Devon primary classes – more than 8,000 pupils being taught in 30+ classes

“The number of primary school children in Devon being taught in class sizes of more than 30 pupils has now exceeded more than 8,000.

According to latest figures from the Department for Education, 1,308 more primary pupils were being taught in large classes in January 2018 than at the same time the previous year.

It means 8,072 children are now being taught in classes of more than 30, which is the equivalent of one in seven pupils in Devon. … “

When losing your job can be a money-spinner!

“A higher education boss was handed more than £500,000 in a “golden goodbye” pay package after the government scrapped her organisation.

Professor Madeleine Atkins, ex-chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), secured a 96% increase on her annual pay deal in the body’s final 12 months, accounts published this week show.

The HEFCE was wound up by the Department for Education and replaced by the Office for Students and Research England in April.

Atkins, who was appointed to HEFCE for a five-year term in 2014, had a final remuneration package worth £554,648 once bonuses, pension payments and other benefits were counted. Salary accounted for £528,891 of the total.

Her previous year’s total remuneration was £282,354, of which salary comprised £263,865.

Atkins begins a new role as president of Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, in October. …”

Education – what is it for? The perils of a target/tick box culture – children as “collateral damage”

“An independent inquiry into a top grammar school, which was revealed by a Guardian investigation to be forcing out pupils who were unlikely to get top grades at A-level, has delivered a damning report accusing the school of illegally treating its students as “collateral damage” in the pursuit of its own interests.

The 150-page report into events last summer at St Olave’s, a selective boys school in Orpington, south-east London, called for a root and branch makeover at the school after a council investigation exposed multiple cases of maladministration and scenes of distressed pupils contemplating suicide after being pushed out of the school midway through the sixth form.

One member of staff told the inquiry that a student was so fearful of telling his parents that he could not continue at St Olave’s “that he might as well kill himself” while another on the phone to his parents said “they just want to be rid of me, they just want me gone”.

Other pupils in extremely vulnerable situations were told no exceptions could be made to the strict academic requirement of three Bs to progress into the final year of sixth form.

In one case a student who scored all As and A*s at GCSEs and was heading for medical school was refused any leniency despite being diagnosed with depression triggered by a family suicide.

The report, commissioned by Bromley council, challenged the pursuit of academic excellence at all costs. “A school has the responsibility to do its best by all of the pupils,” the report said, adding that by excluding students, the school had put the institution above the pupils.

“Parents of the pupils affected were right to say their children were being treated as collateral damage. It should not have happened.” …..

The investigation also criticised the school’s leadership for the claims of financial “doom and gloom” to justify cutting staff, cancelling courses and putting off urgent repairs. In fact, the school recorded annual surpluses and built up £2m in unrestricted funds in its bank accounts.

Parents were urged to donate £50 a month to the school by direct debit. The school also raised £35,000 a year in selling mock entrance tests to the families of applicants to the grammar school, and retained hardship funds for disadvantaged pupils, worth more than £50,000 that went unspent.”

“Councils better at turning around failing schools than academy chains, report says”

” … the report, which looks at 429 council-run schools rated as inadequate in 2013, found that 115 (75 per cent) of 152 schools that stayed with the council became good or outstanding by 2017. …

Meanwhile, only 92 (59 per cent) of the 155 schools that had been inspected since becoming sponsored academies saw their Ofsted ratings improve to good or outstanding during that period. …”

Devon schools lose more than 700 teachers and teaching assistants in one year

“In just one year, Devon’s schools have lost more than 700 teachers and teaching assistants.

The worrying figures, revealed in an annual school workforce census published by the government this week?, have been blamed on government cuts by unions.

The data has shown in the Devon County Council authority area there were 11,599 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in the county’s schools at the end of last year – compared to 12,229 just a year before, meaning schools lost 630 teachers.

The biggest cut was in teaching assistants, with FTE numbers falling by more than 300 from 3,623 to 3,322.

The number of FTE classroom teachers was down by 170, while the number of all teachers – including those in leadership roles – was down by 204. Support and auxiliary staff accounted for most of the rest of the fall. …

The census shows that as a result of the loss of staff – and ever-growing pupil numbers – the pupil: teacher ratio in Devon grew from 17.3 pupils for each teacher in 2016 to 18.2 pupils for each teacher by the end of 2017. …”

“A market-led school system has put finances before the needs of pupils’ “

The economic and regulatory incentives facing state schools in England are increasingly in tension with an inclusive, broad and balanced education for pupils.

Since 2010 the government has used the language of a “self-improving school-led system” to characterise its reforms, arguing that these are “moving control to the frontline”. Our research shows that this is a partial and idealised account: while some higher-performing schools are benefiting, the system as a whole is becoming more fragmented and less equitable.

Schools have been strongly encouraged (and sometimes forced) to become academies, which are independent of local government, on the premise that they will be freed from red tape.

Yet schools and academies have faced greater regulation through national accountability, which has become more punitive. One bad Ofsted report and a school can be removed from its local governing body and handed to a multi-academy trust (MAT) – after which the school ceases to exist as a legal entity.

Fear of such a takeover and the wider consequences of being downgraded by Ofsted has led many schools to focus relentlessly on national test outcomes, to constrain teacher judgment and to narrow their curriculum. These pressures have combined with a chaotic process of centralisation. Attempting to manage thousands of academies directly from Whitehall, the government has created new regional commissioner roles, but their work can be in tension with both Ofsted and local authorities. This has left schools with minimal support as they navigate an endless churn of new policies.

Schools have also faced stronger incentives to compete for students and the funding that is linked to them. New “providers” have been encouraged to run academies and free schools on the premise they will pressure existing schools to improve. Yet school leaders can feel obliged to put the market position of their school above all else, even if this means making decisions that contradict their professional values.

We found that the school system has become more socially stratified since 2010, with schools judged by Ofsted to be “outstanding” admitting fewer children eligible for free school meals, while schools judged “requires improvement” or “inadequate” have higher concentrations of these children than previously……”