The ‘academy’ list

The list is out.  That is, the list of schools who have registered an interest for further information on the process to become academies.

There are, in fact, two lists. 

One is a list of primary and secondary schools, deemed by Ofsted to be outstanding.

The second, is a list of primary and secondary schools, which Ofsted do not deem to be outstanding.

Far from being a list of schools who intend to become academies as soon as possible, these are lists of schools who have registered with the DfE for further information on the process of acquiring academy status.

The lists were only made public following freedom of information requests.  This is interesting, given the rhetoric of great parental involvement and accountability coming from the current government.

A scan of national and regional press reports covering the release of this information might lead you to believe that all the schools on these lists are applying to become academies.  They aren’t, or at least, there is no way of knowing whether these schools are planning to push ahead with academy status.  The DfE has not released that information, so, at present we have a list of schools which have requested further information, and that is it. Again, the government’s commitment to ensuring freedom and accountability does not extend to allowing parents the knowledge of which schools are applying for academy status.

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Exam Season

You will, if you have listened to The Archers or watched Waterloo Road recently, be aware that some of the characters in featured in those dramas have had exams. It is either over, or nearly over for GCSE and A Level students. 

This also explains the lack of posts on this page too. I have been marking.   

In the meantime, there have been numerous developments in educational policy.  My sociological lens has been elsewhere.  It is currently being polished and will be refocused very soon.

The pupil premium

The pupil premium is additional money given to schools for each child from a poor background.  It was a feature of the Lib Dem’s election pledge, and represents a symbol that the parties care about tackling educational inequality.

A recent entry on Conservative Home claims the pupil premium was, in fact a conservative idea, dating from “as early as 2005”.  This must come as a surprise to the Institute for Fiscal Studies who observed that the education system (before the election) “already weights funding towards deprived pupils”.

The pupil premium sounds good.  The Liberal Democrat 2010 election manifesto pledged £2.5 billion to increase funding to the most disadvantged children, in the form of a pupil premium.  Its manifesto estimated there to be around 1 million disadvantaged children.   Other sources estimate the figure to be four times higher, however, the Liberal Democrats based their estimate on the number of children receving free school meals, in itself problematic means of measuring the number of children in poverty.  So, according to the Liberal Democrats’ figures, this works out at around £2500 for each pupil.  Furthermore, the money would go straight into schools’ budgets  (the Labour Government’s additional funding went to LEAs) and, the manifesto claimed, could be used for any number of things, including a reducation in class sizes, attracting the best teachers, or improving discipline.  All of these ideas are popularist, but are actually quite vague in terms of how they might  help break the link between deprivation and poor educational outcomes.

Now in coalition with the Conservatives, the Liberal  Democrats may have to be satisfied with an even more vague pledge of a pupil premium, in that we don’t know how much it is going to be, or where the money is coming from.

While there is talk of tackling inequality, with the supposed evidence in front of us in the form  of a pupil premium, educational inequality is still being promoted in the form of, in private education,  selection by wealth, and, in the state sector selection on ability.  Further, the money to pay for any premium might not be additional funding.  As Conor Ryan’s article in the Independent points out, for the premium to make any difference, it needs to be additional money.  If school budgets are going to be cut, then a pupil premium isn’t really a premium at all.

The claim that the pupil premium is designed to help the most disadvantaged, helping to break to link between deprivation (however it is chosen to be measured) and poor educational outcomes is pretty thin.  The link between social background and educational attainment is a strong and persistent one.  Therefore, improving the lives of the most disadvantaged families and children would be a more effective way of tackling educational inequalities.  Unfortunately there is little evidence of policies in these areas.  In fact, if anything, things are going to get worse.  This week, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) issued a press release  in which it condemns the recent austerity budget for freezing child benefit, and effectively halting progress towards ending child poverty. It also points out that the increase in VAT will hit the poorest hardest.  Incidentally CPAG claims that there are nearly 4 million children in the UK living in poverty. The Liberal Democrats £2.5 billion would have been stretched even further.

Burston Strike School Rally 2010

This year’s Burston Strike School Rally will take place on Sunday 5th September.

It will feature the following speakers:

  • Tony Benn
  • Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary
  • Len McCluskey, UNITE assistant general secretary

And music from:

  • RED FLAGS
  • Diss School Brass Band

And

Session chairs will include: Teresa Mackay, UNITE regional organiser for women, race and equalities and  Peter Medhurst (retired TGWU regional industrial organiser)

An annual rally is held each September in the Norfolk village of Burston to remember the Strike School.  This school represented the ‘longest strike in history’ when pupils from Burston school went on strike to protest at the sacking of their teachers; Tom and Kitty Higdon.

Tom and Kitty had arrived at the school, finding it unfit for purpose.  The school building was cold and damp,and Higdons set about putting this right.  Kitty lit the schoolroom’s fire to dry the childrens’ wet clothes.  This was, apparently an act of defiance, resulting in criticism from the school management – she had not asked permission first!

Tom and Kitty were also socialists, committed, through education, to encouraging children to imagine possibilities they never imagined they might have.  They were popular with children and local parents, and they saw attendance at the school increase.  This, in turn meant that Tom and Kitty were less popular with local landowners – they saw the importance of child labour more than education.

And so, in short, they were sacked.  The pupils though, were not having this, and went on strike, effectively creating a new school.

Continue reading “Burston Strike School Rally 2010”

Pip’s exam stress…

Educational life is represented in popular culture.  We know it is exam time because, in Radio 4’s The Archers, Pip Archer is experiencing exam stress . Bless, she’s having a bad time. 

The transition from school to 6th form has not been easy for Pip.  She had been intent on packing in college, but stuck with it.  Now, she is balancing a part-time job, an apparently unsuitable boyfriend, and, her exams.

Pip Archer misses her Business Studies exam

Last week, after misreading her exam timetable, and following a night out with the flaky boyfriend Jude, she missed her Business Studies exam.  This meant, according to Pip, the end of the world.  As auntie Elizabeth pointed out, it isn’t, of course,  but poor Pip’s perspective is shaped by exams, and so is understandable.  On top of this, her parents (David and Ruth) have asked her to think about the farm open day, as if she isn’t under enough pressure!  David and Ruth are also feeling the strain.  They might like to think about contacting  Relate, the relationship counselling charity.  On their parents site they have some suggestions to help families cope with exam stress.  According to an article in The Observer, Relate are providing this advice in response to the stress that parents are experiencing while their children revise and sit exams.  The advice to young people, which Pip might have found useful on the morning of her exam, is ‘don’t panic’.

Poor Pip.  She will now have an anxious wait until the results day in August.  The everyday story of exam taking folk will cover that day from Pip’s perspective.  Elsewhere, the news media will enter a debate about the increasing pass rate, and suggest that is explained by easier exams, and thus, falling standards.  Maybe, the Archers characters can engage in this debate too, down at  ‘The Bull’ maybe?