Jan 04

Financial Efficacy of Multi-Academy Trusts

On the 12th January 2017, at 11:15am in Room R of Portcullis House, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education will be meeting to discuss the financial efficacy of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs).

Since the introduction of their forerunners, City Technology Colleges, in the late 1980s, academy schools have given rise to charged political debate. Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) have become a central feature of the academy programme and hence this ongoing conversation. The £111m identified in the cash reserves of 7 MATs in early 2016 provoked a public outcry, with many questioning why a not for profit body would need to hoard such vast sums. Large chief executive salaries at some MATs and the recent example of financial irregularities at the Perry Beeches Academy Trust did nothing to quell suspicions.

This has, of course, raised questions about the financial relationships between academies and the MATs to which they belong. What services do MATs provide? What procurement areas are typically controlled by the MATs? Do Trusts provide an effective service for the academies they oversee? And, crucially, could costs be reduced?

Using research conducted through interviews with 455 MATs and 252 teachers, and an analysis of 738 MAT websites, Jason Gould of the Education Company has attempted to answer these questions, commissioned by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

This APPG for Education meeting will the first time the MAT research will have been presented publically and will be a chance to hear from Jason and explore his findings across eight different key procurement areas, including assessment; Facilities and ICT. He will explore the patterns that are emerging in the relationship between individual academies and the MAT to which they belong, and try to answer the most pressing question: is the MAT model working?

To attend the meeting which is expected to finish by 12:30pm, please respond to the Group’s Secretariat by phone – 020 3642 2754 or email - educationappg@ranelaghuk.com

Nov 24

APPG for Education hosts third inquiry roundtable

On 22nd November 2016, the APPG for Education hosted the third and final discussion in a series of roundtable events as part of its inquiry in to how well British schools are preparing young people for their future careers.

The roundtable focused on what is required to increase the uptake of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, the so called STEM subjects, as well as how to increase the number and quality of STEM teachers and possible ways to transform the gendered nature of STEM subjects to encourage more female uptake. The discussion was chaired by Carol Monaghan MP, a former physics teacher and the SNP’s Westminster Education Spokesperson.  It followed two roundtables in October that featured discussions examining where the focus should lie in schools between teaching academic subject knowledge and soft skills, and the availability, quality and effectiveness of current careers advice and guidance students receive from their schools. The APPG welcomed guests from industry, assessment boards and the teaching profession.

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One of the main focuses of debate was the role that early specialisation plays in children prioritising other subjects ahead of STEM. It was argued that many nations across the world do not require young students to take as many examinations as the British and that their examinations are less narrowly focussed. However, this was countered by members of examination boards and Ofqual, who stated emphatically that this was not the case; it was stressed that A Levels are far from atypical. This was generally accepted but many still emphasised the issue of specialisation at younger ages, with the Key Stage One and Two examinations referenced most often. It was recommended by various members that the Key Stage examinations should include an element of science that they currently lack.

The perceived gendered nature of STEM subjects was anticipated to be a catalyst for enthusiastic debate and this proved to be the case. It was advanced that women and girls self-deselect from STEM subjects and that a way to alleviate this is to open up students’ eyes to the possible career options that go far beyond stereotypical images of engineering. However, it was argued that this was not necessarily just a school problem but more of a societal one that requires wider solutions. This was evidenced by the fact that the uptake of physics by females has remained constant over the last thirty years, despite many policy and curriculum changes.

The final issue that attracted considerable debate was that of the lack of teachers.  It was suggested that only forty percent of the required number of STEM subject teachers were available and that was a root cause of the issues the country faces when it comes to STEM. Currently, unqualified teachers fill those gaps and the students suffer as a result, leading to less enthusiasm for STEM. Some participants suggested that teachers take night-time training on one of a number of free courses but those within schools responded by stating that teachers are already operating on limited schedules. Others suggested that academies must pay the teachers what they deserve to correct this. It was also recommended that STEM subjects should be taught more widely at primary school level.

This concluded the debate and the series of roundtable in general. Having already collected written evidence, the APPG will now produce a report and recommendations to government, for publication early in 2017.

Oct 26

APPG for Education hosts second inquiry roundtable

On the 19th October, the APPG for Education hosted the second in a series of roundtable events as part of its inquiry in to how well British schools are preparing young people for their future careers. The roundtable focused on the availability, quality and effectiveness of current careers advice and guidance students receive from their schools. The debate was chaired by Andrea Jenkyns MP and followed an event on 13th October which examined where the focus should lie in schools between teaching academic subject knowledge and soft skills. The guests ranged from leaders in industry, to teachers and principals, Ofsted and career guidance counsellors.

The debate began with a focus on how businesses can align with schools to ensure that pupils are presented with the widest and highest quality selection of work experience placements.  An initial assertion was that more should be done to create relationships between schools and businesses. It was suggested that many companies and schools can form a relationship and then see it disappear due to something as simple as a change of staff in either side.  Some even commented that for businesses to gain access to schools the levels of bureaucracy must be eased; too many do not want to jump through hoops when they are already doing something to help. Others recommended that schools could offer businesses something in return, such as certificates or even have the students aid businesses in simple tasks year round.

Many answered with the fact that schools need specialists to play their part but they simply cannot afford full-time careers counsellors and the role is often fulfilled by a librarian or even kitchen staff.  Schools no longer have to offer careers guidance and so many have prioritised other areas – it was suggested that compulsory work experience should return but some queried how this would be funded. Another issue was that of geography; for schools in London finding a partner business is much easier than those in less metropolitan areas.

The debate then moved on to the effectiveness of career guidance in its current form.  It was suggested that the introduction of careers guidance in regular lessons has been to the detriment of the pupils and careers guidance in general, but this was met with strong rebuke by other participants who argued that having separate careers guidance left students confused as to how to apply it to what they were learning.  Many suggested testing and quantifying the success of work experience placements, to determine how well young people benefited from different experiences.

The debate concluded with a series of concrete recommendations from the guests, which will now form part of the final report of the inquiry. The third, and final, roundtable will be held on 22nd November and will examine Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education and how well our education system is equipping young people for careers in these key fields.

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