relation to the National Curriculum, PSHE education is not generally judged to be of ‘high quality’ in most schools, suffering from patchy coverage, delivery and engagement2, and of course there are concerns that this may have a particular impact on schools in more deprived areas. But what is PSHE education? Table 1 below outlines the elements in the (nonstatutory) PSHE education curriculum. As can be seen, it covers a wide range of areas relating to both ‘personal’ and ‘economic’ wellbeing - all of which are to some degree or other important to the lives of all children - including those in more deprived circumstances. Table 1: PSHE education curriculum elements
Economic wellbeing and financial capability
Element Diet/nutrition and healthy lifestyles Drugs, alcohol and tobacco (DAT) education Emotional health and wellbeing Safety education Sex and relationships education (SRE)
Enterprise education Personal finance/financial capability Careers education (secondary schools only, statutory) Work-related learning (secondary schools only, statutory)
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The study The Sheffield Hallam University study - conducted in spring and summer 2010 included surveys of over 900 primary schools and 600 secondary schools in England, and was followed up with in-depth case studies with 14 schools in five local authorities, which involved interviews and focus groups with 260 individual teachers, school governors, school improvement partners, local authority (LA) advisors and consultants, pupils and parents. Most of the discussion in this article focuses on the findings from these case study schools. Three of the nine primary case study schools and two of the five secondary case study schools were in areas of deprivation where a significant proportion of pupils experienced social disadvantage. These commonly included schools with a high mobility of pupils and mid-year admissions, sometimes associated with increasing numbers of asylum seekers and refugees; poorer attendance and attainment; higher levels of pupils with learning difficulties and on free school meals (FSM); and high numbers of pupils with poor emotional and behavioural development. The schools’ wider local contexts were often characterised by those we spoke to (although this
Meeting pupilsâ€™ needs? To some degree, all schools had adapted their PSHE education curriculum to meet the needs of their pupils, and this was particularly apparent in schools in more deprived areas. But how did such schools do this most effectively? We identified four important areas, the first of which was key.
was not always possible to verify) as having high levels of unemployment, domestic violence and family breakdown, teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, anti-social behaviour/low-level disruption, widespread drug use, and gun, knife and gang cultures. Respondents we spoke with identified some of these issues - in particular the lack of employment opportunities - with both low expectations and low aspirations. To varying degrees, these schools saw PSHE education as an important vehicle for exploring and addressing these issues directly and indirectly through curriculum coverage and provision of additional pupil support. However, it was not only in areas of deprivation or disadvantage where teachers identified vulnerable pupils who had significant issues that required support through PSHE education and other approaches and interventions. For example, low self-esteem was identified as a particular problem for pupils in one relatively affluent semi-rural primary school, where parents commuted long distances to stressful jobs, had financial worries and associated breakdown in family relationships. The findings from this school also seemed to be relevant, and so they are also discussed here.
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1. Focusing on social issues important in the local areas
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Teachers in the schools we visited tailored lessons to meet the needs of their students, stating that there was a degree of flexibility in lessons, in terms of specific areas of interest, and ability levels in the class. For example, if a bullying issue or local news story arose, primary teachers could use these as opportunities to explore the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) or PSHE education learning from it within circle time or assemblies. The issues varied. In some inner-city primary and secondary schools this flexibility meant more of a focus on personal safety issues â€“ particularly drugs, alcohol and tobacco (DAT) education, and exploring gang culture, gun and knife crime. For example, a primary and secondary school had used a video resource developed by the police, which was filmed
in the area, so pupils could understand the relevance of the messages as they related to real events and issues in the local community. Pupils commented that the impact of these types of resources was greater when they could see the direct relevance to themselves, and where the materials were used in a structured way to facilitate open discussion: ‘We watched a film about gangs, we discussed it, saying what they should be doing or not doing – helps you to know what kind of things not to get involved in.’ (Y9 pupil)
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‘We saw the diary of a girl, you follow the clips. She dies in the end due to drink driving, she was a drug addict but visibly watching it was good, it’s about life now, it’s a teenager so you can relate to it, it was interesting and structured.’ (Y10 pupil) Drugs, alcohol and tobacco education was seen as particularly important in two primary schools because of the reported high levels of drug use locally. In teaching about these issues, staff were aware that some pupils were already exposed to the problems of addiction and misuse in their own families, so would raise issues in a sensitive, but relevant non-shaming way. Their teaching was also supported by external input from a specialist DAT education service. However, this work was not always successful. Evidence from the secondary pupil focus groups (across all schools) indicated that there were often pockets of enjoyable, stimulating, relevant, timely PSHE education teaching during KS3 and 4, but this was not consistent across years and all elements of PSHE education. In one of the secondary schools in a challenging area, pupils complained that some topics such as diet and nutrition were missed whilst other areas like DAT education were repeated ‘ad nauseam’, particularly where there was insufficient planning for coverage and progression from year to year:
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‘They bring in people to tell you about it when you’ve already learnt about it.’ (Y10 pupil) Bullying was another issue commonly cited by primary and secondary pupils as ‘being done to death’ and over-emphasised to the extent that pupils could become over-sensitised and respond to minor disagreements as being ‘bullying’. Whilst some aspects of bullying were amplified, others, such as homophobic bullying remained unchallenged and neglected in some schools. In some local authorities there was a drive to improve sex and relationships education in primary schools in areas where teenage pregnancy rates were high, by providing additional resources and CPD. However, take up of these opportunities was mixed amongst different schools, depending on priorities and approaches of the senior leadership and governors in the school. One school had
Primary school example where whole-school approach around SEAL was helping address significant issues This larger than average primary school is located in a deprived ‘urban village’ and serves a nearby council estate with high levels of deprivation and a range of challenging social issues. Pupil mobility, ethnic diversity, FSM and special education needs (SEN) are all higher than average. The school has a special unit attached for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties – some of whom are integrated into mainstream lessons with support. Ofsted (2009) judged the school to be good overall – based in part on their approach to supporting vulnerable pupils. In Reception, many pupils entered with below average attainment, with some English as an Additional Language (EAL) and native English speakers having marked language, social and communication needs. Pupils consequently make good progress through school because of the emphasis on teaching vocabulary to express emotions, and the skills to deal with conflict. The head teacher described how some pupils’ chaotic home lives meant that behaviour was a serious issue when she joined the schools five years previously. Problems with knives and anti-social behaviour (in and out of school) meant that the police, and nurture groups, formed an important part of their SEAL-based approach to tackling issues. The head teacher described this as a basic needs approach: ‘It’s about pupils’ basic needs; social and emotional issues need to be addressed before any other educational needs can be met. It’s about creating the right climate for learning.’ (Head teacher) ‘If these skills aren’t learnt at home, then schools have to make this learning explicit – it’s a lot harder, but even more crucial in teaching taking turns, sharing, listening.’ (Head teacher) ‘We use SEAL unconsciously every day, it’s part of the air we breathe.’ (Teacher) Attendance had improved markedly after awarding raffle tickets to all pupils who attended each week. The winning ticket holders had a trip to the fire station (reinforcing the safety themes), which children were very excited about: ‘Everyone wanted to go to the fire station, so everyone wanted to come to school every day.’ (Y5 pupil) This resulted in a reduction in the number of poor and non-attenders. As a direct result of this and other positive measures to promote good behaviour, attainment levels rose.
recently sent Y5 and Y6 teachers on SRE training as this was an element many teachers felt less confident in delivering. The head teacher explained the intended outcomes for pupils: ‘Teenage pregnancy is quite high [locally]. We felt that the more education we were able to provide, the more likely they would be to make the appropriate choices... By us reviewing [SRE provision], it is something that has been brought back to the forefront.’ In contrast, another primary school in a disadvantaged area recognised that SRE, DAT education and financial capability were important for their pupils, but teachers often saw these as separate add-ons to their SEAL-focused PSHE education programme. Because individual teachers had autonomy in terms of the PSHE education topics they focused on, these more challenging elements tended to get overlooked in regular lesson planning, and had been knocked off the agenda at staff meetings as other issues took priority.
2. Focusing on issues of personal concern to pupils Disadvantage does not only mean economic and social deprivation. Pupils in relatively affluent areas could also be vulnerable to challenging personal issues, so these schools adapted the PSHE education/SEAL curriculum to target emotional wellbeing to more directly address incidences of divorce, illness or bereavement in one school: ‘I used to blame my parents’ divorce on myself but I realise now that that isn’t going to help the situation.’
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Leadership and organisation
PSHE education aligned with school vision
PSHE education peripheral to school vision
Senior level oversight and support
Little senior oversight and support
All elements clearly and coherently led
Leadership for different elements isolated and some missing
Linked to other aspects of curriculum
Isolated from other aspects of curriculum
Shared understanding and commitment from staff
Variable understanding and commitment from staff
Supported, secure and resourced PSHE education lead
Isolated, insecure, under-resourced lead
All elements covered
Elements variably covered
Development well informed via assessment/evaluation
Development poorly informed by assessment/evaluation
Timetabled in core curriculum
Wide range of approaches used
Narrow range of approaches
Gaps or repetition in progression
Pupils not engaged
Parents not engaged
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Figure 1: Approaches to PSHE education: Integrated to fragmented curriculum
‘My mum died in Y4 from ovarian cancer, PSHE helped me to think about things.’ ‘PSHE taught us we should all give [pupil] a bit more support.’
3. Understanding the role of PSHE education in underpinning learning Primary schools, particularly in the more disadvantaged areas, tended to emphasise the importance of SEAL (and PSHE education and Citizenship more generally) in underpinning everything they did in terms of supporting pupil’s learning: ‘SEAL is everything, it’s cross-curricular – from assemblies, circle time, nurture groups, rewards systems, behavioural ladders... it’s also incorporated across other subject learning.’ (Primary teacher)
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‘I feel that PSHE is the means to drive the standards up.’ (Head teacher) These schools were clear about the purpose and values of SEAL/PSHE education in supporting both life skills and pupil learning, and this was well integrated and supported by wider school improvement plans and policies on behaviour, attainment and assessment (see Box 1). In other words, it was aligned with the school’s vision of the purpose of schooling more broadly.
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4. Focusing on economic issues - a problem? Whilst Citizenship was sometimes combined with PSHE education on the timetable and in pupils’ minds, economic wellbeing and financial capability were often seen as separate to PSHE education (and sometimes delivered by different teachers or departments). Given the recent introduction of financial capability as a non-statutory element of PSHE education in September 2008, it is perhaps unsurprising that this was one of the least developed aspects of PSHE education at primary and secondary level, and the one pupils recalled least readily in focus group discussions. Yet this area is clearly particularly important in areas with high levels of unemployment. Work-related learning, careers and enterprise education were not generally well-received by secondary pupils. They was mostly delivered through occasional drop-down days or weeks, and generally seen as less interesting than other PSHE education elements, though necessary. Together with the communication skills developed through PSHE education as a whole, there is the potential (if taught well and carefully integrated) for these important aspects of PSHE education to make Box 2: Key issues for schools in a significant contribution to developing the softer skills addressing issues around social many employers are seeking from young people; yet the and economic inequalities evidence from our study is that there is some way to go before this happens. ■ Providing a safe environment where pupils' experiences, feeling, views and questions could Conclusion - what do schools need to be respectfully discussed and addressed. Pupils do? (across all schools) valued the space to discuss As with all schools, the factors that led to the most issues openly and safely, and appreciated the focus effective delivery of PSHE education in schools in on 'real life' and the 'real world' challenging settings included: ■ Equipping pupils with the skills they need to ■ Commitment and drive from senior leadership communicate more effectively, manage their and motivated, skilled PSHE education leads and emotions, and deal with conflict teachers ■ Raising self-esteem, and aspirations for learning ■ An integrated whole school approach (see Fig. 1) and achieving in future ■ A coherent, progressive curriculum across the full ■ Teaching pupils the skills to they would need to range of elements keep them safe and reduce risky and anti-social ■ Core curriculum time: regular dedicated sessions behaviours on timetable, supplemented with additional ■ Alerting staff to pupils who require additional enrichment activities (not reliance on drop-down support or intervention in and out of school days/weeks alone) ■ Addressing issues of employability through careers, ■ Well resourced delivery work-related learning and enterprise education ■ Regular reviews of provision to ensure adaption to changing needs
Consultation with pupils and staff, and making improvements based on their genuine input Additional delivery using high quality external input - drawing on the wider community, including health and other services (e.g. nurses, fire, police) Making good use of LA support (where available) – to provide additional resources, expertise, and access to CPD/training and other informal networks.
Schools with the most disadvantaged pupils could still make an impact if these principles were followed. And, where schools had a fragmented or inconsistent approach to PSHE education, areas of improvement could be identified in their leadership and organisation, delivery and support for PSHE education (Fig. 1 right hand column). As well as these areas of good practice for all schools we found a number of other aspects that were particularly important in addressing issues around social and economic inequalities. These are summarised in Box 2. We would recommend that schools consider each of these issues in relation to their own approach to PSHE education, to help them plan to make their programmes work as effectively as possible for all of their children, whatever their circumstances.
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Bernadette Stiell is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Education and Inclusion Research (CEIR) at Sheffield Hallam University, Mike Coldwell is Director of CEIR and Eleanor Formby is a Research Fellow within CEIR. They are co-authors of the 2011 DfE published report: Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education: A mapping study of the prevalent models of delivery and their effectiveness Contact details: email@example.com 0114 225 6060
References 1. DfE (2010) The Importance of Teaching: The Schools White Paper 2010. London: TSO. 2. Ofsted (2010) Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education in Schools. London: Ofsted. 3. Formby, E., Coldwell, M., Stiell, B., Demack, S., Stevens, A., Shipton, L., Wolstenholme, C. and Willis, B. (2011) Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education: A mapping study of the prevalent models of delivery and their effectiveness. Nottingham: DfE.
1) The philosophy in PSHE – Could Personal, Social and Health Education benefit from some philosophical thinking? http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/philosophy-pshe.htm Article available in Creative Teaching and Learning in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription). 2) The personal touch – Two school managers share the benefits experienced by incorporating PSHE as part of the National Healthy Schools Programme. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/the-personal-touch.htm 3) Reaching the back of the class – A citizenship and PSHE teacher shares a key teaching resource to make her subjects far more appealing. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/true-tube.htm Article available in e-Learning Update in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
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Safeguarding 88 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
Every Child Matters
The paradox of future safeguarding The Munro Report maintained the key role of schools in protecting children. However, with finances stretched and the government call for wider-education reform, will child protection end up a lesser priority? Kate Fitch reports.
chools play a crucial role in keeping children safe from harm both inside and outside the school day. Under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002,1 schools, colleges and local authorities must fulfil a statutory duty to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare of children’. In addition to protecting children from harm during the school day, schools have a responsibility to identify and respond to suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. Through the curriculum and wider activities, schools can also equip all children with the understanding and capacities that will help them to stay safe. In May 2011, Professor Eileen Munro published the findings of her review of the workings of the child protection system in England: ‘The Munro Review of Child
Identifying children and families in need In line with the Graham Allen review into Early Intervention,3 Munro stressed the need for ‘early help’ through preventative services for vulnerable children and families, in addition to the need to improve the child protection response for children suffering abuse and neglect. Munro is clear that as a universal service, schools are ideally placed to identify children and families who are not in need of immediate protection, but who clearly require help to deal with the issues they are facing.4 Headteachers who gave evidence to the Munro review highlighted that they often face difficulties when seeking to access help for children and young people about whom they have concerns, especially in cases where the child does not meet the threshold for statutory intervention. Where schools have concerns about a child, Munro states that timely access to social work expertise is an essential resource to aid decisionmaking and to facilitate links with potential sources of support. She states that there is also the need for better feedback from social care services to enable schools to learn how to select cases for referral more accurately.5 However, cuts to local authority funding are likely to have a negative impact on the ability of schools to access this support as social workers have less time to spend on advising on individual cases. Schools may also find it more difficult to access vital support from the Local Authority such as advice and support to respond to individual cases, child protection awareness training and help in the assessment of policy and procedures. Where schools can be supported to make referrals for early help, the current economic situation and wider system reform will also have an effect on the availability of provision. Local Authorities are facing a reduction in funding across the board6 including less ‘top-sliced’ funding via maintained schools, as many opt to become academies and free schools directly funded from central government. As local councils will not have a specific duty7 to secure the sufficient provision of local early help services, they are likely to seek to reduce the provision of preventative services to help balance the books. More broadly, pressure on local authority finances may also result in an upward pressure on child protection thresholds, meaning there will be a growing number of children who do not qualify for statutory intervention but who still need support. In these circumstances, even where schools are able to identify children who would benefit from additional help, there may find there is no way to access it. As well as helping children and families to access support, schools also play a preventative role in helping children to identify and avoid unsafe situations. In particular, the Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) curriculum, including Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) provides opportunities for children to learn about behaviour that is not safe or acceptable and how to keep themselves safe.8 When delivered effectively and sensitively, and from an early age, it gives them the
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Every Child Matters
Protection Final Report - A child-centred system’. The report sets out a vision for more child-centred, rights-based practice with a better skilled and supported social care workforce. Munro took a systems-approach to examine the child protection system in its entirety, making an assessment of the contribution made to safeguarding by the wider children’s workforce, including schools. The Munro review highlighted the crucial role that schools play in safeguarding children and the ways in which this role should continue to be fulfilled.2 Alongside Munro’s recommendations, the Coalition Government has been seeking to radically reform the education system through changes to the school curriculum, workforce, inspection arrangements and the relationship between schools and Local Authorities. These reforms will affect the way in which schools monitor, refer and manage safeguarding and child protection concerns. In this article I will be considering the Munro recommendations alongside the impact of wider reform to the education system and argue that these are potentially contradictory.
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skills and understanding they need to help them to lead safe, confident, healthy and independent lives. Despite this, the government have recently ruled out making PSHE a statutory curriculum subject and are keen to leave decisions on the content of lessons to the discretion of schools.
Identifying and responding to child protection cases Teachers are often the first person a child tells about abuse they are suffering and they are often in a position to identify children who are at risk, or who show signs of abuse or neglect.9 Munro is clear that schools should continue to play a key role in child protection. In particular, she states that the role of the designated lead for safeguarding in schools is, ‘critical for the identification and delivery of help to children, young people and families.’10 In addition to the designated person(s) all members of staff responsible for pupil welfare must have training that allows them to deal effectively with cases of abuse and neglect, and all members of staff need to have child protection awareness so that they are able to identify signs for concern and know how to report them.11 Despite this need, reforms to the delivery and curriculum of teacher training may have the effect of reducing awareness of child protection across the school workforce. The NSPCC has long considered that trainee teachers do not receive enough instruction in child protection and are concerned that child protection awareness is now even less visible in the recently revised set of professional standards for teachers. The extent to which Higher Education Institutions will incorporate child protection training into their curriculum and the level to which this will be covered in the move to more classroom-based initial teacher training is not clear. Courses will also need to be developed for the rest of the school workforce. Alongside this, reform to the Ofsted inspection framework for schools now means that schools may now be less accountable for their performance in relation to safeguarding children. Schools’ actions in relation to child protection will now be predominantly assessed through the ‘leadership and management’ strand of the Ofsted inspection and overall judgements are likely to be inadequate if the school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils do not meet statutory requirements. However, the ‘limiting judgement’ on safeguarding, which was introduced in September 2011 has now been removed, and although schools still have a statutory duty for ensuring the wellbeing of students, Ofsted inspectors will no longer check whether or not this duty is being met. As part of the drive to reduce regulation and bureaucracy, schools previously judged ‘outstanding’ will not face regular Ofsted inspections. It is not clear how effective new mechanisms to trigger inspections will be in cases where there are concerns about safeguarding issues.
The value of collaboration Multi-agency and joint professional working is vital to effective child protection practice; this has been emphasised repeatedly in the findings of Serious Case Reviews and is the principle that informs the structure and membership of Local Safeguarding Children Boards. Munro’s final report highlights the on-going changes to local accountability architecture for agencies involved in child protection, but stresses the need for agencies to remain accountable for working together effectively. In several local areas, Health and well-being Boards are now expected to take on many of the functions of Children’s Trusts whilst Local Safeguarding Children Boards will continue to scrutinise the work of local partners in ensuring that services safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people. Despite the importance of multi-agency working,12 schools will not be statutory partners in Children’s Trusts and Children’s Trusts no longer operate on a statutory
The NSPCC has started a new schools service which will involve talking to 7-11-yearsolds about all forms of abuse, including bullying. We want them to understand what it is, how they can protect themselves and how to contact ChildLine if they want to. The aim is to visit each of the 22,000 primary schools throughout the UK at least once every two years and hopefully by 2016 we will have spoken to nearly a million children.
basis. There is uncertainty about the extent to which schools will be represented on Health and Wellbeing Boards and how consistent their involvement will be across the country.13 To add to this, the creation of academies and free schools must not lead to more schools working in isolation - these schools should seek out opportunities to collaborate locally with other schools and forums for multi-agency work on safeguarding, such as Local Safeguarding Children Boards. In recognition of the importance of collaboration on child protection and in line with Munro’s child-centred approach, the system of social care inspection is to be reformed through the creation of a local authority-based inspection of children’s services. This will examine the input of various agencies with a role in the child protection system, including schools. The inspection framework will now seek to examine the effectiveness of the contributions of all local services, including health, education, police, probation and the justice system to the protection of children. The relevant inspectorates will provide more details on the proposed joint inspection model in May 2012. Until then, the exact details of how schools will engage with this process, and how it will be linked to the Ofsted inspection of schools, is not known. Schools have a duty to look after children in their care, and it is essential that schools are safe places where children are protected, and can enjoy their childhoods and achieve their full potential. The message in the Munro report is clear - schools should expect to play a central role in the prevention and response to cases of abuse and neglect. However, there is a risk that this message may be at odds with many of the changes that have been made across the education sector in safeguarding policy and practice.
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Kate Fitch is Senior Strategy Analyst at the NSPCC.
Footnotes 1. The same duty is placed on independent schools, including academies, by the Independent School Standards regulations made under section 157 of the same act. 2. Update on the implementation of the Munro review can be found at: http://www.education.gov.uk/munroreview/ 3. Allen, G (2011) Early Intervention: The next steps London: HM Government 4. Munro, E (2011) Munro review of child protection: Final report London: Department for Education, pp. 815. Para 5.37 5. Munro, E (2011) Munro review of child protection: Final report London: Department for Education, pp. 81 6. NSPCC (2011) Smart cuts? Public Spending on children’s social care London: NSPCC with CIPFA 7. Government recently rejected Munro’s recommendation to introduce a legal duty on local authorities and statutory partners to secure the sufficient provision of local early help services. See: Tim Loughton’s Update on implementation of the recommendations of the Munro report into child protection to Parliament: 13th December 2011 8. Phyllis Stephenson, Aisling McElearney, John Stead (2011) The development of effective education in primary schools in Northern Ireland: summary report Belfast: NSPCC 9. Featherstone, B and Evans, H (2004) Children experiencing maltreatment: Who do they turn to? London: NSPCC and Allnock, D; Radford, L; Bradley, C; Corral, S and Thomson, S (unpublished work) Who Do You Turn To? Young Adult’s Experiences of Overcoming Abuse and Neglect in Childhood London: NSPCC 10. Munro, E (2011) Munro review of child protection: Final report London: Department for Education, pp. p.59, para 4.19 DfES (2006) Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education London: DfES, Chapter 2 12. 11. Baginsky, M. (2007) Schools, Social Services and Safeguarding Children: Past practice and future challenges.London: NSPCC and Baginsky, M. (ed.) (2008) Safeguarding Children and Schools London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers 13. Higgs, L ‘Schools overlooked on new health boards’ in Children and Young People Now, 1st June 2011
1) The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report - An overview of Eileen Munro’s 2011 child protection report available in Leadership Briefings (access by subscription) http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/munro-review-child-protection_310511.htm 2) A safeguarding reminder - Safeguarding responsibilities have changed. Here the ISA (Independent Safeguarding Authority), reminds us of what we should be doing. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/ecu-18-feature-4.htm Article available in Every Child Update in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription) 3) Out of bounds - In the drive to manage absenteeism in schools are we drifting into punishing children who most need the support, and is the necessary support network available to them? http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/slt_out_of_bounds.htm
Every Child Matters
With deep cuts suffered by local authorities, schools will need to plug the service provider gap. Here, Katie PaxtonDoggett advises on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of effective school commissioning and the opportunities it can present.
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Embracing a school-
commissioning culture W
e are facing difficult times with stringent cuts across the public sector. This is going to have a marked impact on schools and the way they operate. As budgets in the public sector are reduced, so too will be the services offered to schools. Effective commissioning is going to become an essential requirement. But do schools have the skills and experience necessary? Schools already have considerable financial management responsibility, but this is likely to increase enormously. Quite clearly, academies are at the forefront of this sea change, and with the Department for Education claiming that 1 in 10 schools is now, or is in the process of becoming an Academy, this is a significant movement. However, the shift will affect all schools. Until now the local authority has typically been the lead provider of services. Local authorities over the country are experiencing deep cuts. Hampshire has announced 1,200 redundancies over the next 12 months
and Norfolk will lose 1,000 staff. The local authority may no longer be a viable service provider. In fact, given the severity of cuts, local authorities are highly unlikely to be able to offer the range of training and services that schools have enjoyed in the past. As centrally driven services reduce, schools will look to a diversity of providers. Alternative providers may offer best value to schools that will be free to contract services from other authorities or government departments or from the private sector. Management teams in schools must develop the skills to identify the services and support their school needs and decipher which providers offer the best value for money. Commissioning is more than simply making purchasing decisions. According to the Commissioning Support Programme: ‘Commissioning is the process for deciding how to use the total resource available for children, young people, parents and carers in order to improve outcomes in the most efficient, effective, equitable and sustainable way.’
93 Limited resources need to be prioritised and carefully targeted. As the economic climate becomes ever more challenging, the commissioning process will look to achieve maximum value.
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The commissioning process There is no single model or process which must be followed in the commissioning process. However, the Commissioning Support Programme’s approach, which is echoed in other pieces of government guidance, follows the model: Understand, Plan, Do, Review.
Understand This is an information-gathering exercise. It is important to recognise the service needs, resources and priorities, and the desired end result should be clearly defined. Service providers are a key source of insight in this phase. Their experience can be drawn on to establish what types of services and service configuration may be most appropriate to the needs of the school. Plan Consideration should then be given to different ways of addressing the needs identified in the ‘understand’ phase in the most effective, efficient, equitable and sustainable way. It will become ever more essential to ensure that optimal use is
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made of resources. Plans should encompass any impact on staffing, such as a need for training, or on buildings or facilities. Do At this stage investment decisions are made based on the plan stage. This may be done individually or in partnership or informal cooperation with other schools. The services should be appropriately contracted based on the plan and set out clear criteria for measurement. Review The service delivery should be measured against expected outcomes to establish how well it is doing against the plan. This is an important stage in the process as it will provide monitoring of the service provision as well as clarifying that the commissioning process is working. The review feeds into the next phase of commissioning and becomes a key source of information for the ‘understand’ and ‘plan’ phases.
Clear success parameters must be set out at the start of any commissioned activity so that reviews can be undertaken. It can also be used to identify how commissioning will affect other activity and to ensure that all commissioned activity is co-ordinated. Schools must develop systems to monitor outputs, finances and quality of service to establish whether outcomes are improving. This is a significant cultural shift from the common practice of monitoring provision against output targets. Instead of a focus on ‘efficiency’ and ‘process’, the primary purpose is better outcomes. The techniques appropriate to capture changes in outcomes will differ according to the services. However, indicators of change should be established at the very beginning of the commissioning process. Indicators may include reference to the outputs in terms of conformity with contract terms, ‘efficiency’ and ‘process’, but these must also encompass the realisation of better outcomes. Subjective indicators can be very powerful, so that pupils or staff can be asked how they know that change has happened for them and what outcomes a project or intervention has delivered for them. Where services are found to be inefficient, ineffective or unsustainable, commissioners will need either to support and challenge that service to improve or decommission it and find other provision to meet the identified needs. Ultimately, all commissioned activity should relate back to the core aims of the school and be measured and analysed against it. Commissioning is a dynamic process with the results feeding back into the start of the cycle. Schools must aspire to ‘best value’, ie receiving better services with better outcomes for less money. In challenging economic times, this also makes common sense. However, although the concept of ‘value for money’ seems fairly simple to comprehend, it can be difficult to assess. The Audit Commission defines what this means in a school context based on three elements, ‘the three Es’: ■ ■ ■
Economy: minimising the costs of resources used for goods, a service or an activity. Efficiency: the relationship between outputs and the resources used to produce them. Effectiveness: the extent to which objectives have been achieved.
The need to collaborate In order to achieve greater efficiencies, schools may find that collaboration will be necessary. Very significant savings are possible from purchasing and contracting economies of scale. Some schools are already developing different staffing models with partner schools, particularly so that they have access to resources that they do not need on a full-time basis, such as educational psychologists. Given the high spending on staffing, this offers an efficient route, albeit requiring a high level of strategic planning. Partnering with other schools brings greater negotiating power. Partnerships need to be mutually beneficial. There is scope for interesting partnership arrangements both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. There may already be local partnerships which can be utilised for commissioning services, and which may have a knock-on strengthening of the partnership. Other arrangements may work equally well: there are already school partnerships that work across county borders or across a Diocese for church schools. Partnering is useful for the commissioning process itself. Many schools have valuable experience of the procurement of services, and partnerships can rely on the best individual school commissioning and procurement practice through a shared approach. Schools are already benefiting from the skills in their locality by commissioning from their neighbouring schools. This is likely to become a more common practice with many schools developing their specific capacity and skills and making known their willingness to provide services. As time goes on, commissioning by one school of services provided by another school, will increasingly be more outcomes-driven and operate on a more ‘commercial’ basis. The partnership commissioning approach will need careful handling throughout the lifetime of any contract. Proper working relationships between everyone involved will need to be carefully delineated. New ways of making decisions and sharing market knowledge must be agreed.
Schools must base all decisions on improving outcomes for its pupils, with a clear rationale based on robust analysis and evidence. The focus on outcomes runs through all aspects of the commissioning process: mapping needs and demand, ensuring user participation, using outcomes-based contracts and monitoring service effectiveness. Good commissioning is underpinned by continuous improvement, using evidence of what works to improve and reconfigure services.
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Ultimately the Governing Body is responsible for managing any purchasing transactions and commissioning arrangements. In practice, of course, the responsibilities are generally delegated, up to certain financial limits, to the Headteacher or Finance Committee. Likewise the scale of the commissioning process will vary according to the total contract value: the greater the contract value the greater the effort. For major contracts, above the threshold limit set by the EU, a full tendering process will also be necessary. This responsibility should not be underestimated. Getting commissioning wrong could be disastrous and end up being costly to the school and its staff in time, money and reputation. Recent examples given by Hertfordshire County Council include: ■
A school, which had failed to check a contractor’s insurance, had to pay £10,000 repair bill after the contractor damaged the BT line
Who’s responsible for commissioning?
There was no written specification produced, or testing of value for money in the market place when a school purchased £30,000 IT equipment from a local IT provider. The IT equipment provided could not meet the school’s expectations, as verified by an external independent report and had to be replaced at the school’s cost.
Failure to ensure that commissioning is carried out correctly can lead to the cost of repairs or replacement of ineffective equipment or services, proceedings for breach of contract, and lengthy legal negotiations costing schools both time and money. Whilst commissioning offers schools an opportunity to take control and choose the services and providers it wants, this comes with a risk. It is the school that ends up with the bill to sort out the mess it got into irrespective of its legal structure. Schools can no longer rely on their Local Authority.
How can schools benefit? 96
Ironically, the cut-backs are offering schools a potential opportunity. Schools are in the perfect position to insist on the right outcomes from any commissioned work; to get exactly what they want and to use novel new approaches to get it. As the services market to schools opens up, there will be a much wider range of delivery options and service providers. Once again, this will give the school the opportunity to make choices about what is important and ensure that the best price is agreed. We are facing a time of tremendous change and all schools must adapt and embrace the new commissioning culture. Success will need bold leadership and a flexible and creative approach to how change is driven. According to the Commissioning Support Programme, effective commissioners are tenacious, challenging, and open minded:
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‘They aim for continuous improvement, verify and revisit assumptions and share learning points with others.’ Getting it right means that schools identify what is needed and achieve best value. The provider has a clear understanding of what is expected from the outset because the commissioner has clearly set out its requirements. Undertaking regular reviews which feed back into the process ensures that commissioning remains a dynamic process and can lead to considering new, better opportunities. Much uncertainty still surrounds budgets, school finance and the way forward for commissioning services, it is clear that difficult times are ahead. Nevertheless, given the people looking after our schools, they will ensure that they secure the best deal possible for that most important commodity, their children. Katie Paxton-Doggett - is clerk to a number of governing bodies, and is dualqualified as a solicitor and a chartered secretary.
• A great deal of useful information including a good practice exchange and illustrative case studies can be found at: www.commissioningsupport.org.uk • Commissioning Toolkit for Schools – Hertfordshire Grid for Learning www.thegrid.org.uk/info/office/commissioning
Knowledge trails The indispensible SBM –The role of the School Business Manger is extending far beyond its original conception. Katie Paxton-Doggett looks at their impact in school. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/theindispensablesbm.htm
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Innovation in ICT 98 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
The rise of the computing cloud F The computing cloud is gathering momentum, but is it heading in the right direction for your school? Here we look at both sides of the coin, traditional inschool computing and cloud innovation to help you make an informed decision that suits your needs.
irstly, what is ‘cloud computing’? In the most general sense, it simply means the delivery of applications from remotely hosted computers –this is often called software on demand or Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Cloud computing means that instead of all the computer hardware and software you’re using sitting on your desktop, or somewhere inside your school’s network, it’s provided for you as a service by a company and accessed over the Internet, usually in a completely seamless way. ‘The Cloud is an on demand service giving ubiquitous network access to location independent users on a pay per use basis.’ Amongst other things, the cloud provides users with a software operating platform and infrastructure service. Exactly where the hardware and software is located and how it all works doesn’t matter to you, the user—it’s just somewhere up in the nebulous ‘cloud’ that the Internet represents. One of the major advantages of cloud computing within a school environment is the issue of software licensing, which is all the more important in financial hard times, so we’ll look at this in more detail. Traditional software licensing system can be exploitative, because they take money and time from a school system. Cloud computing, on the other hand, offers a simpler licensing model to
Comparing traditional with new methods The old way (in-school hosted data and systems) ■
Purchase desktop computers and servers with the knowledge you will need to dedicate a good deal of future investment to upgrade storage space or specification to provide for new technological development. Finance and manage an in-house large technical team which deals with all aspects of ICT – Academic and School Information Management systems.
Either by running these management systems on a ‘cloud’ or by tapping into the SaaS ecosystem, schools can maximize their efficiency while keeping the costs low.
Innovation in ICT
traditional licensing models and has the advantage of shared management resources. Either by running these management systems on a ‘cloud’ based infrastructure or by tapping into the SaaS ecosystem, schools can maximize their efficiency while keeping the costs low.
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The new way (Cloud – hosting data and systems in external data centres) ■
Purchase a ‘pay as you go’ option for server space (or even data centre rack space and install your own servers), server operating platform, software applications, volume of data storage needed and technical assistance to set up, back up and maintain it all. These ‘off the shelf’ ICT products are scalable (you only buy the amount you need) and flexible (you can increase or change the provision quickly and easily).
What you need to consider: Some schools already use some Cloud services eg. Google docs, Google mail or similar. Yet few schools have moved their systems onto ‘The Cloud’.
Innovation in ICT
Some businesses and schools are worried that hosting data and services off-site may compromise data security and reduce the control of access to data. Even Google and Twitter have suffered when Internet traffic problems or hacking have resulted in data centre systems being affected. The next 12 to 24 months will see improvements in bandwidth provision and data centre services. As user confidence and acceptance of the Cloud as a basis for ICT service provision grows, it is predicated by many to become the preferred choice for the provision of systems that manage ICT data for schools. It is likely we will have an interim period of adoption (possibly the next 1 to 2 years) of some new Cloud services while other traditional services are still hosted in schools. The strategy for development of virtualised servers in schools and use of Wi-Fi, Mobile Devices and Thin Client technology integrates with the procurement of Cloud services. The ISC has a wide variety of ICT Strategy Discussion Papers that can give helpful information on these subjects.
100 What you might like to discuss:
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Your infrastructure solution should match the particular needs of your school. There are excellent cost effective solutions available. The knowledge, wisdom and experience of your ICT Academic Senior Managers and your ICT Technical Leaders are the essentials in your strategic development. The ICT purchases only provide the tools for the new work. ■ Many schools have ICT infrastructure which will need a major upgrade in the immediate future. The potential low cost of services on The Cloud will make this a very attractive option and the security concerns of many (for example when data is held offsite, possibly in another country, without as much control in protecting the data) will be minimised to an acceptable level as time goes on. An intermediate approach is to choose the
The potential low cost of services on the Cloud will make this a very attractive option and the security concerns to many.
Security To many, the notion of putting more data and more applications on the Internet via the Cloud model presents vast new opportunities for criminal activity through identity theft and mis-appropriation of intellectual property, hacking, and other forms of malicious activities. Key to the Cloud is that the user organisation is not responsible for anything below the level of its own data; but if senior management needs controls in place to accept accountability for successes and failures, how can they balance both sides of the equation if audit is not possible? Cloud computing requires attention to several key security areas: ■ ■
■ ■ ■
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Bringing machines up-to-date where security patch levels mean controls are weak Avoiding already compromised machines giving unauthorised users access thereby negating any controls in place Segmenting users with differing trust levels and managing users’ methods (down to minutiae such as secure memory stick use) Fundamental issue of multi-tenancy – who are your neighbours and can they jump your fence? Treat the network as public - you can’t manage your ‘neighbours’, so this is something you must accept Consider what additional products you may need. For example, data encryption solutions which hold the keys outside the cloud, or software which builds security into the virtual machine.
As a school decides to upgrade and spend a good deal of money on ICT infrastructure it should consider whether a large investment for similar provision is needed or whether a combination of in school and Cloud services would save money and allow more flexibility in the future.
Knowledge trail Virtual Learning Environments – Will VLEs that allow remote access to learning materials, form a significant part of the next generation’s learning experience? http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/virtual-learning-environments.htm Article available in e-Learning Update in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription)
Cloud for one or two solutions and then expand as the school develops experience and capability in use. When planning your ICT strategy consider how your technical team may need to develop skills in management of these offsite services as well as how you would like the team to be deployed more in the support of the hands-on pupil and staff user. Consider whether you need to invest in your Internet bandwidth provision for school as multiple connections to wide scale Cloud services needs very good bandwidth.
Learning through play 102 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
The natural answer to school improvement I Hugh McNish reports on the improvements in learning, behaviour and wellbeing at a Glasgow primary school when a new innovative play area brought nature closer to school.
n 2009, an innovative new natural play area was brought to a primary school in the South Side of Glasgow as the first of its kind in the UK. The joint project, which cost around £65k was predominately funded by the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and Glasgow City Council. Partnering up with the newly rebuilt Merrylee Primary School in the South Side of Glasgow, it was seen as an innovative way to make a difference to the children’s well-being and learning. A new natural play space, also referred to as an ‘urban jungle’, was created at Merrylee, which has around 300 pupils, instead of the more traditional tarmac style of playground that is more commonly seen in schools.
The impact of natural play
Two years on, a study has unveiled statistics which show that the trial has been a remarkable success, with a 94% reduction in accidents and bullying since its introduction in 2009. The study, which was commissioned by FCS in conjunction with Dr Leslie Groves an independent researcher, gathered a series of data to assess the impact of the natural play development. It has shown that since moving away from the
■ ■ ■ ■ ■
A dramatic reduction in physical injuries Increased opportunities for free, imaginative and creative play Enhanced opportunities for interacting with nature at playtime Enhanced social interaction between different groups of children, including between boys and girls and different age groups Enhanced options for solitude. For children who may not be interested in football/ tarmac based activities the natural play area helped to avoid being singled out and provided opportunities for these children to thrive and flourish.
Learning through play
traditional tarmac playground to this natural space, there have been a string of positive results including:
Pupil designed The play space, which covers 1700m2, was designed with the help of the children, who formed a committee to agree on the design layout of the playground area. Working with a landscape architect, the pupils drove the project to make their design aspiration become a reality. The space created incorporates hills, valleys, willow tunnels, a stepped meadow area, hollows, shrubs and trees, dead wood, a rope bridge and seating.
The study itself included the school children, their teachers, parents and playground support staff. Evidence was collected in three ways. Initially, a literature review was carried out, and then a baseline study was conducted in 2008, before the new natural play area was installed. Finally a follow-up study was carried out in 2011 after the space was introduced which explored how the children were using the new natural play space and how they interacted within it. Similar methods of gathering information were used in both 2008 and 2011 in order to ensure comparability of
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Working with a landscape architect, the pupils drove the project to make their design aspiration become a reality.
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findings. These consisted of participant observation over a three day period, weekly reporting by teachers using photographic evidence, daily reporting forms completed by playground staff and physical activity monitoring. Focus groups were also run with the children, teachers, playground staff and parents. The design of the new space allows free, informal, un-directed play where all age groups and interests can come together and children can play at will. The report reveals that the children were more likely to engage in creative play, using their imaginations and the unique topography of the site to their advantage. Pedometers recorded the children’s steps and activity levels. The natural play space encouraged the pupils to increase their movement and consequently use a range of different muscle groups. Compared to the base line study, there was contrasting evidence that showed an increase in both the number of steps taken and also in the minutes of physical activity that both boys and girls, across all year groups, accumulated over the course of a day.
After a session in the urban jungle, teachers reported pupils returned to class more promptly and had a higher level of concentration and attainment when settling back down to work.
Improvements in learning and behaviour
The report revealed that the natural play area had a positive impact on the children, which included a positive knock on effect on their learning as well as their physical and emotional wellbeing. There was clear evidence that, combined with the new schools setting, new buildings and changed curriculum, the Urban Jungle play area had contributed to definite improvements within the classroom at Merrylee. After a session in the urban jungle, teachers reported pupils returned to class more promptly and had a higher level of concentration and attainment when settling back down to work. They also reported an increase in their positive interaction with each other and with teachers and a decrease in incidents involving difficult behaviour. Outcomes from the focus group discussions also suggest that there has been a drop in incidents such as bullying and fighting and not just a reduction in the number of incidents being reported.
Value for money From a funding point of view, the study found that the cost of the urban jungle was comparable to the traditional playground, but the benefits of the former far outstripping the latter. The detailed build cost for a traditional tarmac playground to be built on the same space was £63,784. The cost of upgrading to a gold standard natural play space was £65,512, which represents an increase of only £1,728. The difference in monetary cost between a traditional playground and the natural play area is minimal but the difference in the children’s learning and well-being is much higher. The research report showed that the natural play area was instrumental in the consequent success of the pupils not only in the classroom but in their general wellbeing, too. With marked improvements highlighted in the report in areas such as pupil interaction physical activity, there is confidence that this concept would be successful if implemented across Scotland and the UK. We would hope to encourage other schools to take on board the idea of natural play and hold Merrylee as the blueprint moving forward to give pupils across the country the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the great outdoors.
Reflections on the urban jungle “The urban jungle play space created at Merrylee Primary is a fantastic example of the way that trees and the natural environment can be adapted for the long term benefit of children. This project is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom and so the ultimate aim of the study is to inform future natural play developments in school grounds”.
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved in developing the UK’s first natural play site within a school campus. With the new school being built, the timing was ideal and our whole community had the chance to be part of something that could revolutionise the way our children play and interact with each other. It’s been a real partnership approach with a whole range of stakeholders getting involved, including pupils, staff, parents, friends and the wider community. Their support and determination has made this possible and has resulted in the creation of a fantastic new space that all Merrylee pupils will be able to enjoy for years to come.” Liz Mahindru, head teacher at Merrylee Primary school.
Learning through play
“As an organisation, we are keen to promote trees, woodlands and the great outdoors to young people and to showcase the benefits and the fun that can be had by exploring them and enjoying what they have to offer. This play area was an ideal project for us. It has given the children opportunities to play in a new way, which is great for those pupils who don’t enjoy football or tarmac based activities. The children now interact far more, which helps to break down barriers, and this has led to a marked decrease in bullying that is being reported.” Hugh McNish, Forestry Commission
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“Children get on better when the urban jungle is open. There are fewer arguments and they complain to us less often. There is less bickering and they play with each other better.” A member of the playground staff
The urban jungle has also been a tremendous success in the eyes of the people who matter the most – the children who use it. One primary three pupil said:
Hugh McNish is a health advisor from Forestry Commission Scotland’s Central Conservancy.
“I like the urban jungle because there are lots of bumpy bits and hiding places. You can run up and down the bumpy bits.” Primary Year 3 pupil
2) Can nature heal children’s emotional problems? – A look at the work of a charity that offers ‘problem students’ a week on the farm to ease emotional difficulties. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/alternative-bahaviour-management-health.htm Article available from Every Child Journal in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription). 3) Learning through green spaces – Exploring the possibilities of combining children and nature in the school environment. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/ls12learningthroughgreenspaces.htm Article available from Learning Spaces in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
1) Nature’s classroom –The Forest School teaching method focuses on the whole child and uses nature’s products as learning tools to address childhood problems. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/natures-classroom.htm
Start them thinking!
Marcelo Staricoff and Alan Rees Suitable for KS1-2 ÂŁ22.99 Make an immediate difference to teaching and learning in your school. Start Thinking will bring enjoyment, creativity and challenge to your classroom and improve the thinking skills of your pupils. Inspiring education often grows from simple routines. When teachers at Westbury Park School in Bristol wanted to challenge their pupils to think, enquire and reach beyond standard expectations, they introduced daily thinking-skills starters. These mini-challenges had built-in requirements for pupils to exercise their minds through essential thinking processes such as questioning, comparing, prioritizing, recognising patterns and thinking methodically. The teachers were amazed at how much children enjoyed the starters and benefited from them. Some children turned starters into projects lasting months â€“ all completed in their own time. Children seemed to grow in confidence, persistence and enthusiasm for learning.
Start Thinking Daily starters to inspire thinking in primary classrooms
Start Thinking collects more than 90 thinking-skills starters, tried and tested by teachers at Westbury Park School. The starters are arranged into chapters on Words, Numbers, Science, Creativity and Philosophy so you can easily choose the most appropriate challenges for your pupils. Detailed guidance notes are provided.
What questions can you think of that do not have an answer, or that have more than one answer? If you could grant the world five wishes, what would they be? What are the similarities and differences between blood and ketchup?
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Primary File – the section of SLT dedicated specially to issues concerning primary schools
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In this issue’s Primary File we provide an overview of the new Ofsted Framework’s key judgements and the implications posed for the SENCO in Manager’s Briefcase.
Plus, breaking down gender, ability and engagement barriers to learning through differentiated computerbased play; opening the door for creative teaching and learning by incorporating thinking spaces in the classroom. And, we learn just how successful the EYFS’ ‘experiment’ has proved to be and gain a glimpse into its future.
Manager’s Briefcase index Manager’s Briefcase is SLT’s unique online collection of proformas, model documents and policy guides to assist school leaders. The new Ofsted Framework and implications for the SENCO The new Ofsted framework has four key judgements that inspectors will report on when inspecting schools under section 5 of the Education Act 2005.
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This issue’s Briefcase looks at each of the four judgement areas, specifies what is entailed and gives guidance on how the judgement is made, including the evidence required. Particular attention is paid to the implications for special educational needs.
New on the web ZONES
The contents of the briefcase are as follows: ■ Briefcase 1: An overview of changes and judgements ■ Briefcase 2: Guidance on the Ofsted judgements: ■ Achievement of pupils in the school ■ The quality of teaching ■ Behaviour and safety of pupils ■ The quality of leadership and management of the school ■ Briefcase 3: How the key judgements affect the SENCO The evaluation schedule available from the Ofsted website provides outline guidance and grade descriptors for each of the judgements: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/ evaluation-schedule-for-inspection-of-
You can find and download this month’s Briefcase from our website at
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To prompt creativity in the classroom Amanda James investigates the link between successful early years pedagogy and a creative learning space that stimulates ‘outside the box’ thinking.
hat effect does the classroom environment have on learners? In the triangle of relationship between the teacher, the child and the learning environment what works best? What do we know about the effective use of spaces to ensure children have a rich learning experience? In looking back on my fifteen years of teaching in a Foundation Stage and Key Stage One classroom, I feel I developed an intuitive understanding of my classroom environment at work. It seemed to operate well for all its inhabitants, both the aging and eternally young, but I was aware that the reasons why it worked were often implicit and undefined.
The creative Early Years’ classroom W
I knew, for instance, that the crates and planks in the outdoor classroom would prove to be a favourite resource again this year, that the drawer full of oats would end up all over the floor at some point and that placing paper on the wall below the small world table would entice wriggly people on their bellies to invent new worlds. What I didn’t investigate in any real depth, was how the learning environment, cited as the ‘third teacher’, (Valentine 2006) was doing such a good job each year for its ever evolving and somewhat demanding clientele.
The child’s view In 2010, just in post as a local authority education adviser for the Primary Capital Programme which was focused on developing schools for the future, I devised a research tool that investigated the question of ‘How do children use their environment in a Foundation Stage setting through child initiated play?’ The aim of the research was to illicit a form of pupil voice from very young children, via observation, on the use of their environment and the impact this had on their
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“” Primary File
I devised a research tool that investigated the question of ‘How do children use their environment in a Foundation Stage setting through child initiated play?’
personalised learning. The findings would consequently inform both teaching and support staff on how best to organise and equip the space available, as well as give valuable insight into how a particular cohort is accessing and using their environment to develop their learning and exploration. As a result, the findings would support staff in the analysis and development of their own roles whilst engaging with children during child initiated play.
The enquiry investigated how first term Foundation Stage children used both the indoor and outdoor environment of their setting through child initiated play. This helped to determine patterns of behaviour, with regards to areas of the environment accessed, where different modes (e.g. mark making, role play etc.) of learning took place, how the children accessed them (on a solitary or collaborative basis) and whether the play was sustained and developed. It took place in three very different primary schools in Essex, all two form entry with two graded Ofsted ‘satisfactory’ and one ‘good’. Each school was visited once a week over twelve weeks. The children (164 across 6 classes) were observed whilst engaged in child initiated play, either as a whole class or boys one week, girls the next, depending on what suited the setting. The observation took place for one hour each week, tracking the movement of the children over three 20 minute periods and plotting: ■ ■
Where they were – indoor or outdoor Which modes of learning they were predominantly accessing – Practical Problem Solving; Physical Development; Mark Making; Role Play; ICT; Exploring Materials; Small World How they were accessing an activity, either on a collaborative or solitary basis
Finding 1: The organisation of the learning environment has a major impact on exploratory learning. The environment itself, both indoor and outdoor, needs to reflect the diversity of approaches employed by children to access and make sense of the world around them for that day, week or year and evolve with them. Consequently, the most successful setting was the one that bore the closest resemblance to a home environment – incorporating cosy quiet spaces, a table at which to eat/write/create, communal space, enclosed special place etc. It was the safe, dependable, well known layout of the space with development potential, versatility of its resources and how the spaces linked up, that appeared to work. For each child the classroom ‘home’ looked slightly different to them but they all ‘owned’ a bit and most importantly felt comfortable within it. There was no pressure to be anyone but themselves. In a setting where the resources were not positioned to enable easy access and link up modes of play between locations within the indoor and outdoor environment, the engagement of different skills within one activity was limited. For example, a construction kit placed on its own in the middle of the floor, without a particular purpose other than to ‘just build something’ offered far less sustained and developed learning potential than construction materials stored within a designated role play shop to encourage the use of physical skills and practical problem solving, whilst informing and extending role play. This in turn, had a direct impact on communication and collaboration, both verbal and non verbal.
According to Marianne Valentine the physical components of the foundation stage environment should be ‘more than a simple container for learning and teaching’ but rather ‘a central component of the learning and teaching relationship’ (Valentine, 2006). The evidence from my exploration across all three schools supported this theory and produced the following findings.
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Finding 2: Enclosed spaces matter The need for enclosed spaces, indoors and outdoors, was essential to allow purposeful role play and to accommodate children who were more passive in nature. These spaces also allowed for children to engage in episodes of passive observation to inform their play. The spaces were most effective when their purpose was defined by the children and when they afforded the children the ability to position themselves at different physical levels within the space – on a chair, on a cushion or on the floor (particularly when defining roles within role play). The space often took the form of a ‘book corner’, allowing the potential for storytelling/role play from the sharing of a book or providing a ‘prop’ for the passive observer. This type of space was particularly effective when it was constructed by the children, allowing for a practical problem solving activity to develop into a different mode of play post construction. The spaces became ‘special’ to those within them; allowing the children to define perimeters, provide a sense of security and the freedom to explore roles in relative seclusion. The spaces soon became both a starting point for play and a place of ‘refuge’ for the less forthcoming characters, as they developed the
These spaces also allowed for children to engage in episodes of passive observation to inform their play.
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courage to have a ‘big’ voice in a small space. These children also appeared to feel happier to explore a role on their own, talking to themselves in their own ‘little world’, without the pressure of the more robust, verbose roles being explored in other role play areas. One child in particular was a reluctant talker and only began to explore talk whilst on her own in the book corner in response to a book. Gradually she began to experiment with different roles on her own in the book corner and eventually integrated them into her role play with others, within the noisier designated role play area. The designated role play areas also required a degree of encasement to allow the children to feel that they were entering a defined space e.g. café . In the most successful setting, this area not only offered ‘visitors’ the opportunity to step into the area, but also visit it from the outside to a counter or window. This part of the enclosed space was particularly effective at encouraging children to explore a wide range of mark making genres and linked up the play to other areas of the classroom as the ‘visitor’ went about their ‘travels’. Finding 3: The role of the adult How the adults in the setting perceived the effective use of space and resources directly influenced children’s choices during child initiated play. In all three settings, it was evident that the children had an understanding of these perceptions within the first couple of weeks of schooling. The manner in which the space was arranged and the resources available quickly and consistently said a lot to children about what is expected there and the sort of interactions welcome. In two of the three settings, resources that had been used in focus group activities and had been left out (usually table top) remained the focused areas of play. The children (predominantly girls) accessing these activities appeared to regard them as ‘acceptable’, having been initially chosen by the adult. Consequently, they did not use the resources differently to how they had originally been used with the adult, nor did they develop their play any further. The mobility of the resources also impacted on quality and purpose of play. If the resources were not ‘allowed’ to be transferred to different locations within the indoor and outdoor classroom, the children were less exploratory and fixed the resource with a limited purpose, limiting exploration, development of play and use of language. One of the most positive impacts an adult had on play, once it was underway, was when episodes of Sustained Shared Thinking occurred. These were episodes when the adult accepted the child as a natural thinker and leader and allowed themselves to be the learner under instruction, with conversational questioning and most importantly modelling how to cope with failure and turning it into opportunities for modification and exploration. Activities linked to this kind of interaction provided a perfect platform for modelling reciprocity and cementing group cohesion. These episodes allowed the child to see the adult in a more vulnerable role, as colearner, questioner and mistake-maker. Therefore, the child was more likely to adopt the view that ‘anything is possible’, maximise potential of space/resources and give more value to the activity. An example where this was particularly successful was when a child and adult created an outdoor café from a variety of resources sourced from
different places. The play was sustained and extremely developmental, resulting in the area becoming part of the continuous provision. This kind of practice differed greatly from the adult exposing the child to gunfire of questioning about what they were doing with the resource or space and why, clipboard of named stickers in hand ready to add to a shiny assessment folder, box ticked – nobody was fooled, not least the child. The value placed on the play by the adult directly affected the children’s perceptions of how they used the environment. In one setting, the children knew that they would be required to clear everything away on command, often without any elements of their play being ‘noticed’ by the adult. These children rarely accessed a wide variety of resources, rarely moved resources from one ‘zone’ to another, were less prone to use talk effectively and more prone to wandering.
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Zones supporting multimodal play e.g. a small world area that had a blank paper surface, junk materials and plasticine within it to also encourage mark making, problem solving etc. Very little activity at table top Episodes of Sustained Shared Thinking Simple, multi purpose, accessible and mobile resources Positive adult and child perceptions of the environment The understanding that ‘mess’ sometimes needs to happen as part of the learning process ‘Noticing’ the child when they were engaged in an activity, either by making a comment, photographing them, engaging in Sustained Shared Thinking, sharing their learning with others or integrating what they have done into the provision/ next step planning – making the learning ‘visible’ Access to found/natural materials in a variety of areas Spaces and materials to support non verbal communication Enclosed spaces and areas for passive observation from the child Expectation of independence Presence of a ‘challenge culture’
Across all three settings, it became evident that it was ‘very important that the learning environment and pedagogy connect and support one another’ (Jarman 2009) in order for the children to engage intellectually with the space and the resources. Finding 5: A ‘Challenge Culture’ facilitates collaborative learning The children’s’ perspective on who was doing the thinking during their school day and what role the adult played in that, became very evident soon after their induction period.
Finding 4: Effective settings It is also worth noting that in this particular setting, the majority of the resources had a predetermined purpose or were only housed in a particular ‘zone’, again limiting development of use and perception of potential. In the other settings, the converse was true. In terms of effective use of environment, leading to developmental play, the most successful setting consistently had the following elements:
In the most successful setting, there appeared to be an already established culture where challenge promotes and facilitates learning. Most importantly, there also seemed to be the underlying expectation that when help was needed it would not necessarily come from the adult. This was particularly true when resources and/or use of space were completely flexible and designed to facilitate child initiated tasks. These would include ‘controversial elements’ that would stretch and test powers of negotiation and role definitions, ‘tasks which are amenable to different perspectives’ (Howe and Mercer 2007). During these episodes, peer to peer collaboration was at its most successful because the child initiated tasks contained the following elements: ■ ■ ■
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‘they cannot be completed by individuals working independently’ ‘they challenge children’s current levels of understanding’ ‘group members believe that both their own and their partners’ contributions are important’ (Howe and Mercer 2007)
An example of this in practice was when the teacher had left out a large quantity of packaging materials in the outdoor classroom. A group of children set about using them in different ways, with two children using large lengths of brown paper to construct a bridge over a walkway. The children worked collaboratively for an hour to construct the bridge, negotiating and modifying construction on the back of shared ideas and practical findings. The suggested course of action between the two children meant that they explored a range of fixing materials, cutting techniques and engaged in ongoing negotiation of plans. A member of support staff made brief comments on how the project was progressing, therefore affirming the learning and increasing its sense of purpose. Where there was an absence of a ‘challenge culture’ within the classroom, practical problem solving skills and reasoning skills were not developed, resources were not used in a versatile manner or for sustained periods and incidents of parallel play were more common. Resources and spaces had a defined purpose and presented tasks that were well within the child’s understanding. They eradicated the need for exploratory talk between peers because most tasks could be completed on a solitary basis and presented no other purpose than to complete a task. This was particularly true when the resources were accessed at table top and not versatile in manner. The modes of play most affected by this were those relating to Practical Problem Solving skills and ICT. Activities relating to these two modes of play were at their least collaborative when they were not linked up to any other mode of play and/or presented tasks that were well within the children’s understanding, quickly completed and undeveloped. It is also worth noting, that where a ‘challenge culture’ was present the children were far more cohesive as a group than where it was not. During child initiated play the children who were the most receptive to this culture, and the most innovative generally, were those from the most socially deprived backgrounds. Finding 6: Modes of play must be linked to purpose. The most popular modes of play across all three settings were those relating to Exploring Materials and Role Play. Both modes consistently presented potential for ‘what if?’ Activities relating to Exploring Materials, on the whole required more frequent
Implications for practice Children enter school with an understanding of how the world works through their own perspectives and impact upon it. It is our professional duty to provide a physical and emotional environment that both respects these interpretations and provides purposeful intellectual/physical challenge to them. How this could be put into practice:
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CPD for all staff to ensure consistency of pedagogy linked to environment. Embed the practice of validating the learning experience, to encourage children to use the environment in a flexible way and facilitate peer learning. Create a ‘challenge culture’ to embed Assessment For Learning strategies and group cohesion Embed the practice of Sustained Shared Thinking and reciprocity between adult/child and child/child. Model expectations of how you want the environment to be used by : ■ not defining an area of the classroom as ‘teaching space’; ■ providing a broad range of multi purpose resources and modelling how they can be used; ■ allowing resources to have a high degree of mobility between areas, especially mobile mark making resources. How the children use the environment and the resources within it must inform next step planning and assessment, with an underlying understanding for both adults and children that the environment is the ‘third teacher’
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References Alexander R. (2008)Towards Dialogic Teaching, 4th edition, 60 pp, York: Dialogos. Clarke J. (2007) Sustained Shared Thinking, Featherstone Education Ltd Hattie J. (2009) Visible Learning, Routledge Howe C. & Mercer N. (2007) Children’s Social Development, Peer Interaction and Classroom Learning, Primary Review Research Briefing 2/1bUniversity of Cambridge Jarman E. (2009) A Place to Talk KS1 A&C Black Publishers Ltd Tims C. (2010) Born creative – a collection of essays, Demos Valentine M. (2006) The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Years Education, Learning and Teaching Scotland
Knowledge trails 1) Psychology, learning and design – Applying a scientific understanding of human motivation to school design. http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/psychology-learning-design.htm 2) Making Spaces – With the help of a theatre design team, a classroom revolution of light, sound and projection inspired all! http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/making-spaces.htm Article available in Creative Teaching and Learning in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
episodes of adult to child Sustained Shared Thinking to facilitate development and perseverance. Activities relating to Role Play often had very little adult intervention and were most successful when linked up to both other modes of play and different zones within the environment. The key element that linked both of these modes of play was the opportunity to use them through other modes of play in order to develop the prime activity e.g. mobile mark making tools successfully developed role play. The least popular modes of play across all three settings were those relating to Small World activities and ICT. Where ICT was presented as a stand alone activity (i.e. computers in an area of the classroom on a desk or Interactive Whiteboard), the play was far less collaborative in nature, it lacked perseverance and was not connected to other modes of play. It was also, generally, well within the child’s level of understanding. In all three settings there was no designated Small World area. Resources had to be unpacked and set up and were stand alone. This mode of play was generally in support of a construction related activity and for limited periods. It was very rarely accessed as a prime mode of play and this could relate to its lack of visibility and therefore perceived adult validation. Across all modes, incidents that were most developmental had a distinct, child defined purpose.
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ICT catering for the Early Years
Varied computer-based play is essential to both challenge and support in the early years setting. Amy Stancer looks at the importance of differentiating ICT activities to ensure gender, ability and engagement levels are all catered for.
ifferentiation is important at all stages of education - challenging the most able children whilst providing additional support to help those less able. In differentiating activities involving ICT practitioners need to take into consideration both the knowledge of the subject being explored and competencies in using the computer technology. The role of the parent/carer and access to technology outside of the setting is very important at this early stage. Children who have regular access to computers at home will generally be more confident, more engaged and more competent in using the technology than those who have rarely used computers before. Talking to parents at the beginning of the year can help practitioners establish the levels of experience of the children in the setting and start to identify what kinds of activities will most engage them. As well as looking at the competencies and abilities of pupils it is also valuable to get an understanding of what they enjoy when using computers. Previous research from CfBT Education Trust has shown that most value is gained from ICT
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Does the application have different levels of play? Is there a secure way of altering the skill/difficulty level? Does the activity provide increased feedback when the child requires support? Are more advanced skills required at a higher level or are there options to select from?
ICT can support development in mark-making as the first step towards writing and typing, something that many children find challenging in the early years. Some computer programs, modelled by adults, allow children to explore different ways of making marks which can easily be changed and adapted. This can build the confidence
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use in the early years when it is seen as an enjoyable and ‘play-like’ activity. Girls and boys may typically prefer different types of computer activities and will learn through different styles so it is important that both girls and boys feel comfortable with the computer and have equal access to learning opportunities. One of the core strengths of using computer technology in the setting is that there are many different ways for children to access learning opportunities around the same subject. Computers allow children to express themselves, learn important skills and to solve problems. However, when considering the influence of gender on engagement with computers it is important that practitioners do not make assumptions about the types of activities and subjects that will engage boys and girls. It is important for practitioners to ask themselves ‘am I making sure that applications do not inadvertently bring stereotypes into the setting?’ For any type of software or activity introduced into the setting practitioners need to have a full understanding of what the software is, what children are asked to do and what they should be achieving. It is only by working through them yourself that you will be able to check that children are using the applications as intended and as a result getting the full benefit out of them. Many learning resources on the computer have built-in assessment for teachers to track the progression of the pupils. However, practitioners cannot rely on this alone and must also ensure that children are closely observed in their activities. Some software or web-based games can be completed by trial and error, some children could be getting support from their peers to complete activities and some children may closely observe other children allowing them to complete the task regardless of their understanding of the concept. The flexibility of computer software and web-based resources allows practitioners to select activities which are most suitable for the knowledge level of the subject and the computer competence of the child. Opening up new areas of the same activity as children progress in their development enables children to play within the familiar setting of a game which they enjoy with increasing challenge and interest. Children need to be challenged by the activity to keep their interest and continue their progress in development, but at the same time practitioners need to be careful that the activities are not too challenging as this will discourage continued use of the software. When considering introducing a new ICT activity practitioners should check the following things:
of reluctant mark-makers who may be concerned about making a mistake. Imitating adults is highly enjoyable to children in the early years and beyond so playfully modelling writing on computers and whiteboards will encourage children to explore computer based writing with enthusiasm. Mouse control and keyboard familiarity can prove to be a barrier to writing for children in the early years but new technologies like a ‘drawing tablet’ or interactive whiteboard offer more familiar approaches to mark making and writing with electronic ‘pens’. Differentiation between different abilities and engagement levels is most challenging when working in larger groups. For early years settings based within larger schools children may have access to larger computer suites outside of the classroom. Adults need to have a clear understanding of the children’s developmental stage when using large suites. Children’s computer skills, confidence and previous knowledge and understanding in other areas all affect the way they approach activities. Practitioners must ensure that support and challenge are enabled by openended applications. Prepared strategies should also be in place to ensure effective observation whilst the children are accessing computers independently. When working in groups either in the setting or in a larger computer suite it can be tempting to select groups according to ability and development stage so that different groups can be working on activities designed to meet their needs. However where possible children should be able to choose the pairs or small groups they wish to play with to allow them to enjoy the activity. During group activity practitioners need to recognise children who overwhelm their less-confident peers. Rather than taking them out of the group the adult could include the more confident child in the teaching of the rest of the group. The practitioner could ask things like ‘could you explain what to do?’ or ‘what could... do next?’ This can then encourage peer coaching and ensure that all members of the group are engaged in a way that matches their ability and confidence levels. In summary, there are two key things for practitioners to think about with regards to differentiation; observation and understanding. Adults should observe individual and group learning to ensure that all children are involved and that they are all using the technology for purpose. To support this observation and recognise when children are not working at the appropriate level for them, practitioners need a good understanding both of the capabilities and opportunities offered by the technology and also the ability, confidence and engagement of the individual child. The practitioner guide ‘Engaging Early Years Foundation Stage Children in Computer-based Play’ is available to download at www.cfbt.com/research
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Amy Stancer, Lincolnshire Birth to Five Service managed by CfBT Education Trust on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council.
Knowledge trails ICT in early years education - An e-Learning Update series looking at the role of the adult in conducting effective ICT practice at EYFS, and the ergonomics of a computer area in the Early Years classroom. 1) http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/ictinearlyyearseducation3.htm 2) http://library.teachingtimes.com/articles/elu-23-feature-1.htm Both articles available in eLearning Update in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription)
Using art to develop creative and critical thinking
Are these two pictures about the same subject? The components of Learning Without Limits - the book, CD and laminated images have been designed as a practical coaching manual that helps teachers and children understand and apply the core principles of critical and creative thinking to lessons they have already planned, within and beyond the National Curriculum.
Price: £65.00 inc vat includes whole school licence so you can place it on your virtual learning environment
The materials in this pack will help all teachers to: ■ ■ ■
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Connect children directly with a picture or painting Give children a personalised starting point for learning Get children asking authentic questions (the questions they really want to ask and answer) Encourage exploratory talking and thinking Start the processes of critical and creative thinking Build confidence in making judgements, taking decisions and making choices Explore six techniques in detail and learn how to apply these to lessons they have already planned Refine and adapt the techniques to meet the needs of specific groups of pupils including able learners
Learning Without Limits 1 How to challenge and involve pupils of all abilities by teaching the key skills of critical and creative thinking through paintings, pictures and prints.
Order Hotline: 0121 224 7599
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What next for the Early Years? The EYFS can proudly boast a wealth of outstanding practice. However, in her recent review, Dame Clare Tickell looked at just how well the system had bedded down, and in so doing highlighted significant room for further development. Tim Linehan reports.
here’s no longer any debate about the benefits of early years support. Over the last three years a new system has been built up to make sure that children are ready for school. This was intended, in particular, to help disadvantaged children who are less likely to be prepared for school because of their home life. As parents are a child’s most important educators, the least well-educated, most disadvantaged parents are most likely to see their disadvantage passed on to their children. So the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is at the heart of the social mobility agenda. The EYFS also provides a focus for bringing together agencies – with varying degrees of success – and helps identify problems that children have as soon as possible, ticking the early intervention boxes in the process. Despite its evident success, investment in early years is relatively low compared to many other developed countries, and below the 1% of GDP recommended by UNICEF and is unlikely to change in the next few years. The most disadvantaged families are still the least likely to access early years support and are still the most likely to be left
behind. Many staff remain under-qualified and there is a gap in professional leadership in the sector as a result. On the other hand debates still persist about the best age for children to start ‘education’. Is the early years foundation stage too formal a mechanism for children so young? Would they not be better off at home with their parents or playing rather than being subjected to formal learning? Misgivings abound about starting education so early but the EYFS has also drawn plaudits (not least from those contributing to this report) for the way it supports children and encourage learning and development through play. The review is clear on the importance of early years. Children’s early experiences strongly influence their outcomes in later life health, behaviour, educational attainment and future employment. All the evidence tells us that the first three years of a child’s life are vital to their future wellbeing and a good start sets a child up for life, while a poor start as the opposite effect: children achieving in the lowest 20% of the EYFS are six times more likely to be in the lowest fifth at Key Stage 1. The review praises the EYFS for its underlying philosophy, its themes and principles, its focus on ‘the unique child’ and the play-based approach. This appears to have borne fruit - standards in early years settings are improving and the percentage of childcare providers judged by Ofsted to be good or outstanding has risen from 56% in 2007-8 to 69% in 2009-10. Yet there’s still room for improvement. One in three settings are still being judged inadequate or merely satisfactory. Other criticisms are that the EYFS is hard to navigate; some providers see a conflict between their particular approaches to supporting young children and the EYFS. A review was always part of the initial plan when the EYFS was launched. The idea was to see how the system was bedding down. Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children, acting in an independent capacity, has produced a report outlining recommendations for taking the early years strategy forward. What’s noticeable about the report is how little needs to be changed, in other words, the EYFS has got a lot right. More than 70% of those who contributed evidence thought that the EYFS was successful, an endorsement the reports finds ‘striking’. However, between the lines there are clearly concerns about a lack of integration with education and health, a top-down management process and underqualified staff.
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The aim behind this change in presentation is to help clarify exactly how practitioners, parents and carers can effectively guide children’s development as well as the relationships
The need for simplicity
Those who contributed evidence thought that the EYFS was successful, an endorsement the reports finds ‘striking’.
between the different areas of learning. The first requirement, according to the review, is to simplify the system. There are too many goals and too many measurements. This is important for two reasons. First it creates an unnecessarily bureaucratic approach and takes up valuable time which could otherwise be spent in direct work with children. Second, it makes it more difficult for early years settings to work in partnership with parents, which is at the heart of the EYFS. The report finds that this important relationship – between parents and professionals - is under-supported and in some cases, parents and carers are not yet aware that the EYFS is intended as a collaboration between early years practitioners and themselves. Dame Clare hopes that her recommendation to make the EYFS more accessible will promote this partnership. The most radical recommendation is the reduction in the number of goals. These goals define the level of development most children should have reached by the end of the year in which they turn five. There are 69 early learning goals and 117 scale points that emerged. The review recommends that the 69 learning goals are reduced to 17. It is also proposed that the 117 scale points – or pieces of information collected to capture a child’s level of development - is reduced to 20. The principle of simplicity is also reflected in the recommendations that revised EYFS guidance are written to the pain English crystal mark standards, and that there is a single interactive online version of the EYFS with clear navigation. To further help engage parents in the EYFS, practitioners, including childminders, will be required to provide a short written summary of a child’s communication and language, personal social and emotional, and physical development between the age of 24-36 months. Parents can retain this and share it with health visitors to create a connection between early years professionals and health visitors to support the Healthy Child Programme health and development review (where the timing is right) carried out for children when they reach the age of two and transition to nursery. This summary insert is to be owned by parents who can then choose to integrate it and other information into the Red Book so parents can share it with other professionals.
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Partnership The second principle is partnership, not just with parents, but also with other professionals. The EYFS was created in before notions of early intervention had found their way into mainstream Government thinking. Now with the publication of reports by Frank Field and Graham Allen, along with the work by C4EO, there’s a head of steam building up and an emerging consensus about how early intervention should be achieved. So this report unpicks some of the tensions between the EYFS and other initiatives. In other words, it calls for the EYFS to be better integrated with educational and health so that together they can best support children in their early years. If the EYFS is to be a framework fore all children, it can only do this by being fully integrated with other government policies and legislation. In particular the report also highlights ‘a disconnect’ between the EYFS and the levels in Key Stage 1. The Tickell report identifies the review of the National Curriculum announced in January as an opportunity to address this by taking into account the EYFS in the review and to reinforce the connections between the two. The Tickell report also recommends a renewed emphasis on healthy development for all children with better and earlier identification of developmental needs, delivered by closer working between parents, carers, and professionals, including health professionals. The EYFS should be seen as part of a more holistic system in which parents, carers, health professionals such as health visitors, midwives and GPs work together and response to children’s needs. As the report says: ‘Children who most require support and intervention have the most to gain when professionals share information and build up a full picture of their needs.’
There is a desperate need for early years leadership, both within the sector and across organisations, to help value, promote and encourage staff to develop skills.
Most agree the need for a summary assessment at the end of the Reception year, but the profile is too detailed and complex. An improved framework would ensure consistency of practice between different settings and a more consistent experience for children in terms of the support they receive and the information shared with parents and carers to help them understand how their child is doing. A universal assessment would also allow local and national data to be collected on children’s readiness to begin formal schooling at age 5 which would help monitor and assess local and national progress for this age group. Finally the review recommends that reception should remain part of the EYFS and there should continue to be a strong focus on supporting their development in the prime as well as the specific areas through play-based approaches.
Supporting the workforce 123 Vol 3.6 School Leadership Today www.teachingtimes.com
The third principle is supporting the workforce, and this comes out in a number of ways: first the need for an improved, better qualified workforce; the need to raise the status of the workforce. But there’s also an understanding that reducing bureaucracy means delegating responsibility, trusting and supporting the workforce and not over-managing problems that become overcomplicated when they are too proscribed. A minimum level three qualification for all practitioners along with an ambition for the sector to become fully graduate-led is one way to achieve improved standards. Yet there’s a long way to go in a sector that is largely staffed by young women with few academic qualifications. For many it’s seen as an option for those who no other choice. The number of men working is tiny. These factors contribute to the low status of those working with our youngest children. To compound the problem, the review received criticism of the quality of training course to prepare people to work in the early years sector. There is a desperate need for early years leadership, both within the sector and across organisations, to help value, promote and encourage staff to develop skills. For all its diplomatic language, the acceptance of the recession, the important advances being made, the beneficial impact on young children, the review is effectively pointing out that in some areas, standards in the early years sector is falling short and staff need more support. Yet, as the review points out, there are examples of excellent work and there’s a wealth of good practice to be drawn on but no mechanism for sharing it. The review advocates establishing a national network of early years providers to take leading responsibility for supporting and assuring initial staff training and professional and leadership development for early years workers based on the model of Teaching Schools, as set out in the recent Education White Paper to help to improve standards. The theme of improving the standards and status of the workforce reinforces a theme of decentralised management which was the favoured approach of the previous government. The report values diversity and argues that this can only be achieved by allowing providers more control over managing their services, within the guidelines set out by government. An example of this are the concerns raised by the Plymouth Safeguarding Review of Little Teds where Vanessa George was convicted of seven sexual assaults and six counts of making and distributing indecent pictures. The photographs were taken on mobile phones. Rather than bowing to some calls for a ban on phones in early years settings, the report recommends that it is up to management to put in place a policy on mobile phones, which can, of course, be very useful when coordinating staff on trips. It’s an example of how within the overall policy and guidelines, decision-making and safeguarding must rest with the practitioner. Dame Clare is quite explicit about this. She states that safeguarding is everyone’s
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responsibility and that micro-management by government can reduce a sense of personal responsibility. A safe environment allows children to learn and develop and to be happy and healthy. And while safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and must remain a priority, concerns about abuse must not prevent staff giving comfort to children and offering them the physical warmth they need to feel safe, protected and happy. Most staff are confident of spotting the signs of abuse or neglect, but the review finds that practitioners and managers also need to be supported to recognise abuse and neglect within settings. Current child protection training doesn’t highlight adult behaviours such as adults talking inappropriately about details of their sex lives, especially in front of children; being alone with children in a group setting for unusually long periods of time without good reason; or showing an unusual interest in one specific child. The findings of the Safeguarding review into Little Teds highlighted poor management. Dame Clare says that supervision is not given sufficient prominence in the EYFS. This is not just a safeguarding matter, it’s about ensuring roles and responsibilities are clarified, that practice is monitored. The implication is, quite rightly, that safeguarding should be seen in this context: child protection goes awry when management goes wrong. The same principle is also applied to risk assessment, which is often too burdensome on providers. Staff need to be able to demonstrate that they have properly planned their events and can demonstrate that they have prepared for all eventualities, but this does not necessarily require a lengthy formal risk assessment.
Diverse sector The Early Years Sector is a diverse group, comprising practitioners from the independent sector, those that provide wraparound support and holiday care as well as childminders. It’s not surprising that so many divergent views were collated in the review. Some contributors complained about Ofsted inspections and others, such as independent providers including the Waldorf-Steiner schools, have philosophies that are in conflict with the EYFS and wanted to opt out altogether. While recognising diversity, the review is clear that there will continue to be an early years framework entitling all 3-4 year olds to 15 hours of free for 38 weeks a year. Allowing opt-outs for providers who do not receive public funding would, Dame Clare argues, result in cost-cutting, lower quality services and the possibility of lower standards. This would disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged children and in doing so undermine one of the main reasons for the EYFS. For providers who offer holiday support, and for whom the Early Years qualifications may not be critical, the report proposes that the Skillsactive Playwork level two award is considered as a relevant early years qualification for holiday providers, thus allowing flexibility while maintaining the requirement for higher qualification standards However, the review does make an exception of the Waldorf-Steiner schools, citing their experience and expertise and says that other groups of schools wishing to opt out would need to demonstrate similar thoroughness and quality.
Equipped for life, ready for school The most significant recommendations are based around the readiness of children to attend school. Here the report finds that the current systems are overcomplicated. In particular the report recommends slimming down the assessment scales and introducing a sharper focus on earlier identification oaf additional needs. Most children begin Reception class at four. Children need to be toilet trained,
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personal, social and emotional development communication and language physical development
The review argues that these lay the ground rules for healthy developments, for positive attitudes to relationships and learning, and for progress in key skills such as reading and writing. They also cover the early development, physical movement and dexterity as well as healthy eating and exercise. Monitoring these areas will help identify children with special needs and disability and inform the work of health visitors as part of the two-year health and development review in the Healthy Child Programme. Alongside three prime areas of personal, social and emotional development, communication and language and physical development, the report proposes four specific areas in which the prime skills are applied. These are: ■ ■ ■ ■
be able to listen and get on with other children or they will experience difficulties at school. They will need language skills and opportunities to explore their surroundings. The current guidance is based around the six areas of learning set out by the EYFS. These are popular with most early years practitioners and supported by evidence on child development. However, the report argues that while children develop in all six areas from birth, three areas are particularly important and play a crucial role in stoking a child’s interest and capacity for learning. These are
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literacy mathematics expressive arts and design understanding the world
Practitioners working with the youngest children should focus on the prime areas but also recognise that the foundations of all areas of learning are laid from birth – eg literacy in the very early sharing of books, and mathematics through early experiences of quantity and special relationships. As children grow older the focus will shift from primarily on the prime areas to a more equal focus across the prime and specific areas.
Early identification and intervention
The Early Years: foundation for life, health and learning – an independent report on the Early Years Foundation Stage to Her Majesty’s Government by Dame Clare Tickell is available on http:// www.education.gov.uk/tickellreview
Knowledge trails 1) Too much, too soon – Is the early years policy damaging to children and in danger of breaching parents’ human rights? http://library.teachingtimes. com/articles/too-much-toosoon.htm 2) Early years: Foundations for life, health and learning – A breakdown report of the main points from Dame Clare Tickell’s EYFS review. http://library.teachingtimes. com/articles/early-yearsclare-tickell_040411.htm Article available in Leadership Briefings in the Professional Learning Community (access by subscription).
Identifying children’s strengths and weaknesses requires input from a number of professionals and this should start from pregnancy. Midwives, health visitors, GPs, nurseries, playgroups and child minders are also used by parents and some children receive help from specialist professionals such as speech and language therapists or SEN coordinators. However by the age of 5 nearly 44% are not reaching a good level of development. As we’ve already seen, the recommendation to integrate the Healthy Child Programme will allow better sharing of information about young children, particularly the most disadvantaged. The a parent-held record which will be integrated into the Red Book will be added to the early childhood health record, known as the red book to encourage parents and carers to enter information arising from this years annual summary and from children’s interaction with other professionals for example speech and language therapists. Again, it is hoped this will be particularly helpful for children where there are emerging concerns about disability. The review, then is not a call for a radical overhaul. Instead there is a recognition that advances have been made. But underneath the rubric there is an underlying concern that professionalisation of the sector needs to speed up, that top-down management needs to be curtailed and the workforce, with proper training, be empowered.
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Published on Mar 25, 2013
Published on Mar 25, 2013
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