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NAHT comments on the government's coasting schools announcement
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NAHT comments on the government’s coasting schools announcement

Following the Queen's speech at the state opening of parliament, the government has now defined what is meant by 'coasting schools'. These are schools that fail to ensure 60 per cent of pupils get five good GCSE grades, leaving the schools liable for intervention.

Following the announcement, Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said: “Thanks to pressure from NAHT and others, we now know what the government thinks a coasting school is. The first and most important comment is that – at this moment – there are no coasting schools. A school will only be judged as coasting on three years’ worth of results from 2014-2016, so the earliest date for intervention will be the autumn of 2016.

“However, raising the bar above the current floor standard will put more schools under pressure and may not produce positive results in the end. The measure is also retrospective, applying as it does over 2014 and 2015 as well as 2016. A school could find itself in the position of having met every target set for it and then finding out after the fact that this wasn’t enough.

“This is not a good way to encourage people to take on the leadership of challenging schools – an issue the government is struggling to make an impact. There have also been so many changes to examinations and tests, we don’t know how results will be calculated or adjusted in future years – schools will be navigating blind in this territory.

“We do, however, find the proposed interventions less worrying, and we are glad that the government has listened to us here. Forced conversion into academy status is not the default option for these schools. They will have the chance to show they possess the capacity to improve and they will be offered support first if they do not. It is heartening to hear that our own programme of school improvement, Aspire, could be used as an approved pathway for improvement.

“If we can take the government’s statements at face value, academisation is only on the cards after all other options for improvement have been exhausted.  Our concern is how this process will work. Will it be open and transparent, with clear notification and a real opportunity for the school to make its case?

“We are also concerned about the lack of capacity in the system to manage this. There are only eight Regional Schools Commissioners covering thousands of schools each – this is not the in depth local knowledge the government claims on their behalf. Equally, there are not always other schools available to partner with and support their colleagues, given the pressures all schools face.

“The government finds it very easy to talk tough about school standards. The difficult job of school improvement is always left to teachers and school leaders. The government needs to come up with a much more visionary approach because the debate in 2015 is not about academies and free schools per se. It is about recruitment, morale, funding and leadership development. These are difficult topics for governments to grapple with, but ones that the profession understands intimately. Let’s move on to this ground.”

Read more on the announcement here.

Page Published: 30/06/2015