Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 300-319)



Ms Munn

  300. Barnsley!
  (Professor Brighouse) But the more local you get, the more dangerous it becomes. Nevertheless, comparative information is hugely important because it enables you get leading edge stuff into practice. The answer to your very uncomfortable question is I think there is growing evidence that the over-examination and the over- focus on attainment, which I am totally for, has its down sides and consequences in terms of kids' motivation—the kids who are good at other things that are not assessed widely. If you look at what we assess, it is so heavily skewed towards information and individual recalling of that information with the aid of memory and, thinking about it, the secondary curriculum is not very good at team assessment nor at finding a way of giving credit to a wide range of other activities within the school that matter hugely to all of us. In that respect I think you ought to look while you are at it, at a student survey, particularly work that pioneered by Keele University and is still running with a huge database of student perceptions about schools, because that becomes a proxy for what school ethos is like and children's attitude to schools. I have tried to obfuscate and the simple answer is they have not helped.


  301. We have got tests at seven, 11, and 14, course work at 15 and assessment at 16, 17 and 18. You have talked sympathetically about a baccalaureate and George Dixon School we were at yesterday have introduced that.
  (Professor Brighouse) Of course, this is the stuff of dangerous headlines, but if you took seriously the assessment of those basic competencies and if you looked to key skills—communication, numeracy and ITC—they are crucial but so are those peripheral skills of problem-solving, being able to assess how you learn and take on your learning and working in teams. If you took that seriously, you can begin to see that, with reform, tests at 11 and tests at 14 would be quite good in that respect. They need a little bit of pushing up of the ICT competence. You could start to do that. If you did that at 16 it would look very odd. So if I had a reform it would be to magnify the importance of 11 or 14 around those basic territories and then turn my attention to 18 or 19 because one of the down sides of 16 is that it is still referred to as the school leaving age. We do not want it to be the school leaving age. If I had to sacrifice one, that would be the one I would want to take out.

Paul Holmes

  302. Do you see a future for the GCSE?
  (Professor Brighouse) I am sure there is a future for GCSEs. But you ask for my opinion and I would say there should not be one. There should be one test at 14 relying on teacher assessment. We spend so much more on exams and inspection, ten times as much as any other developed country. Teachers are now going to get paid on their performance. They are the ones that mark the papers, after all, but they do it at a distance, so going for 14 and 18 or 19 would seem to be sensible.


  303. So there would be a graduation certificate for those people who left school at 16?
  (Professor Brighouse) For 16? No, I would be encouraging people to take an accumulated diploma at 18 or 19, whether they were in the work place or whether they were in education. In America they get a profile of what they have achieved, even at degree level, compared with our absolute summative information. I would go for that.

  304. Can we take you back really again to what our inquiry is about because in the Birmingham experience, as we are going to be calling it for a long time to come, that is what has driven this through. Of course, we have been interested in other things and we have not looked at secondary education. To push you a little bit more on the collegiates, in one sense I know your answers to previous questions show that you have your reservations about much of the Government's enthusiasm for specialist schools, and that you would like to see specialisms rolled out to all schools. That is the Government's intention, is it not; 50 per cent and then onwards and upwards as fast as the resources are available. Tell us a little more about the collegiate system because reading the material I have seen of yours and hearing your answers to questions this morning, it does seem in a sense that you are a person who would like to go back to the true comprehensive ideal. You are enough of a realist to know that is not going to happen so you are trying to find a mechanism that maintains and reinforces some of those traditional ideals of people who want the true comprehensive. Are you trying to reassert the pure ideals behind the comprehensive system in the collegiate system? Is that what it is all about?
  (Professor Brighouse) It is a very tricky issue. The first thing is I do not believe that comprehensive education has been achieved, in the sense of people wanting children across the ability range when they are defining that ability as the capacity to pass standardised, selective tests at 11 or, if they are not tests, assessments at that age and they might be represented by level six, level five, level four, level three, level two in the national curriculum test at 11. I think that has only been achieved where everybody in the locality sends their children to a school in rural and county areas. I think that the small city and large town achieved it at first but it has been pulled apart. If I may say so, when you look at some of the areas you represent—and I was thinking in particular of Bury—Bury has got some green around it, it does act as a magnet, I guess, from Salford and Manchester. I do not want to get into a discussion about Bury but it is moderately well-off area. For example, only one of your schools has got 35 per cent free school meals and that is the top by about ten per cent. In Birmingham the average is 35, so I think socio-economics plays a part in this. It has only ever been realised in those areas. In the large metropolitan urban areas it has not. If the word "comprehensive" was such a good word, why did none of the schools use the word "comprehensive" in their title, because none of them do? It has become a word that we cannot have reasonable discourse about. If you said to me, "What do I want in terms of schooling?" I would be really pleased if kids during their teenage years came into contact and had sets of experiences of kids from a full range of diverse backgrounds. I would want that because socially that is an important issue. Educationally I would want them to have the best possible staffing structure available to them. I would want them to have that expertise wholly available to them. I would want the full expertise brought within their reach. I would want a curriculum that suited them individually, if that were at all possible. I would want them to have progress at the rate they needed to have progress. I would want them to think that they were citizens not just of Birmingham, not just of the UK but they had worldwide responsibilities one to the other. That is easy to do in a metropolitan urban area, in a sense, because we represent that world. I want all of that. I do not think that the individual school can do that. So my answer to the question is really I do not think an individual school at secondary level in most of our country can be truly comprehensive, if you mean it like that. I would want to reject the word "comprehensive"; I prefer the word "collegiate". I want a collegiate ideal. I want people to understand that they are inter-dependent and that that is to their advantage and, therefore, I want to substitute that for what I think people in a different era set out to do before we had all these changes socially, both within our communities, within our countries and globally. I would want a different ideal and it would be a collegiate ideal where you accept that you belong both to an individual school and a wider community, and that the individual school you belong to made sure that you had sets of experiences that brought you into contact with other people.

  305. But one thing we know about human beings is that they respond with fierce allegiance, almost more fiercely and more attached, the smaller the unit is. To give you an example of my own area. People will wax lyrical and get passionate about Huddersfield but they will not get passionate about Kirklees. The identity problem that some of us see about collegiates is that you would have to be very careful because you do need that attachment and that passion about an organisation and if you are not careful the collegiate would be too big, too amorphous and just be an administrative entity, and surely it would not work if it was just an administrative entity?
  (Professor Brighouse) It certainly would not work. It should not be an administrative entity, that is not its rationale. Its rationale is to bring together the teachers of like interest, to increase the sum of their intellectual curioristy, to make professional development together, to make sure they did come into contact with the further education and higher education community. Do not tell Brummies that you cannot identify with a big place; Brummies do.

  306. Do they feel passionate about the West Midlands?
  (Professor Brighouse) No, they do not, absolutely not. They do not feel passionate about things that are smaller as well. They do feel quite passionate about the English football team actually. I do not think size is necessarily the issue. I think how organisations are run makes the difference as to whether people identify with them. I am absolutely sure that if a collegiate were identifying awards and had sports teams, etcetera, etcetera, people would begin to identify. People would identify in a way that they really like. If it were a substitute for a boring LEA and a dull old administrator like me, and I can think of other smaller groups that appear to be administrative within the city, then I am not absolutely sure that it would work, but it would work if—

Mr Chaytor

  307. I think the concept is really interesting, because it is very largely what has applied in a local authority like Bury for the last 25 years, ever since it went comprehensive. It is a collegiate and there is this dual identity between the wider neighbourhood. How many years do you think it would take before a collegiate in Birmingham would have a joint budget and joint management structure between a school like King Edward's Grammar School and George Dixon School?
  (Professor Brighouse) Until you brought in the illustration, I was comfortable. When you gave the illustration—if I took the Catholic Partnership rather than the King Edward Partnership, the Catholic schools do identify with the Catholic partnership, and it overcomes that problem. But it has taken them ten years to get to a point where they are. They do pool budgets, they have got shared management, they do pull people together, they do have pupil experiences, and they are acting as a coach to the development of our collegiates. I think our collegiates will add impetus to the greater movement towards collegiates. The Catholics did it with absolutely no outside encouragement at all. I would say it will take three, four or five years.

  308. There is a mutuality of interest within a Catholic partnership that there is not within—
  (Professor Brighouse) I am absolutely sure if you ask me how the Oaks Collegiate will be going in two or three years' time that it will be impressive and it will be making progress both in professional development of people, opportunities, and the use of the learning technologies, and people will not want to go back. I am confident because I know the people. I know the staff and teachers and support staff and they will make it work. When you introduce the wider possible disagreements, then I think you are talking about longer periods. For instance, I would have—and this is heresy but why not have the heresy—independent schools involved in the collegiate. Why should they not be involved in the collegiate and pool some of their resource? Indeed, we have got one of our collegiates seriously thinking about doing that with an independent school. The King Edward Foundation has had a profound influence on the city. I have had some discussions with the King Edward Foundation and I am going to have some more discussions with them because they are a collegiate in themselves. I think they identify with the individual school rather than the whole, very frequently, and I admire the way that the Foundation makes sure that they all have fair shares. But when you look at the King Edward Foundation's original purpose, then I would hope in the spirit of co-operation that they would want to join in the collegiates. Do not forget that there are long histories and long determinations that things have been in a certain direction and it is going to require a lot of energy and a lot of shared moral purpose and a determination. If we really want for other people's kids what we want for our own kids we need some solution like this. I am not unhopeful.


  309. To turn back to Birmingham for a moment and bring you back to the gap that seems to be here. If you look at the stats in terms of skills that Birmingham people have today and the skills that Birmingham needs today and tomorrow, all the evidence shows that there is a skills gap. What struck us as we talked to people that we have met this week—and they were very forthcoming with their hopes and aspirations for the future—many of them kept saying it is an odd world, is it not, where we are in Birmingham are building things, constructing things, all sorts of stuff is going on here that needs people with good skills, craft skills very often, and yet at the same time there are large numbers of young men and women who are unemployed and who have no aspiration to get those skills. With so many organisations here, as in all metropolitan areas, at some level one gets the feeling that they are not all knitting together quite well enough to cross this skills gap. This Committee in a sense is responsible for this. We spend a lot of our time on education and not enough perhaps on skills. It does seem in a city like this that there is this gap and no-one really is doing much about it. We have found there is tremendous potential for young people who are not going on to higher education. All the information is they are not going on to higher education but they have a lot of talent and no-one is giving them a chance to get the skills to enhance themselves.
  (Professor Brighouse) You have had evidence from the Learning and Skills Council and they have done a pretty good analysis and are pretty clear that they are working with our Excellence in Cities partnership in order to ensure that there is a better match and understanding of what is needed in future. I have a caveat, which is that our manpower planning record is not a very good one. If you had in the 1970s turned out lots of car workers in Birmingham they might be unemployed now, and yet they were encouraged to think that was the case. If you think of the rate of change, our capacity to predict what is needed is a bit doubtful, so I take a slightly different view from yours, and I know that yours is much better founded, and that is I would argue that I want all the young people to believe that they have got talent, that they should give it absolutely everything to develop that talent in whatever direction that talent is taking them, without too much regard for the local communities because as I hear them now, they say, "There isn't a job in Shard End", and I am wondering, "Why are you thinking about Shard End." They say, "There isn't a job in Birmingham", and I am thinking, "Why are you thinking of Birmingham?" because the more educated you are the more you are widening the horizons of what you can do. The fact that two of my children live and work in the United States, and always will do, is a matter of regret because I cannot get there as often and see them and those particular grandchildren, but I am pleased that they saw that the horizon was wider than a local or a national horizon and, frankly, if we have a shortage of bricklayers just at the moment and we have a shortage of plumbers—and, as I understand it, they can command a salary of 60,000 a year to be a bricklayer and an Aston Villa footballer can earn 60,000 a week—I cannot say the bricklayer is under-paid. I am not noticing that the buildings are not going up. They seem to be going up at a rate of knots. What I would want is for all our population in Birminghaming to believe that they can contribute to the world and that they have got a special talent and they can do it. I do mean all of them. I do not want to restrict it. They have all got a talent of different sorts. Many of those with special educational needs have a talent for people, for example, that is enviable or they have got a talent where their barriers to learning do not get in the way of them doing it. I would not want to get too preoccupied with circumscribing geographically the match of skill need with pupil aspiration.

  310. I was not trying to drag us back to the 1960s version of manpower personnel planning. I suppose what I was really trying to get at was the fact that many of us discontent about education in schools at the schools I went to and you went to. At some of the schools we have looked at here perhaps this is less true, but traditionally in a typical classroom you have seen all the awards and plaudits go to the traditional academic child who is bright, passes exams, gets ticks, Brownie points and all the rest. There is a very large percentage of that class that very rarely gets ticks and Brownie points and passes at the highest level of exams. Why I am asking you is because here you seem to have instituted a system that rewards and encourages the self-esteem of the others.
  (Professor Brighouse) Certainly I would say that is what we are trying to do. If you look back to our guarantees, that is what we set out to do. That is why we have promoted the idea of Gardner's view of intelligence. Back to your point about what do you do with kids at risk? You should take a profile of their preferred learning styles and their range of talents when they go to secondary school. Certainly we have tried to do that but it is within a national context which still emphasises the elements that you are describing. Lots of the things you have asked me in terms of questions are institutional viruses that get in the way of a—and I almost used the word—comprehensive view of human talents and achievement. But you are putting your finger on an important issue which is the marking systems which operate within schools, the groupings of children within schools, the awards arrangements within schools are speaking volumes to the children about what is or is not valued. I think it is terrific that so many of our schools have a catholic view of talent, intelligence and success. It is good for the kids because they are very different.

Jonathan Shaw

  311. One of the issues that we have discussed this morning and which has been raised throughout our visit, is the attainment of African Caribbean boys in particular. Should the Government be seriously concerned about this, particularly because of the lack of role models in the classroom, and adopt a market force approach, in the way that they have for overcoming the shortage of teachers with 6,000 to do a PGCE and with further financial incentives for subjects where there are shortage such as maths and science. Should the Government think, "If we are so short of African Caribbean teachers, should we pay them more and offer them more financial incentives?"
  (Professor Brighouse) Until the very last I thought this was a nice easy question I could answer, but the little bit at the end made me realise that it was a very, very tricky question indeed. There is no doubt that individual schools have made a difference to African Caribbean children across the board. We can show you examples of that both at primary level and secondary level. You will have heard of our "Raising of African-Caribbean Achievement". Through key stage one and two, and now going through key stage three, we are tracing a group of pupils at secondary school to see their achievement and see what are the issues that matter. Role models are important, of course they are, and the more people we can attract into our schools that reflect a diverse range of both our faiths and ethnic background the better would be the performance. Indeed, irrespective of that, I think that all our teachers need to set out within a community like this to learn more about another culture, whatever that other culture is. It would so improve our cultural understanding and avoid us missing each other and passing each other, which is happening. You must have received evidence that there is a perception that that is happening. All those things need to be done. If you ask me would I pay somebody more because they are of a particular ethnic background, the answer is no I would not. Not for that reason.


  312. Have you read Professor David Gillborn's report commissioned by an organisation in the City on African Caribbeans?
  (Professor Brighouse) Yes, I have.

  313. Did you agree with the findings?
  (Professor Brighouse) The broad thrust of the findings, yes. I have got criticisms of that report, do not get me wrong, but the broad thrust of the finding, which is that we have got a long way to go in order to listen to and to gain the confidence of the various communities, is right. The fact that some of those communities do have trust is a good beginning but there is a long, long way to go. That is the thrust of the report and in that sense, yes, I accept that. In practice, I think that the report uses our data and a number of opinions, and what we had hoped we would get was some comparative data from other places and practices from other places. What we have done in Birmingham is create a database that is enviable and we try to describe our practices, but we are desperate to know of other people's practices that work. We went to Professor Gillborn in the hope that he would be able to give us that but he has pointed out to us that a) he is bound by the confidentiality of the study he did for DfES and b) he confided to us he thought there was so little information in other places that we would not be able to learn from it. The last I found really worrying.

Valerie Davey

  314. Does the scope have to be within this country? One of the things that Bristol has done recently in its police force is to bring overseas police on secondment. Is that a possible option within the context we are now speaking?
  (Professor Brighouse) I am all in favour of secondments and I am all in favour of learning from other places. For instance, we have a sister city, Chicago, and we have done some in-depth comparisons with Chicago. I would certainly be arguing that, for example, if London wants to solve its problems it should look at what has been happening in New York. International comparisons are hugely important and they are becoming much more important. Secondments are a very good way of doing it. If you are moving into the territory of shall we recruit people—

  (Professor Brighouse)—Good, because I do not think that is right.


  316. We have been quite impressed by your strategy to tackle the behaviour of particular groups of pupils and we went to your PRU yesterday and had an interesting talk across the board about pupil behaviour and how one deals with it in an intelligent way. Do you think the way you have done that has helped you retain staff? Is retention in the city better because you have better mechanisms than perhaps other local education authorities?
  (Professor Brighouse) If you will forgive me for saying so, I think your judgment is too generous. I think our service is excellent but it could be improved, and we could learn a lot more from other places. You are picking on an area where I am going away feeling that although we looked at that issue and got lots of commendation for looking at it right at the beginning—and we had some reports on excluded kids both at primary and secondary level about what we should doing, the schools made a lot of effort and that was good, we should have returned to it more frequently. I know my successor is going to have to return to that issue and examine the issue of behaviour from three points of view—what is in the child, what is in the community, and what is in the school. At the moment they are a bit out of kilter and all three need looking at. We have done lots of good work but I would not want us to be claiming that we are exceptional in that respect.

  317. Do you think that sort of work helps in teacher retention?
  (Professor Brighouse) It does undoubtedly. If you have got a very clear idea about curriculum and behaviour and you have got a good support service, of course it makes a difference. Incidentally, you really ought to look at those pupil surveys I was mentioning from Keele because when they started, which I think was in about 1990, children were asked about whether they were distracted by behaviour in class across the whole nation, it was a very big survey, and around about 29 per cent said they were distracted and could not get on with their work. That figure is now 40 per cent. That is a lot. Are you with me? So there is an issue. Secondly, if you examine that school by school, which nobody has done— nobody has done—it varies between 6 per cent and 60 per cent. You would have thought somebody ought to be researching in depth the schools that are very low and the schools that are very high to see if you could come to some general conclusions. I could guess what they would be and some of them would be the point you have made, which is you need good support from the outside and maybe some of the initiatives that have been taken by the government under Excellence in Cities are going to help even more, like the learning mentors and learning support units on site, etcetera.

Ms Munn

  318. I want to follow up on this issue of teacher retention and teacher recruitment because it is an issue raised pretty regularly with the Select Committee. Some of the issues we have just looked at are around pupil behaviour. Another issue which is often raised is teacher workload and the impact that has on both recruitment and retention. The thing I noticed in all the schools I went to was that they were using additional funds to do precisely what teachers want, which is to set in place structures and mechanisms that took off the teachers tasks that were not particularly teaching—setting up reprographic departments or home/school liaison for picking up very early kids not in school that morning and what is happening with that. Is that something which has been led from the schools or the local education authority?
  (Professor Brighouse) We have been aided in that by the professional teachers' associations who have urged us to consider those issues and give advice to schools to try to help schools think of it very perceptively. So, yes, we have urged that but I think there is an awful lot more we can do. We are glad that some of our schools are part of the national in-depth look at that. We have got one of our primary schools involved and I think there were 40 involved across the country, although I am not sure of the exact number. We have encouraged other schools to join in, to be associates of that, to learn about teacher overload. There are lots of things that affect overload. If you ever go into a large group of teachers and ask them to put their hands up if they enjoy teaching, you will get loads and loads of people putting their hands up. If you go in and you say, "Put your hand up if you enjoy marking?" you might occasionally get one or two who enjoy marking! I am making this point because teacher overload, the planning which has become greater as a result of accountability in OFSTED, and the marking which has become crucial in terms of OFSTED reports, and always should be crucial in terms of the kids, take more time than teaching, as any teacher will tell you. When you talk about overload, it is easy for them to say, "Look at what I have got to do, but actually the thing I am dreading is the marking and the preparation because it is really, really difficult." I think we should give far more attention to those two big issues than is being given. For instance, teachers planning their work together is undoubtedly more energy-creative than doing it alone, and doing it in school rather than at home on a Sunday makes a difference. Using the learning technologies—and I mention here Active Maths as an example which is a key stage 3 thing from one of the commercial suppliers, I think it is REA- takes the heat out of both planning and marking and substantially reduces the marking load. Some of the things I was describing to you about formative assessment and assessment for learning takes the heat out of the marking. There are loads and loads of issues it seems to me should be debated about planning and marking which I think would have a profound effect on teacher workload. We are not having that debate widely and openly enough. If you ask schools when did you last have a debate about marking from that point of view, you usually get a resounding silence, so I personally would like to push those two issues.

  319. I suppose the other end of that was recruiting not just specifically to Birmingham but recruiting people generally in the teaching profession. One of the examples we saw was the Graduate Teaching Programme which seemed to bring people in from other professions and where they have got life experience that gives them a presence in the classroom. They are getting a lot out of the benefits of teaching. What more can we be doing to make teaching an attractive profession? All the young people we saw in schools were saying, "Our teachers are great, our teachers are brilliant", and when we asked, "How many of you want to become a teacher?" there were very, very few of them. What should we be doing?
  (Professor Brighouse) There are three things I will say immediately. One point is a small one and it does relate back to your question about the recruitment of people from ethnic minorities. We run a thing called MERIITT, which is Minority Ethnic Recruitment Into Initial Teacher Training. We have run it for years. It was working with Wolverhampton University initially and now Westhill which is part of Birmingham University to say to people if you have got certain qualifications you are at instructor level and we can develop you into being a teacher. That is one way of doing it. We have done that and worked with higher education in the area so that their recruitment into the different ethnic minority communities will mean more teachers for us in the long run. That sort of approach helps. The second thing is—and I regret you have not done this and it is a fault in my thinking about it—I would urge you to take evidence from the College of Food, Fashion Tourism and Creativity, which is an HE institution immediately outside here, because they have got a ladder of opportunity which grows people locally in addition to the graduate route so that people who are—and I would never want to call anyone a classroom assistant—learning assistants—can improve their skills as learning assistants and while working get themselves into a route that increases their qualifications and gets them into teaching. That is particularly important in metropolitan urban areas where you are trying to tackle employment, so you want to multiply the para-professional jobs but increase the ladder of higher educations qualifications for a local community because it gives a community strength. My third would be relating to your point which is around those young people who want to go into teaching. I get invited to go to awards evenings lots, as I expect you do. You must be faced with the conundrum, as I am, that if you are meeting 400 young people, how do you make that moment feel an individual moment. I have solved it, and I invite you to take part in a wider research project, in terms of year nine, ten, 11 and 12. I am a bit pushed in years seven and eight where I ask them which books they like and what their hobbies are. When I get to years nine, ten, 11 and 12, I ask them what they are going to do in life. At the end I sometimes tease the head and school by saying, "We spend 130 million each year on OFSTED to see that our schools are alright. I can do this in a matter of minutes. Do you know", I say, "if on an evening like this I ask what they are all going to do, if none of them want to be teachers, I am in a bad school." I usually leave it there for a while to hang in the air! I have to say I am not so cruel that I use it when there is a bad answer. There are lots of kids who want to be teachers. For instance, in Great Barr I stopped counting at 40. What I would do in year 12 after the GCSEs, where there is a sense of commitment that they do want to be teachers, I would have a work shadowing programme, I would have a bursary programme, I would make them feel really good about teaching, I would let them see lots of experience, I would give them tasters, I would say, "This is the noblest profession of all. This is the profession that creates society and you could not be doing a better thing." If we all did that—and higher education could perhaps cough up the money to make the link, it is not much—we would start to cure the problem. There are three things we could do.


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