ALDC Member Cllr Paul Porgess (Stockport) reports back on last month’s Children and Young People Conference, hosted jointly by the Liberal Democrat Education Association and the LGA Lib Dems.
Children and Young People Conference 2015
National College of School Leadership, Nottingham
Liz Green (LGA Lib Dem Children and Young People Lead) and John Howson (LDEA Acting Chair) opened the conference by welcoming attendees.
Session 1: Looking Ahead: perspectives on the education and children’s services landscape in the coming year – the Liberal Democrat perspective
Baroness Sue Garden, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson on HE, FE and Skills
No new education legislation is forthcoming, but bits are to be included in other Bills. Baroness Garden spoke of the success of the Lib Dem policies: Pupil Premium and Free School Meals which have been almost universally acclaimed as making a difference to the children in receipt of them.
Areas to push for in the new parliament:
- Careers guidance – including introduction into primary schools. Need to catch imagination of children, and also get employers to be involved
- Languages – Languages in primary schools should be basics of several languages, not a single language
- PSHCE – linking with votes for 16 and 17 year olds. Also linking with how parents help their children
- Cadet forces/units in schools
- Teachers – where is the love of learning? More autonomy for enthusiasm.
- Less testing (a theme throughout the conference)
By the end of this parliament there will be 800,000 additional pupils in schools. How will these places be funded? Will there be parliamentary time for changes to the National Funding Formula? Lib Dems have been replaced by SNP on Select Committee.
Session 2: Looking Ahead: perspectives on the education and children’s services landscape in the coming year – an educationalist’s perspective
John Dunford, Chair of Whole Education (and former Pupil Premium Champion)
Whole Education is a partnership of like-minded schools, organisations and individuals that believe all young people should have a fully rounded education, developing the knowledge, skills and qualities needed to help them thrive in life and work. Very thought provoking presenttion
- VIP – Values led; Innovation encouraged; Partnership based
- Highly effective teaching makes the difference. Overcoming barriers to learning for disadvantaged young people, individual need to be tackled/classroom rigor. Focus on pupil premium, use evidence of what works. Focus relentlessly on quality of teaching. Set own desired outcomes, not Ofsted’s.
- Thinking, creativity and problem solving
- Developing knowledge, skills and personal qualities
- Interconnection of: work ready – life ready – ready for further study
Session 1: Education Accountability and Governance: Introduced by Cllr Peter Downes and Cllr Liz Green
- School based planning difficult when there is no accountability in academies.
- EY settings cannot be assessed – Ofsted are sole arbiters of quality judgements for settings; good and outstanding settings are not supported by LAs.
- Parents turn to councils when problems arise, whatever the type of school, but councils no longer run schools.
- Incoherence of system – LA schools/Academies/Free schools running in parallel, reminiscent of the 1890s! In 1902 councils were formed to organise the system; Gove created chaos from order.
- Schools of all types need to collaborate rather than compete. Try to create the middle tier (school improvement boards) Create clusters of schools with primary and secondary liaison.
We then discussed examples from different parts of the country
- Cambridgeshire: Development of School Improvement Board to provide ‘middle tier’ for all schools – clusters, primary/secondary liaison, peer review, guidance and support irrespective of status. Pragmatic reaction to the situation.
- Buckinghamshire: outsourced all school improvement services to a Trust so service is free to schools. In other areas schools are paying into similar schemes.
- Stockport: School Improvement Team exists. Needs related, Ofsted related, Academies have bought into this. Package of different segments can be bought into; of 117 schools all bar 1 have bought in.
- Croydon: Heads have joined a board to share ideas and collaborate.
- Bradford: commissioning a Board, but where is the child’s voice? Dangers: who speaks for the child and/or parent? What is it like to raise a child in a community? What is government trying to achieve? Ofsted provide a very narrow view of what education is for.
- Born in Bradford (BiBs) initiative following all children born in 1999/2000 and starting school in September 2016
- Unsustainable for Ofsted to be the only ‘critic’ or judge of quality and standards. Ultimate responsibility for child rests with the LA.
- How do we ‘drive’ a governing body? Quality of governance is critical.
Session 2: Curriculum & Pedagogy: introduced by Simon de Deney
- Monitoring and coaching as a vehicle for self- improvement; videoing observations as basis for discussion.
- ‘Colonial’ model of education no longer fit for purpose in 21st century and beyond.
- What should the curriculum look like?
- How do we get there – process to achieve what we want?
- Digital is fundamental.
- Business/industry want people fit for work – they can be taught the business/industry.
- Ofsted seen as an oppressive regime and data reliant – inhibits trust, creativity and enablement.
- What happened to the Record of Achievement?
- Destination data
- Innovative status
Session 3: Early Years, Children’s Services and Social Mobility: introduced by Cllr Paul Porgess and Val Melnyczuk
Stockport have developed a model of multi-disciplinary working bringing together different services – Social Services, Children’s Services, Police, Health, Education to work together for the benefit of the ‘whole’ child. Inclusion of seconded head teachers into multi-disciplinary team, school improvement team checking how schools co-operate.
National priorities for Early Years:
- See child at the centre of learning/provision
- Increase qualifications for EYs workforce (parity with QTS, pay and status)
- Define and strengthen ‘Learning through play’ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teaching-and-play-in-the-early-years-a-balancing-act
- Oppose Baseline Assessment
- Strengthen importance of Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and EYFS Profile Including SEED initiative: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/study-of-early-education-and-development-survey-of-families
- Assess children against the Profile at the start of the term they turn 5 (level the playing field for summer born children)
- Compulsory school age raised to 6 – Y1, start of National Curriculum. Parents could choose to send children into reception class or leave them in a PVI setting to complete the EYFS
- Abolish Phonics testing – skews teaching and learning in the EYFS
Campaigning Nationally and Locally: the role of the LGA Lib Dem Group and the LDEA: led by Liz Green
It was agreed that there would be a separate one-day conference in October
Session 4: The teaching workforce – supply, training qualifications and development: introduced by John Howson and Sal Jarvis
- Many routes into teaching – degree and PGCE, Teach First, Teach Next, Schools Direct and more
- Not enough people are being recruited to ITT in many subjects in secondary and primary, when school population is rising
- Underrecruitment, particularly in areas of deprivation. Felt worse in physics, maths, chemistry, design and technology, biology, business studies.