Education secretary Justine Greening was given a two-hour grilling by MPs on the education select committee this morning, and fielded questions on everything from academies to funding, governance and, of course, grammar schools.
Here is what we learned:
1. The government's focus is on underperforming schools:
Ms Greening indicated that, although the government would continue to pursue all-out academisation, its main drive now is to focus on underperforming schools.
She said: “I do want to see all schools over time become academies but I think our focus has got to be on the schools who are struggling and not doing well enough for children at the moment…
“Our hope and expectation is that schools will want to steadily take advantage of the benefits and advantages that academies can bring, but our focus will be on those schools where we feel that standards need to be raised.”
2. There's no extra money to tide schools over to a new national funding formula:
There will be no additional ‘stop gap’ funding for schools who are struggling financially as they wait for the new funding formula to come into effect in 2018-19.
“It’s unlikely that there will be further support for this forthcoming year but we will keep the additional funding that’s already been put in place”, Ms Greening said.
3. Justine Greening wants to have a debate about grammar schools:
The educational secretary believes the issue of grammar schools is an “emotive debate” that she wants to “confront head on”
She told the committee: “I don’t think it’s right for the Labour party to say that they have a policy proposal of simply scrapping grammars…I think that would be a disaster to see children who do have opportunity to see that taken away.
“We’ve put a debate on the table, it is important, it is emotive and we think we need to have it. The worst thing would be to argue against the status quo but then say that we shouldn’t try and change it for the better.”
4. Parents governors will live to see another day:
Parents governors will be welcome on the boards of academy trusts after all, Ms Greening said signalling a U-turn despite government plans to drop them. When asked whether removing elected parents from boards would be a matter she was prepared to reconsider, she replied “It is”.
5. Ms Greening is considering whether full inspections of MATs (multi-academy trusts) should take place:
The education secretary said she wanted to "reach a conclusion" on the issue but indicated she thought the job could be beyond the skills of Ofsted.
Ofsted, she said “would not necessarily have the expertise” to look at overarching issues around governance, financial systems and risk management beyond school level. “You need to have the right person with the right skills”, she said.
6. Problems around teacher supply are at the top of the education secretary’s ‘to do’ list:
“I’d like us to do a better job on keeping teachers in the profession”, she said, suggesting that it was important to draw teachers who had left to have families back into the job, with the creation of part time roles.
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