TPR 2015 Secondary Education

 

Embed or link this publication

Description

TPR 2015 Secondary Education

Popular Pages


p. 1

2014 / 2015 SECONDARY EDUCATION EDITION A YEAR IN PERSPECTIVE F O R E W O R D S The Rt Hon George Osborne MP Neil Carmichael MP R E P R E S E N TAT I V E S Hodgson Academy Wembley High Technology College The Bishop Challoner Catholic Federation of Schools Haydon School Shirebrook Academy Parkstone Grammar School F E AT U R E S Wildern School Kenton Schools Academy Trust: Kenton School and Studio West The Belvedere Academy Herne Bay High School Harris Academy Bermondsey Review of the Year Review of Parliament ©2015 WE STM I N STE R P U B LI CATI O NS www.theparliamentaryreview.co.uk

[close]

p. 2



[close]

p. 3

Foreword The Rt Hon George Osborne MP Chancellor of the Exchequer The UK grew faster than any other major advanced economy in the world last year, and is set to do the same again this year. Over the past 5 years we created two million new jobs. And the deficit – now 3.7% of GDP – is a third of what we inherited in 2010. But all that progress could be put at risk if we don’t continue with the plan that is delivering for the working people of this country. Economic security is at the heart of that plan. It’s not enough to simply eradicate the deficit – we have to reduce our unsustainably high level of national debt. At the Budget I published a revised Fiscal Charter that commits us to running a surplus in normal times to bear down on debt. In the autumn the House will vote on that charter and I hope it will mark the start of a new settlement for Britain’s public finances. Improving productivity – the amount that British workers produce for every hour they work – is the key route to making the UK stronger and families richer, and it’s the greatest economic challenge of our time. We’ve set out concrete steps that we’re going to take to improve the infrastructure, education and skills of the UK – and to make sure that this time it’s a truly national recovery. Some of the biggest reforms include setting up a new roads fund to pay for the sustained investment our roads so badly need and introducing a radical new apprenticeship levy on large firms. We’re also devolving even more powers to local areas over things like planning, skills and Sunday trading rules. And to back British businesses and encourage them to invest we’re setting the annual investment allowance at £200,000 and cutting corporation tax to 18% by 2020 – making it the lowest in the G20. The final part of the plan is to make sure work always pays, so at the Budget I announced a new national living wage, reforms to our welfare system and lower taxes for working people so we move Britain to being the higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare economy we want it to be. “ “ Improving productivity is the key route to making the UK stronger and families richer, and it’s the greatest economic challenge of our time FOREWORD | 1

[close]

p. 4

Foreword Neil Carmichael MP Chair of the Education Select Committee I am delighted to be writing this foreword as the recently elected Chair of the Education Select Committee, on which I served for 5 years as a member in the last parliament. Our scrutiny of the previous government was motivated by our desire to narrow the gap for children whose backgrounds of disadvantage and poverty affect their ability to access the education to which they are entitled. This continues to be a driving force for the new Committee. I am particularly proud of the Committee’s work on sex and relationships education in the last parliament, on which we have just reported. Our inquiry found the government’s strategy for improving personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) to be weak. We had hoped that, in response, ministers would give PSHE a statutory status in the curriculum. We were disappointed. I can only describe ministers’ reaction to our report as feeble: it does not meet the urgent needs of this country’s young people. The Department for Education now needs to step up: our new Committee will, I am confident, be active in pursuing this matter with ministers. To thoughts of the future. I wish to see fairer funding for all schools. Head teachers currently find themselves in receipt of widely varying budgets, and I am aware of growing calls for a change to the current system. We are also considering a joint inquiry with the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee looking at UK productivity, which I hope will investigate ways of better fitting our young people for the world of work, so that when they join the workforce they are an advantage to their employer from the off. Every time I visit a school I leave thinking how fantastic our children are. We need to help them develop in every way our education system can promote to flourish in the workplace. This is not only to raise this country’s productivity levels but, importantly, so that, in time, their children too may embark on their education from a more economically secure baseline than many do right now. 2 | FOREWORD “ “ Head teachers currently find themselves in receipt of widely varying budgets, and I am aware of growing calls for a change to the current system

[close]

p. 5

SECONDARY EDUCATION EDITION Review of the Year Education’s general election campaign In terms of holding ministers to account, the House of Commons’ education select committee had a new chairman after the election: Graham Stuart, seen as a robustly independentminded chairman, was succeeded by Neil Carmichael. Much of the election battle over education in England focused on funding and public spending. In their appeals to voters, the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats had all committed their parties to protect spending on schools. Despite the continuing pressure on public spending, the party leaders promised that school spending would remain a priority and would not face the cuts that could be imposed on other public services. If that sounds like a consensus, in fact it proved to be a dividing line, with the three parties all disagreeing about who had really made the most watertight pledge on funding schools. The Conservatives promised to protect per pupil spending, including for a rapidly rising number of pupils; while Labour’s promise was to protect spending and to make sure that it was a real-terms increase that would rise with inflation. The Liberal Democrats sought to outdo them both, with a commitment to protect spending in terms of keeping pace with rising pupil numbers and inflation. Teachers’ leaders accused them all of choosing to ignore that there would still be a tough squeeze on school budgets under all of these spending plans. review of the year In the run up to the election all three main parties committed to protect spending on schools After the sound and fury of the general election campaign, the Conservative victory on 7 May saw Nicky Morgan returning for a new term as education secretary. The end of the coalition saw the removal of Liberal Democrat David Laws as schools minister, and the loss of his parliamentary seat meant that he would not even be contributing from the opposition benches. Replacing Mr Laws was a minister with previous experience of the education brief: Nick Gibb. There was further continuity in the education department’s ministerial team, with the return of Lord Nash. As the dust settled, and before any further shake-up from Labour’s leadership battle, Tristram Hunt continued as shadow education secretary. | 3

[close]

p. 6

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice If funding took centre stage, the wider arguments over education policy were often more about details of emphasis than big clashes of ideology. There was no suggestion from Labour that the changes to the curriculum or qualifications, announced during the last parliament, would be rolled back in any substantial way. There were also no calls from the big parties for a reversal of the growth of academies. These were, after all, created by Labour before being adopted by the Conservatives as their preferred option for raising standards. So, this major plank of education policy, turning more schools into academies, created little political friction. Tristram Hunt had promised that Labour would scrap the free schools programme, arguing that it was an inefficient and wasteful way of creating extra school places and that more strategic planning was needed. But existing free schools, however they might have been relabelled, would have continued to operate. The Conservatives, committed to opening a further 500 free schools, argued that they would deliver more choice and innovation and raise standards, as well as creating extra places. Labour’s most repeated attack was about academies being able to recruit teachers without teaching qualifications. They used the issue to cast doubt on the government’s record on school standards, arguing that ensuring the quality of teaching was the key to improvement. The Conservatives argued that allowing heads to recruit unqualified teachers was extending the same flexibility to state schools that was available in the private sector, and could allow schools to bring in people with specialist knowledge, such as computer experts or people who could help with languages. While Labour avoided any promises of uprooting the reforms of the coalition government, the Conservatives were not offering any radical departures either. They pre-empted any suggestions that they wanted to privatise state schools, by explicitly ruling out running schools for a profit. Mrs Morgan also made a commitment to end the constant upheavals in the school system, promising teachers more stability and enough breathing space to ‘bed in’ some of the changes already announced. Both Labour and the Conservatives talked of the importance of improving vocational qualifications and expanding the number of apprenticeships. A pre-election panel of education experts, including Professor Alison Wolf and Chris Husbands, the head of the Institute of Education, had been asked to identify the big dividing lines for education during the election campaign. But they observed how few substantial differences lay between the major parties on the running of England’s school system. Despite differences in tone and some subtle distinctions, there was a broad acceptance of a common model – with the three parties endorsing an English school system based on much local autonomy, for both academies and council-run schools, and high levels of accountability, through Ofsted, tests and exams. For the meantime at least, the education system has been promised more evolution than revolution. 4 | review of the year

[close]

p. 7

SECONDARY EDUCATION EDITION Nicky Morgan’s second term as education secretary Mrs Morgan set out plans for an accelerated process of intervention in schools identified as underperforming, ‘coasting’ or failing to make enough progress. The assumption would be that many of these struggling schools would become academies. There will be a closer focus on parts of the country that have particular weaknesses, particularly coastal areas that have the low results and the poverty and social problems that used to be more commonly associated with the inner cities. Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan arrived as education secretary last year with something of the air of a caretaker manager, taking over from her high-profile predecessor Michael Gove with less than a year before the general election. This didn’t really give her much time to launch any of her own initiatives, and much of the commentary around her tenure had been contrasting her own more emollient, teacher-friendly style with the pyrotechnics of the Gove era. There had even been talk that her Loughborough parliamentary seat could be under threat. But the election result in May saw her reinvigorated. She was re-elected in her own seat with an increased majority, and returned to the Department for Education as a secretary of state who could lay out her own long-term agenda. That policy for the next 5 years is going to see more of England’s state schools becoming academies and free schools. A flagship election pledge was to create another 500 free schools in England with 270,000 places – and a raft of new schools was announced in the weeks after the general election. But in many ways the push for more schools to have academy status is a continuation of the policy of the previous 5 years. Most secondary schools are already academies, with greater autonomy over the curriculum and staffing than local authority schools. A clear message from Mrs Morgan during the election campaign was that the next 5 years would see much less upheaval, and the rapid-fire series of announcements would be replaced with a period of consolidation. Previously, teachers and head teachers had complained vociferously about the level of constant change and that there needed to be time for schools to digest and implement reforms before the next wave of ministerial announcements arrived on their desks. While the redesigns of GCSEs, A-levels and the curriculum made headlines when they were announced under the previous coalition government, it will be in Mrs Morgan’s second term that many of the changes will be introduced. And overseeing this will be a painstaking but unglamorous process. review of the year | 5

[close]

p. 8

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice Only a few months before the new maths GCSE was to be introduced, the exam watchdog called for a rewrite, when it ruled that three of the major exam boards were proposing exams that were too hard for pupils of a broad range of abilities. There will also be scrutiny over the mood music of the education secretary’s relations with the teaching profession. Mrs Morgan has been seen as wanting a more amicable and constructive engagement with teachers. Before the election she spoke of the need to cut back on teachers’ workload and the need to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy. There will also be a College of Teaching created during the course of this parliament, which will provide an independent professional body and give the teaching profession another public voice. But head teachers and teachers’ unions have been warning about an approaching funding gap – and pressure on school budgets and staffing levels could see renewed tension between ministers and staff working in schools. Also prominent in the ministerial intray will be the ongoing race to create enough extra school places for a rapidly growing school population, at both primary and secondary level. Whatever the challenges and budget pressures ahead, in this second term Mrs Morgan will be able to stamp her own authority on the Department for Education. Prominent in the ministerial in‑tray is the need to create enough extra school places for a rapidly growing school population Will schools have enough money? School funding was one of the topics most persistently raised this year by head teachers. More specifically, they were worried about an imminent lack of school funding, which they accused politicians of trying to ignore. It was an issue that caused divisions in the general election campaign. But what made this unusual was that it wasn’t only an argument between different parties – the biggest gap in opinions about funding was between school leaders and all the political parties. The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all did their best to sound like they were going to protect school spending for the next 5 years. While the political parties argued over who was really the best guardian of school spending, the head teachers and teachers’ unions poured cold water on all of the pledges. They accused the political parties of sticking their heads in the sand and failing to admit to a looming cash shortage for schools. 6 | review of the year

[close]

p. 9

SECONDARY EDUCATION EDITION classroom teachers. The Association of School and College Leaders said there was a ‘bleak picture’ ahead, with rising costs set to outstrip school budgets. The association’s leader Brian Lightman warned of schools ‘falling off a financial cliff’. The latest figures on the school workforce showed how more pupils and classrooms meant schools had to hire more staff. The number of staff working in schools rose in a year by almost 22,000 full-time equivalent posts, including teachers, teaching assistants and support staff. There are 1.3 million people working in state schools in England, including almost 455,000 full-time equivalent teaching posts. The National Association of Head Teachers said that even within the current spending arrangements, schools were having to use their budgets for non-educational purposes. The association’s leader, Russell Hobby, told the annual conference that schools were becoming like ‘mini-welfare states’, providing food, clothing and buying uniform and equipment for children. Mr Hobby calculated that this took £43.5 million from schools’ budgets each year, and he called for a more honest debate about what should be expected from schools. The heads’ leader warned that schools were going to face a financial settlement that was going to become progressively tougher, as funding was projected to fall behind rising costs. ‘To paraphrase a famous note, there is still no money. We are merely halfway through austerity and half a million more pupils are coming our way. Expect tight budgets and make every penny count,’ Mr Hobby told head teachers. According to the the Institute for Fiscal Studies schools will need a 12% increase in funding just to stand still Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers They were supported in these concerns by the independent analysts the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which warned that schools faced a number of unavoidable rising cost pressures and that even if the pledges to protect school budgets at current levels were fulfilled it was still going to mean a significant gap. The increase in pupil numbers will mean more extra staff, and there are already extra costs in the pipeline from pay rises and increases to national insurance and pension contributions. And the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that keeping funding at current levels would leave a 12% shortfall. Or put another way, schools would need a 12% increase just to stand still. And with the constraints on public spending making such an increase unlikely, schools have been warning of the consequences of a squeeze on their budgets. They see it as an approaching iceberg that none of the political parties wanted to recognise. With so much of school spending taken by staffing, the National Union of Teachers heard claims that cutting funding would inevitably mean cutting review of the year | 7

[close]

p. 10

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice What qualifications should a teacher have? Should teachers be able to stay in the classroom if they don’t have qualified teacher status – or if they are not working towards getting such a teaching qualification? The question of teachers’ qualifications was a recurrent source of political friction through the year, dividing not just the government and opposition but the Conservative and Liberal Democrat partners in the coalition. Head teachers in academies and free schools have been able to hire teachers without formal teaching qualifications. It’s part of the wider push for autonomy and decisionmaking to be left to individual head teachers or to academy trusts. The argument for allowing such flexibility on recruitment is that it enables schools to bring in people with specialist knowledge, such as someone who is an expert in computing or who speaks a language for which it can be hard to find a teacher. Head teachers should have the freedom to bring in such extra staff if they want, argues this aspect of academy policy: it’s an option that has always been open to independent schools. But the principle of allowing such staff without teaching qualifications to deliver lessons was strongly opposed by Labour’s Tristram Hunt. He doggedly attacked allowing schools to keep staff who had not gained their qualified teacher status. If the quality of teaching was the key to raising standards, he argued, it made no sense to recruit staff who had never been taught how to teach. How could professional standards in teaching be improved if teachers didn’t even have to receive professional training? Would such untrained staff be allowed to practise in medicine or other professions? The teachers’ unions were also opposed to the idea of allowing unqualified staff, protesting that it was a deregulation too far and rolled back years of progress to make teaching a graduate profession. They also raised the prospect of schools balancing the books by hiring cheaper unqualified staff, to the detriment of pupils. There were warnings from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) that it meant 400,000 pupils being taught by staff who had never had any lessons in classroom management or how to enforce good behaviour. As the general election campaign approached, the Liberal Democrats also stressed their own opposition to allowing classroom teachers to remain without teaching qualifications. But there were also divisions over the scale of this problem. Was allowing such unqualified staff into schools opening the floodgates? Or was this just a noisy row created between parties with more in common than they would care to admit? Labour warned that this was a problem that was getting much bigger and was threatening to undermine standards, NASUWT said that allowing unqualified staff would roll back years of progress to make teaching a graduate profession 8 | review of the year

[close]

p. 11

SECONDARY EDUCATION EDITION accelerated by the expansion in the number of academies and free schools. But the Conservatives argued that it was actually less prevalent than before the coalition entered office 5 years before – and they took issue with the ‘unqualified’ label, saying that many such staff were graduates, even if they did not have formal qualifications in teaching. Both could claim some support from the official figures. The most recent figures, which are for 2013–2014, do show that there were more teachers without teaching qualifications than in the previous year – a rise that reflects a particular jump in unqualified teachers in academies. In 2013, there were 17,100 teachers without qualified teacher status in state schools, compared with 14,800 in the previous year. It reflects the rising number of such unqualified teachers in academies, which was up to 7,900 in 2013, from 5,300 the year before. Going back a few years further to 2010, the number of unqualified staff in academies was then 2,200, less than a third of the most recent figure. But it’s an increase that reflects the rapidly rising number of academies. It’s also possible to argue that allowing these flexibilities to some schools has not pushed up the overall number of unqualified teachers, because in 2010 the number of unqualified teachers in the state system stood at 17,800, higher than the most recent figures. These numbers dipped before beginning to rise again. In the end, after all the arguments and swapping of statistics, the outcome of the general election meant that there would be no changes, and academies and free schools could continue to have a choice in who they recruited, with or without teaching qualifications. An inspector calls without any warning from Ofsted that inspectors were calling the next day would give schools enough time to hide away anything that might be unacceptable or inconvenient. The Trojan Horse investigations followed claims that some schools in Birmingham were being taken over by people with a hardline Muslim agenda. In the inspections that followed, schools that were once rated as outstanding were reassessed as failing. And it raised questions about whether inspectors had really been able to see the full picture. Sir Michael Wilshaw announced that schools would face more frequent but shorter inspections Among the consequences of the so‑called Operation Trojan Horse was the concern that schools could conceal from inspectors how they were really being run. There was a fear that the warning In the autumn term of 2014, Ofsted began to test the feasibility of a system of ‘no-notice inspections’ for schools in England, where inspectors would arrive without any prior warning, rather than the current half-day’s advance notice. The idea of such ‘snap inspections’ review of the year | 9

[close]

p. 12

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice had been raised by ministers in the immediate aftermath of the Trojan Horse investigations, and the schools’ inspectorate now appeared ready to put it into practice. ‘I’m currently giving thought to whether Ofsted should move to more routine nonotice inspections,’ said the head of the education watchdog, Sir Michael Wilshaw, as he announced that 40 schools were about to receive such unexpected knocks on the door. The proposals infuriated some school leaders. Brian Lightman, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said a system of inspections without warning would be an excessive and ‘counterproductive’ approach to checking on schools, and that such a lack of warning would ‘treat professionals like naughty children’. Schools would be afraid of being creative and trying out anything different if they thought it could be interrupted by the unannounced arrival of inspectors, he argued. There were also doubts about the practicality of such unannounced raids. What would happen if the head teacher or other senior staff were away when inspectors arrived, such as attending training? Or what would happen if pupils were away on a school outing? Would it be reasonable for school governors, with their own full-time jobs, to be expected to be available to inspectors without any notice? But such a tough response to the Trojan Horse concerns turned out to be short lived. When later in the year Ofsted set out reforms for a new system of inspections, it also signalled that it would not press ahead with making no-notice inspections the standard approach. Such visits without any warning would only be used in circumstances where there were particular concerns, such as the safeguarding of children. Sir Michael rejected the idea that this was ‘caving in’ to protests against no-notice inspections, arguing that he had sufficient power to carry out such inspections if there was evidence that it was necessary. Even if the idea of moving to no-notice inspections has been abandoned, there are still substantial changes to inspections due to be implemented in autumn 2015. Sir Michael announced that schools would face more frequent but shorter inspections. Schools that had been rated as ‘good’ – the grade below ‘outstanding’ but above ‘requires improvement’ – would face inspections at least every 3 years. Before this change, the Ofsted chief said it had been possible for ‘good’ schools to go 5 years or more without an inspection to see how they were currently performing. ‘This is too long. It’s too long for parents and employers. It’s too long for us to spot signs of decline,’ said Sir Michael. This shift in inspections, which would see more frequent, focused checkups on the progress of schools, was described by the education watchdog as one of the most ‘far-reaching reforms’ of the past 25 years. The change in inspections will mean more frequent, focused check‑ups on the progress of schools Population surge reaches secondary school The growth in the school population has until now been seen as mainly a challenge for primary schools, but this year the rising demographic tide reached secondary schools. And it will mean more pressure on places for both younger and older pupils. The impact of the bulging birth rate can already be seen in primary schools, with a wave of extra classrooms being shoehorned onto school sites, sometimes with temporary buildings and sometimes with permanent extensions. It has seen some primary 10 | review of the year

[close]

p. 13

SECONDARY EDUCATION EDITION respectively. This saw overall school numbers reach their highest levels since the 1970s and meant that places had to be found for more than 90,000 extra pupils this year. And this pressure is going to carry on growing. According to official projections, by 2023 there will be 17% more secondary pupils in England than in 2014. Across the same time span, primary schools, already much expanded, are expected to have an extra 9% of pupils, which in turn will feed through to secondary schools. That represents almost an extra 900,000 children in the school system – all needing classrooms and teachers. These figures show the national picture, but there are wide regional variations and there is more pressure in cities than rural areas. London is likely to face the greatest growth, but even this is not evenly spread, with some outer London boroughs facing well above average population pressures. This will be one of the great challenges for the education system. Head teachers’ leaders have warned that the key issues for schools in the next few years will not be about types of school or exam targets but about whether there is enough capacity in the system for so many more pupils. Will there be enough extra teachers? Will be there be enough heads and school leaders? Will schools have sufficient funds to make room for the rising number of pupils? Local education authorities, particularly in London, have warned of the need to take urgent action to prevent a shortfall. The Local Government Association, representing councils, said it feared an approaching ‘tipping point’, and put a price tag of £12 billion on creating enough extra places. The Labour party warned that many primary schools were already over capacity, and pointed to the ways review of the year Projections suggest that by 2023 there will be 17% more secondary pupils in England than in 2014 schools expand rapidly in size, moving from one class per year to two, three or, in some cases, four. And once a bigger intake is accepted in the reception class, then this extra class has to be accommodated through all their following primary years – and as schools become two- or three-form entries, the entire school has eventually to reflect this bigger scale. Super-size primary schools are no longer so unusual. The latest figures, published in June, showed there were now 87 primary schools with more than 800 pupils – a figure that once would have seemed exceptionally large. And this year has seen the wave of a rising school population reach secondary schools, meaning the secondary sector will now have to be ready for successive years of rising pupil numbers. Until this year, the population trends for primary and secondary schools had been going in opposite directions. While there was much attention to rising numbers in primary schools, pupil numbers had been falling in secondary schools. But this divergence is now ending, with the rise in the primary age group reaching secondary schools. It means rising numbers of pupils at both primary and secondary levels at the same time – up by 2.1% and 0.1%, | 11

[close]

p. 14

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice that schools were having to cope, such as a school in Northumberland that had to use a converted double-decker bus as a classroom. Education secretary Nicky Morgan has committed to providing support for an extra 460,000 pupils in the lifetime of the parliament. While there might be political debates about preferences for education spending, this basic provision of places is going to be an unavoidable priority. The increase in the school population will also have implications for parents wanting to choose a particular school for their children. The rising numbers and pressure on places will mean shrinking catchment areas and a tougher battle to get into the most popular schools. That is likely to mean more appeals and more challenges to school admissions. Ticking away below the surface, the need to create hundreds of thousands of extra school places, at the same time as facing public spending constraints, is going to be one of the great balancing acts of the next few years. The million dollar teacher prize How much is a good teacher worth? The Global Teacher Prize, launched this year, had a price tag of a million dollars for one exemplary teacher. And a teacher in a further education college from the north-east of England reached the finals. The idea behind the international prize was to raise the status of teaching and to increase public respect for the profession. The big cash prize was meant to reinforce this message of teachers being taken more seriously. If footballers and reality-television stars could become rich and famous, why shouldn’t teachers get some recognition for something that was much more socially valuable? The project was created by the Varkey Foundation, the charitable arm of a Dubai-based international education firm. And it drew applications from all over the world, with two teachers from the UK being included in the 50 finalists, alongside teachers from countries as diverse as the USA, Kenya, India and Afghanistan. The inaugural grand final, of what is intended to be an annual event, saw one UK teacher in the top 10. Richard Spencer, a science teacher from Middlesbrough College, was commended for a teaching style that used singing and dancing to bring to life his subject. But the eventual winner was Nancie Atwell, from the USA, who in the spirit of public service announced that she was going to give the prize money to the school that she had founded. The Global Teacher Prize sought to make as big an international impact as it could 12 | review of the year

[close]

p. 15

SECONDARY EDUCATION EDITION There have been previous prizes to recognise the special commitment of individual teachers. The annual Teaching Awards – often known as the ‘Teachers’ Oscars’ – have been running in the UK since the late 1990s. What made the Global Teacher Prize different, apart from operating on an international rather than national level, was the determined effort to make as big a splash as possible. It wanted to make a big statement about the status of teaching. So, on stage for the award ceremony with the finalists was former US president Bill Clinton, and there were video messages from Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton. It was an A-list cast sending the message that teaching should be seen as an A-list career. The Varkey Foundation had previously published research showing that in many countries teachers felt that they had relatively little social status. The biggest exception to this was China, where teaching is seen as a highly-regarded profession. The idea of showcasing the achievements of individual teachers was intended to put teachers back on a pedestal, reminding the public that teaching is a worthwhile and important career and that academic institutions need to recruit the brightest and the best. The quality of teaching and the need to recruit talented students has been a recurrent theme this year. The education director of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Andreas Schleicher, argued that no education system could be better than the quality of its teachers – and he said that countries with successful education systems invested in improving and renewing the skills of teachers. This was more important to raising standards than ideas such as longer school days or buying educational technology. Labour’s Tristram Hunt had looked to Singapore for a model of how a successful education system made a priority of continuously training teachers and making sure that they kept updating their skills. He also suggested borrowing the idea of a form of Hippocratic Oath for teachers, where they would formally commit themselves to a set of values. But the annual teachers’ union conferences heard warnings that if the politicians were serious about making teaching a more attractive career, then they had to take practical steps to improve life in the classroom. There were calls for a reduction in workload, a more generous pay settlement and a recognition that schools needed some stability after repeated waves of initiatives and upheavals. For head teachers, the million dollar question was about whether there would be enough teachers, particularly in subjects such as science and maths, where there have been difficulties recruiting enough specialist staff. Showcasing individuals was meant to put teachers back on a pedestal Will there be an expansion in grammar schools? There hasn’t been a new grammar school opened in England in more than half a century. But this year saw a big push to expand selective education. Even though they have been small in number, grammar schools have exerted a disproportionately strong pull on the education agenda. There has been a longstanding call, particularly from the Conservative backbenches, for a bigger review of the year | 13

[close]

Comments

no comments yet