BSF09: Memorandum submitted by Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
The attached detailed submission from Knowsley follows on from the evidence gathering visit of the Select Committee to the Borough on the 15th January 2007. The submission directly addresses the specific areas of interest highlighted by the Committee in its announcement of the 22nd May 2008 and also provides more general comment on the BSF programme. In our detailed submission we address the following
1. The extent to which the programme remains a focus for education transformation in the context of the challenges of the 21st Century. We observe that the broader objective of education transformation for all is being redefined to focus on educational attainment in deprived areas thereby running the risk of the programme becoming parochial rather than national and global. We observe that education transformation remains undefined.
2. The challenges presented by maintaining the performance of existing institutions while creating new institutions to meet widespread expectations. We attest that the place of BSF in meeting wider educational policy objectives is now less clear than at the outset.
3. The importance of exchanging best practice and knowledge and the benefits that are emerging. We highlight both formal and informal networks.
4. The issues that have prevented more rapid implementation. We comment on the extent to which the inflexibility of mechanisms such as PFI restrains local authorities and construction companies in achieving innovative solutions
5. The experience of procurement of an early BSF local authority. We set out the national and local issues that affected our progress.
6. The progress we feel we have made in translating a radical vision into practice. This links directly to legislation and policy that emerged subsequent to Wave 1 status being agreed and our approach to accommodating this within a locally agreed vision.
7. The criticality of pedagogy in driving design. Why new and emerging pedagogies require radically different approaches to design.
8. The importance of being flexible in a fast changing education policy environment.
1.0 General Comments
1.1 The broader BSF debate (particularly its initial aim around education transformation) appears to have been dissipated with the focus falling on failing schools in deprived areas. It appears from the proposals out to consultation on BSF Waves 7-15 that future investment may be further targeted at this policy area. The potential consequence is that it runs the risk of a broader conclusion being drawn that BSF investment is no longer a national policy on education transformation and that the only problems are in so called deprived areas .
1.2 We feel that this assumption stands apart form the original transformational intention of BSF as the vehicle that made all English secondary schools fit for purpose in the 21st Century. We feel this runs the risk of misunderstanding the global nature of the challenge.
1.3 It is crucial that young people's needs and fears about "the future" are actively listened to by parents, teachers, fellow students, and politicians. In educating for the 21st century, active listening to young people's voices questions the appropriateness of educational agendas and in a world in which local, national and global conflict is a daily fact of life, it is all too easy for children to become fearful, to lack hope and to believe that they are powerless in the face of forces larger than themselves. Few things are more empowering to young people than the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes which enable them to resolve conflicts peacefully, and to work creatively for changes.
1.4 Through working with Microsoft, key academics and organisations and through analysing a broad base of evidence we have come to take a view of our BSF programme in a national and global context. We feel this is entirely appropriate given the scale of the endeavour. As such, and consistent with the views of local stakeholders, Knowsley's BSF vision is fundamentally predicated on a system of education that adapts readily to economic and social change. The shift away from national and global thinking that we felt BSF represented and toward a more parochial outlook is of real concern
1.5 As the Select Committee will know, Knowsley's BSF programme is unique in that it is the only programme in the country to replace all of its provision with a new school system. While this was lauded at the outset (quoted in the Schools White Paper of 2005) it has perhaps gone from being unique to being an anomaly.
1.6 National Challenge illustrates this well. 5 of the national challenge schools are existing Knowsley schools and, as such, will be closed in the coming months as part of our BSF programme to be replaced by new institutions. Government is aware of our proposals and has agreed them yet we are once again caught up in a new policy initiative the central challenge of which we feel we have set out clearly how we intend to respond. It is difficult at this stage to establish the position of BSF in Government's strategy around educational reform.
1.7 We feel that there is much to learn from the Knowsley BSF programme. The possibility that it is now considered an anomaly should not prevent this. In January 2008 NESTA published a report entitled 'Transformers: How local areas innovate to address changing social need'. Knowsley's BSF programme is a Case Study in this report which highlights the criticality of innovation at the local level if deep rooted problems are to be resolved. In our view this is what BSF was always intended to do.
1.8 In summary, we appear to have been caught in a debate as to how (working class) young people can achieve better educational outcomes and the role or otherwise of local authorities in this endeavour.
1.9 Perhaps as a consequence of the above context we do not feel that Building Schools for the Future has a high enough national profile. Granted that delays in implementation do not help in enabling Ministers to point to its obvious merits but given the scale and ambition of this and the investment in primary schools it should feature more prominently. To achieve thisthe finding in the Select Committee report of 2007, that it is better to get it right rather than do it with undue haste, needs to be constantly reinforced.
2.0 The rate of progress that is being made in bringing projects to the construction stage;
The following summary outlines the progress of the Knowsley programme from OBC to on site construction.
Timetable for the period from Outline Business Case to Financial Close for the Knowsley BSF Programme
2.1 Mainly as a result of changes to the Programme during the procurement process, the date of Financial Close slipped from January 2007 to December 2007. A number of the key changes which summarised below could be associated with being a Wave 1 BSF authority:
(i) As at the date of submission of the OBC the
Council was progressing detailed discussions with the DfES as to how and where
one of the Learning Centres would be developed as a
(ii) the Outline Business case was submitted on the basis required by PfS that funding for the community schools only would be supported by PFI credits, with the voluntary aided sector schools and the ICT Services Contract being funded by traditional funding. However, the impact to the Council of having Supported Borrowing rather than PFI Credits was severe due to the Council being a 'Grant Floor Authority' which did not appear to have been taken into consideration during the initial stages of our procurement. This was later reviewed by PfS and a second Project Review Group submission, resulting in funding by PFI credits for the seven Learning Centres;
(iii) The Council reviewed its demand for places which resulted in the early closure of one secondary school and a reduction from eight to seven new Learning Centres;
(iv) Throughout the commercial negotiations, at the request of PfS as a pilot exercise for the BSF Programme, the Council considered the implications of proceeding with Credit Guarantee Finance (CGF) or a private finance solution. Whilst the CGF route would have provided a Unitary Charge saving compared to a bank debt solution, further discussions with the Treasury, DfES and PfS, the Council determined that, mainly due to anticipated timing implications on the overall Programme, the Council would prefer to adopt the bank debt solution.
(v) At a later stage of the commercial
negotiations, the Council reconsidered its funding route and determined that a
bond solution would be the most economically advantageous approach. Again, this was a new funding route at the
time for schools PFI in
2.2 Despite the changes to the Programme and the impact of changes due to commercial negotiations, the costs have been contained within the Council's affordability target and have not significantly impacted upon either the deliverability or the principles of the Knowsley Programme set out in our Strategic Business Case. This has been assisted by entering into an Advanced Works Agreements from May 2007 to ensure that the construction programme remained deliverable within the required timescales.
2.3 Construction as at July 2008 is on target, with the first Centre for Learning due to open in January 2009 and all seven complete by January 2010.
3.0 How the experience of those in the early waves is being disseminated;
3.1 Knowsley is a member of the Merseyside Learn Together Partnership which includes 6 local authority members. The objective of the Partnership is to work collaboratively on areas of major policy and strategy and it has instigated workshops to disseminate BSF experience among its members.
3.2 Knowsley has been invited to address a number of conferences on BSF specifically and in the context of wider education debate at both regional and national level. This includes seminars supported by the Select Committee itself.
3.3 We have responded to requests from other Local Authorities across the country to conduct sessions on our BSF experience and we have obliged in almost every circumstance.
3.4 We have received visits from Local Authorities to Knowsley to examine our progress, particularly the relationship between pedagogy and design.
3.5 As mentioned elsewhere in this response we worked with NESTA as a case study on its report on system innovators which we found highly positive and enlightening. A common theme emerging out of this work was that local authorities looking to innovate their way out of deep rooted problems found that the Government regulatory and inspection frameworks were too rigid to cope with new approaches and the authorities concerned were 'found against' as a result.
3.6 Knowsley is one of a group of Local Authorities (Sheffield, Sandwell, Kent & Knowsley) working with Microsoft on developing a simulation of a Personalised Learning Environment (Microsoft BSF Showcase) that has influenced ICT Managed Service Providers in developing their BSF product. This work is now continuing, with Microsoft further developing the concept with the resulting solutions are being brokered with the market to explore possible integration opportunities.
3.7 Directly linked to BSF Wave 1 status, Knowsley
· Partnership for Schools (PfS),
· The Training and Development Agency (TDA),
· National Strategies,
· Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA),
· The Innovation Unit.
3.8 Both Knowsley and
3.9 In Knowsley an induction programme for the new Centre for Learning ( note that Knowsley has opted to use the term Centres for Learning within the titles of their new BSF investment as a replacement for the term school)Principals has been planned and implemented with colleagues from the Innovation Unit. Planning is currently underway with the Centre for Educational Leadership for induction programmes for second and third tier staff, a development that will be conducted with the TDA.
3.10 QCA in particular are working with Knowsley in supporting the implementation of the QCA 'Big Picture'. A QCA representative is working with one school in particular to support its transition into its new Centre for Learning. This work is focussing upon providing support for the young people in exploring the future of teaching and learning for their new centre. The work will support the development of a common language for learning that will be shared with representative from other Centres for Learning in order for further sessions to be developed across other schools.
3.11 Knowsley and Sheffield are feeding back
progress to date at the next meeting of the Innovation Zone in
4.0 How the visioning process is being developed/implemented
4.1 As Knowsley is the only Local Authority replacing its entire system of secondary education it presents novel and unique challenges. Progress in key areas is highlighted below.
Knowsley has been actively exploring new models of Governance that will support system reform that delivers education transformation. This work has been supported by the Innovations Unit. What has emerged is a model that looks to deliver all aspects of Government policy and legislation, bringing together the prospect of Trust based arrangement with the objectives under Every Child Matters and linked strongly to neighbourhoods and communities. This is proving a major task. Local consultation on new models is ongoing as is discussion with DCSF around the fine detail of the legislation. While progress is being made it can be stated that satisfying all relevant aspects of Government policy and legislation in our context while staying true to a local vision is a major challenge.
An induction programme for the new Centre for Learning Principals has been planned and implemented with colleagues from the Innovation Unit. The sessions have focussed upon developing a collegial team of Principals who will support each other in their preparation for migration to a new way of working. Time has been spent exploring pedagogy and curriculum innovation with a focus upon the associated continuing professional development requirements for the whole workforce.
Planning is currently underway with the Centre for Educational Leadership for induction programmes for second and third tier staff, a development that will be conducted in conjunction with the TDA.
This area is intriguing and the National Challenge announcement concerning the existing institutions in Knowsley has raised local sensitivities at a critical time for the Knowsley programme.
Knowsley has developed a Pedagogical Framework that is currently being used to support the workforce in transforming classroom practice, founded around our work on 'pedagogy and practice' and 'pedagogy and personalisation'. The document contains a delivery framework and highlights a set of pedagogical principles against which the proposed curriculum models for the new learning centres can be tested for their fitness for purpose..
The document identifies the need to reframe pedagogy so that the learner is very much at the heart of education and points to the paramount importance of the daily learning experiences both in and out of the classroom in shaping young people's engagement with their learning. It suggests that the reframing of pedagogy is essential if we aspire to address the cognitive, affective and social aspects of learning.
The document explains how the Pedagogical approaches provide a crucially important bridge between "what are we trying to achieve?", and "how do we organise learning?". These approaches exemplify the ways in which the curriculum is translated into personalised experiences for all learners. For this reason the pedagogical framework is the bond between what we are trying to secure for our learners, and evaluating if this has been achieved.
4.1.4 Test Model Environments (TME):
In preparation for migration to their new Learning Centres, teachers in Knowsley have the opportunity to supporting students to learn within 21st Century learning environments. The Test Model Environments (TMEs) will allow teachers to work in a realistic learning environment that will reflect the type of learning spaces that are being built under the Future Schooling in Knowsley (FSK) programme.
The concept of developing the TME (within our Excellence in Cities funded City Learning Centres) is to prepare teachers, students, Support Staff and Adult Education tutors for colonising the new Centres for Learning, before they are built. The TME are a simulation of the 'Home Base' approach that is an integral part of the design of our BSF Centres for Learning that Years 7 and 8 will colonise upon migration to the Centres for Learning and will allow teachers time to try out new ways of working in "real time" with hands-on support.
The TME comprises of flexible working spaces and are fully wireless enabled allowing the use of various portable devices. Teachers and students will be able to locate their activity in a place that suit their needs and requirements for the lesson.
The TME will enable teachers to "test drive" the learning spaces before embarking upon full scale habitation of their Centres for Learning by trying out new approaches to learning and testing out the types of furniture, technologies and space layouts.
4.1.5 Role of Microsoft:
One of our existing schools,
One of the activities to have emerged from this link is the Innovative Teachers programme. Teachers from Bowring have developed their classroom practice to embed the use of new technologies in the learning. Teachers use Microsoft One Note to develop an integrated planning package that links together student material, classroom resources and additional learning.
4.1.6 Partnering with BSF Contractors:
Education Advisers from RM have been working closely with teachers and educationalists in Knowsley in developing the Knowsley Personalised Learning Environment (PLE). The PLE will support new ways of working by allowing students access to "anytime, anywhere" learning whilst giving formative feedback on progress that can be viewed by students, teachers and parents.
The Reviewable Design Data (RDD) process, carried out between Knowsley and its BSF providers Transform and RM, has caused all stakeholders to be mindful of the vision for flexible and adaptable learning spaces. Throughout the process there has been frequent discussion about the direction of future learning and the need to maintain the intent of the design to facilitate new ways of working.
Science staff in particular, did have concerns over the innovative design for science working with reduced number of laboratories. Locally procured use of consultants, who are themselves engaged within the DCSF "Faraday Project", have successfully demonstrated to the Knowsley science community, new ways of working that have supported their future thinking about learning.
Clearly, it was not going to be easy to take teaching and learning from a typical classroom environment into a series of new learning environments and appropriate compromises are being made along the way but the general direction of travel, that classrooms are not the only viable day to day learning space, is intact.
5.0 How the procurement process is working;
5.1 Knowsley is aware that the shift from negotiated procedure to competitive dialogue is changing the context radically and, from what we hear, for the better. Clearly competition is potentially subject to low priced bids being driven up during the commercial negotiation period. A lengthy negotiation period, such as ours, will inevitably bring increased project team costs which fall to the local authority.
5.2 Procurement costs met by the Council during the procurement process were in excess of £4m. In addition, Bid Costs included in the bid of the appointed contractor were of a similar level. In addition, the Council is meeting significant further costs during the implementation process with particular emphasis on investment in the development of transformational education.
5.3 A number of issues which arose during our procurement process could be said to be as a direct consequence of being a Wave 1 BSF Authority. These are set out in more detail in an earlier answer to a question above.
5.4 The table below sets out some of the additional key issues which arose during the negotiation process:
5.5 Despite the above and extensive other negotiations and the impact of scope changes referred to earlier, the Council ensured that its vision to develop transformational facilities and education was sustained.
6.0 Progress on reducing schools' carbon emissions and on achieving zero carbon new school buildings;
6.1 Building Schools for the Future Standard Form sets out acceptable requirements for Contractors in this regard and the Council's Technical Advisor at design stage was required to ensure robustness in terms of the Output Specifications for the implementation, construction and operational phases to reduce carbon emissions of the new construction and their operations once complete.
6.2 Additionally the Payment Mechanism employed for the contract has
a built in performance regime in terms of efficiency targets and the Council
has its own internal policies covering its own obligations providing the Soft
Facilities Management and Catering, which again are aimed at reducing the
carbon emissions of the Centres.
6.3 All the Centres for Learning are new buildings and will therefore reach the maximum cost effective energy efficiency in order to comply with Building Regulations (as opposed to refurbishments) which aim to reduce carbon emissions but are not standards for achieving zero carbon emissions.
7.0 How personalisation and other educational strategies are guiding the design of new schools; and
7.1 In a complex interdependent world, there are arguably important implications for curriculum design and practice in preparing for the 21st Century. For teachers and schools, there are important choices to be made about whether to broaden imaginative horizons and to infuse a global perspective by learning from other cultures. Knowsley has listened and this has impacted on the design of our centres for learning and the pedagogical approach that has been taken.
7.2 This area has explored in some depth in Knowsley. Our education blueprint carried out in 2005 looked ahead to future pedagogies and concluded that it would be highly unlikely that learning would continue indefinitely to be delivered in traditional classrooms of 30 children. Our research pointed toward the need for space to become more flexible and be able to accommodate learning that was 1 to 1, in project groups, in standard classes, in specialist areas, in lecture groups etc. Alongside this we perceived the need to formalise the use of technology and have worked with RM to develop Personalised Learning Environments delivered through a ration of 1:1 portable devices.
7.3 This debate emerged directly out of our conclusions around de-schooling. In this sense it is clear that we wished to establish authentic 21st Learning Environments rather than cleaner and shinier versions of a 19th Century fordist construct. We fear too many schools have yet to make the break away from the institutional model.
7.4 The outcome of this was that we looked to procure buildings that would respond to the challenge. This is not easy as you have to accommodate both the present and also the future and they do not always look the same. The result of this is a series of compromises with existing practioners that will enable us to move toward new practice while acknowledging that the shift from ubiquitous classrooms to more democratised space and flexible approaches will take time.
7.5 To support this shift we have developed two projects. One of our schools is a designated Microsoft Global School of the Future Pathfinder. Under this students have been working with teachers in ways which informed our education vision. Early evaluation is emerging and the results are extremely encouraging. To the surprise of some, pupils have taken to group work, independent learning and a greater degree of trust in a highly encouraging way. In addition , we have developed 'Test Model Environments' in existing City Learning Centres which mimic the environments that will be established under BSF enabling existing pupils and staff to trial new ways of working. Again, the results are encouraging.
8.0 Developments in the procurement and design of ICT for schools.
8.1 Our ICT development plan is closely aligned to our BSF programme looking at our current infrastructure, hardware and software and enabling where we need to be which incorporates curriculum models, CPD, test model environments, the e-government strategy, personalised learning, family, community and partnership engagement.
· ICT Development grants are now aligned to enable more flexibility eg Harnessing Technologies providing opportunities for strategic development aligned to the overall vision.
· Developments for the Child Index, ContactPoint, eCaf provide an opportunity to align 'information' systems with the developments across Children's Services.
· A number of financial frameworks have been established nationally to support competitive pricing models
· Development of 'mobile' learning is now well established through Computers for Pupils and Home Access programmes.
8.2 This emphasis on mobile learning has been expedited through the Computers for Pupils (CfP) in Knowsley provided a test modelling opportunity for the Future Schooling in Knowsley programme and is part of a wider strategy to draw back into the new strategic role outlined by Government and to work closely with private sector partners to look at the wider delivery of public services around personalisation and people focused delivery for residents, whilst seriously considering the role of technology in promoting change and the development of modern skills linked to employability.
8.3 The connectivity solution provided for Computers for Pupils is T- Mobile 3G and although flexible, providing anytime anywhere learning, it incurs a significant annual revenue cost, preventing sustainability and longer term rollout of provision. Knowsley is therefore proposing to test model a sustainable wireless solution to further extend home access provision for Children, Young People and their Families utilising the Access to Technology at Home funding.
9.0 how the need to cater for the 14-19 Diplomas and the joint working that will involve, and for the Government's proposal to raise the participation age for education and training to 18, is being addressed in BSF proposals; and
9.1 This perhaps illustrates the problem of how rapidly changing policy environments impact on investment. BSF Wave 1 was perhaps 'policy light' in many respects and those participating local authorities were required to fill the gap. Consequently much has depended on whether the anticipatory abilities of the Local Authority concerned are acute. In Knowsley we were unable to forecast with absolute certainty so adopted a policy of maximum flexibility. This presents problems for Government officials who are accustomed to hard and fast regulations, particularly in areas such as BB98.
9.2 In respect of diplomas, staff preparing for the introduction
of the Diploma in Creative and Media and ICT, have been using the Test Model
Environments to develop their approaches to pedagogy. Some of the delivery sessions from September
2008 have been timetabled within the TMEs so that flexible spaces can be
utilised in advance of colonisation of the new Centres for Learning. Knowsley is fortunate in that its long
established 14-19 Collegiate allows significant numbers of students to
undertake vocational study at
9.3 The picture in respect of post 16 is complex. As part of the "system" reform within Knowsley, Post 16 organisation is also undertaking a radical review. In response to the history of underperformance Post 16 in Knowsley our 14-19 Executive responded with a review to identify options for a systemic reform of 16-19 provision.
9.4 The Review recommended two strategic provision options proposing radical changes to the current arrangements to bring about a step improvement in Level 3 participation and attainment. The options take account of the intended transformation in the borough's secondary education provision as set out in the Local Authority's Building Schools for the Future programme.
9.5 Strategic options are:
1. Establish a New Sixth Form College for Knowsley learners
2. Establish Roby Sixth Form College as the first choice Sixth Form College for Knowsley learners
The two proposals are to be consulted upon during October/November 2008.
9.6 The Executive has agreed that although there should be one institution delivering post-16, there should be delivery taking place in the North, South and Centre of the Borough to maintain the presence of post-16 provision in all areas of the authority. This will enhance the links between the new Centres for Learning and post-16 provision.
9.7 Discussions have taken place between the College and the two existing sixth forms with the resulting proposal that there will be a North Campus (Kirkby Catholic Centre for Learning), a Central Campus and a South Campus (Halewood Centre for Learning) delivering academic level 3 provision. The North and South Campuses will be 11-16 schools in terms of Ofsted and performance tables but will continue to have "on site" post-16 provision of broadly similar numbers to current provision.
9.8 Each Campus will have specialist curriculum areas and will take the lead in developing those specialisms, wherever they are delivered within the borough.
9.9 The Campuses together will offer a very wide ranging curriculum including A levels, the new Diplomas and National Diplomas. If the demand for a particular provision grows within a geographical area, the provision will, wherever possible, be delivered in that locality.
9.10 The provision will be managed by the College and delivered by Centre for Learning and College staff.
10.0 the Government's announcement in April about the 'acceleration' and 'streamlining' of Building Schools for the Future and its implications for the delivery of the project as a whole.
10.1 The consultation on Waves 7 -15 conspicuously avoids debate on the impact of proposed changes on the ethos and delivery of the wider programme instead focusing on the mechanics of procurement. While this is undoubtedly necessary it might have also taken the opportunity to review the extent to which the programme was delivering wider educational, social and economic objectives.
10.2 Proposals to enable Local Authorities to work more closely together are certainly welcome but this should not be limited to procurement. Clearly local authorities and their schools in similar contexts would have as much to gain from working together on educational objectives.
10.3 Under the consultation it appears that the term 'Academy' is now taken as shorthand for education transformation. As we argue elsewhere in this response, this is perhaps a limited view.
10.4 We welcome the decision to explore in greater detail the potential to co-locate services for children, young people and families. We have endeavoured to do this in Knowsley but against technical limitations which presumed that a school was the limit of our ambitions. Given the fact that the Children's Act was on the statute book in 2004 and in 2008 we are looking at the practical implications of this on a major programme of capital investment demonstrates a basic failure to join up policy at a national level.
10.5 The intention to broaden and streamline Waves 7-15 should avoid the past mistakes of failing to link transformation with building and specific processes should be put in place that ensure that 'new old schools are avoided'.
10.6 The continued failure to establish a cross sector national group of all the major interests to oversee BSF remains a fundamental omission. Without such a representative voice to guide the work of PfS, DCSF, Local authorities, schools and contractors an overall lack of coherence persists. While the performance of PfS has clearly improved enormously we still feel that a national forum would bring many benefits.