Examination of Witnesses (Questins 80-96)|
MP, DAVID BELL
9 JANUARY 2008
Q80 Stephen Williams: On maths and
science, quickly. The studies show that we have fewer high-achieving
pupils at maths compared with other countries, although on average
we are okay. However, in science we do comparatively well. How
do you account for that difference and can you reassure me that
it is not because science was the main focus of the international
study last year?
Ed Balls: I know that in maths
and science we are above average and I know that in science we
do particularly well. I do not look at these PISA results and
feel that there is any reason for complacency. What they tell
me is that we are above average, but not yet world class, and
that there is a lot more to do in maths and science. To be honest,
I could not give you a detailed answer today about why there is
a differential between maths and science, or even whether those
results are comparable, because in the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development PISA numbers, there are lots of reasons
why these things are hard to compare. I would be happy to write
you a letter to give you more detail on that point.
Q81 Stephen Williams: But are you
worried that at high levels in maths we are not achieving, whereas
in reading we are?
Ed Balls: If that is what the
study shows, it is something that we will need to look at. We
obviously have the ongoing Williams review looking at maths teaching
in primary schools because I think that there is more that we
can do, but I do not want to accept the premise of your question,
although that is not because I am doubting it.
Chairman: You should not have even got
Q82 Mrs Hodgson: I want to come in
on the back of Lynda's questions about teachers, particularlyyou
will be able to guess, I am surewith regard to SEN and
teacher training. I know that we have spoken about that before.
Along with the masters level of qualification, will you be looking
at more specialist training in SENspecifically dyslexia
and things like thatand at working smarter, but not necessarily
Ed Balls: The answer to that is
yes. We have allocated £18 million over the next three years,
for SEN training amongst other things. We will be responding shortly
to your report on SEN and accountabilities.
We are committed to reviewing SEN through the Ofsted report in
a year's time. On the issues around dyslexia, we allocated £3
million a couple of weeks ago to have a tailored Every Child a
Reader pilot, which particularly focuses on dyslexia. What we
want to see is how far specialist dyslexia teaching within reading
recovery makes a difference. That is something that we are explicitly
examining at the moment. I know that there is some evidence that
it works, but at the same time I think that we should not rush
to judgment until we have looked at the evidence more closely.
Q83 Ms Butler: Some £144 million
has been allocated to Every Child a Reader. Does the Department
have any plans to conduct further research on the use of information
and communications technology in helping children to read, such
as the accelerated reader programme?
Ed Balls: I cannot answer that
question, I am afraid. I do not have the detail on that, but I
am happy to drop you a note.
David Bell: Many schools use those
programmes, and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, particularly
in its work with secondary schools, has done a lot of work to
use ICT programmes to help children to read, so this is not something
that is new to the system. I think that schools have been doing
this over a number of years.
Q84 Mr Chaytor: In assessing the
performance of a secondary school, is the value added score more
important than the five A to Cs score?
Ed Balls: Both are important.
The value added score gives you one way of measuring progress,
but another way to measure progress is to examine it over time
on the raw scores, taking into account the degree of deprivation
and other factors in the area. I would say that we examine both
measures rather than just one, although in the tables that I have
published about Nottingham, which I referred to when I was talking
to Mr Heppell, those comparisons were made using the value added
Q85 Mr Chaytor: From the parent's
point of view, why is the value added score not as simple and
clear-cut to understand as the five A to Cs score?
Ed Balls: Because it is more complicated.
Q86 Mr Chaytor: Why does the Government
not make it simpler? From a parent's point of view, they see a
whole range of numbers, marginally either side of 100what
does that mean? They understand 68% five A to Cs; they do not
understand 98.73% on the value added score.
Ed Balls: My guess is because
the simpler you make it, the closer it takes you back to the raw
number. If there is an issue about how we present those numbers,
I am very happy to examine that issue, because I absolutely agree
with you that the value added is a very important part of tracking
Q87 Chairman: Someone in the Department
must be able to make the measurement simpler, surely. Special
advisersthey could do it for you.
Ed Balls: Have you at any point
advised us on how we should do it?
Chairman: I am sorry; we can do that
Ed Balls: If you wanted to do
that, that would be helpful, but I am happy to make a commitment
to examine how we can make that measurement easier to use.
Chairman: We can do it together. David,
have you finished?
Q88 Mr Chaytor: The other question
was, should the colours of the rainbow be in the national curriculum?
Ed Balls: It would be too late
Q89 Chairman: Secretary of State,
before you fold up your papers, we have a few minutes left and
I want to ask a quick question. What on earth is happening in
the Academies Programme? I see that Andrew Adonis gave a speech
yesterday that seemed to chart a totally new course for Academies.
I thought that they were going to be specific Academies tackling
deprivation in areas of underachievement, where they would be
wonderful new buildings and would offer a new impetus in underperforming
areas. First, there were going to be 200, now 400. However, that
is what they were to be about. From the report that I read of
Andrew's speech yesterday, it seems that you are on course to
have all schools becoming Academies, almost like a specialist
schools run-out right across the country. What is going on in
Ed Balls: I have not read any
report that suggested that, but I might have missed the report
that you read. I do not think that anything that was said yesterday
was different from what we have been saying consistently in recent
months. We want every school to be a trust, an Academy or a specialist
school. We think that we can get to 230 Academies by the end of
the decadeon track to 400. Clearly, though, Academies will
be the minority of secondary schools. Academies are focusing on
turning round low-performing schools in disadvantaged areas and
they are, in fact, delivering faster increases in results, not
just with catchment areas that are more disadvantaged, and they
are also taking a greater proportion of free-school-meal pupils
than the catchment area contains. That is what the Academies Programme
Q90 Chairman: So it is not changing
Ed Balls: No, not at all.
Q91 Chairman: But yesterday Andrew
was quoted as saying there would be 50 a year onward. Is that
Ed Balls: Two hundred and thirty
by 2010; our goal is to get to 400 at some point. With apologies
to Mr Stuart, I cannot give you a timetable for that either, but
we will definitely try to do it.
Q92 Chairman: What are you doing
about runaway children? There has been a fantastic campaign on
runaway children for some time, led by Helen Southworth. Are you
ever going to respond positively to her campaign and her private
Ed Balls: Tomorrow afternoon.
Q93 Chairman: Positively?
Ed Balls: Very positively. She
has done a very good parliamentary report, and we will respond
to it and make a series of announcements tomorrow afternoon.
Q94 Chairman: Some of us have been
involved in the Education and Skills Select Committee, in its
different guises, for some time. Probably the one lesson that
we learn going through that process is that if you want to improve
schools, the one factor that is more important than anything else
is the quality of teaching. Are you still happy that you are on
course for improving the quality of teaching across schools?
Ed Balls: The answer to that is
contained in the Children's Plan. We intend to do more to bring
in more graduates who might not otherwise come into teaching and
to encourage more mid-career people into teaching. We can do more
to support the professional development of teachers, and we should
do more to tackle poor performance. That is highlighted in the
report. We need to look at whether or not head teachers have the
powers to tackle poor performance, if it occurs, and whether they
can use them. We must do all those three things if we are to be
world class, but we have the best generation of teachers that
we have ever had.
Q95 Chairman: But some of the good
pilot schemes that you have introduced seem very slow to roll
out and stay only in places like London. Some of us who are Yorkshire
or provincial Members of Parliament would like to see Fast Track
in our areait is a programme that has worked well over
this first tranche of four or five years. We would also like to
see Teach First in our areas. When is that going to happen?
Ed Balls: You and I have a common
interest in taking forward the agenda, and I will have a word
with Lord Adonis to find out what his timetables are. *
Chairman: Graham, to show that I am a
very balanced Chair, you can have a quick question.
Q96 Mr Stuart: That is very welcome,
Chairman. It is very welcome that primary schools are going to
teach foreign languages, but there has been a drop from 77% of
15-year-olds who studied languages for GCSE 10 years ago to about
50% now. Will you look again at the decision to stop it being
mandatory to study languages to GCSE, if not now then in a year
or two's time, if the collapse in the numbers studying languages
at GCSE continues?
Ed Balls: I am not saying that
we will never look at this again, but at the moment it is not
our intention to do so because the Dearing report made clear recommendations,
which were implemented. We now have 70% of children who do some
form of foreign language learning in primary school. Two thousand
teachers are already trained, and we are trying to train 6,000
more to teach foreign languages in primary schools. The Rose review
will embed modern language learning in the primary curriculum.
Getting children to start learning modern languages early is the
best way to persuade them to sustain modern language learning
through secondary school. The Dearing conclusion was that when
children are not motivated and not doing well in learning a foreign
language, forcing them to continue to do so in Years 10 and 11
is the wrong thing to do. At the moment, I have not seen any compelling
evidence to persuade me that we should change our minds on that.
Chairman: Secretary of State, this train
has arrived three minutes late, but we are not badwe can
still make Prime Minister's questions. This has been a very enjoyable
experience for us. We have learned a lot. We are going to learn
how to keep on your tail, which will be difficult but we will
enjoy the challenge. I hope that you have enjoyed this session.
Ed Balls: May I say that the scrutiny
and also the policy advice that the Committee can give us over
the next year on the implementation of the Children's Plan will
be very valuable? I hope that you will take up the challenge.
6 Ev 21 Back
Special Educational Needs: Assessment and Funding: Government
Response to the Tenth Report from the Education and Skills Committee,
Session 2006-07, Second Special Report of Session 2007-08,
HC 298, published 4 February 2008 Back
Ev 22 Back