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Helping England’s school system to get better at getting better

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 November 2020

IOE Events.

Does England have a school system that’s good at getting better? And do the Covid-19 disruptions offer an opportunity to think more radically about how we accelerate higher standards for all? These were the questions raised in our latest debate – What if… we wanted more effective school improvement?

We were delighted to be joined by former London Schools Commissioner Sir Tim Brighouse; Leora Cruddas, CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts; Lucy Heller, Chief Executive of Ark Schools and, in the chair, TES editor Ann Mroz.

Taking us on a potted history of school improvement, the debate talked us through the emergence, in the 1970s, of the very idea that schools could be improved, to the heyday of Local Education Authorities, ambitious initiatives like the London Challenge, and on to the ‘school-led’ epoch we have today.

It’s a journey (more…)

How do headteachers in England use test data, and does this differ from other countries?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 October 2019

John Jerrim.

In England we are fortunate to have a lot of data available about school pupils and how they are achieving academically at school.

Organisations such as FFT aim to make this data available and easily digestible to schools through services such as Aspire so that it can be used to inform the decisions of teachers and school leaders.

But how does the way schools in England make use of data compare to schools in other countries?

(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.
 

Schools that foster and harness staff commitment perform better

Blog Editor, IOE Digital30 April 2018

Alex Bryson, Lucy Stokes and David Wilkinson. 
There are two things that people think they know about teachers.  One is that they are dedicated to their profession, motivated by a sense of “mission” rather than money.  The other is that they are overworked and suffer work-related stress. But are these things true? Just how dedicated are school employees to their jobs and do they suffer more in terms of stress and potential ‘burnout’?
There appear to be grounds for concern. Teachers are leaving the profession at alarming rates and those who remain report seemingly high levels of job-related stress.  But are these stress levels any higher than those experienced by workers in other professions?  And just how much do employees’ wellbeing and commitment matter for schools’ performance?
Studies of schools and school staff almost invariably focus solely on the schools sector so it is not possible to compare them with employees elsewhere in the economy. Our new study is, to our knowledge, the first (more…)

Schools: how did ‘accountability’ become a synonym for punishment and control? And can we change its meaning?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 November 2017

Melanie Ehren. 
Educational accountability, as defined in scholarly work, simply means the extent to which schools or other institutions are held accountable for their behaviour and performance by others. Answerability for performance is at the core of this relationship, where specific processes and measures such as high stakes testing or school inspections inform the way in which people or organizations are held to account.
This understanding of educational accountability is relatively ‘value-free’ and allows for a range of outcomes. Most systems aim for school improvement, but ‘capacity-building’ or ensuring schools adhere to legislation are also common outcomes. Ofsted’s new corporate strategy says that it aims ‘to be a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation’. Similarly, the Irish Inspectorate explains in its quality framework how it sees external inspections and internal evaluation as complementary contributors to school improvement and capacity building. An external perspective (more…)

Will the leopard change its spots? A new model of inspection for Ofsted

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 September 2017

Frank Coffield
Does Ofsted do more harm than good? I have examined the evidence which shows that, despite some clear benefits of inspection, Ofsted’s methods are invalid, unreliable and unjust. A report from the Education Policy Institute, for example, concluded that notable proportions of schools with the highest grades and lowest numbers of disadvantaged pupils are not down-graded even when their performance deteriorates. Conversely “the most deprived schools are systematically more likely to be down-graded”. The very schools that most need help are further harmed by punitive Ofsted reports that make their recruitment and retention of teachers even more difficult.
Besides, attaching a single adjective such as “outstanding “ or “inadequate” to a large FE college with 20,000 students, 1,000 staff and 30+ departments is a statistical absurdity. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that there is great variation within a college or school and one adjective cannot capture either complexity or diversity.
Ofsted needs to change radically and in my new book, which is launched at the Institute of Education by the IoE Press on 13 September at 5:30 pm, and called Will the Leopard Change Its Spots? A new model of inspection for Ofsted, I offer an (more…)

Schools causing concern: proposals should focus on capacity to improve

Blog Editor, IOE Digital24 November 2015

Melanie Ehren.
The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a consultation on ways to intervene in failing, underperforming and coasting schools. The document puts forward a new set of interventions specifically for ‘coasting’ schools, which are defined as those where fewer than 85% of pupils achieve the floor standards across reading, writing and mathematics in three consecutive years, and where pupils make insufficient progress. These schools would face interventions such as support from teaching schools or national leaders of education, changes in their governance  (e.g. appointing additional governors, or replacing the governing body with an Interim Executive Board), or converting the school into a sponsored academy. (more…)

Free school effects: an impartial review

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 July 2015

Francis Green
Do free schools raise the performance of nearby schools, as Policy Exchange have claimed, or is this a statistical mirage?
There is a plausible argument that the opening of a free school in an area might spur other schools to improve in the long run: it is a basic tenet of market competition that producers – in this case schools – will respond to such pressure. But many other factors lie behind good management of schools – including working with the community – so it is far from clear how much effect the opening of a new local school would have in practice, and whether the fact that it was a free school would make a difference. (more…)

A National Teaching Service Mr Mainwaring?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital14 October 2014

Chris Husbands
The news of a proposed re-make of Dad’s Army preceded by only a few days David Cameron’s announcement of a National Teaching Service: a ‘corps’ of ‘elite teachers’ to be deployed into ‘failing schools’ at short notice. Both depend on stereotypes too obvious for comment. If Bill Nighy was an all-too-predictable casting as Sergeant Wilson, it’s easy to imagine the images that a National Teaching Service might conjure.
In so far as it’s a good idea, I’ll claim some credit for it, since the idea of taking a more strategic approach to the deployment of teachers was one I developed at the beginning of 2013 in my contribution to The Tail. In so far as it is a bad idea as now developed, of course, I’ll distance myself from it, and note (for the avoidance of doubt, the next clause is dripping with irony) that it has lost something in the movement from elegant inception to (more…)

You say you want a cultural revolution? Policy borrowing from the East

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 October 2014

Yun You
When I first arrived in England in 2010, I was shocked by the then Education Secretary Michael Gove’s statement: “I’d like us to implement a cultural revolution just like the one they’ve had in China.” As a Chinese person, the shock was of course from his ‘admiration’ for the ‘cultural revolution’, but also from an English politician’s enthusiasm for learning from East Asian education systems.
What I learnt from my history class and what I heard from Chinese media were all about ‘learning from the West’. Now, there seems to have emerged a reverse tide in England, promoted by a series of international surveys, especially PISA, in which East Asian countries and regions consistently ranked top, much ahead of England. (more…)