Commenting on Primary Focus, a Policy Exchange report published today which recommends all primary schools to become academies over the next five years, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Given the endless reports on the shortcomings of existing academy chains, this report’s recommendation that all schools should convert to academy status seems somewhat absurd. Primary schools have been less keen to change status for the simple reason it is not in their best interest.
“This Government championed the free schools and academy programme as opening up choice for parents. This is a far cry from the coercive methods that have been employed by the Department for Education to force schools to convert.
“The report’s recommendations have nothing to do with standards but everything to do with opening up further a free market for education. The result of increased competition between schools will not improve standards or provide support for schools. We only have to look at Sweden who, having experimented with a free-for-all in education, have now seen a drop in standards. We need to learn from this and not continue to peddle myths about the benefits of a fragmented system.
“It is quite incredible that this report is co-authored by the former, inexperienced head of Pimlico Primary who quit her job within weeks of it opening. The school is part of an academy chain founded by Government Minister Lord Nash. This tells the public everything they need to know about the failure of the academy and free school programme and those – such as Policy Exchange – that continue to promote it.
“It is time to end these unnecessary reforms and return schools to the democratic oversight and accountability of local authorities.”
Commenting on the Education Select Committee report, published today, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“The NUT welcomes the Education Select Committee’s report which shines a light on to the murky conflicts of interest in academy sponsorship arrangements.
“The NUT has long been warning about the potential and very real conflicts of interest that arise when education becomes a market place. All of the examples provided in this report and the many more not detailed there, are the inevitable result of the marketisation of education. The NUT is quite clear: education should be managed in the interests of children, not in the interests of those who seek to make a profit from running our schools.
“The NUT supports the five recommendations made by the Education Select Committee. However we would like to see additional action taken.
“First we want to see all related party transactions outlawed – no one connected with running a school should be allowed to make money from their involvement either directly or indirectly. Second, we want to see greater transparency in the publication of academy and free school accounts. In particular, where a school is part of a multi-academy trust or academy chain, individual accounts for each school should be published separately, rather than, as is currently the case, just one set of accounts covering the entire trust or chain. This would allow greater scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest and of spending at school level.
“In addition, the NUT has long been highlighting the conflicts of interest arising from the relationship between academy brokers and academy chains or trusts. This practice must, quite simply, be brought to an end. It is totally unacceptable that those working on contract with the Department for Education to broker academy arrangements should at the same time be working for the academy trusts and chains that are set to take over these schools.”
Commenting on the introduction of No Notice Ofsted inspections from this month, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“Ofsted already has the power to carry out no notice inspections where there are specific concerns about a school. Under current arrangements, schools receive just half a day’s notice. The NUT, however, opposes the suggestion that Ofsted should move to a system of routine ‘no notice’ school inspections.
Commenting on the Government’s response to the Committee’s First Report of Session 2014–2015, Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“The achievement of all children is a concern to schools, whatever their socio-economic background. Unfortunately, the Government’s proposed solutions are not the answer.
“Trumpeting the academies and free schools programme as a solution to underachievement reflects this Government’s obsession with reforming structures rather than concentrating on what really matters. Many academy chains and free schools have already failed to deliver for their pupils. As a recent review conducted by the Institute of Education concluded, there is no evidence that investment in particular school structures or types has been effective in improving the performance of pupils from less advantaged backgrounds.1 International evidence also tells us that school choice and competition between schools create higher levels of socio-economic segregation in the school system.2 It really is time we moved on from this fixation on school structures and focused instead on improving teaching and learning within schools and classrooms.
Commenting on the new grading system for GCSEs in England, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“These reforms are based on the false assumption that GCSE standards are falling. While it suits the purpose of grabbing media attention it does not address the needs of pupils. At the top end of attainment only 20% of those who get grade 7 and above– equivalent to the existing A – A* grade – will be awarded level 9. This puts a cap on success. Top grades will be awarded based on a mathematical calculation, in a strict proportion, rather than on a defined standard which all candidates can understand and work to achieve.
“Getting rid of course work which counted towards final examination grades is a mistake. It will disadvantage many pupils. It removes opportunities to assess a broader and richer set of skills than can be tested in written exams. It means that self-motivated learning, research, extended writing, learning through enquiry, and working with others will not be assessed even though all are valuable to employers, universities and colleges.
“It remains uncertain how school and college accountability measures will apply with the new grading system. This is an unacceptable situation for both teachers and pupils. The changes to GCSEs have been rushed through without a trial period. Reform to the qualifications system for 14-19 year olds needs to be properly planned and coherent, rather than these piecemeal changes.”
Commenting on the launch of Talented Leaders, a national programme from the Future Leaders Trust, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“It is in the interests of us all for school leadership to be an attractive role. Leading a school should be an enticing and rewarding strategic challenge but increasing numbers of schools with head teacher posts vacant just can't get applicants. There are a number of reasons for this.
“Head teacher workload is unsustainable against the background of an ever-changing Ofsted regime. Ministers must stabilise the education system – the volume and pace of change is both unrealistic and unreasonable. It is deterring excellent, aspiring women and men from pursuing headship.
“The punitive and divisive nature of Ofsted inspections makes great candidates think twice about headship. Society should reward and value the dedicated professionals taking up headship roles in areas of deprivation, or with intakes of high mobility, or schools which pride themselves on being inclusive. Yet the inspection system does not fairly recognise the scale of the challenge, or recognise the demands on heads and their teaching colleagues in schools.
“The fragmentation of the education system makes it harder for schools to work together. No one can run a school alone. Education is a joint enterprise. Heads need back up and professional support from colleagues and their LA, within a united and unified education system
Speaking after the debate on Composite 10 at TUC Congress 2014, which highlighted the NUT’s Stand Up for Education campaign and the NUT’s education manifesto for the 2015 General Election (1), Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“The NUT’s Stand up for Education campaign has gained significant support from parents and the general public.
Responding to news stories in The Guardian today that the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, intends to introduce compulsory setting by ability in schools, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“This is yet more ill thought out policy imposed from on high. The way schools organise their classes should be the decision of the school and not the Secretary of State.
Commenting on the SEND Code of Practice statutory in schools from September 2014, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“In the context of cuts to local authority budgets, teachers hold significant concerns about the impact on children with special educational needs. 1 in 5 children have SEND. This week's SEND reforms contain some positive proposals but may have little real impact for children overall, because of wider education reforms and other decisions by Ministers.
Commenting on the research undertaken by the Local Government Association into the lack of funding for and provision of urgently needed school places, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union said:
Commenting on today’s GCSE results, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Students and their teachers are to be congratulated on their GCSE achievements today. Headlines on results day tend to focus on top grades and overall pass rates. It is important to recognise all achievements, however. Awards at all levels can represent a significant achievement for some learners, and can provide a foundation for further, lifelong learning.
Commenting on the Local Government Association research showing councils are being forced to divert millions of pounds from school maintenance budgets to pay for free school meals, Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“When the announcement about free school meals was originally made, the NUT said the Government must ensure that enough additional resources are provided to schools to meet the capital and staffing costs involved. This is another example, following the Pupil Premium, of the Government giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
Commenting on today’s speech by the Shadow Education Secretary, Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Tristram Hunt is right to highlight the need for proper school place planning. Free schools are creating chaos in many local areas, with schools being built where additional places are not even needed. The free schools programme certainly should be stopped. Local authorities need to be given back the power to open schools where there is a requirement.
Commenting on today’s announcement by Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, of new powers to stop funding of early years providers with links to extremist views, Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Any form of religious sectarianism or extremism has no place in our schools, but it is disappointing that it is the notion of extremism which is the subject of the first major announcement of the new Secretary of State. Early Years and school staff already teach children right from wrong. They are trained professionals who use a valuable play-based curriculum to promote positive interaction. This is an essential part of child development and it is work that has been done in partnership with parents and guardians since time immemorial. Asking Ofsted to inspect how well nurseries are teaching 'fundamental British values' does not appear to offer anything new for children and will concern all those who seek to promote community engagement.
“What will do the most to ensure good outcomes for children is well funded and well planned provision and a developmentally appropriate, play-based curriculum. Sure Start services have made an immense contribution to the life chances of some of our most disadvantaged children; but these centres have been decimated by this Government.
“We will be responding more fully to the consultation on changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage and the General Childcare Register in due course.”