Teaching Agency and National College set to merge

The Teaching Agency and National College are set to merge to create a single agency focussed on teaching and school leadership, the Department of Education announced yesterday.

According to the Department for Education:

this move is the next stage in the Government’s reform programme to raise standards in schools, with the best leaders and best teachers working together to develop a self-improving school system.

The new agency will lead on delivering school workforce reforms.  Its remit will include teacher training, continuous professional development and supporting school improvement to address underperformance in the education system and will formally come into effect at the end of March 2013.

Charlie Taylor, the current chief executive of the Teaching Agency will, with immediate effect also become the chief executive of the National College, and will lead the new agency.

This relates to England only.

No agreement on third tier role

The newly published LGiU report, ‘Should we shed the middle tier?’ was launched at an LGiU/NUT fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Conference on 25 September 2012.

The report, based on interviews with a selection of leading politicians, researchers and policy makers, showed general agreement that there needs to be something between schools and Westminster – which everyone is calling a third tier.  There was no agreement, however, on is what the role of that third tier should be.

There was consensus that accountability and ensuring compliance with the code on admissions were functions that could not be carried out by schools or central government.    There was also general agreement that local authorities already existed and  were in a good place to carry out these roles – so there is no need to create a new body.

Most contributors agreed that school improvement was best delivered by schools working with other schools, not by a ‘third tier’.  They emphasised, however, that strategic oversight and direction of local education should be independent of local schools.

One contributor,  Jon Coles (Chief Executive Officer, United Learning Trust), argued that councils could only be a real provider of an independent accountability function once, as in housing, they no longer had a significant provision role.  Interestingly enough, at a fringe meeting at the 2011 Liberal Democrat Conference, a similar view was expressed  by David Laws (recently appointed Minister of State for Schools).

Will local authorities only step up to the mark and properly fulfil their role as the focus for democratic accountability and as the  champions of their local community, if their responsibility as a provider of education is taken away from them?

School improvement … whose role is it?

The Schools White Paper, 2010, ‘The Importance of Teaching’ makes it clear that schools are responsible for their own improvement.

At the Education Select Committee on 31 January 2012, Michael Gove said that ‘academies can choose to purchase school improvement services from their local authority or from somewhere else’.  This is consistent with what is said in the White Paper about schools having the choice over where they get their improvement support.

The White Paper said that there will be a range of providers of school improvement services from which schools can choose – including national and local leaders in education, teaching schools and working in partnership with a strong school.  Interestingly this list does not include local authorities. However, the White Paper states that a local authority can decide what role it wishes to play in supporting school improvement.  This can include the provision of improvement services for schools that want to get this support from their local authority.

The White Paper is clear that it is up to schools to decide how school improvement is delivered, however, the Education Act does not explain how this will be achieved.

It is important that the expected regulations give practical effect to the aims of the White Paper.

Briefing on school improvement in the Schools White Paper