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Challenging the accountability system: Schools of Tomorrow

Steve-Mundy.jpgRescue Our Schools’ co-founder Madeleine Holt was invited to attend the conference of a pioneering group – Schools of Tomorrow. The collection of schools in the West Midlands, Peterborough, Bedford and Bristol are working at coming up with an alternative assessment framework. Their key aims are to attain the highest levels of achievement and well-being alongside preparing children for the future and engaging with families and the community.

Schools of Tomorrow believe in involving children and young people in decision-making within their schools. They value peer review, student-led research and allowing students, staff and parents to review their schools’ development.

Key note speakers at the conference at Birmingham University were Steve Munby, formerly Chief Executive of the National College for School Leadership, and Leora Cruddas, CEO of Freedom and Autonomy for Schools.

Munby talked about how no other country in the world has such a high stakes accountability system as England, putting headteachers under unique pressure to deliver results or face the sack. Cruddas pondered why England had no ethical framework for heads and teachers – in contrast to the rigorous requirements of doctors and lawyers.

Schools of Tomorrow is part of the nascent Big Education Conversation, which has sprung up since the publication of Education Forward. Madeleine Holt contributed a chapter in Education Forward on the need to find alternatives to standardised tests in primary education, currently damaging children’s education and well-being.

RoS at the Young Teachers Conference for the NUT South East Region

Stephen Morgan MP (Labour), speaks up for more funding for education at the Young Teachers Conference for the NUT South East Region.

We were delighted to be invited to speak at the NUT Young Teachers Conference in Brighton, alongside esteemed academic Howard Stevenson and the Portsmouth MP, Stephen Morgan on March 10th.

It was so uplifting to hear so many young teachers’ determination to change the system, and put the needs of young people at the heart of what they do.

The audience was asked to come up with ways to improve our education system in England.

Among the suggestions were:

– get rid of OFSTED

– get rid of standardised testing in primary schools

– get rid of graded lesson observations for teachers

– increase funding and pay

– ensure a broader curriculum

– trust teachers

– abolish results-related pay

– get rid of unqualified teachers and train teachers properly

– value all subjects equally

– trust teacheres

– have an education secretary who is an ex-educator

– value teaching assitants

– ensure staff get proper lunch breaks, a buddy, and access to a gym!

Stephen Morgan spoke about the key elements in Labour’s vision for a National Education Service, inviting the audience to flesh out its ideas. Morgan is on the public accounts committee, so is in a position to influence how the NES is funded and which public bodies run it. He spoke too about his own state education, saying “I believe schools should be rooted in their communities.” Here’s to that.

This is what More than a Score say about testing of four year olds

more than a score

The government is spending more than £10 million to bring back its failed baseline assessment scheme. If it goes ahead, almost every four-year-old in England will be tested when they enter school.This is pointless and damaging.
Pointless because Baseline assessment means testing every child one-to-one for 20 minutes in their first few weeks at school and taking the result as a true picture of what they can do. It’s not going to give valid results.
Damaging because children will be labelled, and schools will teach to the test. Early years education will become narrower and more formal. This is not good for children. In a system based on testing many will lose out – especially children with special needs, those who are summer-born, or those who are brought up in disadvantage.
Deal with the real problems
Child poverty levels are rising. Funding for schools and nurseries is too low. The Pre-School Learning Alliance warns that ‘more and more nurseries, pre-schools and child-minders are going to be forced out of business’. A government that really wanted to improve the quality of education would opt for investment, not more testing.
The government plans to impose Baseline Assessment in 2020. Before then, there will be trials and pilots. MORE THAN A SCORE is an alliance of parents, teachers and other education experts. It aims to make sure that at every step of the way the Baseline plans will be scrutinised and criticised – and ultimately rejected.
Read the whole leaflet here.


“Government should join the dots between education policy, the retention and recruitment crisis in our schools, and the rise in emotional and mental problems in young people of all ages.”

Thank you to everyone who sent in their comments on the mental health green paper.

RoS’ Emma Bishton has written our response which you can read in full here.

Did you know the government are trying to reintroduce testing for 4 year olds?


Rescue Our Schools was proud to speak at the launch of More than a Score’s Baseline dossier – an indictment of the government’s plans to test all four-year-olds in maths and literacy. Tracy Brabin, shadow early years minister, hosted the event at Westminster.

Joining Tracy on the panel were Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, Nancy Stewart, Vice Chair of TACTYC early years organisation, Elaine Bennett, Co-Founder of Keep Early Years Unique, and our own Madeleine Holt, co-founder of Rescue Our Schools.

Madeleine introduced her ten minute film on baseline testing – a failed policy from both 1997 and 2015. If the government gets its way, four-year-olds will face a 20 minute test within their first six weeks of school. The unreliable results will be used to predict how children will do in SATS in Year 6. England will become the first country in the world to put such young children through a high stakes test. Trials could start later this year.

Please support More than a Score’s campaign to stop baseline testing.

Please share the film and sign up to More than a Score.

RoS spoke about the importance of creative learning at ArtConnects event Sat 24th February

Rescue Our Schools spoke on behalf of the More than a Score alliance at a super creative event in Camden in North London, #ArtConnects. Organised by the social enterprise, SteamCo, a gamut of creative thinkers and activists talked about how we can make education more creative.

Among the speakers were dance artist Sir Kenneth Tharp, writer Phil Beadle and Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

Rescue Our Schools co-founder, Madeleine Holt, talked about why deep and creative thinking was becoming more important than exam results as a way of preparing children for the challenges of the 21st century, despite the government rhetoric about high scores meaning high standards.

One of the most fascinating talks was from Dr Peter Lovatt, the academic who is discovering how dance improves cognitive ability. To all those who push the Ebacc – and push out the arts – take note.

Government is writing policy on this right now. Mental health affects a growing number of young people in education from reception to university. If you want your opinion to count then  we will present your comments, anonymously, in our response to the government paper: Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision.

You can read our short statement about the paper here and, if you want to hear from experts who have voiced their opinions about the paper then read this summary of the Mental Health Question Time event from last week.

There is a deadline to reply to the paper so please contact us, via email or comment on social media and we will collate your comments.

Your comments needed on young people’s mental health provision

If you do anything this weekend, please spend a few minutes reading our statement on the govenment’s green paper: Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision. Let us know what you think by Monday 26th February. We can collect your ideas and comments and present them to the government in our response. We think this issue is crucial in helping our young people deal with the enormous pressure they are facing in education and life today.

RoS at Headteachers’ Roundtable

Head Teachers Roundtable

Rescue our Schools was at the Headteachers’ Roundtable conference yesterday, to learn from headteacher Caroline Barlow about how the Worthless campaign got school funding up there as a political issue.

Listen to this ! Excellent podcast clip of Madeleine Holt talking about education


Just in case you missed it, here is a clip of Madeleine Holt speaking to Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd last monday.