School Improvement Proposals
Responding to the recent announcement by David Cameron that the Conservative Party’s Manifesto will include proposals for the creation of a squad of high-quality teachers, to be employed and funded centrally, who will be sent out to assist poorly performing schools, and proposals for new powers to be given to regional school commissioners, that would allow them to intervene in any state school ruled inadequate by Ofsted and remove the leadership if necessary, ADCS president Alan Wood said:
“This proposal represents a partial but tacit acceptance of what we (and many others) have been saying for the past four years. There is no international evidence of any successful national education system which does not have a strong local middle tier of intervention and moderation sitting between the national government and schools. If that principle is now finally recognised it seems only sensible that the model should be designed properly and work with rather than against existing capacity and accountability.
“Without this recognition these proposals, delivered by remote commissioners who have no knowledge or connection with individual local schools or their communities and partners, will not resolve the obvious need for leading the education system. The creation of The National Teaching Services, made up of 1,500 ‘super teachers’ is a return to the expensive bureaucratic field forces of the previous government’s regime and simply provides the regional school commissioners with a distant army of staff, adding pressure to the growing teacher recruitment problems we face. The proposal will centralize further control of education which will undoubtedly manifest the same weaknesses evident in other national education services.” Wood continued,
“ADCS believes that the business of school improvement is most effective when driven locally by schools, local authorities and other partners working in collaboration with central government; local residents make clear their expectation that the local authority has a strong, aspirational and challenging local voice for its community on education. Every local authority has a senior professional officer advising on education, working closely with local schools to champion educational excellence for all children and young people and delivering local solutions based on collaboration and peer support between schools. Local authorities have senior professional advisers for a whole range of activities - safeguarding, social care, public health and more – education is no different. Local authorities remain legally accountable for this activity and for what happens to our children, despite new forms of school structure and the withdrawal of resources for the job to be done properly.
“The proposed expansion of the powers of Regional School Commissioners will do nothing to address the fundamental problems around the fractured accountabilities for schools. If this is an attempt to increase the number of enforced academy conversions it is likely to be ineffective. Moreover, these proposals appear to be about addressing failure after the event - surely the point is to prevent it, which local authorities working with their schools, do well. The schools with the patterns of persistent failure are those which have been academies for some time. This would suggest that the ‘cure’ doesn’t work ( or is not reliable). ADCS does not object to academy status per se, but structural change alone is rarely the right response to addressing underperformance. Indeed, an obsession with structural solutions for schools, without precedent or evidence, has detracted attention, energy and resources from where they could have been more fruitfully deployed.
“What is desperately needed is an honest, balanced, rational debate, led by evidence and experience, to ensure that there is an effective deployment of resources; a match between local and national accountabilities and how they combine to meet the needs of schools for strong, effective and local forms of support and intervention. Our children deserve that”.