Policy and Practice round-up May 2018

21 May 2018

This month we bring you a possible end to Floor Targets; a highly critical report from the Health and Education Select Committees on the government’s Children’s Mental Health Green Paper; this month’s advocates, including 100 artists and the CBI; plus details of the Go Creative – Get a Job! Conference.

An end to Floor Targets?

On 4 May Damien Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, announced he will be making changes to how school performance is judged in a speech at the NAHT school leaders conference.

Hinds said that Floor Targets and Coasting standards will be removed and replaced with a single measure, and that failing to reach this new measure will only trigger an offer of support, not forced academy conversion or leadership change.

If this change eases the pressure on teachers to meet targets, including the EBacc, it may mean that schools feel more confident offering GCSE options to meet the needs of their children, rather than the league tables. This of course could allow more subjects which are not in the EBacc and Progress 8 to be studied, including arts subjects.

According to the principles document the detail of the changes will be worked out by the autumn. The key commitments are:

  • The DfE will only mandate academy conversion, leadership change or re-brokerage of a school on grounds of educational underperformance if Ofsted has judged it Inadequate.
  • The DfE will not pursue forced conversions to academy status other than in instances of school failure as judged by Ofsted.
  • Ofsted will be the only body that will inspect schools. Regional Schools Commissioners will not have this role.

You can read coverage of the announcements in Schools Week, the TES and Independent.

Joint Health and Education Select Committee Report on Children’s Mental Health Green Paper

On the same day as we launched our Arts, Health and Wellbeing Briefing in partnership with Place2Be, the Health and Education Select Committees published their joint response to the Department for Education’s Green Paper on Children’s Mental Health. (You can read our original briefing on the Green Paper.)

Called The Government’s Green Paper on mental health: failing a generation, the report did not pull its punches saying that the Green paper ‘lacks ambition and will provide no help to the majority of those children who desperately need it’.

The narrowing curriculum and the pressure that terminal written exams put on young people were highlighted as problems that urgently need addressing, with the report saying:

‘Some of the young people we met were also very clear that their lack of curriculum choice in school added to their stress and that they had no creative or technical outlets to express themselves. They cited that the relentless focus on EBacc subjects did not suit all of them and led to low self-esteem and unhappiness.’

The report was also highly critical of the lack of plans for early intervention; the unacceptably long time frames for support being put in place; and the lack of support for excluded young people.

You can read the report and the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield’s response.

The government has two months to respond to the Select Committees’ report.

This month’s advocates

Artists call for children’s access to the arts

100 artists wrote an open letter to The Guardian on 9 May about the exclusion of arts subjects from the EBacc and the damage to children the lack of access is causing, saying:

‘If we care about social mobility, wellbeing and economic growth – and if we want our creative industries to continue to flourish – we need to rebalance our education system so that the arts are valued just as much as other subjects. Every child should have equal access to the benefits that the arts and culture bring, not just a privileged few.’

Read the full letter on the Guardian website, the Guardian commentary and readers’ overwhelmingly positive and well-reasoned responses.

In addition to the 9 May letter from 100 artists, all the previous winners of the BBC Young Musician of the year called for every primary school child to be offered the chance to learn a musical instrument for free in a letter to the Observer on 13 May.

If this has inspired you to get writing to your school, local councillors or MPs do see the excellent Bacc for the Future template letter.

CBI: prioritise ‘teaching that encourages critical thinking, creativity, and teamwork’

On 14 May Neil Carberry, Managing Director for People and Skills policy at the CBI (Confederation of British Industries) was quoted in a Department for Education release about the revised GCSE exams students are sitting at the moment saying:  

‘Just doing well in exams isn’t enough though – firms want to see all young people leave education as well-rounded individuals. They appreciate what teachers and leaders are doing in schools to develop great people – and are ready to step up and do more themselves. As part of today’s important focus on knowledge, this partnership must also ensure we are prioritising teaching that encourages critical thinking, creativity, and teamwork.’

Arts not grammars

The Guardian Education Editorial on 11 May – in response to the news that the Government is to press ahead with plans to allow new Grammar Schools – called for a focus on arts subjects not grammars.

Go Creative – Get a Job! Conference

We are speaking at the Go Creative – Get a Job! conference on Tuesday 5 June from 10am to 3pm at Highgate School. This conference will champion creativity in education and how it links to academic success, employment and mental health. Find out more on their webpage.


Photo credit: Maker Faire 2016 4. Credit - Derby Museums Trust