Secondary Bulletin: February 2012
The Expert Panel advising on the Review of the National Curriculum has recently published its recommendations. The full report can be accessed through the Department for Education's website, www.education.gov.uk.
The Expert Panel has proposed that the National Curriculum will remain statutory for maintained schools but will not be required in academies or free schools. It is envisaged that the National Curriculum will set a ‘national benchmark of excellence' for all schools.
In the secondary curriculum, it is proposed that there should be a shorter, two year Key Stage 3 and a longer, three year Key Stage 4. The Expert Panel proposes that use of the existing National Curriculum level descriptors should be discontinued, and replaced with attainment targets and statements of specific learning outcomes, related to essential knowledge. It is suggested that reporting on pupil attainment could be based on a ‘readiness to progress' measure broken down into key areas or subjects, with performance tables being based on the proportion of pupils within a cohort having reached the ‘ready to progress' level at the end of a key stage.
It is proposed that there will be further consultation on the recommendations. The Union will ensure that it is fully involved in any future consultation.
There are both potential opportunities and threats arising from the Expert Panel's report and more details will be needed on the proposals in order to fully evaluate them.
We would be interested to hear members' views on these proposals to inform our deliberations with the DfE. Please send these to Helen Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new framework for the inspection of maintained schools and academies came into effect from January 2012. The changes are a development of the existing framework, rather than a radical revision.
Inspections will focus on four key areas and on how well schools promote pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC). The key areas will be:
- quality of teaching;
- behaviour and safety; and
- leadership and management.
The frequency of inspections will change, with schools judged ‘outstanding' at the last inspection being exempt from routine inspection, but with a greater focus on schools judged ‘inadequate' at their previous inspection and on ‘satisfactory' schools deemed by Ofsted to be making insufficient progress.
The NUT believes that Ofsted inspections are often intrusive and punitive rather than developmental. It continues to promote its own model of supported school self-evaluation to replace inspection arrangements. The NUT has revised its guidance for members which is available at www.teachers.org.uk/node/14622.
More recently the new Chief Inspector of Schools has announced a consultation on further changes from September 2012. The NUT is opposed to the proposals, which could further undermine schools, with some potentially facing even earlier and more frequent inspections, and being at greater risk of being placed in special measures or targeted for conversion to academy status.
The full proposals can be accessed at www.ofsted.gov.uk/consultations/good-education-for-all.
All members are encouraged to make their views known to Ofsted through the online questionnaire at www.surveymonkey.com/s/ofsted-gefa-sch.
The new Code of Admissions came into force on 1 February 2012. This can be found at www.education.gov.uk
The key features of the new Code are that:
- ‘successful' schools will be allowed to increase their Published Admissions Number (PAN);
- academies and free schools will be able to give priority to children eligible for free school meals;
- schools will be able to take looked after children and previously looked after children admitted outside the normal admission round, even where this breaks the 30 pupil legal limit;
- schools will be able to give priority to applications from pupils of staff in some situations: where the member of staff has been employed for at least two years, or where they have been recruited to meet a demonstrable skills shortage;
- academies (free schools and studio schools) are required by their funding agreements to comply with the Code and the law relating to admissions, although the Secretary of State has the power to vary this requirement where there is a ‘demonstrable need'; and
- objections to the admissions arrangements of both maintained schools and academies can be made to the Schools Adjudicator whose decisions are binding and enforceable.
The Government has cut the value of more than 3,100 vocational qualifications, ending their recognition in England's school league tables. This change has been proposed due to the Government's concern that some schools are entering students for vocational qualifications simply to boost the school's ‘GCSE or equivalent' score in the performance tables.
From 2014 only 125 of existing vocational qualifications (3.9 per cent of the current total) will count. Of the 125 to be included, 70 can count towards a school's main performance table measure - the proportion of pupils who get five A*-C GCSE grades. Some of the qualifications included in the 2014 performance data, including BTECs, will be subject to a further review after 12 months.
The Government proposes that only ‘high quality' qualifications will count in the new performance tables. These will be those that:
- offer pupils proven progression into a broad range of further qualifications or careers post-16;
- are the size of a GCSE or bigger;
- have a substantial proportion of external assessment and require students to use knowledge across their subject;
- have grades such as A*-G (those with simple pass or fail results will be excluded).
A full list of the qualifications that will be included in the 2014 performance tables can be downloaded on the DfE website.
The Union's response to the DfE's Consultation on Qualifications for 14-16 Year Olds and Performance Tables can be found at www.teachers.org.uk/node/15076
Do you have a view on these proposals which you wish to share? Please contact Helen Hill at email@example.com about this.
From September 2012, new two year linear GCSE programmes will start, removing the opportunity for candidates to resit units; and certain subjects will include an element of assessment for grammar, spelling and punctuation.
The Union has already received reports from members that the proposals have created difficulties in planning and in terms of creating additional workload for teachers, school and college managers and other staff.
In its response to the proposals, the Union recommended that any decision on the implementation of the proposed changes should be delayed until at least 2013. The Union's response can be found at www.teachers.org.uk/node/14861
The Union would be interested to hear members' views on these changes. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org if you do.
This new benchmark to measure academic success for those students gaining A*-C GCSE grades in English, maths, a language, science, geography and history was introduced retrospectively by the Government in 2010.
Selective schools and independent schools have dominated the top rankings of the English Baccalaureate. The Union's submission to the Government's consultation on the English Baccalaureate emphasised its opposition to its introduction. The measure promotes a hierarchy of subjects and threatens those which it does not include such as Business Studies, RE and IT. The Union continues to campaign against this top down measure that has branded schools and students as failures for missing the targets.
Find the Union's submission to the Education and Skills Select Committee Inquiry on the English Baccalaureate at www.teachers.org.uk/node/15082
Send in your comments on the English Baccalaureate to email@example.com.
The Union has written to the Government stating that the pace of curriculum reform will hit secondary schools hard between now and 2014. These reforms include the revised National Curriculum, the introduction of the new two year linear GCSE specification and changes to vocational qualifications.
The Union is concerned that such a rate of change has resulted in initiative overload. Secondary members have put considerable energy and resources into implementing new curriculum reforms without being given enough time to introduce these developments or evaluate them before further reforms are introduced. Secondary schools are not being given sufficient lead in time so that they can implement these changes effectively and efficiently.
Members can find an update on 14-19 developments at www.teachers.org.uk/node/15081
Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.