Memorandum from the Secondary Heads Association
1. The Secondary Heads Association (SHA)
welcomes the opportunity to provide evidence to the Select Committee
on the progress of the government's education policies.
2. The key stage 3 strategy is largely welcomed
by school leaders. Its implementation has provided schools with
useful resources and training, but has not been as prescriptive
as we had feared. When the initial strands of literacy and numeracy
are extended to other subjects, there is concern that schools
will be overloaded with initiatives.
3. The new post-16 curriculum, which has
SHA's support, has been badly introduced and has caused many problems
for schools. The government must learn lessons from this situation.
A one-year lead time in schools for all new curriculum initiatives
and syllabuses should be standard practice.
4. SHA welcomes the government's adoption
of a 14 to 19 timeframe and looks forward to the forthcoming Green
Paper, although we note the irony of the eventual adoption of
14-19 by the government so soon after it has established a split
of powers at age 16 for funding and planning.
5. SHA believes that a radical review of
external examinations and assessment should be urgently undertaken
and that the extent of national testing and examinations should
6. Initiative overload in 2001 was characterised
by the expectation for schools to manage simultaneously the first
year of the key stage 3 strategy, the introduction of AS, preparation
for A2 and the new GCSE syllabuses. This was unreasonable and
suggests the lack of an overview by QCA and the DfES.
7. SHA believes that the policy of increasing
diversity between schools is wrong and will not necessarily raise
standards overall. A hierarchy of schools is being created. Commitment
to a comprehensive system of secondary schools points to the need
for diversity within schools, rather than between them. A status
of specialist community schools would do much to help schools,
particularly in rural areas, which seek to serve the needs of
all the pupils in the area, who may have no other choice of school.
8. SHA has put forward its ideas on schools
of the future and is delighted that the Secretary of State, in
her speeches to the Social Market Foundation and the North of
England Conference, has articulated similar ideas. The capacity
for schools to federate under a single Principal would enable
groups of schools to create Community Learning Centres, which,
in SHA's view, should be the goal of schools in the future.
9. SHA is disappointed at the measures on
autonomy in the Education Bill. SHA members do not want autonomy
in pay and conditions and they do not believe that autonomy in
curriculum should have to be earned in the manner described. Greater
autonomy and less central prescriptiveness would, however, be
most welcome to school leaders.
10. SHA has identified 71 different funding
streams to schools and has noted over 50 different funding announcements
by the government since the 2001 general election. This is not
a sensible way to fund schools and makes financial planning very
difficult. We need to move rapidly towards a national funding
entitlement, which is more equitable and transparent than the
present system and which does not have so many sub-divisions.
11. The teacher shortage crisis remains
a major concern for school leaders. The seriousness of the situation
in September 2001 was mitigated only by the Herculean efforts
of school leaders, although they were dissatisfied with some of
the appointments they had to make from the available applicants.
We believe that much hangs on the results of the discussions on
teacher workload and it will be necessary for the government to
recognise that workload has to be reduced, not merely better managed.
12. Performance pay is perhaps the greatest
concern of school leaders at the present time, since the prospect
of introducing a post-threshold upper pay spine with inadequate
funding threatens the fragile edifice of performance management.
The threshold itself was introduced with far too much bureaucracy
and imposed an unreasonable burden on head teachers.
13. SHA remains deeply concerned at the
way in which school performance is measured. The proportion of
pupils gaining 5 A-C grade passes is a woefully inadequate measure.
SHA believes that league tables should be abolished, as they create
too many perverse incentives for schools and work against the
pursuit of many aspects of government policy.
14. There is much concern about the transfer
of responsibility for post-16 education to the Learning and Skills
Councils, which harbour little expertise in full-time post-16
education. There is considerable fear that LSCs will introduce
massive additional bureaucracy into schools. It remains to be
seen whether the huge responsibilities of LSCs for funding and
planning post-16 can be sustained into the 14-19 era.
15. SHA welcomes the support given by the
Select Committee to the LGA Commission's proposals for a six-term
yearparticularly the longer October break and the fixing
of the April holiday to produce consistent term lengths.
Secondary Heads Association