Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)
TAYLOR GBE AND
23 MAY 2007
Q40 Paul Holmes: The next point I
was going to make was that in the last six years I have visited
schools around the country with the Select Committee that have
very poorly resourced libraries but that is because they do not
have the money. It is not because they do not want them.
Sir Cyril Taylor: I cannot entirely
agree with that because, while investment in IT is very important,
it should not be at the expense of books. You need both. The proportion
of schoolsI think Ofsted published a report on thisthat
have a qualified librarian is disappointingly low.
Q41 Mr Pelling: I just wonder, Chairman,
whether colleagues are being a little bit uncharitable in the
questions they are asking about the charitable trust. Has the
Trust also been an important catalyst for change and has it been
an important conduit for encouraging private money into education?
Sir Cyril Taylor: We hope so.
Q42 Mr Chaytor: Could I just pick
up a point that Liz made earlier about the voluntary nature of
participation? If the governing party has a manifesto commitment
to transform the secondary school system into a network of specialist
schools and a target of all schools being specialist or virtually
all schools being specialist by 2008, it is hardly a voluntary
participation, is it? It is a bit difficult for a school to resist
that when it is a central plank of the Government's policy.
Ms Reid: I do not think it is
a question of resistance. I think it is a question of choice.
One of the key parts ...
Q43 Mr Chaytor: The choice is not
a level playing field, is it? There is three-quarters of a million
pounds on the table if you become a specialist school. It is a
central plank of Government policy. What sense would it make to
Ms Reid: There are schoolsI
do not think they would want to use the word "resist"who
to date have chosen not to become specialist. I believe the reason
for that is that the specialist schools policy is very much about
developing a distinctive ethos in each school and there are many
schools still who feel that they have that distinct ethos and
that specialism will add nothing. That is the position they take
and it is their right to do that. I do think that the nature of
the network, this voluntary network, has been important in supporting
the implementation of the policy because, as I say, schools join
and rejoin the network every year and get benefit from it.
Sir Cyril Taylor: We encourage
schools to raise their standards and we do it in many different
ways. This outcomes paper refers to our three different high-performance
school clubs: most improved, most value added and it used to be
70% five A-Cs, now 60% five A-Cs including Maths and English.
The schools take great pride in being members of these high-performing
categories, and 1,300 of our schools that had GCSE results in
2006 are high-performing and there is a high-performing status
within a specialist school. Could I also talk about the value
of a specialist subject, which I think is often missed? St Paul's
Way School in Tower Hamlets was a very under-performing school,
with a very high proportion of ethnic minorities. They had a brilliant
art department. They applied for specialist visual arts status.
The pupils in that school were getting an astonishingly high proportion
of As and starred As in visual arts and something happened, what
we call the locomotive effect, that with good performance in one
subject, the other departments say, "If our same pupils are
doing so well in that subject, why can't they do well in my subject?"
and that pulls that performance across the way because you have
success and pride in one department which is then replicated throughout
Q44 Mr Chaytor: Could I pursue that
point? Do you see the whole advantage of the specialist schools
network as primarily a driver for school improvement at the level
of the individual school or primarily an underpinning of a parental
choice policy? My question specifically is, as the years go by,
would you expect it to be more likely that more parents would
send their children further from home to attend a specialist school
because of its specialism, or would you expect most parents to
have confidence in sending their children to the nearest school
because the specialist network has improved the quality of all
Sir Cyril Taylor: Perhaps I can
respond to that, as it is a policy area. My dream is that all
schools should be good schools. The problem with admissions will
be solved when we improve the standards in these 400 low-attaining
schools. I think we are getting increasing evidence, sometimes
using the new trust status. There is a group of schools in Worcestershire,
led by the Haybridge School, seven schools joined together with
an FE college; they are going to run a joint post-16 provision
specialism with some vocational subjects. I think it would be
fantastic down the road if groups of schools worked together locally.
Controversially, and Liz Reid does not necessarily support this
view, I would like to see fair banding and, if a school is oversubscribed,
random allocation, as is practised by the Haberdashers' two schools
that joined together. But I would also like the possibility, if
you have a brilliant young mathematician aged 11, that even though
they might go to their local school because it is a good school,
there is the possibility of going to the specialist maths college
or science college. I think the other crucial issue facing this
country is that half of our schools are only 11-16 and pupils
have to move at 16. David Jesson's work on identifying the gifted
and talented shows that only 20% of those very able children identified
using raw scores in key stage two Maths and English get the three
As at A level if they had to move at 16. Some of them do not even
take A levels. Collaboration and co-operation of groups of schools
working together, more post-16 provision on a group basis, I think,
is something that everybody should be supporting and many of our
head teachers are moving down that road.
Q45 Mr Chaytor: What is the answer
to the question? Are we likely to see more parents choosing to
send their child to the local school or are we likely to see more
parents choosing to send their child to a specialist school?
Sir Cyril Taylor: I think admissions
is a very complicated issue. The current right of specialist schools
to choose 10% of their intake, in certain subjects like languages,
is used by very few of them. Most of our schools are passionately
comprehensive in their intake but I think it is possible, especially
if schools are reasonably close together, like, for example, Grantham:
two grammar schools, one FE College, four former secondary moderns.
All the secondary moderns are now specialist. They persuaded the
Learning and Skills Council ...
Q46 Mr Chaytor: If I can just interrupt,
surely they are still secondary modern? If there are two grammar
schools, there must be four secondary modern schools. You can
change the name on the front door but reality is to all intents
and purposes they are secondary modern schools.
Sir Cyril Taylor: No, not now.
They regard themselves as specialist schools and they have a joint
Mr Chaytor: You can change the name on
the front door but you have not changed the nature of the admissions
Q47 Chairman: David, you are asking
some good questions but you have to let Sir Cyril answer them
first, before you ask the second one. Sir Cyril, carry on.
Sir Cyril Taylor: Legally, I suppose
they are, in a selective system, still secondary modern but they
are not regarded as a secondary modern; they are regarded as a
specialist school, and at post-16 they teach the post-16 courses
in their specialist subject and the children move around. I think
that is a wonderful example of collaboration. Trowbridge is doing
the same thing and this is happening all over the country.
Q48 Mr Chaytor: Could I just put
a question to Liz about the aptitude selection? Sir Cyril said
few specialist schools choose the 10%. The figure in the early
days was about 6% using the aptitude selection. Is it still about
6% or has it increased?
Ms Reid: It might even have gone
down a little. We do not hold this data.
Q49 Mr Chaytor: Do you not think
it is important that you should hold the data?
Ms Reid: I do not really.
Q50 Mr Chaytor: You have a vast amount
of information. Professor Jesson's report is hugely detailed.
Is not this question of which schools use the selection by aptitude
an important element in the evaluation of all schools?
Ms Reid: No. That is a matter
for schools themselves. The Jesson methodology takes into account
the range of intake that each school has and that is no doubt
itself part of an ongoing debate but the network is a plural organisation
so, for example, specialist grammar schools are part of the affiliation
network, academies, schools of all kinds are part of the network.
There are even a small number of independent schools that are
part of the network. The criterion for joining and staying as
a member is simply a willingness to share and work together and
that is what schools do.
Q51 Mr Chaytor: In terms of understanding
the bigger picture, the Department does not collect the data on
selection by aptitude because they say that specialist schools
belong to the SSAT. The SSAT does not collect it, and it is an
important ingredient, an important piece of evidence, is it not?
Ms Reid: If I may, Chairman, I
would be extremely surprised if the Department, either Ministers
or officials, would say that specialist schools belong to the
SSAT because that is just simply not the case. We have covered
this ground in a number of answers.
Q52 Mr Chaytor: My question is simply
this: is the issue of the proportion of schools selecting by aptitude,
and whether that has a positive effect or not, not an important
piece of evidence that either the SSAT or the Department ought
to collect, given the vast amount of similar data they collect?
Sir Cyril Taylor: Perhaps I am
being unfair to officials present here. I have an official brief
here that says that only 6% of specialist schools use the right
to choose by aptitude.
Chairman: Who gathers that? You are not
allowed to do that. He passed a note.
Q53 Mr Chaytor: One other question.
Professor Jesson's report is extremely interesting and informative
and he gives figures for free school meals for the intake of each
specialist school as well. What I do not see, and I do not think
I have been able to find anywhere else, is the relationship between
the proportion of children with free school meals in different
kinds of specialist schools. My questionand again, I think
it is a question for Lizis do you have this and have you
done an analysis of the free school meal intake according to categories
of specialist school? The purpose of my question: is there a relationship
between certain kinds of specialism and certain free school meal
Ms Reid: The answer is that we
can access the information. No, we have not done the analysis
and yes, I agree it would be a very interesting thing to do and
something we may bear in mind for developing the analysis next
Q54 Mr Chaytor: So if I put a Parliamentary
Question on that subject you would be able to advise the DfES
very quickly as to what the answer was?
Ms Reid: If I may, Chairman, the
holders of educational data in this country are the local authorities
and the Department for Education and Skills and the schools themselves,
so if we are able to access data, it is courtesy of those bodies.
We are not in that sense a data collecting organisation ourselves
and I think most people would frown on such an idea of adding
an additional burden to schools and other statutory organisations.
Sir Cyril Taylor: Page 29 of the
does actually break out the proportion of specialist schools by
free school meals, above 50%, zero to 5%, and there is a relationshipin
my mind, it is quite clearbetween schools with very high
proportions of free school meals. It does not mean to say that
all schools with a high proportion of free school meals do not
perform well. Some of them are performing extraordinarily well,
especially on a value-added basis.
Q55 Mr Chaytor: Thank you for that. That
is very useful. The issue is the relationship between the free
school meals band and the specific category. What is the difference
between sports colleges and science colleges, for example? I would
have thought Professor Jesson could have put this through his
Sir Cyril Taylor: We have that
data and I think it is very interesting to break it out.
Q56 Mr Marsden: Liz Reid, if I could
start with you, what evidence do you have that specialist schools
have better qualified teachers in their specialisms than other
Ms Reid: I have no evidence of
that sort at all, Chairman. That, if it is available, would be
held by the TDA.
Sir Cyril Taylor: It is a crucial
question you ask. When William Atkinson took over the Phoenix
School in Hammersmith, a failing school, 50% of the teachers were
not permanent; they were substitute teachers. Now he has transformed
the school. It is doing very well. The ability to attract and
retain good teachers is absolutely fundamental to a successful
Q57 Mr Marsden: I accept that, Sir
Cyril, and it is useful to have that anecdotal example but, with
respect, Liz Reid, and I do not wish to be unkind, your response
is rather extraordinary, is it not? Here you are, the Chief Executive
of a Trust that is going out week by week trying to attract sponsors,
and you are unable to tell me, either from your own basis or from
another database, what evidence there is that specialist teachers
in these schools actually improve them.
Ms Reid: I think I may have misunderstood
the question in the first place. There is some evidence, and some
of that is available in the outcomes study, that in individual
subjects that comprise the specialisms the performance is better
and the uptake is better in specialist schools but that is not
invariably so. On the question of sponsorship, I think it is very
important to understand that sponsors in the end sponsor individual
schools. Very many sponsors visit schools that they may sponsor
and one of the things that we really try to support is the development
of a relationship between the sponsor and the school because that
is the value.
Q58 Mr Marsden: Do they ever ask
the sort of question that I have just asked?
Ms Reid: I think they are concerned
about generally a school's commitment to improve and to do better
and to develop the specialism.
Q59 Mr Marsden: So they are not that
bothered about whether the teachers who are there at the moment
are any good at their specialism or not?
Ms Reid: If I may, whether teachers
are any good at their specialism or not, we have a very elaborate
set of arrangements to ensure now with schools that teachers are
competent, that they are satisfactory, and that they are participating
in continuing professional developmentthere is a national
framework for all of thatso there are a whole set of arrangements
that actually exist in schools for relationships between schools
and their teaching staff. That is not a matter for us.
Sir Cyril Taylor: The more extreme
examples are the academies. We have a role to support academies
to raise their standards after...
2 Educational outcomes and value added by specialist
schools: 2006 analysis, by Professor David Jesson and David