Education review abstracts


Vol. 22 No. 1, 2009 — Education Without Failure


“Education without failure: is it an impossible – even undesirable – dream?”

Sir Tim Brighouse, Commissioner for London Schools.


In this article Sir Tim Brighouse, former Commissioner for London Schools, examines the concept of educational failure and its long-term impact on individuals and society. He argues that the current assessment regime, with its emphasis on a restricted range of education success indicators, is contributing to a system where pupils “learn to fail”. He states that school success should be assessed through a wide range of measures beyond the academic to include the social, cultural and moral purposes of education.


Class acts – breaking the achievement barrier

Denis Mongon, Senior Research Fellow and Christopher Chapman, Reader in Educational Leadership and School Improvement.


This article summarises the findings of a project researching the features of school leadership associated with very successful outcomes for white working class pupils. The research was commissioned jointly by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National College for School Leadership (NCSL). The authors report that the key strategies adopted by these leaders are similar to those already associated with success in challenging circumstances. They conclude that these leaders show particular characteristics and personality traits which are needed to apply the strategies successfully.


Successfully failing to be sheep

Peter Flack, NUT officer for 25 years.


The Government is good at pointing the finger at supposed “failure” in education. It also has its recipes for tackling this “failure”, largely based on varying forms of privatisation such as “outsourcing” and Academies. This article looks at what happens when teachers and a Local Authority embark on a different path using an alternative vision for education that is based on collaboration between schools.


Attainment gaps between deprived and disadvantaged schools

Dr Lee Elliot Major, Director of Research at the Sutton Trust.


Lee Elliot Major considers the reasons why the UK continues to have low levels of social mobility. He draws on research commissioned by the Sutton Trust to argue that there are two obvious policy responses to raising social mobility: one, targeting greater resources towards deprived schools, and two, creating more balanced intakes of pupils. In both cases possible reforms are fraught with difficulties and need to be implemented through a more radical approach to improving social mobility.


“If you can teach Jason to read I’ll eat my hat …”

Jean Gross, Director of the Every Child a Chance Trust.


As Sir Michael Barber, first head of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s, Delivery Unit, recently observed: “The system in England has become much more effective at dealing with school failure over the last decade; in the next phase, supporting individual students who fall behind will be crucial”. This article describes the success of two such individual support schemes - Every Child a Reader and Every Child Counts – and examines their potential as a strategy for achieving success for all.


Helping the hardest to help

Graham Robb, Secondary Head.


The variety of risks faced by children and young people at schools seems to grow each year. So how can schools use a manageable process to both support and challenge their own practice and pupils, families, communities and other agencies. This article shows how a description of ‘excellence’ mapped against the OFSTED self evaluation form (SEF) can be a tool of real partnership working to support the hardest to help.


Consumer kids – the influence of the commercial world on our children

Agnes Nairn, Professor of Marketing.


Marketing to children is big business and the commercial world has become an integral part of young people’s everyday lives This has raised concerns around the world, particularly by teachers who are faced with reconciling the values of profit-motivated consumption with those of socially-motivated education. This article considers some of the key issues and proposes an agenda for a robust, inclusive public debate.


Trusting the judgement of teachers: changing assessment policies in Wales

Richard Daugherty, Honorary Professor.


This article discusses how current changes to national policies on assessment in Wales are a reflection of a distinctive social, cultural and political context. The rationale for main policy developments, each of which has the judgement of teachers as central to it, is explained.


The reliability of the statutory end of Key Stage 2 assessments and their use in England

Christine Merrell, acting director.


Great importance is placed on the results of England’s end of Key Stage 2 statutory assessments. They are used to monitor the progress of individual pupils, to judge the effectiveness of teachers, schools, and local authorities, and, at a national level, to monitor the standard of education over time. This article discusses the reliability of these assessments and whether they are appropriate measures for high-stakes use.


Still the best job in the world? Trusting teachers; valuing education

Janet Theakston, worked at the NUT for over 30 years.


The views of a random, but wide ranging group of NUT members on the theme of this edition of Education Review produced a rich evidence base for this article. Several common themes emerged, particularly on the curriculum, assessment, teachers’ workload, initiative overload and the lack of trust in the teaching profession. Teachers’ commitment to the education and welfare of their pupils shines through, despite their serious concerns about many aspects of teaching today.


Delivering the 14-19 entitlement within North Hertfordshire

Matthew Glew, the Co-ordinator of The North Hertfordshire Strategic Area Partnership Group.


This article describes the background to the development and delivery of the 14-19 reforms within North Hertfordshire. It explores the planning and operational structure created to support the reforms. Finally, it focuses on the detailed strategies involved in the collaborative delivery of the new 14-19 Diplomas.



Vol. 22 No. 2, 2010 — Schools and Communities: Responding to New Challenges and Opportunities


The Sinnott Fellowship: embedding an outward-facing philosophy in schools

Sara Bubb, the Institute of Education, University of London.


Government policies such as diplomas, community cohesion, family engagement and international school links require schools to look ‘outwards’ and form external relationships. This can be a great challenge but in this article the author demonstrates how participants on the Sinnott Fellowship Scheme are leading the way


It’s Your Life: developing a community of learners to combat social deprivation

Jackie Barnes, chief executive officer of Globetown Learning Community and Peter Horsfall Liverpool John Moores University.


In this article the authors consider how the links between social deprivation and educational achievement can be challenged. They describe the successful approaches developed over ten years by a partnership which has sought to raise the aspirations and achievements of some of the most disaffected learners in one of the most socially deprived areas in London. They suggest that there are lessons here for policy makers to consider in shaping schooling for the 21st century.


White Working Class Under-Achievement: the pitfalls of targeted attainment strategies

Gillian Evans, Brunel University.


Young white-British people on free school meals, and especially boys, are the least likely of all young people to do well in education in Britain. Recent policy recommendations aimed at addressing this situation have suggested a need for targeted attainment strategies. In this article, however, the author argues that it is not the targeting itself that she is alarmed by, but the ethnic frame through which the proposals for targeting view the white working class. She argues that the unforeseen effects of this ethnic strategising will be damaging for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is that it plays into the hands of the British National Party whose growing influence poses a serious challenge to schools and their neighbourhoods, especially in post-industrial areas of the country.


Redefining Masculinity: new lines of thought

Gabrielle Ivinson. feminist writer in education.


A recent study of the educational attainment of British children found that boys who live in poverty are more educationally disadvantaged even than girls in similar circumstances (Mensah and Kiernan, 2010). The author’s recent work in the south Wales ex-mining valleys has brought her into contact with boys who are disaffected from school and who fit the profile of potential NEETs (not in education, employment or training). In this article the author explores changes in the social perceptions of working class youth, changes in the school curricula aimed at re-engaging working class boys and recent work in gender studies.


Education’s important role in social cohesion

Angie Kotler, Strategic Director of the Schools Linking Network.


There has been a duty on schools to contribute to community cohesion since 2007. Some have said that such a duty is unreasonable; that schools have more than enough to do and cannot take on all the problems in society. The author however, argues that there is an urgent and moral imperative for education to grasp this particular nettle. Failure in education is linked to almost every other social problem, and rather than it being a straightforward case of cause and effect, the article suggests that the challenge is rather more complex and that the education world absolutely needs to embrace and engage with this complexity. It is both a challenge and the most amazing opportunity to consider the role of schools as agents of change and evolution, she concludes.


The F.A.C.E. of Tomorrow’s Schools

Marcia Clack, Manager of the Family and Community Engagement Department (FACE) and Garry McMillan, Director of Facilities and Development, he oversees the FACE.


Family and Community engagement has for too long been an under realised tool in secondary schools but new guidelines have made this a new territory for schools to excel in. Research (Sacker, Schoon & Bartley 2002, Hango 2005, Ipsos MORI poll) has shown that engaging parents can increase the ability of students to perform; increasing learning potential by 27% at age 11 and 14% at age 16, irrespective of the parents prior learning. 62% of schoolchildren say they learn the most from their mother. At Phoenix High School the authors and their colleagues have been working with parents and the community for five years and have seen an increase in student attendance and attainment. In this article, the authors describe this story and the steps that the school experience has made along the way.


The View from Here

Anne Swift, headteacher at a large Infant School in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.


Education has changed dramatically since the Victorian expansion of educational provision. In those days it was enough to teach the 3Rs, now schools face a whole plethora of roles of responsibilities under an increasingly centralised and micro managed system where teachers’ professionalism and creativity is constantly challenged. Despite this, the author argues, teaching remains the best job in the world and while the challenges are many, so too are the opportunities to make a difference.


Time to Reclaim Education and Rescue Schooling

Gus John, an Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London and Associate Professor in the London Centre for Leadership in Learning.


“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” — Mark Twain.

In this article, the author argues that it is time for school students to organise themselves and, with the support of their parents and teachers, reclaim education and rescue schooling. He argues that school students need a learners’ charter that would place schooling in the driving seat of education for democratic citizenship. Furthermore, it would enshrine the principle that empowering  individuals to develop their capacity to act in a self-directing way and to take collective action with others in pursuit of change is at the very heart of the process of managing and expanding a democratic culture.


The ‘missed’ potential: the importance of students’ perceptions for school effectiveness

Dr Philip Cross, Headteacher of Hurlingham & Chelsea School.


The current Ofsted questionnaire to ascertain the views of students about their school provides a model of how not to do it argues the author. Instead he presents a more vigorous methodology that challenges Ofsted’s current ‘one size fits all’ approach to taking account of students’ views about their school.


A challenge too far: the end of the local authority maintained nursery school?

Pauline Trudell, a member of the Early Years Curriculum Group and Vice President of the National Campaign for Nursery Education.


This article considers nursery schools’ past history as centres of resistance to an outcome dominated early education, and as democratic learning communities. The author examines the decline of state nursery schools as a broad shift has taken place from education to childcare and away from public accountability for education. The author argues that current changes in funding arrangements further threaten the distinctive form of early child-centred education that has developed through decades of practice within maintained nursery schools.


Another School is Possible

Nick Grant, secretary of Ealing NUT.


Following the outcome of the 2010 general election, teacher trade unionists must renew their efforts to forge a different kind of school to the one foisted on staff and learners by recent governments, argues the author. He goes on to offer a schematic plan to focus both the unacceptable current orthodoxies and the shape of another more appropriate vision.



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