Councillor Appleyard washes his hands of responsibility for Bucks educational attainment gap

8 April 2018  

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There has been a lot of publicity in the newspapers about the under-achievement of poorer* children in Bucks in primary schools.  The under-achievement of poorer pupils is a lot worse than that of more prosperous pupils.   

Bucks County Council has tried to explain why Bucks is so ineffective at helping its poorer pupils.   Those explanations are superficial and misleading.  So perhaps BCC simply doesn’t care about helping poorer children.

What we are looking at is something called Key Stage 2 (KS2).  KS2 covers the four years of schooling for pupils aged between 7 and 11.   At the end of KS2, pupils are assessed using national tests and some teacher assessments.

Nationally, 48% of poorer children reached the expected standard in 2017 at KS2 in reading, writing and mathematics. 

In Bucks, only 38% of poorer pupils reached the expected standard at KS2.   

So poorer children in Bucks do significantly worse than nationally. 

Nationally, 68% of more prosperous children reach the expected standard at KS2.  The difference between the percentage of poorer children reaching the standard and more prosperous children reaching the standard is known as the “attainment gap”.  Nationally therefore the attainment gap at KS2 is 20%.

BCC doesn’t provide the percentage of more prosperous children in Bucks reaching the expected standard.  It calculates its attainment gap using the national figure of 68% which gives an attainment gap of 30%. 

The “real” Bucks attainment gap for KS2 (i.e. comparing the performance of poorer pupils with that of more prosperous pupils in Bucks) is higher.  The attainment gap in Bucks is at least 30%.

Now let’s look at BCC’s explanations for why BCC is so dismally failing its poorer children. 

1.     Sarah Callaghan, the Service Director of Education at Bucks County Council, said the achievement gap is big because the overall attainment of Bucks pupils is above national average.

On average, 62% of children nationally reach the expected standard at KS2.  On average, 64% of Bucks children reach the expected standard.

I fail to see how this small difference in overall attainment explains the large gap in the attainment in Bucks between poorer children and their peers.

2.     Ms Callaghan added “You do see nationally there is a clear difference of results at the end of KS2 then going into KS3 going into secondary and that is because there is an external moderation of KS2 but it is an internal process at KS3.

“So you do see when something is externally moderated it can be more rigorous so you’ll see a difference between those phases – so it is about how do we make sure we are supporting consistent moderation.”

(My thanks to the Bucks Free Press for this quote which I assume they took down by shorthand.  I couldn’t make head or tail of what Ms Callaghan said).

I suppose she was saying that the external assessment process of children at KS2 is more rigorous than the internal assessments at KS3 for 11 to 14-year-olds and this widens the gap.  

But this is nonsense.  How does an assessment at age 14 affect the attainment gap at age 11?

What OFSTED has said is that the tests at the end of KS2 are now more rigorous and expect more of children.   Unfortunately, the more rigorous tests show that poorer children are falling even further behind and nationally the attainment gap has widened. 

However, that does not explain why the gap in Bucks is so much worse than the national gap.  

3.     Councillor Appleyard, the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said secondary schools had to spend time getting all their pupils up to the same level of attainment at Key Stage 3 – just like universities have to do with undergraduates.

I fail to see how this is relevant to the attainment gap at KS2.

4.     Councillor Lambert asked if funding was being targeted on poorer pupils and if there was a timeline for narrowing of the gap. 

Ms Callaghan said Bucks had only just set up an initiative called Side-by-Side and it would take time – an unpredictable time - for any improvements to work through.  Councillor Appleyard added it was the responsibility of the schools to deliver results; BCC had no authority to go into schools and demand things from them.

 

At this point, I began to wonder why Councillor Appleyard– or indeed anyone else – hadn’t mentioned the fact that BCC has been failing poorer pupils for years.  BCC has been promising to take action for years and failing to do so.   And now Councillor Appleyard was refusing to accept it had any responsibility.      

Has Councillor Appleyard forgotten that the majority of primary schools are still the responsibility of the council and BCC does have the authority to ask these schools to make changes?   BCC certainly has the responsibility to provide support.

Has he also forgotten that the Select Committee set up an inquiry in 2013 after criticisms from education ministers about the wide attainment gap in Bucks?   Councillor Dhillon, now Chairman of the Select Committee, was on the inquiry and it took evidence from Councillor Appleyard who was the responsible Cabinet member then as now.

That inquiry made twelve recommendations for narrowing the gap, including asking Councillor Appleyard to ask the Schools Forum to review the Funding Formula “with the objective of targeting additional funding at the children of families from the most deprived backgrounds”.    

Did Councillor Appleyard ask the Schools Forum and did it ever report back?

The inquiry also recommended asking Councillor Appleyard to ask the Bucks Learning Trust to provide specific guidance and support on narrowing the gap.  BCC has now cancelled its contract with BLT and brought the work back in-house.  But did Councillor Appleyard ask BLT to do this work and, if so, did it ever report back?   Is BCC now doing this work?

The inquiry recommended that Councillor Appleyard apply to the Education Endowment Foundation for funding to evaluate what works in Bucks on narrowing the gap.  Did Councillor Appleyard ever apply to the Foundation or evaluate what works in Bucks? 

The inquiry also recommended that the planned review of Children’s Centres should focus on their role in improving the educational achievements of poorer children in their early years.   BCC decided to close all the Children’s Centres (now temporarily reprieved) but did the review consider this role and what was its conclusion? 

It’s been four years since the inquiry reported and nothing seems to have happened.  BCC was failing its poorer pupils then and is still failing its poorer pupils now.  It doesn’t care and accepts no responsibility.   

It’s the same old story. 

 

*BCC’s paper refers to “disadvantaged” children.  I think the major disadvantage these children suffer from is poverty. 

 

The sooner OFSTED assess BCC’s provision for children with special educational needs the better.

30 March 2018

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See what you make of the following:

1.     *Bucks County Council is not meeting its targets for timely preparation of statements for children with special educational needs, according to papers to the Finance, Performance and Resources Select Committee.  It also has a poor record of providing the education, health and care required by children with special needs.    

2.     * Bucks County Council plans to cut the budget for Special Educational Needs by £1.2 million from 2018/9.

3.     ** The Government proposes to give BCC £0.8 million/year for 3 years to fund 52 extra places for children with disabilities and learning difficulties.   3 schools would benefit. 

4.     An OFSTED inspection of education provision in Bucks for children with special needs is expected soon.

My conclusion is that BCC is struggling to provide an adequate education for many of our children with special needs.    The money from the Government is not going to paper over the cracks.  I suspect the provision of education in Bucks for children with educational needs is a shambles and that BCC’s plans for cuts may put BCC in breach of the law.

But I can’t say this for sure.  All I can say for sure is the sooner OFSTED arrives, the better. 

*I was unable to check these statements as the relevant webpages on BCC’s website were unavailable.  

** I was unable to find this item on BCC’s website, even under their News page; the figures come from an article in the Bucks Free Press.

 

We told you so – this time about Bucks Learning Trust.

14 March 2018

A number of us have been asking about Bucks Learning Trust (BLT) for over 3 years now.    

BLT is yet another company set up by BCC to deliver some of BCC’s statutory functions, this time educational support to schools.  It received £8 million under a contract with BCC and now BCC has decided to bring the work back in-house.  BLT will be left to manage as best it can without this £8 million which forms about two thirds of its income.

The accounts are due by the end of the month. 

Back in February 2015, David Williams QC, Wycombe Labour’s then parliamentary candidate, asked what BCC expected BLT to deliver for its £8 million/year and how will this would improve educational standards in Bucks. 

He asked how BCC ensured that BLT was sound in terms of its finances, governance, educational competence and reputation.    And what were BLT’s longer term financial projections, including for generated income?  

He also asked about the impact of the resignation of the CEO only a short time into the life-time of the company.  Why was the discussion of his departure “sub-judice”? 

No answers, of course, from BCC.

Robin Stuchbury, then a Labour county councillor carried on asking through 2016 and 2017 about BLT’s finances and about the value for money for its services.  His concerns were dismissed by BCC out of hand.

I’ve been doing my bit reporting the concerns (see for example my blog of 15 January 2018 below).    Of course BCC hasn’t issued a press release on the failure of yet another of its out-sourcing companies.  If you want to know anything about BLT it’s on page 295 of a Cabinet report.   

So it was gratifying to see Conservative councillors on the Select Committee on Finance, Performance and Resources having a go at their colleagues for failing to learn lessons from these disastrous companies BCC set up.   And even more gratifying to see the Bucks Free Press report the discussion.  

http://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/news/16083333._LESSONS_LEARNT____Naive__council_to_pull_outsourced_education_services_in_house/

So well done Councillors Bendyshe –Brown and Martin for calling their colleagues to account.  The latter said there had been naivety and acceptance by BCC of what was happening at these companies (or said to be happening by the management of the companies).  There should have been oversight and challenge by BCC from the beginning. 

Well we weren’t naive and accepting.  We had concerns from the beginning and asked all the right questions.  But no-one wanted to listen.   If BCC had listened to us, it would have saved the taxpayer millions of pounds.    

So just for once, I am going to say

WE TOLD YOU SO.    

 

E-ACT Burnham Park Academy – exposed to market forces?

6 February 2018   

There’s been a lot of publicity recently about the lack of funding for Bucks schools.   

In a few months, academy schools in Bucks will send their accounts to Companies House.  Then we will know how many broke even in the 2016/7 academic year.  

However, we won’t know how academy schools are doing if they are part of an academy chain; accounts are prepared for the company running all the schools in the chain, not for individual schools.

Three schools in Bucks are run by an academy chain called E- ACT and a colleague suggested I should look at their finances.      

E-ACT was in the news a few years ago when Sir Bruce Liddington, its Director General, said he wanted the chain to have 200 academies and 50 free schools.  Sir Bruce was paid about £300,000/year. 

E-ACT was then criticized by the Education Funding Agency over E-ACT’s “culture of extravagant expenses” and other financial irregularities, such as apparently using the pupil premium for purposes for which it was not intended.  Then, in 2014, E-ACT was criticised by OFSTED for the educational standards in some of its schools.  It was stripped of 10 of its schools.  Sir Bruce resigned.    

I thought I would see how things had changed since then.  First stop, Companies House website.  The latest accounts, up to August 2017, are illegible.      

On to the E-ACT’s own website.   It now sponsors 25 academies with 15,000 pupils and, according to its website, everything is fine. 

I did manage to find a readable version of its annual report for 2016/7.  It has lots of inspiring mission statements, lovely pictures and graphs.  However, the accounts show that E-ACT made an operating loss of nearly £0.5 million (on an income of £112 million).  It covered this by a gain of over £2 million from the benefit pension schemes.  Not good but no worse I suspect than many other academy chains.

Its Chief Executive is now paid £164,000 and trustees’ expenses were quite modest. 

Two of the schools in Bucks run by E-ACT are primary schools - Chalfont Valley E-ACT Primary Academy and Denham Green E-ACT Primary Academy.  Both are assessed by OFSTED as good.  

E-ACT also has one secondary academy in Bucks – the E-ACT Burnham Park Academy.   In 2016, OFSTED assessed it as inadequate and it was put into special measures.   It was re-assessed by OFSTED as inadequate last December but found to be making real progress. 

Unfortunately it’s not that unusual for a school to be working to get out of special measures.   The school’s website was very positive and I was wondering why my colleague suggested I look at the school.   Good luck to it I thought.

Then I happened to look up the school on Wikipedia.  There, almost as a throwaway comment, it said “Pupil numbers are falling. In 2015, 80 pupils applied to join the school, with this figure dropping to 55 in 2016 and 21 in 2017”.  And I thought that can’t be right.  21 pupils applying to a secondary school?  

The Wikipedia article had a reference and I looked it up.  According to Bucks County Council, Burnham Park Academy has 140 places each year for pupils.  In 2015, 111 had been allocated to the school.  In 2016, 55 pupils were allocated and, in 2017, (yes Wikipedia was right) 21 pupils had been allocated.   This stuck out like a sore thumb as all the places in all the other secondary schools in Bucks were full.  

Burnham School has a capacity of 700.  Only 434 (62%) are filled.

I was left wondering.  How can a school continue if only 21 pupils are allocated to 140 places?  How is that sustainable, educationally or financially?   How can a school have over 250 places unfilled when the county is desperate to meet an increasing demand?

Why is no-one apparently saying anything publicly?   Surely the parents and teachers at the school are worried? 

And is anyone responsible for intervening to make better use of the educational buildings and resources – and ensure pupils have stability and quality of education? 

Or is it all now left to market forces?  Because we are starting to see where market forces leave us when we contract out vital services to the private sector.

 

Another complete financial flop by Bucks County Council

15 January 2018   

In 2013, Bucks County Council set up three private sector companies.  It then outsourced BCC work to these companies with multi-million pound contracts.  The ideology behind these private sector ventures was that all three companies would be a roaring commercial success and the profits would come back to BCC – and the taxpayer. 

Well it hasn’t turned out like that.  The story of the first company, Bucks Care, is told in my blogs under “Social Care”.   It is a story of inadequate services, institutional abuse and a loss to the taxpayer of at least £5 million.  The work has been brought back in-house and the company is to be closed down.  

The story of the second company Bucks Law, is told in my blogs under “Other Things” – and in Private Eye.  According to BCC’s forecasts, it should have been 50% self-funding by last year.   However, it was closed down in March 2017 with its unaudited accounts showing just £411 left in the kitty.

This is the story of the third company – Bucks Learning Trust (BLT) – set up to carry out BCC's statutory responsibilities for school improvement i.e.

·       School Improvement Services

·       Governor Services

·       Early Years Service / Early Years Workforce Development

·       Specialist Teaching,  Cognition and Learning Service

·       School Financial Management Advisory Service

These are vital services that schools and many of our most vulnerable pupils rely on.

Bringing back the services in-house should come as no surprise.   

In April last year, BCC’s retiring Service Director for Education pointed out to BCC’s Select Committee that Government cuts put BLT’s financial viability at risk.  Its annual grant had already been cut from £8 million to £6 million and it had had to make staff redundant.   It had forecast a small surplus for 2017/8.  Its commercial trading results were disappointing and it faced an increasing reluctance by schools to pay for its services as schools funding became increasingly tight.  

And now, tucked away on page 295 of the Cabinet meeting last Monday is a paper about BLT which recommended bringing all the statutory services back in-house.  

The paper was discussed after the Cabinet decisions to close all the Children’s Centres which attracted intensive media attention.  So the paper on BLTpassed largely unnoticed.    BCC hasn’t even issued a news statement. 

It is rather difficult understanding what the paper is saying amongst all the jargon and it is not helped by the introduction on the webcast by Councillor Appleyard who referred to a list of services on page 298.  There is no list on my page 298.    

My summary of what BCC is saying is

-        BCC is taking back these functions because the Government has cut the money for these services to local authorities

-        In due course, the Government will cut all the money for these services to local authorities and BCC will provide very little to mainstream schools

-        Instead the Government has given funding to schools to provide the services themselves on a co-operative basis

-        BCC was forced to make these changes by a change in Government policy (which I think is known as austerity) which BCC has got absolutely nothing to do with (having forgotten what a keen advocate of austerity it was back in the day before the impact was felt by residents).   

Cabinet members didn't ask any questions about the paper and it was voted through unanimously. 

So it is all down to the schools now.

It is also interesting what residents aren’t told. 

There is little, if anything, about the success or otherwise of this private company against its objectives of improving schools performance.   Not a word, for example, about the continuing gap between the performance of poorer pupils in secondary schools in Bucks and their peer group.

There is very little about the impact on staff, many of whom have been, or will be, made redundant or have been shunted back and forth to the private sector.

There is nothing at all on how the schools will be able to cope.   

The paper doesn’t even mention that BCC set up BLT and still owns it.   Not a word about the financial situation of the company – is it making a profit or a loss?   Not a word about its future – just that it will continue trading.   Not a word about the financial ramifications of the whole venture – just that “the proposed change will result in financial savings that will help to achieve the required budget savings (see confidential appendix F).”  

Really?

I bet all the interesting bits are in the restricted annexes.

I looked on the Companies House website.  The accounts for 2016/7 are due next week. 

Watch this space.

 

There’s no money to tackle rising exclusions from Bucks schools – just hubs and virtual schools

29 September 2017

Back in February I blogged about children being excluded from Bucks primary schools.  Bucks County Council officials had identified an increase in the number of children being excluded.

A report to BCC’s Select Committee on education described how children who were excluded got far fewer qualifications and were more likely to develop mental health problems and commit crimes.  

The report analysed the data about the children who were most likely to be excluded and showed they were disproportionately male, black and poor. They were most likely to be excluded from schools assessed as good or excellent and the main reasons for exclusions were failures in the educational system, including a lack of teachers.   

The officials had taken action and exclusions had gone down. 

I congratulated the officials on an excellent report.  

In September it was the turn of secondary schools – and what a difference from the previous report.

The only piece of real information in the paper was that exclusions from secondary schools had gone up by 100% in 2015/6 and by 6% in 2016/7.  We are not told who these children are.  Are they boys or girls?  Which ethnic groups or socio economic classes are the children from?   Which schools did they get excluded from and why?  What are the underlying causes?  And why was there this huge jump in exclusions in 2015/6?

All we get are 2 or 3 pages of BCC management speak. 

We have a Fair Access Board which ensures the sharing of insight, holistic pictures of children, a key note address introducing training with an incomprehensible title, an Integrated Services Board which “will allow for evolving themes to be escalated” (I kid you not).     

The secondary Pupil Referral Unit was full up so “education was resourced from a Virtual school and Youth Services”.  (What on earth is a Virtual school – and is there anyone left in the Youth Services?  How many children were taught by a virtual school and the Youth Service?) 

We got a new Inclusive Education working party which astonishingly is committed to promoting inclusion.  It has also pledged to review and foster all sorts of useful things.

However, there were no new resources so “any work undertaken has been done within the current budget”.  Which begs the question whether any work has been done or whether the pledges remain unfulfilled.  

We are also promised a Prevention and Support Panel, a “Hub” and an “Inclusion Charter”.   Plus a schools- led model and stretch targets. 

Can’t wait.  

I’m left wondering what all this management speak is hiding.  What is really happening to exclusions in secondary schools?

Is this report simply hiding the fact that schools lack the necessary funding to help children who have problems – and those children end up excluded not just from school but from society.

 

Bucks County Council has no major updates or decisions to make on schools before September. So that’s alright then.

9 July 2017

Wouldn’t it be good in these uncertain times if our local elected representatives had a sure grip on the problems in our schools? 

You can probably write your own list of problems but here are a few of mine

-          Cuts in funding

-          The ever continuing huge gap between the attainment of our disadvantaged children and their peer group

-          The increasing lack of local school place as developments are built without schools

-          The viability of Bucks Learning Trust  

-          Cuts to non-core education (such as careers advice, mental health provision, sports, art and music provision)

-          Cuts to support to children with special needs

-          The continuing scam of the 11+

-          Schools’ responsibilities for preventing radicalisation  

-          Schools going into special measures

On top of that there are now concerns, arising from the Grenfell Tower fire, about fire safety in schools. 

Wouldn’t it be good if Bucks County Council shared their expertise and experience with these problems with the schools – or at least helped schools to share their expertise and experience?

Wouldn’t it be good if BCC helped to clarify what’s coming down the line? For example, which of the promises in the Conservative manifesto are now going to be implemented in Theresa May’s “bold” new government. 

We know that the proposed expansion of grammar schools is dead (thank goodness although that doesn’t help Bucks much).  We also know that the abolition of free school lunches is not going to happen. 

However, is the Government still going to build a hundred free schools a year?  Is it still going to insist that universities and independent schools sponsor or set up free schools?  Is it still going to review school admissions policy?

Will the government still expect every child to know their times tables off by heart?  Or 75% of pupils to have entered for the Ebacc combination of GCSEs?

Will the government still “offer forgiveness” to teachers on student loan repayments while they are teaching.  (I know - I don’t understand this either.  It sounds as though teachers have committed a sin in taking out loans and will be forgiven their sins while they teach.)

And crucially is the government going to implement the fairer funding formula – and if so when?  And when do schools get some of the £4 billion extra funding promised in the manifesto?   

Well it might have been good to share experience and get clarification – but it’s not going to happen.  Bucks County Council has cancelled the meeting of the Schools Forum scheduled for 11 July.  (The Forum is where all the head teachers get together).  

BCC explained that:

“With no news having been received from DfE about budgets and finance we have no major updates or decisions to make before the new academic year.”

Says it all really.  Apparently BCC is merely there to disseminate information and the schools are just to get on with it.  After all, they are all businesses now.   Aren’t they?

 

The Conservatives have created a funding crisis for schools in Bucks – Labour would invest £6.3 billion nationally in schools

22 May 2017

I thought I would look at what’s on offer from the Conservatives and from Labour for Bucks teachers and parents of Bucks school children.   

It is clear that the main educational concern in Bucks is the impending crisis in school funding.   Mainstream schools face a cut in their budgets of 7-8% by 2019/20 i.e. £3 billion. 

Bucks head teachers have written collectively to the Prime Minister with their concerns and individual school heads and school Governors have been writing to parents to explain why schools face this crisis. 

The extract below from one primary head teacher in Bucks is typical – and unusually blunt in placing the blame for the crisis squarely on the Government.

“Ministers have repeatedly claimed that education funding is protected in real terms - it is not, and bodies such as the NAO confirm this.  We feel that the Government should be the champions of education but Ministers seem to be in denial about the realities of school funding and its impact on children – the crisis in teacher recruitment is there for all to see as a clear example of the need for better policies and proper investment in our children’s futures. There is also a multi-billion pound shortfall in money for school buildings which means that premises are deteriorating and ultimately will cost more to repair than if an adequate amount was invested each year.”

It’s not only Ministers who are in denial.  So too is Bucks County Council.  It refuses to accept that there is an impending funding crisis. 

The four ex- Conservative MPs In Bucks – Steve Baker, Cheryl Gillan, Dominic Grieve and David Lidington – also seem to be in denial.  They have said nothing about this schools funding crisis (actually they don’t seem to have said much about education at all).    

What the Conservatives offer

The Conservative manifesto puts its priority on the creation of more free schools (at least a hundred a year) and establishing more grammar schools.

Then it mentions the curriculum where the main proposal is to expect all 11 years old to know their times tables by heart. 

Third it offers to support teachers.  Teachers will be offered “forgiveness on student loan repayments while they are teaching” (whatever that means). 

Finally are proposals on funding i.e. that no school will have its budget cut as a result of introducing the fair funding formula and the “overall schools budget” will be increased by £4bn by 2022 i.e. 4 years time.   I understand the “overall school budget” includes free schools which will be generously funded in comparison to mainstream schools.  So the funding is not going to cover the funding gap and will come too late; cuts will still have to be made. 

 

What Labour offers

Labour’s manifesto has a chapter on education.  I know I am biased but anyone interested in education in Bucks (and there are a lot of you), then I would recommend you read it.  The link is below.  

http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/manifesto2017/towards-a-national-education-service

It sets out a vision for a National Education Service which would, over time, provide cradle-to-grave learning free at the point of use.  It has proposals for childcare and early learning, schools, further and adult education, apprenticeships and higher education.  

But back to school funding.  The manifesto says

“Labour will not waste money on inefficient free schools and the Conservatives’ grammar schools vanity project.  Labour does not want a return to secondary moderns. We will also oppose any attempt to force schools to become academies….

We will make sure schools are properly resourced by reversing the Conservatives’ cuts and ensuring that all schools have the resources they need. We will introduce a fairer funding formula that leaves no school worse off, while redressing the historical underfunding of certain schools. Labour will also invest in new school buildings, including the phased removal of asbestos from existing schools”

All the Labour Party’s proposals are costed.  Those for the increased funding for schools, including protection against losses from the new funding formula, and for free school meals and the arts pupil premium is £6.3 billion by 2021/2.

Teachers and parents can take their choice.   I know I want Labour’s vision and its practical, professional proposals for my granddaughters.

And by the way, the Labour candidate for Aylesbury is a retired primary school head teacher.

 

Operating losses of Bucks schools got worse in 2016

23 April 2017

The operating surpluses or losses of six secondary schools in Bucks – three non-selective schools and three grammar schools - are set out below.  They are taken from the latest accounts which these schools are now required to send to Companies House as they are now companies.  

All the schools have had to make large adjustments to their final operating balance because of what are called “actuarial losses on benefit pension schemes”.  This means all six schools operated at a substantial loss during 2016.

The figures in brackets are the operating balances without the pension adjustments.   The three grammar schools would have operated at a surplus without the pension adjustment, the three non-selective schools would have operated at a loss.  I do not know if this is significant as I selected the six schools at random.

All schools now face a 7-8% further loss by 2020.

It does not make happy reading.

Most secondary schools and some primary schools in Bucks are now private sector companies. The assets and staff of previously state-owned schools were transferred to private sector companies limited by guarantee; they are called academies.  Free schools are companies set up by the private sector and run for profit.   

Not a lot of people have realised this. 

If anyone would like to know the operating loss or surplus of their local school, if it is an academy or free school, I can help if you contact me. 

 

 

 

 

 Net income/expenditure (£000s)

 

 

 

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princess Risborough School

 

 

401

1727

104

-1,925 (-484)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aylesbury High School

 

 

160

-136

-62

-1,014 (97)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir William Ramsay School

 

 

-340

-476

-425

-1,564 (-194)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir William Borlase Grammar School

 

 

47

-21

474

-773 (172)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holmer Green Senior School

 

 

565

1408

-191

- 1,072 (-138)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal Grammar School

 

 

791

194

106

-1,441 (5)

 

Posted by Linda Derrick.  Promoted by Martin Abel on behalf of Linda Derrick at 5 Spenser Road, Aylesbury HP21 7LR     

 

 

 

What BCC doesn’t tell you about education in Bucks – but its retiring Director does

Councillor Robin Stuchbury (love the waistcoat)

10 April 2017

Councillor Zahir Mohammed, Bucks County Council’s cabinet member for education, has made much in the past few months of the possibility of more funding for Bucks schools under the Government’s proposed funding formula.

 

So it was interesting to hear what Mr Wilson, BCC’s Service Director for Education said last month as he made his last appearance, before he retires, at BCC’s Select Committee on education (see https://buckscc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/254414 at 1.26)

 

Mr Wilson was asked by Labour’s County Councillor Robin Stuchbury about the continuing failure of Bucks to improve the educational performance of children from some ethnic groups and how this could be tackled.   Mr Wilson took the opportunity to describe three changes in the school system which would not help tackle this problem. 

 

First, Mr Wilson made it clear that whatever the Government decided about the funding formula, BCC already knew that most schools in Bucks would face a real loss in funding of about 7-8% by 2020.  This was the result of an increase in the running costs of schools and in the number of school children. 

 

Well, BCC might know it but I haven’t heard it tell the voters about this real cut in funding.

 

Second, Mr Wilson also said messages from central Government had confused the effective running of schools.  After the EU referendum, a key education Bill had been dropped.  The Bill would have strengthened the role of school leadership and clarified the role of local authorities.   Without the Bill, local authorities were uncertain about their role.  

 

Again, I haven’t heard BCC explain to voters what will happen as more and more schools are privatised; local authorities still retain the statutory duty for ensuring school children have an appropriate education but have lost the power to enforce this with the private sector schools i.e. the academies and free schools.   BCC hasn’t told voters about this Government shambles either. 

 

Third, Mr Wilson said BCC had a further reduction of £4 million in its Educational Services Grant from central Government.  

 

Mr Wilson did not explain the consequences but it is clear that this will cut the grant that can be given to the Bucks Learning Trust.  The Trust was set up by BCC as a private sector company to carry out BCC's statutory responsibilities for school improvement.  

 

The cut will put BLT’s financial viability at risk.  Its grant has already been cut this year from £8 million to £6 million and it has had to make staff redundant.   It now forecasts a small surplus for this operating year and reports disappointing commercial trading results.  In the coming years it faces a double whammy – an unknown cut in its BCC grant and an increasing reluctance by schools to pay for its services as schools funding becomes increasingly tight.  

 

No. BCC hasn’t volunteered this information either.

 

Posted by Linda Derrick.  Promoted by Martin Abel on behalf of Linda Derrick at 5 Spencer Road, Aylesbury HP21 7LR     

 

Grammar schools need to provide the evidence for the Bucks 11+. Or it’s a complete scam.

23 March 2017

Over a month ago, I asked Mr. Hudson, the Chairman of The Bucks Grammar Schools (TBGS), for some very basic information (see blog below).  I asked him if he could provide any evidence to show the Bucks 11+ does what it is intended to do i.e. assess academic potential.  

If that evidence existed, I am sure Mr. Hudson would have sent it to me quickly.  Indeed if it existed, I think it would have been published by now.   But he didn’t send me any evidence and nothing has been published.   He has not even bothered to reply.   

So I think it is reasonable to assume that there is no evidence to show the 11+ assesses academic potential.    

It is worth pausing to understand what this means. 

The 11+ in Bucks underpins the whole rationale of deciding that some 10 year olds should go to grammar schools and other 10 year olds should go to upper schools.  It affects the education of tens of thousands of children every year and influences their life chances for decades. 

The 11+ is the cornerstone of selective education.  If the 11+ doesn’t do the job, the whole edifice crumbles.   

However, neither the grammar schools nor Bucks County Council can produce any evidence that the 11+ does what it is meant to so.

The whole system of selective education in Bucks is built on the 11+ - and, unless someone comes up with the evidence, the 11+ is a complete scam.      

Year after year, the gap between the educational attainment of disadvantaged children in Bucks and their peer group is one of the biggest in the country.  BCC’s own research (the Strand report) suggested a major causes of this difference was the fact that Bucks had selective education. 

But BCC doesn’t seem to care.  It carries on believing selection is a wonderful thing.  

During the last meeting of the Select Committee for Education, Robin Stuchbury, Labour’s Councillor, asked Councillor Zahir Mohammed, the cabinet member for education, whether he supported the Government’s proposals for funding more grammar schools which would be at the expense of other schools. The answer seemed to be yes. 

So let’s see the evidence for this support from Councillor Mohammed.  Let’s see his evidence that the 11+ selects on the basis of academic potential.  Because if it doesn’t, the whole system falls down.     

 

Or perhaps we could all agree with Paul Irwin, a Tory Councillor, who at the meeting simply said “if we got rid of the grammar schools, we would sort out the problem of the gap”.    His Tory colleagues ignored his comments.    

 

List of schools in Bucks which will lose funding under proposed DfE changes

26 February 2017

I asked Councillor Mohammed, cabinet member on Bucks County Council, for a list of schools in Bucks which would lose funding under the proposed changes to the funding formula.  He said these schools would lose perhaps 1 or 2 teachers.

In response, an official sent me the link below

https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/supporting_documents/Impact%20of%20the%20proposed%20schools%20NFF_20161220.xlsm

The link is to an excel table on the Department of Education’s website.   The table has a list of over 20, 000 schools.    The official suggested

The last tab ‘NFF all schools’ filtered on Buckinghamshire might be the most useful to you.”

I am surprised that BCC does not have a list of these schools readily available. 

No matter, I extracted the list below, after some degree of eye strain.   As I have done this myself, please treat the list with caution as I may have made a mistake.

The figure after the school name is the percentage loss compared to the 2016/7 baseline.  (N.B. In the first year of transition local authorities can modify the allocation between schools)

Beechview School                                    -1.2

Little Missenden Church of England School                                     -0.8

Millbrook Combined School                                                              -1.4

 

Dagnall VA Church of England School                                              -0.6

 

The Mary Towerton School At Studley Green                                 -0.6

 

Chalfont Valley E-ACT Primary Academy                                        -1.2

 

Chalfont St Giles Infant School and Nursery                                    -1.2

 

Chenies School                                                                                      -0.5

 

Denham Village Infant School                                                           -0.8

 

Drayton Parslow Village School                                                        -0.8

 

Roundwood Primary School                                                              -1.2

 

The Iver Village Junior School                                                           -0.4

 

Jordans School                                                                                  -0.9

 

Thornborough Infant School                                                              -0.7

 

The Meadows School                                                                        -1.2

 

Booker Hill School                                                                              -1.3

 

Ash Hill Primary School                                                                      -1.3

 

Woodside Junior School                                                                     -1.3

 

Chepping View Primary Academy                                                       -1.4

 

St James and St John CofE Primary School                                       -1.1

 

Padbury Church of England School                                                     -1.1

 

Whaddon CofE First School                                                                 -0.8

 

Lee Common Church of England School                                             -0.9                    

 

Westcott Church of England School                                                     -1.0

 

Oakley Church of England Combined School                                      -0.9

 

St Peter's Church of England Primary School, Burnham                     -1.3

 

Swanbourne Church of England VA School                                        -1.2

 

Cuddington and Dinton CofE School                                                   -1.3

 

Cadmore End CofE School                                                                  -1.0

 

Ibstone CofE Infant School                                                                    -0.7

 

St Louis Catholic Primary School                                                           -0.8

 

Kings Wood School and Nursery                                                           -0.8

 

Speen CofE VA School                                                                          -0.9

 

Buckinghamshire UTC                                                                           -1.1

 

Highcrest Academy                                                                                -0.2

 

Cressex Community School                                                                   -0.9

 

Bucks grammar schools fail to provide evidence that the 11+ works

 15 February 2017

The facts

Selection to the grammar schools in Bucks is the responsibility of the Bucks grammar schools. 

Bucks County Council is responsible for ensuring there are equal educational opportunities in Bucks.

All the Bucks grammar schools use the same test, known as the 11+, for the selection.

The 11+ is intended “to enable all children to demonstrate their academic potential without excessive preparation”.   

The 11+ is critical to the educational and life chances of thousands of children each year in Bucks.

Despite the importance of the 11+ to so many children,  

1.      It seems, the grammar schools cannot provide any independent verification of the 11+ i.e. there appears to be no evidence from any independent source that the 11+ assesses potential effectively.

The only evidence cited by the grammar school heads is an analysis by the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) which developed and sold the 11+ to the Bucks grammar schools.

2.      It seems the grammar schools cannot provide any evidence that the 11+ assesses potential.    

On the contrary, the evidence which the grammar schools provided indicates that the 11+ assesses skills.  

Proficiency in skills can be taught.  It is dependent on, for example, the quality and quantity of teaching, parental background, culture, language and coaching.   

Potential is something within the child, waiting to be developed.  It is independent of these external factors.

If the 11+ assesses skills rather than potential, it would explain why children in prosperous areas in Bucks e.g. Chiltern district do very much better than children in less prosperous areas e.g. Aylesbury Vale.   Children in Chiltern district would have more of the advantages that help children improve the skills assessed by the 11+.  

Selection to grammar school would discriminate in favour of the prosperous-as we know it does.

If Mr Hudson truly believes the 11+ assesses potential (as is promised), then he must also believe that children from prosperous families have more potential than children from poor families – and that children in Chiltern District have more potential than children in Aylesbury Vale.

I will check my understanding of the situation with the grammar schools and ask Bucks County Council to get independent verification of the 11+ in Bucks.

The evidence for what I say.

In January, I asked the head teachers of the grammar schools in Bucks why the results of the 11+ varied so much between the four districts (see blog below).  On 6 February, I received a response from Mr Hudson, the Chairman of The Bucks Grammar Schools (TBGS), reproduced at the bottom of this blog.

The only evidence cited for the TBGS’s belief in the 11+ is an analysis by the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM).  The CEM develops a range of assessment tests, including the Bucks 11+, and sells them on the open market.  It is therefore evaluating its own product.  The CEM incidentally is part of the University of Durham where fellow academics dispute the validity of the 11+.

Mr Hudson says the 11+ is “specifically designed to work out a child’s potential”.   He goes on to say the intention of the 11+ “is to measure pupils’ skills”.   And finally he says the 11+ “provides an accurate measure of pupils’ abilities and potential”. 

Skills and potential are very different things.

Although Mr Hudson appears confused about the purpose of the 11+, the CEM is clear it is about potential.

The only evidence Mr Hudson provides which would indicate that the 11+ assesses potential is a “strong correlation” of the results of the 11+ with the results of Key Stage 2 (KS2).  KS2 is part of the national tests required by Government for state schools. 

KS2 assesses skills i.e. what the child has learnt.  It does not assess potential.   

Correlation between the 11+ and KS2 therefore cannot be evidence that the 11+ is effective in assessing potential; on the contrary, it indicates that the 11+ assesses skills.  

Response from Mr Hudson:

“My response is on behalf of all 13 grammar schools which form The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools (TBGS).

The Secondary Transfer Test (STT) used by TBGS has been specially designed to work out a child's potential.  By the age of 11, such potential has been developed in line with a wide range of factors. The intention of the test is to measure pupils’ skills in order that all children go to a school that can best meet their educational needs.

The percentage of children qualifying for grammar school places varies from year to year across the four Bucks regions.  The fact that children in different areas perform at differing levels reflects an existing pattern at KS2.   2014 STT entry data, for example, was analysed by CEM.  This data showed a strong correlation between Bucks 11+ scores and the scores those same children achieved at the end of Year 6 in the government's KS2 national curriculum tests.

The Secondary Transfer Test reflects modern research into the nature of ability and the quite widely-held view that people have multiple abilities. It is therefore considered appropriate to test children's ability to think in a range of different contexts.  TBGS believe that the STT provides an accurate measure of pupils’ abilities and potential.”

 

When schools becomes businesses, it pays to exclude

9 February 2017

At the end of January, Bucks County Council’s scrutiny committee on education considered a report on the permanent exclusion of children from primary schools.  It is an excellent paper.  Congratulations to the officials who wrote it.

First, the facts:   

--          The number of children permanently excluded from primary schools in Bucks increased from 6 to 24 a year.

-          If children are permanently excluded, their education suffers and they are more likely to develop mental health problems and commit crimes.

-          A head teacher decides whether to exclude a pupil.  BCC then has to offer the pupil alternative education. 

-          It costs a lot more to educate a child in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) than a mainstream school.

-          Last year all the places in the PRUs were full and BCC had to pay for extra places.

 

Virtually all of the excluded children had special educational needs and most had had their needs identified before exclusion.  The children were

-          mainly boys  

          disproportionately Black or Black British 

di   disproportionately poor  

-          mainly excluded for persistent disruptive behavior  

-          mostly excluded from outstanding or good schools; the better the OFSTED rating, the more likely the school was to exclude children more than once.

 

Second, the causes for the increase in exclusions:

-          a lack of experienced teachers

-          OFSTED placing a greater emphasis on behaviour and schools responding by excluding pupils who could adversely affect their ratings;

-          delays with getting support/assessment for children with special educational needs and for schools;

-          it is cheaper to exclude a child than buy in additional support; and

-        schools get less money to take on a previously permanently excluded pupil so there is no financial incentive to reintegrate a pupil back into the mainstream.  

 

Third, action has been taken successfully in Bucks to help reduce the exclusion.   Again, congratulations to those concerned.  However, resources for this work had to be taken from elsewhere.

 

 What officials could not say is that this is what happens when you turn schools into businesses - short-term, selfish actions which minimize the costs to the school leaving BCC to pick up the bill.  It costs society and the taxpayer more in the long run and leaves the disadvantaged adrift.

 

Response from Councillor Mohammed on SEN children is misleading, inaccurate and totally irrelevant

19 January 2017

Just after Christmas, I asked Councillor Mohammed, who is responsible for education on Bucks County Council, why there were so few children with special educational needs in grammar schools (see blog below). 

Councillor Mohammed replied: 

1.      It is important that children are able to attend educational settings that are as far as possible suited to them where they can perform. To this end it is important that there is choice and diversity of educational provision. Parents and carers can make a request for a particular school, college or other institution, so a placement at a particular school is very dependent on the following, taken from the SEND Code of Practice, 2015”

This does not answer my question; parents can ask for their child to go to grammar school until the cows come home but the child will not get in unless they pass the 11+.  

2.      “There were a total of 688 pupils in our grammar schools  who either had SEN Support, a Statement or an EHC plan which equates to 4.4% of the total grammar population.

The figures quoted in my blog refer to children with statements of SEN or with education, health or care plans because it is this category which is used by the Department of Education.  I could therefore compare the intake of this category into Bucks grammar schools with national figures.  It is was then clear that individual Bucks grammar schools have far fewer children than expected. 

Councillor Mohammed includes children who have SEN support in his category.  He does not provide a comparable figure for all Bucks children in this category, not just those in grammar schools, so residents cannot see whether grammar schools take their fair share.   

So the figures are misleading and do not, in any case, answer my question.

3.      Buckinghamshire is a good education authority where SEN/EHC pupils outperform similar pupils nationally at KS4, illustrating the importance of choice and diversity of educational provision…. Buckinghamshire SEN/EHC pupils outperform similar pupils nationally by about 12% and also shows that Buckinghamshire results have improved since 2014 whereas nationally they have remained static

Councillor Mohammed is quoting the wrong set of figures.  In fact, Bucks SEN/EHC pupils outperform similar pupils nationally by 2%.  The results have deteriorated in Bucks since 2014 whereas nationally they have remained static.

So the information is inaccurate and does not, in any case, answer my question either. 

There is a pattern here – If BCC does not want to answer the question, it will answer the questions you didn’t ask with irrelevant, misleading and inaccurate information.

 

Let’s hold the decision-makers to account for the 11+

15 January 2017

Just after Christmas, Bucks County Council put the first set of statistics about the outcome of last year’s 11+ onto its website.  

The statistics are published on behalf of the Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools who are responsible for setting the 11+ and preparing the statistics.   The statistics are for pupils who will start secondary school in September 2017.   

As far as I am aware, neither BCC nor Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools have given the statistics any publicity – you have to know where to find the data on the website. 

BCC has a statutory duty to provide equal educational opportunities for all children in Bucks.

It is also the job of BCC’s Select Committees to help improve outcomes for Buckinghamshire's residents and hold decision-makers to public account.

However, BCC has no plans to scrutinise the statistics and publicly hold the decision-makers to account for the outcomes on the 11+.    

So let’s start the process for them.   Here are some of the outcomes.

                                                % getting necessary mark for entry to grammar school

Aylesbury Vale district                                                18

Chiltern district                                                           41

Wycombe district                                                        22

South Bucks district                                                     36

The 11+ is meant to measure innate or inborn aptitude or potential i.e. abilities and talents which can be developed during secondary education.

The measurement should have nothing to do with what children have learned by the time they are 10, nor with the quality of the teaching they have had or any difficulties they might have with the English language. 

If we believe the 11+ does what it is intended to do, children in South Bucks district are twice as like to have the necessary inborn aptitude or potential to benefit from a grammar school as children in Aylesbury – and children in Chiltern are even more likely to have this innate aptitude or potential.    A remarkable outcome.

If we believe in the 11+, we have to believe the Fairy Godmother sprinkles twice as much fairy dust on babies in Chiltern and South Bucks districts as in Aylesbury.  Unbelievable or not?  

I know there are credible explanations for this remarkable outcome but I think it is time for the decision-makers – BCC and the grammar schools – to be publicly held to account.

So I will ask for an explanation.

 

Oh to see some scrutiny from BCC’s Select Committees

6 January 2017

One of BCC’s education priorities is to narrow the gap between the educational achievement of pupils eligible for pupil premium and their peers.    Pupils on the premium are disadvantaged primarily because their parents are poor. 

This attainment gap is measured at different stages of education up to Key Stage 4 (which is GCSE or equivalent).    Narrowing this gap is a priority for BCC because the gap in Bucks has been consistently wider than the national average; at GCSE level Bucks is one of the worst local authority areas, if not the worst, in helping poor pupils perform as well as their peers.

Bucks was criticised publicly about this poor performance a few years ago by Ministers. 

According to a paper that went to the Children’s Social Care and Learning Select Committee in December, the attainment gap has remained wider in Bucks at all stages than the equivalent gap nationally.    

There have been some improvements at some stages, including at GCSE level, but the picture remains the same – the gap narrows as pupils go through primary school and then increases substantially in secondary schools.   

As you can see from the graph, the gap at GCSE level hasn’t improved since the beginning of the reporting period and is 39 % i.e. 35.5 % of poor pupils get 5 good GCSEs compared with 74.5 % of their peers

Research carried out in 2014 showed pupils on pupil premium do very poorly at the 11+ (4% passed compared with about 33% overall). 

The conclusion to be drawn is that the primary schools do a good job in helping poorer children catch up to their peers.  However, few get through the 11+ and they fall behind again dramatically.

The role of the Select Committee is to hold decision-makers to account for improving outcomes and services for Buckinghamshire.  It is part of BCC’s scrutiny function.

Its job in December was to hold Cllr Zahir Mohammed to account for BCC’s poor performance on this educational gap.  Unfortunately, most of the Committee spent the 20 minutes or so telling one another that BCC was great on education.

However, two Councillors got to the core of the problem. 

One of these was a Tory Councillor, the Select Committee’s Chairman, Cllr Dhillon.  The other was a Labour Councillor, Cllr Stuchbury.  Both made the point that poorer children do well up to 11 and then the gap widens because they do not get to grammar school.   

The point was ignored of course by Cllr Mohammed but thank goodness there are two Councillors on the Select Committee who understand the problem. 

Wouldn’t it be good if other Tories scrutinised the evidence?   

 

Why are there so few SEN children at grammar schools?

 December 2016

A friend sent me some statistics giving the percentage of children at grammar schools with special educational needs compared with the percentage of children at secondary modern schools with special educational needs.  I have checked and added to them below. 

 

I should say up front that I think the 11+ should be abolished (for so many reasons) but given that we have an 11+ in Bucks I think we should see what is happening to our children with special educational needs.

 

The statistics show that the grammar schools take in a very much smaller percentage of children with special educational needs than secondary modern schools do.  One grammar school has none.      

 

I mentioned this to a number of people and their first reaction was to say something like “well of course most children who have special educational needs wouldn’t be able to go to grammar schools – grammar schools are for clever children who will do well academically.   Yes the 11+ discriminates against children with special educational needs but that discrimination is fair.”

 

But let’s think about it.  

 

Children have special educational needs for so many reasons.  They may be dyslexic.  They may have physical disabilities or illnesses.  They may have mental health problems or find it difficult to concentrate.   The 11+ is meant to measure innate aptitude or potential not what children have learnt by the time they are 10.   So why is it that so many children with special educational needs are not going to grammar schools?

 

One of the aims of Bucks County Council’s Fair Access Protocol is to

 

• Ensure that all schools and academies, free schools and University Technical Colleges (UTC)  take a shared responsibility for the admission of pupils with challenging educational needs with no one school/academy having to take a disproportionate number of pupils.  

 

Bucks County Council appears to be failing to achieve that aim so I am going to ask Councillor Zahir Mohammed, who is responsible for Education on BCC, why not.  I will let you know what he says.  Our Labour County Councillor, Robin Stuchbury, has asked before and got no answer but we will try again.

 

 

 

School /% children with statement of SEN or education, health or care plan

 

Aylesbury Grammar School/ 0.5

 

Aylesbury High School/ 0

 

Aylesbury Vale Academy/2.2

 

Wycombe Grammar School/0.5

 

Wycombe High School/ 0.2

 

Cressex Community School/2.1

 

Sir William Ramsey School/5.2

 

Sir William Borlace Grammar School/0.3

 

Great Marlow School/2.2

 

 

 

Nationally 1.8% of schoolchildren have special educational needs.