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‘Stuck’ schools: are Ofsted judgements stopping them from getting out of the rut?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital21 January 2020

Bernie Munoz-Chereau, Melanie Ehren and Jo Hutchinson.

A few days ago Ofsted announced that they are seeking a ‘judgement-free approach’ to stuck schools. These schools have been consistently judged less than good for over a decade. 

Ofsted believes that these Grades 3 and 4 judgements (namely, ‘satisfactory’ or ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’) are preventing them from improving. 

The judgement unintentionally stigmatizes these schools and makes improvement even harder as the school becomes an unpopular place to teach in, a carousel of consultants try and fail to implement quick fixes, and parents move their children elsewhere. 

(more…)

‘PISA has shifted from being a measure to a target, and in so doing it has lost its value’

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 December 2019

Paul Morris.

A recent IOE Blog asks whether England should continue its involvement with the triennial PISA tests and concludes that we should, as it provides a wealth of unexplored data for analysis.

The question is timely as the outcomes of the 2018 PISA exercise have just been released. They show once again that England’s scores are fairly stable and around the average – although the they do show improved scores in Reading and Maths and a decline in Science and Life Satisfaction.

The important question in deciding whether to continue with PISA is: what have been the major benefits over the last 19 years?

(more…)

‘Loss of self’ and the accountability culture: why teachers are leaving the profession at a worrying rate

Blog Editor, IOE Digital8 April 2019

Jane Perryman

I used to be a teacher and, like so many others, I left the profession. Perhaps this is why I’m so interested in finding out more about the long-standing problem of teacher attrition. Why do so many qualified teachers continue to leave within five years, internationally and in the UK?

Today I am presenting data at the American Educational Research Association (AERA), from a survey of the past five years of UCL’s alumni database (around 3,500), which we have used to find out who had left the profession, who had stayed, and why. Of the participants, 18% had already left teaching, and from their responses, we predict a potential ten-year attrition rate of 40%.

For those who had left, the reasons given were to improve work/life balance (75%), workload (71%), and a target-driven culture (57%). The same reasons were given by those intending to leave. The data spoke to a discourse of disappointment. Participants found the reality of teaching worse than expected, and the nature of the workload, (more…)

Taking back control of school accountability

Blog Editor, IOE Digital28 February 2019

IOE events.

This month our What if…? debate tackled a reoccurring theme from the series – how we hold schools to account and the impact that has on how schools are run and what they provide for their pupils. This issue is particularly topical at the moment, as Ofsted is consulting on a proposed new inspection framework that could depart in significant ways from the current approach.

The need for regulation on matters such as health and safety is not in question. And few would argue that there should be no monitoring whatsoever of schools’ performance in terms of what they do and what their pupils achieve. But it is now very apparent that there is a fine balance to be struck in designing accountability measures if we are to gain the benefits (raising the floor on standards and providing information for stakeholders) without experiencing downsides. The negative impacts of the combination of inspection and performance indicators (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…)

Hot off the press: the IOE debates series for 2018/19

Blog Editor, IOE Digital13 September 2018

IOE Events.
Last year we launched our new flagship events programme, which includes our much- loved debates series What if…? radical and inspiring ideas for alternative education futures. Through this series we bring together prominent speakers on education issues – from policy makers to academics, practitioners to parents – to hear their views on key debates in the field.
So far, we’ve tackled education’s role (or not) in social mobility, vocational education’s Cinderella status, teaching’s image problem, the (unmet) needs of schools operating in the most challenging circumstances, the special educational needs and disability (SEND) crisis, the AI revolution, the promise of educational neuroscience, and how to get all kids to love (or at least not hate) mathematics. Phew. (You can watch all these back/listen back to all these here, or find write ups here.)
But there are many crucial topics that we haven’t yet covered. We intend to put that right in 2018/19.
To get us started, on 1 October we’ll be looking at young people’s mental health and well-being – asking What if…we wanted our kids to be happier?. Young people’s (more…)

A cultural reset: how to end the Ofsted inspection cycle of fear

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 May 2018

Melanie Ehren. 
In November 2017, Ofsted’s chief, Amanda Spielman, talked about one of the biggest problems in current education systems: the culture of fear and game-playing around school inspections, where educators for a long time have been guided by external accountability standards and have lost a sense of professionalism. An entire industry has supported schools in getting Ofsted-ready and many teachers and heads would scrutinize any school improvement activity, peer review or school self-evaluation to see how it would help the school get a good Ofsted-grade.
The fear of being classified as a failing school, being named and shamed, losing one’s job or student intake (particularly from high socio-economic backgrounds) has taken away much of the agency from teachers and head teachers to shape their own professional practice. This trend that is sometimes reinforced when large Multi-Academy Trusts introduce strong internal quality control around Ofsted grades and standards (e.g. performance management or peer review).
Ofsted’s ‘myth busting’ campaign, where the agency actively tries to debunk existing (more…)

Our greatest challenge: what is the best way to support the most challenged schools?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 February 2018

IOE Events. 
The fifth in our ‘What if…?’ debates series, looking at how best to support the most challenged schools, featured the stellar line-up of the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, Sam Freedman of Teach First, Head of Passmores Academy (and ‘Educating Essex’) Vic Goddard, and Lucy Heller, Chief Executive of the international education charity Ark.
While some schools and students buck the odds, the correlation between disadvantage and lower educational attainment remains a strong one. This has been a central concern in education debate for some time, but it seems we keep taking two steps forward and one step back on (some might say one step forward and two steps back). We asked our panellists: if you were Secretary of State, what would you do to crack this problem once and for all? This required some radical ideas; what we got was radical but also (more…)

‘Coasting schools’: learning from international ‘best practice’

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 July 2015

Paul Morris and Christine Han.
Shortly the Government will enact legislation to introduce the new category of ‘coasting school’ into the OFSTED Schools Inspection framework. Schools which are defined as ‘coasting’ will be required to provide a plan as to how they will cease to ‘coast’, and they can be required to convert to Academy status. It is unclear what will happen to ‘coasting’ Academies. (more…)

Ofsted, school accountability and the most able students

Blog Editor, IOE Digital13 June 2013

Chris Husbands
OFSTED’s report on the progress made by the most able children in non-selective secondary schools has hit the headlines, finding that more than a quarter (27%) of previously high-attaining pupils had failed to achieve at least a B grade in both English and Maths. For the Daily Mail, this is evidence of the failure of the comprehensive system; the Daily Telegraph reported calls for secondary schools to set pupils from the beginning of year 7. The report is in practice – as reports always are – more complex than the press release headlines, but it still makes sobering reading: a significant number of those who do exceptionally well at the age of 11 do not perform to expectation by the age of 16.
The first observation to make is that whilst the report focuses on non-selective (comprehensive) schools, it includes some glancing references to selective (grammar) schools that suggest all is not well there either: in comprehensive schools, 35% of those who secured level 5 or above in both English and Maths went on to secure an A or A* at GCSE, whereas the figure was 59% in grammar schools. But this means that 41% of those who secured a Level 5 at age 11 and went on to selective secondary education did not secure an A or A* at GCSE.
For over 20 years in assessing English secondary schools, we have held schools to account based on the proportion of 16 year olds who move across a threshold of GCSE grade C or above. In accountability terms, there are no further incentives for schools to address the needs of their highest attaining young people. There are, however, many disincentives for schools not to address the needs of middle attainers. In these circumstances, it’s not terribly surprising that the needs of the highest – and, indeed, the lowest – attainers may have been neglected.
Much of the press debate has focused on the issue of setting or – a different concept entirely – streaming, arguing that grouping children by ability would address the problem. In fact, the evidence is much more nuanced on this. In practice, all classes turn out to be mixed attainment classes – the only point at issue is the breadth of the attainment span in any given class. Once this point is accepted, the issue is about how teachers provide for pupils of varying talents and attainment, and, though it has barely been reported, the OFSTED report stresses the importance of well-focused teaching, and the identification tracking of individual pupils.
And there’s a further point: over the same twenty year period, policy and press discussion has tended to divide schools into “successful” and “failing” schools. The OFSTED report on higher attainers demonstrates that it’s a lot more complex than this: it turns out that “successful” schools are often no more successful in meeting the needs of very high attaining pupils than less successful schools. And, for all the difference between comprehensive schools and grammar schools, if grammar schools are not securing the highest grades for two-fifths of their highest attainers, the observation holds there: they, too are just not doing well enough with higher attainers. Put slightly differently, it does not matter much which school you go to, but it may matter a great deal who teaches you when you get there. In English education, within-school variations in pupil attainment are more significant than between-school variations.