Just half of secondary teachers tell parents about action on ‘falling behind’ pupils

Informing families about interventions for pupils behind in English and maths is a key strand of the DfE's new 'parent pledge'

Informing families about interventions for pupils behind in English and maths is a key strand of the DfE's new 'parent pledge'

30 Mar 2022, 14:19

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Only around half of English and maths teachers say their schools inform parents about interventions to stop their children falling behind – a key element of the new “parent pledge” outlined in this week’s white paper.

The Department for Education said this week that “any child that falls behind” in English and maths should receive “timely and evidence-based support to enable them to reach their full potential”.

The government also pledged that schools would communicate this work to parents, but also warned against “over-testing children” or “labelling them as ‘behind’”. 

The pledge was dismissed as a “gimmick” in some quarters, with many people saying schools already did what the government has promised. 

A Teacher Tapp survey found 76 per cent of secondary English teachers and 66 per cent of maths teachers said their school provided specific interventions for pupils with low attainment in their subjects.

But a smaller proportion – 54 per cent of English teachers and 48 per cent of maths teachers – said they told parents about these interventions.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), warned earlier this week that the “parent pledge seems like a policy gimmick designed to grab headlines”. 

“In reality, any child who falls behind in English and maths will already receive timely and evidence-led support and this is already communicated to parents via existing channels such as parents’ evenings.”

Private schools less likely to intervene

Teacher Tapp surveyed just over 6,400 teachers, around 1,700 of whom teach English or maths.

It found private schools teachers were less likely than state schools to report their school having specific interventions to raise attainment in English and maths (64 per cent vs 79 per cent), and also less likely to tell parents (53 per cent vs 62 per cent).

Primary schools were also more likely than secondary schools to provide interventions (88 per cent vs 67 per cent) and tell parents about them (72 per cent vs 49 per cent).

While most teachers don’t think it will be an effective policy, not many are against it.

Among all teachers, not just English and maths, 70 per cent said the policy would not be effective, but 21 per cent opposed it.

The white paper stated the parent pledge should not “lead to schools over-testing children, labelling them as “behind”, or “withdrawing them from a rounded school experience in order to focus on English and maths”.

When asked for clarification on the “labelling” guidance, a government source said this meant not labelling pupils in class, such as in seating plans, rather than avoiding the word with parents.

Guidance will be published on identifying such children, but it will leave scope for schools to reflect their own curriculum. The white paper says decisions should be based on “reliable assessment”.

Ambitions don’t mean school-level accountability

The schools white paper outlined two “ambitions” for the sector. 

The first, already set under the levelling up white paper, is for 90 per cent of children leaving primary school to attain the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030.

This figure currently stands at 65 per cent. 

It also set out the goal to increase the national GCSE average grade in both English and maths from 4.5 in 2019, to 5 by 2030. 

The government has clarified that these ambitions “do not introduce any additional school-level accountability measures”. Ofsted already looks at measures to address underperformance in English and maths under its inspection framework, the DfE said.

The white paper also promised “further guidance on targeted support and the use of effective assessment in due course”.

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