Advanced search

Gove and all these Ofsted troubles.

(61 Posts)
HappydaysArehere Mon 09-Jun-14 19:16:38

What is going on? What a mess! Free schools - Gove's ideas on education. Now all these charges of extreme radicalism. Any thoughts?

prh47bridge Mon 09-Jun-14 23:36:43

Whilst the opponents of free schools would like you to believe the charges of extreme radicalism all relate to free schools the truth is that it is a mixture of academies, free schools and LA-maintained schools. Birmingham City Council comes in for criticism in the report for failing to help schools protect pupils.

PastSellByDate Tue 10-Jun-14 07:35:20

I have heatedly complained about my children's primary school in Birmingham on MN Talk Primary Education discussion for the last 4 years.

I RESENT in the extreme that no school work is coming home to me at all - I am told it is because OFSTED require it. Well OFSTED do you really need every little piece of school work?

I RESENT that I'm given <10 minutes to review a few selected examples of school work to see what my child is doing - just before parent/ teacher meetings (i.e. I'm not given the opportunity to gradually build up a picture of whether my child is being given challenging, stretching school work or not).

I RESENT that the procedure of complaining is so long winded and the risk of your child being treated badly by a teacher so high - that most parents simply don't bother.

I RESENT the impression that the problems exemplified by 'Trojan Horse' are deemed to only be an issue in Birmingham non-faith schools located in a certain area - come see what happens when Charismatic Christians take power in a CofE school.

I have had endless meetings where I have pleaded with teachers and Senior Management for better maths teaching. DD1 didn't see an actual number on maths homework until she entered Year 1. She didn't embark on subtraction (i.e. 5 - 2) until Year 2. All of this looked to me like a far too slow/ relaxed approach to teaching mathematics and the fact that parents are being told:

You shouldn't compare us to what other schools are doing!

We are teaching the national curriculum!

Your expectations are too high!

just insults me.

By May of Y2 I had a child who could barely add to 20 and was unable to even take 1 from 10. This was a child who happily counted odd and even numbers with me as a pre-schooler and adored counting to 10 or 20. I was more than aware that friends from DD1's nursery were doing much more in their schools and even provided examples to my school of what was being done by way of demonstrating that I wasn't unrealistic in my expectations.

I personally think if as a parent you have to resort to an on-line tutorial to provide your child with a sensible structure of building skills (in my case Mathsfactor) - something is deeply wrong with the delivery of maths curriculum.

I completely welcome unannounced inspections - the 'floor show' our school put on in the well signalled 2 day inspection made a mockery of the previous 4 years of chaotic delivery of lessons, no homework, no books home/ books rarely changed, poor progress in maths, etc....

Surely the first question OFSTED should be asking is How long has this system/ method/ resource been in use at the school.

In our case - what OFSTED saw were carefully prepared lessons (teacher's spending 6 months preparing for those 2 days), resources that were purchased in the run up to inspection & then abandoned 1-2 years afterwards, policies that had been written in the 6 months run up to inspection and have since been abandoned.

I agree Birmingham LEA has a lot to answer for in this Trojan Horse situation - but I suspect the problem is far larger than one would think. Our school has hired without advertising - including family members. Our school has downplayed science & maths - which I suspect is because STEM subjects rather threaten the Charismatic Christian teachings of certain staff/ families/ governors at the school. My children haven't learned about fossils, dinosaurs or the solar system. My children haven't been taught long division or multiplication at school (I have at home).

Birmingham (but frankly I suspect England) really do need to have some common standards all parents, regardless of location, can expect of a school.

Tristan Hunt is right on one thing - 'power' to control what is taught in school is so devolved now down to individual schools - which means that parents really are at the mercy of how reasonable, professional and dedicated the staff at that school are. I suspect in many cases, there is no problem - but genuinely how is the government safeguarding for those cases when the full breadth of the curriculum isn't being taught:

Roman numerals (not taught)
Binary code (not taught)
Simple probability (not taught)
Long multiplication/ division (not taught)
Working with numbers beyond 100s (not taught)
No children's literature classics read (teacher read to class only/ book not finished though)
Homework (dropped)
Library books (dropped)
Guided reading books home (dropped - too many lost books apparently)

The list is longer - and I can supplement a lot of this - but why are parents filling in the gaps - and what about those parents who don't realise there are gaps?

My wish lists:

Parents should regularly receive examples of school work (to help regularly communicate to them what their child is doing/ learning in school)

Parents should have a clear indication of what should be covered in a given school year (I concede the new national curriculum programmes of study set this out better).

Government need to seriously review whether homework is of benefit. Certainly in Birmingham the message is clear with our grammar entrance exam system - more work at home/ with tutors results in better students. Birmingham schools greatly benefit from a group of families going for the 11+ - inspectors should be reviewing results between these two groups (11+ attempters vs. other pupils) and thinking through the benefits of regular practice of concepts (particularly mathematics, but also writing - both sorely missing opportunities at our school).

Schools should not be allowed to 'cram' for KS2 SATs. My DD1 has spent the entire year doing nothing but English/ Maths in order to make her school look good. It's seriously 'turned her off' school - and I'll have a job to do in Year 7 re-engaging her.

Thanks for listening


rabbitstew Tue 10-Jun-14 08:09:21

There's virtually nobody left responsible for LA schools at our Local Authority - they've mostly been made redundant in the expectation that all schools in the County should academise, which is what the stated policy of this LA is (even though that's not what all schools want... or even most schools....). You can't have proper oversight from a Local Authority if you don't fund it properly.

meditrina Tue 10-Jun-14 08:13:46

The LEA does what local government (ie your councillors) tell it to. Was it much of a campaign issue for you locally?

Or do you thinkit is wrong for this to be a local government matter?

Softlysoftlycatchymonkey Tue 10-Jun-14 08:49:40

This really makes me want to HE

TalkinPeace Tue 10-Jun-14 09:27:07

Birmingham is an interesting case : it has been known in Local Government circles as a basket case in many areas for many years - this whole Trojan horse stuff is as much a symptom of the problems at the council as anything else.

Toomanyhouseguests Tue 10-Jun-14 09:41:58

Excellent post PastSellbyDate.

PastSellByDate Tue 10-Jun-14 11:56:09


Possibly being American (where we directly elect School Boards who set curriculum/ oversee standardised tests/ hire & fire) I don't really see the English system is one where voters have any direct say in education.

Birmingham LEA does excel in dealing with the huge number of applications for school places very efficiently - a system which is further complicated at secondary with Grammar School places being part of the state system here (King Edward Consortium Grammar Schools are free but entrance is by selective examination).

However, even this had a certain amount of 'game playing' as the initial deadline for submitting selections for secondary was suddenly changed on parents (so end Oct deadline initially told to parents in first letter from LEA was subsequently rolled back to mid-October in letter via LEA sent from schools, which would be before 11+ results known) e.g.

I don't personally have anything against Brigid Jones or but knowing her backstory at the University of Birmingham where she was a student guild representative - she's someone who got into politics at University, used her time on the guild to network within Labour to get into local politics after University & I strongly suspect, but hasten to add don't really know, is using her time in local politics to aim for national politics.

The growing trend for professional politicians with no experience outside of politics is a whole other feed one suspects....

Certainly her recent twitter feeds wouldn't give you the impression she's much involved in or concerned by this situation in Birmingham education or other matters educational. Admittedly her remit also includes vulnerable children - which is another huge issue. Reassuringly, she states on her city councillor page vulnerable children is her 'thing' - apparently having 'quickly demonstrated a grasp of the issue'. Well, that's alright then.

A interesting factoid is St. Mediocre is in her constituency - and we know there have been direct complaints to her - including my own.

prh47bridge Tue 10-Jun-14 12:18:55

the initial deadline for submitting selections for secondary was suddenly changed

If they did that in the last couple of years they were in breach of the Admissions Code. The national closing date for secondary school applications is 31st October. LAs are not allowed to set a different date.

rabbitstew Tue 10-Jun-14 13:00:19

I think what our councillors do to Local Authorities for political (and money saving...) reasons is below most voters' radar, because most people don't think through the potential long term effects. I seriously doubt ANYBODY voted for the current set of councillors because they wanted all schools to academise. Most people stupidly think there's a choice - because they haven't thought it through and neither national government nor local councillors wanted to help them think too hard about it...

National government is even less genuinely "democratic" than local government - and yet they starve local government of funding, so that doing anything other than toe the national political line is pretty much impossible. You cannot vote for policies, you have to vote for representatives of parties, lock stock and barrel with ALL their policies, or independents who don't get listened to, anyway. People vote for what they think is the least worst option a lot (most?) of the time.

What's more, if local people do campaign for anything, it's almost always for very local, specific things, given that most people are not politically driven, they just want to protect their own local services - and even then, it's a fairly pointless activity most of the time. The answer to everything is that there isn't enough money not to close this, that or the other, and not enough money to improve or make safer, this, that or the other.

As for Michael Gove - the man's lost the plot. One minute, free schools and academies are free from central diktat and that's why they're great, they can do anything they want provided they get good SATs, GCSE and A-level results, then the next minute, they shouldn't be that free because, shock horror, when schools aren't properly supervised, they don't always provide a good, "British" education. And, of course, Local Authorities can't be trusted to oversee that everything's done properly (too expensive and uneven in quality, too democratically elected, meaning they'll faff around worrying about what different sections of their electorate will think of them), untrained, unpaid school governors can't be trusted, profit-making companies who want a bite of the education cherry can't be trusted, educational trusts can't be trusted, Ofsted half the time can't be trusted, because funnily enough it's got all the same issues as any other organisation ever created by human beings.... Only Michael Gove and the Department for Education can be trusted, apparently, because everyone else is an idiot....

HappydaysArehere Tue 10-Jun-14 23:05:13

Rabbitstew you are so on the money. Buried among all these issues is one that puzzles me. With no LA authority over schools, where is that In Service Training which gives continual vitalisation to the teaching profession. New ideas, courses,ongoing links with individual classes. I cannot imagine effective teaching (as I knew it) without this type of expert input.

prh47bridge Tue 10-Jun-14 23:12:29

Inset training continues in academies. There are a number of providers who will offer training. If the school used to get training from the LA they may be able to buy the service from the LA if they wish.

TalkinPeace Tue 10-Jun-14 23:24:46

Quite agree with prh about INSET days carrying on as normal under Academy status , and in one case where the school used DH to do their INSET days before being taken over by a chain, they have carried on.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Academies and Free schools
its the implementation under the arrogant eejit Gove that has been the disaster : P-P-Pickles is ramping up the oversight, as is Gideon the brave, just as Michael the moron is stripping it away.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jun-14 07:51:37

Mmm, yes, from Local Authority oversight to a form of Big Brother - with Michael Gove's face representing it? grin It's a great way to start it all: pretend you're increasing freedom, take away expensive annoyances like sensitivity to the locality, and then BAM, bring in Big Brother to replace it all.

PastSellByDate Wed 11-Jun-14 09:32:37

I agree that gradually removing LEA oversight is the problem.

I don't think there is a 'Big Brother' - I do think this is about saving money - devolve responsibility for curriculum content/ delivery down to individual schools - when things go wrong blame individual schools.

You don't need to check on them in any sort of regular interval.

When you do - they've got plenty of notice (or can make a logical guess - gosh we haven't been inspected for 4 years - odds are we will soon) - and can get things impressively ship shape in time for a full OFSTED inspection.

I fear it's the boring - day to day - keeping of tables that good old fashioned LEAs probably did (but I don't totally know - just a parent) - that has disappeared.

It's pot luck now - how responsible, professional and dedicated schools are.

Soveryupset Wed 11-Jun-14 09:51:34

PastSellbyDate I was stunned to read your post as you are describing our local outstanding primary school word by word and we are nowhere near Birmingham or London.

It just goes to show that it isn't an issue limited to a school or an area, sadly...

prh47bridge Wed 11-Jun-14 12:46:22

I do think this is about saving money

I don't think it is. Apart from anything else it hasn't saved any money. Any reduction in LA budgets has been mirrored by an increase in school budgets.

It seems to be based on findings from a number of studies comparing the performance of schools in different countries. One of the findings is that the more autonomy the head teacher has the better. That does not, of course, mean that greater autonomy will automatically produce better results in individual schools. But overall it seems that systems where head teachers have a high degree of autonomy produce better outcomes than those where they don't.

When you do - they've got plenty of notice

Schools get less notice than you might think. And no notice inspections are back on the table.

keeping of tables that good old fashioned LEAs probably did

Many of them didn't. Indeed, part of the reason for change is that many LAs were persistently failing to improve their schools, leaving schools underperforming for year after year. I saw a list of LAs strongly opposed to academies the other day. Interestingly it was pretty much identical to the list of most seriously underperforming LAs in terms of the quality of their schools.

PastSellByDate Wed 11-Jun-14 12:55:48


You raise some very good points and I do take your point that in fact free schools/ academies are getting very substantial budgets in lieu of direct oversight from an LEA.

Very interesting conclusion that the Local Authorities (LAs) most against academies have some of the most seriously underperforming schools - but I wonder would they also all or mostly be cities? large conurbations?

The reality on the ground is you can only judge by KS2 results which are not published speedily (so you can't see the previous school year's Y6 cohort until after you apply). Your guessing that things have stayed the same/ improved of the last year.

What amazes me as a parent is that in the 6 years running up to my eldest child joining her school - that school got 90% of KS2 pupils consistently to NC L4+ in English/ Maths/ Science

Since DD1 has been at the school results have steadily slid down hill through 80s, through 70s and down to 60s (we've had 62%/ 67% recently). I personally think parents are worried/ disappointed about the school but governors seem determined to blame EAL students for this (which given they're Chinese/ Korean nationals & doing extra work weekly at language schools because their parents feel the school isn't very good/ doing its job I seriously doubt). So our one statement from our school governors was basically ... we.. a bit bigoted.

And then of course the silence - nothing explaining to parents what they're doing to turn this around - just down - down - down....

We've moved in the end. DD2 is at a new school.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jun-14 13:15:32

So, prh47bridge, if headteachers being left alone results in better schools overall, then how come it's the LAs that did next to nothing to support schools that had the biggest number of under performing schools? Surely these LAs had lots of delighted headteachers in them, doing what they wanted?... Why did all this autonomy do nothing, I wonder?...

prh47bridge Wed 11-Jun-14 17:21:05

I am only saying what the research showed. But of course the LA failing to do anything effective to improve a school is not the same as giving the head teacher autonomy. Far from it. Some of them work hard to give the head teacher as little autonomy as possible.

I wonder would they also all or mostly be cities

Some are, some aren't. I'm not sure there are any conclusions to be drawn. Some of the best performing LAs are in large cities as are some of the worst performing ones.

rabbitstew Wed 11-Jun-14 18:10:32

Sorry, prh47bridge, but what exactly is it that LAs have the power to do these days that CAN seriously limit a HT's autonomy??? In our LA, it seems maintained schools can opt out of most things the LA offers just as easily as academy schools can opt into them.

Also, are you saying that the LAs where there were lots of failing schools were the ones where LAs interfered too much??? Really??... That isn't the claim being made against Birmingham, that's for sure. Which failing Local Authorities have been identified as LAs that prevent outstanding HTs from being able to run outstanding schools??? Or does increased autonomy result in failing headteachers suddenly rediscovering their hidden talents?

prh47bridge Wed 11-Jun-14 21:16:19

So now you are suggesting that becoming an academy does not increase the school's autonomy? Seriously?

Also, are you saying that the LAs where there were lots of failing schools were the ones where LAs interfered too much

If a maintained school is failing the LA is required to intervene. This can include appointing additional governors, replacing the governors with an interim executive and/or suspend the school's right to manage its own budget. If a school continues to fail after years of LA intervention do you really think that is due to the head having too much autonomy?

does increased autonomy result in failing headteachers suddenly rediscovering their hidden talents

Of course not. Reduced intervention won't make a bad head teacher into a good one. But increased intervention can prevent a good head teacher succeeding. And the evidence from around the world is that increased autonomy for head teachers results in better schools.

TalkinPeace Wed 11-Jun-14 21:50:04

And the evidence from around the world is that increased autonomy for head teachers results in better schools.

Does it, still?
Even with the Swedish model getting a bit ragged and charter schools becoming more accountable to local politicians by default?

AmberTheCat Wed 11-Jun-14 22:06:53

The evidence does still say that, yes, as long as there is a sound accountability model running alongside the autonomous system. Countries that give heads more freedoms, while measuring their performance in things that really improve learning, generally do best.

I don't think Gove has got the school oversight model right yet (it can't all be done from behind a desk in Westminster), and I certainly don't agree with all the policies he's brought in, but I think on autonomy and accountability he's right.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now