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Nicky Morgan announces tougher testing and teachers in weak schools

One nation education?

Nicky Morgan speech outlines more plans for reform in the education sector

Posted by Stephanie Broad | November 04, 2015 | People, policy, politics

The Education Secretary has spoken at Policy Exchange about the Government's plans for educational excellence, including the EBacc and a National Teaching Service.

On the EBacc, Morgan said in her speech: 'It must be right that every child studies a strong academic core up until the age of 16.

'To unlock those choices, to offer those opportunities, to broaden their minds.

'And that’s why I think every child should study maths, English, history or geography, a language and the sciences up until the age of 16.

'Not because I think these subjects are the only ones that matter - I can see the masses poised behind their keyboards waiting to be outraged by the mere suggestion I might believe this to be the case.

'No, it’s because these subjects are the academic core, the foundations of a good education that ultimately will keep options open for young people’s future.

'That’s why we introduced the English Baccalaureate or EBacc in 2010. We wanted to be open about which options would equip pupils for the future, and we wanted to highlight which schools were making sure that pupils studied this academic core.

In time, I want to see at least 90% of students entering the EBacc

'And it’s worked. The seemingly terminal decline in young people studying this valuable combination of subjects reversed, almost doubling in just 5 years.

'That is something we should all find hugely welcome. And yet it remains the case that overall just 39% of young people are now studying the EBacc - in some areas it’s as low as 20%.

'I’m told it’s because the EBacc isn’t right for those children. What does that mean? Who doesn’t benefit from studying our nation’s history? Who can’t benefit and be inspired from understanding the fundamentals of science?

'So once again we find adults writing off children, deciding what they can and can’t do, and worse, what they can and can’t go on to do, before they’ve even turned 15.

'That’s why in our manifesto we committed to introducing an expectation that every child, who is able, should study the EBacc. Today we areconsulting on how to deliver this, and on better accountability for schools about the proportion of their students who take this set of core subjects. In time, I want to see at least 90% of students entering the EBacc.'

As ambitious as it sounds, not all school leaders are in favour of EBacc. Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT said: “We are pleased to have the opportunity to consult on the government's proposed EBacc measure. We consider it unnecessary. The Progress 8 measure, only recently implemented, provides the required balance between academic rigour and curriculum breadth. Progress 8 has not even been given a chance to work before more changes are proposed - creating further turmoil in secondary education.

“It is wrong to claim that only the ebacc subjects are rigorous and demanding or useful preparation for later life. These new proposals are a further restriction on school autonomy and a clumsy attempt to manage the education system through exam reforms and league tables, rather than investing in the resources that truly make a difference.”

Another proposal put forward by Morgan is to introduce resits for year seven pupils who have fallen behind in primary school to 'catch up' in secondary. Morgan says: 'If children haven’t mastered the basics in primary school, the rest of their time in school is a game of catch-up. Maths and English are the non-negotiables for a successful life, and children who don’t master them at primary school are much - much - less likely to succeed when they move to secondary school. Only seven percent of them go on to get five good GCSEs...So we’re also delivering on our commitment to introduce new year seven resit tests, to make sure children who’ve fallen behind in primary school are supported to catch-up at the start of secondary.

We will be looking at the assessment of pupils at age seven to make sure it is as robust and rigorous as it needs to be

'We don’t want those young people to be written off. And we want to recognise and reward schools who get young people back on track.

'But catch-up in year seven is still catch-up. So I want to make sure that primary schools and their headteachers are being held to account in the right way.

'New, more rigorous SATs are already being introduced at the end of primary school, and the new ‘reception baseline’ assessment has been introduced in primary schools this year.

'But to be really confident that students are progressing well through primary school, we will be looking at the assessment of pupils at age seven to make sure it is as robust and rigorous as it needs to be.'

Russell Hobby says more testing and tough rhetoric is not necessarily going to help underperforming children: 'The relationship between assessment and accountability is broken at almost every level of our education system. It is distorting teaching, damaging performance management and actually widening the gap in achievement between the advantaged and the disadvantaged.'

Academies were on the agenda as Morgan outlined the creation of a Northern Sponsor fund of £10 million to get the best sponsors to take on underperforming local authority schools in the north of England. She said: 'We’ll offer coasting schools the support and challenge they need to improve. Where they rise to that challenge we’ll get out of the way and cheer them on. Where they don’t, we’ll bring in new leadership and new sponsors to turn that school around.

'Because the evidence shows that excellent sponsors are making a real difference in some of our most challenging schools.

'We now need those strong sponsors everywhere, not just limited to the South East and London. It’s a sad truth that when you look at many of the underperforming local authorities in our country, a significant proportion are located in the north of England.

'To try and tackle this the Chancellor announced last year the creation of a Northern Sponsor fund of £10 million to get the best sponsors to take on schools in the north of England.

'Today I’m announcing the first recipients of that fund - 5 outstanding sponsors, REAch4, Outwood Grange, Wakefield City Academies Trust, Tauheedul and Bright Tribe who will set up seven high-performing academy hubs in areas having some of the greatest need.'

Finally, Morgan shone the spotlight on teacher recruitment and training and announced a new National Teaching Service. The service will require the country's best teachers to work in the most underperforming schools, particularly in areas that don't have an 'outstanding' rated school.

The National Teaching Service will play a key part in solving this problem. By 2020 it will have deployed 1500 outstanding teachers and middle leaders to underperforming schools

She said: 'I’m acutely aware that recruitment isn’t easy at the moment for lots of schools, that as the economy improves and demand for graduates grows across the whole economy, I and my team need to be doing more to get more people into, or back into the profession, and keep the great teachers we have.

'And we also need to get teachers into the right places. We can’t simply have most of our best teachers concentrated in some areas - that isn’t a one nation education, far from it.

'So today I’m delighted to announce that we will be delivering on yet another of our commitments with the creation of a National Teaching Service. A new national programme that will get our best teachers and middle leaders into underperforming schools in areas where they are needed most.

'Coastal towns and rural areas struggle because they struggle to recruit and retain good teachers, they lack that vital ingredient that makes for a successful education.

'The National Teaching Service will play a key part in solving this problem. By 2020 it will have deployed 1500 outstanding teachers and middle leaders to underperforming schools.

'These outstanding teachers will be employed by these schools for up to three years. They will not only be expected to bring outstanding teaching into the classroom, but also to improve the quality of teaching and leadership right throughout the school.'

'That programme will launch next September in the North West of England, targeting teachers and middle leaders to areas like Knowsley which doesn’t have a single outstanding secondary school.

On the introduction of a National Teaching Service, Russell Hobby said: “Great teachers are at the heart of great schools. Some schools struggle to recruit teachers with the right specialisms and skills, and this can hold back their improvement. Anything that can help get people into these schools - and support them while they are there - should be welcomed.

“The scheme as outlined seems sensible, acting to support schools rather than interfere. There are significant challenges in implementation, of course, but NAHT will be keen to support and evaluate the early stages of this project.

“We should be spending much more time on issues of recruitment and development, so this is a step in the right direction.”

What do you think about the Government's plans for the future? Is it too much testing? Is there enough focus on teacher retention and quality over measurement? Let us know below or send your comments to the editor.

 

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