After six months of the coalition Government, Michael Gove has set out his grand vision for England's schools.
In his white paper, The Importance of Teaching, the education secretary has spelt out the biggest reform to the education system for more than a generation, bringing about changes to everything from teacher training to discipline, school inspections, curriculum and assessment.
In his foreword, Mr Gove said that at the heart of the document is "a vision of the teacher as our society's most valuable asset", but on announcing the paper to the House of Commons he said England was failing to keep pace with the world's best performing nations.
"The best schools systems recruit the best people to teach, train them intensively in the craft of teaching, continue to develop them throughout their career, groom natural leaders for headship positions and give great heads the chance to make a difference," he said.
To achieve this, the Department for Education (DfE) will establish a "new generation" of teaching schools based on the model of teaching hospitals. Mr Gove will also make it easier for heads to remove incompetent teachers.
To ensure teachers remain in the profession, the education secretary said he will strengthen powers around behaviour and discipline, as this is the "greatest barrier" to recruiting and retaining staff.
Mr Gove has been forced to backtrack on his pre-election pledge to abolish exclusion appeal panels, opting for reform instead. In a significant shift, schools will also be made responsible for finding and funding alternative provision for any pupil they exclude.
The DfE plans to pilot the approach, but will give heads more power to exclude pupils. However, schools will still be held to account for the pupils' academic performance, with their subsequent results counting in their original schools' performance tables.
As well as discipline, the white paper spells out plans to raise the floor target for schools, meaning 35 per cent of their pupils must achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, rather than 30 per cent.
The target will move for primary schools as well, with Labour's aim of 55 per cent of pupils reaching level 4 in both English and maths notched up to 60 per cent. It will also include a progress measure, so that schools showing they have a higher than average number of pupils making two levels of progress will not be caught in the net.
The DfE said that 1,631 primaries currently fall below both measures, meaning they can expect intense scrutiny on their performance and the threat of enforced academy status if they fail to make up sufficient ground.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said the Coalition needed to end its "obsession" with floor targets. "Many schools work in very challenging circumstances, in some of the most deprived areas in the country - a factor that needs to be taken into account in evaluating schools' performance," she said.
The paper was greeted with dismay by Mary Bousted, general secretary of teaching union the ATL, describing it as the "dismantling of state education".
"His plans risk leaving every school an island, divorced from the help and support of their local authorities," Dr Bousted said. "We are also deeply worried by the total confusion, incoherence and blatant contradictions which run throughout the government's education policy."
Andy Burnham, shadow education secretary, said he would "support" plans that build on Labour reforms, but accused his opposite number of looking after the minority of pupils.
"Whereas our reforms focused on raising standards for all children, Michael Gove has a pupil premium with no additional funding. He is obsessed with ideological structural changes which will benefit the few, not the many," he said. "The Government has a plan for some children, but not for every child."
White paper at a glance
Reform, review and reduce
- Raise entry requirements for those entering teaching to second-class degrees.
- Introduce teaching schools.
- Reform exclusion appeal panels instead of abolishing them.
- Trial new approach to exclusions, handing responsibility to schools.
- Review the national curriculum and slim it down.
- Introduce English Baccalaureate.
- Reform Ofsted inspections.
- Establish new GCSE and primary school exam floor targets.
- Introduce a national funding formula.
- Reduce school sixth-form funding to FE college levels.
- Make more data on schools, such as funding and performance, available to the public.
- Review key stage 1 and key stage 2 assessments.
`His whole agenda is more of the same'
"Love the way that the people in the DfE are able to throw away education theory and change the whole way that kids learn just in a year or two."
"Who would have predicted the idea that frontline soldiers would be encouraged to become teachers? Is it their ability to work long hours in dreadful conditions? Their expectation to achieve ridiculous targets? Their trusty method of conflict resolution?"
"Many of Gove's instincts are correct: loosening the national curriculum, encouraging pupils to study science and foreign languages, being sceptical about the value of teacher training institutions. His problem is that he blames schools and not the wider society in which they function. The fact that fewer poor pupils go to Oxford is down to worsening social decay in Britain much more than dodgy teachers."
"Gove's whole agenda is more of the same. Nothing new. Just a rehash of trendy and vacuous Blairite soundbite solutions."
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