We don’t need better sorting hats to improve social mobility

This is roughly the talk I gave at a Policy Exchange fringe at Conservative Party Conference in 2016   I don’t like the words social mobility because they are so slippery as to give carte blanche to politicians to do exactly as they please. We appear to have entered an era where social mobility policies involve …

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Does ‘the gap’ matter to children eligible for free school meals?

IOE LONDON BLOG

Rebecca Allen

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Minister for Schools, has been making a series of speeches over the past month about “closing the gap” in the attainment between pupils from deprived and more affluent backgrounds. Yesterday, he warned that schools should not be judged as outstanding by Ofsted if they failed to close the gap, a goal that sounds fair and even laudable in principle, but I believe is rather unfair in practice.

The “gap” is the difference in GCSE achievement between the average for pupils who are eligible for free school meals and the average for those who are not. Pupils eligible for free school meals have similar characteristics across schools since they all come from families claiming some sort of benefit. The problem is that the background of pupils who are not eligible for free school meals (FSM) will vary considerably across schools, since the group includes…

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Who fails wins? The impact of failing an Ofsted Inspection

CMPO Viewpoint

Rebecca Allen and Simon Burgess

What is the best way to deal with under-performing schools? This is a key policy concern for an education system. There clearly has to be a mechanism for identifying such schools. But what should then be done with schools which are highlighted as failing their pupils? There are important trade-offs to be considered: rapid intervention may be an over-reaction to a freak year of poor performance, but a more measured approach may condemn many cohorts of students to under-achieve.

This is the issue that Ofsted tackles. Its inspection system identifies failing schools and supervises their recovery. How effective is this? Is it even positive, or does labelling a school as failing push it to ever lower outcomes for its students?

It’s not clear what to expect. Ofsted inspections are often dreaded, and a fail judgement seen as being disastrous. It has been argued it triggers…

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The social mobility challenge is not impossible

Schools-datajournogenius Christopher Cook of the FT wrote a nice blog post this week showing how forcing academy conversion for low performing schools probably wouldn't do much to fix social inequalities in educational achievement. I agree. But I want to show some (quick and dirty) data to help keep alive the dreams of school reformers. This …

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School autonomy and pupil achievement

One of the stated policy motivations behind the move towards greater autonomy for schools from local authority control has been the claim that this is a route to improving academic standards. This might be through more efficient decision-making and resource usage or because autonomy is a necessary precursor to market-like reforms whereby schools are somehow …

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