Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence



Memorandum from Mrs Christine Owen (EB 10)

 

1.  BARTLEY GREEN TECHNOLOGY COLLEGECONTEXT

  1.1  Bartley Green Technology College is an 11-16 mixed secondary school, with some 820 pupils on roll, many of whom come from homes with a significant degree of social and economic deprivation (42-46 per cent FSM). The school contains within it, a Special Education Unit for 55 statemented pupils, with Speech and Language difficulties, many of whom are on the Autistic Spectrum. In addition, a further 36-42 per cent have special educational needs, with another 20 pupils having Statements of SEN in mainstream. Thus, nearly 10 per cent of the school population is statemented and another third on various stages of the Code of Practice. Seven years ago, the school was severely underperforming and was identified as "nearly failing" by Ofsted.

Then

Now

 

1994

2002

1st Choices

73

258
(150 intake)

5+ A-Cs

11%

35%

5+ A-Es

46%

74%

5+ A-Gs

74%

94%

1+ GCSE

88%

99%

No results

12%

1%

Attendance

84%

92%

SATS Benchmarking

All Es

BCAB

 

  My school is measured by the same outputs as King Edward's Grammar School up the road, although most of my pupils have very different starting points. Despite this, our attainment has improved significantly, as has that of pupils with SEN (See Annex 1). However, League Tables take no account of these differing starting points—which continues to rankle with teachers, as it is blatantly unfair. It also fails to recognise the enormous achievement of teachers of these pupils, in some challenging schools—to achieve this much. Teaching and Learning in schools achieving success in challenging circumstances is often, of necessity, more varied, stimulating and targeted than some schools in more advantageous circumstances. Statements from the Government berating low achieving schools undermine those working hard and succeeding in some very difficult social and economic contexts. It also makes staff recruitment much, much harder.

2.  ATTENDANCE

  2.1  Attendance is of course, closely correlated with academic success. Standards Fund and EiC support here is crucial and most welcome. Most secondary schools have used this effectively to raise attendance through the appointment of dedicated attendance support staff.

  2.2  Parental condoned absence is the critical issue, not "truancy" in the majority of cases. "Unauthorised absence" league tables and "penalty" approach self-defeating. Schools need to challenge some parents over condoned absence by refusing to authorise it.

  2.3  Struggling schools in challenging circumstances are further disadvantaged by having spare capacity, which enables other more successful schools, ESWs and LEAs to "dump" very challenging pupils (either through extended periods of absence—a year or more missed schooling, or with severe behavioural difficulties). Such pupils require intervention before being placed back in schools, similar to BSS model operating in Birmingham. Schools in such circumstances need to be protected from direction to take such pupils or the strains may well break the camel's back!

3.  BEHAVIOUR

  3.1  Poor behaviour is always an issue in schools facing challenging circumstances. Schools used to be able to rely on a high degree of consensus about appropriate behaviour in schools. They were, in the main, agencies of "secondary socialisation". Now often, they have to put enormous resources into "primary socialisation", honesty, politeness, non-physical responses, appropriate language, responses and behaviour.

  3.2  Recent evidence from a survey amongst Birmingham Headteachers revealed the following:

    —  Behaviour has improved slightly for the majority due to huge staff investment—thanks largely to EiC, but the extremes are more extreme. More support is required for a minority of pupils who present more challenging and complex behaviours, some require a different educational environment, more specialised.

    —  Increased difficulty in unstructured time and with issues coming into school from the community.

    —  More pupils are presenting problems on entry from KS2.

    —  Impact of unsupportive/hostile parents on workload and morale of staff.

    —  Violent behaviour on increase, involving both physical and verbal assaults on pupils and staff.

    —  Staff recruitment issues in challenging schools and/or increased staff absence.

    —  Increased emphasis on "rights" not "responsibilities".

    —  Inclusion policy re pupils with behaviour problems presents schools with enormous difficulties.

    —  Increased moves to litigation, often over trivial issues, which often come to nothing, absorb unreasonable amounts of staff time and energy.

    —  Schools have put in an awe-inspiring range of strategies to manage and improve behaviour.

    —  Penalty clause for exclusions deeply resented. If a pupil assaults another pupil on racial grounds, school will still suffer 6,000 penalty for exclusion.

    —  More Behaviour Support Service input and Child Psychiatric services required.

One Head said—

    "It is the single most important issue deterring undergraduates from entering the profession—not salaries, not paperwork, curriculum change nor Ofsted. Grappling with poor behaviour is also wearing down an aging profession."

4.  SPECIALIST SCHOOLS

  4.1  Bartley Green was working towards applying for Specialist School status prior to EiC, but this initiative enabled us to apply sooner.

  The vigorous planning and setting of the school's own identified priorities and targets, is a very effective tool for continued school improvement. Our own progress has been hastened by this sharp focus, with the additional resources to support higher achievement and more challenging targets. The Technology Colleges Trust is an important network for ideas and support. The programme of support for Specialist Schools in challenging areas has been a welcome addition in my own school's Science Department for example.

  4.2  The requirement for 50,000 sponsorship from business and the community is a huge barrier to schools already disadvantaged in terms of their catchment. We only raised 5,000 despite extensive efforts. We were so fortunate in gaining support through TCT special EiC funding and through the TCT's contact with an anonymous donor. The issue of sponsorships, for schools in challenging circumstances, needs to be addressed.

  4.3  The Community aspect of the Specialist Schools programme is particularly effective. In my own school for example, local primaries share our difficult community context. The requirement to share resources with our community has benefited six feeder primaries both in terms of resources, ICT support, curriculum support and expertise and enrichment for able Year 6 pupils.

  4.4  Clearly too, there is an issue for schools who do not achieve such status when others all around them do. Such schools are likely to be facing immense challenges anyway. Justice and equality of opportunity for children suggests that such schools require much more support in order to compete and gain the additional resourcing and access to improvement strategies that would bring them into the "virtuous circle".

5.  ADMINISTRATION, BUREAUCRACY AND WORKLOAD ISSUES

  5.1  It is frustrating, that despite the Government's avowed intent to reduce bureaucratic demands, both Government Agencies and LEAs continue to demand increased paperwork, often in the name of "monitoring and evaluation". Here in school, it sometimes feels as if I am the only person digging the hole, whilst ten others assess and monitor my performance. I would like some of them to grab a shovel too! In the first week of term, we received three different requests from the LEA, one ten pages long, requiring detailed information and examples. If this level of monitoring is required, we will have to build an additional administrative cost into our budgets to meet this demand. Do I have one person employed full-time for example to monitor our SEN budget and to evaluate its effect in detail on individual pupils and groups? How useful will this be, when those pupils are also subject to a myriad of other influences and strategies, EiC Learning Mentors, Behaviour Support Workers, Attendance Workers etc?

  5.2  The approach of EiC and that used for Pupil Learning Credits is a huge relief. Set the parameters, give us the funding, and let us do the job, "minimalist" bureaucracy. Accountability and responsibility for outcomes of course, but "light touch" paperwork.

  5.3  Clearly, there is likely to be an increasingly heavy administrative load being borne at the school level, not least because of the delegation of functions previously performed at LEA level. However, the delegation of administrative resources to undertake these functions has not always followed. The Government's recognition of this need to develop administrative infrastructures is welcome, but will need to be costed, if the risk of teachers being drawn away from the classroom and disputes over teacher workload are to be avoided.

  5.4  Concerns over the continual introduction of additional hoops for schools to jump through, apparently because of fears that some schools may not be acting properly. These also distract Governing Bodies from their prime functions.

  5.5  CRB fiasco prime example of a lack of understanding of how schools work on the ground. (Why cannot GTC take over responsibility for liaising with CRB over this—one point of contact for schools re registered teachers?)

6.  14-19 CURRICULUM

  6.1  Increased flexibility is to be greatly welcomed. We have a variety of youngsters now undertaking part-time or shared provision with local FE colleges.

  6.2  However, such arrangements are not made easily and require very specific arrangements for specific schools. Issues of transport of pupils to and from, safety etc are often neglected issues.

  6.3  Interestingly, issues of who should enter pupils for external accreditation are coming to the fore. Both schools and colleges want the accreditation—but whilst League Tables are prominent, I know where my pupils will do their examinations!

  6.4  The schizophrenic approach to annual GCSE/A Level results is very depressing. I know how much work goes into those improved results; far, far more and far more effectively than twenty years ago. In addition, the concentration on *A-Cs undervalues the well-earned success of those achieving Ds, Es, Fs, and for some SEN pupils, a G! There needs to be a way in which the unskilled and semi-skilled workforce of the future can feel properly valued.

  6.5  I await with anticipation, the additional support for my "at risk" 16 year old leavers, a significant number in a school like mine, when Connexions has reorganised sufficiently to make a real difference on the ground. It is particularly frustrating to work really hard to persuade pupils to apply for college/6th forms, support them by visits, form filling, telephone calls, parental contact, to find them wandering back into school after a few weeks having abandoned post-16 courses because then didn't like them. Real support is required at this transition point from someone other than us. 11-16 pupils, usually already in a more socially disadvantaged area, are further disadvantaged by having to make a real decision at 16. Their counterparts in an 11-18 school can just drift into 6th form with very little effort and continue to receive the support of staff who know them well. Thus they have more time to make mature decisions about suitable progression.

C F Owen

September 2002

Annex 1

 

GCSE RESULTS 1995-2002

  

Full Year Group

Entered 5+
GCSE

Achieved 5+
A*-C

Achieved 5+
A*-E

Achieved 5+
A*-G

Entered 1+
GCSE

Achieved 1+
A*-C

Achieved 1+
A*-G

Average Point Score

No Passes A*-G

Not entered

1995

117

100

17

54

86

113

 

107

 

10

4

   

85%

15%

46%

74%

97%

 

91%

 

9%

3%

1996

131

116

20

74

109

129

 

127

 

4

2

   

89%

15%

56%

83%

98%

 

97%

 

3%

2%

1997

102

91

20

59

85

98

 

98

 

4

4

   

89%

20%

58%

83%

96%

 

96%

 

4%

4%

1998

109

91

21

62

86

105

 

104

 

5

4

   

83%

19%

57%

79%

96%

 

95%

 

5%

4%

1999

103

95

20

53

90

102

 

101

 

2

1

   

92%

19%

51%

87%

99%

 

98%

 

2%

1%

2000

116

110

33

73

107

113

 

113

30.3

3

3

   

95%

28%

63%

92%

97%

 

97%

 

3%

3%

2001

118

111

36

79

108

117

64

117

30.1

1

1

   

94%

31%

67%

92%

99%

54%

99%

 

1%

1%

2002

124

120

44

92

117

124

85

123

35.5

1

0

   

97%

35%

74%

94%

100%

69%

99%

 

1%

0%

Rend 1994-2001

Up 12%

Up 20%

Up 28%

Up 20%

Up 3%

Up 15%

Up 8%

Up 5.2

Down 8%

Down 3%

 

  All pupils aged 15+ on School Roll.

  All figures are rounded to the nearest whole number.

 

Bartley Green Technology College

SPEECH AND LANGUAGE RESOURCE BASE

  The Resource Base works with 55 pupils with Statements of Special Need, focused on speech and language handicaps, including pupils on the autistic spectrum, Asperger's syndrome, and semantic-pragmatic difficulties.

  With BGTC this is one of the most extensive inclusive secondary resources nationally.

  It is oversubscribed, and with the popularity of the Technology College as a whole, indicates that client parents find the inclusive nature of the school environment a positive factor for choosing us.

  The move from a school integrating special needs pupils to an inclusive school setting in which all pupils are valued was a conscious process which the Head and the Resource Base Head have worked together to achieve over the past few years.

  It is the expectation now that all pupils with speech and language difficulties will be encouraged both socially and academically so that they are able to access the same exam accreditation at the end of Year 11.

  In the Year cohort that left in July 2002, all the pupils (seven in the group) achieved significant results. A total of 42 GCSE and GNVQs were passed. The subject range included: Art, English Language, English Literature, Food Technology, French, Graphic Products, History, Mathematics, Science (Single and Double GCSE) GNVQ Manufacturing, and Textiles.

  Pupils also achieved ICT (Short course) accreditation, modular French, and Alternative English (Merit).

  The work of the Technology College as an inclusive environment has been highlighted by AFASIC, in two OFSTED inspections, and by a number of Universities. It is the lead establishment for a Eu Socrates-Comenius II Project: SENTRA—Special Educational Needs: Transitions, viewable on a dedicated website at www.sentra.ws.

  There is a fundamental issue that if establishments such as BGTC are going to flourish as inclusive environments, then there needs to be some tangible recognition of this within the Government's reporting framework additional to examination grade levels alone.

  There appears to be no record and research data for the achievement of pupils with special needs in inclusive mainstream settings.

 


 
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