Addressing the Trainee Heads' Celebration Event in London Mr Milliband said:
their skill and hard work, and also thank the mentors, serving heads,
who have given time and energy to help teach them their craft. My
purpose in speaking to you is two-fold: first to honour and encourage
you, but secondly to use the opportunity of this conference to send a
wider message, not just to teachers and educationalists, but to
parents and commentators, about the potential that exists in our most
deprived communities, the possibility that we can achieve remarkable
school results in those communities, and our responsibility to do all
we can to use education to change the lives of these young people.
I've called my speech 'Changing Lives', because that is what you do.
It came home to me at the North West Teaching Awards, when one of the
nominees said a child had approached her the playground and said:
'Miss, I hope you win because you have helped change my life.' It's
as simple as that.
Let's start with the facts. The British Cohort Study showed that the
impact of deprivation on educational development is first evident at
22 months. By age 11, the average performance of the 2,153 schools
with more than 40% of children on Free School Meals is 18 points
below the national average. By GCSE, more than twice as many children
of unskilled workers, as opposed to professional and managerial
employees, fail to get five good GCSEs. The overall result is that
children born in the bottom social class are 32 times less likely to
make it to the top as children born there are to stay there.
There are two approaches. One is to explain underperformance by
disadvantage; the other is to take disadvantage as a spur to
excellence and aspiration. As I say to people in my own constituency,
an ex-mining community blighted by industrial change, we need to
aspire to above-average education to give children in disadvantaged
community average life-chances.
Let's understand the nature of the disadvantage. The Social Exclusion
Unit's statistics on the 10% most deprived wards give an idea of the
home background of children in schools facing challenging
circumstances: over 60% of children live in households that rely on
means tested benefits and 43% of the housing is not in a decent
state. Half the schools have more than a third of their pupils on
free school meals: this is twice the national average, and is
increasingly marked in some rural and coastal communities as well as
urban areas. Rates of lone parenthood are higher, and so is
population movement and immigration. Schools like South Camden
Community School, not far from here, which is working really hard to
make itself a beacon of good practice, have over 60% of children on
free school meals, 80% speak English as an additional language, and
over four out of ten of the year 11 group did not start secondary
education at the school but came from overseas.
Many of the children who attend the 650 or so secondary schools
facing challenging circumstances are from families where survival is
a daily grind. Children born in social class D & E are half as likely
to have a home computer as those born in classes A & B. In stark
terms, children from the lowest social classes are five times more
likely to die in road accidents as those from the highest social
class; how many times are they less likely to play the violin, go to
the theatre, or go on holiday abroad?
I am ambitious for children in deprived areas because I know they
have the brains, I know they have the potential, but they don't have
the chances. Only education can provide these opportunities for them.
Of course education cannot do it alone; but without education
investment in housing, regeneration, crime prevention, health
promotion will not work. Education at its best offers hope,
I am inspired by what education can do because you have shown what is
Loxford School, where over 40% of pupils are on free school meals,
has 50% of its pupils with at least 5 A*-C grades.
Big Wood School on Nottingham, with 36% on Free School Meals, now has
48% of pupils getting good GCSEs;
Or look at Deincourt School in Chesterfield which has shifted
attainment from 11% in 1998 to 26% last year.
We should always stretch the brightest children. But who is to say
the brightest children are not in these schools? The children do have
talent. Our job together is to build an education system that can
help find and develop it.
The professional skills you need to teach successfully in challenging
circumstances are special. I know it takes skills of the highest
order to set high expectations in a class where the majority of
pupils come with low aspirations. It takes extra energy and skill to
make up the deficits of children who have fallen behind or never
caught up at primary school, or in some cases not attended school. It
takes extra skill to secure high results in classes where many pupils
speak English as an additional language, many did not start their
secondary education at the school and most of the new arrivals came
We know we need the best heads for the toughest schools. So much in
any school depends on the quality of the head and the senior
management team. So much more depends on them in a school which
serves the poorest communities. That's why we are running this
programme for trainee heads. We want heads in challenging
circumstances to have access to experience of others who have already
demonstrated what it takes to transform their schools. That's why we
are working with the NCSL on consultant heads. And we want to
encourage many more partnerships between schools which allow them to
share staff recruitment, to pool their management expertise and to
bolster a weak department.
You and your staff are teacher, social worker, friend, sibling, role
model, even policeman, all rolled into one. Our job in the
department is to support you in those multiple tasks. That's why, for
instance, we've put over 100 advanced skills teachers into schools
that face challenging circumstances and will support even more of
these posts. It is tough in challenging schools, but we want to make
it as rewarding as possible. If we can get our best teachers into
challenging schools, we will add huge value to the nation: it can be
the difference between a life with a career, a family, prosperity,
and life on the margins.
Let me sum it up this way: we need the best to lead the rest - the
best not just according to raw test scores, but the best at helping
pupils make progress, the best at improving life- chances. The best
schools showing the way to the rest of schools, the best heads
showing the way to the rest, the best teachers showing the way to the
The Government's strategy is to use a combination of general policies
to raise standards across the board with targeted policies to raise
achievement in some of our toughest areas. All schools benefit from
the average #670 per pupil per year extra that is being spent in
schools; all schools benefit from the #3bn a year capital programme;
all primary schools benefit from the literacy and numeracy
programmes, all secondary schools from the Key Stage 3 strategy.
Targeted policies are designed to help schools in challenging
circumstances overcome the special obstacles that stand in their way.
These include the extra resources for Excellence in Cities and
Excellence Clusters, the programme for schools in challenging
circumstances, targeted interventions for weak LEAs and schools, and
the focus on behaviour and youth crime that is being led by Estelle
Morris and Stephen Twigg.
We know from the recent review of the schools facing challenging
circumstances programme that the targeted funding has been crucial to
matching action to the different priorities in the schools. Over 70%
of low attaining secondary schools are already supported by the
department's area based initiatives, and those outside receive
additional funding through School Improvement Grant.
One size never fits all and this is especially true for schools in
challenging circumstances. But there is a clear menu of reforms from
which to choose: mixing teachers and non-teaching staff, offering
extra vocational options, re-organising the timetable, developing
specialisms and special partnerships with other schools, colleges or
businesses, and in some cases closing schools and re-opening them as
City Academies with wholly new estate.
The results are encouraging. Standards are rising generally, and they
are rising fastest in schools serving poorer children. The
improvement in attainment in English by the end of Key Stage 2 during
our first term of office was twice as fast in schools serving poor
children than in others. The improvement in attainment in English in
Key Stage 3 was four times faster last year in schools covered by the
Excellence in Cities programme than in others. And the improvement in
GCSE results in recent years has been markedly faster in EiC schools
than in others.
But we have a long way to go. The latest international comparisons
show that on average English schools are much closer to being world
class. But they also show that there is a yawning attainment gap
between top and bottom, a gap larger than in most developed
countries, and one which reflects our huge social divides. The
challenge is to all of us - central Government, local Government,
schools and parents - to close that gap.
For us in central Government the challenge is to create a framework
of resources, support and accountability that enables schools to
focus on improving teaching and learning, with a curriculum that
excites and interests all children. I want to pick out five areas,
focussed on the secondary sector, where we need to make special
effort to support schools in challenging circumstances, learning all
the time from experience on the ground.
First, the school workforce and work load. Teachers in schools facing
challenging circumstances should have back up from other
professionals - technicians, classroom assistants and learning
mentors. Team teaching to me is about a team of teachers, assistants
and specialists helping to make the most of a child's potential. The
problem with workload is the result not of too much reform, but too
little. That is why we need to address the time teachers have for
preparation and for teaching, why we need to address the support they
get from other adults and from ICT, and why we need concerted action
to support Heads in leading local innovation in school organisation
On their own, reform to teachers' time, support and leadership bring
incremental reform; done together they amount to a remodelling of the
school workforce should be a watershed for teaching and learning.
Like any transformation it will be a lived experience over years, not
a one-off experience over weeks. Done right, it will help close
attainment gaps, stretch the gifted and talented and re-engage pupils
disconnected from traditional patterns of schooling.
Second, we need to ensure that every school is on a ladder or
opportunity - what the Prime Minister on Saturday called an
'escalator' - towards the development of its own distinctive
contribution to its own pupils and to education in an area. This can
be through specialist status, or reconstruction as a City Academy,
but the evidence is that the self-examination and self-criticism that
is the starting point for specialist status can be the spur to
continuous improvement that is so important in any organisation.
Specialist status is about educational improvement not school
Third, we know from HMI monitoring of the schools facing challenging
circumstances that while the majority of LEAs give positive support
to their schools around a quarter do not. We are challenging LEAs
now to face up to the tough decisions that may be needed for the
small number of schools that don't have the capacity to improve - to
transform them into City Academies or to close them or to federate
them with another school. They must not let them simply wither away
and ignore the pupils in those schools. Just under fifty of the worst
secondary schools have been closed by LEAs in the last 2 years. Most
schools in challenging circumstances don't need closure - but they do
need the support of the school system and their LEAs to carry through
the long, hard job of raising attainment for their pupils.
For example, the partnership of heads supporting Kingsdown School in
Wigan has enabled that school to improve rapidly and the model is
being successfully copied at Montgomery School in Kent. Lincolnshire
has some excellent examples of school partnerships, including their
Rural Academy. Every school should have the support from an LEA,
another school, or a group of schools, to support its improvement.
Fourth, children spend 9000 hours in school, but many more outside,
and provision outside school hours to develop a all-day, all-year
vision of communities where learning is exciting, relevant and
inclusive is both ambitious and daunting. It is, however, the obvious
link between the series of interventions by social services and
police as well as education in deprived areas. Our school estate can
be a natural basis for all-hours provision, if we can coordinate
local services to focus on children's life-chances.
Finally, we need to make better use of high status partners outside
education but with potential to raise expectations inside education.
Think of universities, many of them sitting side by side with
challenging schools. They can be expert partners in the process of
school improvement. And they can provide opportunities for pupils to
set their sights on higher education through student mentoring,
masterclasses and other chances for young people to realise that high
attainment is within their sights. We have to raise expectations if
we are to release the potential of all our young people. To do that
we must tackle low parental and peer expectations and challenge those
who think that children in some communities cannot achieve. And to do
that universities have an important role to play.
There are big challenges ahead for the Government. It is not enough
to raise average performance. We need to raise performance at the
bottom as well as in the middle and at the top. That is why the
Spending Review will include floor targets for performance in our
But we need more than good policy. Part of my job is to pay tribute
to the special efforts of special people in places that are special
for the wrong reasons. All pupils need good teachers. But pupils
living in tough areas need the best. That is why the Government is
supporting the recruitment of and retention of outstanding teachers
in the toughest schools.
They are people like you doing jobs that not many of us could do, and
the payback to the country from your success more than outweighs the
extra investment these children need. Today we salute your
achievement, we urge you to keep it up, and we commit ourselves to
work with you to make a reality of the equal opportunity that can be
such a powerful force for progress in our society.