Alex Burghart: Sir Michael Wilshaw calls for leadership to turn around failing schools
The job of education reform is far from over. This was the pronouncement of the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw earlier in the week in a speech hosted by CentreForum.
Excoriating the ‘botched reform of our schools in the ’60s and ’70s’ which led to ‘the erosion of Headteacher authority by militant unionism’, he pushed this generation of reformers to seek clearer accountability for schools, better cooperation between schools, and, most importantly, stronger leadership in schools.
These were key themes of the CSJ’s 2014 report, Closing the Divide. In this report we called for the best school leaders to take over the worst performing schools in the poorest areas. We also pressed the Government to give Regional Commissioners a stronger role in identifying struggling schools to tackle persistent underachievement.
These are essential reforms. Even in the midst of the ambitious changes of the past five years there are many islands of failure. In Blackpool only 42% of children get five good GCSEs. In Knowsley, there is not a single secondary school rated as 'good' and only 37% of students manage five A* to C grades including English and maths.
Without further change the country will, as Sir Michael Wilshaw says, continue to fail half its future population.
CSJ Policy Recommendation: To help poor schools improve and enable greater collaboration, the remit of the Regional Schools Commissioner Boards should be extended so that they are charged with supporting school improvement and brokering support across all schools. (Closing the Divide, p62)
Frank Young: PM should remember Dads in parenting crusade
Earlier this week the Women and Equalities Select Committee, led by former Culture Secretary, Maria Miller heard evidence on how to encourage Dads to take on a greater role in childcare.
This follows the Prime Minister's announcement that he will be launching new policies to support parents and encourage better parenting. It is easy to overlook the important role of fatherhood in developing policies to support parents, a point made by a Parliamentary inquiry into Parenting and Social Mobility last year.
There is much to do in this area. With the Government predicting that only 2-8% of fathers will take up new paternity leave entitlement the Prime Minister should look at courses such as the ‘Expectant Fathers Programme’ developed by the charity Working with Men or the NCT's 'Mantenatal' classes for examples of how the Government can actively support fatherhood.
CSJ Policy Recommendation: Father engagement should be part of the core purpose of new Family Hubs and included in inspections of early years and maternity services. (Fully Committed, p8)
Saskia Greenhalgh: Corbyn's state imposed pay ratio is not the solution to low pay
Last weekend in a speech to the Fabian Society Jeremy Corbyn outlined proposals to impose pay ratios on companies across the country. The wrongness of this approach is summed up by Abraham Lincoln who is quoted as saying, "you can’t make the poor rich by making the rich poorer".
However, the challenges of low pay remain significant. The solution must lie in supporting those earning the National Living Wage to develop new skills, progress in work and earn more. This is surely a more ambitious policy than simple state imposed ratios.
The CSJ welcomes the introduction of the National Living Wage, having called for its introduction in our 2014 Tackling Low Pay report. However, it is also essential that the Government examines how the upskilling and progression of the low paid can be supported.
In our report we identified that one quarter of workers are ‘stuck’ within 5p per hour of the National Minimum Wage for five years or more. It is crucial that the link between hard work and reward is re-established. We have called on the Government to help Universal Credit claimants increase their income through ‘Progression Plans’, setting out steps to boost skills and progress.
In his search for new policies for the low paid Jeremy Corbyn would be better advised to look at how larger businesses could identify progression routes and training opportunities for low-paid employees.
CSJ Policy Recommendation: When a (Universal Credit) claimant makes the move in to work, they should be expected to complete a Progression Plan, setting out detailed steps to boost skills and progress. This should be reviewed and updated regularly. (Tackling Low Pay, p47)