Saturday, 26 November 2005

How much????

Ministers have hailed the £386m Excellence in Cities scheme as a key initiative for some of the poorest parts of the country but the evaluation for the Department for Education and Skills found that GCSE grades had not risen. [Rebecca Smithers, education editor, Guardian Education,
25/11/2005]
Call me cynical, call me a dyed in the wool sceptic and remind me that hindsight is always 20:20 but having had some involvement in this project I feel able to offer a few thoughts.
A DfES spokesman insisted that the evaluation only covered the period up to August 2003."This research ... doesn't reflect where we are now. In 2005, the rate of increase in GCSE performance for Excellence in Cities areas is nearly twice that of other areas for the fourth year running - up three percentage points on last year."
EiC was rolled into Aimhigher just over a year ago so, just like the shell game, it's going to be harder to draw conclusions from the data following the integration of these projects. Don't forget that funding for Aimhigher is another substantial lump of change.
The Excellence in Cities (EiC) programme was introduced in 1999 to provide extra money and support for struggling inner-city schools. Schools taking part in the scheme have been awarded £1bn with a further £700m committed over the next 18 months. [Polly Curtis, Guardian Education, 11/10/2004]
Hang on! My maths isn't great but I can already see a difference between the numbers being bandied around!EiC joined schools together in twons and cities. the aims included sharing good practice and, if possible, "expert" teachers. It included the Gifted and Talented activities and thus we can muddy the waters even more - pick from that list to determine what, if anything, is improving the performance of pupils.Big wads of money are mentioned by successive Ministers but much of this funding goes into admin and paying people who don't meet school age children unless they are their own. Most schools used the money for EiC coordinators to pay existing teachers for additional responsibilities but didn't give them additional time to carry out extra tasks. The administration of these schemes - at school and college level - is very time consuming and aimed at offering an audit trail rather than actually having a positive impact on the outcomes for the students involved.I don't think anyone doubts that education in this country can always use more money, particularly in inner city "sink" schools but why spread the money so thinly? In order to rope in the grammar schools they also received funding yet most have results suggesting that they cannot really improve the outcomes for their pupils. In my experience there is little or no articulation between schools regarding the G&T status of ppils, they move from primary to junior and then to secondary and college with their SATs scores (sometimes) but rarely with any additional information about the "whole" person. Sadly this government is "initiative driven" - it must make more sense to give the money to the professionals appointed to run the schools, the head teachers, and let them get on with it!

11 careful considerations:

Rob Spence said...
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kat said...
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kat said...

Rob- Special needs children have exactly that. They have needs which differ from 'oridinary' children and unfortunately it can cost more to provide for them. They need fully trained staff or special equipment. How can the deaf, blind, autistic or the mentally or pyhsically handicapped be expected to cope in a normal classroom. Also how can a teacher in a class of 20 to 30 children do the job and what about play times. When special needs children are placed in an ordinary class in the name of inclusion, (which in many cases has proved to be nothing more than a cost cutting exercise) without proper provision, the education of all the children in that class suffers. Surely you wouldn't suggest that special needs children should stop at home or that they are not entitled to an education. Many so called gifted children have problems in other areas and they are unable to cope in a normal classroom. They often do not achieve as much as their peers. Special needs and for want of a better word 'gifted' children can become disruptive if their needs are not met. Many people say that too many children are being given special needs status and they resent it. I would suggest that they gain some experience in this area and ask why so many special schools have been shut down. The schools have been shut and the children have been placed in the 'ordinary' schools but the staff and the money has not followed them.

Far, far too much money is being spent on administration within the LEAs, and it is absolutely scanderlous that ordinary teachers and untrained staff are expected to take on the extra responsiblity for children with additional needs. No child gets special needs status without an enormous amount of administration, heartache and paperwork flowing between the school, the parents and the LEA. This wasted time and money could be used for the benefit of all children.

kat - the mother of a special needs child.

Saturday, November 26, 2005 10:17:48 PM

Nogbad said...

The true sadness in much of this is that the idea of G&T status is seen to be 5 - 10% in every cohort but the way this is determined is so poorly defined that many teachers simply pick one in ten children.

SEN children, on the other hand, usually get an appalling deal. Here in Kent provision of SEN trained support was cut back years ago and this meant that children with, for example, ADHD and/or ODD or any of the spectrum of different disorders usually find themselves excluded from school. "Sure Start" units are dumping grounds for children that mainstream schools can no longer support and while the staff work wonders the main aim is containment. I have absolutely no issue with anyone pumping money into education but much of this is simply sophistry. Claims are being made that have little to do with what is actually happening on the ground.

kat said...

I was fed up of the statements being made re my child. At one time he wasn't receiving what I considered to be an adequate education or proper care. This was despite some additional funding and despite the claims on the paperwork. He is now, but I almost had to strangle an LEA person with my bare hands and it took many months to sort out all the issues.

Rob Spence said...

Me and my big mouth. I didn't mean to offend, Kat. I was being, as usual, entirely frivolous, and I couldn't agree more with you about the lot of special needs children who are "included". I once worked in a school with a pioneering unit for children with special needs, and that unit did wonders with the kids who went there - from miles around. I expect it's closed now, and those children will be left to cope in classes with "mainstream" children.
Your point about the claims is spot on Nigel. Listen to any minister asked about any problem, and the first thing they say is "we have spent x billion pounds on this, and are continuing...blah blah blah." It then turns out that there's some very creative accounting to arrive at the figure, and that much of the money goes to "consultants" or useless IT companies.
I've obviously upset you Kat, by my thoughtless comment, and I apologise. Nigel -please delete it: I don't think I can, or I would have done.

kat said...

You haven't personally offended or upset me Rob and I am sorry if my post has come over too strongly. It is the system which has offended me. :-) What I was trying to get at is that the Government say how much money they are pumping into special needs and have talked about this wonderful thing called 'inclusion' when all the time it was just another bloody paperwork exercise within our schools. All children have suffered because of it. Mary Warnock who first came up with the idea of inclusion has now changed her mind.
She also says the way the most severe needs are assessed is "wasteful and bureaucratic" and "must be abolished". BBC report.
I think that a lot of other things within our schools is also wasteful and bureaucratic.

Sorry Rob.

Rob Spence said...

No apology necessary Kat - and I have found how to dump my original comment, so I've now done that. I absolutely agree about paper exercises and bureaucracy. The trend started with Kenneth Baker (described by the wonderfuk and recently departed Ted Wragg as the "self-basting Education minister") and his National Curriculum - so important that all schools had to follow it, except the schools attended by the children of Tory ministers - and continued by the Major and Blair governments. It'snow reached epidemic proportions. I have seen it seriously suggested that classroom helpers (many of whom have a whole day's training) should be allowed to "teach" classes, so that the teachers can have time to do the paperwork...

kat said...

There is a bit of a debate going on about this, Rob.

See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4307968.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4316796.stm

and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4223476.stm

Many SEN children have been 'taught' by teaching assistants for a long time.

Rob Spence said...

Thanks Kat. The solution is blindingly obvious isn't it? Schools need to employ enough qualified staff to offer a good curriculum and decent opportunities for teachers to plan and mark in non-contact time. Children with special needs should have those needs addressed in specialist centres by trained staff who have the time and expertise to deal with such children. It sounds utopian, but if we diverted all the spending that currently goes on educational consultants and barmy initiatives, we could start to set this up tomorrow.

kat said...

In principle, inclusion is the correct way forward and I wouldn't like to see the concept disappear but in practice it has proved unworkable and disastrous for many children. The children themselves cannot cope with it. They end up feeling excluded within the school. The local education authorities have abused the concept and they employ too many people, and too many tactics, to stand between us and the funds. Access to the funds is so difficult and time consuming that most parents, schools and teachers simply give up. All the silly additional funding initiatives are annoying.