One of the main focuses behind ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ is that high levels of success within schools should be both expected and the norm, regardless of geographical or socio-economic barriers: “Wherever they live and whatever their background, ability or needs, every child and young person in this country deserves a world class education that allows them to reach their full potential”. We have noted that for many years education policy has focussed on the needs of communities in cities, whilst the needs of those living in others areas have too often been overlooked. Sustained and targeted political will has had a huge impact in the improvement of London schools and we look forward to seeing this replicated more widely (you can read more about our recent findings on coastal schools and performance, for example, here).
The new paper also claims that whilst education in England has improved since the coalition Government’s intervention, the level of education in the country is still not on par with many of the other countries across the world, many of whom are improving at a far faster rate. To rectify this, it has introduced the new College of Teaching, an independent professional body which the Government describes as: ‘A voluntary membership organisation, independent of government, run by teachers for teachers’. The Government hopes the College will lead the profession in taking responsibility for its own improvement, particularly by promoting the use of evidence to improve professional practice.
The principle change is, of course, the academisation of all schools in England, which the Government aims to implement immediately and complete by 2022. This will aim to place autonomy in the hands of headteachers and communities so that local authorities can focus on their duties. While their role within education will therefore be significantly reduced, they will still be involved and responsible for the following three tasks: ensuring that every child has a school place, acting as champions for all parents and families; and ensuring the needs of vulnerable pupils are met. The final responsibility includes assessing and making provision for children with special educational needs and disability, promoting school attendance and tackling persistent absence; and ensuring that alternative provision is available for excluded students. It also includes safeguarding responsibilities for all children and supporting vulnerable children. We will therefore continue working closely with local authorities, as well as head teachers and community leaders.
The Government also aims to improve teaching standards, the recruitment process and teacher numbers. Reforms for the National College for Teaching and Leadership have been planned, with an aim to delivering well-targeted incentives, teacher recruitment campaigns and opportunities. The Government are also launching a new national teacher vacancy website, so that aspiring and current teachers can find posts quickly and easily, and the cost of recruitment to schools can be reduced. Another major change to be implemented is the replacement of the NQT accreditation with a new and ‘tougher’ certificate, as it is believed that the standard of teacher training in Britain is not on par with the rest of the world.
In line with key School-Home Support principles, the paper recognises that parents play a key role in educational success but often lack the knowledge and means to help their children prepare for adult life. The Government aims to bridge this gap by focusing on providing resources for parents and opening channels of communication between parents and schools. They are working on a ‘Parental Portal’, which the Government describes this as a ‘one stop shop’ and which should launch in 2017. Parents can access information online and learn how to help their children and best to place them in schools. Additionally, there are proposals to streamline complaint systems so that parents who feel their children are failing can hold the school to account more efficiently. It will also be easier for parents to escalate issues to the Department of Education if they feel their voices are not being heard. Parental engagement is something we have always found vital for a child’s success, and we welcome the creation of multiple channels from which parents can participate in the near future.
Finally, the report also outlines advances which have been made in education since the last White Paper. The Government has recorded that ‘Persistent absence from school is down by 40% since 2010/11, and the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training is the lowest ever’. More schools than ever have also achieved an ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’ grade from Ofsted. There is still much work to be done, for example, the paper also notes that two in five children leave secondary school without 5 A*-C grades in core subjects, but overall there have been some excellent improvements and we are thrilled to count our own successes amongst these.
You can read the full paper here.