Rescue Our Schools

Education Uncovered is a website, now just over a year old, which aims to do just that.

Set up, edited and largely written by me, Warwick Mansell, an experienced education journalist, it aims to scrutinise decision-making power at all levels of control over our schools.

I founded it because of the large number of tip-offs that were coming my way about issues that I felt needed public scrutiny, especially around developments in the government’s favoured academies sector, but which were not always finding a home in the national media.

I wanted to explore and feature as many as I could of the campaigns arising out of communities wanting a greater say in decisions about their schools, seeking to analyse each one’s significance to national policymaking, and to do my bit to bring about a greater sense of decision-makers having to account for those choices.

The site’s investigative strands have featured not just the academies and free schools policies, including sometimes sky-high leadership pay, but the detail of Ofsted’s operations, ministers and their often questionable relationship with reality, and bad education policy in general.

Education Uncovered is a subscription-only site, offered at a basic rate of £6.25 for three months (£25 a year), which works out at just 7p per day. For £12.50 for three months (£50 a year), you offer more support for the site and also get weekly emails from me. By backing it, you will be supporting independent, challenging journalism that I hope is making a unique contribution to the education news landscape.

As someone said recently after reading one of the site’s exclusives: “I am so happy: I had to read the piece three times, I was so glad to have seen it appeared.” Another said: “I cannot thank you enough for your interest and coverage.”

Go to www.educationuncovered.co.uk to take a look.

PS: The site is also having a first-birthday conference in central London on the afternoon of Friday, December 14th, open to subscribers only. It is shaping up to being an interesting event. If you subscribe, I will send details.

Rescue Our Schools kindly agreed to let me write this message on this page, to promote the website and conference.

When Philip Hammond stood up to deliver his budget speech on Monday, we – along with teachers, parents, headteachers, unions, other campaign groups and many MPs – had reasonable expectations. Knowing that campaigners across the country have highlighted very effectively the impact of the 8% cuts to school budgets, we expected at the least an acknowledgement of the difficulties schools are facing. Instead, we were expected to be gratified by the announcement that schools could have a “little extra” to buy a new computer. Even though many schools have long since had to reduce the number of teaching assistants they can employ to help children use that computer.

Schools are increasingly reliant on parent teacher associations for funds. Traditionally these associations have funded additional equipment and trips which extend and enrich our children’s experience of school. But parent associations are now being asked to provide the funds for basic equipment – like paper!

Parent school associations depend on support from local parents. And therefore on the depth of those parents’ pockets. So by asking parents to pay for school essentials, it’s quite likely that schools will not only continue to suffer, but that educational inequality will rise further.

We need to continue highlighting the struggle in our schools to provide the essentials – like teaching assistants, support for children with special educational needs, and repairs to buildings. Please keep us informed about what your local PTA/HSA is being asked to pay for, so we can add strength to the campaign.

Message us on FB, comment below, or email us on info@rescueourschools.co.uk

Our children deserve better. #LittleExtras

We are on LBC again this morning talking about school uniforms

Madeleine Holt talks to Nick Ferrari this morning about school uniforms after this article in The Mirror sparks debate.  Read the article here

What do you think? Does your school’s choice of uniform have any bearing on your children’s schooling?

Let us know on social media or email us

Very interesting points about school funding that all parents should know

• Analysis of the actual school funding allocations from 2015/16 to 2018/19 shows that the real terms cuts are probably even worse than the £2.5bn that were originally estimated – as school costs have actually turned out to have been higher than the NAO originally anticipated. What we do know is that schools in England received over £2.5bn less in real terms this year than the start of the 2015/16.

• There are 66,000 more kids in state schools in England this year compared to last, yet compared to last year there are 10,800 fewer staff in our school – including over 5,000 fewer teachers, over 2,500 fewer teaching assistants and over 2,000 fewer support staff.

• And a major survey by the National Governors Association this month shows that “three-quarters of governors believe financial pressures will harm the quality of education and nearly a third of schools were in the red”.

All this means, we’re still seeing:

• Heads increasingly struggling to balance budgets

• Cuts to staffing

• Increasing difficulties matching funding to special education needs and vulnerable pupils

• Cuts to counselling and mental health services for kids
• Parents being asked for regular funding contributions

Political situation:

• The budget will be held in October this year – a very important one as it is likely to indicate the total spending envelope over the next 4 year period (the spending review)

• Next year the spending review will set out what each government department is planned to receive in terms of revenue (day to day) and capital (buildings, equipment) over each of the next four years

• The Chancellor therefore has the opportunity to reverse austerity and spending cuts and start investing in schools and other public services

• Research (by New Economics Foundation and others) recently published suggests that the Chancellor could borrow up to £30bn more without breaching his ‘fiscal rules’ – these are the limits that the Chancellor has put on borrowing and spending in order to eliminate the deficit and bring borrowing down as a % of GDP

• We are seeing more and more Conservative MPs voice their concerns about this. In recent months, we’ve seen Theresa Villiers, Ann Main and Tim Loughton (ex-children’s minister) have all publicly raised concerns about impact of cuts to schools.

Events coming up:

• Parents and children are meeting MPs at Westminster this Wednesday 10 October

• The F40 group of lowest funding local authorities are meeting MPs at Westminster on 15 October

• Parent campaigners are holding a national day of action on 19 October – #floss4funding #parentsteachersunited

Parents, teaching unions, headteachers, F40 and National Governors Association are all out there making the case for more funding for schools in order to:

• Reverse cuts since 2015

• Enabling real terms funding increases per pupil going forward

• Meet increasing school costs, including teacher pay, pensions, NI, apprenticeship levy, inflation and other costs

• Ensure the implementation of a fair National Funding Formula that doesn’t relay on taking money away from some schools to give to others.

Natasha Devon, a mental health campaigner, was on channel 4 last night talking about exam stress and academic anxiety being on the increase. She mentioned our petition ! Please watch her interview here and sign and share our petition.

https://www.channel4.com/news/natasha-devon-self-harm-is-always-a-symptom-of-some-kind-of-distress

A welcome shift: as students get their GCSE results this week, Rescue Our Schools ruminates on Ofsted’s apparent change of heart

It’s not often that Ofsted gets the thumbs up from Rescue Our Schools. But credit where credit is due. If the guardians of “high standards” really are going to place less stress on exam results — as the newspapers have reported – then this can only be a good thing.
It has been blindingly obvious for years that if you make high stakes results a crucial factor in inspections – with the risk of league table demotion, academisation and management clear-outs if the results are deemed not good enough – then schools will prioritise scores and grades above everything else.
And although progress measures are now meant to play a key role in inspections, anyone who has experienced a visit from the inspectors will know that it is still extremely unpredictable to what extent the team will give those measures the weight they allegedly deserve.
So let’s hold our breath and hope that when the new framework comes out we see a substantial change in judgements  on the ground.
But let’s hope for much more than that. Firstly, many of the schools that have indulged in the worst excesses of drilling are in the “outstanding”  category. For them to get a more intelligent judgement Ofsted will have to make sure it visits these schools sooner rather than later.
Secondly, let’s hope that schools get the funding they so desperately need to enable them to reopen the moth-balled art departments and bring back the drama teachers. There is no sign of that so far from Mr Hinds.
Finally let’s hope that if Amanda Spielman,the Ofsted chief inspector, wants to ensure everyone gets a “quality education”, we can kickstart a debate among politicians (and Ofsted) about what that really looks like.
It is not enough to argue that stopping schools spending three years prepping for GCSEs will solve the problem. We need to demand – as parents, teachers and students – the freedom to develop approaches that deliver the skills young people need. They need both rich knowledge and rich experiences of education , that encourage critical thinking, problem solving and team work. And they need to develop those skills without obsessive “flight path” targets and punitive inspections which simply make matters worse.
Teaching unions have been asking for a deeper kind of education until they are blue in the face. The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) repeated the call only a few months ago. But it seems that change will only happen if parents – a.k.a millions of voters – make it clear that the current, improved offer that Ofsted is apparently demanding is still not good enough.
If you agree with all this, please talk to friends and family and get them on board with Rescue Our Schools!

Simon Johnson, scottish political editor writes on 15 AUGUST 2018

John Swinney has been presented with an ultimatum of scrapping the SNP’s controversial primary one tests or facing a mass boycott.

Upstart Scotland, a literacy charity, is distributing 30,000 postcards urging parents with children starting P1 this week to sign up to withdrawing from the literacy and numeracy assessments.

Parents whose children are starting primary school this month are being urged to sign the postcards, fill in their child’s name and send them to the head teacher.

The initiative is part of a joint campaign by children’s charities, parents’ groups and teaching unions to force the Education Minister to dump the scheme.

It won support from the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, which have united in demanding that the tests be scrapped.

The Scottish Government vowed to stand by the tests, one of Nicola Sturgeon’s key policies in her plan to drive up educational standards after Scotland tumbled down international league tables.

But SNP ministers are in danger of losing a proposed parliamentary vote on the abolition of the tests when MSPs return from their summer holidays next month.

They have already attracted a wave of criticism over claims five-year-olds have been left distressed and in tears, while schools have been forced to “teach to the test.”

The Liberal Democrats have also claimed that the Scottish Government deceived parents about the right to withdraw their children.

P1 pupils have been left in tears by the new standardised tests, teachers have claimed.

The Upstart Scotland postcards state: “I do not want my child to sit the primary 1 tests of literacy and numeracy.

“I firmly believe that national standardised assessment of this kind is not developmentally appropriate for young children and would, therefore, prefer assessment to be based on teacher observation and professional judgment, in accordance with the Early Level of the Curriculum for Excellence.”

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, said she agreed with teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) that the assessments should be scrapped “without delay”.

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said: “Schools across Scotland are returning to an SNP omnishambles – a testing policy descending into chaos as it faces a major campaign by parents and a potential teacher boycott, hundreds of unfilled posts across the country and teachers on the verge of industrial action.

“John Swinney must suspend these tests, he cannot keep defending a discredited policy that is opposed by parents pupils, teachers and the unions”

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, said the new campaign was only necessary because SNP ministers had “studiously avoided” telling parents their rights to withdraw their children.

He added: “How many teachers and parents have to boycott these tests before the Education Secretary finally listens?”

Upstart Scotland
@UpstartScot

Has marking had its day? Let’s hear it from William Law primary school in Peterborough, where teachers are talking to pupils about their work instead. Every fortnight the teachers sit down with one of their students, and for fifteen minutes they go over work and discuss ways to develop their learning. Gone are the days of three hours of marking every night. Here’s a report from Branwen Jeffreys, the BBC’s Education Editor.

Listen from 2:42:54

Some summer radio listening… the Today programme talks to one of the top honchos at Warwick University about social media, social mobility and freedom of speech. The university has found itself at the centre of serious allegations about the misuse of social media by a handful of its students. Justin Webb puts the university on the spot…
Listen from 2:35:30

This year’s SATs results show that more than a third of eleven-year-olds ‘failed’ the tests: they will be told by next week that they are ‘not secondary school ready’. In what sense are we raising standards, as the schools minister Nick Gibb so predictably claimed? And what do the scores tell us anyway, except that the curriculum is becoming horribly narrowed and students and teachers often horribly stressed. Time to ditch SATs for good. They are damaging and pointless. Read the Independent article here.

The press might well be reporting on rising standards, as in this BBC News article, but we feel that eleven is too young for any child to feel a failure.

“At a time when their minds could have been stimulated and their knowledge expanded, their education has been sacrificed to a system which is in thrall to league tables”

Madeleine Holt, of More Than A Score and Rescue Our Schools.

 

We would like to hear from parents who struggle with getting their children to school due to transport costs. Read this example of a council who have no regard for this issue.

Suffolk County Council was happy to be seen as an ideological test bed when Free schools were the new show in town, even though they knew they would end up with a significant surplus of secondary schools and secondary school places. So they ended up providing transport in order for pupils to have a choice between catchment and free schools, as “choice” was the whole point of allowing the free schools in the first place. Now they claim to be providing ‘more than the legal minimum’ in school transport, and want to make savings. So the established catchment schools will be paying the price in lost pupils. Not to mention the lost opportunities for pupils who should be attending schools large enough to provide a broad curriculum.

The council have the results of their consultation on changes to school transport: an overwhelming “NO”. Yet they persist in the idea that getting children to school by bus is some kind of luxury. It’s not. It’s not only essential educationally, it’s the only practical and environmentally-sustainable way to get thousands of children to school in a rural county. Unless, of course their ultimate plan is that all people of school age live in the middle of town ….and villages become dormitories for the rich and retired.

It should be the council paying the consequences of the Free School experiment, not the schools or parents.

https://schoolsweek.co.uk/suffolk-council-to-vote-on-swingeing-cuts-to-rural-school-transport/?mc_cid=a790f8255b&mc_eid=b34dbc3d4c

Following on from our concerns with the ever increasingly high bar set for GCSEs, what would our secondary education look  like if universities took the lead and scrapped selection at entry?

A good piece writted by Laura McInerney in Schools Week ponders this fact : https://schoolsweek.co.uk/forget-the-11-plus-is-a-world-without-selection-at-18-possible/?mc_cid=a790f8255b&mc_eid=dc06f247e6