Coasting schools to get improvement notices under new legislation

Coasting schools will be handed notices to improve under plans due to be unveiled in the government’s new education and adoption bill today.

The Department for Education has announced that under the new legislation, which it claims will “transform” up to 1,000 failing schools, schools considered to be coasting will be told to improve even if they haven’t yet been warned about their progress by Ofsted.

The government also said the bill, due to be tabled in Parliament today, will “sweep away bureaucratic and legal loopholes” and prevent campaigners from “delaying or overruling” the academisation process.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said the “landmark” bill would allow the best education experts to intervene in schools “from the first day we spot failure”, adding: “It will sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children.”

Responding to the bill, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt departed from the tradition during the election campaign and claimed credit for the academies programme on behalf of the Labour Party, claiming it was established to challenge low aspirations.

Tristram Hunt
Tristram Hunt

But he added that measures in the bill “do not meet the challenges we face in education, such as preventing educational inequality setting in during the early years and ensuring high-quality teachers are attracted into poorly-performing areas”.

Teaching unions have also attacked the plans, with NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby questioning the government’s rhetoric over “campaigners” and “experts”.

He said: ““Parents who have campaigned against the opaque and centralised process of academisation will be dismayed to see themselves dismissed as obstacles to be eliminated.

“To suggest some distinction between ‘education experts’ and campaigners against academisation is wrong – especially when the evidence for the performance of academies is so weak. There are as many education experts that remain sceptical about academisation as there are who are supportive.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers cited findings of the education select committee, which said it was “too early to say” if academies were a positive force for change.

Dr Mary Bousted
Dr Mary Bousted

She added: “Academy sponsors are not the sole source of education expertise that the government would want us all to believe.”

But Jonathan Simons, head of education at right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange, said the move to increase the number of academies was “a positive one”.

He said: “Academies – particularly chains – offer the potential for strengthening quality of leadership and teaching which is what children in such schools often need.

“But the Government should be equally tough on underperforming academies and academy chains – not being afraid to take schools away from poorly performing sponsors, and allowing schools the right to instigate their own moves between chains.”

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  1. Should the headline be “Academies at all cost”? There must be some very strong beliefs in the ideology of academisation if the evidence is not there to support them. I look forward to hearing what defines a “coasting school”, probably one that needs to be an academy at all costs.

  2. Janet Downs

    Two articles on the Local School Network debunk Morgan’s confident assertion that academy conversion is a medicine which works 100% of the time. It doesn’t. See ‘An education policy based on ideology not evidence’ by Henry Stewart and my ‘DfE continues to hype academy success as new Education Bill hits the Commons’.

    (Can’t provide links because my comment might be labelled as spam).

  3. Janet Downs

    Of course Jonathan Simons welcomes more academies – it was Policy Exchange which co-authored ‘Blocking the Best’ with the New Schools Network before the 2010 election. This advocated for-profit schools. Michael Gove welcomed the publication of the report and said at its launch he would let groups like Serco run schools.

    Policy Exchange said it was already possible for schools in England to be run by for-profit providers. All that was needed was for schools to be made ‘independent’ and then they could outsource their operation to a for-profit company. Academies are technically ‘independent’ schools funded by the state.

  4. Why not just be honest and transfer all schools into a charitable trust and out of LEA control. At least then the fear of meeting the requirements of not coasting, for which we have no definition of, would be removed. There is a reason why half of schools haven’t transferred and that is most of us cannot see the point. This is just another ‘gun-to-the-head’ announcement, with no actual practical suggestions as to how it can be done.
    1. Where are all the ‘spare’ Headteachers that can swoop into ‘poor performing’ schools?
    2. Headteachers alone won’t be able to change a school, so where are all the spare ‘great’ teachers that can join them?
    3. While those Headteachers and teachers are working with those schools who is leading and teaching in the schools that they have left?
    4. Where is the funding to create this amount of capacity in the current system?
    5. With 8,000 headteachers retiring in the next 10 years where are those replacements coming from?
    6. With 2014 GCSE results not being comparable to 2013 how can you judge coasting in a secondary school, because by definition it must be over time?

    I could go on…