Under new plans to try and improve schools across England, the first education bill of the new Parliament promises to create hundreds of academies and free schools, with plans to replace head teachers at schools that are considered ‘coasting’.
Any school not performing to the levels deemed acceptable by the Education Secretary are to be put on immediate notice to improve. If placed on this notice schools will face having their leadership replaced by a specialist team chosen by Nicky Morgan and her colleagues and converted into academies unless they can produce a clear improvement plan. This bill will tie in with David Cameron election vow to fight against ‘mediocrity’, stating that any school not rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by the inspectorate would ‘have to change or face the consequences’.
This bill comes in the wake of Nicky Morgan promising that one of her primary priorities “is to speed up the process for tackling failing schools”, as currently there are 3,300 schools across England that “require improvement”. But what defines a ‘coasting school’? When asked to define this Nicky Morgan didn’t have a definitive answer but did state that “just good isn’t good enough” and that “it’s not ok to be just above failing”. But is changing leadership for ‘coasting schools’ the answer? Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders), has responded saying that forcing a school into change and becoming an academy is unlikely to provide a quick solution to an often complex issue, nor is changing the leadership going to mean instant success.
But hasn’t this all been done before?
Back in 2007 the BBC reported that “Hundreds of schools in England which are considered to be ‘coasting’ are facing a government crackdown.” And again in 1999 an extremely similar story “The school standards watchdog in England is to crack down on ‘coasting’ schools“. It’s also worth noting that at the same time in 1999 Ofsted were just announcing that they were reducing the amount of inspection notice schools would receive from two terms warning to six to ten working weeks. It’s now less than one day’s notice. The real question is 16 years later why are schools still “coasting”?
One of the main questions that also needs answering is, who does this specialist leadership team consist of? Heads’ leaders are all aso asking where are all these ‘armies of superstar replacement heads waiting to be “parachuted” into schools’ when there is such a huge leadership shortage.
As we reported in our blog at the beginning of May recent research carried out by the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) showed that over 60% of school leaders struggled to recruit teachers for leadership roles and over a quarter of senior positions advertised in the UK were not filled due to a recruitment crisis in this area. Statistics have shown that 50% of head teachers are set to retire in the next 10 years, with 25% of these looking to retire within the next year. Also, with 67% of deputy head teachers showing no ambition to move further up the ladder. So who are these ‘teams’ going to be taking over these ‘coasting schools’?
Do you think this plan for schools across England will work? Is it just the same old thing time and time again? Are academies the future? What do you think? Have your say…