I am finding it increasingly frustrating lately that so much of what is being changed in education at the moment is being rushed. It is too easy, sometimes, to complain about the politicisation of education, but these matters cannot be ignored: the haste with which policies are being changed is leading to confusion and disruption in the education system beyond that which is necessary.
Inevitably all change brings some upsets, but perhaps the worst risk of change is that a change – no matter how positive in theory – becomes a negative in and of itself because of the way it is driven.
And the examples are becoming plentiful.
Back last summer I pointed out the looming issue of children being taught and tested on different curricula because of the rush to push through the new National Curriculum.
Just this week, as I was working on some progression materials for the new primary curriculum, I stumbled across these two consecutive objectives from the new Programme of Study for Years 5 and 6 in English:
Alongside the curriculum changes, we have proposed changes to assessment at the end of the Key Stage. Schools have been tasked with the creation of curriculum and assessment frameworks to meet the new requirements by September. However, as the NAHT report released a week ago points out, that leaves very little time for schools. That’s all the more significant given that the DfE has now had 4 months to respond to the consultation on primary assessment and has failed to do so. If the department, which presumably has staff specifically tasked with such things, cannot manage such speed, on what grounds does it expect schools to do so?
But the rush is not limited to the implementation of the new curriculum.
Blogger Andy Jolley has been relentless in his efforts (via his excellent blog) to hold the department (and the Deputy PM) to account for their actions in implementing the proposed free schools meals for infants programme. It has been dogged with alterations (the “hot” seems to have disappeared) and rushed decisions. That was further highlighted today when he asked a question of the department:
@educationgovuk on UFSM, can I confirm that schools will be paid in arrears only for the meals taken?—
andy jolley (@ajjolley) February 20, 2014
@ajjolley We haven’t yet confirmed how the funding arrangements will work. We plan to announce more details shortly.—
DfE (@educationgovuk) February 20, 2014
Once again, it is clear that in the rush to be seen to implement a politically-decided policy, the department itself cannot keep up with the pace required. Forced to rush through arrangements for academies to apply for funding, and yet unable to indicate to schools – who will be in the throes of preparing budgets – exactly how the funding will work for this hasty plan!
It seems that the haste extends beyonds the bounds of the department, too. Much has been said in the last couple of days about the meeting of some well-known bloggers with officials from Ofsted. As David Didau posted in his blog on the meeting:
On the subject of lesson grading, he said, boldly, categorically and unequivocally that inspectors should not be grading individual lessons, and they should not be arriving at a judgment for teaching and learning by aggregating lesson grades.
At first this seems to have been music to the ears of many: official word that lesson grading shouldn’t be happening in inspections, and the implication that schools should cease the practice immediately.
Except the words of the official from that meeting don’t seem to match with the evidence from the documentation that guides inspectors in their work.
It is true that the handbook for school inspection is clear that aggregated grades from lesson observations should not be used to reach the overall teaching judgement:
However, it is clearly noteworthy that the implication is that such grades would exist. This implication is further supported by a statement earlier in the handbook about reaching such judgements:
Once again, the guidance is clear that grades of some sort will be recorded to support judgements. The note that indicates that short observations might not be graded clearly implies that longer observations (i.e. those of 25 minutes or more) will be.
The implication is further supported in the subsidiary guidance:
Once again, the suggestion is clear that grades should be shared, and the statement is repeated in paragraph 67 that such grades should not be aggregated. (Once again, the spectre of poor proof-reading appears to raise its head in paragraph 67, too!)
It seems that the rush for change – even if it is supported by many teachers – seems to be causing confusion. How are Additional Inspectors in schools meant to act? In accordance with the guidance in writing, or the broader messages that seem to be emanating from the centre?
And so continues the same problem. This isn’t an argument for the de-politicisation of education. Far from it. However, it is a plea for a little less haste in making change: it’s clearly becoming unmanageable!