Can productivity and growth be increased outside the South East except for Hinkley C?

Our Local Enterprise Partnership’s draft economic strategy is making enormous claims about how much it will increase productivity in Devon and Somerset – its predictions outstripping those of historic precedent and some of the most productive areas of the UK. This in spite of our ageing population and the effects of austerity on skills and training (our LEP’s investment in this sector appears to be limited to training only for Hinkley C nuclear plant).

Our councillors might well examine our LEPs claims with some disquiet:

“… Cities such as Stoke, Blackburn, Mansfield and Doncaster had productivity 25% below the national average, the Centre for Cities said. Raising all parts of the UK to the national productivity average would increase the size of the economy by £203bn – equivalent to Birmingham’s output four times over.

The report showed that cities outside the greater south-east had weaker productivity because they were failing to secure the higher-skilled work of productive sectors and firms.

“Firms choose to locate their high-skilled operations in cities which can offer them access to a high-skilled workforce and other relevant businesses, and will base lower value components in places where land and labour is cheaper,” the thinktank said.

“Barclays bases its high-value banking activities in London and its low-skilled call centre in Sunderland. Similarly, clothing company Asos has a large distribution centre with low-skilled jobs in Barnsley, but its headquarters is located [in London].”

The report said another factor explaining the regional divide was that highly productive sectors and firms made up a larger shares of jobs in cities in the greater south-east than in urban areas in other regions.

On average, cities in the region had a larger proportion of workers in sectors and firms that contributed most to national productivity – in 2015, the information and communications sector made up 7% of jobs in cities in the greater south-east, compared with just 3% in other cities. The financial services industry accounted for 6% of jobs in cities in the region compared with 4% of jobs in cities elsewhere in the country. …”

Would you trust Gove on the environment?

So, Gove has a “green plan” for Brexit.

Let’s none of us forget the state in which he left education:

A primary school teacher wrote:

“The most shocking thing about Michael Gove’s reign as education secretary was that one individual was able to change the system so much for the worse, writes this primary teacher
Dear Mr Gove,

I see that you are driving yourself back into the public eye. You came back on to my radar with your scoop of an interview with Donald Trump. I noted the grin, the twinkle in your eyes (à la Nigel Farage in a gold-plated lift) as you posed for a “thumbs up” photograph with the then president-elect. Your mutual appreciation was evident and hardly surprising, given that you appear to share many of the same ideas and core beliefs.

Firstly, Michael, you and Trump both appear to share an insatiable need to be in the public eye. How else to explain Trump’s early morning tweets? How else to explain your rapid return to the spotlight after such an ignominious debacle in the days following the Brexit referendum?

Moreover, both of you share a belief in belittling the opinions of experts, whether they be civil servants or career professionals in a specialised field. We all know Trump’s views on the “swamp” of the Washington bureaucracy and his views on environmentalism, despite the accepted wisdom of a vast majority of scientists. In recent days, you have argued that your anti-expert rhetoric during the referendum has been misconstrued. However, as long as seven years ago, you were already demonstrating, by your actions, a deeply held distrust of expert educational opinion.

As you embarked on your role as education secretary, you set out to put to one side the views of civil servants within the Department of Education, to disregard the prevailing wisdom of the teaching profession, in order to oversee an overhaul of the national curriculum. The new document proved to be, to an almost fantastical degree, the personal educational manifesto of a single individual. By dint of the fact that you had been to school, by dint of the fact that you had experienced the power of an inspirational teacher or two, and by dint of the fact that you had (to your credit) a daughter in a state primary school, you had the arrogance, Michael, to believe that you alone had the expertise to design a curriculum for all.

What followed was the publication of a curriculum that included some good ideas – who could argue with the oft-quoted aim of desiring to expose children to the “great thinkers”? However, in reality it was a massive missed opportunity to deliver a truly outstanding education system for the future. Through your fundamental misunderstanding of education, you increased (or in some cases, merely reorganised) the content of the curriculum, reducing it, in the process, to what is most easily measurable. Michael, it would have been much more innovative and powerful to refocus education on principles rather than facts. What we needed was an educational system which strove to be exceptional within a rapidly globalising world; which promoted understanding rather than recall; which used everything that we have learned from educational research to optimise children’s learning; which promoted sustainability rather than short-term performance. It took over 20 years for the original national curriculum to be modified – unfortunately, we are going to have to live with your version for a long time.

A ‘damaging’ new leadership culture
What is most shocking about your reign in education, Michael, was that one individual was able to impose his own beliefs and prejudices to such an extent, virtually unimpeded. For this, David Cameron must take the bulk of the responsibility. Your appropriating of power to deliver a personal agenda, albeit on a smaller scale, cannot fail but to remind one of somebody across the pond. We can only hope that the oft-quoted “checks and balances” of the US’ political system are more effective in curbing the excesses of Trump, than Cameron was in curbing yours.

Another damaging product of your period in education, Michael, has been a change in the culture of school leadership, which corresponds to your own style of leadership. Much has been spoken of legacies in recent weeks. Well a legacy of your period of office has been a change in culture within schools, which has been at best unhelpful and at worst downright damaging. This change is characterised by a movement away from collaborative endeavour, and a corresponding movement towards autocratic decision-making – a change which reflects the political move towards greater individualism.

One of the most powerful products of the Blair government’s education policy was the focus on collaborative endeavour. Education ministers actively sought the opinions and advice of experts in the field. This was manifested through the primary strategies which sought to collate and disseminate good practice. Basically, good practice was developed by teachers and advisers, shared between schools and modified accordingly. The culture in schools was much more inclusive; headteachers were actively encouraged, through the National College of School Leadership, to use more distributive models of leadership.

Under your leadership, Michael, the culture of leadership within the Department of Education changed, and this has filtered down into schools. Heads, for example, are now expected to be seen to “lead” on everything, especially on “teaching and learning”. Modern heads feel it incumbent on themselves to be seen to be the one making decisions, to be seen to be leading from the front. This change in emphasis may seem small but it has led to a decline in interest in headship, a lowering of teacher morale (since their voices are less valued) and a subsequent increase in the numbers taking time off for stress-related illness or, even worse, leaving the profession. Such leadership affects teachers’ lives; it affects their mental wellbeing.

Cultures of leadership matter. Perhaps Obama’s greatest legacy is the culture of his leadership – a leadership characterised by honesty, dignity, humility and grace; characterised by listening and by collaboration. The culture of your leadership in education mattered, Michael – it will take a significant time before it is replaced by a more effective one.

It is also a culture that appears to be about to be repeated in Trump’s administration. No wonder, in that photo, that the two of you look so at ease with each other – a mutual admiration society. You have much in common.

David Jones”

180 children in a class – yes: one hundred and eighty! – but it’s OK – it’s only PE

A school in England has a class with more than 180 pupils in it as Tory cuts hammer the education system.

Children across the UK are often taught in classes of 100 or more students a Freedom of Information request revealed.

The class of 181 was in a school in Sutton, South West London. It was unclear which subject was being taught, but it was possible it was PE or music.

Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, said she was appalled by the figures.

She said: “Everyone from the public accounts committee to the teaching unions has warned that Tory cuts will lead to large class sizes – and this admission is yet more evidence that they are right.”

A class in Sefton, Merseyside, had 141 pupils and one in Suffolk had 135. The figures were collected by counting the number of children in each class on a specific day in January this year.

They also showed 10 classes of 70 or more pupils and 52 classes with 50-plus students. At primary school level, there were 14 schools with more than 40 pupils in a class.

The largest primary school class was in Somerset, which had 60 pupils.

Head teachers are calling for more than £1billion extra for education and are linking rising class sizes to the £2.8billion real-terms cut since 2015.

The Department for Education said: “We have invested £5.8billion in the school estate, creating 735,000 places since 2010,

At Harrop Fold School in Salford, the head teacher, Drew Povey, said he had once taught 150 children in a class. “We have taught huge classes in the past, though infrequently, partly to save money on supply teachers.

“I honestly think we are going to see class sizes balloon in schools over the next few years because of the funding cuts.”

Labour made it illegal for schools to have more than 30 pupils in infant classes.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We have spoken to the three schools with the largest class sizes.

“These figures relate to PE lessons and choir practice where it is not uncommon for classes to be taught together.

“The schools’ pupil-to-teacher ratios remain well below the national average.

“We also expect this is the case for many of the other schools reporting larger classes in this data.

“We have invested £5.8bn in the school estate, creating 735,000 places since 2010, and despite rising pupil numbers, the average class size has not changed. In fact, less than 1% of primary school pupils are taught in classes of 36 or more, less than in 2010.”

Academy school heads – many paid £150,000-£425,000 a year

England’s highest earning academy bosses are revealed today in a Tes analysis of 121 trusts identified by the Department of Education (DfE) as paying salaries of more than £150,000.

The DfE last week named the academy trusts that paid at least one individual trustee or staff member more than £150,000 a year in 2015-16. However, it declined to name the individuals or reveal their salaries, despite saying last year that it would do so.

But Tes has used the list of trusts named by the DfE to compile a full list of the highest-paid employees, and their salaries, based on information in academy trust accounts.

Their combined salaries come to more than £21 million, with almost one in five (19 per cent) of the individuals paid at least £200,000 a year, before their pensions are taken into account.

Salaries range from at least £150,000 a year to the £420,000-£425,000 that Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, is paid.

Sir Dan’s overall package is approaching half a million pounds a year once his pension contributions of £50,000-55,000 are taken into account.

However, many of the academy bosses now earning more than the prime minister are from far smaller trusts, some of which run just one school.

Simon Barber, the principal of Carshalton Boys Sports College, who earns at least £195,000 a year, is one example. Another is Michael McKenzie, headteacher of Alexandra Park School in London, who earns at least £155,000, according to trust accounts.

The extent to which academy trusts are paying large six figure salaries comes amid mounting concern over the levels of remuneration of academy bosses.

Earlier this year national schools commissioner Sir David Carter told Tes that having “challenging conversations” about chief executive pay is a “very important” part of the work of the eight regional schools commissioners he oversees.

And in July this year Lord Adonis, who developed the academies policy under New Labour, told Tes, “If I had realised that academy principals or trust chief executives were going to be paid sums in excess of £150,000 when I was a minister then I would have intervened to stop it”.

One of the lower paying trusts is the Inspiration Trust, which had education minister Sir Theodore Agnew as its chair of trustees until September this year. The trust runs five primary schools, seven secondary schools and one sixth form in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Its chief executive, Dame Rachel de Souza, is at the bottom end of the top earners, on between £150,000 and £155,000 a year.

There has been a 70 per cent rise in the number of trusts paying at least one person in excess of £150,000 a year, with 121 academy trusts listed as doing so in 2015-16, up from 71 in 2014-15….”

“Campaigners put pressure on government to improve ‘dire’ Devon education funding at national lobby”

As yet there appears to be no similar East Devon campaign group and our two MPs simply dole out meaningless platitudes without concrete follow-up action. Swire seems more preoccupied with who to back for next PM (or maybe ex-PM!) in order to regain a foreign office ministerial post while Parish’s preoccupations remain farmers and dualling the A303.

… “Tamsin Higgs, mother-of-three from Braunton, has been leading the parent-led and non-political Fair Funding For All Schools campaign in North Devon since the beginning of this year. For more information you can visit the campaign’s Facebook page here. Tamsin has also set up a campaign group in Torrington who recently met with Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox. …

… Tamsin said she regularly meets with the central school funding campaign group in London who, alongside the National Education Union, planned the national lobby at Westminster against school funding cuts. The group decided to take part in the lobby, which attracted more than 1,000 people, to apply pressure from all constituencies on the central government to increase funding and ensure schools are not losing out. …”

Academy school group allegedly strips its assets before transfer

“Wakefield City Academies Trust now stands accused of “asset stripping” after it transferred millions of pounds of the schools’ savings to its own accounts before collapsing. On 8 September it released a statement announcing it would divest itself of its 21 schools as it could not undertake the “rapid improvement our academies need”. It said that new sponsors would be found to take them over.

… Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy, a mixed secondary school in Pontefract, had £220,000 of funds, raised by volunteers at Christmas markets and other school events, transferred to the trust’s accounts earlier this year. It also saw a further £216,000, which had been held back for capital investment, moved over. “It’s not the trust’s money. It’s our money,” said a former governor at the school, who did not want to be named. “It’s money for the people in the area, their children and their grandchildren. It wasn’t for them to take.”

Heath View primary school in Wakefield had £300,000 transferred to the trust in September 2016. Another school, Wakefield City Academy, had more than £800,000 transferred towards the end of 2015. In both cases the trust told the schools’ governors that the transfer was a loan. Wakefield City Academy even received a number of small repayments. However, since the trust’s collapse both schools have been told that it no longer acknowledges the transactions as loans.

For Wakefield City Academy, the money had been held back to provide a financial cushion for when a particularly large cohort of children – born during the early 2000s baby boom – arrive in the secondary school system. “This money was our rainy day money,” said Kevin Swift, chair of the school’s local governing body. “It wasn’t just left under the mattress. It was money that we had anticipated we would have a very definite need for.”

High Crags Academy primary school in Shipley was instructed by the DfE to join the trust in April 2016 after being put into special measures the previous year. When it joined it had a surplus of £178,000, which was immediately moved to centralised accounts….

… Parents, teachers and governors say the financial problems at the Wakefield City Academies Trust had been clear for nearly a year before it collapsed. In November 2016 a draft DfE report leaked to the Times Education Supplement stated that the trust was in an “extremely vulnerable position as a result of inadequate governance, leadership and overall financial management”.

The draft raised concerns that the chief executive, Mike Ramsay, had been paid more than £82,000 for 15 weeks’ work, despite the fact that the trust was facing a large budget deficit. The DfE has so far refused freedom of information requests to see the final report.

The previous month, it had emerged that the trust had paid almost £440,000 to IT and clerking companies owned by Ramsay and his daughter. In a statement at the time, the trust said internal vetting procedures had found that the contracts represented the best value.

Although serious questions have been raised about financial managment, there is no suggestion of fraudulent activity….

While a spokesman for the Wakefield City Academies Trust declined to comment, the DfE said a failing academy trust could never profit from the transfer of its schools to new sponsors. A spokesman said: “We are working with the trust to ensure that there is minimal disruption for pupils.

“We are also working with the preferred trusts and schools to ensure they have the right support and resources they need to improve the outcomes for pupils as quickly as possible, which will include the necessary pupil funding.” … “