It has also called on the government to extend its maximum class size limit of 30 to all primary pupils with an early target date for implementation. The proposals are contained in the union's response, published today, to the government's Green Paper 'Schools building on success', which was published in February (see LGCnet).
The union accuses the government of proposing changes which will fragment the education service and create a two-tier system of education supported by preferential and inequitable funding, advantaging the few but disadvantaging the many through the extension of specialist schools and the establishment of city academies.
It is also highly critical of government plans to extend the involvement of the private sector in the management of local authority schools by private companies.
Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, said:
'After four years, it has realised that schools work better together in networks and partnerships than in damaging and wasteful competition. But it has still not come to grips with the overwhelming evidence in favour of free, non-selective, high quality comprehensive education. Instead the prime minister has turned his attack on comprehensive schools, accusing them of less dedication than 'any' private or grammar school.
'The prime minister must realise that the denigration of teachers during the last four years has obscured many of the government's successes, including greater funding in the short and medium term. Its insistence on fragmenting educational provision will further obscure the beneficial developments taking place in schools across the country.
'The Green Paper has little to say on the biggest challenge to the government's aspirations shared by this union for high quality education: the recruitment and retention of sufficient teachers to meet the needs of pupils and to deliver ever improving pupil achievement.
'Teaching as a profession must be talked up. Teaching must be no less attractive than other occupations competing for graduates. Privatisation and fragmentation accompanied by inequitable funding will not help achieve that. A new contact to support and protect them from excessive workload will.'
Specialist schools, on-site support and city academies
The government intends to set up 1000 specialist schools by 2003 rising to 1500 by 2006. The first 1,000 will receive additional funding of£127m on top of the£50,000 each specialist school must raise through private sponsorship.
Despite the prime minister's vow that the scheme is not a return to a two-tier system, that is precisely the potential outcome of arrangements which identify for parents schools which, through funding, appear more favoured than their non-specialist neighbours.
Combined with partially selective admission arrangements, specialist schools will have advantages in terms of resources not available to other secondary schools. Schools seeking funding from the private sector in deprived inner city areas will find it extremely difficult to obtain a substantial amount of sponsorship with few companies operating in those areas. In addition, the requirement to seek private sector sponsorship for government initiatives such as city academies places schools in the position of competing with each other for a limited amount of such sponsorship.
Providing specialist provision is not at issue. It is possible to encourage collaboration and offer equality of access to specialist provision without dividing school communities.
The NUT believes that, where necessary, networks of specialist provision should be established and be open to pupils with particular levels of aptitude or ability from all schools within the community. Pupils would remain registered at their own school and would spend most of their time there. The specialist provision would act as a resource to all local schools and teachers, providing in-service training and specialist equipment and knowledge. Specialist centres could be based in particular schools but there would be no form of selective admission arrangements or preferential funding for schools themselves.
Initiatives which promote multi-agency approaches to tackling socio-economic impediments to learning at school level can assist schools in facilitating access to essential support services, thus allowing teachers to focus on improving their pupils? academic achievements.
The development of school clusters has helped to break down some of the needless rivalry and competition for pupils fostered by recent education reforms. The clusters have led to a better understanding by schools of each other's needs and have encouraged the sharing of good practice between schools.
Future educational initiatives and additional funding allowances could focus on networks of local schools rather than on individual institutions. Such approaches could be based on a
requirement that schools work in partnership on specific aspects of provision or delivery. Schools should be given support to respond to the needs of their immediate communities, for
example, in developing out-of-school activities.
Such schools could be an effective way to tackle many of the barriers to learning faced by pupils and their families. Teachers in schools in areas of social disadvantage are often expected
to respond to the social needs of pupils. Schools which have a range of welfare services co-ordinated alongside education provision would be in a better position to respond to the
needs of families and their children without teachers being expected solely to take on thatrole.
The level and range of support available in such schools would be based on need and would, not be a ?one size fits all? initiative. Agencies which families use or need to use but find
difficult to access, could be based in schools. This approach would allow schools to provide proactive support for families, help foster in parents a more positive attitude to support
services and be an effective way of promoting community access and use of schools.
The Full Service Schools programme in the US has been highly effective in helping improve attainment and relationships between teachers, parents and the wider community. In
Scotland, a similar initiative, the New Community Schools programme, has reported comparable findings, with pupil attendance and exclusion rates much improved. Pilot schemes for
such schools could be established with the full involvement of teaching and non-teaching staff.
The establishment of City Academies is a retrograde step. They will have an undesirable impact on coherent provision within local education authorities. They mark a further
fragmentation of the service, which coupled with the proposals for the expansion of specialist schools, will leave schools outside these two categories in receipt of lower levels of
funding. The£8 million already allocated to each City Academy will be at the expense of schools which remain in the public sector. Such differentials will inevitably affect how these
schools are perceived particularly by parents choosing secondary schools for their children.
The establishment of a City Academy will include the transfer of school premises from the democratically elected local authority to an unaccountable sponsoring body. The break up of
a local authority?s ability to allocate and co-ordinate provision and the use of its assets will undermine equality of access for pupils. This lack of democratic accountability will extend to
the role of sponsor governors who will necessarily give high priority to the sponsor?s interests which may not necessarily be in the interests of the school.
No City Academy yet exists. Judgement on the effectiveness of this initiative in raising pupil achievement, therefore, cannot be made. The proposal to extend the City Academy
programme, year on year, is another example of the Government expanding an initiative before it has been implemented, let alone evaluated.
The Government has not learnt the lessons from the shortfall in business funding to City Technology Colleges and, more recently, to Education Action Zones, as identified by the
NUT?s analysis of the funding of Education Action Zones. The Union remains sceptical as to whether the financial commitments of the commercial sponsors of those City Academies
announced to date will be delivered.
Teachers are severely tested by some of the behaviour pupils bring to school. At long last, Government has recognised that unacceptable pupil behaviour ranks as one of the greatest
burdens faced by teachers. In the NUT?s recent survey of teachers who had left the profession, unacceptable pupil behaviour was ranked as the second most common reason for
leaving, excessive workload was the most frequently cited.
The NUT believes that once a child has run the full gamut of the school?s behaviour strategies, the only option is exclusion. The new Gvernment should sit down with the teachers?
organisations to bring about a coherent approach to the provision of support to teachers on pupil behaviour. There should be a requirement for all LEAs to make a wide range of
provision to meet the needs of all pupils.
Pupil Referral Units are the poor relations within provision for pupils who need education out of school. The Government, however, is far from having a fully funded, comprehensive
programme for tackling indiscipline, disaffection and disruption.
Learning Support Units cannot be a ?one size fits all? substitute for pupil exclusion. In each LEA there should be a range of provision including behaviour support services, Pupil
Referral Units and special schools for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Such provision would provide both a service to schools and alternative education for pupils
who have been excluded or referred through statements.
The Government needs to revise radically its policy for supporting teachers with pupils whose behaviour is unacceptable. Teachers cannot be responsible solely for tackling the social
ills of society. The NUT supports models which bring health and social services provision to school level and believes that practical steps such as these must be taken to remove from
the shoulders of teachers responsibilities which should not be theirs.
There must also be an expansion in the range of provision in addition to special schools and PRUs. Many of England?s most challenging schools do not have appropriate mental health
services available for pupils and all secondary schools should be able to call on the services of pupil counsellors.
Requirements for each LEA to produce behaviour support plans have not had the intended effect, largely because messages from Government have been confused and money for
alternative provision has not been available.
Unacceptable pupil behaviour is detrimental both to pupils? learning and the ability of teachers to teach. Where exclusion is necessary properly resourced alternative provision must be
available, provision which is co-ordinated and comprehensive. The new Government must ensure that a thorough review of such provision is undertaken.
The NUT welcomes the reduction in the size of Key Stage 1 classes. It is vital, however, that this is viewed as only a first step in improving teacher:pupil ratios in primary schools. There
should be an early announcement by Government of its intention and a target date set for the reduction of class sizes at Key Stage 2 to a statutory maximum of 30.
There is no easy elision between adult:pupil ratios and teacher:pupil ratios. Any attempt by government to obscure the issue of teacher supply by refocusing the debate upon
adult:pupil ratios will be resisted by the NUT.
Managing Schools on a Fixed Term Contract ? the 3Es Model
The NUT cannot support the proposals to enable an external sponsor to take responsibility for a weak or failing school against a fixed term contract. The strategy of handing over
schools to private companies is unnecessary and inappropriate and has the potential for those private companies to make a profit from publicly funded schools.
The King?s Manor model adopted by Surrey County Council was unnecessary and inappropriate in terms of cost and educational provision. Rather than instigate a programme of
support and intervention itself, the local authority, operating in one of the most advantaged areas of the country, has contracted 3Es to run the school, investing £1.5 million in this
experiment. It is premature for the Green Paper to use this as a successful model as the new Kings? College has not yet completed its first year of operation.
Such schools need and deserve assistance, as has been recognised by the Government in its programme for schools in challenging circumstances. Such successful innovations should
be extended rather than contracting out schools to the private sector.
Recruitment and retention of teachers
The current financial incentives for PGCE courses compound the current iniquitous situation whereby BEd students must pay tuition fees while PGCE students do not. The NUT
welcomes the ?consideration? within the Green Paper of parity between financial incentives for under-graduate and post-graduate students. It would urge the Government to make a
commitment to this effect.
If the Government?s Green Paper proposals are introduced it would be possible for a PGCE trained maths teacher, after three years in a ?challenging job? to be up to£36,000 better off than
a BEd trained history teacher working in an ?average? school.
The Green Paper concentrates on new ways of attracting teachers rather than retaining them. The Government has still not understood what can make teaching a high status and
attractive profession, though its proposals for professional development are a step forward.
It is increasingly clear that the current pay and conditions structure is hopelessly inadequate in retaining teachers and piecemeal incentives have yet to demonstrate that they have
anything more than a short term and marginal effect on recruitment. Despite the recent increases, teachers? pay still lags behind comparable professions. A graduate elsewhere could
expect to start on up to£19,157, whereas a graduate entering teaching starts at£17,001. After five years, this gap will increase by up to£11,490.
The NUT will be pressing the new government to open discussions on a new contract for teachers which will both encourage recruitment and retention of teachers and raise teacher
morale. A national contract for teachers will remove the excessive hours and stress teachers currently experience. Teachers? salary levels need to be comparable with the salaries of
It is evident from the first round of threshold assessments that the threshold arrangements have neither helped the retention of teachers nor their motivation. The NUT?s survey
conducted by Warwick University makes it clear that the vast majority of successful threshold applicants (84.9 per cent) do not believe that threshold assessment is a relevant and fair
method of rewarding classroom teachers? skills and experience. Such a discredited system must go.
The Expansion of Church Schools
One city, in the North West, has:
-- 1 Catholic secondary school;
-- 2 Church of England secondary schools;
-- 1 City Technology College; and
-- 1 Community School.
The two Church of England schools are already specialist schools and the Community Secondary School has just applied to become a specialist school in arts.
In all secondary schools in that town there could, in one form or another, be selection by aptitude or faith. In addition, the Community School, which has recently come out of special
measures, has difficulty in attracting staff. That difficulty is compounded by a forecast deficit of over£300,000 in this financial year. Falling rolls are exacerbated by the influence on
admissions of the denominational and CTC schools. In addition, staff within those schools feel that their promotion prospects are being affected by the denominational arrangements of
the majority of schools, thus placing pressure on those staff to seek promotion elsewhere.
No school has an intrinsic advantage arising from whether or not it is denominational, as implied by the Prime Minister. Success in all schools depends on the quality of teaching and the
support teachers receive.
The expansion of faith-based schools should not be part of an overall policy. The consideration of any new faith-based schools should be in the light of a consensus between local
authorities, diocesan board, existing schools and other interested groups including teacher organisations, that there is such a need.
Any new faith-based schools would need to meet the following criteria, such that:
-- there is a requirement on faith-based schools to cover the National Curriculum;
-- there is an acceptance of the need to match the local authority?s admissions policy with the admissions policy of a voluntary-aided school;
-- that standards of general education are maintained, as laid down by the DfEE;
-- that the nature and breadth of general education is covered by the taking of public examinations;
-- that teachers with qualified teacher status are employed;
-- that the relevant local education authority supports the application for a faith-based school;
-- that denominational need is met;
-- that the proposal for a faith-based school does not create surplus places in the neighbourhood; and
-- that the school indicates its willingness to work with local community and foundation schools.
There are complex issues surrounding the question of faith-based schools. The following points should be taken into account where consideration is given to the establishment of such
-- the principle of equity and consistency should be maintained in the application of criteria for the establishment of faith-based schools;
-- concerns expressed by some that faith-based schools may isolate faith communities from the wider community should be taken into account; and
-- faith-based schools should promote children?s identity and meet their cultural needs.