Government's response to the Fifth Report from the
Education and Skills Committee, Session 2004-05.
The Committee's conclusions and recommendations are
in bold text. The Government's response is in plain text.
Diversity of Provision
An Ofsted evaluation has found that specialist
schools are performing better than other schools and that they
have made significant improvements over the last three years.
The Government welcomed this Ofsted evaluation which
recognises that specialist schools are now an established part
of the system and the programme is acting as a catalyst for accelerated
Ofsted concluded that, compared with other schools,
specialist schools do well against a range of indicators; the
quality of teaching in specialist schools is generally better
than in non-specialist schools; the approach to inclusion has
improved since the last report; there have been significant improvements
in the community role of specialist schools; and the range and
quality of provision has improved in these schools.
Identified weaknesses are being addressed with the
input of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) and
Youth Sports Trust.
Recommendations 2, 3 and 5
The effect of certified good management practices
and of extra funding alone may account for better results regardless
of whether a school has chosen to specialise in a particular subject
area. We have not received any evidence to resolve this important
question. Nor has there been any assessment of levels of achievement
in schools before they were awarded specialist status and how
that affects subsequent results.
We do not accept the Government's assertion that
it would be too difficult to measure the relative effect of the
various factors involved in the Specialist School programme. We
believe that it is important to determine whether the extra funding,
the specialist focus or the designation process is responsible
for the improvement in performance displayed by most specialist
schools. We therefore reiterate our call for further research
in this area, to ensure that the factors behind the improvement
of specialist schools are fully understood.
If the Government's Five Year Strategy
is implemented, the Specialist Schools programme will become the
universal model for secondary education. We are therefore concerned
that the reasons for the comparatively good performance displayed
by many specialist schools are still not securely established.
This seems to undermine the Government's commitment to evidence-based
policy. Without being able to weigh the relative importance of
the factors involved in the achievements of specialist schools,
the Government cannot be assured that the roll out of this programme
will have the desired results, or that the success of the current
group of specialist schools will automatically be replicated elsewhere.
The Government can point to plenty of evidence that
the Specialist Schools programme is raising standards.
- Qualitative study (commissioned
by DfES) by Warwick University on 18 specialist schools published
on 25 November 2004.
- GCSE results: 2005 results show that specialist
schools continue to outperform non-specialists on their GCSE results58.8%
of specialist schools achieved 5+ A*-C GCSEs compared to 47.1%
of non-specialist schools.
- The KS2-4 value-added measure in 2004 was 991.9
in specialist schools compared to 979.7 in non-specialists
- Specialist schools have a broadly similar profile
to the average maintained secondary school in many respectsfor
example, 31% of specialist schools are in areas of deprivation
compared to 34% of all schools; and 15.3% of specialist school
pupils are of ethnic origin other than white British, compared
to a national average of 15.8%. There is evidence that specialist
schools add particular value in disadvantaged contexts: they secure
especially good outcomes compared to non-specialists in bands
of schools with higher Free School Meals incidence.
The PAC in their 19th report noted that, "Adjusted
performance measures also show that specialist schools, faith
schools, Beacon schools and single sex schools do better than
average. The strengths of these schools, such as a strong set
of values and ethos, should be identified by the Department and
promoted across the school sector."
One of the main findings of Ofsted's second evaluation
of specialist schools was that being a specialist school makes
a difference. They attributed the key factors contributing to
a climate of improvement to be: working to declared targets; dynamic
leadership by key players; a renewed sense of purpose; the willingness
to be a pathfinder; targeted use of funding and being part of
an optimistic network of like-minded schools.
The Government continues to believe it would be a
mistake to delay extension of the Specialist Schools programme
while formal evaluations are completed which can take years. It
also continues to believe it to be very difficult, without a control
group, to identify causal links where schools may be participating
in several school improvement programmes all with similar aims
and where, like the Specialist Schools programme, there are a
collection of factors at work.
So, whilst remaining confident that the programme
does contribute towards school improvement we are keen to learn
as much as possible from differential levels of performance within
it; for example, why schools which have been in the programme
longest seem to perform best and whether there are differences
in performance between subject specialisms.
Our evidence suggests that schools in less affluent
areas continue to experience difficulties in raising the funds
necessary to attain specialist status and we urge the Government
to monitor this issue closely.
The Government regards the requirement to raise sponsorship
as a critical component of the Specialist Schools programme. It
helps schools build links with businesses on curriculum and school
management; contributes to the income for the specialist school's
capital project, and unites the school around effort to attain
specialist status. As set out in Chapter 2 of the White Paper,
Higher Standards, Better Schools for All: More Choice for
Parents and Pupils, specialist schools have drawn enormous
energy, drive and expertise from the contribution of sponsors
in developing their individual character and ethos.
However, we accept that some schools, despite best
endeavours, have been unable to raise the full £50,000. In
those cases, the Partnership Fund exists to provide support.
The Government monitors applications closely and
each of the four 6 monthly rounds, beginning in July 2003, has
resulted in offersaveraging £25kto over 300
schools. Requests for access have dropped in each of the 6 monthly
rounds since July 2003 from 193 to 66.
There is an inherent conflict between the former
Secretary of State's stated aspiration that children should attend
their local school and the way in which the specialist schools
model is often presented by Ministers as an expansion of choice
The Government sees no conflict. Within 2 years we
will have a fully specialist school system, where every school
which wishes to and which meets the standard will have at least
one specialism. Particularly in urban areas, this will offer greater
choice so that parents can choose a school which suits their child's
strengths and interests. Specialist schools raise improvement
in their own schools, but there is also increasing evidence of
collaborative working to share expertise in their specialism across
schools. The development of second and vocational specialisms,
with reference to the pattern of provision already available in
each area, is further extending choice. We want every school to
improve, so parents have a choice amongst good, local schools
with different specialisms.
In its public pronouncements, the Government sometimes
seems confused about the kind of diversity it wishes to promote
in secondary education. In its Five Year Strategy,
it states that the personalisation of the curriculum will be an
important objective. This objective need not necessarily be associated
with the existence of different types of school. The Government
must therefore demonstrate how diversity in types of school will
contribute to its aims of diversity within schools.
The Government's ultimate objective is education
tailored to the individual needs and aptitudes of young people.
It believes that the Specialist Schools programme is showing how
excellence built from a specialism can raise standards across
a school, not just in the specialist subject. Furthermore, the
increasingly diverse range of centres of excellence across schools
is increasing the availability and understanding of high quality
provision available to the benefit, not just of pupils able to
access it directly, but to schools in specialist networks, federations
and Education Improvement Partnerships (EIPs) who can share expertise.
Increasingly, schools are collaborating not only amongst themselves,
but with a range of other providers, for example FE colleges and
work-based training providers, to offer greater flexibility and
choice in the 14-19 curriculum. Evidence from the 14-19 pathfinders
programme shows, in particular, that specialist schools have increasingly
become integrated into the 14-19 agenda with their facilities
and expertise being made available to widen curricular opportunities
for students in other schools.
As stated in Chapter Two of the White Paper Higher
Standards, Better Schools for All: More Choice for Parents and
Pupils, at least 500 of our most successful specialist schools
will have the opportunity to take on a more significant role leading
the local system.
We recognise that secondary education has failed
in some inner city areas and we understand the temptation to believe
that Academies are the solution. Yet £5 billion is a lot
of money to commit to one programme. The Government could have
limited the number of Academies to 30 or 50 and carried out an
assessment of their effectiveness before expanding the programme
so significantly. Whilst we welcome the Government's desire to
invest resources in areas of educational underachievement, we
consider that the rapid expansion of the Academy policy comes
at the expense of rigorous evaluation.
The communities that will be served by Academies
are particularly vulnerable and have suffered from many years
of inadequate education provision. We welcome the Government's
desire to invest in schools serving these communities. But the
Government should ensure that the current programme of Academies
is thoroughly evaluated, both in respect of the performance of
individual academies and the impact of neighbouring schools, before
embarking on a major expansion of an untested model.
We fail to understand why the DfES is putting
such substantial resources into Academies when it has not produced
the evidence on which to base the expansion of this programme.
We recommend that the Department publish its existing evaluation
of Academies, making clear the limitations of the research due
to the small number of schools involved.
We welcome the success of Academies which have
raised educational standards in areas of historical underachievement.
However, we observe that other Academy schools seem not to have
produced results compared to the school that was previously on
As the Government continually repeats, the development
of the Academies programme is still in its early stages. As yet,
the evidence for and against the initiative is primarily anecdotal.
What evidence there is paints a mixed picture. Despite the paucity
of evidence, the Government is enthusiastically pushing forward
with the programme and with new Academies. We caution against
this approach and urge the DfES to monitor carefully the performance
of Academies and adjust its policies accordingly. In particular,
the Government should consistently measure the proportion of pupils
entitled to Free School Meals and the number of exclusions in
Higher Standards, Better Schools for All: More
Choice for Parents and Pupils confirms
a clear position for Academiestackling the acute challenges
in areas of real and historical underachievement. The alternative
to not pressing ahead with the Academies programme in these schools
is to allow children to continue to be failed by the education
Academies are already achieving significant success
in raising standards, improving pupils' behaviour and attendance
and in attracting applications. Although it is still early days
for the programme, there have already been some encouraging results.
The most recent annual report from the PwC evaluation, published
in full in June this year, found that:
- of parents are satisfied with
the quality of education provided to their child at the Academy.
80% stated that the Academy was the school of choice for their
- out of 10 pupils said that "teachers at
the Academy really believe that all pupils can achieve" and
similar numbers of staff surveyed said "staff at this Academy
believe that all pupils can achieve regardless of their social
- of parents feel "the principal is really
interested in how our children learn at the Academy"
- of staff think that their principal "really
believes that this Academy can make a difference to pupils' learning
whatever their family background"
- of staff think that the sponsor's resources have
had a positive impact on pupils' learning.
The PwC evaluation concludes that Academies are beginning
to make solid progress in raising educational standards. Academies
are popular with parents and pupils and invariably receive far
more applications than their predecessor schools, and some are
already heavily oversubscribed. Pupil attendance is increasing.
In 2003, their first year, the average 5+ A*-C GCSE
results in the three open Academies was 24%, compared to an average
of 16% in their predecessor schools in 2002.
In 2004 the Academy schools achieved close to 30%
5+ A*-Cs. This included improvements at Capital City Academy,
Brent, from 14% to 29% and of 26% to 33% at the City Academy,
In 2005, of the 14 Academies taking GCSEs, 10 saw
rises on what they had achieved in 2004 and 12 had achieved results
greater than that of the predecessor schools which they replaced.
The average increase in results per Academy from 2004-2005 was
6.6%, and the average result across all Academies was 36.4%.
We recognise that a small number of Academies are
taking longer to resolve the longstanding issues that affected
their predecessor schools. In all these cases, our first concern
is of course for the students and to ensure that they are provided
with a good quality education. Everything we do must be measured
against that objective. My officials are in very regular contact
with the Academies concerned, working closely with sponsors and
other sources of support, to implement robust packages of further
intensive intervention and ensure that progress is made.
Academies are located in areas of deprivation, tackling
deep-seated problems, similar to all schools in similar circumstances.
Academies are continuing to serve disadvantaged communities, as
demonstrated by the proportion of pupils entitled to Free School
Meals. The national average in recent years is constant at 14%
(of pupils eligible for Free School Meals); for Academies the
average is 37%. We do monitor the fact that Academies are continuing
to serve children in deprived areas in terms of investment in
new schools. Of the 2004 Year 7 pupil intake to Academies, 33%
were entitled to Free School Meals; this rose to 37% of the intake
Academies are established in disadvantaged areas
where generations of pupils have been denied a good education.
Some Academies have often inherited a large number of challenging
pupils, and some have been excluded. We maintain that Heads should
have the power to exclude seriously disruptive pupils.
However, these schools are working hard on behaviour
issues with the result that behaviour is improving. The number
of exclusions has fallen in many Academies compared with that
of their predecessor school or schools.
The Manchester Academy has reduced exclusions in
its first year by more than 80%: there were 272 days of fixed
term exclusions in the last year of the predecessor school (Ducie
High School), compared to 50 days in the Academy in 2004.
At the City Academy, Bristol, exclusions in the summer
term 2004 were down by 80% on the previous year at the predecessor
The Government should monitor the effect of Academies
on neighbouring schools in terms of funding (including the creation
of surplus places at neighbouring schools) and staffing (e.g.
the loss of well-qualified teachers at one school to a nearby
Academy with a sixth form).
The five-year independent PwC evaluation of the Academies
programme is examining the effect on neighbouring schools. The
PwC publishes an evaluation report each year with its interim
findings on the effect of the Academies programme; the most recent
report found that "Initial indications are that attainment
in the main secondary schools whose primary feeder schools overlap
with those of the Academies has not been adversely affected by
the presence of the new Academies. In fact, all the main overlapping
intake schools of the Academies that opened in 2002 are making
significant progress in terms of pupil attainment, with increases
in performance at GCSE at or above the rate of national improvement."
We agree that the participation of an enthusiastic
and committed private sponsor might benefit a school. But once
again, the DfES does not seem to have set up a rigorous enough
structure to evaluate the effects of sponsorship. It might be
prudent to establish a small number of Academies without sponsors
so that the effect of sponsorship can be properly monitored and
tested, or to examine the role of sponsorship in different characters
in CTCs. The Department should also consider allowing donors to
sponsor schools which are not Academies on the same basis, in
order to measure the effectiveness of sponsorship even more accurately.
The role of the sponsor is key to the Academies programme.
Sponsors bring successful external experience, perspective and
challenge. They also bring personal commitment, energy, drive
and ambition. The recent PwC evaluation found "strong confidence
in the role of sponsors", with 78% of staff agreeing that
the sponsor brings expertise that would not otherwise be available
to the Academy, and 82% of staff agreeing that the sponsor's resources
had a positive impact on pupils' learning.
Higher Standards, Better Schools for All: More
Choice for Parents and Pupils describes
how the Government will, through the introduction of Trust Schools,
now enable and encourage external partners to develop deeper relationships
with all schools, not just Academies. All schools will be able
to acquire the support of a charitable Trust, formed by a business,
faith group, successful local school or a local voluntary, community
or parent group. Trusts will not be expected to make a financial
contribution: they will support schools by appointing governors.
Where a Trust is formed by a large organisation it might offer
schools access to facilities and management expertise; and where
it supports several schools a Trust could enable the group to
develop a common ethos and identity, and collaborate in developing
innovative approaches and sharing best practice.
THE RHETORIC OF DIVERSITY
Despite the Government's proclaimed attachment
to evidence-based policy, expensive schemes seem to be rolled
out before being adequately tested and evaluated compared to other
less expensive alternatives.
The Government believes in offering diversity and
choice across the school system. It will continue to conduct evaluations
of our major programmes and use these to inform future policy
The Academies programme, for example, is being evaluated
through an independent five year longitudinal study, by PwC, which
reports on progress on an annual basis. But the Government does
not agree it should wait five years for the final outcomes of
the study. Children in deprived areas with no access to a good
school get only one chance in life and it is wrong to deny them
access to the radical break with the past which Academies represent.
The Academies programme is building on the experiences of the
CTC programme and the Government will be taking on board the lessons
from PwC's evaluation as the programme develops.
Measuring and raising achievement
Recommendation 16 and 18:
We welcome the use of value-added measurements,
which are a useful addition to the range of data available to
parents judging the quality of a school.
The debate surrounding the merits of the grammar
school system is longstanding, but cannot be clarified without
a method of performance management that all parties agree is fair.
The Department is in the process of developing a
more sophisticated value added methodology, known as contextual
value added (CVA). In addition to prior attainment, CVA will take
account of other factors that have been observed to impact on
performance but which are outside a school's control, such as
gender, ethnicity, Special Educational Needs (SEN) status and
levels of pupil mobility and deprivation. This will further enhance
the data available to parents and the public.
The Committee noted that grammar schools sometimes
feel disadvantaged by the policy of capping performance at 8 GCSEs
in the value added measure. CVA will still cap at 8 GCSEs as the
Government does not feel it would be appropriate to offer an incentive
to accumulate more qualifications than are educationally valuable:
schools have supported this approach when consulted in the past.
But CVA does allow it to measure school effectiveness more realistically
and therefore more fairly. By taking account of a much broader
range of factorsincluding pupil-level information and information
relating to the prior attainment of the rest of the cohort within
the school (average prior attainment and spread of prior attainment)it
is better able to 'level the playing field' and more accurately
reflect the impact each school makes with reference to the particular
circumstances of its intake.
The Government publishes separately each school's
total (uncapped) average point score.
Struggling schools should not be allowed to lag
behind, when their peers are managing to add value.
Higher Standards, Better Schools for All: More
Choice for Parents and Pupils (Chapter
2) describes how the Government is committed to the speedy replacement
of fundamentally weak schools by new schools. The new Ofsted inspection
regime will be more frequent, shorter and incisive. A 'satisfactory'
grading will not be awarded where a school is found to have any
elements of unsatisfactory performance, with inadequate schools
receiving an improvement notice, or where there are severe problems,
being placed in Special Measures.
This is in addition to much relevant work already
underway. For example:
- The Secondary Performance Project
has involved 474 schools over a period of two years to raise standards
at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. The schools were identified on
the basis of contextual value added analysis of the 2003 data.
All of the schools had results between 30% and 70% at GCSE but
contextual value added analysis showed them to be in the bottom
25% in terms of value added at both key stages. The schools were
also not benefiting from support from Excellence in Cities (EiC)
or Leadership Improvement Grant (LIG). Progress has been impressive
and the rate of improvement at GCSE has been nearly twice as much
as for maintained schools nationally.
- A Secondary Intensive Support Programme Pilot
has been launched this term and is setting out to raise standards
in low-attaining secondary schools in 15 LEAs, and to build capacity
in order to sustain improvement. The target group of schools are
those who have remained at a low level of attainment for some
time. Many may have moved closer to, or even above, KS3 and KS4
floor targets at some stage, but have been unable to sustain this
improvement. The pilot is being co-ordinated by the Secondary
National GCSE targets do not themselves produce
improvements. Practical measures are needed to produce the rise
in standards that the Government desires.
2005 has seen the eighth successive year of sustained
improvement in the percentage of pupils gaining 5 A*-C at GCSE.
There has been a 2 percentage point improvement between 2004 and
2005the biggest improvement for a decade. There has also
been a further large drop in the number of schools below the floor
targets. While national targets may not produce improvements by
themselves the Government believes they have a very significant
contribution to make in conditioning the approach to, and focus
of, school improvement.
Practical measures in place include:
- The encouragement of schools
to look at data, at school-, subject- and pupil-level, to identify
where progress is slower than it should be and to plan effectively
to meet the needs of all their pupils. Differences between subjects
for the same pupils in the same school can be considerable. Identifying
these variations and providing subject heads with the tools to
tackle them and ensure pupils have clear and appropriate individual
targets can make a real impact.
- Providing additional support to schools that
need it if they are to achieve the best for all their pupils.
School Improvement Partners (SIPs) will play an important role
in stimulating schools to identify that support. The Secondary
National Strategy (formerly the Key Stage 3 National Strategy)
already provides a range of resources to address underperformance
as well as low attainment. We expect the new and extended National
Strategy to improve the quality of teaching and learning in KS4,
and yield further improvements at GCSE.
- The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust has
programmes and materials which support school improvement and
will form part of the menu of support which schools can draw on.
A further practical measure which can contribute
to a rise in standards is collaboration between schools. Initiatives
such as Excellence in Cities (EiC) and Leadership Incentive Grant
(LIG) have demonstrated the potential impact in terms of developing
networks for CPD, for cross-collaborative pupil tracking for study
support and revision sessions and to develop 14-19 Curriculum
Pathways. The prospectus on Education Improvement Partnerships
sets out a framework for collaboration between groups of schools
and other providers. It sets out the principles underpinning effective
collaboration for school improvement and better service delivery
and gives practical examples of a range of functions currently
being delivered by partnerships.
Some secondary schools may only have 15% of pupils
in the top 50% ability range when they enter school. They can
hardly be described as comprehensive. It seems unreasonable to
expect 25% of the pupils in these schools to achieve five GCSEs
at grades A*-C by 2006.
The number of schools below the GCSE floor targets
continues to fall: the figures for schools below 20% 5 A*-C falling
from 381 in 1997 to 71 in 2004. In addition, many schools with
pupils from the most socially disadvantaged backgrounds already
achieve well above 25% 5 A*-C.
The Secondary National Strategy will continue to
assist such schools in raising pupil achievement at the age of
both 14 and 16, by helping teachers give careful attention to
pupils' individual learning needs, enabling them to set challenging
targets for them linked to high-quality assessment, and by offering
tools to teachers to make lessons pacy, challenging and enjoyable.
Data shows that some secondary schools, those that
add most value, significantly improve on pupil expectations which
have been based on their Key Stage 2 outcomes. According to matched
pupil-level data in 2004, about 9% of the pupils who entered secondary
school in 1999 below expected levels (i.e. Level 3) in English,
mathematics and science progressed on to get 5 A*-C GCSEs or equivalents.
Reaching the expected level in only English at age 11, more than
doubles a pupil's chances of gaining 5 A*-C. So it is not unreasonable
to expect all schools to ensure that at least 25% of their pupils
achieve 5 A*-C, particularly when there has been considerable
support provided by the National Strategies to raise the attainment
of low attaining pupils.
We said in the White Paper '14-19 Education and Skills'
that we would introduce a new indicator for reporting in the Achievement
and Attainment Tables which shows the proportion of young people
who have achieved 5 or more A*-C GCSEs and equivalent including
English and mathematics. This change is being piloted this year
with a view to full inclusion in the Tables for 2006 results,
alongside the existing 5 A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) measure. We
recognise that this raises the bar on schools' performance but
believe it is right to continue to push for even higher standards
in the basics.
Our proposals on personalisation in the White Paper
Higher Standards, Better Schools for All: More Choice for
Parents and Pupils are underpinned by a strong focus on supporting
schools to ensure every child masters the basics in English and
mathematics. They include providing every school, via the National
Strategies, with support and best practice guidance on tailoring
teaching, including through the deployment of leading teachers,
expert in supporting pupils who have fallen behind.
Instead of concentrating so much energy on the
setting of targets which fail to recognise the nature of a school's
intake, we recommend that the Government focus attention on factors
more likely to raise achievement.
1. The Target-Setting Process
- Targets continue to play an
essential part in the Government's commitment to raising educational
standards. Since 1998, schools and local authorities have set
targets for pupils' performance which have provided a powerful
stimulus for the improvements in educational standards demonstrated
in that time. Teachers and pupils are to be congratulated for
the commitment they have shown to making progress towards meeting
the ambitious national targets that we have set.
- During a series of conferences in 2003, Ministers
met head teachers and listened to their concerns over the way
in which local targets were set. As a result, the Government has
now moved to a fundamentally better system where schools and local
authorities can set targets that give them ownership of those
goals. As a result of the work we have done in building a New
Relationship with Schools, over time an individual School Improvement
Partner will work with the school's leadership in every school
to ensure that targets are realistic and achievable, based on
high expectations for the progress that individual pupils can
make and aligned with the school's circumstances, giving staff
ownership of the school's goals so as to help them focus on the
areas for improvement.
- Schools have welcomed the changes made to the
target-setting arrangements over the last two years. The annual
target-setting process now starts with schools setting targets
for their pupils based on prior attainment and the progress that
should be aspired to by each child. Building on the progress made
previously, schools have maintained high expectations for their
children and it is clear that there is no loss of ambition on
- The process now decouples local targets from
very ambitious national targets. The revision to instil a bottom-up
target-setting process is evidence that the nature of a school's
intake is fully recognised. It is at the heart of the targets
being set and is testament to the improvements we have seen in
both primary and secondary education.
- The Government believes it is vitally important
that schools have targets which they believe inwhich are
stretching but achievable and which are owned and signed up to
by everyone in the school. Empowering schools to set challenging
but appropriate targets for their individual pupils will help
ensure that, across the country as a whole, pupils are attaining
the expected level of achievement for their age.
2. Weaknesses in Key Stage 3
- The Key Stage 3 Strategy was
specifically established to address the issues of pupil progress
in that phase and has seen substantial successes. While its remit
has been extended, it remains focused on further improving progress
and attainment in Key Stage 3.
- Since its introduction in 2001, the Key Stage
3 National Strategy has done much to raise achievement and to
emphasise the importance of the early years of secondary education.
Key Stage 3 test results show the significant improvements that
have been made by 14-year-olds over recent years; English and
maths results have risen year on year for the last four years
and now 74% of pupils achieve the expected level in both English
and maths. In maths, more than half of pupils (53%) now achieve
higher than their expected level. Evidence from Ofsted also shows
that the Strategy is having a positive impact in the classroom
and is contributing significantly to the rise in attainment at
- The Government remains committed to the principles
and approaches of the Key Stage 3 National Strategy and have extended
them to form the Secondary National Strategy to cover the full
11-16 age range. It will continue to raise pupil achievement by
helping schools and teachers give careful attention to pupils'
individual learning needs, enabling them to set challenging targets
linked to high-quality assessment, and offering tools to teachers
to make lessons pacy, challenging and enjoyable.
3. The transfer from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage
3, where gains in achievement can be lost.
- In its Five Year Strategy,
the Department stated its commitment to improving transfer arrangements
between primary and secondary schools and a number of key initiatives
are already under way to support schools in this. The Secondary
National Strategy is supporting curricular continuity through
the use of transition units to be shared by primary and secondary
schools, as well as improving guidance for senior leaders exemplifying
effective practice in curriculum subjects. There is also a focus
on transfer issues through a number of projects that the Strategy
is undertaking, including work with underperforming pupils as
well as the consideration being given to innovative and flexible
curricular structures to ensure that schools can assist those
that need it most.
- The Common Transfer File and the 'Key to Success'
scheme have both helped to improve the transfer of pupil data
between schools and encouraged schools to work more collaboratively
with their partner schools and local authorities. The Strategy's
'Assessment for Learning' programme helps schools identify pupils'
learning needs, plan appropriate support and monitor pupil progression.
- The Department is keen to encourage schools and
local authorities to continue taking responsibility for planning
and implementing local transfer initiatives successfully. Schools
are encouraged to co-ordinate plans with their partner schools
and local authority, working through the School Improvement Partners.
It is also our intention to make tools available for schools to
assess their own effectiveness of transfer arrangements across
a range of areas and direct them to appropriate support to improve
their practices further.
- We restated our commitment to the development
of strong policies on transition in the White Paper Higher
Standards, Better Schools for All: More Choice for Parents and
Pupils. The document highlights the critical importance of
sharing pupil information between schools, ensuring continuity
in curriculum, teaching and learning, behaviour policies and the
full engagement of parents. The Primary and Secondary National
Strategies will be helping schools to assess the impact of work
to date in this area and to identify sources of further support.
4. The association between poverty and underachievement,
currently being addressed through the Government's reform of children's
services and initiatives such as extended schools.
- The Government seeks to raise
standards for all and particularly those from the most economically
deprived backgrounds where educational aspirations are often low.
This objective is being addressed in the following ways:
setting of targets is designed to improve outcomes for all pupils
and, like the "extended school" initiative, ties into
the whole philosophy behind the Government's Every Child Matters
(ECM) Green Paper (September 2003). The main objectives of ECM
are to ensure that children stay safe, are healthy, enjoy and
achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing.
Schools have a crucial role to playlocated at the heart
of the community, they are the most likely bases for the co-location
Directors of Children's Services are
now charged with ensuring that partnerships are in place between
health, social care and education so that children with the greatest
needs can be better supported.
The National Strategy has increasingly
focused support on those schools that are underachieving or low
attaining. This approach has seen a significant fall in the number
of schools below floor target at KS3 over recent years, with schools
with large numbers of pupils who are eligible for Free School
Meal showing the greatest improvements. We will continue to target
support towards those schools that need it most, as well as strengthening
support for underachieving groups of pupils. As Chapter 3 of Higher
Standards, Better Schools for All: More Choice for Parents and
Pupils makes clear, the National Strategy is also ensuring
that all schools focus on improving English and mathsa
prerequisite to overcoming economic and social disadvantage.
- Many schools are already offering
extended services and have demonstrated many benefits, including
improved attainment, attendance and behaviour for pupils and a
positive impact on parental involvement. Extended schools can
also support social regeneration and economic well-being through
bringing together different sectors of the community and through
enabling greater access to key community services and facilities.
To support schools in setting up and embedding their services,
the Government has committed considerable additional funding.
This is being made available through local authorities£160m
has already been invested over the period 2003-04 to 2005-06 to
support the development of extended schools. A further £680m
will be provided from 2006-2008.
5. School leadership, which has been identified
in Ofsted's Annual Report as an important factor affecting a school's
- The Government agrees that
effective leadership is key to transforming the school workforce
and raising the attainment of pupils. It is a key component of
the Five Year Strategy. That is why we have invested in
the National College for School Leadership (NCSL), the key agent
for transforming the quality of leadership in schools.
- The NCSL's next phase of work will build on its
achievements so far to ensure its future programmes are closely
tailored to meet the needs of future school leaders. This work
will draw on the key messages from school leaders, gathered at
a series of successful NCSL conferences over recent months.
- School leadership is a focus of the work being
undertaken by the Secondary National Strategy and this includes
extensive support for school leadership teams and for subject
leaders. It is a central focus of the pilot Secondary Intensifying
Support Programme being established with 60 schools in 15 local
authorities and designed to raise attainment in schools where
progress is currently below average.
Recommendations 22 and 23
The Committee has serious misgivings about the
use of figures from international comparison surveys in some documents
and the misleading conclusions that have been drawn when the conditions
and limitations of these tests have not been respected.
The data supplied by international educational
comparisons is both of interest and of use in the formulation
of education policy. Nevertheless, individual studies always have
their limitations and cannot alone form a sound basis on which
to build the foundations of a publicly funded school system. We
regret that the Government has sometimes placed too much emphasis
on the results of individual studies and has not treated them
with sufficient crucial distance.
The Department believes that international comparisons
of pupil attainment, such as the OECD Programme for International
Student Assessment (PISA) and the various IEA studies, notably
TIMSS and PIRLS, can offer unique and valuable insights into how
the outcomes of our education system compare with those of other
countries. The Department recognises the limitations of individual
studies and fully appreciates the need to treat their findings
with the necessary caution. The Department is committed to broadening
the evidence base on which sound policy decisions must be made.
We are concerned that England was not able to
be included in the most recent PISA results, even though the response
rate was similar to that of the previous survey. The responsibility
for this omission must lie with the DfES. We expect the Government's
measures to prevent this from happening again to be secure: it
would be unacceptable if this problem were to be repeated at the
next round of PISA in 2006.
In responding to comments on the omission of data
for England from the PISA 2003 report, it is appropriate here
to set out the rules of the PISA study, to enable a better appreciation
of the difficulties which the Department and its contractor faced
in 2003 and to understand the measures the Department is putting
in place to address participation rates in 2006.
School and pupil participation in PISA in England
is on a purely voluntary basis. However, interested schools cannot
volunteer themselves for participation, nor can the Department's
contractor for PISA simply approach schools at random with an
invitation to participate. In order to achieve a sample of schools
that reflects the national picture as closely as possible, a main
sample of (around 180) schools is drawn by the international PISA
sampling referee from a database of all schools in England which
have pupils of the relevant age. Schools in this sample are known
as 'first choice' schools. Only these schools, in the first instance,
can be approached by the Department's contractor and invited to
By the rules of the study, each country must achieve
an 85% school participation rate. However, if insufficient 'first
choice' schools agree to participate, the study organisers allow
countries to approach replacement schools to make up the numbers.
These replacement schools are specially selected to mirror the
characteristics of each of the 'first choice' schools in the main
sample, so, every 'first choice' school has a 'shadow' school
which is as close as possible to it in terms of size, pupil in-take,
location etc. If even the shadow school refuses to participate,
then there is scope to approach one further specified reserve
school. Beyond that, however, countries cannot approach further
schools to try to make up the numbers. In addition, if a country
needs to use shadow schools, the response rate criteria become
even more stringent. By the end of PISA 2003, the target school
response the Department's contractor needed to aim for was 96%.
To put this figure into perspective, an analysis of school surveys
conducted in the UK over the past ten years reveals that only
2 out of 74 have achieved a response rate of 85% or above, and
these were considerably less burdensome to administer than PISA.
PISA is by no means an insignificant undertaking
for schools and the Department does not underestimate the additional
workload that participation involves. Schools must provide the
contractor with a sample of pupils across two year groups (Years
10 and 11), seek the co-operation of those pupils and their parents,
find space within their timetables for the half a day's testing
that PISA requires and complete a background questionnaire that
requires some degree of reflection. Set against other competing
demands on schools' time, including requests for co-operation
in research projects emanating from other quarters, it is unsurprising
that there is some resistance within schools to undertake a non-core
activity that, on the face of it, has no direct benefit for them.
A further detraction for schools was the timing of
the study. Within the rules of PISA 2003, testing had to take
place within a six-week test window falling between March and
July 2003. Given that after Easter, Year 11 pupils in the study
would be fully engaged in GCSE examinations, this limited the
possibility of testing in England to four weeks in March and the
first two weeks of April. This coincides with GCSE preparation
and a key reason that schools gave for declining to participate
was their reluctance to disrupt their Year 11 pupils at this time.
Administration of the study in schools was further complicated
by having to test pupils over two year groups (Years 10 and 11)
as the PISA study is an age-based rather than grade-based study.
This meant disruption to a number of classrooms, especially in
The Department take very seriously the need to ensure
that sufficient numbers of schools and pupils participate in PISA
2006. In January 2005 we launched a mini-survey of countries which
participated in PISA 2003, to find out about their approaches
to securing an adequate response rate. We received 28 replies,
a response rate of 88%. This mini-survey showed us that a significant
number of participating countries either make school participation
compulsory or else this is de facto, as schools are put
in the position of not feeling able to refuse. In fact, the USA
did even worse than England in terms of school-level response,
but was included in the internationally comparable results because
it achieved the threshold level for student response. In light
of the significant effort involved at school-level in participation,
we are not convinced that making participation compulsory would
However, we also commissioned a study in this country
into the main barriers to participation and how to address them.
Discussions with head teachers and the professional teaching associations
and unions are also informing our strategy for tackling this problem.
The key aspects of the plan we are developing are:
a) a carefully managed communication strategy
to raise the profile and relevance of PISA amongst schools, in
partnership with teacher and head teacher unions and other partners;
b) moving the PISA tests from spring to autumn
2006 to avoid the exam season (we have successfully secured agreement
for this change from the PISA Consortium). A by-product of moving
the test window is that only pupils in Year 11 will need to be
sampled. The use of pupils from a single year group rather than
two, as with past PISA studies, will considerably simplify the
process for schools;
c) making PISA more relevant to individual schools
by offering bespoke feedback on their PISA performance, both in
terms of their score and more qualitative data on areas such as
d) recognising school and pupil participation
and the additional work this involves with a monetary payment
for schools to spend as they choose arranging a conference style
event for PISA schools to discuss the findings;
e) ensuring that all contact with schools is
professional and unambiguous, and that the whole process is made
as straightforward and un-bureaucratic as possible.
Despite the Government's apparent commitment to
parental choice in admissions to secondary school, we are concerned
that the balance of power is slipping away from parents choosing
schools for their children towards schools as admissions authorities
choosing the children they wish to admit.
Parents are entitled to express a preference for
whatever schools they want their children to attend and that preference
must be met if there are places available. Where schools are oversubscribed
there must be some mechanism for deciding which children should
have priority. The Government thinks this is best decided locally,
through consultation with the local authority and other local
schools. Admission authorities are not allowed by law to introduce
new selection, except in one limited circumstance. If those consulted
think the arrangements do not support the interests of local parents
and children, they can object to the Schools Adjudicator. Having
more schools with responsibility for setting their own arrangements
does not alter these basic requirements. Chapter 3 of Higher
Standards, Better Schools for All: More Choice for Parents and
Pupils makes it clear that schools should have fair admissions
and decide how to offer places to a wide range of applicants.
We are not convinced that simply strengthening
admissions guidance will eradicate the use of unacceptable oversubscription
The Government will include in the Code of Practice
a list of acceptable oversubscription criteria and this will further
encourage those with concerns about unfair criteria to make their
objections to the Schools Adjudicator. The Government believes
that the Code is strong enough to provide guidance on good practice.
As set out in the White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools
for All: More Choice for Parents and Pupils, we will be providing
best practice guidance for promoters of new schools to assist
them in designing admission arrangements consistent with the Code
of Practice. This guidance will not replace the Code, but will
offer new schools additional information and support.
Partial selection introduced or increased since
1997-98 is unlawful, not a matter for "local discussion".
The DfES need to act to ensure that the facts are available when
objections to partial selection are raised. Without this action,
objections cannot be properly investigated by the schools adjudicator.
The Government agrees that it would be unlawful for
a school to introduce new selection of that type, or to try to
increase the proportion of pupils it selects. However, the Department
did not collect information when schools introduced partial selection
and does not routinely collect data on schools continuing to use
it. After consulting Local Authorities we are aware of 32 schools
which operate pre-existing partial selection.
Responsibility for demonstrating that a school, prior
to 1997, had arrangements that selected on the basis of academic
ability, rests with the admission authority. The onus is on the
admission authority to prove that the use of partial selection
is entitled to continue, rather than on the Department to prove
that it is not. If the admission authority cannot prove that the
partial selection it wishes to use is allowed, then it would be
illegal and should not continue.
The Committee is disappointed that the Government
has not acted to withdraw the facility for specialist schools
to select a proportion of their intake. If the Government does
not wish to withdraw this facility, it should publish evidence
to show that pupils selected in this manner perform better than
their peers in other schools and also achieve more highly than
pupils in their school who were not selected by aptitude.
The Government has no plans to extend the use of
aptitude selection, but does not think it should be removed from
the arrangements of those schools that use it. The Government
does not agree with the Committee's underlying assumption that
the only purpose of admitting pupils under this criteria is because
they will perform better than their peers and achieve more highly
than other pupils in the school. As Chapter 3 of Higher Standards,
Better Schools for All: More Choice for Parents and Pupils
indicates, the Government will continue to allow schools that
wish to do so to give priority for up to 10% of their total places
to pupils with particular aptitudes for some subjects. This option
should be available to schools as part of their approach to developing
their specialist ethos.
STRUCTURED DISCUSSIONS AND INTERVIEW
We urge the DfES to ensure that all CTCs are brought
within coordinated admissions arrangements as soon as possible.
The Department is in discussion with the CTCs about
changing to Academy status, and some have already done so. Under
their funding agreements, Academies are required to take part
in co-ordinated admission arrangements. CTCs have been encouraged
to do so, but it is not possible to require them to do so without
amending their funding agreements. There would be little point
in doing this while they consider changing their status.
GRAMMAR SCHOOL BALLOTS
The current arrangements for grammar school ballots
demonstrate that the Government is not prepared to give all local
parents a genuine opportunity to express an opinion on the kind
of schools they want their children to attend. The present system
does not work. It should therefore be withdrawn and replaced with
new arrangements. The Government should consider commissioning
a specialised study to determine more appropriate ballot arrangements.
The Government does not agree with the conclusion
of the Committee but will give consideration to its proposal for
a specialised study into the matter.
For some time, the current Government has largely
managed to sidestep the issue of selection. This strategy has
helped it to avoid the political consequences of endorsing either
grammar school or comprehensive education. It is of little help
to parents with a genuine wish to change the admissions arrangements
in their area. Whilst this issue does not currently have a high
profile nationally, falling rolls mean that in selective areas,
an increasing proportion of children are being selected by grammar
schools, who choose a fixed number of pupils each year. This must
eventually have consequences for education in selective areas,
which national Government will no longer be able to ignore.
The Government does not support selective education
and does not want to see it extended in terms of the number of
places offered. The Government's aim is to improve standards in
all schools so that all children have an equal opportunity to
develop and fulfil their potential. It wants all schools to offer
good quality education so that the choice parents have to make
is between good schools. This applies equally to schools in selective
The Government notes the views of the Committee about
falling rolls in selective areas. Local authorities already have
the power to publish proposals for reorganising their schools
to deal with falling rolls, and these powers extend to grammar
schools. Chapter 3 of Higher Standards, Better Schools for
All: More Choice for Parents and Pupils makes it clear that
the Government does not want to see a return to the 11 plus.
SCHOOL ADMISSIONS CODE OF PRACTICE
The Committee is firmly of the opinion that the
School Admissions Code of Practice should be given more legal
The Government believes that the Code is strong enough
to provide admission authorities with guidance on good practice,
which needs to be flexible enough to respond to local circumstances.
Admission authorities must have regard to the Code in their decision-making
process. They must comply with the law and have regard to the
advice of their local Admission Forum. The Government believes
that this, backed by the role of the School Adjudicators, is strong
enough to prevent admission authorities adopting poor practice.
Our evidence demonstrates that the Government
cannot rely on objections being brought every time admissions
authorities adopt unfair oversubscription criteria. The question
therefore is whether the Schools Adjudicator should have the power
to investigate admissions arrangements on his or her own initiative.
The role of the Adjudicators is to resolve disputes
where agreement cannot be reached locally. The Government does
not believe that the Adjudicators should have the power to intervene
in matters where arrangements have been agreed locally. Consideration
will, however, be given to extending the powers of the Adjudicators
so that when objections are referred, they are able to consider
all aspects of the admission arrangements and not just the specific
We urge the DfES to press ahead with work to monitor
the cost of admissions appeals. This work would enable us to put
a price on the failures of the current admissions system.
The Government agrees that there may be value in
identifying the costs of the appeals process as part of ensuring
that admission authorities have arrangements which reflect good
practice and provide value for money.
In oversubscribed schools, the satisfaction of
one person's choice necessarily denies that of another. What is
being sought is the satisfaction of parental preference. Open,
clear and fair arrangements to determine the order in which parental
preference will be met is the best way of achieving that aim.
Our inquiry has focused on the legal, regulatory and administrative
arrangements for school admissions. However, these are second
to the overriding necessity to ensure that all schools are good
enough. All parents want a place in a 'good school' for their
child, although they apply different criteria when judging a school's
value. In circumstances where a number of schools are perceived
by parents to be of comparable standards, parents may prefer a
particular school for reasons of ethos, specialism or location
for example, but may be reasonably happy if their first preference
is not met. In contrast, where schools are perceived to be of
very different standing, competition for places at the better
schools can be fierce. We recommend that further options for the
creation of more places in 'good' schools should be explored.
The Government agrees with this recommendation. Substantial
provision has been made available to enable good and popular schools
to expand. The decision to make proposals to expand is for the
school itself to make and we have improved the statutory process
to speed up the timetable, and to reinforce further the presumption
on School Organisation Committees to approve such proposals. Schools
wishing to expand may also bid for capital funding of £400k
(£500k for schools with sixth forms) to support this expansion.
The Government is also committed to providing capital
funding more generally to improve schools. Research shows that
improved buildings can lead to improved pupil performance. To
support this, there is central Government support for capital
investment in school buildings of £17 billion in total over
the three years 2005-06 to 2007-08, including PFI credits. The
Building Schools for the Future programme, introduced in 2003,
aims to renew all secondary schools in England in ten to fifteen
waves starting from 2005-06, subject to future public spending
decisions. Over £6.5 billion has been allocated from 2005-06
to 2007-08 in the first three waves of the programme. Higher
Standards, Better Schools for All: More Choice for Parents and
Pupils makes it clear that parents deserve a better choice
of good schools and support in making that choice.
Teacher Retention and Recruitment
Pupil behaviour: teaching in challenging schools
Recommendation 36 and 37:
Poor behaviour holds down standards, causes some
parents to choose schools outside their localities and some good
teachers to leave the profession. Improving pupil behaviour requires
swift action in schools. We welcome the Secretary of State's public
commitment to improving behaviour and we shall monitor with interest
the outcomes of her new initiatives.
There is a range of disruptive behaviour. At the
most extreme, the most suitable form of provision will be a Pupil
Referral Unit. Pupils exhibiting lower levels of disruptive behaviour
are in a different category. We are concerned that the Government
has not yet put in place robust systems either to encourage or
ensure collaboration between schools in this area, or to deal
with the issue of poor behaviour in other ways.
The Government shares the Committee's wish to see
improving behaviour in schools and since the autumn of last year
has been developing and intensifying its efforts on school behaviour,
building on the materials and support which have already been
injected into the system. The main thrust of this has been to
focus support on those schools which need it most and to provide
a framework within which schools can take on greater responsibility
for managing behaviour themselves, working in partnership with
Since the Secretary of State told secondary head
teachers on 1 February about her expectation that all secondary
schools would be working together in collaboration by September
2007, work has been underway to deliver this.
A joint project was set up with the Prime Minister's
Delivery Unit (PMDU) to flesh out what "working together
in collaboration" means and to provide assurance that the
delivery challenge would be met. Working with practitioners from
schools and local authorities, the Department has developed the
outcomes expected for partnerships and design principles for their
set-up and operation. These have been communicated to local authorities,
which were invited by Ministers to take part in "pathfinder"
partnerships to start in January 2006. As of 30 September, at
least 270 secondary schools will be working together in 37 partnerships
across 18 local authorities from next January.
Further work is needed to convince sceptics that
pooling funding, responsibility and expertise at a local level
is the best way forward but the Government believes persuasion
and sharing success is more likely to be effective than using
a legislative framework.
The Government also established the Practitioners'
Group on School Behaviour and Discipline, under Sir Alan Steer,
to provide advice on how to embed effective practice in promoting
good behaviour across all schools, on whether any additional powers
were needed to support head teachers in this area. The Group reported
on 21 October and the Government immediately accepted a number
of key recommendations and committed itself to discussing all
the recommendations with its Stakeholder Group, comprising the
leaders of the professional associations and other key stakeholders.
The Government's position on behaviour in schools is set out more
fully in Chapter 7 of Higher Standards, Better Schools for
All: More Choice for Parents and Pupils.
Recommendations 38 and 39:
The Committee has heard from a number of organisations
offering training for teachers who wish to work in challenging
schools. Many of these programmes are excellent, but they are
still not sufficiently widely available, particularly outside
London. We still consider that these various schemes should be
consolidated into a central, specialised training programme.
We urge the DfES to give further thought to training
structures both to assist those currently teaching in challenging
schools and to encourage more teachers to consider teaching in
The Government shares the Committee's wish to see
good quality and effective training programmes that will both
encourage and equip teachers to teach in challenging schools and
is pursuing several ways of achieving this.
There is a large number of existing initiatives in
initial teacher training (ITT), continuing professional development
(CPD) and in training the wider workforce that relate directly
to the needs of challenging schools. These include supporting
training in Diversity and English as an Additional Language, Behaviour
and Citizenship. The Training and Development Agency (TDA) is
also looking at the international context, including Centre X
and other models of system-wide approaches to teacher training
in challenging schools, and has begun a review of the standards
for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) that will consider whether
there should be specific standards relating to schools facing
The Government agrees that there should be a sharp
focus in all of the routes to QTS to meet the needs of challenging
schools. It is clear that there is already some excellent practice
in training to meet the needs of schools facing challenging circumstances
that has been developed in the context of each of the routes.
The TDA will make it a priority to research and identify these
and to codify the characteristics of effective training to work
in schools in challenging environments. It will then ensure that
all trainers have access to this material to support them in developing
their own training in response to local circumstances. Teaching
in challenging circumstances is usually seen in the context of
schools where behaviour is a significant issue and where teachers
are working with children and young people from socially disadvantaged
backgrounds, but there are of course other, broader, definitions
of schools in challenging circumstances which include isolated
rural schools and those in areas of low educational attainment
and aspirations. These, too, may require differentiated approaches
to teachers' training and development.
Head teachers' advice has been that preparing to
teach in challenging schools depends on the progression from ITT,
through induction and into CPD. This can best be modelled by working
with schools that have developed innovative practice and will
act as pathfinders for the system. The TDA is currently scoping
this as a project, has identified mainstream partnerships in Nottingham
and Wolverhampton and will include the Graduate Teacher Programme
(GTP) in the model. Ofsted will carry out a survey inspection
of Teach First in 2006 with a specific focus on the school-based
elements of the training, much of which takes place in challenging
Teachers on the Fast Track scheme for early headship
are expected to work in at least two contrasting schools before
they leave the programme and are strongly encouraged to take a
position in a challenging school. Fast Track is currently working
with the London Challenge to recruit Fast Track teachers to some
of London's most challenging schools.
The Committee's recommendation on offering modules
within the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH)
is in line with current thinking. The Department is keen to ensure
personalised training for head teachers to ensure they are equipped
with the skills and knowledge they need to face leadership challenges
in various settings including schools in serious weaknesses,
academies, federations and integrated Children's Centres.
The Department has asked the National College for
School Leadership (NCSL) to explore how their leadership development
curriculum, which includes NPQH, may be modularised to provide
a varied menu of modules, from which participants may choose,
depending on individual development needs. As an initial step,
the NCSL is currently modularising the Access stage of the programmeand
is developing the Personalised Learning Leadership Programme (PLLP)
to be piloted early next year. At the core of the PLLP programme
will be the opportunity for participants to assess their needs,
skills and context in relation to their schools. They will then
access relevant training suited to their needs, from a varied
menu of training modules.
The NCSL is also developing a model of school leadership
in challenging urban environments, which identifies nine competences
associated with successful school leaders who work in such settings.
Although this is not only aimed at London leaders, London Challenge
has funded an NCSL pilot to measure how well the competences can
be applied in selecting and developing school leaders who might
be aspiring head teachers or already in post.
London Challenge works closely with a group of secondary
schools facing the greatest challenges in breaking the link between
social deprivation and low educational attainment. Support for
these schools is tailored to their particular needs and is directed
by an experienced education adviser appointed to work with the
school. Support takes many forms, including support for leadership.
London Challenge also funds NCSL, working with the Institute of
Education, the Specialist Schools Trust, Centre for British Teachers
and the Hay Group, to provide additional leadership support and
development for leaders of London schools at all levels. These
activities are being pursued to respond to the particular challenges
of London, but they may in many cases be translatable to other
urban settingsin the same way that Teach First began in
London but is being extended to other cities.
We consider that financial incentives should be
in place to attract good teachers to work in challenging schools
and to reward them for their work.
The Government agrees that teachers working in challenging
circumstances and making an important contribution towards pupil
achievement should be suitably rewarded; this was reflected in
the pay reforms set out in our Five Year Strategy, and
in Chapter 8 of Higher Standards, Better Schools for All:
More Choice for Parents and Pupils. This proposes that the
greatest rewards should go to those teachers contributing most;
with the performance management arrangements providing the evidence
to assess the contributions individuals have made to teaching
and learning and to take into account the context in which those
contributions were made.
The current provisions of the School Teachers' Pay
and Conditions Document do already make available to employers
a number of flexibilities designed to achieve this; the existing
recruitment and retention incentives and benefits arrangements
give schools and local authorities complete flexibility to award
payments and other benefits to attract and retain teachers, the
conditions for which may be set at either school or LA level.
Further, in March 2005, the Secretary of State invited
the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) to make recommendations
about the extent to which particular factors should be taken into
account in determining career and pay progression; for example,
prior successful experience in challenging classroom roles and
in challenging schools.
In joint evidence submitted to the STRB in May 2005,
the Rewards and Incentives Group (RIG)
has recommended that there should be scope for teachers who make
a significant contribution to teaching and learning in a more
challenging context to progress more quickly than the standard
provisions allow. In RIG's view, the current provisions already
provide the basis for accelerated pay progression and for head
teachers and governing bodies to reward significant contributions
to school improvement in more challenging contexts. For example,
this could be where a contribution has enabled a school to tackle
effectively significant concerns about under-achievement or enabled
it to make significant improvements in pupil attainment or behaviour.
REMODELLING THE WORKFORCE: FALLING ROLLS AND AN AGEING
We welcome the Government's commitment to developing
alternative routes into teaching. This will be particularly important
over the coming years as more experienced teachers retire from
the profession. We note the success of projects such as Teach
First and the Graduate Teacher Programme, but we also take this
opportunity to reiterate our recommendation that the quality of
training in these programmes should be closely monitored to ensure
that trainees have access to a range of school experiences.
The Government shares the Committee's determination
that the quality of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) should remain
high, whether it is by traditional routes or via alternative provision;
a programme of monitoring and evaluation is already in hand.
Ofsted are currently in the second year of the full
inspection of all GTP provision as a precursor to the full accreditation
of the existing Designated Recommending Bodies (DRBs).
Of the 46 DRBs inspected in 2003-04, 36 were either recommended
for accreditation or recommended after specific recommendations
were met. The TDA operates a support programme to enable GTP
providers to understand the characteristics of good ITT and how
best to achieve this in a wholly school-based context. The support
programme has been based on evidence gathered through analysis
of the Newly Qualified Teacher survey and through piloting different
The Government particularly welcomes the Committee's
endorsement of the Teach First programme, to which the Government
is committed. It has announced plans to extend this programme
to Manchester next year and to four further cities in 2007-08.
The first cohort of Teach First trainees who began
their programme in July 2003 have now completed their final term
in schools. The TDA met with Ofsted in May 2005 to agree the protocols
for the inspection of Teach First provision in the context of
the broader memorandum of agreement between Ofsted and the TDA.
The agreed approach will begin with the premise that there is
no reason to doubt the quality of the centre-based training programme
delivered by Canterbury Christ Church University College, an established
high quality provider of ITT.
The survey inspection will begin in July 2006 and
will set out to answer the question: 'What value does Teach First
add to our existing range of ITT provision?' The Ofsted survey
will focus on the specific preparation of Teach First trainees
to teach in schools facing challenging circumstances. It will
address the quality of mentoring in school contexts that may be
more difficult for beginner teachers than is usual. It will also
look into issues of recruitment to ascertain the extent to which
the scheme is attracting people into the profession who might
not have otherwise considered teaching. It will be able to offer
conclusions about retention in the profession of this group of
graduates who have not committed themselves to teaching beyond
the two years of the programme. The outcomes of this survey will
inform future planning for Teach First in London, as well as the
roll-out to other cities starting in Manchester in 2006.
The Government's strategy for raising achievement
in secondary education will require significant teaching resources
in order to be effective. It is still not clear to us where these
resources will come from. We therefore consider that any increase
in capacity that may arise from falling rolls should be exploited
to its potential to improve attainment. This could be achieved
by greater personalisation of the curriculum and more individual
The radical reform programme set out in the White
Paper: 14-19 Education and Skills will be implemented over
the next decade to engage and motivate more young people to achieve,
to meet individual needs and to raise participation to 90% at
age 17. Nationally, the numbers of 14-19-year-olds are still
rising, but will fall from 2008, and by 2012 will be below current
levels. There are considerable regional variationsnumbers
in the North-East are already falling, whereas those in the South-West
will not fall back to mid-2003 levels until 2015. However, if
the Government succeeds in its aim of raising participation beyond
age 16 to the levels targeted, this will broadly balance out the
overall falls in the population aged 14-19.
The Government does intend that surplus teaching
capacity will be used to contribute towards personalisation in
secondary schools to support 14-19-year-olds and younger children.
Some examples of how this capacity will help with personalisation
and will include teachers:
- acting as academic mentors/tutors
to provide extra one-to-one tuition or small group support to
low attaining, minority ethnic, extremely able and SEN pupils;
- supporting the transfer of pupils from primary
to secondary school by developing and promoting new approaches
to managing pupils' learning and welfare e.g. liaising with the
primary schools to share data/information, assisting with planning
an appropriate curriculum and reducing the number of teacher contacts
for pupils in Year 7;
- enriching the curriculum by offering clubs and
wider opportunities beyond the classroom; and
- liaising with parents to ensure they are engaged
with their child's education.
Beyond the headroom created by falling rolls, teachers
will also have more time to spend on personalisation because of
recent workforce reforms. From September 2005, the Government
is freeing up teaching capacity by ensuring that teachers do not
spend their valuable time invigilating external examsan
activity that does not allow for any teaching activity and which
does not need to be done by teachers. Time previously spent on
invigilation will now be able to be put to much better use. In
addition, since September 2004, there have been set limits on
the amount of cover that teachers can be asked to provide and,
from September 2005, all teachers have guaranteed time, within
the normal school day specifically for planning, preparation and
assessment. These reforms will give teachers the time to ensure
that their lessons are tailored to the needs of every individual
It is vital not to underestimate the importance of
the role support staff can play in secondary schools, for example
by working to support individual pupils or small groups. The number
of support staff in secondary schools has increased dramatically
over recent yearsthe biggest rise being in the number of
teaching assistants from 7,820 in 1997 to 29,980 in 2005.
The Government has also responded to the need to
support maths and science teaching in secondary schools by initiating
an innovative and ambitious programme to enable every secondary
school in England to recruit at least one maths and science specialist
Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA). The TDA is currently piloting
the training and development of these specialist support staff
and we expect a full national roll-out of recruitment and training
to begin in September 2006.
The Government's Five Year Strategy for Children
Recommendations 43 and 44:
The proposal for all schools to become foundation
schools, and hence their own admissions authorities, potentially
brings into being up to 3,000 new admissions authorities who can
set their own admissions criteria. It is difficult to see how
this large increase in the number of admissions authorities will
make the admissions process smoother and clearer for parents.
On the contrary, it is likely to make co-ordination between the
different authorities more difficult and add to the complexities
parents already face in negotiating the admissions system.
We fear that an admissions "free-for-all"
is indeed a risk in a system where all schools can become foundation
schools through a single meeting of their governing body. The
risk is even greater if the Government does not take our advice,
expressed above, on strengthening the Schools Admissions Code
of Practice and granting the Schools Adjudicator investigative
powers. Without these changes, the Government can have no assurance
that the collaboration and co-operation it hopes for will be realised
and a system of fair admissions will remain an aspiration rather
than a reality.
The Government does not accept that the creation
of new foundation schools will create additional problems for
parents in understanding and negotiating the admissions system,
or lead to an admissions free-for-all. While the governing bodies
of foundation schools may set their own admission arrangements,
they are covered by the same requirements as other maintained
schools. Foundation schools are also required to work with their
local authorities to coordinate admissions in the normal admissions
Regulations were introduced on 1 August 2005 to make
it easier for community and voluntary controlled secondary schools
to change category to foundation. The Department is currently
considering the responses to its recent consultation on proposals
to extend the streamlined route to primary schools.
The idea of schools working together to share
expertise and hard to teach pupils is attractive, but we consider
that the Secretary of State may be underestimating the challenges
involved in realising this vision.
The recognition that collaboration is a crucial element
to the successful delivery of improved outcomes for young people
is not new. There is a long history of schools and other partners
working together effectively to improve the delivery of services
and raise educational standards within communities.
The Government does, however, appreciate the work
involved in setting up and establishing effective partnerships
which is why it is learning from and building on effective, successful
partnership working that is already in existence, for example:
Excellence in Cities, Leadership Incentive Grant and Federation
partnerships. The Education Improvement Partnership website
contains examples of partnership working, model protocols and
agreements between schools and other institutions that schools
looking to work together can adapt to meet their own requirements.
Schools involved in collaboration are convinced of
the value of partnership working and the contribution that it
makes to achieving higher attainment. The MORI Teachers' Omnibus
research study conducted for the Innovation Unit reports that
over 70% of teachers surveyed agreed that collaboration with other
schools leads to improvement in children's learning.
The ultimate outcome should be effective, strong,
self-confident schools, rigorously reviewing their own performance
and choosing to work together where that will improve pupil experience.
The benefits of successful collaboration include: extending the
offer to young people beyond what is available within the school;
sharing the benefits of the best heads, teachers and professionals;
building a shared commitment for all young people in the community;
and the scope for efficiency gains.
The Government needs to decide whether Foundation
Partnerships are a preferred route or are generally optional.
Collaboration is most effective between partners
who want to be engaged, rather than those who are forced to participate.
Education Improvement Partnerships (the new name for Foundation
Partnerships) are not intended to replace or marginalise existing
partnerships. Instead, they offer a way to streamline and build
upon these arrangements within the context of a New Relationship
with Schools. There will be greater freedom to fashion what works
locally rather than a requirement to collaborate on a range of
separately defined models of national partnership.
In a system where all secondary schools are independent
foundation schools, it is difficult to see how oversubscribed
schools will be made to admit children mid-year, particularly
when they can point to the fact that they are already 'full'.
If all schools within a reasonable distance of a
child's home address are full, the Local Authority may direct
admission to any foundation or voluntary aided school using section
96 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. Schools which
are directed have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State,
who may confirm the direction or name another school to admit
The Five Year Strategy does not
explain whether Foundation Partnerships, or other collegiate systems,
will publish aggregated examination results or whether funding
or re-designation of partnerships will be dependent on proven
results in all schools within the partnership. Without these mechanisms,
it will be all too easy for ineffective partnerships to be formed
or for schools to be partners in name only.
Collaboration should be employed to deliver particular
functions where joint action gets a better result than acting
as individual institutions. Each institution needs to be clear
what the partnership dividend is for them and the partnership
needs to be clear that there is a positive impact on standards.
Work is ongoing on a range of reporting/monitoring methods:
- Through the performance tables,
the commitment made to formal reporting in performance tables
of results by individual schools within a federation.
- Further work on reporting measures which partnerships
could use to assess their effectiveness at narrowing the attainment
gap between schools and particular groups of pupils.
- The EIC model of partnership self and peer review
in and between partnerships: we plan to work further on this
model to develop a toolkit for any partnership to use to assess
collaborative delivery of any function.
The Government envisages that local authorities will
delegate both functions and funding to EIPs, who will take responsibility
for a range of functions, and be collectively accountable for
delivery. Where this happens, the Government is recommending that
all members of the partnership agree a service level agreement
(SLA) which could set out target outcomes and performance measuresexactly
how this is done will be a local decision. Outcomes and performance
measures will be set out in the SLA, as will accountability structures.
Recommendations 49 and 50
We welcome the proposal for guaranteed three year
budgets for all schools. This Committee and many others have long
called for the schools' funding mechanism to be reformed in this
way. It will offer more stability and predictability for schools
and allow them to plan their spending more efficiently.
We would appreciate some guidance from the Government
on how local authorities will be able to act as strategic leaders
when all schools are independent and receive guaranteed budgets
that cannot be varied. In these circumstances, what levers will
be available to local authorities to persuade schools to act differently?
The Government is pleased that the Committee recognises
the benefits of multi-year budgets, and that it welcomes the stability
and predictability they will bring, leading to more efficient
use of resources in support of school improvement. The introduction
of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) is an essential precursor
to the introduction of multi-year budgets because it will ensure
that funding intended for schools reaches schools.
These developments do not, however, mean that local
authorities will no longer have discretion over how their schools
are funded. On the contrary, local authorities will have a key
role to play in the new system: they will continue to be responsible
for allocating funding between their schools, consulting their
Schools Forums, as they do now. In addition, the new arrangements
will see a number of decisions that are currently taken by the
Secretary of State left to local discretion, to be decided by
local authorities and their Schools Forums. Local authorities
will also be free to top up the DSG from their own resources,
should they choose to do so. So the new funding arrangements will
not result in any lessening of local authorities' ability to act
as strategic leaders of their education and children services'
The new multi-year budgets will not be fixed after
they have first been set, as the Committee has suggested. Budgets
for future years will be updated as pupil numbers change; it will
be for local discretion whether other data that determines school
budgets should be updated too. We recognise that there is an important
balance to be struck between stability and predictability on the
one hand and responsiveness to changing circumstances on the other;
the new arrangements are designed to enable local authorities
to strike the appropriate balance in the light of local circumstances
and in consultation with their Schools Forum.
The Government should clarify whether local authorities
are to be held accountable to the DfES or to those who elected
them for the effective execution of their re-shaped 'strategic'
The Five Year Strategy does not signal a change
in the relative accountabilities of central and local government.
Local authorities, through their elected members, will continue
to be accountable for the services they commission or provide
to the communities they serve. The active involvement of citizens
in decision-making, and of partner organisations in their areas,
is an essential component.
Central Government Departments are accountable to
Ministers, Parliament and the public for the implementation of
policy. There will always be a balance to strike between ensuring
consistent and high standards and local autonomy. In some key
service areas there will be a need for a national framework of
centrally driven policies, funding and regulation within which
local government is responsible for improving outcomes for local
people. But, equally, Ministers have made clear their support
for the concept of "new localism"not, of course,
abdicating responsibility as national Government, but acting with
a presumption of devolution of decision-making to the front line.
Chapter 9 of Higher Standards, Better Schools
for All: More Choice for Parents and Pupils elaborates further
on the new role for local authorities as commissioners of children's
services, including schools, in line with the position established
in Every Child Matters: Change for Children. Local
authorities will act as champions for children and for their parents,
building services around their needs and delivering these services
through a range of providers. The White Paper also gives local
authorities a stronger role in tackling school underperformance
and failure, with powers to act more swiftly and decisively.
THE DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND SKILLS
We do not consider it desirable for the DfES to
'micro-manage' schools across the country. The duty of Local Education
Authorities has been to manage the school system. Yet the new
structure of independent foundation schools, free of Local Authority
control and with guaranteed budgets set centrally, would appear
to result in all schools ultimately reporting directly to the
The Government is not proposing to set school budgets
centrally. It is proposing to introduce a ring-fenced grant, the
Dedicated Schools Grant, to ensure that authorities cannot divert
money intended for schools to other servicesand it is also
requiring local authorities to give schools their budgets for
up to three years ahead. Neither of those proposals will lead
to greater involvement by the Department in setting school budgets:
local authorities will remain responsible for the distribution
of funding between their schools according to local formulae.
When implementing the Five Year Strategy,
we recommend that the Government closely monitors the effects
on standards of its changes to the distribution of responsibilities
between local and central government.
The Government takes very seriously the need to monitor
the effects on standards of the changes to the role of local authorities.
There will always be a balance to strike between ensuring consistent
and high standards and local autonomy. In some key service areas
there will be a need for a national framework of centrally driven
policies, funding and regulation within which local government
is responsible for improving outcomes for local people. But, equally,
Ministers have made clear their support for the concept of "new
localism"not, of course, abdicating responsibility
as national Government, but acting with a presumption of devolution
of decision-making to the front line.
The White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools
for All: More Choice for Parents and Pupils sets out a better-defined
role for local authorities as commissioners of children's services,
including schools, in line with the position established in Every
Child Matters: Change for Children, acting as a champion for
children and for their parents, building services around their
needs and delivering these services through a range of providers.
The White Paper also gives local authorities a stronger role
in tackling school underperformance and failure, with powers to
act more swiftly and decisively.
Evidence suggests that small sixth forms do not
perform as well as larger institutions. We therefore recommend
that the Government makes clear that proposals for new school
sixth forms need to achieve a reasonable standard in terms of
both quality and range of subject provision in order to have any
chance of success. We are also seriously concerned that the Government
should consider the effect on staffing if large numbers of new
sixth forms are created, particularly in shortage subjects.
The Government is clear that new sixth form provision
should be of the highest standard and should add to quality, choice
and diversity of provision in their area. That is why the criteria
for the new sixth form "presumption" and capital funding
for new sixth form accommodation give priority to those that are
making a significant contribution to the delivery of the new 14-19
curriculum and qualifications opportunities, in line with Chapter
2 of the Higher Standards, Better Schools for All: More Choice
for Parents and Pupils.
It is unlikely that many school sixth forms will
alone have the capacity to deliver the broad academic and vocational
curriculum that will comprise the 14-19 entitlement. This, and
the exercise of informed learner choice, will mean that institutions
will need to deliver collaboratively, with each building on its
strengths and delivering its expertise, including in shortage
subjects, to its own and others' registered learners. This should
give all learners access to the highest quality provision in their
chosen learning programmes and support reasonable class sizes
for shortage subjects. It will also mean that provider success
will be more related to how well its provision meets consumer
demandfor subjects and quality than the breadth
of individual institutions' offers.
The funding gap between FE colleges and school
sixth forms is hard to justify. We welcome the former Secretary
of State's commitment to moving towards a more unified framework
for 14-19 education and we expect that this principle will be
incorporated into the funding mechanisms now proposed.
The Government acknowledges that, despite the significant
investment in FE and a narrowing of the difference between funding
rates, there remains a funding gap between school sixth forms
and colleges. We have been clear that continuing progress on narrowing
the gap will not be easy and will depend on the resources available.
However, as signalled in the Minister of State for Schools and
14-19 Learning's statement to the House of Commons on 21 July
this year, we intend to explore the scope for addressing the technical
anomalies between the school sixth form and further education
funding systems. The Government aims to announce decisions on
the way forward shortly.
The Government does not fully explain how "fast-track"
expansion will circumvent the lengthy local planning process,
or how long the process might take if an appeal is lodged. It
needs to provide more information on this proposal.
The Government consulted on detailed proposals for
the expansion of successful and popular schools last autumn. The
consultation document set out a fast-track timetable for the publication
and consideration of proposals. According to this timetable, the
entire process would take less than twelve weeks (excluding the
time required for consultation before the publication of proposals).
If a school appealed against a decision by a SOC to reject its
proposals, the proposals would pass to the Adjudicator to consider.
The Adjudicator aims to decide proposals within six weeks of receiving
the proposals and associated information from the SOC.
We would be extremely interested to see evidence
of existing successful examples of school expansion to justify
the implementation of this proposal.
There are many examples of schools expanding which
pre-date the recent measures by the Government to make the process
easier. Since the introduction of local decision-making in 1999,
proposals have been approved for over 120 secondary schools to
There is a danger that the proposal to allow popular
schools to expand will lead to popularity being seen as the sole
measure of quality. In the Government's expressed view, a school
which is over-subscribed must necessarily be a good school worthy
The Department's guidance to decision-makers makes
clear that they should take into account a range of indicators
when deciding whether to approve proposals by schools to expand.
The guidance states that these indicators should include:
(a) the school's performance
- in terms of absolute results
in Key Stage assessments and public examinations
- by comparison with other schools in similar circumstances
(both in the same LA and other LAs)
- in terms of value added
- in terms of improvement over time in Key Stage
results and public examinations; and
(b) the numbers of applications for places;
(c) other relevant evidence put forward by the
THE FIVE YEAR STRATEGY: A NEW DIRECTION?
We find it difficult to detect a coherent overarching
strategy in the Government's proposals. The evidence provided
to show that the large sums of money to be spent on the new arrangements
will produce significant educational benefits is minimal. Whilst
the Strategy offers some welcome changes, it also contains much
that has not been properly thought through.
The Five Year Strategy makes clear the Government's
purpose is to raise the quality of education, teaching and learning,
to widen the range of choices which are available to every pupil
and to ensure that every parent can choose an excellent secondary
school for their child. It will build on achievements so far to:
- increase freedom and independence
- accelerate the pace of reform in teaching and
- extend choice and flexibility in the curriculum,
particularly at 14-19
Underpinning each of these is sustained and rising
investment in schools.
The Five Year Strategy also sets out the Government's
continued commitment to the development of independent specialist
schools in place of the traditional comprehensive a decisive
system-wide advance that is developed further in Higher Standards,
Better Schools for All: More Choice for Parents and Pupils.
2 RIG was established in January 2004 to build on the
successes of workforce reform that have been achieved through
social partnership. Its membership is the same as for the Workforce
Agreement and its role is to agree changes to the School Teachers'
Pay and Conditions Document and other guidance, to monitor the
impact of changes to the pay system, take forward the New Professionalism
agenda and to simplify the pay documentation wherever possible. Back
Designated Recommending Bodies (DRBs) are responsible for recruiting
candidates and assessing and approving applications for places
on the Graduate Teacher programme, Registered Teacher Programme
and the Overseas Trained Teacher Programme. The TDA gives the
DRBs an annual allocation of places and they are responsible for
designing and delivering the training programmes. Most are partnerships
of bodies such as schools, local authorities and accredited ITT