The Government have released a new White Paper focusing on all elements of education called ‘Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child’. It’s caused quite a stir among teachers, senior leadership, governors and everyone with an interest in young people’s education. It’s been six years since the last - will this one really make a difference, or will it put more stress on those already struggling to catch up from the interrupted learning of the last couple of years?
It promises to deliver real action to level up education, create opportunities for all and ensure every child maximises their potential. The key theme throughout is ‘the cornerstone of a broad, academic, knowledge-rich curriculum are literacy and numeracy.’
Three key aspects of change stand out to me:
- Schools will identify children who need help, provide targeted support via a range of proven methods such as small group tuition and keep parents informed about their child’s progress
- A Parent Pledge will support the government’s Levelling Up mission for 90% of primary children to achieve the expected standard in KS2 reading and writing and maths by 2030
- An aim for the national average GCSE grade in English language and maths to increase from 4.5 in 2019 to 5 by 2030
The paper sets out a series of new measures to support the delivery of these ambitions, including:
- Schools will offer a minimum school week of 32.5 hours by September 2023
- Ofsted will inspect every school by 2025, including the backlog of ‘outstanding’ schools that haven’t been inspected for several years
- By 2030, all children will benefit from being taught in a school in, or in the process of joining, a strong Multi-Academy Trust. This will help transform underperforming schools and deliver the best possible outcomes for children
- At least £100m to put the Education Endowment Foundation on a long-term footing so they can continue to evaluate and spread best practice in education across the country
Other plans to deliver on the mission for children’s attainment at the end of primary and secondary included:
- 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by 2024
- £30,000 starting salaries to attract and retain the best teachers
- Payments to recruit and keep talented physics, chemistry, computing and maths teachers working in disadvantaged schools
- Up to 6 million tutoring courses by 2024 and cement tuition as a permanent feature of the school system
- The school system working as a whole to raise standards with trusts responsible for running schools while local authorities are empowered to champion the interests of children
One thing we can all agree on is that ‘we must do more to help every child fulfil their potential, too many children leave education without key knowledge and skills’. Helping young people to see context in what they learn is a valuable tool in motivating them to do better and apply what they learn. The knowledge, learning and skills acquired throughout their school years is relevant in the world of work, whether stocktaking, calculating the number of bricks needed on a construction site, writing a work email or proofreading and editing a report.
The White Paper highlights ‘a richer, longer average school week which makes the most effective use of time in school and ensures children enjoy a rounded education. As part of a richer school week, all children should be entitled to take part in sport, music and cultural opportunities. These opportunities are an essential part of a broad and ambitious curriculum, and support children’s health, wellbeing and wider development, particularly as we recover from the pandemic.’
While laudable, this could all be seen as increasing heavy teacher workloads, but it doesn’t have to. Three simple ideas spring to mind for a richer school week, supportive of numeracy and literacy that would be simple to embed in a school:
- STEM Clubs collaborate with other schools to analyse climate change data to create a report with objectives for local change
- Students prepare interview questions for a STEM Ambassador and note the answers, skills and experience demonstrated in the interview
- Engage with Mission X on activities filled with sport, fitness and health as the students record their progress
A lot is promised in the White Paper, but it will be down to hardworking teachers, engaged parents and SLTs to work out how they will achieve these goals. Whatever happens, it seems clear we all have a responsibility to support teachers and students - but not overload them.
You can find more detail on the White paper by downloading the free digital version of ‘Opportunity for All’ here.