Tag Archives: schools

Ofsted reports shouldn’t be reduced to a single word

The government’s decision to ignore a cross party committee’s recommendation to abolish one-word Ofsted judgements is the wrong one.

The pressure that school leaders and teachers feel in relation to Ofsted inspectors is huge. And it is not just those two days in which the inspectors are physically in the school; the intensity of being on ‘red alert’ for an imminent inspection can be just as bad – if not worse – than the inspection itself, not least because that period of time can last months if not years. The tragic death of Ruth Perry was a dreadful yet timely reminder of the stress placed on school leaders, and while legislation made in response to a single specific incident is rarely good legislation, this is hardly a new issue.

For schools in areas where competition is high, the difference between ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ can be perceived as huge in terms of attracting applications from prospective students. But in reality, the actual difference on the ground can be very little, if anything at all. One school leader told me that their school, which had been judged as outstanding for a number of years, was downgraded to ‘good’, despite receiving an outstanding grade on the majority of Ofsted’s criteria. The narrative of the actual report was almost unwaveringly positive and in many cases glowing. Of course, to the outside eye, the school had declined since its last inspection, when in reality it had maintained, if not improved on, its excellent standards. One of the sections in the report hailed the school’s highly impressive arts department, with plenty of extra-curricular drama and music opportunities on offer for the pupils. However, these do not fit particularly well into the rigidity of Ofsted’s marking criteria. Off the record, inspectors suggested that, had the school ‘played the game’ of chasing specific progress measures, they would probably have avoided being inspected and thus remained ‘outstanding’.

And here is the problem with the single-word judgements. It can only be based on very limited criteria, and this will rarely reflect the broad spectrum of curricular and extra-curricular options available at a school.

One of the main arguments put forward in favour of single-word judgements is that it makes things simpler for parents. This is debatable, but even if true, it is both patronising and misleading. Although not a parent myself, I know from speaking to those close to me who do have young children that schooling is one of their biggest priorities. It is something that parents think about before they even become parents. So to suggest that they may not have the time or inclination to read a few pages worth of information on local schools in the area is bizarre.

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New qualification to replace A levels and T levels?

So Rishi Sunak wants to replace A and T levels with a new qualification at 18. My first reaction was one of cautious approval – I have long argued that the post 16 curriculum needs to be broadened for all students. I also welcome any move to integrate so-called “academic” and “vocational” studies. Having taught, and written text books for, a subject that crosses those boundaries (Computing) I know how artificial that binary approach is.

There has been some opposition – allegedly – to broader studies from the Universities, who, it is claimed, expect students to have already reached a certain level of proficiency in their chosen subject before starting on a degree course. They claim that they can offer shorter degrees than in other countries because schools will have already provided foundation degree teaching.

That argument rather falls down in many subjects when looked at in detail. For example, a student starting on a history degree will not be expected to have studied every period of British and world history at A level – they will have studied specific periods and themes in detail. Instead they should arrive with an understanding of historical research and perspectives.

Even in my own subject, Computing, there were quite wide variations between the syllabuses of the A Level Exam Boards, and in any case, students are not required to have studied it before embarking on a degree. In fact, many degrees have no specific requirements but are looking for generic competences such as problem solving, research skills and creativity, which are exactly what a broader curriculum should equip them with.

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Schools crisis – sheer incompetence

The timing could not have been worse. This is the most stressful part of the school year for teachers and Heads, getting the buildings ready for the new intake, checking all the tech, induction for new staff and planning a term’s worth of lessons. For pupils there is some anticipation and excitement, tinged perhaps with a bit of anxiety, as they prepare to move into a into a new school or a new class next week.

So it beggars belief that the Government should announce this week that a large number of schools in England have defective buildings which must not be used. Oh, and there is no funding to cover the hire and construction of temporary classrooms.

Of course, it would be understandable if this problem had only just come to light, but the Department for Education has known about the potentially defective concrete (RAAC) since 1994, and they knew that the concrete used only has a lifespan of 30 years. It’s a type of lightweight aerated concrete that was presumably cheap to use at the time. In 2018 they sent some vaguely worded warnings to schools but did not provide any advice or means to rectify the fault. So it is not new information that has emerged this week.

And yet some 100 schools were only told yesterday that they have to take immediate mitigating action because of the RAAC in their buildings. In some cases ceilings can be propped up as a temporary measure – although getting that done will be disruptive and will take some time – but others will have to close and replace whole rooms immediately.

Even worse, the list of schools affected will not be published, so parents have to wait to hear from their children’s schools directly about the impact, if any. Dealing with upset and angry parents just gives Heads a further headache. Some children will actually have to decamp to neighbouring schools, which will only add to the disruption.

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OfSTED needs urgent reform now – and the Lib Dems should be leading calls for it

The tragic news that Primary headteacher Ruth Perry took her own life after the primary school she led was downgraded from Outstanding to Inadequate after an inspection in November 2022 has shone a spotlight on the schools inspectorate, OfSTED. It has led to calls to review how these high stakes inspections take place and into the aftermath they wreak. It took over a week for the Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman to publish a rather tin-eared statement outlining sympathy with Mrs Perry, her family and the school but making it very clear that inspections will continue unabated and unchanged. At least they responded – however Inadequately. This much – unless I’ve missed something – cannot be said for those that drive education policy in the major political parties, something I find perplexing. There is no way that the tragic death of someone should be used as a political football and this may lay at the heart of the relative silence of Gillian Keegan, Bridget Phillipson and Munira Wilson, but will it take another suicide or 2 more or 3 more before those in power stop, look and realise that putting their heads in the sand and hoping it goes away isn’t the right response?

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If I were a teacher would I strike?

I taught in schools and colleges for most of my professional life. At one stage I chaired our local union branch and joined in a couple of strikes. So you can guess where my sympathies lie with the current school strikes.

Now I don’t argue for pay parity between the public and private sectors of industry. In many areas of the economy the gap in pay between the top and the bottom of industry is eye-wateringly wide and contributes to inequality right across society. Simply copying what I see as immoral practices in the public sector would simply compound the problem. Instead the public sector, including education, should model a fair and equitable earnings distribution.

Teachers were put under huge strain during lockdown. Their teaching practices changed from day to day, many doing a combination of in-person and online teaching, they took on extra health risks, they had to keep adjusting their teaching plans to match the latest assessment/examination requirements – and doing all this while trying to home educate their own children.

As one teacher told The Guardian:

Teachers are on their knees. I absolutely love my job, I am still passionate after 25 years and have never considered leaving but every year a little more is asked and expected of us: we’re dealing with the creeping effects of growing class sizes, teaching assistants disappearing from the system, higher levels of poverty, inadequate school budgets. This week alone I have worked almost 11 hours’ overtime.

This is not just about pay, it’s about the workload and the impact this has on the students.

Ah yes, workload. Throughout my career I was generally treated as a professional, but not always. One boss would indulge in staff re-organisations every five years or so and that inevitably meant signing a new contract if you wanted a job in the new structure. And the new contracts always increased workload, whether measured in teaching hours or class size. I felt I was being treated as a functionary, hired to do a task. I loved my job, and loved teaching my students, and would normally put in 55 to 60 hours work per week, and far more than most people might think during the “holidays”.

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Schools struggle to meet energy bills

The crisis in energy bills is not just a impending disaster for households, but it will also affect all kinds of public and private organisations. Local councils, retailers and leisure centres all face huge rises in their energy costs and are not going to be “protected” by the cap in prices.

There has been a lot of talk about warm hubs (like these in Wales)- public places like libraries, museums and churches which could provide a warm, safe place for cold people.  But how will they afford to heat their own premises?

Schools too are affected.  The BBC reports on one academy trust that runs 11 schools. One of their schools has been quoted a staggering 414% price rise. If that was replicated across all their schools then the total energy bill would rise from just under £1 million to £4.6 million next year. This is on top of the 5% pay rise for staff.  Although the Government is increasing funding to schools it is clearly not going to be enough to meet these unprecedented financial challenges.

The CEO of the academy trust that is featured in the BBC article said:

Schools need to be places that are going to be warm and safe, especially as there are families whose homes won’t be warm.

The problem was echoed in a report in the Guardian. Sean Maher, the Head of one of the secondary schools near me, is quoted thus:

I’m really terrified about what’s going to happen to some of our parents. I’ve been a headteacher for nine years. I’ve dedicated my whole professional life to trying to give young people the very best opportunity to shine and grow and develop. I feel like I’m fighting against the government who are actively undermining what we are trying to do for young people.

How can it come to that in this country? Where we would be asking children to wear coats and gloves in the classroom because we can’t afford the heating? But it will happen. In schools up and down the country teachers will turn round and say: ‘Keep your coat on – we won’t put on the heating until the end of November’.

Now it was Labour who decided to take failing schools out of local authority control and hand them to the charitable sector as academies – and I have some sympathy where the local authorities were not doing a good job. But it was the Conservatives who had a vision for all schools, irrespective of the quality of the support they received, to become independent of local Councils, and to be taken out of democratic control and accountability. Initially academies were standalone institutions, but they quickly learned that they worked best when under an umbrella organisation – hence academy trusts, which are effectively privatised education authorities.

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Child Q’s ordeal – from the perspective on an educator

I am a secondary school teacher in an inner-London school. We have a student body that is overwhelming non-white British.

In the context of the horrifying treatment of Child Q, our students were understandably asking many questions about whether we as teachers, could be trusted by them.

The sheer number of questions necessitated a discussion of the case occurred within a staff briefing, but it also left me devastated that a number of teachers in a different borough had destroyed my relationship with the students.

At this briefing, we were given an update on the facts of the case and how the school will react to this case. The discussion was productive, particularly around suspected drug possession. We were additionally informed that unless it was a dealing level found, the police would not be contacted. A crucial and needed policy. Essentially adopting a decriminalisation policy.

The mere existence of these questions says a lot about the breakdown in relationship between the public services of education and the police. If the school can’t trust the police, then why should the children. If the children have been let down by the teachers and the police, then why should they trust either.

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Cancel the 2021 GCSEs to save our future

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The government has turned crisis into catastrophe by deciding to retain the 2021 GCSE and A Level examinations and institute rigorous mock exams beforehand. It displays a woeful ignorance of teaching and learning, combined with a total failure to learn from past mistakes.

Students have not been at school for six months and their return this autumn is marked by further periods of absence due to Covid-19 outbreaks and quarantine requirements: something highly likely to increase as autumn turns to winter.

The current pressure on both students and teachers to catch up on missed learning, while managing ongoing disruptions in attendance, is doubled by a requirement to revise for their mocks what they may have not yet sufficiently covered in class, and then for exams that may still have to be cancelled – whatever the government says.

Another U-Turn is required because teachers need whatever time will be available to concentrate on teaching and to support students who are undergoing the biggest disruption to education since World War II.

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4 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Government must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year
  • Liberal Democrats back calls for Magnitsky-style sanctions against Hong Kong human rights abusers

Government must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year

Responding to news that scientists have warned that current testing and contact tracing is inadequate to prevent a second wave of coronavirus when schools in the UK reopen, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

After months being cooped up at home, millions of children are looking forward to getting back to school in September, but safety must remain the top priority.

In the absence of a vaccine, a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system is the only way to keep people safe as we reopen schools. The Government must do everything in its power to strengthen that system if we are to have any hope of a safe start to the new school year.

Equally, the Government need to be honest about the very real risk that, if they do not get the NHS Test and Trace system in order, or in the event that we see a sharp rise in infections, children may have to go back to learning from home. Ministers must put in place safeguards now to ensure children are still able to get their education in this worst case scenario.

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30-31 May 2020 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Govt must follow the science when it comes to easing lockdown
  • Govt must rethink plans to shut down virtual Parliament
  • Govt must issue “crystal clear” guidance for those returning to sport
  • Ministers must explain evidence behind decision to ease lockdown
  • Foreign Secretary’s silence on Trump tweets is shameful
  • Govt decision to press on with reopening schools “deeply worrying”
  • Govt must urgently scrap Vagrancy Act as part of plan to end rough sleeping

Govt must follow the science when it comes to easing lockdown

Responding to reports that several members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group have warned of the risk of easing the lockdown in England on Monday 1 June, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The decision by key members of SAGE to go public with their concerns shows that Ministers are no longer following the science.

The test, trace, isolate system that we need to keep people safe is not yet fully functional. The NHSX app is delayed for an unknown period. For seven days straight the Government has been unable to provide even basic data about the number of people tested. On top of these failings, public health messaging has been badly undermined as people see it’s one rule for the Tory elite and another for everyone else.

Given this chaos, measures to lift lockdown appear premature. At every stage the Liberal Democrats have been clear that the Government must listen to the experts and follow the science. Protecting public health and tackling the spread of the virus must always be the Government’s number one priority – many are questioning whether this remains the case.

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SOS – Safety 4 Our Schools

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Thanks, Prime Minister. From Monday up to six of you can meet in your garden, but you must maintain a distance of 2 metres.  Meanwhile more Primary school teachers are due in this Monday 1st June, expected to take groups of up to 15 for hours on end, usually indoors (although this may be minimised). This ratio is compared to what the National Education Union thinks is safe and manageable of 1 teacher to 5 students.  The latter ratio is close to what Denmark has been using.

Government’s figures at the press conference on 28th May stated 564,000 people have been infected with Covid-19.  We know that around 10% of this number have died.  Some estimates put excess deaths at above 60,000 across the UK.

Independent SAGE say the risk to school staff, pupils and parents could be halved by waiting two more weeks.  Meanwhile SAGE, the Government’s own scientific body, say that we should be operating a week on, week off system where 50% of pupils go in 1 week, and 50% the next (option 7b).  The National Education Union argues that instead of three year groups, we ought to be sending back one year, for two weeks, to see how schools, pupils, teachers and parents cope before widening school attendance.

To make matters worse, rather than providing a set of timely guidelines and in consultation with schools, the Government have rushed these out at the last minute.  The result is schools are left to draw up health and safety assessments on their own, with little support.  The end result will be a mish-mash of different rules and interpretations, leaving parents, teachers, pupils, management, councils and Government all confused about what is going on.

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Bradford Liberal Democrats call for detailed plans for schools opening to be scrutinised

The current debate about when and how schools should “re-open” has already developed entrenched positions. It started from a Government-led position of expecting the re-opening of schools for certain groups from June 1st. A growing opposition of “no to that” has developed with Trades Unions and some Local Authorities leading the charge. The two camps are sat facing each other and there seems to be no basis for discussion. A recent report by the Children’s Commissioner suggests that children deserve better.

One thing that seems to be missing from the debate is the obvious point that schools are open and …

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Layla: We need reassurance and clarity before schools can re-open

Lib Dem Education spokesperson Layla Moran was on LBC this morning talking about getting children back to school.

Listen here:

Earlier on Sky News, she reiterated the importance of transparency in the Government’s communications:

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Why we need to close schools

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Yesterday the government announced a range of measures to protect the public from the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a former Assistant Headteacher, parent and more importantly son, I am concerned that this has not extended to schools. Here’s why:

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Why the Lib Dems’ ‘School Toilets’ Bill won’t work

School toilet access in lessons is an issue that I, as an individual, am very passionate about. Not being allowed to go to the toilet, due to a teacher saying no as a blanket school policy; is something that I have spoken out about publicly on my social media platforms, as seen here. Not only am I a member of the party, but I also hold a role at Centre Think Tank and have been researching this issue as part of my work. While I do have some questions about the origin of this campaign, this isn’t the reason as to why I wouldn’t say I like this parliamentary Bill. Instead, my hesitations come from the serious practical issues this Bill will encounter, both in terms of its implementation in schools and its ability to be passed into law.

The current Bill itself isn’t designed to change the law and each curriculum, but instead act as a ‘show-motion’; which is one that carries weight and can shape opinion on this issue, yet doesn’t actually make letting students go to the toilet during lessons mandatory. Instead of giving students the ‘right’ which has been spoken about, a lot by the party on social media, this Bill does the opposite. The Bill itself even says that it relies on teachers ‘common sense’, which means that students aren’t legally protected. The power to decide whether students are allowed to go to the toilet during lessons still relies on teachers; this Bill doesn’t change the current issue of teachers not allowing their students to go to the bathroom. This has obvious consequences, such as students bleeding through their clothes when on their period (as happened with me) or even students being in pain due to holding their pee, perhaps even wetting themselves in some circumstances.

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Tackling the scourge of holiday hunger

As we near the end of the school holidays, I have been thinking a lot this summer about holiday hunger – an estimated three million children in the United Kingdom are at risk of going hungry during the school holidays.

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The Love of Learning

What are we doing to our young people? Testing them until the joy is out of learning and school is just one tick box after another. The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, said

The regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend.

We have completely the wrong approach to learning. We need holistic education for our young people, encompassing the widest range of subjects, building character and instilling the love of learning.

This includes the arts. When I was 11, we moved to Missouri. I started at a new junior high school (years 6-7 in the English system) which had a school band. Up to that stage I had played a bit of piano and sung in the church choir. The music teacher asked if I’d like to learn the clarinet as he needed more players in his band. Within three months I was sitting 2nd chair in the clarinet section. I would never have learned an instrument if it hadn’t been for the opportunity at this state school. I remember my parents, who were on a tight budget, scraping money together for some private lessons later that year, costing $4 a lesson.

Years later, I’m a professional musician, wondering where the next generation of musicians is coming from. We need music, and all the arts, as an integral part of our schools. The economic argument is obvious – the creative industries contribute £87.4 billion per year to the economy. We would be denuded as a society without the undergirding of the arts which permeate and enrich our lives.

But I wish to make the moral argument, bringing me back to the opening point of school being too much about testing. Having an arts-inclusive curriculum builds a well-rounded intellect. The brain, when it has to marry the left and right halves in analysing and performing a piece of music, develops physiologically. Attention spans are lengthened when one learns to concentrate on playing your part in a band. Aesthetic awareness is broadened, that life is not about ticking boxes but about beauty, relationships and creativity. Learning to sing together builds community and teaches young people to work together. We learn that coming together produces something more wonderful than striving alone.

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Solving the school places crisis without building a single classroom

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In the London Borough of Bromley, as in many places across the country, we are facing a massive projected shortfall in school places over the next few years. Councillors and activists from all parties are busy scrutinising planning applications for new schools of all shapes and sizes. But is it really necessary?

Imagine a school, let’s call it the Tweddle Academy (though pupils and staff just call it Tweds). Tweds was once a medium sized comprehensive with 1200 children on roll. Now it is an establishment providing all-through education for 2400 kids aged 6 to 18.

The school day at Tweds begins at 7.30am when children aged 6 to 12 arrive. They attend lessons until 10.20am, have a 20 minute break, then it’s back to the classroom. At 1.30pm they head to the school canteen for lunch before being dismissed for the day an hour later.

At 1.15pm while the younger pupils come to the end of lessons, teachers wait by the school gate to register the senior cohort. At 1.30pm, after the younger children have moved to the canteen, the 13 to 18 year olds begin their lessons. Their school day runs from 1.30pm to 7.30pm, with a 20 minute break.

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John Pugh MP writes: Campaigning for your local school

Its Spring and much is stirring as people look cheerfully ahead at prospects new. Every well informed individual in the schools sector though looks ahead with scarcely disguised pessimism.

There is one very obvious reason for this. School funding is scheduled to nose dive. Heads know it,teachers know it and gradually parents are getting to hear about it. Today we have seen a new report published by the Education Policy Institute underlining the same grim statistics that troubled everyone from the National Union of Teachersto the National Audit Office. https://www.nao.org.uk/report/financial-sustainability-in-schools

The message is stark. Rejigging pupil funding on a national formula within a budget falling in real terms by £3 billion spells gloom for all. Nearly every school they suggest will lose and on average that will cost two teachers to primary schools and six to secondary schools. In many places the impacts will be worse.

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Grammar and comprehensive…or Hive?

While the debate over the potential development of new grammar schools rages, I dream of a school that nurtures every person who passes through it by giving them the freedom to grow into their own talents; a school that gives all of our children the skills to make their own opportunities.

Welcome to The Hive.

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What did the EU ever do for us?


And so the Brexit campaign tells us how much better things would be if we went it alone.  Well, let me share my own experience as a former Headteacher and bring some perspective and reality into the argument.

Apparently we constantly lose out financially by being in the EU. Not my experience.

My school was a relatively successful rural comprehensive in County Durham. As with many rural schools, we struggled each year to balance our budgets and were certainly not favoured by either central or local government. No Building Schools for the Future, Excellence in Cities or Action Zones funding for us! We were certainly losing out compared to other schools in the area.

With no capital funding available, I turned to Europe and twice successfully bid for funding, to build a Construction Workshop and a Virtual Learning Environment. These were not large sums – €120,000 and €150,000 – but it was money I could not access elsewhere. We ran four Comenius projects and a Youth in Action project with our European partners, averaging €25,000 per project, so bringing in a further €125,000 to the school. And then we also successfully bid for two European Social Fund projects to share our best practice with teachers elsewhere in the EU and this brought in a further €80,000.

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David Laws highlights continuing threat of forced academisation

David Laws is quoted in today’s Independent. The former Schools Minister is discussing a Centre Forum analysis of the Government’s education white paper.

Centre Forum says that the Government’s alleged u-turn will just mean that the process will happen anyway as local authorities are taken out of the picture if it’s not viable to run schools if, for example, a critical mass has converted to academy status.

New analysis of the revised strategy, however, suggests this will have accumulative effect on schools – as more schools are converted, more local authorities will be taken over as a result.

In effect, 100 per cent of schools will still be converted into academies by the year 2020 as planned.

David Laws, Executive Chairman of CentreForum, who published the report, said: “Our initial analysis shows that their proposals for new ‘triggers’ that lead to forced academisation in a local authority will in all likelihood lead to thousands of schools becoming academies as a result.”

The think tank said the analysis was dependent on the Government’s definition of what constitutes as an “underperforming local authority”, however – a concept which has not yet been defined by the department.

“The definitions are vague,” the report noted, “and our own analysis has shown that relatively small changes could have implications for hundreds of schools.”

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Farron backs right to term-time holidays

I would normally apologise for linking to the Daily Mail, but on this occasion, as the piece in question has a video showing some of Tim Farron’s first speech as leader, I’m not going to.

The paper quotes Tim Farron expressing support for a motion that’s coming to Conference later this month which would give parents the right to take their children out of school for ten school days for holidays.

He told them:

Many employees have no choice when to take their holidays.

‘People in areas, such as my Westmorland constituency, have to work all through the summer at the height of the tourism season.

So, it’s vitally important to offer more flexibility to schools and headteachers to help families who need to take a break together.

Thornbury and Yate member Karen Wilkinson has written several times for this site about the law change, describing it as “illiberal.” writing in 2013:

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Opinion: Pupil Premium funds must be targeted at the disadvantaged

Recently, the schools budget for disabled children was ring-fenced, so as to designate the funding in schools, colleges and academies. However, the pupil premium money (At present £935 Per 11+ student is free to be used by a school in any way they so choose. Today I had a conversation with the head teacher of my VI form (Who, for reasons clearly, shall remain un-named, as shall the VI Form) to discuss how the pupil premium money for the students at a disadvantage, was being used.

I was horrified to be told that the money going into the school is being used to provide “extra English and Maths lessons to benefit the wider school” There was absolutely no provision for the money to be used to help those students who were at a disadvantage!

As a Liberal Democrat I believe that sharp elbows do not always get you to the front of the queue, and your household income should have no impact on your education and your chances of success.

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The Independent View: Incentives matter in our education system

Incentives matter in our education system. The right ones encourage our schools and teachers to deliver the very best education the system has to offer.

Yet in the run up to the general election, politicians would have us think otherwise. Rather than creating the incentives for excellence to spread, they seek to drive performance from the centre. Cross-party support for a new college of teaching illustrates this shift in rhetoric, with politicians trying to magic more high quality teachers without thinking about the underlying incentives. The so-called “Cinderella” teaching profession really has found its fairy godmother.

The academy school programme is all about incentives. By freeing schools from local authority control and management, the aim is to allow innovation to drive better education for pupils.

Yet better incentives are needed if academies are to drive large scale transformation across the country. According to a survey of academy schools Reform published last year, many academies are inhibited from using their freedom to innovate. Two thirds of the 654 academies surveyed had yet to make changes to the curriculum, staff terms and conditions or the school day, despite having the freedom to do so.

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LibLink: David Laws – Tories will cut schools spending by a quarter

Writing in today’s Telegraph, David Laws says that Tory plans will mean huge cuts to spending on schools:

The Conservatives are offering unfunded tax cuts, meaning they will have to go on making deep cuts to public spending – by far more than is necessary to balance the books.

This would be a huge threat to all we are achieving on education.

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Why IDS is still in his job is revealing of Conservative attitudes to social security

Iain Duncan SmithWhen Andrew Lansley’s health reforms ran into trouble – and his inability to take with him the public or those working in the NHS proved toxic – David Cameron reshuffled him out of harm’s way. Jeremy Hunt was brought in to make nice to the health sector and patients.

When Michael Gove’s education reforms started to run before they could walk – and his inability to take with him the public or the teachers proved toxic, especially in marginal constituencies – David Cameron reshuffled him out of harm’s way. Nicky …

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A longer read for the weekend… David Laws on ‘Education: Lessons from this parliament and directions for the next’

david laws centre forumDavid Laws, Lib Dem minister for schools, delivered a keynote speech at CentreForum this week, ‘Education: Lessons from this parliament and directions for the next’.

As the title suggests, it was a reflection on the Coalition’s policies, and in particular the Lib Dems’ achievements. But also a look forward to what he sees as the major educational issues and what Lib Dems should be seeking to do in the next parliament.

You can read the full text over at CentreForum’s site here. But here’s an excerpt in which David looks to the challenges of the five years to come…

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Teacher workload – a concern north and south of the border

Yesterday, Nick Clegg gave a speech to public sector workers. His specific focus was on teacher workload. Everyone thinks that teachers work short hours and have long holidays. Yet everyone who has a child actually at school will know how much effort goes in to preparing lessons. And everyone who knows a teacher knows that they spend a lot of their supposed “off-duty” time thinking of interesting lessons or, more likely these days, filling in interminable paperwork. We know that children need to be kept safe and their progress checked, but I get the feeling that the bureaucracy is overbearing and unnecessary. Let’s just give you a small example from my own experience. Every time my child sets foot outside the school we have to fill in a consent form. It’s A4. It has all sorts of medical info on it. It even asks how far they can swim unaided, a skill which is unlikely to be needed when representing the school in a maths competition or reading stories to 6 year olds in the local primary school. We can be filling in one of these forms twice a month. If it’s a mild inconvenience for us as parents, what’s it like for teachers who have maybe 30 of them to collect for each class? Why can parents not fill in a standing consent with all the info which covers the whole year?

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Why we must reduce teachers’ workloads

Nick Clegg has been writing for the Times Educational Supplement on the need to make sure teachers’ workloads were more manageable. He recognised that most teachers put in much more effort than they get credit for:

There’s an outdated preconception, which hasn’t quite died out, that a teacher’s working day starts at 9am and finishes at 3pm, with 12 weeks off a year to recuperate. Yet, ask anyone who actually spends their days trying to inspire and educate a classroom of children and they’ll tell you a very different story.

They’ll talk about 50 hour working weeks, the unnecessary bureaucracy they have to deal with every day, the challenges of helping children, from all different backgrounds, get the skills they need and also the rewards, like that moment when you see a young boy or girl in your care thrive.

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