Tag Archives: schools

The Independent View: Free school meals is universalism at its best – all children benefit, but low-income children benefit most

school mealsSo the summer is over and it’s back to school time. But there is a silver lining to the autumnal clouds: free school meals. On their first day back at school, all infants school pupils (4 to 7 year olds) should be able to sit down to enjoy a free, nutritious meal.

This is one of the rare occasions when politics visibly touches normal family life, saving harassed parents the need to make a packed lunch and saving them money at the same time. Families will save almost £10 a week on average for every child benefiting from the policy.

Families up and down the country for years to come will benefit from the leadership of local and national politicians of all parties in helping to make this happen. From the previous government and local authorities for piloting and taking it forward at a local level, to Michael Gove for backing the idea in principle, to Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats for getting the Coalition to implement it. And now the Liberal Democrats have gone even further pledging to extend it to all primary school children if they are in government post-election.

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Opinion: New school curriculum

schoolsignI have recently written a couple of articles on Liberal Democrat Voice around changes to schools (here and here).  Please read them, as they go with this one. To follow on from them I believe we also need Lib Dems to get behind changes to the curriculum in secondary schools.

The National Curriculum in England gives standards for each subject, but not which subjects (beyond the core subjects of Maths, English and Science) must be taught. If a mainstream school offers History they must follow the History national curriculum standards, but if they don’t have a History teacher then they don’t have to offer it, that needs to change. We need a balanced curriculum for all students, irrespective of which school or local authority are students attend.

The changes we should bring are that all secondary schools (including academies or free schools) to offer the following GCSE options (options being subjects that are not core subjects):

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For-profit schools: some evidence of why I’m far from convinced

student_ipad_school - 175Labour’s shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, this week called on Michael Gove to rule out profit-making schools, arguing “Beyond 2015, whether it admits it or not, the Conservative Party intends to introduce the profit motive into English education”.

The Tories have sidestepped the issue and instead invited Labour to turn its fire on the Lib Dems: they claim that Nick Clegg’s advisers Julian Astle and Richard Reeves were behind-the-scenes cheerleaders for profit-making schools. The mercurial Dominic Cummings, Gove’s former special adviser, has made the same allegation. This may very …

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Mike Storey writes: Qualified teachers and a national curriculum

New Classroom“We are, and always will, be the party of education”. So Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said in his speech at Bloomberg last Monday. This is indeed what the Liberal Democrats stand for, and it’s not just an empty sound bite. The policies we pledge to adopt will be to ensure that school pupils will have the right to be taught by qualified teachers and taught a core curriculum – a truly national curriculum.

The recent ‘Trojan Horse’ controversy has shocked the national conscience. It highlighted that some schools ran a risk of depriving children of an all-rounded and fair education. Academies and free schools are based on the concept of autonomy, but this should not mean that children should suffer because of particular interests. Some schools that did have discretion over their curriculum were abusing that by stripping back the curriculum and narrowing the experience of schooling for every young child. Action needs to be taken to ensure children’s futures are not put at risk.

photo by: Editor B
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Clegg’s “Parental Guarantee”: calls for all schools to employ qualified teachers and teach ‘core curriculum’

Teacher In Classroom“We are and always will be the party of education and I’ll be saying more about that in the near future,” promised Nick Clegg in his Bloomburg speech on Monday. Today we saw the start, with the Lib Dem leader setting out the party’s Parental Guarantee that “every parent can be confident that their child will be taught a core curriculum by a properly qualified teacher”.

This isn’t actually a new policy. The ‘parental guarantee’ was first announced last October. And the policy it’s based on was …

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The Independent View: Keep academy freedoms – and extend them to all schools

schoolsignThe question whether to curtail or extend academy freedoms to state-funded schools was resurrected last October in a speech by Nick Clegg. The answer he put forward was to extend academy freedoms to all schools, albeit in a limited form. Clegg would like to claw-back the freedoms academies have over unqualified teachers and the curriculum, but to extend the remaining freedoms to all state-funded schools.

 Clegg’s new-found middle way is based on a belief that guaranteeing high standards in education is best achieved by curtailing autonomy. In October 2013, he said: “There is nothing…inconsistent in believing that greater school autonomy can be married to certain core standards for all.”

 Yet high levels of autonomy and accountability are conducive to high pupil attainment. The Deputy Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, Andreas Schleicher, has said that England’s multiple measures of accountability, along with a “high level of autonomy and discretion at the front line”, are key to success in education.

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged and | 20 Comments

Opinion: A poor careers move

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable at a factory 2 - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsMy name’s Adam and I’m a careers teacher. This presents something of a challenge because it turns out that as a teacher I know nothing about careers.

I must say before continuing that I am a fan of Vince. On the credit crunch, on banking regulation and on bonuses I not only agree with what he says, but also with how he says it. This is part of why I was so surprised, and not a little bit irked, that he said of teachers “They know how universities work, they know what you have to do to get an A-level, they know about UCAS forms – but they know absolutely nothing about the world of work. They don’t know how to direct people to apprenticeships or traineeships which we’re now doing as a first stage for people”.

I am fully aware of the way that the media often quote people out of context so I have taken great care to read what he actually, and there is no way around it: he was clearly referring to the fact that most teachers are graduates and that is what he said.

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It’s Laws v Gove again as Lib Dem schools minister says academy chains should be accountable to Ofsted

‘It’s civil war in the Coalition classroom’ – that’s how the Independent bills the latest row between those two very civil politicians running the education department, Conservative secretary of state Michael Gove and Lib Dem schools minister David Laws.

I wrote at the weekend about the first spat, which erupted after Michael Gove’s decision to sack Baroness (Sally) Morgan as chair of Ofsted for doing too good a job – at least, that seemed to be the gist of his argument, as he praised her to the skies for her “superlative” work before saying it was time for a …

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Free school lunches for infants: 60% of Lib Dems back Nick Clegg’s policy

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

(There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’m publishing them this week.)

On Saturday, I reported the results of what party members think about school structures. Yesterday, we looked at whether you thought teachers should have formal professional qualifications and if the National …

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

Gove and Laws scrap it out on front pages over sacking of Ofsted head. Here’s what the row is all about.

Today’s newspaper front pages are full of the scrap taking place at the heart of the Department for Education between Conservative secretary of state Michael Gove and Lib Dem schools minister David Laws:

gove laws - papers

  • Ofsted row: Lib Dems furious at Conservative plan to ‘politicise’ classrooms (Independent on Sunday)
  • Lib Dems savage Gove over sacked schools boss (The Sunday Times, £)
  • Angry Lib Dems accuse Michael Gove of bid to politicise education (Observer)
  • Why is there a row?

    On Friday night, The Independent broke the news that Baroness (Sally) Morgan, the Labour

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 28 Comments

    Education: 59% of Lib Dems say teachers should have formal teaching qualifications

    Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

    (There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’m publishing them this week.)

    Yesterday I reported the results of what party members think about school structures. Today we look at your views on teachers and the curriculum…

    59% of Lib Dems say teachers employed by state-funded

    Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , , and | 15 Comments

    Education: 47% of Lib Dems want grammar schools opened up, while clear majorities oppose academies, free schools and for-profit schools

    Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

    (There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’m publishing them this week.)

    Almost half (47%) Lib Dems call for opening up of grammar schools to all children

    Thinking about grammar schools and schools that select pupils by ability, which of the following best reflects your views?

      21%

    Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , , and | 80 Comments

    Pupil Premium: is it working? Probably – but it’s not a quick-fix solution

    The Pupil Premium – money targeted at children from low-income households – is the Lib Dems’ flagship education policy. By the end of the Parliament, it will be worth £2.5 billion, cash given directly to schools to spend as they wish on improving attainment outcomes.

    Is it working? That’s the question being asked, given the news that the attainment gap at age 16 – the difference between GCSE results achieved by pupils eligible for free school meals and all other pupils – increased very slightly last year. In fact, results for both low-income pupils and all other pupils improved; …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 13 Comments

    ‘Good’ gender segregation and ‘bad’ gender segregation?

    universities_uk logoI’ve just heard the Chief Executive of Universities UK be put through the mill on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme following its decision to publish advice that gender segregation might not necessarily be discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way”. The guidance – which you can read here – is specific to invited external speakers at meetings on university premises.

    I do not like gender segregation. At all. Maybe it’s the result of having …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 73 Comments

    Nick (finally) makes his education speech and launches the Coalition’s own ‘Champions League’

    Five days after it was pre-briefed, Nick Clegg finally made his speech on A Liberal Vision for Education at Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets.

    (Morpeth is, by the way, a fantastic school. I visited it for my day-job 18 months ago, and was shown around by two of its pupils, Vanessa and Mahir: the transformational progress of London schools in the past decade is one of the modern wonders of Britain.)

    There was little in the speech we didn’t already know. In fact, there was little that wasn’t known last March when Clegg’s “surprise U-turn on free schools” (© …

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    David Laws writes… Nick Clegg and I have always been clear that Free Schools must also be fair schools

    On Thursday this week, Nick Clegg will set out the Liberal Democrat approach to improving standards in schools.

    He will set out what parents and pupils should expect from schools. This is an issue we have worked on together for some time, and which was debated and agreed at our party’s conference this Spring.

    The Liberal Democrats are instinctive supporters of freedom, diversity and choice. We believe in giving schools more autonomy and teachers more freedom.

    That’s why we have supported extra powers to innovate for free schools and academies and have taken steps in government to extend autonomy for all schools. We …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 31 Comments

    Two questions journalists aren’t asking about Nick Clegg’s free schools speech

    Nick Clegg’s speech on free schools – setting out the policy approved by the Lib Dem conference last March – has ruffled feathers. Apparently he and David Cameron even had lunch yesterday to discuss this ‘bombshell’ announcement (which in fact won’t be made until a speech this Thursday).

    My view (as I set out here on Sunday) is that schools should have the freedom to appoint teachers who lack formal qualifications, though I’d expect these to be the exceptions not the rule in the vast majority of state-funded schools. But I don’t think it’s at all surprising that Nick …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 40 Comments

    Clegg on Murnaghan: Osborne sat there and talked about “your tax threshold policy”

    Nick Clegg LBCNick Clegg appeared on Sky News’ Murnaghan programme and took questions on a wide range of subjects. First up was the issue at the top of the headlines today – schools.

    He said that his speech didn’t represent a great coalition crisis, that he was purely stating what he had always said and that it’s simply a difference of opinion between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. While he remains a great supporter of freedom and diversity within the schools system, there are three things that he wants to ensure, and that he says the majority of parents expect wherever children receive their state funded education. They are:

    • that the National Curriculum will be taught
    • that teachers will be properly qualified
    • that the food on offer will be of decent quality

    He said that the Tories didn’t favour basic standards about those things, but he did and had always made that case in government. He was keen to emphasise that nothing he was saying was new.

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 15 Comments

    Clegg on free schools and National Curriculum: no more, no less than party policy. And that’s for better and worse.

    No-one should be that surprised by Nick Clegg’s decision to distance the Lib Dems from Michael Gove’s schools policies — specifically that every teacher should be qualified and that every school should teach the national curriculum. After all, what Nick is due to set out in a speech this week is the policy that was voted for overwhelmingly by the party’s conference in March this year.

    Here’s what the adopted policy – Every Child Taught by an Excellent Teacher – says about teachers in all schools having qualifications:

    All classroom teachers, including in academies and free schools and Further Education

    Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , , and | 31 Comments

    David Laws writes: Reforming Labour’s league tables will end the race to the middle

    schoolsignThe Conservative Chair of the Education Select Committee today praised an “educational breakthrough”.

    At the same time, his Labour predecessor welcomed what he said was the best announcement the coalition has made since coming to power in 2010.

    It’s not often our political opponents come together to support a Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment, but that’s exactly what happened in the House of Commons yesterday.  Indeed, people across and outside the political spectrum have welcomed our radical shake up of school league tables, that will finally set teachers free to focus on every child rather than the few in the middle.

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

    Kirsty Williams writes… Welsh Lib Dems more than double Welsh Pupil Premium

    nick clegg kirsty williams - 1The Welsh Liberal Democrats were delighted to announce yesterday that we are more than doubling the Welsh Pupil Premium.

    Two years ago, in a similar situation, we worked with the Welsh Government to ensure that Wales would have our own Welsh Pupil Premium. This meant that each school would get £450 per child on free school meals. This was an achievement we were rightly very proud of. However, while Liberal Democrats in England continued to increase the Pupil Premium, the unambitious Welsh Labour Government refused to do the same in Wales.

    We have now changed that. Thanks to the Welsh Liberal Democrats we have more than doubled the value of the Welsh Pupil Premium, increasing funding to £918 per pupil.

    Posted in Op-eds and Wales | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

    Nice try, George. But the Pupil Premium is happening only because the Lib Dems are in government

    Osborne -  Some rights reserved by altogetherfoolWho has made sure the Pupil Premium is being delivered in Government? Pretty straightforward question, you might think: the Liberal Democrats. Not if you’re George Osborne, though…

    “I sit at that Cabinet table and I know who has really put forward the policies that are delivering a fairer society. The pupil premium to support the most disadvantaged children: that was Michael Gove’s idea, front and centre of the last Conservative manifesto.” (30 Sept 2013)

    Erm… okay, George. Let’s take those two claims in order.

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

    Clegg: “Every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day”

    school childrenNick Clegg’s speech to the Lib Dem conference on Wednesday will contain one new, significant policy announcement: all pupils at infant schools in England are to get free school lunches from next September.

    In addition, disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England will also be eligible for free school meals also from next September. Money is also being provided for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but as education is a devolved issue, it will be up to those running schools there to decide whether …

    Posted in Conference and News | Also tagged , , , , and | 112 Comments

    Opinion: Performance related pay for teachers: does it drive up standards?

    Michael Gove’s most recent big idea to improve the teaching profession takes the form of performance related pay. Like many of Gove’s big ideas it has incensed teachers. But it’s also a populist move. One poll estimated that 61% of voters backed the idea. But will it improve teaching standards?

    The evidence for performance related pay leading to improving standards in education is inconclusive. Literature shows no causal relationship between performance related pay and standards and results vary enormously depending on the context. In India one study showed that “after controlling for student ability, parental background and the resources available …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 29 Comments

    Opinion: New policy on school attendance is illiberal

    I owe Labour an apology for labelling the push a few years ago to reduce Heads’ discretion on family holidays as ”Nanny State”: no consultation with parents, just an assumption that only the state & education system could be trusted with a child’s best interests. There was a parent rebellion at our local primary school.

    Nanny has now been replaced by the Patriarchal State  in an approach that implies “As some pupils have been skiving, the whole school will be kept in.”

    As of this September, approval of all family holidays during term time is banned other than in “exceptional” circumstances. …

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 38 Comments

    Opinion: Changes for the Better – LibDem wins on the new National Curriculum

    schoolsign“I still have serious reservations about it, but it’s a whole lot better than when Gove originally launched the consultation” – a headteacher friend summing up his feelings about the newly announced National Curriculum for schools. We know, behind the scenes, just how the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition have influenced some of the most significant changes. It’s time to let your teacher and parent friends know the difference the LibDems have made.

    One big win is that this new curriculum is so much shorter than Labour’s (468 to 224 pages). The history curriculum has been rewritten to include local and world history, and to recognise diversity. Speaking and Listening are back in the English curriculum. Creativity is stressed in Art, Music and Drama, and Design has been rewritten to include a broader range of industrial applications.

    Primary schools can now choose the foreign language they wish to teach – or even look at several languages. Climate change has been returned to the Geography curriculum. Biodiversity and seasonality of food and produce are added to the curriculum for the first time.

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

    Opinion: Does the School Food Plan really ban packed lunches?

    school mealsIf you’re an independent person involved in writing a report for Government, I offer some advice. Take a holiday for the week after the report’s published. Somewhere remote. Ideally without internet.

    How else to avoid your blood-pressure shooting through the roof as the media – both social and traditional – ignore 99% of your work and misrepresent the rest?

    For the latest example, look no further than the School Food Plan, a 149 page practical guide to improving the health and attainment of young people by improving their diet in …

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , and | 10 Comments

    Schools for profit? Not on my watch, says Nick Clegg

    From today’s Independent:

    Nick Clegg vowed today to veto any move by the Conservatives to allow academies and free schools to become profit-making businesses.

    The Deputy Prime Minister intervened after The Independent revealed that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is considering plans to redraw the rules to allow the schools to use hedge funds and venture capitalists to raise money.

    The Liberal Democrats will block any moves to change the rules before the 2015 general election.  During the election campaign, Mr Clegg’s party will claim that they acted as a brake on the Tories inside the Coalition.  “We will say we stopped

    Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 3 Comments

    A free-for-all on school term dates?

    schoolsignMichael Gove has had another ‘good idea’, produced without any reference to the professionals who will have to implement it, nor to the general public who will have to work around it. This time he is keen to allow all schools to set their own term dates, in line with the freedom already granted to academies and free schools.

    It sounds like a superficial change, but those of us who have examined the issue in depth know that the implications could be far greater than you might imagine.

    Some eight years ago I attended a series of meetings of councillors who, like me, held education portfolios in London boroughs.  Our aim was to co-ordinate school term dates across the whole of London, and, wherever possible, with the surrounding counties, and we did achieve that.  At the same time we looked at patterns of terms, considering some quite radical alternatives, such as six or seven equal length terms, with a shorter break in the summer.

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 30 Comments

    Danny Alexander MP writes… Investing in Britain’s future


    Video by hmtreasuryuk on YouTube.

    Yesterday, we set out a Spending Round that delivers Liberal Democrat priorities on investment and improving our public services while making responsible choices to deal with the financial problems Labour left us. It demonstrated that the Liberal Democrats will remain firm in our commitment to tackling the deficit, but fair in the way we go about it. Our number one priority in Government has been to fix the economic mess we inherited from Labour.

    Today I have set out how we will invest in our country’s economic future by creating balanced growth and delivering lasting prosperity. I have announced the most comprehensive, ambitious and long-lasting capital investment plans this country has ever known.
    In doing so we are putting long term priorities before short term political pressures and we are ending the culture of short-termism that plagued so many of our predecessors.

    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 22 Comments



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