Tag Archives: DfE

The war between buildings and playgrounds

We talk a lot lately about the ever growing need for places in our primary schools as more and more children are being born, making the fight for places in local schools more and more competitive. This means that schools are forced to build to accommodate more classrooms. Many schools have had to take in extra classes, building temporary classrooms to accommodate the extra pupils.

Pupils in a third of expanding primaries could end up with less space to play in as new classrooms swallow up fields and playgrounds, it is reported. A survey of 82 of England’s councils by the Times Educational Supplement suggests 335 of the 957 expanding primaries it received information on are losing outdoor space. More pupils will use the same area in 54% of these schools, the survey says.

The government says it has tightened rules on building on playing fields.

The TES calculated that if the figures were extrapolated to the whole of England, it would mean 213,750 children would have less space per head in their schools.

Last year, a study by the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that by September 2014 an estimated extra 256,000 primary and secondary school places would be needed to meet demand. Of these, 240,000 are required in primary schools, with more than a third needed in London alone.

The Department for Education has made about £5bn available to councils to create new school places, and 212,000 new primary places were created between May 2010 and May last year. But the figures also show 102 schools are gaining space.

David Burchett, operations manager for the charity, Learning through Landscapes, told the magazine that access to outside space was “incredibly important”. “Children need space. We appreciate that some schools are on restricted sites, but they should do whatever they can,” he said. “It would be unacceptable to say, ‘Right, let’s fit 60 children into a classroom where there’s room for 30.'”

A DfE spokesman said: “We have brought in new regulations to make it harder for councils and schools to build new classrooms on their playing fields. They must apply directly to us for permission and our rules make clear that this should only be a last resort where there is a pressing need for new school places. We consider each case on its merits and permission will only be given if councils and schools satisfy us that suitable space is available so children can still play outside.”

What will win the war: space to play in or more classrooms? Personally I don’t see what’s wrong with schools building upwards instead of outwards. What’s wrong with having stairs in our schools? Are they worried about the kids falling down them at a constant rate or something? Should we not be teaching these children the fine motor skills they need to move competently anyway? We do not need to be building on our playgrounds and sacrificing the room for kids to move around during break times.

Advertisements

Government secretive about free schools: One woman’s battle for the truth

We all know that free schools are being approved up and down the country whether we like them or not. What we don’t know is how the government choose which ones to approve and which ones to reject. Well the Guardian published an article by Laura McInerney, who is taking on the DfE in a legal battle to force the government to release this information under the Freedom of Information Act. Here is what she says;

I never intended to involve the lawyers. Really, I didn’t. I made a simple request for information from the Department for Education, expecting they would just hand it over. But, rather than release it, Michael Gove, the education secretary, has told MPs he will do “everything possible” to stop me getting it. In the coming months, his department is taking the Information Commissioner – and me – to a tribunal in an attempt to block its release under the Freedom of Information Act.

This whole saga started 15 months ago, when I submitted what I thought was a simple request for information to the DfE. What explosive material did I want? A surprisingly dry package: the application forms sent in by people applying to run free schools, and the letters later sent back explaining whether or not they were successful. Hardly the Pentagon Papers.

To say I am surprised the DfE is behaving in this way is an understatement. I thought the request was a no-brainer.

For the uninitiated, the free schools policy, introduced in 2010, allows any group of people to apply to the DfE for funding to open a state school. The government talked at the time about the policy’s prior successes in America and Sweden, but the lesson of the American experience is that some US states do it well and some do it badly. To further research the topic, I took a break from my job as a secondary teacher, and in August 2012 accepted a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Missouri.

It quickly became apparent to me that implementation matters – and the application process is critical. If taxpayer money is being handed out to members of the public, we need the government to be savvy about which groups they back and why.

So I decided to ask for the applications and the basis of the government’s choices – a process that is otherwise entirely opaque. Prior to 2010, the opening of new schools was far more transparent. The reasons for accepting or rejecting all new school bids were routinely published on the Schools Adjudicator website. Local authorities published school bid information when running new school competitions. Naively, I assumed the government would maintain this level of openness.

The information, however, was nowhere to be found.

I therefore asked for it from the DfE, using the Freedom of Information Act. The act is not well known, but it embeds in law the presumption that information held by public authorities is open to anyone who asks for it, unless there is a specific reason not to disclose. And, usually, even if there are reasons why the government would prefer not to give the information, those reasons must be balanced against public interest. As I saw it, if this sort of information had been available before, why not now?

Yet the DfE rejected my request – twice. Among the reasons given was that releasing the information “would allow opponents of free school applications to attack applications more easily and could undermine local support”. But why shouldn’t the public know about any issues with the applications? It is our money paying for the schools and our children walking into them. It also claimed the amount of information released would be “overwhelming”. Given that the department trusted me to teach people’s children, I’m fairly certain I can handle reading some application forms.

Nevertheless, the department disagreed. When a public authority turns down a request even after you have appealed to it, you can then appeal – free – to the Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent authority whose job it is to uphold information rights.

I was reluctant to go down this route, but was encouraged by FOI campaigners. As one pointed out: “A response is not a favour to be granted, it is a legal obligation. You are a member of the public, and you are paying their wages. You have a right to the information.” In the past 15 months, I have repeated this point to myself time and again.

Getting an ICO judgment was not quick, but their officers were extremely helpful. My case worker constantly and professionally explained the legal oddities and remained upbeat. Yet each time there was progress, the DfE would raise a new point – dragging the whole process on for months.

In July 2013, I was finally told the ICO was near a decision. Nothing. By September, the draft notice was apparently ready. Still nothing. In October, I wrote asking for an update. Nearly there. By mid-November, I had practically given up when an email from the ICO dropped into my inbox.

I had won, and then some.

Figuring it out was not easy. Flicking through the 17-page judgment, written in legalese, I struggled to understand what it meant, but the following line made it all worthwhile: “The Commissioner considers that the public interest factors in favour of the disclosure of the withheld information are very strong.”

This was not a half-hearted judgment. The ICO argued that the case for disclosure was “very strong” and it would provide “considerable information about the implementation of a relatively new and very important education policy”.

The news was timely, arriving hot on the heels of troubling free school developments. Al-Madinah free school’s Ofsted report labelled it “dysfunctional” and inadequate in every category. King’s Science academy in Bradford is being investigated for fraud. Discovery New School, Crawley, is considered so problematic that it must close before the end of the academic year.

And these free schools have been no small cost to the taxpayer. A recent National Audit Office report price the policy at over £1.1bn. Of this, more than £700,000 was spent on schools that passed the application stage but never opened, and £241m went on schools that opened in areas with lots of spare local school places. The NAO report also noted that some high-scoring free-school applications were rejected, but some low-scoring ones were accepted. Why? On what basis? No answer is given.

How can the public be sure ministers weren’t waving through applications from their mates and turning down those whose faces didn’t fit? We can’t. Without the applications being public, there is no way of knowing if the process was corrupt, or not.

Also, school applicants must include evidence of local “demand” or “need” for their proposed school, usually gathered during a required local consultation. But how can residents know that the reported results of the consultations are fair? There is nothing to stop applicants from writing that everyone was positive at the event even if the exact opposite is true.

Of course, amid this mess some free schools are doing marvellously. I recently visited Greenwich free school, one of the most over-subscribed schools launched under the policy. I was impressed with the teaching, and the pupils, and I spent time discussing with school leaders how the school might continue being great. In fact, it is precisely because I want free schools to be great that transparency is so important.

No one benefits by having applications locked in a dusty vault. In fact, in the US, supporters of the policy – such as the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools – actively press for total transparency around the process. In this country it would build public support, prevent cronyism and allow prospective applicants in areas with huge primary school place shortages to learn from the best applications and improve their chance of getting the school they need.

And so I ended 2013 much as I finished 2012 – sitting down, for the second New Year’s Eve in a row, to write an appeal against the DfE’s counterproductive desire for secrecy. This one, however, will be sent to a judge in the First-tier Tribunal, who will hear the case brought by the DfE against the ICO and me. These courts are designed with lay people in mind, and no legal aid is available, so I am likely to be representing myself.

Surrounded by highlighters, guidance documents and notes, I veer between feeling like Erin Brockovich [the US activist – played by Julia Roberts in a movie – who fought an energy company over contaminated water] and a 12-year-old trying my best with a history project. Still, parents, teachers, pupils and local residents deserve absolute openness in the operation of our schools. I plan to do everything possible to make sure they get it. After all, as I have told myself for the millionth time, transparency is a right – not a favour.

The tribunal is expected to take place in the summer of this year, and I will of course be bringing you the outcome as and when it happens.

How not to behaviour manage your class …

Well I’ve just about seen it all now after reading this article in the Telegraph this morning …

A bullying teacher who labelled an overweight pupil “JCB” and others “ugly” and “big ears” and threw pens across the room has been banned from the classroom for three years.

Paul Green, 39, admitted forcing the children to carry out humiliating acts as punishment, a professional conduct panel heard. He labelled one overweight pupil “JCB” and was later made to apologise for upsetting him and called others “ugly”, and “big ears”. He frequently used the “F-word” in class and dismissed some pupils as “pathetic” and “bone idle.” He warned one pupil he would send him to the deputy head “with a rounder’s bat up his a***,” while he told another pupil that his classmate was “a lying tart.”

Once or twice a week, the teacher would throw items across the class at St Thomas More Catholic College in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, the hearing was told. On one occasion he hurled the class register.

Mr Green also put a picture of rock star Tina Turner on a white board in the classroom and compared her hair and features to a black girl in the class. The girl later complained that she had been “embarrassed and humiliated.”

Staff in the school’s PE department made numerous complaints against him for lifting pupils above his head or putting pupils into headlocks. As a result, he had received warnings about his behaviour, the panel was told. Mr Green also used “inappropriate sanctions” against pupils. This included making one pupil carry out press-ups in front of his friends and forcing pupils to wait outside his class – even if it was raining. One pupil who failed to wear his blazer on entering the room had the jacket confiscated for a week. The teacher also confiscated mobile phones from a number of pupils. He humiliated one pupil by urging him to kiss another pupil in front of classmates, the panel was told.

The teacher was finally suspended in November 2011 because of an incident involving “inappropriate” language and behaviour after working at the school for seven years. He resigned from his post in early 2012. Mr Green admitted all the allegations, except a claim that he had been racially offensive in his use of the Tina Turner picture, and this was accepted by the hearing.

Professor Janet Draper, who chaired the panel run by the National College for Teaching & Leadership, said Mr Green’s bullying behaviour had continued over a number of years – despite him receiving a number of warnings.
However, she said he should have the chance to return to teaching in three years’ time. “His behaviour may have been exacerbated by poor health and other personal problems,” she said. “If this is the case, it is right he should have the opportunity to demonstrate that he has overcome them. The head teacher in his evidence made clear that some aspects of Mr Green’s teaching practice were satisfactory or even good.”

Paul Heathcote, from the Department of Education, acting on behalf of Education Secretary Michael Gove, said: “The behaviour extended over a number of years and continued despite warnings. Mr Green’s behaviour was a serious departure from the Teachers’ Standards and impacted upon the well-being of pupils. The panel have found evidence of a deep-seated attitude that leads to harmful behaviour and insufficient evidence that Mr Green recognises this.”

He said he could reapply to work as a teacher in November 2016. Mr Green, who was not present and not represented, was given 28 days in which to appeal against the decision to the High Court. Good luck with that, you don’t deserve to be in the profession! I don’t care if you had personal problems or poor health, if you’re unfit to teach, you don’t teach. Simples (insert Alexander the Meerkat impression here).

Teacher training shortage? Leave it to the universities!

Well don’t we love a good story about teacher recruitment, especially when it comes from the Department for Education. Well … someone who used to work for them anyways.

School Direct has become the new way to get more people to sign up to become teachers since the new government took power. Well guess what folks? The ex-top civil servant, Sir David Bell has admitted that Universities stepped in at the eleventh hour to prevent a teacher trainee shortage, which the government claimed wouldn’t happen.

School Direct was allocated 25% of all the recruitment of teachers on an annual basis, with PGCE course taking over half the allocation as usual, with only 17% of places allocated to undergraduate courses such as the one I study at the moment. This meant that School Direct had more places given than undergraduate courses, yet only around a third of the places allocated to School Direct were filled.

As always there’s always an excuse. The Department for Education claim that the allocations were set over and above what was required. However, the new figures show School Direct recruited just 68% of its allocation of 9,586 – representing 20% of the whole pool of teacher trainees in England – rather than its 25% allocation. Whereas universities filled all but 255 of the 26,785 training places they were allocated.

Sir David, who is now vice-chancellor of the University of Reading, said: “The cracks have been papered over thanks to universities stepping in at the last minute to take on unfilled places.”

But he added that there was still a risk of shortages next year. “We’ve got to ask some serious questions about schools’ capacity to take on even more trainees next year, when they fell short this year”.

Ministers are expected to increase the share of School Direct allocations to 37% next year. But some universities were thinking of moving out of teacher training completely, Sir David said, “removing that potential safety net”.

It was “worrying” that higher education was being “further squeezed out” next year, when there were “still risks of real shortages in key subjects”, he said. And he added that it was “perverse that university courses which have trained high-quality teachers for years” were being “choked off”.

Sir David said his own university was given low allocations in core subjects this year, but then local schools were unable to fill some of their places through Schools Direct, so the university asked the DfE if it could take some extra trainees.

“It is fine to create a range of training routes but not at the expense of good, proven providers – it’s tantamount to cutting off your nose to spite your own face,” Sir David said.

Expert in teacher recruitment, Prof John Howson, backed up the former permanent secretary’s claims saying: “Schools Direct has under-recruited pretty comprehensively and they have been bailed out by the higher education sector. But it it has meant that in certain subjects we have seen a downturn in the number of places filled.”

This is most acute in design and technology where the places filled have fallen to 48% of the target. Computer science is also badly affected and is down to 57%.

Prof Howson said: “This is disastrous from the point of view of the new demands for children to learn computer coding from the age of five.”

And he pointed out that arts subjects, such as history, had been allowed to over recruit by 143%.

“Schools Direct has not been a runaway success for training places as opposed to the general teacher programme,” Prof Howson added. His main concern was the teacher supply situation at this stage of the economic recovery, he said.

A Department for Education spokesman denied that universities had stepped in to prevent a shortage. “We do not expect to fill all places – that is why we always allocate more than we need. If the allocations are not reached it does not mean there will be a shortage of teachers. Together schools and universities have reached 99% of our overall target for postgraduates. School Direct is a response to what schools told us they wanted – a greater role in selecting and recruiting trainees with the potential to be outstanding teachers.”

A Universities UK spokesman said: “With this under-recruitment via the School Direct route, universities requested to take some of the unfilled places, but often these requests were turned down.”

He added that many universities have had to turn away good candidates this year. This could not make sense, he said, while School Direct places go unfilled. “Of particular concern is the below-target recruitment in key subjects such as maths, physics and modern foreign languages.”

He added that one of the issues was that while schools are closed during the summer holidays and unable to recruit more trainees, universities are still able to recruit students through their admissions departments. Universities UK is calling for the DfE to make it easier for universities to take on unfilled School Direct places in the future.

Really Gove? You want to give a school £17m?

The Independent is reporting that a government decision to give a planned state boarding school in the heart of the Sussex countryside £17 million tis being attacked by a senior headteacher.

The school dubbed “the Eton of the state sector” has the enthusiastic support of Education Secretary Michael Gove although questions have been raised over its financial viability. However, Roy Page, chairman of the State Boarding Schools Association, will tell his annual conference this afternoon that the award comes at a time when existing state boarding schools are being forced to teach their pupils in crumbling buildings dating back to the 15th century.

Mr Page, headmaster of the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, will attack ministers for a “lack of vision” as to how they can support existing state boarding schools while handing out millions to “an organisation and headmaster with no experience in boarding”

They are ready to pay for training staff but neglect the buildings. “We may end up with wonderfully trained staff in buildings collapsing around them, with boarders running for cover and prospective parents – and Ofsted inspectors – frankly horrified,” he will say. “For two years now we have been seeking clarity and security from the Government concerning capital investment in the fabric of state boarding schools. We are in dire need of it.”

All of this is in stark contrast to the decision to hand the Durand Education Trust £17 million “no questions asked” to set up the new boarding school in the village of Stedham, West Sussex, which will take in secondary school age pupils from Stockwell in south London.

He said the funding decision had been “quite rightly” queried by the Commons public accounts committee and public spending watchdogs the National Audit Office.

The Sussex scheme is to be financed jointly by the Department for Education and the Durand Education Trust, set up by the Durand Academy – an existing primary school in Stockwell whose pupils will be able to transfer to the new boarding school. The trust earns income from a health club, swimming pool and residential property near the primary school. The scheme is the brainchild of Sir Greg Martin, head of the primary school.

Earlier this year, Mr Gove’s department was censured by the NAO with its head, Amyas Morse, saying the proposal lacked “sufficiently robust estimates of the financial risk of the project”.

A summary of the NAO’s investigation sent to Chris Wormald, the Permanent Secretary at the DfE, said: “At the point which it decided to confirm funding (for the project), the department lacked sufficient appreciation of the scale of financial and operating risk involved”.

Melvyn Roffe, a former chairman of the SBSA, said the sum set aside for providing a boarding school education – “1, 100 per pupil – was “ludicrous”.

A spokeswoman for the DfE said: “Durand is an innovative and inspirational project which has enormous potential. The decision to fund this school is part of our commitment to allow good schools to expand and closing the unacceptable attainment gap.”

Finally … its here …

We’ve heard enough about it over the past month or so, and now hopefully this is the end of it. The troubled Al-Madinah Free School that has never evaded our attentions has been taken over, as confirmed by Lord Nash.

It follows a highly critical Ofsted report and a letter from the minister outlining 17 areas of improvement to be addressed by the school. The school was described as “dysfunctional” and rated inadequate.

The trustees have agreed to resign along with the chair of governors, Shazia Parveen.

The Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, which runs several academy schools across the East Midlands, has been asked to work with the school.

In a letter to the outgoing chair of governors Lord Nash said: “Overall, I am not satisfied that you have demonstrated a strong basis for the transformation required at the school. I cannot tolerate any child experiencing a poor quality of education in any state funded school and am therefore determined to ensure there is a swift resolution. I have decided that the needs of the pupils at Al-Madinah school would be best served by bringing in a more experienced trust with the skills and capability required to deliver the improvements needed. The Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust has a track record of providing high quality education to children from a Muslim background and I have no doubt they will apply this expertise at Al-Madinah.”

Earlier, a statement on the school’s website said the governors would not be resigning and would be working with the Department for Education (DfE) over the future of the school. The message read: “Just to re-assure parents regarding the rumours circulating… about governors resigning. This is not the case and we would urge parents to talk to the PTA and the governors if they are concerned. We are working with the DfE to ensure that our pupils future and the future of our school is secure.”

Lord Nash had written to the Al-Madinah Education Trust on 8 October “placing 17 requirements, which they must satisfy or risk their funding agreement being terminated”.

The school’s trustees were told to provide a plan by 1 November to show how fit they were to run the school and how it would improve. Derby’s Muslim community leaders had already called for all the governors at the school to go after chairwoman of governors, Ms Parveen, announced she was stepping down.

An Ofsted inspection was brought forward after fears were raised over teaching standards. The report found teachers are inexperienced and have not been provided with proper training. It concluded the school required special measures.

The school said it accepted the report, meaning that should this new trust deliver what the DfE seems to think it will deliver, then this is the last we will hear about this school.

New English GCSE grading demotivates less able pupils?

It’s been a while since GCSE grading changes has hit the media headlines what with all the issues surrounding free schools of late. But at last grading has returned.

On this occasion, English teachers have the new grading process for English exams will demotivate less able pupils.

Academic Bethan Marshall says she understands the equivalent of a “C” in the new exam will have two grades below it instead of the current four. Ms Marshall, chair of an English teachers’ association, says the grading will be “hugely demoralising”.

England’s exams regulator Ofqual says no decisions have been made on grades.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is bringing in the changes to toughen up a system which he says was “dumbed down” and damaged by “grade inflation”. New-style GCSEs are due to be introduced in the core subjects of English and maths from autumn 2015, with the first exams being taken in 2017. New GCSEs in other subjects will follow shortly after.

Exams will be taken after two years rather than in stages, coursework will be scrapped for most subjects and more marks will be allocated for spelling, punctuation and grammar than at present.

Grading is being changed from letters (A* to G) to numbers from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest. Pupils who fail will be awarded a “U” for an unclassified result, which is the only grade that hasn’t changed from the current structure. I’m actually surprised that the government haven’t changed that to 0 with the way they’re going.

When confirming details of the changes earlier this month, Ofqual said decisions on equivalent grades between the two types of GCSE would follow a consultation and a debate with the public about “where standards should be set”.

Ms Marshall, from King’s College London, has told the BBC she understands that for English at least, there will only be one or two grades below the equivalent of a C. “It’s my understanding that there will be more or less three levels for A grades, two levels for a B and two for a C,” she said.

The original plan was for there to be eight grades but Ofqual said earlier this month this had been raised to nine. Ms Marshall believes that was because English teachers and others complained there was “not much below the C equivalent”.

Ms Marshall, who chairs the National Association for the Teaching of English, added: “It’s hugely demoralising. Why would you ever bother to do anything if you were a grade E?”

Another academic, who asked not to be named, says he got the same “firm impression” when he attended a meeting organised by exam boards drawing up the new GCSEs earlier this year. “It became pretty clear there was going to be no difference between getting a D, an E, or an F. For some children, who had worked very hard, those grades would be an achievement,” he said. “The agenda seems to be to create a pass or fail O-level.”

At the moment, a C grade in a GCSE is the benchmark set by the government as a “good” GCSE pass, but candidates achieving grades from D down to G have also passed the exam.

A spokesman for Ofqual said: “No decisions have been made. No agreement has been made about where the equivalencies might be set. We do intend to have a public consultation on standard setting in the coming months.”

Mr Gove had originally wanted to scrap GCSEs and replace them with a different exam, but that plan was opposed by the Liberal Democrats who believed it would bring in a two-tier system, which would damage teenagers who were not academic enough to pass the new exams. Not gonna lie Mr Clegg, we have a two tier system already. It’s called Higher Tier and Foundation …

He has, however, already brought in the changes to existing GCSEs. Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, supports the changes and hopes the C grade equivalent will be set at one of the lower numbers. “It may seem hard on children in the short term but in the long term it will be better because their grades will have credibility,” he said.

They’re at it again :( Three strikes, you’re out right?

The NUT and NASUWT have accused Michael Gove of ‘provocation’ and reiterated plans for a national strike in the next two months.

Teachers raised the prospect of a major national strike today amid claims the Government is refusing to take part in genuine talks designed to resolve a long-running dispute.

The two biggest teaching unions said plans for a countrywide walkout within the next two months remained in place because of “provocation” from Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.

The National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT – collectively represented nine-in-10 teachers in England – had suspended industrial action pending negotiations…

Mr Gove agreed to talks but wrote to both unions last week, insisting that the reforms are “fixed” and any discussion would merely centre around the implementation of reforms.

In a controversial move, he also insisted that all other teaching associations would be involved in the negotiations to ensure that “striking unions do not have any unfair advantage”.

Today, the NUT and NASUWT criticised the response, saying Mr Gove had “resorted to provocation” instead of “seeking genuinely to engage in talks to seek to resolve our disputes”.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, they reiterated the importance of talks exclusively with the two unions. The unions also confirmed that “plans remain in place for a national strike in England and Wales no later than 13 February 2014 in the event of insufficient progress through negotiation”…

Speaking today, a Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We do not understand how the NUT and NASUWT have interpreted an invitation to engage in talks as ‘provocation’. They are refusing to take part in the programme of talks, which they had called for, simply because they are too inclusive. We do not understand how they can reject dialogue just because other organisations which represent teachers will be involved. It is only right and fair that everyone should be represented in talks which could affect the whole of the profession.”

Isn’t this the third national strike planned in as many years? Who thinks the ‘three strikes, you’re out’ rule should apply here. I’m not going to rush to support Michael Gove, because I detest him as much as many others do, but these strikes are beyond ridiculous. Just do the job your paid to do or go find another job. Oh wait … they’ll probably go on strike there as well …

Show there is no trainee teacher shortage!

Labour in particular quite often lately have pointed to possible teacher shortages in particular subjects such as maths and science.

Today a University expert has joined the list of those people who want to know the fine details about the government’s figures for it’s teaching training plans over the next year, which appears to be a closely guarded secret by the government at the moment. The expert, like many of us, feel that this ploy by the government may be hiding possible shortages.

Figures published last Friday lack crucial details, says James Noble-Rogers of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET).

The government said it planned to publish a detailed breakdown of the figures “in the next few weeks”. But this isn’t enough for Mr Rogers, who has issued a freedom of information request to the government for the data. He says Friday’s figures failed to give details of how the government has allocated numbers by subject or of how many trainee places have been allocated for secondary or primary education.

“This information has been published as a matter of course in the past”, he writes in a letter to the schools minister, David Laws. “It should not be necessary in an open democracy for UCET or anyone else to resort to legislation to obtain information of this kind.”

Last week’s figures revealed how many teachers the government plans to train next year. They also showed a further switch in funding for teacher training from universities to the School Direct scheme which allows teachers to learn largely on the job in schools, but with theoretical and specialist training provided by universities.

The figures showed that 41,100 teachers would be trained in the year starting September 2014, rising from 38,900 this year. Of these the numbers trained by Schools Direct will rise from 9,600 in the current academic year to 15,400 in 2014. The numbers trained on postgraduate university courses will fall from 20,000 this year to 16,200 next year.
Overall, Mr Rogers says this represents a rise in the numbers trained by School Direct from 25% to 37%.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said that detailed allocations, including a breakdown by subject, would be published within the next few weeks “once they have been confirmed by universities and schools.

“School Direct has built on many excellent long-standing relationships between schools and universities. We want these relationships to continue to give applicants plenty of choice about their preferred route into teaching. Higher education institutions are involved in seven in 10 School Direct places. We hit 95% of our recruitment target this year.”

The spokeswoman added that three candidates applied for every School Direct place last year, and that requests from schools for School Direct places had “shot up from 9,600 to 17,700 in the past year”.

Mr Rogers told BBC News said the broken down data was usually issued at the same time as the overall figures. He said the delay this year would make it difficult for training providers, particularly universities, to plan.

“The only apparent reason it should now be kept secret is to prevent a timely and legitimate analysis of data before allocations are finalised”, says the letter to Mr Laws.

In August, analysis of School Direct recruitment figures by Prof John Howson of Oxford Brookes University suggested a possible shortfall in the numbers of science and maths specialists. Prof Howson said that three-quarters of the trainee physics teacher places for September were still unfilled.

Shoesmith Payout Stinks!

A six-figure payout to the ex-head of Haringey children’s services “leaves a bad taste in the mouth,” shadow chancellor Ed Balls has said.

Mr Balls said he made the right decision as children’s secretary to remove Sharon Shoesmith from her role. Ms Shoesmith, who earned £133,000 a year, won a ruling in 2011 that she was unfairly sacked after a damning report into the death of Baby Peter. BBC Newsnight revealed the payout could cost Haringey Council up to £600,000.

Peter Connelly, who was 17 months old, died in 2007 after months of abuse. The boy had more than 50 injuries, despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over eight months. Three people were jailed in 2009, including his mother.

The Court of Appeal concluded Ms Shoesmith had been “unfairly scapegoated” and her removal from office in December 2008 by the then Children’s Secretary Ed Balls had been “intrinsically unfair and unlawful”.

One government source told BBC Newsnight that the cost to Haringey Council could be as high as £600,000, although Ms Shoesmith is expected to receive a lower sum. The exact figure may not emerge as there are confidentiality clauses preventing its disclosure but it will be significantly short of the £1m figure it had been reported she was seeking.

However, it would appear the package is more than the minimum suggested by senior judge Lord Neuberger in a 2011 ruling in the Court of Appeal. He suggested Ms Shoesmith was entitled to a minimum of three months’ salary plus pensions contributions. Three months’ salary would have been about £33,000.

Mr Balls, now shadow chancellor, told BBC Radio 5 live: “An independent report said there were disastrous failings in Haringey children’s services. They said the management was at fault. Sharon Shoesmith was the director of children’s services and so of course it leaves a bad taste in the mouth that the person who was leading that department and responsible ends up walking away with, it seems, a large amount of money.”

Earlier, Conservative MP Tim Loughton told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the payout became “inevitable” after the Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Balls “had made a complete botched job of her dismissal”.

But he added: “This is going to leave a really bad taste in taxpayers’ mouths that a not insubstantial amount of public money is being used to pay off somebody who presided over a dysfunctional department in Haringey where a 17-month-old boy died in horrific circumstances. We are effectively rewarding failure and when you are appointed a director of children’s services… the buck has to stop somewhere and somebody has to take responsibility, and you don’t expect that person… to get a large cheque on the back of it as well.”

A statement from Haringey Council confirmed it had reached a settlement with Ms Shoesmith but that the terms of the settlement were confidential and it was unable to comment further. Some of the cash will come from central government, but Haringey council will foot most of the bill, it is understood. An exact figure is yet to be agreed.
But one source told Newsnight that Education Secretary Michael Gove was “furious” about the secrecy over the amount paid to Ms Shoesmith, believing it to be “indefensible”.

Downing Street said the Department for Education’s contribution to the payout would be made public. Lawyers representing Haringey Council and Ms Shoesmith had been in lengthy discussions regarding a settlement since the May 2011 ruling. Ms Shoesmith had been due to return to court later this week, seeking a declaration that she remained employed by Haringey Council. That action has now been dropped and the settlement reached between the two parties is understood to be a final one.

Peter Connelly’s mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend, Steven Barker, and his brother, Jason Owen, were jailed in May 2009 for causing or allowing the child’s death. Earlier this month it was reported that Connelly was due to be released from prison on parole.