21 Sep

Coasting Schools:  How does this term apply to Special Schools?

The Government has recently introduced the term Coasting schools (Queens Speech, June 2015) saying that they want ‘’to shine a light on complacency’.  They talk of an ‘intolerance of underperformance’.  Nicky Morgan (Secretary of state for Education) described this as being all about developing ‘the quality of teaching’ in our schools.  She goes on to say that it is about ‘stretching every pupil to unlock their potential and give them the opportunity to get on in life’.

Very obviously the criteria will be of interest.  Once identified, the school will need to form a clear improvement action plan, which will be presented to the Regional Schools Commissioner.  For mainstream primary schools the criteria is based on attainment data over a three year period in Reading, Writing and Maths.  For secondary schools the criteria relates to the percentage of pupils’ achievement in English and Maths.

The Government is clearly interested to be as rigorous with the Special schools, but are concerned to ensure that they apply a set of criteria that is meaningful for this context.

Issues:

  1. Do we support the notion of the same rigor being applied to special schools?
  2. Measuring the progress of our population, as we know, is not simple. Applying an equivalent progress criteria, may not identify those schools the Government wishes to focus on. In short this measurement is too ‘blunt’.
  3. The nature and extent of the progress made by pupils in our schools varies. Is it possible to apply a criteria based on attainment in a prescribed set of subjects?
  4. Should we be looking for criteria that addresses the issue of the ‘quality of teaching’ more directly, rather than by using attainment data as an indicator?
  5. Should the criteria be extended to other factors:
  • Evidence of being outward facing
  • Extent of staff training
  • Quality of leadership and management / quality of strategic planning.
  1. Who would make the judgement? Could peer-to-peer review ever become this robust?  If not, why not, or should we be reliant on external judgements (e.g. OFSTED).  Is there a role of NLEs, LLEs or SLEs?
  2. Are there any wider implications of this general policy, for example on a mainstream school’s commitment to be inclusive?
  3. The DfE is clearly interested to listen to the views of practitioners.  We need to frame our suggestions in a positive and constructive way so that they are not only listened to, but  influence  emerging policy.

Your views are very important.