School Governing : policy, politics and practices

School governance FC

 

What impact have the unprecedented and rapid changes to the structure of education in England had on
school governors and policy makers? And what effect has the intensifying media and regulatory focus had
on the volunteers who take on the job?

Jacqueline Baxter takes the 2014 ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal, in which it was alleged that governors at 25 Birmingham schools were involved in the ‘Islamisation’ of secular state schools, as a focus point to examine the pressures and challenges in the current system. Informed by her twenty years’ experience as a school governor, she considers both media analysis and policy as well as the implications for the future of a
democratic system of education in England.

“Brings new insight into how and why governors are
positioned within society and how shifting attitudes to the
purpose of school have shaped the future of governance.”

Ian
Usher, ModernGovernor.com

“Expertly explores the key issues surrounding modern school governance. A stimulating and informative
read for anyone interested in school governance and leadership.”

Ellie Cotgrave, National Governors’
Association
March 2016

“A succinct, and fascinating, document on the many
challenges we have faced as ‘Hidden Givers’ over the last
few years.”

Jane Owens, National Leader of Governance,
Wirral

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Pupils at academy chains being failed by inspection loophole

The Conversation

By Jacqueline Baxter, The Open University

Recent inspections of schools run by academy chains have shown many of these schools to be failing. Yet Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, is still not allowed to regulate the very organisations that are responsible for this.

In a recent sitting of the Education Committee’s inquiry into academies and free schools, its chair, the Conservative MP Graham Stuart, detailed the long list of academy chain failures now occurring with increasing regularity.

Ofsted have said that AET [Academies Enterprise Trust] has low expectations and are leaving schools to founder; that E-ACT provides poor-quality teaching intervention and support and that an overwhelming proportion of pupils in the Kemnal Academy Trust are not receiving a good education.

Since 2012, Ofsted has intensified its focus on the inspection of school governance, insisting that it is integral to the leadership and management function of schools. In spite of this – and the concomitant furore surrounding the state of school governance in the wake of the Trojan Horse extremism affair in Birmingham – the inspectorate still has its hands tied when it comes to inspecting academy chains.

As part of its brief, Ofsted is allowed to inspect individual schools within academy chains but not the trusts that run them. Yet in many cases it is precisely these trusts and their sponsors that are failing the very schools they purport to support.

One area that has proved to be particularly problematic from a regulatory perspective is the lack of effective scrutiny in terms of conflicts of interest within academy chains. This is an area highlighted in a new report by the Institute of Education’s Toby Greany and Jean Scott.

They found that the mechanisms to identify and address conflicts of interest in academy chains are almost non-existent. They outlined a number weaknesses in the system, including that some trust boards are not adhering to national guidance or doing enough to mitigate the risks associated with conflict of interest. They also point out that the skills and capacity of bodies charged with auditing trusts may be weak or insufficient to “get under the skin” of what is going on.

Immune to public scrutiny

It was only a short time ago that the head of Ofsted, Michael Wilshaw called for more stringent inspection of Local Education Authorities following a spate of high-profile school failures of several schools within the same authority. The authorities concerned have been named and shamed for the dereliction of their duties.

Yet organisations at the helm of some of the biggest school chains in the country appear to be accountable to no one. As David Wolfe of law firm Matrix Chambers highlighted during the recent inquiry:

The power is concentrated with the trust and no longer really with local governing bodies unless it is delegated down and then the trusts are not under any great scrutiny. They are not subject to direct observation from Ofsted and they are not subject to the kind of public pressures that come from democratic accountability or a wider public transparency.

Such issues of accountability around chains of schools which expand too quickly are a common feature of the US Charter school system, a system that in many ways mirrors the reform intentions of the academies project. In states in which there are high levels of regulatory accountability such as Massachusetts, charter schools appear to do well, outperforming regular district schools on a number of criteria.

But uncontrolled expansion of charter schools and lack of concomitant accountability has given rise to a number of cases in which schools have been shut down and had their licences revoked.

Governance loophole

Research into school federations in the UK is beginning to unpick the new governance structures that are appearing. Although in its early stages, researchers have stressed the importance of retaining coherence in these multi-level governance structures that mirror so many in the wider not-for-profit sector.

It took some time for Ofsted to bring school leadership and governance into a single judgement, following a long period during which they were considered entirely separately in regulatory terms. Now this is in place, it would make perfect sense to apply it it to academy chains, yet their sponsors and trusts have been conveniently permitted to slip through the net.

This lack of accountability has caused a number of issues. It makes it almost impossible to be able to pinpoint why one or a number of schools in a chain are not performing well.

It also makes it difficult to see how multi-level governance is actually functioning if inspectors are only able to see part of the picture and not the whole. Inspectors look only at individual schools and their performance in isolation, rather than the chain as a whole. It is also almost impossible to evaluate how the strategic direction of the chain is operating through individual schools and evaluate to what extent those schools are working with and through that strategy.

Rudderless in the face of weak leadership

A lack of cohesion in accountability also makes it difficult to see how the goings-on at individual schools relate to overarching principles within the trust. This includes how pupil premium money is spent on children who qualify for it, or the direction of standards for teaching and learning. As trusts continue to grow, it becomes even more pressing to ensure governing trusts are accountable in financial and operational terms.

As researchers in the US point out, the challenges of retaining quality during periods of intensive growth are substantial. It’s not difficult to see how schools in academy chains can be left rudderless and lacking strategic and operational direction and prey to conflicts of interest.

It appears to be somewhat paradoxical that we pay £143m for an inspection system that is prevented from inspecting some of the key organisations behind so many schools in England, particularly in light of the type of failures that have come to light recently. According to the Department for Education, there are currently 1,226 open sponsored academies in the 2014-15 academic year.

Unless these failures are investigated in a holistic way that departs substantially from the fractured and dislocated manner of current regulatory practice, then it is difficult to see how errors can be pinpointed and addressed in the future.

The Conversation

Jacqueline Baxter does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Teaching toddlers British Values

Teaching British values to toddlers will be tough to enforce

 

from The Conversation 

The Conversation

speaking volumes

By Jacqueline Baxter, The Open University

The recent announcement by the new secretary of state for education Nicky Morgan that toddlers must be taught British values is the latest in a chain of events precipitated by the Trojan Horse affair over extremism at some schools in Birmingham.

But awareness of equality and diversity issues has been central to early years education for years now. Many early years teachers already underpin their teaching with these values –values that will now be tagged as “officially British”. The big question is how Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, will interpret and police the way these values are taught to toddlers.

Following on from recent changes to the School Inspection Handbook – largely instigated following the Trojan Horse affair – the government has launched a consultation into changes to the school and early years finance regulations. Crucially, this proposes that funding be withdrawn from providers that do not “actively promote fundamental British values”.

Going over old ground?

But experts argue that the definition of these values – learning right from wrong, to take turns and sharing – are values that have been fundamental to early years provision for a considerable amount of time. This position was emphasised by Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance in a recent interview on the proposed changes.

This view is also supported by Sue Griffin, former national training manager for the National Childminding Association and author of Inclusion, Equality and Diversity in working with children. She told me, “Early years settings have a lot to teach the education sector and right wing politicians about addressing inclusion, equality and diversity, since practitioners with our youngest children have been exploring these issues for decades.”

She went on to emphasise the need for practitioners “to keep their nerve and carry on in the confidence that they are thinking seriously about practical ways of helping children to develop unprejudiced views and learn to respect and value one another, whatever their differences in ethnicity, culture, family background.”

What are British values?

There is little dispute around the actual values being advocated by government, but the insertion of the word British and its apparent annexation of these values is, for many, deeply disturbing.

The term British on its own is difficult to define. There is no single definition of what it means to be British as historian Paul Ward points out in his book on Britishness since 1870. He highlights the fact that Britishness is not innate, static or permanent and has been mediated by many identities, not least race, colour, gender and class.

If we can’t define British, then British values are even more nebulous to pin down as educationalist Gus John describes:

David Cameron and people like me see the world through different eyes. We see our combined history through different lenses and therefore I have a take on the legacy of Empire and what Britain should have been doing about these last 50 years that differs fundamentally from that of Mr Cameron and the roots of his ‘British values’.

It seems bewildering to some professionals in this area that the government should seek to make such a provocative statement about British values. Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years said that the existing early years curriculum “already requires nurseries and child-minders to develop key skills such as teaching children to take turns and challenge negative attitudes”.

She goes on to say that Ofsted already has the power to judge values under the Early Years Foundation Stage and can already, “tackle concerns by judging a setting as requiring improvement”. Bayram calls the innovation “a big reaction to an issue that may not even be there, and that could be tackled by the inspection framework that is already in place”.

Creating policy on this matter is one thing but it is quite another when it comes down to putting it into operation. Asking inspectors to define what a British value is and what is not will add a very tricky element to their training. This is already overloaded with the numerous requirements demanded of practising inspectors, not only in the act of inspection itself but equally in post-inspection reporting to the public. They will need to explain exactly how they came to their judgements on this issue.

The guidance contained in the School Inspection Handbook comes into force this September. It remains to be seen how Ofsted will deal with this latest turn in the complex business of regulating English education, and the early years sector will no doubt look on with interest.

The ConversationJacqueline Baxter does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Changing knowledges; changing frameworks: challenges for inspection as a governing tool, in England, Scotland and Sweden

Challenges

 

Click on the link to see the programme. 

During this seminar I shall be talking about the ways in which inspection frameworks and what counts as knowledge within them, shift and change according to political, technical, institutional and social changes in the societies in which they are placed. 

The changing face of school inspections; theories and practices

 

The symposium will centre stage a number of high profile studies on different inspection models across Europe, and help us learn about the mechanisms of impact of these models.

This symposium will present for discussion the major findings of a large comparative EU-study from a wide range of European countries. In particular, the role of key inspection methodologies which positively impact on schools will be considered. In addition the symposium will include inputs from important stakeholders working in the inspection field across Europe (e.g. the Standing International Conference on Inspectorates of Education, SICI), bringing together researchers and practitioners to exchange research evidence and identify good practice.

The Symposium will focus on the following themes:

  • Models for analysing the impact and effectiveness of school inspection
  • Emerging trends, policies and procedures in European Inspection
  • Key inspection methodologies which are effective in driving change

 

Picture1

  • The role of school self evaluation in the inspection processes
  • The danger of unintended, negative consequences of inspection
  • The impact of national context on the development of inspection policies

 

 

Ofsted’s future at stake after Trojan Horse scandal

 

profile picture the convers (1 of 1)

 

See the full article by clicking the link below :

 

 

https://theconversation.com/ofsteds-future-at-stake-after-trojan-horse-scandal-25936

School Inspection

Find below, the link to the presentation
Wednesday, 21 May 2014, 10:30 – 17:00

https://www.open.ac.uk/ccig/events/governing-by-inspection-insights-from-international-studies

An event that examined school inspections across Europe

School inspection is employed in a number of countries as a means by which to govern increasingly complex education systems. Despite a tenuous link between inspection and school improvement, it remains a key driver in the shaping and implementation of education policy, as well as taking a central role in the politics of educational change.

This seminar drew on three national and international research projects in order to examine perspectives on school inspection in Europe. The first project: Governing by Inspection investigates inspection as a governing practice in England, Scotland and Sweden; the second, explores the relationship between school improvement and inspection in  six countries, and the third investigates accountabilities in inspection. You will find the slides and recording of the talks on the link above

10:00-10:30  Registration and coffee

10:30-10:40  Welcome and introductions-Dr Jacqueline Baxter- Convenor

10:30-11:15  Dr Melanie Ehren – The Institute of Education: The Impact of School Inspections on Improvement of Schools

11:15-12:30  Professor John Clarke – The Open University UK: The Uncertainty Principle: governing schooling through inspection.

12:30-13:15  Lunch

13:15-14:00  Dr Andrew Wilkins – The University of Roehampton: The Shadow of Inspection: School Governance, Accountability and Governing Practices

14:00-14:15  Coffee

14:15-15:00  Dr Jacqueline Baxter – The Open University UK: Working knowledge: shifting criteria in inspection

15:00-15:15  Summary and Close

 

Lesson Observations and teaching style: counting caterpillar legs or producing butterflies.

Image

Lesson Observations and teaching style: counting caterpillar legs or producing butterflies.

The recent publicity and debate surrounding Ofsted inspections and lesson observations is an interesting one: not least in terms of the function of inspection. The 2012 Inspection Framework does put a great emphasis on teaching and learning; and rightly so. It also structures inspections in such a way that inspectors may have to fit observation of 50 lessons or more into just a two day period during which time inspectors are also expected to explore teachers’ professional development plans.

During the course of the ESRC inspection project : Governing by inspection http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/governing-by-inspection/ the three research teams based in Sweden, Scotland and England, interviewed a considerable number of inspectors and engaged them in discussions about their work: the challenges it brings and their own expectations of the role, whilst investigating inspection as a means by which to govern complex education systems (Ozga, Baxter, Clarke, Grek, & Lawn, 2013). The research revealed a number of challenges inherent within lesson observation as part of the inspection process; not least of these was the communicative challenge of conveying inspection outcomes to schools: in both written and oral form.

In England the changes made by the 2012 inspection regime, on the surface, appear to be something of a return to the HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate) form of inspection, with an emphasis on development and on teaching and learning as core to the inspection process. But we are not living in the period 1945-1984, a period when, as Stuart Maclure pointed out,

‘The Inspectorate was not like the rest of the Ministry. It was not neat and tidy. HMI’s were a disparate group of talented individuals. For much of their time they acted as such, dependent on their own professional initiative and controlling their own time. (Maclure, 2000:105)

But even then, resting on individuals’ professional judgement was far from unproblematic, as John Dunford describes in the case of Madeley Court in Shropshire, in which the criteria for judgement by HMI in school inspection were different from the philosophical basis on which a school was being run (Dunford, 1998:111): a pressing issue for the current inspectorate given the number of free and academy schools within the current system.

The post 1992 inspectorate Ofsted, was deliberately designed to be a very different beast from its predecessor. Founded on the principles of John Major’s Citizen Charter which advocated amongst other things, transparency of practice in the public services; the agency developed a series of criteria inspection frameworks from 1992-2009 which meticulously detailed 29 criteria on which schools were to be judged. This was accompanied by voluminous sets of handbooks designed to be read by both inspectors and school staff, and aimed again at opening up not only the secret garden of education to public scrutiny, but the equally secret garden of inspection. (Maw, 1995). The initial frameworks never appeared to set out to define good and bad teaching styles, but over a twenty year period they began to take on a life of their own. To understand how this came about it helps to understand the way in which Ofsted was and is structured.

When the agency was first developed many of the HMI that had been employed full time, were made redundant. The shortfall in HMI and the far more regulatory nature of the new inspectorate gave rise to an organisation whose day to day operation was run by numerous sub-contractors. In the early days this amounted to well over a hundred tiny agencies that were contracted to perform inspection (Baxter & Clarke, 2013). It is not difficult to imagine how difficult it must have been to attain consistency of practice across such a devolved system. In 2009 the contracts were streamlined and awarded to three main contractors: Serco, Tribal and CFBt. (Ofsted, 2009). To a certain extent this did streamline operations but meanwhile, due to the 2005 Education Act which implemented a multi -agency approach advocated in the Every Child Matters paper,(DFE, 2003), the agency was tasked with integrated inspection which added the inspection of all children’s services 0-18 and, following the inception of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 the inception of a new agency on the 1st April 2007. The new agency brought together: the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI); the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI); Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration.

The considerably extended remit of the new agency rendered it more powerful than ever; rendering it an  inspectorate of both national and international renown: a study carried out early in 2011 revealed that 45% of the UK population had heard of the agency (Baxter, 2014). But as the agency broadened, so did the vast industry that had developed around it, offering everything from; how teach the Ofsted way, to a full package of consultancy for schools on, for example, how to present your school in such a way as to gain a higher grade at inspection. Added to this, many local authorities and consultancies offering training either post or pre inspection, had developed checklists instructing teachers (and heads) how to get a 1 in teaching observations.

The 2012 Framework not only reduced the amount of judgements but has also brought back the idea of professional judgement, creating a superficially simple framework that in many ways, occludes the super complexity of the job it is tasked with: judging schools that are in many cases autonomous and lack post inspection LEA support in cases in which they are judged to be failing; schools that form part of complex academy chains or federations or schools or schools that have for example recently been taken over by chains with little knowledge of local contexts.

The first key challenge inherent within the observation of teaching and learning is as our study revealed, to be found in the communicative elements of the inspectors’ work. The inspection criteria may well state judgements must not be made on the basis of particular teaching styles, but in a system which relies upon the extensive experience of inspectors, many of whom are in service head teachers, it is highly likely that individuals will base their judgements upon what in their considerable experience tells them is good teaching,this in combination with  information that permits them to gain an impression of how successful that teaching has been over time. This may well be a good basis upon which to proceed, but it is one thing to judge a lesson and yet another to be able to articulate that judgement in a way that whilst not judging teaching styles, does involve making a judgement on the teaching. The communicative element of the work of inspectors has been recognised by those tasked with their training, and is indeed the focus of a great deal of intensive work on the part of both Ofsted and its contracted agencies (see for details Baxter & Hult, 2013), but nevertheless, the communicative challenges inherent within the inspector role remain considerable.

The second key challenge for inspectors is located within the history and culture of the organisation itself : inspectors do not go into schools with a ‘clean slate’ they carry with them the baggage of an organisation that has evolved against the political, historical, economic and social background of the country in which it is placed. The teaching profession has a long memory and although Ofsted may have said Farewell to the Tick box inspector;  the minds of many teachers he lingers on; producing the type of misunderstandings, myths and confusion around inspection that have never really never gone away. These were particularly well summed up some thirty years previously, in the words of Ann Jones, then head of a very successful school in Hounslow, who describes here her experiences of inspection in 1984 under the then HMI:

In the HMI inspection of my school in 1984 by a team of 29 delightful intelligent inspectors, I was constantly caught in a tension between the traditional and the transitional. There was a sense in which they seemed to be counting caterpillar legs, whereas we were trying to produce something quite different, namely, butterflies. Furthermore, they caught us at the chrysalis stage when it was rather difficult to judge what would come out at the other end. We found ourselves backtracking to produce evidence of caterpillar legs. However, in my view, our caterpillar legs were not very convincing because we were in the process of giving them up and moving on to a new way of working. So there was this built in tension between what we were trying to do, what we thought we were expected to have done and what we were doing.

 I expect this is a common dilemma for schools (Jones, 1987:203)

It may be that although teaching styles themselves are not being judged, that during the communication of the basis upon which the inspector judges lessons, it appears that in praising certain elements of the lesson whilst questioning others, that inspectors are almost certain to favour elements that are core to certain teaching styles and not others. Overcoming this communicative element whilst creating a convincing narrative that is shared by teachers and that, in addition, may be considered to be developmental is perhaps where the real challenge lies.

References

Baxter, J. (2014). An independent inspectorate? Addressing the paradoxes of educational inspection in 2013. School Leadership and Management http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/tY4sKEuNn6NBQAggrGkM/full.

Baxter, J., & Clarke, J. (2013). Farewell to the Tickbox Inspector ?Ofsted and the changing regime of school inspection in England. Oxford Review of Education 39(5), 702-718.

Baxter, J., & Hult, A. (2013). Professional training for professional inspection: contrasting inspector role, professionalism and development in England and Sweden Paper presented at the ECER Conference : Creativity and Innovation in Educational research Istanbul, Turkey.

DFE. (2003). Every child matters  Retrieved 121213, 2013, from https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/downloadableDocs/EveryChildMatters.pdf

Dunford, J. E. (1998). Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Schools Since 1944. London: Woburn Press

Jones, A. (1987). Leadership for tomorrow’s Schools Oxford: Blackwell.

Maclure, S. (2000). The Inspectors’ Calling Oxford: Hodder and Stoughton.

Maw, J. (1995). The Handbook for the Inspection of Schools: a critique. Cambridge Journal of Education, 25(1), 75-87.

Ofsted. (2009). Press Release: New inspection contracts signed, Ofsted Retrieved from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/news/new-inspection-contracts-signed

Ozga, J., Baxter, J., Clarke, J., Grek, S., & Lawn, M. (2013). The Politics of Educational Change: Governance and School Inspection in England and Scotland Swiss Journal of Sociology, 39(2), 37-55.