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Academisation failing to boost miserable standards in the North

(58 Posts)
noblegiraffe Tue 06-Feb-18 16:42:22

Sir Michael Wilshaw, ex chief of Ofsted has made a speech slating the government's record on school improvement in the North of England, saying that the academies programme has been a failure there.

"Speaking in Leeds on Friday, Sir Michael said: “Academisation doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference in the North and the Midlands. Doncaster, where every secondary school is an academy, has a miserable attainment score and progress scores.”
He added that: “Practically all the worst performing academy trusts preside in the North and in the Midlands, with a dozen or so so bad that they have effectively been closed down, with their constituent schools handed to other trusts.”"

I heard George Osborne talking about this on the radio the other morning. Yes, George Osborne talking about education in the North. I don't recall hearing much from Justine Greening about it even though she's from Rotherham. I guess some of her opportunity areas would count.

What can Damian Hinds do about it? Wilshaw suggests that he should set up shop in the North instead of hanging around London like the rest to at least show willing.

www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/wilshaw-academisation-failing-boost-miserable-standards-north

noblegiraffe Wed 07-Feb-18 07:39:25

Is it that no one knows what to do about the North or that no one cares?

Kazzyhoward Wed 07-Feb-18 08:18:50

Is it that no one knows what to do about the North or that no one cares?

It's not just education. It's also transport, healthcare, business & enterprise - everything really. Govt is London-centric and seem to have given up on "the north" except for the vanity projects in Liverpool, and certain other "preferred" Northern cities. Govt ministers simply don't understand the problems which is exactly why the North voted for UKIP and Brexit - i.e. voting for a change of the ping-pong between London based main parties.

thecatfromjapan Wed 07-Feb-18 08:20:04

It's interesting, for sure.

An immediate thought is that perhaps it indicates that schools alone cannot do all the heavy lifting. Wider socio-economic circumstances play a huge role in attainment. So, not only do wider socio-economic circumstances impact on educational attainment, schools (all by themselves) cannot ameliorate that effect.

I'll bet attainment is higher in patches of the North and Midlands where there are employment prospects and investment.

And I really am a firm believer in 'throwing money at the problem' - don't care what the data says! I don't believe in pulling educational funding from areas that are doing well (if it aint broke, don't fix it) but a massive educational investment in the areas that aren't doing so well (and creative investment, so that teachers aren't ending up with incredible attainment goals and a punitive workload) would be a start.

Pleasemindthecrap Wed 07-Feb-18 08:26:36

Noble, Justine Greening may be from Rotherham, but she now lives (I assume) in Putney. I'm from the north-east, but I now live in London too. And that is the problem. There is a well trodden path of graduates moving from north to south, which drains the north of teaching talent and aspirational parents. Academisation was never going to fix that.

So, fix the north-south economic divide and education will improve in parallel. It's a bit chicken and egg, but at the moment a large proportion of the eggs are being transported south before hatching.

thecatfromjapan Wed 07-Feb-18 08:33:11

Kazzy Investment in those areas - the wide-ranging economic and infrastructure investment needed - would be massively, massively expensive and I doubt you'd ever see self-sufficiency (the investment ceasing to be needed because the areas generate enough in corporation tax, etc.). It's been left largely to the private sector, with minimal incentives to encourage firms to set up.

Economically, the direction of travel has been to the South East for a very long time. If you were a business, would you set up where other businesses are, where you can recruit easily, etc., or somewhere where all of that is difficult?

A change of policy in this area would require a massive shift in mindset and massive funding - which is not going to be available post-Brexit.

Personally, I think I'd quite like it but ... it would require a huge level of taxation, for a start. That's why government interventions have been so ineffective, so far. There is a real unwillingness to discuss the real cost (and then the benefits) of such a policy decision being undertaken with any kind of effectiveness.

And there is also a big issue about setting up business centres in economically deprived areas. Coventry is an interesting example of this. It has managed to build quite an industry based on Higher Education and car design. It's quite a specialised centre for that - and the specialisation is part of the success. However I suspect a lot of people in Coventry possibly feel alienated by this, even colonised. Does it lead to an increase in their employment and educational opportunities? Well, yes, but very indirectly, and in ways that aren't as obvious as the influx of students from around the world, who seem privileged, and the sight of the university buying up a lot of buildings (for the education of these students).

A really imaginative approach to investment needs to be undertaken, so that people understand and want that 'regeneration' - rather than feel oppressed by it.

Mind you, I don't know why I'm even discussing it - it's so utterly unlikely to happen. Particularly on the scale that is necessary.

thecatfromjapan Wed 07-Feb-18 08:40:06

There's something really strange about this 'Breaking News', though.

Teachers have been pretty much beaten over the head with the propaganda that they - all by themselves - can counteract massive socio-economic effects.

The result of that is that real teachers in these academies will have been set unreachable targets for their pupils and almost certainly had to endure meetings where they were asked to explain what they were doing to help the children meet them - or, more probably, what it was they weren't doing because the children weren't reaching those targets.

Gaslighting on a massive scale. Those teachers, being real people, knew (we all know) that schools and teachers alone can't counteract massive socio-economic situations but they were being asked to go along with a crazy propaganda that they - and they alone - could make the difference.

Ambition for your students is great, drive to improve the outcomes of your pupils is great - but a propaganda that ends up holding schools (and teachers, actually) as the means of change ends up being punitive in the extreme.

Maybe the wheels are finally falling off the propaganda machine?

thecatfromjapan Wed 07-Feb-18 09:05:32

My last post - and I'm going to be controversial here - I think it's actually somewhat abusive to try and indoctrinate teachers (and society) into the belief that schools alone can reverse the effects of socio-economic deprivation.

The dynamic is similar to that of an abusive relationship and the actual, real effects are quite abusive, with (quite often) actual, real bullying.

And not just of teachers, either, but children, too. Anyone seen the interview with the Northern academy Head who espouses a 'Zero Tolerance' policy? He lays his cards on the table and comes out against SORAs. sad

LadyLance Wed 07-Feb-18 10:45:27

I guess it potentially shows that just schools on their own are not enough to make a change? And just making a school an academy doesn't necessarily make it better. I think we know that in the UK, being disadvantaged is a real problem in terms of attainment. I think part of that is due to expectations (from family, friends, teachers, and the wider community).

If you come from a community where low school achievement is normal and you don't really see a future for yourself, then it's less likely you'll be motivated to work really hard at school and close the gap.

I think it could be good to encourage really good teachers with a proven record of increasing attainment to move north- financial incentives for this might help. But, I also think that this is only part of the battle, and there is only so much schools and teachers can do, especially at secondary.

Maybe the answer is to invest in primary, especially the earlier years? Not just in improving achievement, but also in increasing aspiration and giving pupils the self belief that they can achieve if they work hard. This work would need to continue at secondary, obviously.

I think part of a failing of our education system/society is our need to label pupils as clever, average, and not clever, early on- from ability tables at primary school, to setting and grammar schools at 11.

londonista1 Wed 07-Feb-18 11:26:50

Some good reasons so far. Another would be the absence of grammars in London (other than in a couple of outer boroughs) means the state school cohort hasn't been top-sliced and there are larger groups of more able pupils with more engaged parents at most state secondaries, and that becomes self-reinforcing.

LadyLance Wed 07-Feb-18 12:14:58

Londonista1 There are no state grammars in the north east, though, and a lot more parents in London opt for private if they don't get the choice they want. I think the amount of school choice in London does help invest parents in the system, however.

I don't think grammars are necessarily a good idea, but I don't think they can be entirely blamed in this instance.

admission Wed 07-Feb-18 12:15:51

Whether anybody likes it or not, it will always come down to money.
Not so long ago London was considered to be a problem in terms of educating children. There have been some fantastic initiatives in the London area (with a large amount of funding) and that is one of the primary reasons why now the London area is always held up as being good.
If schools in the north (well anywhere from the Midlands upwards) had been receiving for the last 10 years a similar level of school funding as have the Boroughs of London, then the story might have been different but we are where we are. The new National Funding Formula, still does not address this anomaly and with the latest costs being loaded onto school budgets there will never in my opinion be a time where there is sufficient funding to reduce the anomaly.
I do agree with other posters that there is a significant problem of motivation to make things better in the north. It could however start to be addressed by ensuring that all the initiatives are pushed to the north of the country and are not self-centred on London. The new Opportunity areas are a step in the right direction, in focusing on areas to try and improve the level of education in discreet areas.

thecatfromjapan Wed 07-Feb-18 12:22:18

admission I totally agree with more money and initiatives for schools in challenging areas, and I totally agree that the money and initiatives in London helped.

However, one of the 'jokes' people in education tell about London is that school improvement correlated with the opening of Costa Coffees in given areas.

That indicates, to me, that it is not schools alone that can raise attainment. And by that, I don't mean, 'Don't bother throwing money at the problem, it won't help,' I mean something quite different: yes, investment in education is utterly necessary but it won't be able to do everything.

Soursprout Wed 07-Feb-18 12:40:38

An immediate thought is that perhaps it indicates that schools alone cannot do all the heavy lifting. Wider socio-economic circumstances play a huge role in attainment.
This

thecatfromjapan Wed 07-Feb-18 12:47:46

Thing is, soursprout, the message has been that, if you try to say something like that - something so obviously and self-evidently true as that - you have been dismissed as a teacher who does not have high expectations for all your pupils.

The implications of that propaganda has been, I think, the opposite of progressive. It's stopped an argument for investment in the socio-economic conditions that surround struggling schools, and placed enormous pressure on people involved in education.

I really hope that we're seeing the beginnings of a fightback against this insane over-determination of the outcomes that are achievable through education.

Soursprout Wed 07-Feb-18 13:47:59

Lord..I hope so too thecat
Dd is at a struggling northern academy with a very challenging intake . Its doing an absolutely amazing job but it can only do so much and it is practically on it’s knees right now

ZBIsabella Wed 07-Feb-18 13:53:57

Poverty certainly plays a part. Inner London has done very well because of more money compared to how it used to be. I suspect it is also helped by very hard working children from immigrant families, proximity to those is the high paid city jobs and also keenness of young teachers to work there near their university friends. family makes a big difference. I have a relative at a fee paying Yorkshire school which has something like 14 Oxbridge offers this year which is pretty good. So you might well find that the higher paid parents in the North will as elsewhere pay school fees.

BubblesBuddy Wed 07-Feb-18 16:49:39

I think the variety of immigrant families makes London different. Many have an expectation that their children will do well. In other areas of the country, we know parents are less bothered because they cannot see the success education could bing. It is not on their doorstep. In London it is fairly obvious what success looks like.

We also know, and Michael Wilshaw has said this repeatedly, that the quality of teaching and aspiration is not as good in the North or the Midlands as it is in the South. There are excellent universities in these areas but the best graduates are not training as teachers and, if they do, they do not stay in the profession. One of the reasons they do not stay, is lack of decent managment in the schools. M Wilshaw has also pointed this out repeatedly.

The big question, is what to do about it. Northern schools are NOT worse off than some shire counties. Look at the mess Northmptonshire is in. Also, northern schools get a lot of PP money. This should be making a difference if it is well spent, but is it? Poor management probably means that it is not spent on what actually works.

Another stupid "investment" is HS2. Anyone with any sense will know that this will draw higher achievers down to London. The money should be spent on connectivitiy across the northern region. HS2 should be scrapped and a Northern HS rail link established.

Many northern grads cannot now afford to live in London, especially not those who are teaching. Greater incentives should be given to them to teach in the North/Midlands for at least 5 years.

Obviously making sure children who need extra suport are spotted pre school and great effort should be made in getting them up to speed. Sure Start was over-run with children who did not need it. Any new system must be for those who do. This means making tough decisions. Not everyone can or should access these schemes. Only those who qualify and these judgements need to be rigourous.

We need to spend money where is has most effect and we fail to do this. The LAs have been starved of money and so have many schools. My LA has always been near the bottom of league table for per capita spending, yet we have grammar schools and are a high achieving LA. I am not advocating grammar schools, but money does not solve everything. Good teaching and management can do a lot though.

LadyLance Wed 07-Feb-18 17:16:45

I do think comparing "the north" with London is a bit unhelpful. Firstly, "the north" is a huge area, with a mix of rural and urban schools, and a mix of areas with lots of immigrants, mixed areas, and very white areas. There will be huge ranges in the levels of deprivation between schools and areas. In London, there are obviously differences but they will not be as big,

I have spent a bit of time in some rural schools recently, as well as working with children from rural schools doing activities in my previous job- I do think rural schools have a specific problem with a lack of aspiration in students. Their horizons tend to be smaller, even though there are less opportunities locally. It's harder for them to imagine moving to a city for university, and they don't have role models with a high level of education. As well as brain drain from the north to the south, I think there is brain drain from the countryside into cities in some cases.

I don't think the same strategy will work for students in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds etc, as will work for students in, say, rural Cumbria. Strategies that have worked well in London could be transplanted into university cities. However, I think we need a strategy as a country to help students in rural areas, and I include the south west in this as well.

TalkinPeace Wed 07-Feb-18 17:21:10

So long as Londoners get Arts/culture funding of 20 times that of everybody else
So long as London children get free bus transport unlike the rest of the country
So long as london gets integrated regulated public transport - unlike everywhere else
So long as 99% of DCLG staff work in SW1
So long as the vast majority of government decision making is centralised rather than localised
it will remain the same

Schools are just one small part of a London centric malaise
which is what drove a lot of the Brexit resentment.

Kazzyhoward Wed 07-Feb-18 17:38:22

Schools are just one small part of a London centric malaise which is what drove a lot of the Brexit resentment.

This is exactly what "Londoners" and other city dwellers don't appreciate. I can actually see our nearest city, just five miles away, if I crane my neck out of our velux window in the loft. Yet, my son has to leave the house at 7.15am to get to school due to piss-poor public transport, and that includes a mile walk from home to the bus stop and another mile from the bus stop to the school. Yet, they give the impression that we're all stuck on hill tops and valleys up North. In fact, I live in a huge village (5,000 people) which is on the direct A road into the city, and we still have crap public transport that costs about £400 per year. Londoners simply wouldn't put up with this kind of crap.

thecatfromjapan Wed 07-Feb-18 17:55:44

It's not just London v The North, though, is it? It's areas of the North and Midland that are doing badly, and other areas of the UK that aren't. It would be good to look at a break-down of figures.

Before people get into the whole 'London, where the streets are paved with gold and everyone wears diamond shoes,' please bear in mind that London has some of the highest figures for deprivation in Europe. It's worth noting that the success of London schools is against a background in which there is seen to be an inverse correlation not so much between income and attainment but between income inequality and attainment. Many of the children in London schools are not just deprived in measurable terms but they live with deprivation in the midst of a very unequal city.

That said, I do wish that the solution followed by the government to seeing unequal educational outcomes across the UK had been to increase funding to schools across the UK - rather than handing out a real-terms cut to many schools.

ZBIsabella Wed 07-Feb-18 17:59:24

I am from the North and our transport in that city is miles better than getting from outer London Suburbs into London which for me involves driving to park on a local road, walk to a tube station, various tube lines then walking at other end - about at least an hour (I allow 90 mins) for about 15 miles.! Obviously better than rural Cumbria but a lot worse than Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle.

TalkinPeace Wed 07-Feb-18 18:00:49

London has some of the highest figures for deprivation in Europe
So does Portsmouth, Essex, Cornwall, Thanet

but they do not get the
- free integrated transport
- arts and culture funding
- infrastructure funding
that London get
nor are they in the North
the IMD data shows how London is massively molly coddled by politicians - because they live there.
and I grew up there and have family there, its not a chip thing its a data thing

londonista1 Wed 07-Feb-18 18:16:36

I'd love to see this "free, integrated transport" you're talking about.

Buses are free for U-16s, which is down to the mayorality and TFL. It's not a central government plot and not beyond other regions to replicate. Tubes, which you have to take if your school is any distance away because good luck in 8am surface traffic, are not free.

And public transport is exactly that... public. It relies on a mass of people taking up a service and does not just exist to take you from the edge of a village to the door of your school.

This "Brexit resentment" referred to in thread, driven by a chippiness towards London is going to backfire spectacularly judging by today's figures saying that London will be least affected in all Brexit scenarios (economy down 1 to 4%) while the NE and WMidlands looking at 15%+ hits. So well done there.

On schools, I really worry under current government (and public) dynamic that the answer to making regional schools as good as London schools have been in last decade is not going to be any effort to make regional schools better, but a slashing of funding to make London schools worse.

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