The Schools White Paper, entitled The Importance of Teaching, had been heavily leaked in the days leading up to its release, so few of the details contained within came as a surprise. Over the next week we'll be looking at aspects of the White Paper in more detail, starting with a post on school funding, but in the meantime here's a short summary of the paper's main points.
Much of the White Paper focused on the need to improve the status and quality of teaching in our schools. As announced previously, Department for Education (DfE) funding for PGCE courses will only be available to applicants with at least a 2:2 degree. It is also likely that the teaching training process will be made more challenging. There will be a review of the Basic Skills Test and, subject to evaluation of a trial, the introduction of aptitude, personality and resilience tests to the teacher training process.
There will be an increased emphasis on getting the best graduates into the profession through an expanded Teach First programme, and the introduction of Teach Next and Troops to Teachers programmes will aim to attract high quality people currently employed in other professions into teaching.
There will be a move to school-based teacher training through the establishment of a network of Teaching Schools and it will be easier for head teachers to remove poorly performing teachers. Key functions of the TDA will be transferred to a DfE executive agency, directly accountable to ministers, and the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services will itself become an executive agency.
There will be new guidance on the use of force and the physical restraint of pupils, and new power to search pupils. Head teachers will be able to act to counter bad pupil behaviour on the way to and from school and the requirement for 24 hours notice for detentions will be removed. Schools will no longer be forced to re-admit excluded pupils if the exclusion is successfully appealed, but the school will be responsible for finding and funding alternative provision for these pupils.
Curriculum and Assessment
The National Curriculum for primary and secondary schools will be reviewed. There will be a greater focus on subject content and it will outline what is considered essential knowledge. However, schools will be given more freedom about how that knowledge is obtained and academies will retain the freedom to depart from aspects of the new curriculum.
Although the Assessing Pupil Progress (APP) system is not compulsory, the Government will no longer be prescriptive about its use. The new National Curriculum will not specify the methods teachers use.
All schools with KS1 pupils will receive funding and classroom resources to teach synthetic phonics. There will be a new reading screening test for six year olds, which will be reported through RAISE Online, and the English Baccalaureate will be introduced. The English Baccalaureate will be awarded to students achieving A*–C GCSE/iGCSE passes in English, maths, the sciences, a modern or ancient foreign language and a humanity. The percentage of pupils achieving the English Baccalaureate standard will be reported alongside the percentage of pupils achieving five or more A*–C GCSEs including English and maths.
Ofqual will be tasked with working out how examination marking schemes could take greater account of spelling, punctuation and grammar, and to focus on ensuring that English schools are performing well against the best education systems in the world.
Academies and Local Authorities
The White Paper states, "It is our ambition that Academy status should be the norm for all state schools." Academy status is now open to schools rated as outstanding or good with outstanding features, and to any school in partnership with one of these high performing schools. More underperforming schools (primary and secondary) will have to convert to sponsored academy status as a result of a new floor standard (see Accountability below).
The remit of local authorities will focus more on being the champion of parents, families and vulnerable pupils; they will also be asked to challenge under-performing schools. As more schools move to academy status, local authorities will move to a oversight role and it is expected that some will start to provide school improvement services on a traded basis across geographical borders.
A greater range of data on individual schools will be made available to the public and the Families of Schools system will be extended nationally. Performance tables will be reformed and the use of the contextual value added (CVA) measure will end. Details of how well pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium perform will form part of the new accountability system.
There will be a new Ofsted framework in 2011. Weaker schools will be monitored more closely; high performing schools will only be inspected if there is evidence of declining standards.
A new floor standard will be introduced for both primary and secondary school. For secondary schools the floor will be a minimum of 35 percent of pupils achieving 5 A*–C GCSEs including English and Maths and more pupils making good progress between KS2 and KS4 than the national average. For primary schools the floor will be 60 percent of pupils achieving level 4 in both English and Maths and more pupils than average making the expected levels of progress between KS1 and KS2.
To address the issue of school sixth forms receiving on average £280 per pupil more than sixth form colleges and FE colleges, schools sixth form funding will be brought in line with college level funding. Funding will be made simpler with a move to using the Dedicated Schools Grant as a single funding stream. There will also be a lot more transparency about how much money local authorities retain and how schools are spending their funds. The long term aspiration is to have a National Funding Formula and there will be a consultation on this next year.
The Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) will be replaced by the Education Funding Agency, which will be responsible for academy, free school, sixth form, sixth form college and FE college funding. There will be a review of the calculation of additional academy funding to ensure that it is fair for schools and local authorities and the claw back mechanism open to local authorities will be removed. The Financial Management Standard in Schools (FMSiS) standard will be replaced and the DfE will start providing more financial and procurement information to schools.