The Government has recently published a white paper that is essential reading for those in education. Rachel Kamm examines the key proposals.
The dust has started to settle on the Government’s education white paper: educational excellence everywhere. After a relatively slow start, the number of newspaper articles and interest on social media has picked up. Perhaps the most interesting proposals are to:
- ensure that by the end of 2020, all remaining maintained schools will be academies or in the process of conversion. By the end of 2022, local authorities will no longer maintain any schools. The Government expects some individuals working in local authority teams to leave to set up new trusts or join existing ones and become academy sponsors. Apart from in exceptional circumstances, the smallest schools will have to form or join a MAT. But other successful, sustainable schools will still be able to continue as Single Academy Trusts if they choose to do so;
- “ensure there are enough strong academy sponsors from business, charitable organisations and existing strong schools available to transform schools that need their support, particularly in the toughest areas“;
- “build upon the success of the free school programme” to open at least 500 new schools by 2020;
- “strengthen the university technical colleges programme so young people can benefit from high quality technical education“;
- make it simpler to escalate complaints beyond the governing board to the Department for Education, and beyond that to a public service ombudsman – Government will also “consider how parents may be able to petition Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) for their school to move to a different MAT where there is underperformance or other exceptional circumstances”;
- give the Regional Schools Commissioner a role where academies or MATs are underperforming;
- give local authorities a role co-ordinating admissions – ”we will seek views on requiring local authorities to coordinate in-year admissions and handle the administration of the independent admission appeals function; and on creating a single route for escalating any complaints about the maladministration of appeals“. Local authorities will also have a role “ensuring every child has a school place; ensuring the needs of vulnerable pupils are met; acting as champions for all parents and families”;
- establish “the national curriculum as an ambitious benchmark which autonomous academies can use and improve upon” and ensure the vast majority of pupils study the English Baccalaureate;
- make available funding so that it is easier for 25% of secondary schools to extend their school day to include a wider range of activities;
- no longer require academy trusts to reserve places for elected parents on governing boards – “we will offer this freedom to all open and new academies, and as we move towards a system where every school is an academy, fully skills-based governance will become the norm across the education system“;
- Ofsted will consult on removing the separate graded judgments on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment to help clarify that the focus of inspection is on outcomes and to reduce burdens on schools and teachers;
- introduce an ‘improvement period’ during which schools won’t be inspected by Ofsted “to allow the time and stability to put in train sustainable improvement” – “where a school is judged to require improvement and a new headteacher steps forward to lead that improvement, the school will not face re-inspection until around 30 months after the previous inspection, unless the headteacher chooses to request an earlier visit. Similarly, when a poorly performing maintained school is replaced by a sponsored academy, a new school opens or a new sponsor is needed to drive further improvement in an academy, the school will not normally face inspection until its third year of operation“;
- reform the allocation of teacher training places “so that ITT is delivered by the best Higher Education Institutions and school-led providers where new entrants are most needed, where places are most likely to be filled, and where training is most likely to be delivered well” and strengthen ITT content;
- replace the current Qualified Teacher Status “with a stronger, more challenging accreditation based on a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom, as judged by great schools. This new accreditation will raise the quality and status of the teaching profession, better recognising advanced subject knowledge and pedagogy that is rooted in up-to-date evidence. The new process will put the best headteachers in charge of accrediting new entrants to the profession, and give schools more scope to bring in experts from other fields – for example, a talented musician or coder – and put them on a pathway to full accreditation, where their skills can be recognised“;
- reform the National College for Teaching and Leadership; and
- design new voluntary National Professional Qualifications for each level of leadership.
There have also been some important consultation papers on school funding. First, there is a consultation running until 17 April 2016 on proposals to introduce a national funding formula for schools. The intention is to introduce a school-level national funding formula where the funding for each pupil at a particular school is determined nationally from 2017-18. Until 2019-20, that funding would be distributed by local authorities, at which point the system would change so that funding was allocated to schools directly. Alongside this, there is a separate consultation running until on high needs funding reform. Almost everyone will welcome the commitment to improve the current system, which is based on out-dated information and leads to unfair funding differences between local authority areas, but as always the devil will be in the detail.