Ofsted boss ‘tears her hair out’ over schools that still grade individual lessons

Amanda Spielman has raised concerns about a lack of curriculum expertise in schools at this week’s ResearchED annual conference, held at Chobham Academy in Stratford, East London.

Ms Spielman believes that schools are continuing to grade individual lessons, despite Ofsted no longer carrying out the practice.

The chief inspector of schools voiced her fears during her keynote speech and emphasised the importance of research evidence in the inspectorate’s work.

Ms Spielman said: “Ofsted is absolutely right not to grade individual lessons now, and it would be great if all schools would stop doing it as well.

“One of the things that I get is that far too often inspectors are asked by school leaders ‘yes, but if you did grade lessons, what grade would you give it?’ It makes me tear my hair out.”

Lesson observations, she commented, were ‘still a valuable tool’ if they were properly designed around aggregations of well-made observations and ‘knew what influences could be drawn’.

The chief inspector continued:The inspectorate is already carrying out research with parents on the way it reports, and is testing out alternative versions of our reports to communicate better and more clearly with parents.

“Ofsted is scoping research on how its grading structure affects school behaviour, which is potentially very interesting but too early to talk about”.

Speaking about the curriculum, Ms Spielman stressed that, although the curriculum was Ofsted’s main focus this year, it was not about creating an “Ofsted prescribed curriculum”, or introducing preferred styles by a back door.

She told the TES: “(Ofsted) will publish a commentary later this month that follows some fieldwork we have carried out, but one issue that comes up time and again really is the lack of expertise in schools now about curriculum thinking, about the content, the design, the implementation.

“Few schools are thinking really clearly about what should be taught in each subject, and how that content is best sequenced and how it should be fitted together.”



One in five parents ‘do not spend any time reading with their children’

New research has found that a fifth of parents with primary school-aged children do not spend time reading with them.

Furthermore, the YouGov poll of 448 parents in the UK shows that a third of parents do not think their primary school-aged children read enough books.

The survey also revealed that 54% of parents who have children aged 5-11 spend less than an hour a week reading to them

Reflecting the now digital-focused age, the survey found that 57% of parents use a digital device, such as a tablet, mobile, TV or film to distract their child, compared to a minor 10% who give their child a book for entertainment.

Moreover, (65 per cent) of parents said they set a good example with their own reading habits, whereas 29 per cent did not feel they did.

Reading results

The survey – which was commissioned by bookseller Book People – follows the company’s launch of its Bedtime Story Competition, which challenges young authors aged 5-11 to create a picture book on the theme of friendship. The winner will become a published author.

Sarah Walden, buying and merchandising director at Book People Group, said: “The findings from the survey are both intriguing and alarming and show that as a nation we can certainly do more to encourage the next generation of readers and authors.”

The UK was ranked 22nd for reading in the influential 2015 Pisa school rankings, behind countries such as Estonia, Slovenia, Poland and Australia.

Ms Walden added: “Electronic devices are always competing for everyone’s attention, but spending a couple hours a week reading with your children works out at less than 20 minutes a day and allows you to spend true quality time with them.”

Workload and government policy forcing teachers out, DfE research finds

Research by the Department for Education (DfE) has found that workload is the ‘most important factor’ for teachers leaving the profession, with factors such as government initiatives and being undervalued by the Senior Leadership Team as close contributing reasons.

The DfE surveyed 1,023 ex-teachers who have left since 2015, and a staggering 75% of respondents said that workload was the reason they left the profession.

Other reasons for leaving the profession included Ofsted pressure, lack of support from school leadership, disagreeing with how the school is run and poor pupil behaviour.

The research also found a correlation between the Ofsted rating of a school and the proportion of teachers quoting issues such as feeling undervalued or unsupported by leadership, Ofsted inspection pressure, disagreeing with how schools are run and poor pupil behaviour as important factors in their departure.

Workload graphic

Smaller factors also came into play in the research, although proved to be an issue for only a minority of respondents, such as ‘earning a higher salary elsewhere’, ‘wanting a new challenge’ and ‘did not feel suited to teaching’.

The survey also revealed that more than half of teachers left for a job that actually paid less than their teaching role. Just one quarter said they went on to earn more.

More than 60% of leavers remained in education, but the destinations of those who did not were “hugely varied”, the report said.

Comparisons between ages was also a contributing factor with respondents. Higher priorities for those aged between 20 and 30 were low pay and lack of career progression opportunities, whereas for older counterparts these didn’t factor.

Workload, pupil behaviour, Ofsted pressure, and flexible working were also higher factors for younger teachers.

The research has been published just one day after the National Audit Office launched a damning new report on teacher supply issues.

The report found half of school leaders have not engaged with the government’s flagship ‘workload challenge’ programme at all, and that only £91,000 has been spent on programmes to support workload or pupil behaviour.


Full Education Committee line-up confirmed

Five Conservative MPs, five Labour MPs and one Scottish National Party MP will serve alongside chair Robert Halfon, the former Skills Minister, on the new Education Committee, it has been announced. The Education Committee is responsible for holding the Government and  regulators, such as Ofsted and Ofqual, to account in areas including policy and spending.

Throughout the years the Education Committee has held inquiries into a number of education areas, such as multi-academy trusts, regional commissioners, primary testing, school funding and the supply of teachers.

Representations by SCHOOLS NorthEast on behalf of schools in the region have been repeatedly quoted by members of the Committee in evidence sessions on funding and exam board performance.

Labour was the first party to announce which of their MPs would sit on the committee, having announced before the summer that former shadow education secretary Lucy Powell would join longstanding committee member and Gateshead MP Ian Mearns and new members Emma Hardy, Thelma Walker and James Frith.

The Conservatives, however, took longer than the other parties to announce their Education Committee members, with some critics suggesting that this was a move to hold up the committees work.

Conservatives Lucy Allan, Michele Donelan and former teacher William Wragg, who served on the last committee, will return to the fold in this parliamentary session.

They are joined by Trudy Harrison, the Conservative MP for Copeland.

Marion Fellows, the committee’s sole SNP MP in the last session, will also serve again.

Education committee membership – full list

Chair – Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow, former skills minister

Lucy Allan, Conservative MP for Telford, former committee member

Michele Donelan, Conservative MP for Chippenham, former committee member

Marion Fellows, SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, former committee member

James Frith, Labour MP for Bury North

Emma Hardy, Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle, former teacher, NUT activist and Schools Week contributor

Trudy Harrison, Conservative MP for Copeland

Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, former committee member

Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, former shadow education secretary

Thelma Walker, Labour MP for Colne Valley, former Head Teacher

William Wragg, Conservative MP for Hazel Grove, former teacher

Article originally published on http://www.schoolsweek.co.uk 

Parliamentary Education Questions – 11th September 2017

SCHOOLS NorthEast Policy Officer, Christopher Hawkins, highlights the key questions asked yesterday by MPs to Secretary of State, Justine Greening.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner (Lab, Ashton-under-Lyne) argued that the public sector pay cap was making teacher recruitment more difficult. She referred to comments by former Education Minister Dan Poulter (Con, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich), who told the Guardian earlier this year that in his view there was a “strongly moral and financial case” for the 1% deal for teachers to be revisited at the autumn budget. Schools Minister Nick Gibb (Con, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) responded that the Government was sticking to the recommendations of the School Teacher Review Body on pay.

Stephen Hammond (Con, Wimbledon) mentioned summer born children, calling for an acceleration of plans to allow parents to start children in reception when they choose to delay starting school until age 5. He said there was increasing frustration that the promised code of conduct has not yet been published. Nick Gibb responded that he shares the view that parents should have this freedom where it is in the best interests of the child. However, he added that this is a complex matter which needs to be correctly implemented to avoid unintended consequences, particularly on the early years sector.

Lilian Greenwood (Lab, Nottingham South) spoke of the need for long-term expansion of secondary school places in Nottingham. She questioned why her local authority has a duty to provide these places but little power to do so because all of the city’s 16 secondary schools are soon to become academies. She called for the Government to introduce greater requirements on academies to work with local authorities to plan provision instead of relying on free schools. Secretary of State Justine Greening (Con, Putney) said she recognised the importance of schools working with local authorities but said free schools do an excellent job.

Steve Double (Con, St Austell and Newquay) asked that sparsity be considered as a factor in the new National Funding Formula. The Secretary of State replied that she recognised the “unique” challenges faced by rural schools and was seeking to represent that in the Formula.

Yvette Cooper (Lab, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) called for a review of Multi Academy Trusts following news that Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) is to pull out of running of 21 schools, just days into the new school year.

Vicky Foxcroft (Lab, Lewisham Deptford) asked the Secretary of State when the Green Paper on children’s’ mental health announced in January would be published. The Secretary of State responded that it would be available later this year and that the Government is working to expand the “single point of contact”

Fiona Bruce (Con, Congleton) called for the inclusion of advice on parental breakups in the new compulsory Sex and Relationships Education lessons in primary schools.

Increase in number of children ‘not ready’ to start school

New statistics released this week suggest that children starting school are more than ever before likely to lack basic skills such as speaking effectively or even using the toilet.

The School Ready? Survey, conducted by the NAHT Head Teachers’ union, revealed that of the 780 Head Teachers surveyed, 86% say that reception children are less likely to be ready to take part in classroom activities than they were five years ago; and almost a quarter of Heads said that more than half their reception class were ‘not ready’ for school.

The most common difficulty highlighted in the survey was the speech and communication skills of children – such as describing what they need – with 97% of Head Teachers agreeing that this was a particular issue.

Other areas of concern were also identified, such as personal, social and emotional development (being able to interact with classmates), which 94% of heads believed was an issue and the physical development of children, such as toilet training, was a concern for 78% of those surveyed.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary said: “We want to see extra money for education, including early education before children start school and renewed investment in critical services for families.”

“Without proper investment, the youngest and most vulnerable in our society will be starting off behind, with uncertain chances of catching up.”

Other areas of concern included:

  • Failure to identify and support additional needs early enough (67%);
  • Pressure on parents and family life (66%);
  • Reduction in local services to support families (63%);
  • Reduction in local health services to support families (57%).

However, almost 90% of Head Teachers attributed school funding as a barrier to improving school readiness.

Ellen Broome, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “Four-fifths of school leaders said that children who had no previous early education demonstrated the most challenging issues.

“There is strong evidence that early education can help to boost children’s outcomes and narrows the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers – but only if it is high quality. The government must make sure that every child can access high-quality early education and that parents can get the right support to help them to give their children the best start in life.”

From September 2011, all children have had the option to start school in September after they turn four instead of the term in which they turn five – which had previously been the practice in many local authorities.

A government spokesperson said: “High quality early education is vital to ensure every child is able to achieve their full potential. That is why we are investing a record £6 billion every year by 2020 – more than ever before – in childcare and early education.

“The proportion of childcare providers rated good or outstanding remains at a historic high and it is our ambition to raise the status of the profession and spread quality around the country so that all children will get the best start to their education.”

Original article published on the TES website: www.tes.com

Schools open doors to ‘more unfilled teacher posts’

Leading specialist recruiters are reporting that schools are beginning the term with rising numbers of teaching vacancies – up a quarter on two years ago. Education recruiter Eteach reported seeing a rise of 15% over two years at the end of August.

SCHOOLS NorthEast’s own regional jobs portal, Jobs in Schools North East, has seen an increase of 63% over the past 18 months in the number of schools registering to advertise vacant positions.

However, the government has said that more teachers are entering the profession than those that leave; but in figures they published a few days ago it suggested that the target for recruiting trainee teachers for 2017 would be missed for a fifth year in a row.

Geoff Barton, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) head, said: “Schools have moved heaven and Earth to put teachers in front of classes for the start of this academic year, and in many cases will be using stop-gap solutions to deliver courses.

“What we must have is a permanent fix. It is clear that we need a national strategy to address this issue as a matter of urgency, in which the government and the teaching profession work together to find solutions.

“We need to attract more people into the profession, and then we need to make sure that we keep them.”

He said head teachers knew the key ingredient to maintaining and raising standards was “a ready supply of teachers”.

“Instead, we have an ongoing recruitment crisis which means many have to use supply staff on a routine basis and non-specialist teachers for subjects like maths and physics.”

According to a spokesman at the Department for Education, they are “investing £1.3bn until 2020 to attract more people to become teachers.”

The DfE said: “These figures do not reflect the fact that the teacher vacancy rate in 2016 remained low – at 0.3%.

“The number of teachers entering our classrooms is outnumbering those who retire or leave, and there are now more teachers in our schools than ever before – 15,500 more since 2010.”

SCHOOLS NorthEast developed Jobs in Schools North East at the start of 2016, following a direct request from schools in the region.

“Our Partner Schools had identified that the majority of positions that they advertised were filled from within the region” said Lucy McMahon, Relationship Manager at SCHOOLS NorthEast. “Because of this they did not want to pay the high price tags of national recruitment companies and asked us to develop a regional solution that would help them identify local talent and fit within their budgets”.

You can find out more by visiting www.jobsinschoolsnortheast.co.uk.

Original article published on BBC News: www.bbc.co.uk

I want to deliver more than just good results for my school

This week’s Talking Head comes from Craig Knowles, Acting Head Teacher at Hetton School. The Secondary School in Sunderland has gone through a vast change over the past two years and for Mr Knowles, like many other Heads, there is an importance of achieving more for the school, and its pupils, than just good results. Find out how Hetton School is achieving just this…    

I know that this is a sentiment shared by every Headteacher, but how realistic is it with current accountability systems? Of course the answer is that it comes down to the strength of our moral purpose.

The last two years at my school have been tough in terms of headline results and this has felt worse because they have been hard to explain (or make excuses for). As a school, teaching and learning has improved, CPD is better directed and more effective than ever, the curriculum is more personalised to individual needs than previously, and we have a great new building – so why were results a disappointment? This was the dilemma that I was faced with when taking over as an Acting Headteacher. How could I address this at the same time as doing what I know to be morally right? I’m not certain we have found the answer, but the ‘Learn to Achieve’ strategy we have introduced is an answer that has started us in the right direction.

‘Learn to Achieve’ is my school’s adaptation of Professor Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset work. Our aim as a school is to build a growth mindset in our young people, avoiding the fixed mindset that can trap them into a premature plateau and therefore cause them to fall short of their unknowable potential. Our end game is that students have a desire to learn, embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from feedback and find inspiration in the success of others. Easier said than done!

We started small, trying to create curiosity in our students through posters placed throughout the school with the word ‘Yet’ or with phrases like ‘Embrace failure’.  We expanded to our use of language in the classroom like, “I love the risk you took in…” and “Nearly – what would you do differently next time?” Reflecting after a term, we were already seeing a difference in the willingness of students to have another go at a piece of work that they would have previously given up on – displaying the type of resilience that not only makes a difference in their school lives, but forms a bedrock for a positive mental approach to the rest of their adult lives.

To say it has been transformational is disingenuous (yet!), but the approach has created a positivity around learning, and has the potential to have impact throughout our school community. We have encountered resistance from some unhappy parents and staff, but the passion we have for our ‘Learn to Achieve’ philosophy has overcome these attitudes.

You might ask the question – “so what?” and you’d be right. Unless it has a demonstrable impact then why shout about it? Our students are not all bursting with a desire to learn every lesson yet, but they are a lot closer than they were. Pupil and staff surveys show positive changes. Governors are on board, and if our KS4 results are anything to go by, there has been an impact in outcomes too.

This term we are building on our staff’s use of language by changing the way students speak to each other about their work. We are deliberately creating obstacles to challenge our students and all our policies and practices have been altered to reflect the new language. Lastly we are attempting to change the aspirations of the community for our young people through events and community work.

I don’t yet know how our philosophy will be interpreted by those outside our community, but I do know that it feels right and feels like we are delivering more than just good results.

Do you want to write the next Talking Heads blog? Contact Nicola Chapman, Marketing and Communications Officer at SCHOOLS NorthEast, to find out more: n.chapman@schoolsnortheast.com 

Government to respond to consultation on ‘secure fit’ writing test model

Changes are expected to be announced soon following the governments consultation on the current assessment system.

Since 2016, reforms to the Sats have seen ‘secure fit’ marking system where all pupils are required to reach all of the criteria set out by government in order to reach the expected standard.

This system is seen to be too rigid, as pupils who reach all but one of the criteria are judged in the same way as those that miss all of them. It is also seen to discriminate against children with dyslexia.

The government has been consulting on these changes, and there has been a high level of engagement with teachers during the process. The response is expected to be announced soon, and the National Association of Head Teachers has advised head teachers to expect a ‘best fit’ model going forward, which would give more weight to the judgement of teachers.

This week the NAHT has written to its members following government talks, to advise them stop preparing for further tests under the current system as they expect the changes to come into effect from 2017-18.

EBacc target reduced to 75% following consultation

In 2015, the government pledged that 90% of pupils would be entered for the full slate of EBacc subjects by 2020.

Responding to a 2015 consultation on the EBacc published this week, the government is now aiming for 90% “starting to study EBacc GCSE courses” by 2025, meaning that they would not achieve the original target of 90% entered for the EBacc until 2027.

Justine Greening has stated that the consultation has allowed the government to listen to the concerns of schools and the barriers they face in achieving the original target. As a result they have now set a new target of 75% of pupils studying EBacc subjects by 2022.

One key concern that had been raised by head teachers through this consultation was a lack of specialist subject teachers, and this has played a part in the target changes announced this week.

The consultation also raised some other areas of concern for both parents and teachers around the potential for the curriculum to be narrowed, and some subjects (particularly the arts) becoming unviable due to low entry numbers.

So far the data does not support this as it shows that state-funded schools which have an increased EBacc entry, have also seen an increase in the uptake of arts subjects. Nor has there been a drop in GCSE entries to these subjects.

The English Baccalaureate, made up of English, maths, science, history or geography and a language is designed to ensure that more pupils have the opportunity to study these subjects (which are seen to open more doors to degrees), regardless of their social background. So far the numbers of pupils studying the EBacc has risen from 22% to 40% since 201o, whilst the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and non-disadvantaged pupils has closed by 9.3% at key stage 2 and 7% at key stage 4 since 2011.