Details of the APPG’s future meetings will be published shortly.
Previous meetings, 2013-
Joint Seminar with POST – Special Educational Needs
The APPG for Education held a joint seminar with POST, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, on Tuesday 14th May 2013. The event saw three different speakers share their thoughts on how children and young people with special educational needs are identified, how their needs can be met, and what role educators have in its provision. The Group also discussed how the Children and Families Bill, currently passing through the House of Commons, will impact on the way that special educational needs are delivered in the future.
The speakers were:
Dr Rona Tutt OBE – Past President of the National Association of Head Teachers, former head teacher of a special school, now working as an SEN consultant, speaker and writer. Her presentation put the current Children and Families Bill into context, providing a synopsis of Special Educational Needs in the past, present and the future.
Professor Barry Carpenter OBE – Former Director, Department for Education’s Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Research Project, Fellow, University of Oxford. He spoke about children with complex learning difficulties and disabilities, their needs, the increasing understanding of SEN and disabilities in children, and what this means for education provision.
Sharon Godden – Parent ambassador for the DfE’s Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Research Project, parent ambassador for MOVE Europe, parent ambassador for a regional Postural Care Research Project, and an Associate Governor for a special needs school. She spoke in a personal capacity as a mother of a child with complex needs.
Please see this flyer for more details of the event.
Previous meetings, 2012-2013
Do we need more changes to the National Curriculum?
In response to the launch of the Government’s consultation on reform of the National Curriculum in England, the APPG met on the 12th March 2013 to further discuss these proposed changes. The Group was joined by Mr Graham Pepper from the Department for Education’s National Curriculum Review Team, and now aims to produce some useful recommendations for the Secretary of State.
Reform of Key Stage 4 Assessments – is it necessary?
On 7th November 2012 the APPG met to discuss school assessment, in particular the reform of Key Stage 4 examinations recently announced by Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education. Mr Gove has declared his intention to discontinue the current programme of GCSE examinations and replace them with a new English Baccalaureate. It is the Secretary of State’s hope that this will raise the level of challenge in Key Stage 4 qualifications to a world-class standard, ending “years of drift, decline and dumbing down” in England’s exam system. The Group was joined by Lord Baker of Dorking, Secretary of State for Education and Science between 1986-89, and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, Opposition Spokesperson for Education in the House of Lords, who discussed their views on the planned reform of GCSEs. The APPG also heard from Andrew Thraves, the Strategy Director of GL Assessment (a leading provider of integrated assessments for children’s education), and from Martin Connor, a headteacher from a specialist academy for the performing arts in Lincolnshire.
Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for Schools: Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy – One Year On
On 3rd July 2012, Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for Schools, spoke to the APPG for Education about his department’s progress in improving literacy standards and how he expected literacy policy to develop over the coming years. This meeting marked the first anniversary of the APPG’s literacy inquiry, Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy, and the group had the opportunity to ask questions to the minister regarding the DfE’s future plans for literacy, as well as to discuss the issues he raised. There was also debate on the new phonics check being introduced for Year 1 pupils, the role of parents in teaching children to read and the different ways that the Government could promote literacy.
Previous meetings, 2010-2012
Government proposals for the ICT curriculum in schools
In March 2012, the APPG heard from Vanessa Pittard (Department for Education) about the Government’s technology policy, and how this fits in with plans for greater autonomy in schools. The group discussed the new programme for ICT education, and the role that new software and hardware can play in improving education. How to include more computer science and coding in the curriculum was also debated, with the ultimate aim of making ICT education in schools both practical and relevant.
The changing schools landscape
On 29th November 2011, four panellists with a range of experience and views joined the APPG and around 50 guests to debate “The changing schools landscape: what can maintained schools, free schools and academies learn from one another?”. Certain themes quickly became apparent from the diverse opinions, including the need for a middle tier, the legal and practical ambiguities around free schools and academies, how to increase transparency, opportunities for collaboration and making the most of the “schools tapestry”.
Literacy inquiry – next steps
The Group met in November 2011 to discuss the responses to the literacy inquiry and agree its next steps. After the meeting, EDM 2420, Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy, was tabled.
Schools’ freedom in budget and infrastructure management
The APPG was joined by Sarah Healey, Director of the Schools Resources Group, DfE, and Iain Wright MP, shadow Education Minister in July 2011. Sarah gave an overview of the Government’s intention that schools should have as much freedom in their spending as possible, highlighting how grants have been mainstreamed and how schools are able to use the pupil premium as they see best. Iain set out that schools should run themselves and do so as autonomous bodies but not islands. The role of governors was also discussed, identifying the need to raise their status and ensure they had adequate support, as governors have a crucial place in raising standards. The meeting concluded on the statement that the free schools policy is idealistic but if it works it will find a way to inject new ideas, experience and energy into the system.
Meeting with Sarah Teather MP, Minister for Children and Families
In May, the APPG for Education and APPG for Autism held a joint meeting with Sarah Teather MP, Minister for Children and Families, and Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Schools and Families. The Minister emphasised the importance of making provision the best it can be, as one in one hundred people is on the Autism Spectrum, and hoped that the proposed system in the SEN Green Paper is more humane. She also emphasised a shift in mindset, making provision more outcomes-focused rather than education-focused, with goals defined in terms of the progress the individual and family unit will make holistically rather than solely based on school achievement. Sharon Hodgson MP answered questions on whether bureaucracy prevents innovation in the teacher training curriculum, and the feasibility of the core services working together, the continuity of provision after the age of 25 and CPD for teachers.
Is a national curriculum sustainable?
The Group moved from discussing the origins of the National Curriculum, its purpose and longevity, to exploring its practical impact on vocational studies, and the need to ensure that stability and depth of content is matched by innovation within resources and approaches to pupil engagement.
APPG Lunch with the Chairman of the Education Select Committee
In February, Graham Stuart MP, Chairman of the Education Select Committee, joined the APPG to discuss developments in vocational education, teacher training and the Building Schools for the Future programme. In describing Stuart’s Law, where every innovation in education is successful, he highlighted the value of grassroots innovations and the dangers of trying to apply those innovations nationally.
Safeguarding literacy: access to the curriculum and social mobility
The Group’s meeting in October examined Safeguarding literacy: access to the curriculum and social mobility. The three speakers (Dr Rona Tutt OBE, Ruth Miskin and Tricia Adams) discussed the anomalies in literacy policy that the Government needs to overcome, such as schools not being required to have a library. They also analysed how to approach literacy imaginatively, engage children through technology and creativity, and incorporate academic and vocational approaches.
Re-forming the Group
In July 2010, the Group was re-formed. An informal lunch reception welcomed members and included a brief meeting to elect the Officers of the Group. Fabian Hamilton MP was re-elected as Chairman, and Martin Horwood MP continued as Vice-Chairman. They are joined by James Gray MP and Baroness Perry of Southwark as Vice-Chairmen, Baroness Walmsley as Treasurer, and Nic Dakin MP as Secretary.
Previous meetings, pre-2010
APPG Lunch with the Chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee
In February 2010, Barry Sheerman MP, Chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, addressed members of the APPG. He gave a sense of the continuum in educational policy, as well as his views on how it would develop over the next year.
School Assessment: radical changes in strategy and technology
In December 2009, the Group reviewed the role of assessment, its impact, and the place of technology. Sir Jim Rose highlighted that all schools believe in the value of assessment when appropriately designed; the problem is how to achieve this. League tables are often the sticking point, with the feeling that the “tail is wagging the dog” prevalent. Two headteachers described the learning cultures they were developing, where assessment and subsequent intervention go hand in hand. GL Assessment raised the risk that the Government would develop its own tests, duplicating investments already made by industry.
Preparing for Change: training teachers for the 21st century classroom
The Group discussed the importance of training teachers to prepare students for their role in the global knowledge economy in March 2009. Key aspects were continual professional development, the importance of creating informed resource purchasers, and the skills needed to build relationships with parents and other adults in the community.
BESA’s Policy Commission, chaired by the Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP
In November 2008, the Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP and Dominic Savage, BESA’s Director General, presented recommendations on areas such as the initial and continuous development of the teaching profession and maximising the benefits of ICT and the development of standards for interoperability of content, software and hardware.
Creating a healthier school environment for the citizens of the future
The May 2008 meeting highlighted the long-term lack of investment in school furniture and the consequential impact on children’s back health and academic performance. Sitting for extended periods at inappropriately sized school furniture reduces attention and is recognised as a major cause of back pain in adolescence and later life. The first step was highlighted as being support for the European furniture standard, EN1729, based on revised statistics for children’s sizes. BESA continues to work closely with Partnerships for Schools, which promotes the expectation that schools’ purchases of new chair and table furniture will be to this standard.
Meeting with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)
In January 2008, CABE and the Group discussed how excellent school environments could be delivered through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. The speakers saw that many school designs were mediocre, and that as the BSF programme reached its halfway point, a review was timely. Recommended changes included increased consultation with stakeholders, and a longer lead-time for schools and Local Authorities to prepare.
Meeting with the Unions – Classroom Technology: Inadequate Training Limits its Value
Representatives from ATL, NASUWT, NUT and PAT met the Group in November 2007. They explored the range of ICT decisions which schools must make, from the training and the ongoing support required, to knowing what equipment to purchase and when. They also identified the realities of ICT in schools – for example, where teaching assistants become IT trouble-shooters and where additional insurance against theft is needed – and where improvements could be made by appointing ICT coordinators, finding the right balance between online and offline education, and enhancing Ofsted guidance.