Day 145 – James Valentine’s view

The Labour Party’s candidate for Mayor made his public views on school system change known in the BoS at the weekend.

James says:
“I believe that changing school too many times hinders a child’s learning, so I support a move to two tier.”.

SMS says:
“James is welcome to his beliefs. However, most parents and middle school supporters believe that two smaller well-managed transitions can be much better than one harsh change from a primary school with maybe only 150 pupils to a huge secondary of 2000 adolescents and young adults.”

James says:
“To avoid disruption to our children, the reorganisation will take place over a long time period – planning and discussions with the schools over the next three years, and implementation between 2013 and 2015. But we need to decide now.”

SMS says:
“The disruption will be caused over the next 10 years, with Marie Celeste middle schools for 5 years losing their best staff and their brightest children whose parents will scrimp and save to put them into the private sector.”

“The disruption will be caused in upper schools, as three year groups and their new teachers descend on one day in September 2014 or 2015 and have a far-reaching effect on results for years, as in other authorities that have changed recently.”

“The disruption will be caused in lower schools, where the change to primary is underfunded and due to come out of the schools’ own budgets.”

“The disruption will be caused for all teachers, where the new government’s educational initiatives and financial cuts will have to be implemented at the same time as this damaging change.”

“Yes, we do have to decide now. Decide to remain three-tier for the next 30-50 years, so bureaucrats and politicians don’t come back and try again in 3,5,10 years’ time.”

James says:
“I am telling you this because I think it is important for Bedford’s democracy that anyone who wants to be Mayor is honest about what they believe.”

SMS says:
“Thank you James. That is the most sensible thing you have said so far. We don’t agree with your opinion on schools, and you probably won’t get elected as the ‘reds’ aren’t the nations favourite colour at the moment, but you might have made a reasonable Mayor of Bedford.”

“Perhaps it is time for Dave Hodgson to show his hand now. Come on Dave, you know you want to…”


22 Responses to Day 145 – James Valentine’s view

  1. JamesD says:

    So the Labour position is clear – “ignore the evidence and follow my “belief”. The Lib-Dem won’t tell, so for them it’s “ignore the evidence and con the voter”. Both greedy Upper School governors, I note.
    What a breath of fresh air the Conservative Party central policy of US style primaries has brought to Bedford Borough. With a Mayoral system we need one other US import – “Recall” to keep those in power honest, no changes of policy after the election without the voters say so.

  2. Henry says:

    I want to scream at the Mayoral candidates – NO LA has carried out this proposed change without damage to its children! I cannot believe that the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates hold the idiotic position that cutting school budgets to pay for the change will do anything other than cause more damage to our children and grandchildren.
    My father was a founding member of the Labour party in West Wales, my mother the daughter of a Welsh miner. I was canvassing for the Labour party when I was 4 years old. Now it looks as if I will have to vote Tory.

    • Fred Bagnall says:

      “No LA has carried out this proposed change without damage to its children”

      Where is the documented evidence to support such a sweeping assertion? Has no LA that has made the move not achieved a net improvement?

      This sort of sweeping assertion is poorer than those presented by the council officers. Amidst the protesting howls, let me say again, should mayoral candidates not at least read the full argument before being so definite as to their stance. We either respect the lower and upper headteachers for their work in our schools and are prepared to read the document that may well propagate and support their view towards change or we choose only to hear the voice of middle school heads and supporters. There has been no drip-feed of pro 2-tier information to compare with the arguments/propaganda against produced here, we await the best that can be mustered and until that is properly heard I am not sure the argument can ever die. Let it be explained how the concerns that have arisen during the consultation could be addressed and then concluded whether the plans are satisfactory, including consideration of the experiences elsewhere, rather than assume no plan can ever work. The consultation document was not a promising start but is that enough to justify closing our minds completely?

      Now the whole thing may fall down from a financial perspective anyway but I for one do not buy in to our current educational performance being satisfactory relative to our peers and the SMS blinkers on this worry me. Do nothing is not a smart option even if neither is 2-tier.

      • Martin Hamilton says:

        I think we are in agreement here that the mayoral candidates should read the full argument. Why then do you think that they, and we, are being prevented from doing so by withholding the consultation report?

  3. savemiddleschools says:

    Dearest Fred,

    Actually the SMS position is that our educational performance is being interpreted in a misleading and one-sided manner to suit the bureaucrats who wrote the non-consultation document.

    We have always said “target resources where they are needed” and “strive for continuing improvement in standards”.

    We also strongly believe that school structure has very little to do with educational attainment and that to claim so is disingenuous at the very least.

    And as for drip feeding propoganda…how laughable…this is what has happened within Bedford for the past 12-18 months to discourage any parents or teachers from protesting.

    How many people thought back in April – It’s a Done Deal.

    How many people said to us – Don’t Bother Fighting.

    The real story here is that a few powerful people thought they could make this change against the public wishes.

    I’m surprised at you Fred – I thought you would stand up for the right of the people to protest as strongly as they can…

    • Fred Bagnall says:

      I do not seek to persuade: I wish for high quality, detailed and documented arguments from both sides. I am largely disappointed and worried that such a significant decision is so poorly presented by proponents and opponents alike although there is obviously more onus on the proponents.

      If my questioning is an irritation so be it. I do not deny the right to protest but would admit a preference for reasoned arguments rather than sweeping assertions or the media sound bite contests of modern politics.

  4. savemiddleschools says:

    Oh you aren’t an irritation at all Fred, you are a source of constant intellectual amusement to us all.

    For the record, we did (indeed do) try to present reasoned arguments, but when we realised the powers that be weren’t listening…well, what could we do but learn rapidly about modern campaigning methods…

    Also remember, we have had to start from scratch in April and fit in all of this around our day jobs, so maybe we can be excused if occasionally the presentation of our arguments is a little scruffy…but what excuse do the professional bureaucrats or semi-professional local politicians have?

  5. KDev says:

    Read the 2006 review carefully and you will find, and it was admitted in public meetings by the consultants, that NO LA had changed without a dip in attainment. This continued in some for many years but there was always a period of instability leading to lower attainment by those pupils in school during and after the change. Since 2006 all of the LA that have forced through the change from 3 to 2-tier have experienced similar results – our neighbours Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes are prime examples.
    You constantly ask for more evidence, but ignore the constant stream of evidence and published, peer reviewed academic research that has been given to you as references.
    My research based on DCSF data shows a clear relationship between the GCSE attainment of our Statistical Neighbours and the per pupil expenditure on education. In Bedford Borough the 2008 results could have been predicted on the 2008 spending per pupil in Bedford schools. There are a large number of academic studies that show “structure” has very little impact on educational attainment (you have previously been given at least 5 references on this matter). Government ministers have confirmed the OfSTED position that there is no national difference between the attainment in 2 and 3-tier school systems. The one argument that has been constantly used to support 2-tier, the effect of only one transfer of schools at 11 years old, has been shown to be doubtful if not fallacious; again I have given you the references on this matter.
    So the statement that “NO LA has carried out this change without damage to its children” has a very good pedigree.

    • Fred Bagnall says:

      I am sorry KDev but I seem unable to locate the information you refer to. Could you perhaps provide a page/paragraph number. Thank you in anticipation.

      • KDev says:

        Fred in 100 minutes you could not possibly have read the whole document and all of the subsidiary references and notes taken during the public meetings let alone understood them. Do your own home work or get one of your paid researchers to find any LA that has not had a dip in attainment following a change of structure.

  6. Fred Bagnall says:

    Now the officers have truly met their match – there is evidence to support our case but we’re not going to tell you what it is!

    And did we mention it is in the small print of a referenced report not our main report?

    Does the data you have accessed reveal anything about the relative ratios of spend on admin/frontline in 2/3-tier? Is there any argument that 2-tier reduces overheads or would that be a fallacy? That is a sincere question KDev, believe it or otherwise.

    • KDev says:

      Go to the DCSF web site, the data is all there! The budget figures I have used are the gross figures per pupil and the relationship is clear. 6 of our Statistical Neighbours spend considerably more on education than Bedford. We were £137 per pupil less than the average of those 6. All 6 have better 2008 GCSE results than Bedford schools. It is almost a linear relationship with, for such soft subject, a very high correlation factor. Please do some work, or get your BSF implementation team to do the work for you.

    • KDev says:

      Come on Fred – with your resources just one LA that did not experience a drop in attainment?

    • Baldrick says:

      My dear Fred – you ask: ‘Does the data you have accessed reveal anything about the relative ratios of spend on admin/frontline in 2/3-tier? Is there any argument that 2-tier reduces overheads or would that be a fallacy?’

      The answer is in all likelihood yes on the fromt line – after all you won’t need as many teachers, TA’s, admin staff etc. because the children will be in two rather than three buildings. But then you add in the protected salaries for three years and the extra costs of transporting 11 year olds across the borough and the need for increased resourcing and building for primaries (which there isn’t any funding for) and before you know it it might just cost the same!

      AND more importantly the borough have NEVER used this as an argument for change. In fact when questioned about this exact issue in one of the staff meetings it was categorically discounted as one of the reasons for doing it!

      So…if it was such a compelling reason why has it not been presented as such – and if it was simply about saving money perhaps that might smack of not putting children first.

      …and we wouldn’t want that would we or like my namesake we might think we were in a rotten borough!

      • JamesD says:

        Although likely, the assumption that 3-tier has more overhead costs than 2-tier assumes that 2-tier schools are more effectively managed than 3-tier. To make the most of this you need to close all of the very expensive small lower school and to maximise the size of the Primaries and Secondaries. Annual school budgets will be cut to fund the Primary build and when capital runs out more and more school sites will have to be sold.
        Bedford already spends less than the national average, less than our statistical neighbours. That spend is skewed towards maintaining the small rural lower schools. That inefficiency will remain even in a 2-tier system, unless of course the unmentioned plan is just to create a few large primary schools.

  7. JamesD says:

    Fred got we thinking of assertions and sound bites. Here are a few from the “impartial, professional council education officers” and 2-tier proponents:
    BSF Money relies on a change to 2-tier – FALSE
    DCSF demand a decision on 2 or 3-tier – HAS ANYONE SEEN THE DEMAND?
    2-tier is better than 3-tier – NOT ACCORDING TO OFSTED
    Bedford KS1 results are better than our Statistical Neighbours and our GCSE results are worse – ONLY IF YOU COMPARE DIFFERENT COHORTS, KS1 2008 results are irrelevant to GCSE 2008.
    Bedford 2008 GCSE results are worse than the National Average – ONLY IF YOU LEAVE OUT THE PRIVATE SCHOOLS WHICH THE NATIONAL AVERAGE INCLUDES
    Bedford 2008 GCSE results are worse than those of the average of our Statistical Neighbours – NOT IF YOU IGNORE THE 6 NEIGHBOURS THAT HAVE SELECTIVE SCHOOLS
    Bedford 2008 GCSE results are worse than those of the average of our Statistical Neighbours – NOT IF YOU IGNORE THE 23% IN PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN BEDFORD, 8% IN THE NEIGHBOURS
    Bedford 2008 GCSE results are worse than those of the average of our Statistical Neighbours – NOT IF YOU IGNORE AN EDUCATION BUDGET £137 LESS PER PUPIL THAN THE BETTER PERFORMING NEIGHBOURS
    Suffolk proved that 2-tier was better – FALSE
    The 1 transfer at 11 years old is better than 2 well managed at 8 and 13 years- FALSE
    We still need the same experienced teachers – NOT THE WAY BBC HR ARE PLAYING IT – THE UNIONS SAY UP TO 600 REDUNDANCIES ARE EXPECTED
    We can afford the cost of building Primary Schools – IF WE CUT THE SCHOOL BUDGETS FOR 25 YEARS

  8. Baldrick says:

    JamesD – you are indeed very perceptive about the costs of maintaining the small rural schools. Those kinds of inefficiencies will remain and get worse – however – they are only inefficient from a monetary point of view – putting children first means maintaining what we got with fewer funds held at the centre and top sliced!

  9. Fred Bagnall says:

    I am surprised that KDev has chosen to argue with me rather than use his/her knowledge of the academic papers to remind us, especially in the light of the reported main rationale for change of Mr Valentine, about the Symonds paper on transfer effects.

    From page 8 “more research needs to be done
    in order to fill the gap in the transfer literature … before any meaningful conclusions
    which compare the two systems can be reached.”

    Somewhat counter-intuitively perhaps, the one transition versus two argument has not withstood academic review.

    • KDev says:

      It was Professor Gault who commented that evidence was available to show that 1 change at 11 may be worse than 2 changes of school at 8 and 13 years. He went further to state that evidence existed that the effect of the 2 changes was not cumulative. Please use the numerous references you have been supplied with correctly. Do your own research, or get your highly paid help to do it for you!
      Fred stop cherry picking evidence to support the discredited case for 2-tier.

      • Fred Bagnall says:

        Well I’ve spent all morning looking for my highly paid help and there really is no sign of them. Did KDev mean the children? They’re at school and always claim they don’t get enough pocket money so don’t really fit the description!

  10. River Song says:

    If I may return to the original blog for today… I, as a parent of two children who will be caught in the middle of this change in the system, am very disappointed with Mr. Valentine’s comments. As I have said previously, I have always been a Labour voter and member and will, for the first time, not be voting Labour. I will seriously consider ending my Labour party membership too. Valentine’s comments are a big mistake on the Labour party’s behalf I feel. He has reached this conclusion without looking at all the evidence, without considering the effect of change on the children in the middle, without listening to the vast majority of parents and people in our communities and without considering the huge numbers of people who will lose their jobs. Not just teachers, but all the brilliant people who work behind the scenes to make schools a great place to be. I am very unhappy and feel personally let down by the party I have always supported.

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