Barry Bainbridge, Director of the Consortium of All Through Schooling (CATS)
was recently taking part in a conference at the DfE . The keynote address came from Permanent Secretary to the DfE, David Bell.
Bells speech was a analysis of the first 50 days of the coalition, but of greatest interest was his outline of the areas of education policy where the changes would be taking place in the future.
Beyond the current uproar over BSF funding, there will certainly be many fundamental changes in education policy across the board; from a ‘very significant’ announcement on bureaucracy, a shrinking role for Ofsted and moves to put much more school information in the public domain. In the classroom teachers can expect a stripping down of the national curriculum and, depending on who you listen to, more or less freedom to teach.
Barry has kindly agreed to share his notes and interpretations of this important speech with PEN. It provides a fascinating insight into the thinking at the top of DfE, and good indicator of the policy area's which are likely to come under scrutiny in the coming parliament. Essential reading....
David Bell outlined 6 areas where things are happening or about to happen;
1. Creating a freer, more transparent “school system with collaboration based on choice rather then coercion”. This is happening very quickly with the creation of a “permissive regime” in this parliamentary session (by the end of July). “Permissiveness” is very important. It is not the Government’s intention to force academies or to break up existing networks. Its approach is to encourage rather than force. It will look to remove requirements to collaborate but not looking to reintroduce the isolation of the old GM schools. Collaborations are essential for successful schools.
2. The Government want the best qualified workforce and they see this as school’s led with school based training at the heart of practice. There will be a strong emphasis on schools leading their own Teacher Training in collaboration with HE. With regard to Leadership and Teacher Learning, the Government is very keen that central initiatives will go. Schools will now take this forward and centrally driven programmes will go. This is part of the drive to lessen the interference of politicians and reduce bureaucracy. On the question of capacity, groups of schools will be essential to deliver this. Providers from outside will operate in a marketplace, along with LAs and other providers.
3. There will be a move to a streamlined knowledge based curriculum with a profound review of the National Curriculum in the autumn. This will strip out much of the detail and create a curriculum much thinner in content. It will be left to schools how to teach it along with other skills and concepts. The Government sees the curriculum as overcrowded. This is a big task for schools and too much for individual schools.
There will be an age 6 reading age for all children but at the moment, no decision on KS1 SATs. Key Stage 2 tests will remain but probably not in their present form. There is more to come on 16+ qualifications.
4. The Government will seek to simplify accountability and reduce bureaucracy, but maximise information to parents. Ofsted will change back more towards its original format. There is a “very significant” announcement to come on bureaucracy. This will reduce the mountains of stuff schools are required to produce. Transparency will mean that virtually everything about schools will be in the public domain.
5. The Government is determined to enable Headteachers and Teachers to be tougher on discipline and to maintain good order in schools. This will go hand in hand with better provision for pupils who cannot survive in mainstream.
6. The ‘pupil premium’ will target funding for deprived pupils but it is for schools to decide how to spend that money. Funding will be determined by individual pupils on free school meals not in blocks. Schools will be free to spend this money as they wish. This is a prominent part of the coalition agreement.
The details will become clear over the next few months. “Collaborations will become an even sharper focus”. “Maximise your collective knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the children”. There will be tough decisions on capital spending.
-Many thanks to Barry Bainbridge for the informative notes.
Certainly many of the initiatives mentioned here will be welcomed by the Progressive Education Network and teachers alike. These ideas represent the ideological direction of the coalition, without addressing the significant upheaval that will come with implementing them. In this era of much tighter financial constraints, the money for each new initiative must come from an already shrinking pot. These are significant reforms that will cost money, money which must come from existing budgets. it is too early to say where, but as we have seen with the doomed BSF programme, there are no sacred cows in education policy.