The PTE Newsletter – Tuesday 27 April

With the term well into its stride, it feels as though things have slightly quietened down on the education news front, with most stories since last week just part of ongoing discussion. If no news is good news, then this may be no bad thing!

Book review – “Headstrong” by Dame Sally Coates

While it was first published in 2015, when Dame Sally Coates had moved to a senior role in United Learning Trust, “Headstrong – 11 Lessons of School Leadership” was largely written whilst she was Principal of Burlington Danes Academy (‘BDA’).

Dame Sally took over the school in 2008 when it  was struggling in a whole manner of ways: high staff turnover, low outcomes for kids, surplus places, and poor attendance and behaviour. Headstrong is about how Dame Sally turned BDA into a popular and high-performing place – and the lessons learned from this and her previous experience.

Since publication, the book has become a regular on reading lists for those interested in school improvement and leadership. There are a number of good reasons for this. READ MORE HERE.

Latest news & views

Schools Week features a profile of Dame Rachel De Souza, recently of this parish. Dame Rachel outlines her plans as Children’s Commissioner, and deftly handles some pointed questions from the interviewer.

Lots of work is going on at the moment to generate the “teacher-assessed grades” that are replacing exams for older students this year. There has been more reaction to Ofqual’s quality assurance process for these – and it’s overwhelmingly negative.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Headteacher union ASCL, has described the plans as “frankly scandalous”. He also said “Leaving a huge pile of those submissions sitting on the Ofqual doormat, gathering dust, is not acceptable and we are seeking urgent clarification from Ofqual on the extent of work they are asking schools and colleges to do.”

In the TESAdam Riches writes that the plans are “an absolute insult” and“…loaded with a lethal cocktail of semantic ambiguity and imperative command.” And over at Schools Week, Jonny Uttley of TEAL Academy Trust makes the case that in spite of warm words from the government, teachers aren’t trusted with grades after all.

It will be interesting to see if any changes happen as a result of the reaction. With time short, clarification is possibly the best that people can hope for.

A timely piece about why exams are a better way of doing things has been written by Barnaby Lenon: Why scrapping public exams for good, and replacing them with teacher assessment, would be a big mistake. It’s well worth a read.

Elsewhere, the role of technology in education and schools is under discussion. Apparently there are plans to make the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme more accessible extending it to include “urban expeditions”, electronic sports and video games. The scheme’s founder would definitely have something pithy to say about this, one way or another.

Millfield, a private school renowned for its sporting prowess, has plans for a competitive computer games league. The Headteacher has suggested other heads who try to ban computer games are guilty of “pedagogical imperialism”, and said it was wrong to think a child was “just playing computer games” and that this was “a waste of their time”, warning that this language would alienate them. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

And National Treasure™ Michael Rosen has waded into the mobile-phones-in-schools debate, with his column in the Guardian on Saturday. He asks why we won’t applaud the explosion of literacy in texts and posts, saying it is better to welcome rather than vilify a tool that can play a part in learning.

Back on the front line, the process by which schools can bid for summer holiday catch-up cash has been announced. There is £200 million available, as part of the overall £1.7 billion catch-up funding.

Finally, Chris Hampshire, Chair of the Frank Field Education Trust, considers what it will take to get (the inevitable) MAT mergers to happen. He makes the case that unless there are financial incentives, the consolidation expected is unlikely to occur.
Still lots to think about then. Have a smashing week.