Saturday, 13 April 2013

What Happens Next?

Last week I asked people what I should write about now I've started blogging. I got some great suggestions which I’m going to follow up over the next few weeks. But I particularly liked an idea from headteacher and all-round wonder woman Rachel de Souza who asked me to look ahead and make some predictions about what happens next in education.
So here we go, four predictions for the next ten years, and I hope this sparks other bloggers to respond with their predictions.

1.       Within ten years the majority of schools will be in an Academy chain or other kind of formal federation.

There has been significant growth over the past three years in the number of schools in chains/federations (somewhere between 1,250 and 2,000; no one’s quite sure). Four things will accelerate this growth:

·         Reductions in local authority services leaving schools looking elsewhere for support
·         A continued squeeze on revenue funding (especially in richer areas) which will start to make standalone primary schools in parts of the country less viable
·         Incentives from central Government + local authorities to encourage more schools into federation
·         Continued use of peer-to-peer support to help underperforming schools leading to formal federation either forcibly or voluntarily.
What’s less predictable is how big the average chain/federation will be in ten years time. Some groups are already quite large or have plans for major expansion. But most headteachers I speak to prefer the idea of smaller, more localised federations. There is a tension between the (potential) efficiency and scalability of larger chains versus the flexibility and community-focus of smaller groups. I think the most likely position in ten years will be a mixture of 25-50 large national chains; 100-200 regional chains of between 5-20 schools; and large numbers of smaller local federations.

2.       The National Curriculum being consulted on at the moment will be the last.

At least it will be the last in its current form. My guess is that we will eventually move to a system which allows a variety of different curricula to be linked to a shared assessment framework. This would allow some Government control over a “common core” (via assessment) while also recognising significant autonomy over pedagogical approach. The shift to this kind of model will be driven by organisations with enough resources to develop their own curriculum (as, for instance, the Future group of Academies is doing at the moment); as well as new technological platforms that will make delivery easier (though not easy).

3.       Within five years school-led initial teacher training will become the dominant model.

At some point in the next few years School Direct will overtake PGCEs at universities as the most common way into teaching. Higher education will continue to have a major role in supporting the delivery of training but the greater involvement of schools will mean profound changes. For a start schools will begin playing an active role in recruiting people into the profession. It seems likely to me that more organisations “selling” the profession (especially chains with resource and some brand awareness) will mean even more high-quality people coming into the profession.

I think it will also mean a welcome erosion of the boundaries between initial teacher training and continued professional development. Both because more trainee teachers will stay at the same school for their training and their NQT year and because teachers will become more involved in the delivery of training which will help their own development. If the Teaching School policy really works this should tie into an increase in bottom-up research-led activity.

4.       GCSEs will still exist in ten years time

During the past year of debates over the future of the GCSE many people, from across the political spectrum, have argued that we should be scrapping exams at 16 altogether in favour of some kind of progression test at 14 followed by a 14-19 curriculum. These proposals usually argue that the raising of the education leaving age removes the need for exams at 16.

The problem with this argument is that while the education leaving age is rising (though there aren’t any sanctions in place against individuals who leave education) the school leaving age isn’t. Around half of each cohort will still leave school at 16 to enter apprenticeships; FE colleges or work-based learning. These young people still need accreditation for their academic achievements up to 16. The only way round this would be to move to the sort of model proposed by Ken Baker which would see students moving on to academic or vocational paths at 14 rather than 16. Even if one wasn’t worried about the effects such a shift would have on social mobility the expense of such a shift makes it highly unlikely to happen.

Inevitably, because of the job I’ve been doing for the past few years, these predications are “system-level” and tend towards the structural. I’d be very interested to see predictions from people with different viewpoints; especially teacher bloggers.


  1. I agree that the NC as we have known it seems to have had its day. I worry about the idea of a common assessment framework as there seems to be no consensus about how the proposed new NC will be assessed. I would expect LA's to retain some role probably as Academy sponsors

  2. I would like this to happen in education within the next 20 years but am by no means sure it will: .

  3. I'm very interested to read your view that the NC will be the last. I'm not sure I agree. KS3 can be allowed to be flexible, but while students are expected to sit exams, the exams drive the curriculum. This takes care of KS1, 2, 4 and 5. Perhaps one way around this would be to allow schools more choice in the exams they select. That doesn't seem very likely to me either.

    I am convinced that ITT needs a major rethink and welcome the flexibility of School Direct. I suspect it will be chaotic for the first few years, while the models evolve and embed, but am optimistic about the future of teacher training.

    As you are thinking 10 years ahead, I would be interested in your views on how technology will impact on classroom practice. I believe there will be a revolution in the way teachers, learners and technology interact and that the change will be sudden; I'm just not sure how to prepare for this!

  4. This appraisal of the reasons for failure on the US education system is very relevant to where we are going in ours
    The Academies Act (2010), Schools White paper: The importance of teaching (2010), the DfE discussion document ‘Training our next generation of outstanding teachers’ (2011) and the School Teachers Review Body 21st report (2012) all map out very clearly where education is going and how. The significant changes that I would draw out of these documents are the privatisation of the education system and the mechanisms for profiteering from education and schooling, teacher payment by results, de-regulation of systems for performance review (linked to results) and increasing regulation of centrally driven accountability processes, assessment, testing and curriculum. The freedoms will be in how schools are financially managed and in the relaxation of HR policies and protective entitlements for employees. Freedom of pedagogy and curriculum will continue to be restricted by central control of teasing assessment and inspection. Research is likely to be more closely aligned to market research and narrow conceptions of evaluation. The question I would ask is, what impact will this have on pedagogy? learners? teachers? The above article goes some way towards showing what it could be. The education system in Chile goes a lot further as an example of where we could be and what our system will be like could be as all the policies that use[in that system are ones which Gove is trying to adopt - including voucher systems for education (ie all education is private and vouchers are issued so that people can buy a minimum amount for their child. This has recently been suggested as a way forward by ministers. Chile, it can be noted, is very low down in PISA tables and other other comparative measures of achievement in educational outcomes. I would also urge that we engage with the realities of these changes and take some control, as a profession, in shaping what the future actually is rather than letting it happen to us.

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