Tag Archives: Russell Hobby

So what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to ‘authorised absence’?

I’ve written about this before and it evoked quite an interesting discussion both on here, through my colleagues and friends on Facebook and on Twitter about what should and shouldn’t be allowed as an authorised absence and whether people should be paying these fines introduced under the new government regulations.

Well head teachers’ union NAHT have now released some guidelines that have been drawn up over what is and isn’t allowed, which has allegedly received the backing of current Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Funerals, weddings and religious events will count as acceptable “exceptional circumstances” but cheaper holidays will not be “a good enough reason”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the current system had caused confusion among heads. He said the new guidance would also permit time off to see parents returning from duty with the armed forces, and for children with disabilities or special needs who are suffering a family crisis.

Until September 2013, heads in England could grant up to 10 days’ leave a year for family holidays in “special circumstances”. But now head teachers can grant absence outside school holidays only in “exceptional circumstances”. Mr Hobby said: “The trouble is, we have no consistent definition of an ‘exceptional circumstance’. This has led to confusion and a sense of unfairness. Two-thirds of the heads we surveyed found this guidance problematic.”

He said the NAHT guidelines would help identify an “event whose timing cannot be controlled and which are great emotional significance to the families involved”. But Mr Hobby said pupils should not be given “extended leave” either side of an event.

He said there had been 60,000 fines handed out to parents for removing children without approval and not all were holidaymakers.

Last week, the Local Government Association said the new rules do not recognise the complexities of family life and head teachers should be allowed to take a “common-sense approach” to term time holidays. Mr Hobby said: “So what about allowing holidays in term time simply because of the cost? I’m afraid these just don’t fit the bill. It’s not a good enough reason to damage an education. You cannot easily make up the lost learning at home, and falling behind in class can put children at a permanent disadvantage. Those who work in schools share your pain. Many are parents themselves and pay these prices, too. We must tackle this. The government should work with the holiday industry to find a way through.”

Local authorities are obliged to instigate fines and enforce legal proceedings on behalf of schools in cases of unauthorised absences. Parents who take children out of school during term-time can receive automatic penalty notices of £60 per child. This rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Parents who fail to pay could face prosecution and a maximum fine of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.

So, it’s clearer now, under family circumstances such as weddings, bereavements and religious events are fine, but taking children out of school just for a cheaper holiday is a no go. So if you want to take your child on holiday, then pay the price for it, like you would for anything else such as food or housing or cars, which don’t just come around for free. Honestly I find it frustrating, people have often said to me ‘oh but look at the experiences they can have in these places and what they can learn.’ My response to that is ‘Yeah, and is that really why they’re going on holiday?’ to which the simple answer is no.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t take your children on holiday, but what I’m saying is don’t bargain with your children’s education just to cut the cost down. You might say ‘well i’ll take the risk and refuse to pay the fine’, but look at the consequences of that. You would have to pay probably more than the saving you made compared to going on holiday out of term time, and face a jail sentence and a criminal record. Is it really worth it? For me, no it isn’t. I mean sure, I’m 22 and don’t have children of my own, but I am of the mindset that if you want something, you pay the money for it. If you can’t afford it, well you don’t get it, simple as that.

Fairer funding by pumping money

Historically, areas have been poorly funded have been at a disadvantage when it comes to our education.

Schools Minister David Laws has announced that almost £400m more money has been pumped into poorly funded areas in an attempt to make funding fairer. This seems like good news, but headteachers have warned that increasing costs mean that many areas are unlikely to be any better off.

Laws insisted that no other local council’s per-pupil funding will be reduced from its current level. He said: “This £390m increase – £40m more than was announced in March – is the biggest step toward fairer schools funding in a decade, and will go a long way to removing the historical unfairness of the funding system. Crucially, we have ensured no local authority will see a reduction in its budget, while 69 local authorities will get a cash boost. This increase in funding will make a real difference on the ground in the least fairly funded local areas, without creating instability, uncertainty or cuts in any areas.”

Ministers had announced proposals earlier this year to tackle England’s “unfair and complicated” system for allocating school funding, claiming they would set minimum funding levels and hand an extra £350m to schools in the least fairly funded areas.

As an example, Laws said that Cambridgeshire, which was the lowest funded area in 2014/15, will now get an extra £311 per pupil, whilst Northumberland will get an extra £307 and Croydon £278 more for each student.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), welcomed the extra cash saying the increase in basic funding is a “useful step” towards a national fair funding formula. But he added: “This good news is completely overshadowed by the reality that all schools and colleges are facing huge holes in their budgets caused by pension contribution rises and other increasing costs. This real terms reduction in funding will lead to larger class sizes and fewer course options as schools are no longer afford to run subjects that do not recruit well. We want to see the increase in pension contributions fully funded so that children’s education is not compromised. The new minimum-per-pupil level only means that those schools will be hit less hard than other schools that have historically been better funded. At best, schools in low funded areas will be no worse off and schools in better funded areas will see a real term decrease in their budget.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “This focused funding, first proposed in March, is welcome and necessary. It is good to see that the 60 local areas deemed the least fairly funded will benefit. There is growing evidence from Ofsted, the Sutton Trust and others about the effect of clusters of deprivation and these are not always where you might expect.”

He added: “However, this extra money must be seen in the context of on-going austerity for both schools and local authorities in real terms. This is at a time when pupil numbers are rising, there are questions about a sufficient supply of teachers and local authority support is being cut. Given these challenges this funding may not be enough for children in those areas, let alone the rest of the country.”

The other question that comes into my mind is ‘Where is this money coming from?’ What are the government using to fund this injection into these authorities? How are the government gonna make this money back? All these questions are clouding this seemingly great news. Of course the government has reserves that it might have used, but would they really want to do that? I doubt it. I sense that someone somewhere is going to announce some kind of tax added on to our already high costs of living in order to fund this.

Head teachers earning 6 figure salaries

Pay and pensions has been in the media an awful lot lately, what with strikes happening just about every month and achieving nothing apart from annoying families who have to work and those outside of the profession with it constantly rearing it’s ugly head in the news. You’ll be pleased to know this isn’t another one of my rants about striking.

Instead this one is about news that nearly 1000 head teachers are earning 6 figure salaries (over £100,000) according to figures published by the Department for Education, which immediately makes the thought of ‘more transparency needed’ come to mind.

This figure has risen more than a quarter (29%) of the number earning such salaries in comparison to 2 years ago. The question has to be asked in some people’s mind: Are schools abusing public money bit like the banks?

I will be honest here, the figures do show that around a third of these high earners are heads of Academies, which have considerably more freedom over pay than schools controlled by the state.

The Department for Education suggested the increase reflected a rise in the number of successful heads now enlisted to run more than one school. Ministers have actively encouraged the model to ensure more schools benefit from the experience of senior teachers with a proven track record.

But classroom unions criticised the disclosure, warning that pay is often set in “secrecy” with little requirement to publish full details of salary levels. For example, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said many top heads had “benefit packages” including private health care, company cars and additional holiday with “no requirement to make any of it public”.

“Head teachers should have their annual salaries published in a clear and transparent way like every other person in senior public service positions,” she said. “It’s scandalous that schools in receipt of millions of pounds of public money do not have a requirement show exactly what they pay their heads.”

An annual census published by the DfE showed the state of the state school workforce in England. According to data, 900 heads are earning six-figure salaries in the current 2013/14 academic year. This includes 300 taking home over £110,000 and the rest paid between £100,000 and £109,999. The number of six-figure salaries was up on 700 in 2011/12 and 800 in 2012/13.

It is thought that the number of large pay awards could be much higher because another 600 senior leadership salaries were declared as “misreported”.

Overall, the average salary of a school leader at any type of state school now stands at £56,100 – compared with £55,700 in 2012 – although this includes assistant and deputy heads. The average classroom teacher in England takes home annual pay of £34,600 – up by 1.3 per cent, or £500, on last year.

I’m a mathematician, so I love a good few stats, so here come some more …. Other figures show:
• A record total of 451,100 full-time teachers are working in English state schools – up 9,100 up on the previous year;
• Some 17,000 teachers are officially registered as “unqualified” – an increase of 16 per cent in a year following the introduction of Coalition rules allowing schools to employ staff without proper teaching qualifications – prompting claims from Labour that the Coalition risked “damaging school standards”;
• A total of 750 posts – 0.2 per cent – were vacant in November 2013 when the census was completed, compared with 0.1 per cent a year earlier;
• More than 288,000 teachers – 57 per cent – took sick leave last year, up from 55 per cent a year earlier, with the average absent teacher missing eight days.

So what do these statistics tell us? Well it would appear to tell us that more people are entering the profession as the number of people working is rising, but these people are not necessarily qualified in their role and are pulling a few sickies. What the stats also show that yes more people are entering the profession, but the percentage of vacancies is on the rise at a faster rate, calling into question whether enough teachers are entering the profession to plug the gap.

Last year, the Government’s independent review body on teachers’ pay announced plans to give all schools more flexibility over senior leaders’ pay.

A DfE spokesman said: “It’s essential we have the best people in place to lead our schools if we are to raise standards. That’s why decisions on pay are down to schools – so they can recruit and retain the highest calibre of school leaders. As the nature of school leadership changes, these reforms will give schools greater flexibility to help schools ensure the most talented leaders are attracted to the teaching profession and are properly rewarded for taking on multiple or challenging schools.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “The average pay of a head teacher in England is £56,000 – far below the headline grabbing paychecks and far less than their skills would earn in the private sector. Those on six figure salaries are often responsible for leading several schools and all heads have high levels of scrutiny and accountability, work every hour available and care for the futures of thousands of children. Their leadership matters and if you want the best, you need to pay for it.”

As if you haven’t had enough stats, I’m gonna finish with some more. Here we go …

Thousands of schoolchildren are being taught by teachers who fail to hold to a university degree their specialist subject, new figures show. Lessons in core disciplines such as maths, English, history, geography, languages and the sciences are routinely being led by teachers with qualifications no higher than an A-level in their chosen area, it emerged.

Figures show 22.4 per cent of maths teachers and 20.1 per cent of those teaching English have “no relevant post-A-level qualification”. The proportion rises to 53.2 per cent in religious education, 49.9 per cent in Spanish, 33.5 per cent in physics, 33.4 per cent in geography, 27.2 per cent in history, 24.1 per cent in French, 23.9 per cent in chemistry.

Figures also showed that a total of 17,100 teachers were registered as “unqualified” – those without full qualified teacher status – this year. It was up by 16 per cent compared with 2012/13.

Labour said the introduction of Coalition rules allowing unqualified teachers to work permanently in English state schools risked “damaging school standards”. But the figures also include trainee teachers who are working towards full teaching qualifications. The Coalition has actively encouraged more students to train as teachers “on the job” rather than in universities.

The DfE also said a record 96 per cent of teachers now had degree-level qualifications or higher – 43,000 more than in 2010. A spokesman said: “More top graduates are coming into teaching than ever before and a record 96 per cent of teachers now hold a degree. Our reforms are putting teachers in the driving seat. Through academies and free schools, we are giving heads and teachers more power over what happens in the classroom and freeing them from interference by politicians. That’s good news for teachers, who can get on with their jobs, and good news for parents, who can be confident that teachers are solely focused on ensuring the best possible outcomes for their children.”

For me personally, letting all these unqualified teachers in can be a dangerous game with our education system, but I don’t buy the argument that teachers are not good enough at their subject if they don’t have a degree in it. Unless you actually teach that degree, in which case you will almost certainly need it, you don’t need that high a qualification to teach. It has been my belief that you should be qualified up to the point where you are going to teach, so if you are going up to A level, that’s what you need. I understand that knowing higher than that might allow you to inspire the kids to take up the challenge themselves, but as a mathematician, it’s hard enough to motivate kids to do maths at any age in the current climate …

Subjects being sidelined for the sake of league tables

Schools are being forced to “sideline” key subjects such as art, music and physical education in the race to hit government targets, teachers’ leaders warned today.

The “relentless push” to raise standards in literacy and numeracy has caused large numbers of schools to marginalise other areas of the curriculum, said Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. She said that children were missing out on a varied timetable because of the need to boost their position in official league tables.

The comments were made despite the publication of research by Bristol University that found rankings had a highly positive effect on schools – raising results relative to those nations that refuse to publish the data.

It came after primary league tables published by the Department for Education showed that 767 state schools in England failed to meet minimum standards in the three-Rs this summer.

The number of failing primaries jumped by almost 50 per cent over the last 12 months after the Coalition changed the key indicator used to assess pupil performance.

For the first time, schools in England had to ensure at least six-in-10 pupils gained good results in separate reading, writing and maths assessments taken at the age of 11 or face being turned into an academy under new leadership. Previously, reading and writing results were combined to form a generic English result, meaning that poor performance in one discipline could be propped up with relatively good results in the other.

David Laws, the Schools Minister, insisted that tougher targets acted as an incentive for schools to improve, adding: “We are determined to drive up standards as quickly as possible in schools where there has been stubborn under-performance for years.”

But Dr Bousted said the move was often achieved by improving the three-Rs at the expense of all other subjects.
“We agree that it is vital for schools to focus on reading, writing and maths, but in the relentless push to get 60 per cent of students to level 4 in these subjects, other important areas of the curriculum such as art, music and PE get sidelined,” she said. “Primary education should not be solely about getting children ‘secondary school ready’.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “However important it is, there is more to a child’s development and their readiness for secondary school than their score in a flawed test. There is more to a school than their ranking, which conceals how hard the school must work to achieve its results.”

The comments came as research published by Bristol University suggested that league tables do improve performance in schools. A study by the university’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation assessed the impact of the abolition of secondary school league tables in Wales in 2001 – comparing it to England where rankings have been maintained. It found that the decision had a negative impact on Welsh schools relative to those in England, with pupils dropped by two GCSE grades on average. This effect was concentrated in the lower 75 per cent of schools, with the poorest and low average ability schools falling behind the most.