When I was a schoolboy (1964 – 1975) most teachers were men, and teaching assistants were unheard of. The ‘need’ for teaching assistants only arose as a result of the feminisation of the teaching profession.
A piece in yesterday’s Times by Rosemary Bennett, Education Editor:
Schools have been accused by the head of Ofsted of squandering the generous funding they enjoyed in the past, with little evidence the money improved the education of pupils.
Amanda Spielman said that much of the cash was used to employ teaching assistants, especially in schools in disadvantaged areas. While this helped to cut teacher workload, “the evidence of its impact on the attainment of pupils is far from clear” she said. [J4MB emphasis]
She also risked further angering teachers and head teachers by saying there is no evidence the cuts to school budgets are affecting standards.
Ms Spielman made her remarks in a letter to the public accounts committee, which asked her to elaborate on evidence she gave them this year.
“In recent years, as funding growth has slowed, school leaders have had to work harder to balance their budgets and we see this necessitating some difficult choices,” she said.
“Currently, however, my inspectors are not seeing an impact on education standards. Eighty-six per cent of schools are good or outstanding and there is no recent evidence of falling levels of attainment at key stages 2 or 4.” These years are the end of primary school and GCSE year respectively.
Her remarks come as the government is increasingly under fire for its handling of school spending.
In Monday’s budget, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, acknowledged the difficulties schools were facing with a one-off payment of £400 million for capital spending.
However, to the fury of head teachers, he said the money was “for the little extras”. They called that patronising and insulting.
In the increasingly toxic row over funding, head teachers had hoped Ofsted would be an ally in its battle with government.
However, Ms Spielman’s remarks will disappoint them. Ofsted inspectors are in hundreds of schools every day of the week and clearly have judged the squeeze has not had much of an impact.
Equally, it will be seized on by the government, which believes schools were enjoyed record spending for years and were largely protected from the swingeing cuts of the years of austerity.
Education is one of the few “good news stories” for the government, with standards up in recent years and a reform of GCSE and A levels successfully implemented. It does not want a row over funding to undermine it.
The only crumb of comfort for the head teachers attempting to win a good settlement for schools in the next spending round are Ms Spielman’s remarks later on in her letter that she is concerned the cuts will narrow the school curriculum, with schools forced to cut down on music and the arts to save money for the core subjects.
She has made clear in the past that breadth of study is very important for children, especially between the ages of 11 and 14 when they are taking the greatest number of subjects.
The letter continues: “We will, however, continue to monitor the situation.
In light of the committee’s clear interest in this area, I asked my research team to undertake a literature review of the available evidence on school funding. In carrying out this review, my researchers have identified areas of further research for Ofsted to explore.”
Ms Spielman also made clear she wants action on children who are withdrawn from school to be home educated.
She has spoken out in the past about schools “off rolling” less able students, asking parents to remove them often before GCSEs to boost league table performance. In some cases the parents agree to educate their children at home. There is no register or record of pupils who are educated at home, although the government is consulting on it.
“The lack of information about where these children end up is perhaps my greatest concern as chief inspector. I am not proposing that Ofsted inspects home education, but we must now move to a registration process run by local authorities. This would ensure that we know where these children are and that they are safe. I very much hope that the DfE moves quickly from its recent call for evidence to a concrete legislative solution,” she said.
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