1) 21st century schools white paper summary
The new education white paper, entitled 'Your child, Your schools, our future: building a 21st century schools system
', is the first education white paper since 2005. The white paper builds on the key aim of the Children’s Plan to make England best place in the world to grow up, and it aims to ensure that every child enjoys their childhood, achieves highly and gains the knowledge, skills and qualifications that will give them the best chance of success in adult life.
The white paper focuses on five broad areas:
- ensuring excellent teaching and securing extra help for each child
- driving partnership working to ensure the system delivers for children
- improving every school, with strong accountability and rapid intervention
- supporting every school, through appropriate roles for local and central government
- developing a well-led, highly-skilled workforce.
There is a strong emphasis, across several of these broad themes, upon CPD as both an entitlement for, and an expectation, of teachers. Teaching is set to become a Masters-level profession, with every teacher expected to continue their professional development throughout their teaching career. A proposed ‘licence to teach’ will mean that every teacher will be expected to undertake professional development as part of periodically renewing their licence. Furthermore, there are proposals in the white paper which strengthen the expectation that schools will increasingly be able to personalise the education that they offer to their pupils. Finally, as we indicate below, there are several key proposals in the white paper which strengthen the expectation and the opportunities for schools to take charge of their own affairs within local networks dedicated to raising standards. We're looking here at a landscape that builds upon key trends that have emerged and evolved independently in recent years: trends towards greater development and professionalisation of teaching, trends towards personalisation of delivery and trends towards a much more collaborative and self-sustaining school system.
2) Supporting a self-sustaining system?
How do you support an education system that's getting better at supporting itself? There is clear evidence on all sides of the increasing confidence of the system to take care of its own business. In a recent TDA / Guardian roundtable discussion about CPD, there was a resounding consensus amongst participants that some of the most effective CPD occurs when clusters of schools work together to share and improve practice . Indeed, this model of the local cluster becoming the 'unit' for organising the delivery of formal professional develpment is currently being piloted by NCSL for a new middle leadership programme. Similarly, the TeachMeet phenomenon
, where unaffiliated groups of motivated teachers self-organise to create events where the participants shape the agenda and share stories of their practice amongst themselves, appears to have grown exponentially over the last year.
Does this trend leave traditional suppliers to the education market out in the cold? Not necessarily. What it may require, however, is a mindshift from 'selling to' schools, to 'working with' schools. Organisations that explore and can find ways of working in partnership with an increasingly confident system can create real opportunities themselves. Perhaps this is a shift from selling product to supporting process. Ways of working in clusters are there to be modelled and facilitated. Networks of schools will always appreciate the perspectives of mentors or facilitators or critical friends. Clusters of schools will want tools and processes with which to publish and share practice and continue learning conversations between face-to-face events. The traditional training organisation which 'delivers' CPD may be reaching its sell-by date, but the wise participant within networks of learning will continue to have a role.3) A new era of localism? The new White Paper gives Heads more spending power and encourages local networks
One of the core themes of the new 21st century schools white paper
is a stripping away of centralised prescription of how literacy and numeracy are to be taught and how standards are to be improved. Rather, headteachers are to be given more power to make their own decisions about these matters and funding will be directed to schools to form local networks of school-to-school support to help improve standards.
This "new era of localism" is further evidence of an increasingly self-sustaining system, discussed above. But it is a system that will have an enhanced desire for stimulation and support about a breadth of ways to teach literacy and numeracy. Moreover, the roles and spending powers granted to schools by the white paper also create opportunities for schools or networks to consider themselves as suppliers to, or partners with, other schools and networks, both locally or nationally. The organisations that can find ways of working with schools to make a success of their local networks in the first instance and then to amplify and publish and support the exchange of their knowledge and practice, may find real oppotunities in this radically revised landscape.4) Transition times
It's that time of year when teachers, parents and school leaders have been turning their attention to supporting children to make the transition from their current class or location to a brand new learning environment on the other side of the Summer holidays. How the system manages transition, particularly from primary to secondary schools, has received considerable attention of late. Both the Rose Review
and the report of the Government’s Expert Group on Assessment
made explicit recommendations about how to smooth the transition of 11-year-olds to secondary schools.
The attention being given to transition is rooted in a concern to narrow the gap between those children who do achieve and those who do not. In his recent speech to NCSL's Annual Leadership Conference
in June, Professor Tim Brighouse cited research from the US which showed that in July and August the gap between those who achieve and those who do not widens
, whereas it is a gap that stays static in the months when children are in school. So therefore, he argued, let's get that transition right. Brighouse asked: why couldn't every secondary have a week in July when they take in their next intake from primary?
It does feel like we are in a time when creative thinking about supporting transition between school years and phases will be rewarded. Where are the online tools, the games, or even multi-player games, that children can access and learn with in those crucial Summer months? Where are the schools using text messaging to maintain contact and conversation with parents and children about their learning over that period? Where are the courses and the case studies about schools and systems that are doing this well?5) Children as 'digital natives'? Don't believe the hype
A new report from Australia, about the skills and knowledge of the so-called Net Generation of young people as they enter Australian universities, supplies some insights that have real relevance for educators at all levels. Entitled Educating the Net Generation - A Handbook of Findings for Practice and Policy, 2009
[6 MB PDF], the report "took a critical approach to this issue – moving beyond opinion, rhetoric and anecdote – and sought to contribute to the emerging evidence-base in this area".
Rather than accepting the stereotype of the 'digital native' who is somehow hard wired by their familiarity with digital technologies to make best use of them in their learning, the report found that for both students and teachers, "Innovation with learning technologies typically requires the development of new learning and teaching and technology-based skills, which is effortful
for both students and staff".
The report, and its informative project web site
, make very clear that we are not on the cusp of some wholescale transformation of ways of learning on account of young people's familiarity with a limited range of mainly web-based digital technologes. Rather, a key message from the report, which should resonate across all sectors of the system, is that there is a real demand for support and knowledge to help both teachers and learners to exploit the considerable opportunities that new digital technologies offer to improve student learning processes, outcomes, and assessment practices.