Opinion: Answers on no more than 2 sides of A4 (part 1)

In the first of a series of three, school governor Alex Feakes looks at elements of the recent education white paper.

The Importance of Teaching schools White Paper published by the government last month has lots going for it and has attracted the qualified support of many in the teaching profession. As a discussion paper, however, there are still quite a few wrinkles to be ironed out. Here’s one:

Exclusions

Like many secondary school governors who have been on disciplinary panels, I occasionally have had to confirm the headteacher’s decision to permanently exclude a student from the school. If the student is not accepted at another school, then they will typically attend the LEA’s Pupil Referral Unit which will assume full responsibility for their education and draw down the funding attached to the child to pay for it. Unfortunately, many PRUs are viewed as providing poor education and children’s academic achievement can suffer when they attend one.

To address this and under the guise of greater autonomy for schools, The Importance of Teaching proposes shifting the responsibility for excluded students’ education back to the school from which they have just been excluded (para 3.37 et seq). Schools would be ‘held accountable for the pupils they exclude’ and excluded students’ academic attainment would be included in the compilation of the school performance tables.

The aim is to create incentives to avoid exclusions wherever possible and to ensure that pupils will receive good quality alternative education.

These proposals present a danger of perverse consequences. Imagine a child which has unfortunately been excluded in Year 7 (11-12 yo): their original secondary school – which may only have seen them for a few weeks of term before the exclusion – is responsible for the education of that child, potentially for up to seven years.

The White Paper suggests that the school purchases suitable alternative provision, probably alongside other schools. So instead of being educators of the child, the school’s teachers become contract managers on his or her behalf, in an environment where there are lots of other teacher-contract mangers from other schools who are pushing for better performance for their individual students. As a governor, I would rather the teachers we employ are using their skills and training to the best benefit of the students in front of them, and not having to develop new contract management skills.

The excluded child’s results will be included in the school performance table, yet the school’s teachers won’t have taught the child, who also won’t have benefited from the school’s pastoral environment. The inclusion of the excluded student’s results will therefore distort the picture of the school’s educational performance and perhaps reduce further the league tables’ reliability as a measure of how good a school is at teaching its students.

These plans aim to increase the accountability of schools, but it’s a usual principle that people should only be accountable for those things over which they exercise control. As a governor, I am nervous that we are being asked to be accountable for an education that we have only distant and indirect influence over. Considerable amounts of management time will be diverted to looking after the excluded students’ education, leaving less for those whom we can directly teach. Will there be extra funding for these additional responsibilities?

The Importance of Teaching White Paper has much to recommend in it, but many of its proposals need more thought and I would welcome some attention being given to the concerns presented above.

Alex Feakes is a Liberal Democrat councillor in Forest Hill, southeast London and a governor of a girls’ community secondary school. He blogs at www.alexfeakes.org and is on twitter.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

One Comment

  • I’m not sure about former troops coming back and retraining as school teachers. Many seem to have anger management issues. 1:8 suffer from PTSD; a condition that surfaces years after the event, often with devastating consequences. It seems a stupid idea to me.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Jeff
    David LG 19th Apr '24 - 5:18pm: …right now the top rate of capital gains and dividend tax are significantly lower than the higher rate of income ta...
  • Jeff
    Katharine Pindar 19th Apr '24 - 7:53pm: Poverty and bad insecure housing for families breed ill-health, both physical and mental. How would th...
  • David Blake
    John Wyatt, who contested Bridgwater in 1974, later joined the Conservatives and I believe he became the Conservative leader of the council in Weston-super-Mare...
  • Katharine Pindar
    P.S.on the 'sick-note culture' question. Daisy Cooper MP, our Deputy Leader, has just been on the Any Questions Radio 4 programme. Asked about the position wit...
  • Nom de Plume
    Smoking tobacco is an evil that needs to be removed. Personal choice does not come into it. Well done to those brave enough to vote for the Bill....