Compulsory EBacc: A policy conundrum? (Updated) (Again)

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face-358186_640The Conservative Manifesto contained an apparent commitment to a compulsory EBacc:

‘We will require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography, with Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects.’

We know the commitment will be honoured since, immediately after the election, Prime Minister Cameron confirmed to his Cabinet that he would be implementing the Manifesto in full.

But, while we await clarification in an impending schools white paper, we are somewhat less sure how to interpret the commitment.

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Origins

The policy first emerged in a newspaper interview with Secretary of State Morgan published at the end of August 2014, some six weeks after her appointment.

This said that:

  • State schools would be ‘urged to enrol all pupils for GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography…which together form the new “English Baccalaureate”’ and
  • Ofsted inspectors would be unable to award a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ rating unless a secondary school enrolled all its pupils in the EBacc.

The rationale is to counter educational inequality:

‘“We want students to be able to keep their options open for as long as possible in terms of what they are going to do after school or college,” Mrs Morgan said.

“In selective schools or schools with a low proportion of free school meals, that is what they are already doing. But that is not always happening in less advantaged areas.”’

It may also be seen as reasserting the status of the EBacc as an accountability measure following the introduction of Attainment/Progress 8.

Former Secretary of State Gove initially claimed:

‘That measure will incentivise schools to offer a broad, balanced curriculum, with high-quality teaching and high achievement across the board. It will also affirm the importance of every child enjoying the opportunity to pursue English baccalaureate subjects.’

But the second sentence applies only up to a point – it should properly be qualified by the insertion of ‘some’ before the last three words.

Despite the unequivocal use of the phrase ‘all pupils’, there was already discussion last summer whether this was the Conservatives’ true intention.

Manifesto

The wording of the manifesto commitment is slightly different and somewhat vaguer than the original version. It suggests:

  • A requirement placed on pupils rather than on schools.
  • This requirement now relates to ‘pupils’ rather than ‘all pupils’.
  • It also relates to the subjects that constitute the EBacc, but not explicitly to the EBacc itself.
  • The restriction on the award of the highest inspection ratings is not tied explicitly to both ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ (through the phrasing continues to imply this).
  • The restriction is confined to schools that ‘refuse to teach’ the EBacc subjects, rather than those that refuse to enter (all) pupils

Data

The 2014 Secondary Performance Tables show that only five state-funded secondary schools – all of them selective – entered 100% of their KS4 examination cohort for all EBacc subjects last year (though plenty more selective schools were not far behind them).

The average entry rate across all state-funded schools was 38.7%, but this masks significant variation according to prior attainment.

While some 68.8% of high attainers entered all EBacc subjects, only 31.5% of middle attainers and just 4.0% of low attainers did so.

In 2014, 22.9% of disadvantaged pupils entered all EBacc subjects, compared with 44.5% of others, giving a gap of 21.6 percentage points. In 2013 the corresponding gap was 21.5 percentage points and in 2012 17.5 percentage points.

In 2014 only 26 state-funded secondary schools entered no pupils at all for all EBacc subjects, ironically several of them also selective schools, presumably because they use at least one IGCSE examination that is ineligible for inclusion.

Entry rates for different subjects varied considerably. Unsurprisingly maths (97.7%) and English (96.1%) were almost universal, but the languages entry rate stood at 68.9%, just ahead of science at 68.7% with humanities bringing up the rear at 66.5%.

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Interpretation

Given that the policy is now several months old one would expect much of the detail to have been worked through by Tory policy staff pre-election. DfE officials will also have undertaken some preparatory analysis during purdah.  Those two perspectives will now need stitching together.

The obvious point to draw from the data is that, whereas a requirement on schools to enter some pupils for all EBacc subjects would have almost zero impact, insistence that all schools entered all of their pupils would demand huge change.

It would be particularly challenging for schools to apply such a stricture to their low attainers and this would stand in the way of establishing a level playing field between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

Common sense dictates that the policy should be applied in such a way that it falls between these two extremes.

Since the EBacc is currently pegged at GCSE grade C or above, it seems unnecessary and unwise to apply the rule to students who are certain not to achieve this, including many with special needs. Such a requirement would otherwise reinforce failure and damage self-esteem.

The most likely solution would be to introduce a default presumption that all schools should enter all their pupils for all EBacc subjects, with opt-outs acceptable in a limited range of circumstances, or possibly left to the discretion of the headteacher.

An alternative approach might be to remove the C grade hurdle, especially in the case of science, humanities and languages.

Other issues

It is hard to see how a requirement could be placed on pupils, unless it is to be applied to their parents, but that seems unnecessarily convoluted and potentially controversial.

One would expect any requirement to be placed on schools, if indeed a requirement is necessary, over and above the disincentive of a restricted inspection outcome.

If that lever is applied to both ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ judgements it will have a significantly wider reach than if it relates solely to ‘outstanding’ judgements.

Schools might live with a restriction on ‘outstanding’, but if ‘good’ is also restricted that creates a much lower ceiling for some schools and means others have much further to fall.

Given the relatively greater scrutiny afforded to schools requiring improvement it seems likely that few would be prepared to pay such a price.

Faced with such a choice, how many grammar schools would continue to select IGCSE qualifications that do not qualify for the EBacc? (Or would the Government be prepared to relax those rules, which are seen as unduly inflexible?)

Ultimately though, it is not clear whether choosing an ineligible IGCSE would qualify as refusing to teach the EBacc subjects.

It may be that a limiting judgement on Ofsted inspection outcomes would be reserved for the unlikely scenario where schools fail to include these subjects in their KS4 curriculum, or where they wilfully disregard a qualified presumption of EBacc entry.

Some of the difficulties disappear if the presumption is applied only to the subjects that constitute the EBacc and not to the EBacc itself.

This would also remove the C grade hurdle and other complexities could be avoided, including those that extend the EBacc’s reach beyond five subject slots:

  • To secure the English element of EBacc requires either an A*-C pass in English or an A*-C pass in English Language and any grade in English Literature.
  • To secure the science element of EBacc requires an A*-C pass in core and additional science, or in the science double award, or entry to three separate sciences (choosing from physics, chemistry, biology and computer science) achieving A*-C passes in two of them.

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Accountability

A further difficulty is presented by the problematic relationship with the Attainment/Progress 8 accountability measures. These are scheduled for introduction in 2016, though schools can opt in this year.

The latest guidelines define the components as:

  • A double weighted maths element based on the student’s EBacc maths qualification.
  • An English element based on the student’s EBacc English Language or English Literature qualification. This will be double weighted if they have taken both and from 2016 an English (combined) qualification will count and be double weighted.
  • Any three further EBacc qualifications. These can be in any combination – all in sciences for example – since there is no requirement to include qualifications in each ‘pillar’ of the EBacc.
  • Any further three subjects, including any not counted in any of the sections above. These may be EBacc qualifications, other GCSEs or other approved non-GCSE qualifications.

Compared with this, an EBacc requirement is narrower and more prescriptive since it demands universal study of specific subject combinations beyond the core of English and maths, potentially involving as many as eight qualifications.

There will be five headline performance measures for secondary schools, including Attainment 8, Progress 8 and the percentage of pupils achieving the EBacc. It had become understood that Attainment/Progress 8 were the most significant of these.

The Floor Standard will be tied to Progress 8 giving it higher status than the EBacc for school improvement purposes.

Moreover:

‘Schools in which pupils make one grade more progress than the national average will be exempt from routine inspections by Ofsted in the next academic year.’

If a ‘compulsory’ EBacc and the existing Attainment/Progress 8 are to co-exist, schools will face difficult decisions when students choose their options towards the end of Year 9.

Is it in the best interests of students to enter them for all the EBacc elements, confining curriculum flexibility to the margins, or to exploit to the full the increased flexibility permitted by Attainment/Progress 8?

Assuming that the limiting judgements on Ofsted inspection apply in their strictest sense, should schools prioritise their Ofsted rating or the floor target?

Above all, should the needs of the school – in the shape of its institutional reputation – inevitably trump those of the students, or vice versa?

The Government will need to unravel some of these difficulties.

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Pressures

The Government will face determined pressure to retain the additional flexibilities guaranteed by Attainment/Progress 8.

Any attempt to restore the EBacc’s supremacy will be regarded as increasing prescription and limiting schools’ autonomy to respond to the different needs of their learners.

It will impose a de facto national curriculum on schools that are not obliged to follow one.

NAHT has signalled already some of the negative reaction that the Government can expect.

Questions have also been raised about the potential teacher recruitment and supply issues associated with reintroducing a compulsory language at KS4 and the limited availability of alternatives for students who would struggle with GCSE.

Another blogger has calculated that 100% take-up of geography, history and languages would require some 7,000 additional teachers, further compounding an already-significant teacher supply problem.

[Postscript: A report in Schools Week on 19 June said that extending MFL to all learners in KS4 had been estimated by education datalab to require ‘well over 2,000’ additional teachers.

Education datalab director Rebecca Allen is quoted:

‘With 30,000 people graduating each year with a degree in languages this isn’t an impossible ask, but is pretty close.’]

There is a corresponding downside for subjects outside the EBacc – RE and arts subjects spring to mind – which had seen Attainment/Progress 8 as a potential route back to higher status.

The notion of introducing new ‘limiting judgements’ on Ofsted inspection ratings is much disliked and may not find favour with HMCI, who is about to publish a single inspection framework and revised handbooks for inspection.

It will be difficult and embarrassing to justify a Government U-turn on educational grounds, especially since both Coalition partners signed up to the previous position.

[Postscript: A post published by SSAT on 10 June, three weeks after this one, compares the language of the Progress 8 guidance – which celebrates its capacity to accommodate the very different needs of learners – with the prescription apparently imposed by the statement in the Conservative manifesto.]   

It might just be feasible for a new Government to brazen this out, especially while the Opposition is in disarray, but only at the cost of goodwill amongst the profession and some early reputational damage.

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Likely outcome?

It seems likely that the Government will conclude that a ‘compulsory’ EBacc and Attainment/Progress 8 in its present form simply cannot co-exist.

If so, the path of least resistance is probably to amend Attainment/Progress 8 so that the EBacc subject combination (if not the EBacc in its entirety) sits neatly within it.

The third component above would need to change to require coverage of science, a language and either history or geography.

The fourth component would need to accommodate any further requirements if the full EBacc is subsumed, rather than simply the subject combination.

The limiting judgements applied to Ofsted inspection outcomes should be reserved for schools that fail to offer these subjects at KS4, or possibly extend to those that choose deliberately to ignore a sensible and qualified EBacc presumption. The IGCSE issue needs to be addressed in parallel.

The Government might portray the present Attainment/Progress 8 formulation as a step too far, imposed on them by their Liberal partners in Coalition. They might continue to argue that it is not in the best interests of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, hindering their efforts to compete on a level playing field for post-16 learning and employment opportunities.

But even such a limited volte-face has presentational downside that will require very careful handling.

One would expect it to trigger the Workload Challenge Protocol on changes to accountability, curriculum and qualifications which stipulates that:

‘There should be a lead in time of at least a year for any accountability, curriculum or qualifications initiative coming from the department which requires schools to make significant changes which will have an impact on staff workload.’

This would necessitate confirmation of new arrangements by the end of Summer Term 2015, otherwise much of the new assessment and accountability package for secondary schools would have to be delayed until 2017.

Schools that have already taken advantage of the early opt in arrangements for Progress 8 would have some cause for complaint.

So if you have alternative solutions – that meet the manifesto commitment but would cause less disruption and difficulty for schools – I’m sure they would be delighted to hear them!

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[Postscript, 12 June 2015:

On 11 June Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb gave a speech at Policy Exchange entitled ‘Knowledge is power: The social justice case for an academic curriculum’.

The Policy Exchange website said:

The speech will set out the Government’s plans to build on previous reforms in the last Parliament, including the Conservative Manifesto commitment requiring all secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in EBacc subjects.

On the morning of the speech, press officers moved to dampen expectations that it would contain much detail about this commitment.

The TES said:

‘Today the minister will say that details about the policy…are imminent’

While Schools Week preferred:

‘In a speech later today, Mr Gibb is expected to say the government will set out “in due course” further details of its plan…’.

The BBC report told us categorically that the provision ‘would not apply to pupils with special needs’.

All three sources confirmed that there would be consultation on how to implement the policy.

The speech itself offered hardly any new information:

‘In due course, we will also set out details of our expectation that secondary school pupils should take English Baccalaureate subjects at age 16. In doing so, we will listen closely to the views of teachers, headteachers, and parents on how best to implement this commitment. And we will ensure that schools have adequate lead in time to prepare for any major changes.

For some schools already leading the way, such as King Solomon Academy and Rushey Mead School, this change will pass by unnoticed. But for others, where only a small minority currently achieve the EBacc, there is no doubt that this will be a significant challenge. We will support these schools to raise standards, but make no apology for expecting every child to receive a high-quality core academic education.’

Incidentally, King Solomon Academy and Rushey Mead Academy were celebrated earlier in the speech:

‘King Solomon Academy, situated in the heart of a disadvantaged community in Paddington, is one of these schools. 67% of GCSE pupils at King Solomon Academy are eligible for the pupil premium, but despite this, 93% of pupils entered the EBacc, and 76% of pupils achieved it in 2014.

Rushey Mead School in Leicester is yet another example of an ‘outstanding’ school where they have high expectations for all their pupils. 33% of the school’s intake is eligible for the pupil premium, 72% are entered for the EBacc and 42% achieve it, well above the national average.’

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One pointer is that the terminology in the Manifesto – ‘we will require…’ – has now been softened to ‘our expectation’. This suggests that the Government will not resort to compulsion.

The Q and A session following the speech is now available to listen to on Policy Exchange’s website.

When asked about the detailed proposals, Gibb said these would emerge ‘very soon’ from ‘somebody more important than me’.

It is unclear whether this is merely self-deprecation or an indication that they will be communicated by the Prime Minister (since the phrase ‘someone more important’ is often ministerial code for the PM).

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This would help to explain why Gibb was left to give a speech bereft of the details most urgently awaited by his audience.

The Q and A helps to clear up a few issues.

  • It appears that there will be a formal consultation process which, if launched before the end of term, would delay decisions until the autumn.
  • The consultation will invite comments on the application of the policy to special schools (as opposed to special needs pupils), to UTCs and studio schools.
  • The reference to an ‘adequate lead in time’ appears to be acknowledgment that the Workload Challenge agreement – requiring a year’s notice of significant changes – bites in this case.

The combined effect of the consultation period and the Workload Challenge provision may postpone implementation beyond September 2016. This could have implications for the introduction of Attainment/Progress 8.

No information was forthcoming about the Ofsted ‘limiting judgement’ or the nature and source of the support that would be provided to schools for which the policy is a ‘significant challenge’.

During the Q and A, Gibb made the point that it should apply equally to low attainers, citing some further data from his supporting brief about outcomes at King Solomon Academy.

I thought it would be wise to check the records of both named schools more closely in the 2014 Secondary Performance Tables.

  • King Solomon Academy entered 89% of disadvantaged pupils for the EBacc compared with 100% of other pupils, a gap of 11 percentage points. Although 71% of low attainers were entered, only 43% were successful. Only 71% of middle attainers were successful.
  • Rushey Mead School entered 63% of disadvantaged pupils for the EBacc compared with 76% of other pupils, a gap of 13 percentage points. Just 27% of low attainers were entered and only 4% were successful. Only 33% of middle attainers were successful.

Even though King Solomon leads the field in terms of EBacc entry and achievement by low attainers, it still has considerable scope for improvement. Rushey Mead has a mountain to climb. There are significant socio-economic gaps in the entry policy at both schools.

A strict interpretation of the manifesto commitment would by no means pass unnoticed in either of them.]

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[Holding postscript  14 June Press reports indicate that Secretary of State Morgan will announce details of the compulsory EBacc policy in a speech on 16 June to take place at King Solomon Academy.

The reports suggest that the policy will be introduced for all pupils starting their GCSEs in 2018.

Quite why Morgan wouldn’t allow Gibb to make this public on Thursday remains a mystery.

I will update this post to reflect what Morgan announces.]

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[Postscript 16 JuneA press release was issued in the morning and the text of a speech in the afternoon. The latter told us nothing new.

The press release provides a few further snippets of information:

  • It says that:

‘Pupils starting secondary school this September must study the key English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects of English, maths, science, history or geography, and a language at GCSE.’

This is potentially ambiguous, but is clarified by a subsequent sentence:

‘The government’s intention is that pupils starting secondary school this September (year 7) will study the EBacc when they reach their GCSEs, with pupils taking exams in these subjects in 2020.’

It is not clear whether pupils will need to achieve a new-style level 5 in the specified subjects in order to achieve the EBacc.

  • Despite this, Progress 8 will remain ‘the new headline performance measure’, confirming that Attainment/Progress 8 and the new EBacc requirement must necessarily co-exist.
  • The footnotes add that

‘The government recognises the EBacc will not be appropriate for a small minority of pupils and so we will work to understand this and be clear with schools what we expect for this minority of pupils. The detail will be set out in the autumn and there will be a full public consultation on these proposals.’

It does not specify whether or not this small minority are the special needs pupils that the BBC reported would be exempt. There is an implication that there may be an alternative expectation in respect of them.

Further detail will not be available before next academic year.

I had assumed that the consultation might be launched immediately, running across the summer and into the first part of the autumn term. However, a Tweet from DfE during the afternoon made it clear that the consultation itself will also be delayed until next year.

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Twitter ebacc Capture

This leaves most of the unanswered questions above still unanswered, for at least another three months.  One imagines that a great deal of preparatory work will be necessary before a viable consultation document can be produced.

In the meantime, there are signs that professional opposition to the plan is gathering momentum.

On 17 June, SSAT reported the outcomes of a survey it had conducted amongst school leaders. The findings included:

‘Only 16% of respondents said that they would make the EBacc compulsory if that was a requirement for an Outstanding judgement from Ofsted.

70% of respondents would refuse to teach the EBacc for all, even if that meant a ceiling of Ofsted Good for their schools.

Over 44% of Outstanding schools would refuse to teach the EBacc for all, even if it meant losing their Outstanding status. A further 34% of Outstanding schools remain undecided. Only 1 in 5 Outstanding schools said that they would make the Ebacc compulsory for all.’

The consultation process is certain to be a difficult one, even though the press notice indicates the Government’s intention to ‘work with school leaders’ to ‘ensure all [sic] pupils get the chance to study these crucial subjects’.]

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GP

May 2015

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The problem of reverse excellence gaps

This post compares the performance of primary schools that record significant proportions of disadvantaged high attainers.

spiral-77493_1280It explores the nature of excellence gaps, which I have previously defined as:

‘The difference between the percentage of disadvantaged learners who reach a specified age- or stage-related threshold of high achievement – or who secure the requisite progress between two such thresholds – and the percentage of all other eligible learners that do so.’

It draws particular attention to the incidence at school level of sizeable reverse excellence gaps where disadvantaged learners out-perform their more advantaged peers.

According to my theoretical model reverse gaps threaten equilibrium and should be corrected without depressing the achievement of disadvantaged high attainers.

In this post:

  • The measure of disadvantage is eligibility for the pupil premium – those eligible for free school meals at any time in the last six years (‘ever 6 FSM’) and children in care.
  • The measure of high attainment is Level 5 or above in KS2 reading, writing and maths combined.

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National figures

The 2014 Primary School Performance Tables show that 24% of the cohort attending state-funded primary schools achieved KS2 Level 5 or above in reading, writing and maths combined. In 2013, the comparable figure was 21% and in 2012 it was 20%.

In 2014 some 650 primary schools managed a success rate of 50% or higher for the entire cohort, up from 425 in 2013 and 380 in 2012

The comparable national percentages for disadvantaged learners are 12% in 2014, 10% in 2013 and 9% in 2012. For all other learners (ie non-disadvantaged) they are 24% in 2012, 26% in 2013 and 29% in 2014.

In 2014, there were 97 state-funded schools where 50% or more of disadvantaged learners achieved this benchmark, compared with only 38 in 2013 and 42 in 2012. This group of schools provides the sample for this analysis.

Chart 1 below illustrates the national excellence gaps over time while Chart 2 compares the proportion of schools achieving 50% or higher on this measure with all learners and disadvantaged learners respectively.

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REG graph 1

Chart 1: Percentage of disadvantaged and other learners achieving L5+ in KS2 reading, writing and maths, 2012-14

Chart 1 shows that all rates are improving, but the rate of improvement is slower for disadvantaged learners. So the socio-economic achievement gap at L5+ in reading, writing and maths combined has grown from 15% in 2012, to 16% in 2013 and then to 17% in 2014.

REG graph 2 

Chart 2: Number of schools where 50% of all/disadvantaged learners achieved L5+ in KS2 reading, writing and maths, 2012-14

Chart 2 shows steady improvement in the number of schools achieving outstandingly on this measure for all learners and disadvantaged learners alike (though there was a slight blip in 2013 in respect of the latter).

Since 2012, the proportion of schools achieving this benchmark with disadvantaged learners has increased more substantially than the proportion doing so with all learners. At first sight this is a positive trend.

However Chart 1 suggests that, even with the pupil premium, the national excellence gap between higher-attaining advantaged and disadvantaged learners is increasing steadily. This is a negative trend.

It might suggest either that high-attaining disadvantaged learners are not benefiting sufficiently from the premium, or that interventions targeted towards them are ineffective in closing gaps. Or perhaps both of these factors are in play.

 

Schools achieving high success rates with disadvantaged learners

The 97 schools achieving a success rate of 50% or more with their disadvantaged high attainers are geographically dispersed across all regions, although a very high proportion (40%) is located in London and over half are in London and the South-East.

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Reg graph 3

Chart 3: Distribution of schools in sample by region

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Nineteen London boroughs are represented but eight of the 97 schools are located in a single borough – Greenwich – with a further five in Kensington and Chelsea. The reasons for this clustering are unclear, though it would suggest a degree of common practice.

Almost half of the sample consists of church schools, fairly equally divided between Church of England and Roman Catholic institutions. Seven of the 97 are academy converters, six are controlled, 42 are aided and the remainder are community schools.

Other variables include:

  • The average size of the KS2 cohort eligible for assessment is about 40 learners, with a range from 14 to 134.
  • The percentage of high attainers varies from 7% to 64%, compared with an average of 25% for all state-funded schools. More than one quarter of these schools record 40% or more high attainers.
  • The percentage of middle attainers ranges between 38% and 78%, compared with an average of 58% for state funded schools.
  • The percentage of low attainers lies between 0% and 38%, compared with the national average for state-funded schools of 18%. Only 15 of the sample record a percentage higher than this national average.
  • The percentage of disadvantaged learners ranges from 4% to 77%, compared with the national average for state-funded schools of 31%. Roughly one in five of the sample has 50% or more, while almost two in five have 20% or less.
  • The number of disadvantaged pupils in the cohort is between 6 and 48. (Schools with fewer than 5 in the cohort have their results suppressed). In only 22 of the sample is the number of disadvantaged pupils higher than 10.
  • In 12 of the schools there are no EAL pupils in the cohort but a further 11 are at 60% or higher, compared with an average for state-funded schools of 18%.

Overall there is significant variation between these schools.

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School-level performance

The vast majority of the schools in the sample are strong performers overall on the L5 reading, writing and maths measure. All but five lie above the 2014 national average of 24% for state-funded schools and almost half are at 50% or higher.

The average point score ranges from 34.7 to 27.9, compared with the state-funded average of 28.7. All but 15 of the sample record an APS of 30 or higher. The average grade per pupil is 4B in one case only and 4A in fourteen more. Otherwise it is 5C or higher.

Many of these schools are also strong performers in KS2 L6 tests, though these results are not disaggregated for advantaged and disadvantaged learners.

More than four out of five are above the average 9% success rate for L6 maths in state-funded primary schools and almost two out of five are at 20% or higher.

As for L6 grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS), some two-thirds are above the success rate of 4% for all state-funded primary schools and almost two out of five are at 10% or higher.

When it comes to the core measure used in this analysis, those at the top of the range appear at first sight to have performed outstandingly in 2014.

Four schools come in at over 80%, though none has a disadvantaged cohort larger than eight pupils. These are:

Not far behind them is Tollgate Primary School, Newham (71%) but Tollgate also has a cohort of 34 disadvantaged learners, almost three times the size of any of its nearest rivals.

What stands out from the data above all else is the fact that very few schools show any capacity to replicate this level of performance over two or three years in succession.

In some cases results for earlier years are suppressed because five or fewer disadvantaged pupils constituted the cohort. Leaving those aside, just 6 schools in the sample managed a success rate of 50% or higher in 2013 as well (so for two successive years) and no school managed it for three years in a row.

The schools closest to achieving this are:

  • Tollgate Primary School, Newham (71% in 2014, 50% in 2013 and 40% in 2013)

Only 9 of the sample achieved a success rate of 30% or higher for three years in a row.

The size and direction of excellence gaps

Another conspicuous finding is that several of these schools display sizeable reverse excellence gaps, where the performance of disadvantaged learners far exceeds that of their more advantaged peers.

Their success rates for all other pupils at L5 in reading, writing and maths combined vary enormously, ranging between 91% and 10%. Nineteen of the sample (20%) is at or below the national average rate for state-funded schools.

But in a clear majority of the sample the success rate for all other pupils is lower than it is for disadvantaged pupils.

The biggest reverse excellence gap is recorded by St John’s Church of England Primary School in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, where the success rate for disadvantaged learners is 67%, compared with 19% for other learners, giving a huge disparity of 48 percentage points!

Several other schools record reverse gaps of 30 points or more, many of them church schools. This raises the intriguing possibility that the ethos and approach in such schools may be relatively more conducive to disadvantaged high attainers, although small numbers are undoubtedly a factor in some schools.

The ‘cliff-edge’ nature of the distinction between disadvantaged and other learners may also be a factor.

If schools have a relatively high proportion of comparatively disadvantaged learners ineligible for the pupil premium they may depress the results for the majority, especially if their particular needs are not being addressed.

At the other extreme, several schools perform creditably with their disadvantaged learners while also demonstrating large standard excellence gaps.

Some of the worst offenders are the schools celebrated above for achieving consistency over a three year period:

  • Fox Primary School has a 2014 excellence gap of 34 points (57% disadvantaged versus 91% advantaged)
  • Nelson Mandela School a similar gap of 28 points (54% disadvantaged versus 82% advantaged).

Only Tollgate School bucks this trend with a standard excellence gap of just two percentage points.

The chart below illustrates the variance in excellence gaps across the sample. Sizeable reverse gaps clearly predominate.

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REG graph 4

Chart 4: Incidence of reverse and normal excellence gaps in the sample

Out of the entire sample, only 17 schools returned success rates for advantaged and other learners that were within five percentage points of each other. Less than one-third of the sample falls within a variance of plus or minus 10%.

These extreme variations may in some cases be associated with big disparities in the sizes of the two groups: if disadvantaged high attainers are in single figures, differences can hinge on the performance of just one or two learners. But this does not apply in all cases. As noted above, the underperformance of relatively disadvantaged learners may also be a factor in the reverse gaps scenario.

Ofsted inspection reports

I was curious to see whether schools with sizeable excellence gaps – whether normal or reverse – had received comment on this point from Ofsted.

Of the schools within the sample, just one – Shrewsbury Cathedral Catholic Primary School – has been rated inadequate in its last inspection report. The inspection was undertaken in July 2014, so will not have reflected a huge reverse excellence gap of 38 percentage points in the 2014 KS2 assessments.

The underachievement of the most able is identified as a contributory factor in the special measures judgement but the report comments thus on the achievement of disadvantaged learners:

‘Although in Year 6, pupils eligible for additional government funding (the pupil premium) reach similar levels to their classmates in reading, writing and mathematics, eligible pupils attain lower standards than those reached by their classmates, in Years 2, 3 and 4. The gap between the attainment of eligible and non-eligible pupils in these year groups is widening in reading, writing and mathematics. In mathematics, in Year 3, eligible pupils are over a year behind their classmates.’

Two further schools in the sample were judged by Ofsted to require improvement, both in 2013 – St Matthew’s in Surbiton and St Stephen’s in Godstone, Surrey. All others that have been inspected were deemed outstanding or good.

At St Matthew’s inspectors commented on the achievement of disadvantaged learners:

‘Weaknesses in the attainment of Year 6 pupils supported by pupil premium funding were identified in 2012 and the school took action to reduce the gap in attainment between this group of pupils and their peers. This gap reduced in 2013 so that they were just over one term behind the others in English and mathematics, but there is still a substantial gap for similar pupils in Year 2, with almost a year’s gap evident in 2013. Support is now in place to tackle this.’

In 2014, the KS2 cohort at St Matthew’s achieved a 53% success rate on L5 reading, writing and maths, with disadvantaged learners at 50%, not too far behind.

At St Stephen’s inspectors said of disadvantaged learners:

‘The school successfully closes the gap between the attainment of pupils who benefit from the pupil premium and others. Indeed, in national tests at the end of Year 6 in 2012, the very small number of eligible pupils was attaining about a term ahead of their classmates in English and mathematics. Focused support is being given to eligible pupils in the current year to help all fulfil their potential.’

A more recent report in 2015 notes:

‘The school is successfully closing the gaps between disadvantaged pupils and others. In 2014, at the end of Key Stage 2, disadvantaged pupils outperformed other pupils nationally and in the school by about three terms in mathematics. They also outperformed other pupils nationally by about two terms nationally and in the school in reading and writing. Disadvantaged pupils across the school typically make faster progress than other pupils in reading, writing and mathematics.’

It is not clear whether inspectors regard this as a positive outcome.

Unfortunately, Tollgate, Nelson Mandela and Fox – all three outstanding – have not been inspected since 2008/2009. One wonders whether the significant excellence gaps at the latter might impact on their overall inspection grade.

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Pupil Premium allocations 

I was equally curious to see what the websites for these three schools recorded about their use of the pupil premium.

Schools are required to publish details of how they spend the pupil premium and the effect this has on the attainment of the learners who attract it.

Ofsted has recently reported that only about one-third of non-selective secondary schools make appropriate use of the pupil premium to support their disadvantaged most able learners – and there is little reason to suppose that most primary schools are any more successful in this respect.

But are these three schools any different?

  • Fox Primary School has pupil premium income of £54.7K in 2014-15. It explains in its statement:

‘Beyond all of this, Fox directs a comparatively large proportion of budget to staffing to ensure small group teaching can target pupils of all attainment to attain and achieve higher than national expectations. Disadvantaged pupils who are attaining above the expected level are also benefitting from small group learning, including core subject lessons with class sizes up to 20. The impact of this approach can be seen in the APS and value added scores of disadvantaged pupils for the last 2 years at both KS1 and KS2. The improved staffing ratios are not included in pupil premium spend.’

  • Nelson Mandela School has so far not uploaded details for 2014-15. In 2013-14 it received pupil premium of £205.2K. The statement contains no explicit reference to high-attaining disadvantaged learners.
  • Tollgate Primary School received pupil premium of £302.2K in 2014-15. Its report covers this and the previous year. In 2013-14 there are entries for:

‘Aim Higher, challenging more able FSM pupils’ (Y6)

In 2014-15 funding is allocated to pay for five intervention teachers, whose role is described as:

‘Small group teaching for higher ability. Intervention programmes for FSM’.

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Conclusion

The national excellence gap between disadvantaged and other learners achieving KS2 L5 in all of reading, writing and maths is growing, despite the pupil premium. The reasons for this require investigation and resolution.

Ofsted’s commitment to give the issue additional scrutiny will be helpful but may not be sufficient to turn this situation around. Other options should be considered.

The evidence suggests that schools’ capacity to sustain Level 5+ performance across reading, writing and maths for relatively large proportions of their disadvantaged learners is limited. High levels of performance are rarely maintained for two or three years in succession.

Where high success rates are achieved, more often than not this results in a significant reverse excellence gap.

Such reverse gaps may be affected by the small number of disadvantaged learners within some schools’ cohorts but there may also be evidence to suggest that several schools are succeeding with their disadvantaged high achievers at the expense of those from relatively more advantaged backgrounds.

Further investigation is necessary to establish the association between this trend and a ‘cliff-edge’ definition of disadvantage.

Such an outcome is not optimal or desirable and should be addressed quickly, though without depressing the performance of disadvantaged high achievers.

A handful of strong performers, including the majority of those that are relatively more consistent year-on-year, do well despite continuing to demonstrate sizeable standard excellence gaps.

Here the advantaged do outstandingly well and the disadvantaged do significantly worse, but still significantly better than in many other schools.

This outcome is not optimal either.

There are very few schools that perform consistently highly on this measure, for advantaged and disadvantaged high attainers alike.

Newham’s Tollgate Primary School is perhaps the nearest to exemplary practice. It receives significant pupil premium income and, in 2014-15, has invested in five intervention staff whose role is partially to provide small group teaching that benefits high attainers from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Fox Primary School has also acted to reduce group sizes, but it remains to be seen whether this will help to eliminate the large positive excellence gap apparent in 2014.

This is a model that others might replicate, provided their pupil premium income is substantial enough to underwrite the cost, but the necessary conditions for success are not yet clear and further research is necessary to establish and disseminate them.

Alternative approaches will be necessary for schools with small numbers of disadvantaged learners and a correspondingly small pupil premium budget.

The Education Endowment Fund (EEF) is the obvious source of funding. It should be much more explicitly focused on excellence gaps than it has been to date.

GP

May 2015

Proposals for a 2015 Schools White Paper: Most able

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This post sets out for consideration some ideas to inform a new ‘most able learners’ policy’ for inclusion in a forthcoming schools white paper.

paper-32377_1280Background

Now that we have a majority Conservative Government, attention is switching to the shape of its education policy agenda for the next five years.

Parliament will be recalled on 18 May and the new Government’s legislative agenda will be set out on 27 May in the Queen’s Speech.

During the Election campaign, Prime Minister Cameron announced plans for a Schools Bill within the first 100 days of the new Parliament.

That deadline expires on 26 August, during the long summer holiday, so one would expect the Bill to be published before term ends on 22 July or, failing that, in early September.

Cameron said the Bill would contain:

‘…more radical measures to ensure young people leave education with the skills they need. It will include new powers to force coasting schools, as well as failing schools, to accept new leadership, continuing the remarkable success story of Britain’s academy schools.’

DfE civil servants will already have established which Conservative Manifesto pledges require primary legislation, but Ministerial clarification will be required and there may be some as yet undeclared priorities to add to the list.

Some likely contenders include:

  • Resits of KS2 tests in Year 7 and making the EBacc compulsory in secondary schools.
  • Any school considered by Ofsted to Require Improvement will be handed over to ‘the best headteachers – backed by expert sponsors or high-performing neighbouring schools – unless it can demonstrate that it has a plan to improve rapidly’.
  • Permission for ‘all good schools to expand, whether they are maintained schools, academies, free schools or grammar schools’.
  • The establishment of an independent College of Teaching.

It is customary for new governments to publish a white paper covering the areas in which they intend to legislate, so we might expect either a Schools or Education White Paper by the end of the summer term.

Between School Selection

The prospects for renewed emphasis on selection are already being discussed. I gave a detailed account of the pre-Election scenario in ‘The Politics of Selection: Grammar schools and disadvantage’ (November 2014).

Key factors include:

  • The postponed decision on whether to approve a grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks and the precedent that would set elsewhere.
  • The existing scope for grammar schools – whether academies or LA-maintained – to increase their planned admission numbers (PAN), typically by adding additional forms of entry (FE).
  • The campaign by centre-right Tory group Conservative Voice to change the law to permit the establishment of new grammar schools, supported by messrs Brady, Davis and Fox, together with early indications of greater influence for Tory backbenchers through the 1922 Committee which Brady chairs.
  • Coded expressions of support from both Home Secretary May and newly-established Cabinet member Johnson, both considered future contenders for the Tory party leadership.

It will be important to establish a clear demarcation line in government policy.

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Within School Selection

Back in 2007, when in Opposition, Prime Minister Cameron signalled a shift of emphasis, away from grammar schools and towards setting:

‘When I say I oppose nationwide selection by 11 between schools, that does not mean I oppose selection by academic ability altogether.

Quite the reverse. I am passionate about the importance of setting by ability within schools, so that we stretch the brightest kids and help those in danger of being left behind.’

With a Conservative Government this would be a motor of aspiration for the brightest kids from the poorest homes – effectively a ‘grammar stream’ in every subject in every school.’

In September 2014, there were indications of a revival of this strategy, though it was rapidly relegated into plans for Regional Schools Commissioners, newly empowered to intervene in any school rated inadequate by Ofsted to consider enforced setting as one of a ‘menu of options’.

I discussed the evolution of this position in ‘The Politics of Setting’ (November 2014).

In the event, this additional role for Commissioners did not feature in the Conservative Manifesto, so we do not know whether enforced setting will be added to their armoury. This requires clarification in the White Paper.

Ofsted’s evidence

Shortly before election campaigning began, Ofsted published its second survey report on the education of the most able in non-selective secondary schools, which I reviewed in ‘The most able students: Has Ofsted made progress?’ (March 2015).

The Key Findings highlight a litany of shortcomings. The first three alone say:

  • ‘National data show that too many of the most able students are still being let down and are failing to reach their full potential.’
  • ‘Nationally, too many of our most able students fail to achieve the grades they need to get into top universities.’
  • ‘Schools visited were rarely meeting the distinct needs of students who are most able and disadvantaged.’

In relation to this third point, Ofsted found that no more than a third of schools were using pupil premium funding effectively to target the needs of such pupils.

The Report committed Ofsted to focusing within inspections on the progress of the most able disadvantaged, the quality of the curriculum and information, advice and guidance. We wait to see how this will be reflected in the updated School Inspection Handbooks scheduled for publication later this term.

Meanwhile, Ofsted is also preparing a ‘most able evaluation toolkit for schools’ as part of its wider efforts to influence school improvement. The toolkit should feature in the White Paper and there is scope to consider building additional support around it.

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Excellence Gaps and Pupil Premium

The Conservative Manifesto gave a clear commitment:

‘We will continue to provide the pupil premium, protected at current rates, so that schools receive additional money for those from the poorest backgrounds.’

It added:

‘And we will make schools funding fairer. We have already increased funding for the 69 least well-funded local authorities in the country, and will make this the baseline for their funding in the next Parliament.’

Teach First leads a group of educational organisations lobbying for pupil premium to be reallocated in such a way that those with lower prior attainment attract double the rate awarded to those whose prior attainment is at or above expectations.

I have been campaigning against this proposal, principally on the grounds that:

  • It robs Peter to pay Paul, inflicting collateral damage on the majority of eligible learners, including the ‘most able disadvantaged’, the majority of whom are already poorly served, as Ofsted has established.
  • Closing gaps between disadvantaged learners and their peers should continue to take priority over closing attainment gaps between low and high attainers. The core purpose of pupil premium should be tackling underachievement – rather than low achievement – amongst disadvantaged learners.
  • Any increase in funding weighted towards low prior attainment should be secured through reform of the school funding formula and involve careful consideration of the overlaps between deprivation, low attainment and additional needs, including SEN.

My own efforts to increase the priority attached to the most able disadvantaged include presenting the evidence base for excellence gaps which I define as:

‘The difference between the percentage of disadvantaged learners who reach a specified age- or stage-related threshold of high achievement – or who secure the requisite progress between two such thresholds – and the percentage of all other eligible learners that do so.’

There is increasing focus on excellence gaps in this country and they should be more fully reflected in Government policy as enshrined in the White Paper. Further assurances should be given over pupil premium rates and eligibility for them.

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Other Manifesto commitments

The Conservative Manifesto includes – in a section headed ‘We will lead the world in maths and science’ – a generic commitment:

‘We will make sure that all students are pushed to achieve their potential and create more opportunities to stretch the most able.’

It is unclear whether this relates exclusively to maths and science. It might hint at the revival of a flagship policy of the last government, to establish a cadre of up to a dozen selective 16-19 maths free schools, which managed to generate just two of these.

As recommended towards the end of my latest post on these institutions there is plenty of scope to rationalise and reform the STEM talent pipeline more efficiently, so that it benefits students regardless of the schools and colleges they attend.

Those finalising the Tory Manifesto may have had in mind a rival Labour commitment – which didn’t make it into their manifesto – to establish a Gifted and Talented Fund. The purpose and application of this Fund, discussed here, were never clarified.

The Conservatives were wise not to take on board a poorly-conceived Policy Exchange proposal to introduce a National Scholarships Scheme. The idea behind this is to support the most talented undergraduates on condition that they attend a UK university and remain in the UK for three years after graduating. It has no merit whatsoever.

The way forward

Rather than adopt a piecemeal approach, or risk being tripped up by the febrile politics of selection, the new Government should actively consider the inclusion in its schools white paper of a holistic policy to support our high-attaining learners.

This would broaden the agenda and allow the Government to take credit for a more sophisticated, multi-stranded approach.

The policy should embrace primary, secondary and post-16 education, placing particular emphasis on reducing excellence gaps and improving access to our most selective universities.

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Key elements of the policy should include:

  • Holding the line on grammar school expansion established in the Manifesto: expansion is permitted, through satellite schools where legally permissible, but new selective institutions are confined to 16+.
  • Incentivising and encouraging all existing grammar schools to give priority in their admission arrangements to learners eligible for the pupil premium – and supporting their wider efforts to work with primary schools to increase their intake of disadvantaged learners.
  • Sponsoring guidance and associated professional development for schools and colleges on effective institution-wide provision for their most able learners, developed from a set of core principles and designed to re-establish national consensus in this field. This should also feature Ofsted’s evaluation toolkit.
  • Sponsoring guidance for schools and colleges on the introduction of more flexible, radical and innovative grouping arrangements, extending beyond the confines of setting and streaming.
  • Developing a coherent strategy for strengthening the STEM talent pipeline which harnesses the existing infrastructure and makes high quality support accessible to all learners regardless of the schools and colleges they attend.
  • Top-slicing £50m from the pupil premium budget to underwrite a coherent market-driven programme supporting high-attaining disadvantaged students to progress to selective universities. This would integrate the ‘push’ from schools and colleges with the ‘pull’ from higher education achieving efficiencies on both sides.
  • Incentivising schools to give higher priority to disadvantaged high attainers by protecting their pupil premium entitlement and sharpening accountability arrangements, including Ofsted inspection but also the publication of key indicators in Performance Tables under the new assessment regime.
  • Building system-wide capacity, by establishing centres of excellence and a stronger cadre of expert teachers, but also by fostering collaboration and partnership between schools, colleges and all other sources of relevant expertise.

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GP

May 2015

Response to Russell Hobby’s post of 8 May 2015

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Thank you for taking the time and trouble to provide a considered response to my posts campaigning against the Fair Education Alliance position on the pupil premium: this one launching the campaign and this demolition of Teach First’s official policy statement of 29 April. New-EYEBALL-for-C4D

By responding in this fashion you set a fine example to the other organisations I am challenging to justify their support for this policy.

As things stand, just one other organisation – the Future Leaders Trust – has bothered to make its views known (and duly distanced itself from this policy).

The remainder are unwilling to break ranks. I am not sure whether to charge them with cowardice or complacency. I hope they will now follow your lead.

You have explained that NAHT has not yet formally adopted your recommendation that it support Teach First’s position, so your post constitutes ‘an interim position in lieu of a vote or resolution’. I have offered to meet you to discuss this, to clarify any outstanding issues and – hopefully – to persuade you to revise that recommendation.

Three factual clarifications to begin with:

  • NAHT is listed as a member of the Fair Education Alliance – whose Report Card 2014 is unclear over whether the proposed pupil premium reallocation applies equally to primary and secondary schools – and a supporter of the Read On. Get On campaign, whose publication specifically urges its application in the primary sector (and implies that it is following the Report Card in this respect).
  • There are no proposals in the Report Card for reform of the schools funding formula, whether to increase the weighting for deprivation or for low prior attainment. Teach First’s policy statement mentions a national funding formula but offers no specific proposals for reforming it. I note that NAHT is itself calling for a fair national funding formula.
  • The implication of Teach First’s policy statement is that disadvantaged learners with low prior attainment would attract a pupil premium rate double that available to all other disadvantaged learners, middle as well as high attainers. There is no proposal to change the FSM-driven definition of disadvantage that currently underpins the pupil premium and no definition of what constitutes low prior attainment. I note that you recently floated the idea of replacing ‘ever-6 FSM’ eligibility for pupil premium with ‘a measure of the prior attainment of pupils’.

These are my responses to the substantive points of your argument:

  • It is true that other eligible disadvantaged learners would continue to attract pupil premium funding – at half the rate available for eligible disadvantaged low attainers. This implies that their needs are deemed much less significant, and/or that those needs are significantly easier and cheaper to address. The Report Card makes clear that ‘the change of funding model would increase school accountability for ‘catching up’ pupils’ (p27). All schools would be expected to prioritise ‘catch up’ for disadvantaged low attainers over all other provision for disadvantaged learners. As ASCL has pointed out, this cuts directly across heads’ and governors’ autonomy in deciding how best to allocate pupil premium funding. Hence, in this context, NAHT is arguing for such autonomy to be curtailed. I trust you will concede this?
  • There are presently differential rates of pupil premium for primary and secondary learners. The differential in favour of primary schools was justified by the previous Government, not on equity grounds, but as helping schools to meet higher expectations of ‘secondary readiness’ associated with the new assessment and accountability regime. But the new regime also shifts schools away from a binary approach to a model in which improvements at any point along the scale of prior attainment are equally valued. Double weighting of pupil premium for low attainers points in precisely the opposite direction.
  • You posit an alternative position on equity that:

‘consists in ensuring first that all students achieve a certain level of competence and that therefore more should be invested in those furthest from that threshold… One rationale for this position would be that once individuals have passed a certain threshold they have a capacity for self-improvement whereby they can extend their own education and create opportunities. Below this threshold, such self-determination is significantly harder. Thus, if you had to choose only one option it could be more socially valuable to lift a student to this threshold than to continue to stretch a student already beyond the threshold.’

You explain this as a trade-off imposed as a consequence of scarce resources. Such a position may be ideologically driven, irrational and evidence-free, or supported by an evidence base. The former is not susceptible to counter-argument. The latter can be challenged through an alternative evidence base setting out the equivalent social and economic value of closing excellence gaps. I have presented that evidence base at length and will not revisit it here. But, in determining its final position I trust that NAHT will give full and careful consideration to both sets of evidence, rather than relying exclusively on material that supports your argument. I would welcome your assurances on this point.

  • My broader evidence-driven judgement is that, allowing for scarce resources, the most effective education systems (and the best schools) typically strive to keep excellence and equity in equilibrium. If one is allowed to predominate, the overall quality of education suffers. If a school (or a headteachers’ association or any other organisation targeted by this campaign) holds a particular view on this issue, in which equity is permitted to trump excellence, it seems reasonable to expect it to state explicitly the consequences of that decision – and to hold itself accountable to its stakeholders for those. In the case of a school I would expect this to be made explicit in the vision/mission statements intended for parents and staff alike – and in the documentation supplied to Ofsted prior to inspection. Otherwise there is every risk of hypocrisy. In short, a headteacher who takes this position cannot with integrity run a school that pretends the opposite. If it adopts this policy, I look forward to NAHT advising its members accordingly.
  • You suggest that the distinction between pupil premium and school funding formula is a second order issue. I do not agree. If there is a case for higher weighting for low prior attainment – to reflect the additional costs associated with tackling it – that should be reflected in the core budget through the funding formula, alongside the weightings for pupil deprivation and high needs, typically but not exclusively associated with SEN. The formula should properly recognise the overlap between these factors. I would welcome NAHT’s considered analysis of the totality of funding available to support (disadvantaged) low attainers through all funding streams, since treating pupil premium in isolation is misleading and inappropriate.
  • Pupil premium is different because it is supposed to benefit directly the learners who attract it. Indeed, the latest edition of the Governors’ handbook goes as far as to state that:

‘The pupil premium is a separate funding stream to be used solely for the educational benefit of children eligible and registered for free school meals at any time during the last six years, or those who have been in continuous public care for six months’ (page 109)

While this does not amount to a personal budget, the direct link between the funding and eligible learners means that the reallocation proposed will almost certainly have a direct impact on support for those whose entitlement is reduced, especially if backed up as proposed by accountability pressures. This overrides any consideration of individual needs and circumstances and applies regardless of the total pupil premium funding received by a school. I invite NAHT to consider carefully whether this is in the best interests of the schools its members lead.

  • You accept I have a point about ‘the level of detail in the calculations’. There is no detail whatsoever. This means that the organisations, including NAHT, who support Teach First’s position have effectively signed a ‘blank cheque’. I would hazard a guess that the full consequences of the redistribution, including the risks, have not been thought through. They certainly haven’t been presented. That is not what one would expect of a leading educational organisation, especially one that receives a substantial proportion of its funding from the taxpayer. I recommend that, before taking its decision, NAHT obtains and publishes detailed draft proposals and a full risk analysis.
  • You also acknowledge the potentially negative impact on impact Goal 5. This is especially true of the part relating to progression to selective universities. It suggests that neither Teach First nor the Alliance have properly considered the interaction between their different goals. To suggest, as the Teach First policy statement does, that the appropriate interventions necessary to support Goal 5 are straightforward and inexpensive betrays a certain naivety but also an ignorance of the National strategy for access and student success. I urge that NAHT considers carefully how it will support Goal 5 and whether there is not a risk – even a likelihood – that the proposed reductions in pupil premium would undermine that support.

As you know, both ASCL and the NGA now oppose Teach First’s position, as does John Dunford, the pupil premium champion. The Conservative Manifesto pledges that it will ‘continue to provide the pupil premium, protected at current rates’. NAHT should reassess its own position in the light of this information.

Ofsted has announced that it will ensure inspections continue to focus sharply on the progress of able disadvantaged students, given its finding that only one-third of non-selective secondary schools are using pupil premium effectively to support them.

I have seen no evidence to suggest that primary schools are any more effective in this respect. Regardless of the arguments above, NAHT should obtain this evidence and reflect carefully upon its implications. 

In conclusion, I once more urge NAHT to withdraw its support for Teach First’s policy, as advanced by the FEA and Read On. Get On.

I also invite you to consider what more NAHT itself could do to ensure that its members are providing the best possible education for their most able learners, especially those eligible for the pupil premium.

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GP

May 2015