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Counting the cost of a fragmented school system

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 July 2019

Sara Bubb. 

In an effort to turn schools into academies too little attention has been given to constructing a middle tier oversight system that is fair and efficient for all.

This is an unescapable conclusion of our new study, Understanding the Middle Tier: Comparative Costs of Academy and LA-maintained Systems, which has uncovered the cost of England’s systems for overseeing academies and local authority (LA) schools. We found a complex and confusing picture that reinforces the Public Accounts Committee judgement that the Department for Education’s ‘arrangements for oversight of schools are fragmented and incoherent, leading toinefficiency for government and confusion for schools.’

The ‘middle tiers’ are the systems of support and accountability connecting (more…)

Are educational networks the new panacea for system reform? Here’s how to ensure a more thoughtful approach

Blog Editor, IOE Digital8 January 2019

 
Melanie Ehren. 
In the last decade many countries have introduced policies to mandate or incentivise school networks. Examples are teaching school alliances and Multi-Academy Trusts in England, regional improvement consortia in Wales, area-learning communities in Northern Ireland, and networks for inclusive education in the Netherlands.
Network governance and school-to-school collaboration seems to be the new panacea for educational improvement. Even the OECD is advocating network governance as an effective strategy for school improvement and to tackle complex educational challenges in child development.
The introduction of networks has not been without problems, but most of these can be attributed to policies that failed to ensure that the conditions for effective collaboration between (more…)

The tensions between economic and educational choices for schools have never been sharper

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 July 2018

Toby Greany and Rob Higham.
The economic and regulatory incentives facing state schools in England are increasingly in tension with an inclusive, broad and balanced education for pupils.
Since 2010 the Government has used the language of a ‘self-improving school-led system’ to characterise its reforms, arguing that these are ‘moving control to the frontline’. Our research shows that this is a partial and idealised account: while some higher performing schools are benefitting, the system as a whole is becoming more fragmented and less equitable.
Schools have been strongly encouraged (and sometimes forced) to become academies, which are independent of local government, on the premise that they will be freed from red tape.
Yet schools and academies have faced greater regulation… read the full article on guardian.com.
See our new report here.
 

Priorities for a new Government: advice from our academics part 3 – school leadership, ICT and educational psychologists

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 May 2017

The IOE blog has asked colleagues from across the Institute what’s at the top of their wish list. We are publishing their replies during the run-up to the election. 
School leaders and leadership   
The new Secretary of State faces a potentially combustible set of issues in England, especially if they are a Conservative charged with introducing more grammar schools. The new funding formula, piled onto the tight funding situation already facing many schools, will also occupy the headlines. Behind these issues sit some fundamental questions about where the system is heading – Local Authorities have been decimated since 2010, but the new model of Regional Schools Commissioners is far from established and less than half of schools are yet academies.
The emerging Multi-Academy Trusts are facing serious challenges, with limited evidence of impact overall and a continuing stream of bad news stories about the (more…)

Growth of Multi-Academy Trusts: do we need to put the brakes on?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 March 2017

Melanie Ehren
Yesterday, the House of Commons Education Committee issued its report on Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) with the key headline of: MPs concerned about performance, accountability and expansion of multi-academy trusts’.
The report issues a number of recommendations, all of which are aimed at supporting  further growth in the number of academies and Multi-Academy Trusts. As the report states (p.6) ‘the Government expects that in five to six a years a “tipping point” will be reached where most schools have converted and joined a MAT’. Given the current numbers of academies in MATs, this would see a total of 15,767 state-funded schools convert to academy status and become part of a MAT over the next couple of years. Another 1,618 academies that are currently operating on a stand-alone basis would also need to become part of a MAT*. The numbers are impressive and given the difficulties in too rapid expansion of existing MATs, it is no surprise that the Education Committee is calling on the Government to ‘only promote expansion of MATs that prioritizes (more…)

Dear Secretary of State for Education…

Blog Editor, IOE Digital14 July 2016

Now we know. Justine Greening, MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, has become the new Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities. Her brief is to include higher education and skills, formerly under the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Downing Street says the education department will take on responsibility for: “Reforming the higher education sector to boost competition and continue to improve the quality of education that students receive; and delivering more apprenticeships through a fundamental change in the UK’s approach to skills in the workplace”.
Ms Greening, one of the few education secretaries to have attended a non-selective state secondary school – Oakwood Comprehensive in Rotherham – was previously Secretary of State for International Development. The new education secretary has a background in accountancy.
While teacher supply –  discussed in a recent IOE blog post – will be at the top of her very full in-tray, she will also need to master a wide range of topics from Academies to Teacher education. As early as next week, she will have to steer the Higher Education and Research Bill through its second reading. Here, IOE experts suggest priorities for Ms Greening to consider in key areas of education policy. (more…)

Academisation: a cautionary tale from Holland

Blog Editor, IOE Digital18 March 2016

Toby Greany and Melanie Ehren.

The schools white paper brings together recent announcements from the budget and the funding consultation as well as the provisions in the Education and Adoption Act to set out the next phase of school reform. The strategy is undoubtedly ambitious – in particular the aim to make all schools into academies by 2022 and the move to a National Funding Formula by 2019-20 – but is broadly consistent with the direction of travel towards a ‘self-improving’ system since 2010.
Given that direction of travel, many of the specific proposals in the white paper are focused on trying to address some of the acknowledged weaknesses of the existing system: for example through a concerted focus on building capacity in areas where school-led approaches are currently weak, to clarify a very different but still meaningful oversight role for Local Authorities, and to remove some of the perverse incentives in the accountability system.
What is the evidence that making every school an academy will make a positive difference (more…)