The Educational Excellence Everywhere White Paper is complex, with lots of ideas for technical, structural change for schools. In his article in the TES, Chris Husbands calls it the ‘most radical reshaping of education since 1902’. In her speech, Nicky Morgan described the reforms as ‘devo-max’ – echoing the Chancellor’s earlier mention of a ‘devolution revolution’.
There are some good summaries of the policy and headlines of the White Paper for those that are interested in a quick briefing. School’s Week has published these headlines, and a one-pager of all the policy suggestions in Educational Excellence Everywhere. The TES has also produced a useful at-a-glance guide.
As we reported in our coverage of the 16 March Budget, the biggest headline is the policy of all schools becoming academies by 2020, but some of the others include:
- the creation of 300 new teaching schools and 800 more National Leaders of Education
- reform of the QTS professional standards for teachers
- Ofsted will consult on removing graded judgments on quality of teaching, learning and assessment
- a new funding formula for schools (which aims to make per-pupil allocation fairer across the country)
Who will deliver this?
The rise of the Multi-Academy Trust
Although the White Paper suggests that reform is towards a ‘schools-led system’ there will be several layers and players involved in the this. The Department of Education expects that most schools will form or join a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), which will have overarching governance and be led by a CEO. It is likely that these new and existing partnership chains will have a great deal of influence over the kind of education that is delivered in our schools, and will control the strategy and funds for the schools within the group. Where schools can ‘viably stand alone’ (perhaps if they are a very large secondary), they will be encouraged to join less formal partnerships like Teaching School Alliances.
Plans are for Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) to still have the role of overseeing and monitoring academies and free schools (they have been in place for around 18 months).
The White Paper removes any vestiges of the school improvement role from Local authorities (LAs) and, instead, plans for them to play a role in:
- ensuring the system works for parents
- focussing on ensuring there are enough places
- overseeing admissions complaints and commissioning support for children with specific needs
‘Alongside this, the opportunities provided by local devolution give local authorities the opportunities to act as champions and advocates for the education their community wants and deserves.’
The DfE and the Secretary of State will retain responsibility for overseeing all Academies and MATs.
What the White Paper might mean for Cultural Learning
- Academies policy
As we’ve reported in our Budget analysis we don’t see academisation in itself as either good or bad – there is a widely differing practice in different chains and schools across the country, and for some schools, the academy route is a choice that fits their needs. However, we are concerned that there is no real evidence to show that academisation drives up standards and that this is another instance of the government making blanket policies without the data to back them up. This blog from Laura McInerney gives a good overview of what an academy is.
- National Curriculum
Academies don’t have to follow the National Curriculum and the White Paper describes it as ‘an ambitious benchmark that autonomous academies can use and improve upon’. In practice we believe that this will be a further incentive for education in schools to be driven by accountability systems rather than by curriculum. The EBacc, Progress 8 and Attainment 8 will be given further prominence and schools could choose not to focus resources or confer status on the full range of subjects. This might have a profound effect on the arts. However, there is also an opportunity for schools, heads and MATs to proactively choose to deliver more arts and culture in their schools and this is something that cultural learning advocates can capitalise on.
- Teacher training and recruitment
The White Paper goes some way towards acknowledging that there is a current crisis in terms of teacher recruitment – and this is particularly true of arts and cultural subjects – which are some of the only disciplines without financial incentives for trainees (music and design and technology have smaller amounts, but the others – art and design, drama, dance – have nothing).
As our January Briefing on ITT shows, in 2015/16 Design and Technology filled only 40% of available training places, Music 64% and Drama 85%. Plans to address this include a national teacher vacancy portal and investment in more teaching schools.
- EEF and Pupil Premium
The White Paper states that it will ‘continue to work in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation to expand its role in improving and spreading the evidence on what works in education’. This is important news for schools and cultural learning professionals who are using their pupil premium funds for cultural learning. It is ever more critical that we think about ways to rigorously evaluate the effect on attainment.
- Careers advice and guidance
Educational Excellence Everywhere states that the government will publish a strategy for improved careers provision for young people and give further support to the Careers and Enterprise Company. For this to be effective for cultural learning, the DfE will need to ensure that young people get good, face-to-face advice on engaging in a career in the arts, culture and creative industries. For this advice to be effective it must take into account the fractured, diffuse and multifarious nature of the sector, and the ‘one-stop shop’ approach must incorporate the expertise and offer of sector specialists such as Creative and Cultural Skills and Creative Skillset. Initiatives such as the proposed National College for Creative and Cultural are particularly important given the rapidly changing Further Education infrastructure. College and course closures are having significant impact on the arts and cultural sector supply chain, particularly for the visual arts, where Higher Education institution admissions tend to require a Foundation course.
- Extended schools and National Citizenship service
The majority of the mentions of the arts and culture in the White Paper are included within the Character, Resilience and extended schools section. As the 2016 Budget set out, the government are planning to fund 25% of secondary schools to offer extended days for activities such as arts. The extra funds for extending the school day and for extra-curricular activities are welcome, especially as they could be used to benefit the arts – but it seems a little arbitrary that they will only go to 25% of schools when so many already offer this kind of provision.
- Support for the most vulnerable
It seems that Local Authorities will maintain their role of supporting disabled young people and those with additional educational needs, but it is very unclear where the funds will come from to deliver these critical services, especially when LA funds have been cut by over 50% over the last 6 years. We fear that this policy will have a very significant impact on our most vulnerable children.
- National funding formula
The new National Funding Formula aims to make things fairer for schools across the country – this will mean winners, but also losers, with schools in areas like inner-London (historically better funded) likely to have much less per pupil.
What will happen next?
It’s important to note that the White Paper is not yet policy; it's a strong indication of where the government wishes to go. The changes to the legal framework governing schools that it sets out will require an Education Bill to go through parliament. There should also be further consultation on the contents of the White Paper, and it will be critical that this is about the substance and the proposals it sets out, not just on how it might be achieved (as was the case with the recent English Baccalaureate consultation).