Kalinski1970's Blog

My own personal view on UK Education and bits n bobs


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.@Geoffbastin @Bayliss4BB @jpkemp94 @Jolph @HuwMerriman what are your views on plans for new grammar schools? #compfuture

Earlier I followed a link from @comp_future, which can be found here, http://act.comprehensivefuture.org.uk/campaigns/nonewgrammarschools, and decided to adjust it from an East Sussex perspective.  I would like to thank Hugh Hennebry for the paragraphs quoted.

Please accept my apologies for emailing you all together.

As a headteacher in East Sussex I wanted to raise the issues I have with this possible policy. We should not expand selective education. The many education experts who have criticized this proposal should be listened to. We need well funded schools and a commitment to high quality comprehensive education.

These are some of the problems with selective education:

– Grammar schools contain mostly pupils from wealthy backgrounds with low numbers of pupils from poorer backgrounds. The education of disadvantaged and SEN pupils should be our priority.

– There are three secondary modern schools created for each grammar school. Secondary modern schools are less likely to have top sets and a range of A levels, and they often find it harder to recruit teachers. We should offer high quality all-ability schools to all pupils.

– Grammar schools involve competition for school places which leads parents to waste money on expensive 11-plus tutoring. We should not expand the £25 million a year 11-plus tuition industry.

– The 11-plus test sends a discouraging message to children at the start of secondary school. We should not base school admission on a damaging test that suggests ‘innate ability’ is definable and matters more than hard work.

Finally, our sitting MP has already stated that he doesn’t see this as a funding issue, but

“the capital funding does affect our schools. There are many of our schools that are unfit for purpose. How many schools are riddled with asbestos, crittal windows, poor insulation, 1950s electrics (our main fuse was put in at the time Winston Churchill was Prime Minister and it is still there), iron pipes that rust as they lie under reinforced concrete slabs, flat rooves covered in bitumen / felt (this isn’t great for a domestic garage let alone a school for thousands of people) etc?

If they divert capital funds to enlarge grammar schools, it will take away money from much needed investment in world class education facilities and the sort of teaching and learning environment the children of Britain deserve.”
Comprehensive education works, especially here in East Sussex, where the schools serve the broad social mix of our communities fantastically well. One grammar school in any of the market towns would instantly turn all three others into secondary moderns. The most successful nations use all ability secondary schools, and areas that operate selective education show poor results, with worrying outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

I hope that you will oppose new grammar schools and protect comprehensive education. 

Kind regards

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@FlatCashEd

The following is an amalgamation of a number of things I have written or speeches I have given over the last month.  Some of it is the result of a number of people’s work and therefore I would like to thank all those in the @FlatCashEd core group.

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The government’s decision to protect school funding only in flat cash terms per pupil means that schools throughout the country are facing, according to the National Audit Office, a real term cut of £3 billion by 2020.

However, in East Sussex school funding is already significantly below the national average and the impact of increasing costs will have devastating consequences.

Over the past five years schools have received a flat amount of funding for Key Stages 3 and 4. Post-16 funding for schools has been cut. Yet during this period schools have faced significant and unfunded increases in costs:

  • employer’s contributions to national insurance and pensions
  • the apprenticeship levy (from which many schools will get nothing back and while only 1% of employers nationally will have to pay this levy all maintained schools and most academies will have to pay)
  • Living wage increases
  • increases to salaries approved but not funded
  • abolition of the Education Services Grant
  • 80% reductions to the capital funding for maintaining school buildings

As a Headteacher I have already held difficult conversations with families of children (some with complex needs) regarding the decisions we are having to make about their child’s future. In the context of a lack of other community services, parents increasingly turn to schools to provide the support they once accessed externally. We now face the prospect of withdrawing all but basic statutory provision in order to make ends meet.

 

  1.  What actions have we taken.

Since 2012 we have carefully looked at all our outgoings to be as efficient as possible.  Due to a demographic shift Uplands, has been dealing with a reduced roll since then.  We have used the Government document on efficiency to guide us.

1. Deploy the workforce effectively, with a focus on developing high quality teachers. Teacher quality is proven to be the single most important feature of successful education systems. The most efficient schools that we visited invest a great deal of effort to get the staffing structures right, recruiting the right people and ensuring that they are continually supported to improve.

We have reduced staffing by 9 teachers over the past 4 years.  This has included reducing the SLT from 9 to 5 and removing a pastoral layer.  There are a number of areas in this bullet point that make me chuckle (albeit in a slightly manic way), but mainly recruiting the right people.  As i have discussed before, the Government has missed 5 out of the last 5 years’ worth of recruitment targets.  We have a very efficient timetable, with very little spare capacity (10 hours).  Everyone teaches more (including myself).  People teach across subjects where they can

2. Make use of evidence to determine the right mix of teaching and education support staff. We have found that, particularly in the secondary phase, high attaining schools tend to spend proportionately more on teaching staff and proportionately less on education support staff than their lower attaining peers. This is still the case even when comparing schools in similar circumstances and with similar pupil intakes. However, the way schools deploy support staff is also important, with the potential to have a significant and positive impact on pupil outcomes if used in line with the evidence on what works.

Firstly, all the evidence points to ‘higher attaining schools’ being those in areas of less social deprivation.  Therefore, I doubt there is the need to pay for a family key worker.  Or to have paid into the services for the traveller community.  Possibly not needing an onsite counsellor.  We have had to lose 5 support staff over the past four years.

3. Employ or have access to a skilled school business manager who takes on a leadership role. There is strong evidence that the employment of a high quality school business manager (SBM) can enable schools to save significant amounts of money. In all the schools we visited the SBM plays a prominent role.

Done

4. Make good use of financial benchmarking information to inform the school’s own spending decisions. Schools that use benchmarking information to compare themselves to similar schools, and who act on what they find, manage to generate significant savings.

On the ones we use, our outcomes are very good for our children compared to what we spend.

5. Make use of school clusters, sharing expertise, experience and data, as well as accessing economies of scale when making shared purchases. All the schools we visited were part of some kind of cluster arrangement, and there is clear evidence that schools can drive far-reaching efficiency savings by working together with other schools. 

We have looked at all of our contracts and any saving that can be found in buying through county’s economy of scale have been done.  Our utilities & insurance has been sourced this way.   I have cut every line of my budget where I can. I have checked every contract that is up renewal.  We have reduced the amount of times our grass is cut.  We haven’t spent the £100k per year that I need to to maintain my buildings that was cut from my devolved capital expenditure budget.  I personally buy equipment and resources for my classes and I know that all staff do the same.

6. Manage down back office and running costs. There remains considerable variation in the amount that similar schools spend on running costs, such as energy or premises. The most efficient schools drive these costs down through improved procurement practices and a greater focus on value for money.

If you hadn’t notice this is basically an explanation of the last bullet point.  But, yes of course we have done this.  For example; I don’t claim expenses anymore for travel to meetings.  However, inflation has grown over the last 3 years and is expected to move over 2%; fuel prices have increased etc.  This is unfunded by the government.

7. Have in place a strong governing body and leadership team that challenges the school’s spending. A governing body that is willing to challenge schools on their use of workforce, their use of benchmarking information and the other aspects drawn out above, is a vital factor in encouraging greater whole-school efficiency. Where this is supported by a strong leadership team that is open to and welcoming of this challenge, schools can make significant efficiency gains.

I have a GB that has challenged me every step of the way. However, like all GB they looked at the 5 year budget predictions in 2012, assuming the best.  For new HTs this means walking into a job and being faced with very difficult decisions that you could possibly say the previous HT had decided to leave.

But, let us no kid ourselves about what has been written above.  State schools generally work on an 80% staffing to revenue budget.  Only 1. and a bit of 2.  has any impact on the largest element of a school’s spending.

What all these ‘efficiency’ savings have meant is more things falling to those left, because the amount of jobs we are required to do have increased over the same period.

  • New GCSEs
  • New A levels
  • British Values
  • E-Sfaety
  • Safeguarding changes
  • Finding the efficiencies that will help our budgets
  • Finding grants to help our revenue streams

To name but a few

  1.  Are the cuts required to fund the cost increases required realistically achievable?

Firstly, if my budget had kept pace with the cost increases this year (inflation, Employers Pension Contributions Teachers and the pay settlement) I would have an additional £ £142,955.31 in my budget.  This doesn’t include the £100k that I lost from the Reduction in Devolved Formula Capital Funding.  The £100k that I am told that I must spend to maintain my ageing capital stock.

So the short answer is now no.  To a point there were efficiencies that schools could make, but we have made them  Does this make schools better, no, but we have a responsibility to spend public money as efficiently as we can.  However, from this point forward I can only see the cuts effecting the education of young people.  It will have an impact on our students, especially in our ability to keep them safe or maintain the high standards of outcomes.  But also in our ability to create well rounded adults.

Schools are also dealing with all the issues of the disappearance of the wider safety nets, such as access to CAMHS for none but they most serious.  COPEs family support has to be bought in; behaviour support needs to be bought in; specific support in dealing with absence has to be bought in.  Services that have an impact on our most vulnerable pupils, we have to buy in, but there is no money to buy them in anymore.

The raising of the bar in threshold levels for safeguarding referrals causes schools to be responsible for more.  This is with less staff and less time

On top of that the shortfall being discovered around the country for children with high needs are being clawed back from schools, when budgets are already under huge pressure.

Apprenticeships levy again requires staffing time to run it on top of the funding that we lose to pay for it.  This is when the Houses of parliament and the BBC are exempt and only 1% of employers are being asked to pay the levy.

We already have the situation that our students suffer from being in a rural community. Deprivation here is more than just income;  it is access to jobs; no or very little pubic transport; no access to the arts.  What will education look like for the majority of students, with no GCSEs and A levels in smaller subjects such as music, art, drama, French, Spanish?

We cannot maintain a broad curriculum (which we have had to cut already).  Class sizes will grow beyond the maximum that some classrooms can hold (which is 30).

By 2019/2020

We will be dealing with £69,350.56 less in funding just because the income has not kept up with inflation.  This is only if inflation remains at the Bank of England estimate of 1.7%.  That equates to 2 teachers.

Even with all the reductions in staffing our staffing costs almost remain static because of the increases in associated costs, pension contribution, NI etc.  For the party of business I find it hard explaining back to Conservatives that rising costs, with no rise in revenue has serious implications.

Employer pension contribution, national insurance and an estimated 1% pay rise each year mean that by 2019-20 I will have £118k less to spend on students.  This is three teachers.

Then added to that we have the apprenticeship levy and the living wage means that £168k less to spend on pupils.

SO in 2019/20 as a school we will £237,780.56 less to spend on pupils just from the cost increases.  This doesn’t include an attempt to keep up with maintenance costs of our buildings

BUT, as we are already funded well below the average and that continues.  So like all schools we have to start to consider cuts that are not palatable to any school leader.  We are not talking about luxuries we can do without, but people or service that will have profound implications for students.

  1.  More opportunities to make savings

I am sure there are but they are shifting the deckchairs on the titanic.  In fact, I recently said that the it is less like shifting the deckchairs on that ship, but actually trying to organise a tea party on it while it is broken up and on the bottom of the ocean.  Staffing makes up 80% of a school’s budget.  The cost increases make it virtually impossible to do anything bar lose staff.

So much is unfunded cost increases, so we are not making efficiency savings just keeping our heads above water.  But expected to deal with complete changes to GCSEs and A levels without money to buy resources or train the staff.

What to do?

There has simply been no attempt to benchmark the cost of a curriculum.  Just a simple look shows the following:

150 students require 5 forms of entry.  So, for the three year groups, just teaching them in the traditional 1 hour lessons,  that is 375 hours of teaching per week.  This equates to 16 teachers required to teach that curriculum (each teaching 23 hours a week).  If they were All NQTs that equates to £360k or teachers that are all top of scale that equates to £620k (these figures do not include on-costs).  

Clearly, that is a simple model but one that can easily be calculated down to each pupil.  (Big edit from Tom!).  This gives us a starting point of £1,378 per pupil for a Key Stage 3 curriculum.

We can all appreciate the significant and collective responsibility required to secure the long term prosperity of the United Kingdom but we would urge that it is a false economy to compromise the education of a generation to secure a political or financial agenda over the next 4 years. Our young people are at the heart of this country’s future productivity and wellbeing, if their experience is significantly compromised due to the impending and real financial crisis in schools, then we will all reap the outcomes for generations to come.


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Submitted to Schools that Work for Everyone

Submitted to Schools that Work for Everyone – short version of consultation

Submitted on 2016-10-06 21:00:57

Introduction 1 What is your name? Name: Liam collins

4 What local authority area are you based in? Please select: East Sussex comprehensive school

5 Are these the right conditions to ensure that selective schools improve the quality of non-selective places? No (please provide further comments below)

What is the incentive? It is clearly proven that the way to increase the quality of schools is to allow them all access to all ability levels. Or to ensure that every parent has the choice of a good school. Not ensure that a good school can choose which students it allows in.

6 Are there other conditions that we should consider as requirements for new or expanding selective schools, and existing non-selective schools becoming selective? No (please provide further comments below)

Don’t. It will be popular with UKIP voters, but it will be a massive vote loser as 3/4 of every middle class family quickly work out that their children won’t get into the selective schools

7 What is the right proportion of children from lower income households for new selective schools to admit?

Ensure comprehensives are great. In existing grammars it should be at least the national average or get rid of the existing grammars.

8 How can we best ensure that new and expanding selective schools and existing non-selective schools becoming selective are located in the areas that need good school places the most?

Don’t create grammars. Ensure that schools are funded fairly across the country. Fund schools in areas that are perceived tough in such a way that they can keep class sizes small. That they can offer wrap around care to the support the students and their families. Bring back front loaded funding so that children aren’t behind when they start school. Ensure that teachers and SLT have job security for working in tough areas. Move all those areas to equal term lengths so that staff and students don’t suffer from the ridiculous long terms

New faith schools 9 Are these the right alternative requirements to replace the 50% rule? No (please provide further comments below)

Remove all religious schools and make them all secular. There is no parent choice to a school that chooses its intake

10 How else might we ensure that faith schools espouse and deliver a diverse, multi-faith offer to parents within a faith school environment?

Don’t segregate students by their religion. In studies i have seen it is shown that creating religious schools has the opposite effect you appear to want such as a diverse, multi-faith offer.  See unlocking the gates report where they explain:

“Yet we know from research that children can do better if schools are not socially segregated.  Increasingly our schools are just that, with half of all pupils entitled to free school meals (a proxy for poverty) concentrated in a quarter of secondary schools, while the top secondary schools take – on average – only five per cent of pupils entitled to free school meals, less than half the national average”

11 Are there other ways in which independent schools can support more good school places and help children of all backgrounds to succeed? No (please provide further comments below)

Private schools are private, let them be. Remove the tax relief and use that additional income to fund the services around schools. Especially sure start, mental health service and family support

12 Are there other ways in which universities could be asked to contribute to raising school-level attainment? Yes (please provide further comments below)

By offering a sabbatical relevant to teachers after ten years of service. The teacher goes into supporting ITT and research for a year. Recharge and reinvigorate


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Headteachers’ Roundtable…sanity fix – #HTRT2016

Home from a 4 hours plus drive from the Think Tank event at Sheffield Hallam.  The last few weeks had been busy as people that knew what they were doing when organising an event started send 17 page documents of questions…But this is HTRT, we’ve done small gatherings and punched well above our weight in regards to meeting key people in education.  Suddenly we had over 200 HTs coming to an event in Sheffield, an event that suddenly felt bigger when I saw the delegate name tags in a box…frankly I started to panic!


Apart from the a few groans about the venue not being correct on the tickets; the fact that we started at 1030 to allow people to get to Sheffield and not bang on the advertised 9.30am; that I didn’t get the memo about the dress code; the day went well.  I think we achieved what we set out to which was to crowd source policy.  Anyway, the look up #HTRT2016 on Twitter if you want to follow what happened on the day.

Anyway, this blog isn’t about the day or the outcomes, but to talk about the importance of the Headteachers’ Roundtable to my sanity.  Being a HT is an incredibly lonely experience.  You support a large organisation and frankly deal with an enormous amount of decisions.  It is not the importance of each one that is difficult, but that the outcome for each is not clear.  When it is black and white, others find it easy to make the decisions.  This means that to staff I will tend to float between a good HT and a bloody awful one, depending on the decision.

So meeting up with other like minded HT is like a slow intake of breath in a busy life.  We face the same issues, the same pressures, the same types of odd decisions from LEAs or now RSCs.  We get told to go to pointless meetings set up by people who don’t understand the pressures of the job, normally to tell us things we already know or about data that just doesn’t hold up to any statistical analysis. When we meet, as HTRT,  we laugh, we hug, we don’t have to have our public face on, we relax.

The environment that HTRT creates is creative and business like.  We argue, we discuss, we talk, we don’t always agree but we respect each other’s opinions and we get things done.  Our influence has always been beyond our size because I think people in education trust that we are dealing with their policies and actually want to find out the impact.  We do go to meetings where we are the only people there that work in a school.  Rooms full of civil servants, policy makers and politicians.  We get to lend our voice to the debate.  Being positive, offering advice, working on our own policies, allows us to be inside the tent.  Yes it is tempting to rant from the outside, but that changes nothing.

So the point of the blog? If you are a HT get involved.  Ask to help and come to the meetings.  The only thing we ask  is that you join in, take a job on and contribute. We know it is not easy to leave the day job or take something on extra.  But, what we offer is sanity, a deep breath, a pause, a conversation and a moment when you realise that you are not going slowly mad!  If you are really keen you can get to organise a whole conference.  Which was exciting, terrifying and satisfying in equal measures…

in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king


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Love the one you’re with – recruitment and retention

Picture1

So Tim Matthews (@purplepedagogy) and I were invited to lead a session at . The last four slides show the feedback we received from the tables, but we would love you to also comment.

Please feel free to leave questions and I’ll do my best to answer them…although see the small print on the first slide!

Sources for the diagrams and tables are

SFR 21/2015 School Workforce in England: November 2014 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/440577/Text_SFR21-2015.pdf

National Audit Office Training New Teachers HC 798 SESSION 2015-16 10 FEBRUARY 2016 https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Training-new-teachers.pdf

Initial teacher training census for the academic year 2015 to 2016, England SFR 46/2015, 19 November 2015 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/478098/ITT_CENSUS_SFR_46_2015_to_2016.pdf

Schools Week “What do the statistics say about teacher shortages”, John Dickens, Sep 27, 2015 http://schoolsweek.co.uk/what-do-the-statistics-say-about-teacher-shortages/

Edit (slide 23) I threw away the comment that men are unrepresented in teaching until you get to SLT. This seemed to get an number of quotes from those attending on twitter and at least one raised eyebrow.

Looking at the figures this was me being very Secondary and very Headteacher focused.  Where 62% of the workforce are women and yet only 37% of headteachers are.

 

Women into School Headship (http://www.womenintoschoolheadship.co.uk/womens-leadership/) point out that:

“The DfE School Workforce Census continues to evidence the underrepresentation of women in Headship in all sectors, compared to their numbers in the profession.  With women accounting for over 60% of the profession in secondary and over 85% in primary we would expect to see more women headteachers than the disproportionate 37% and 71% respectively.”

However,

“The Census shows that female deputy and assistant headteachers now make up over 50% of senior leadership teams, an increase of nearly 2% in both primary and secondary schools since 2011. In 2014 there was an incremental increase of 1.6% over the last three years for women in primary headship and a slight improvement in the number of women secondary headteachers by 0.7%.”

I hope that clarifies!


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Back to School – advice for new students

This is my column for the Courier this week.

1. Be nice. You will be with people you know from Primary and with lots of people you don’t. If you stick to the ‘be nice’ part you’ll find that you’ll avoid the pitfalls of starting at a new school and make new friends. Pupil who think they are ‘cool’, tend to stick to other pupils they think are ‘cool’ in the same way as them. Thus they limit their friendship groups and count on their meanness to hold their group together. Their start in school will be made up of failing out, hurtful comments, sadness and loneliness. So be nice to people and you’ll get niceness back from them.

2. Work hard. You have this time to make a fantastic impression on your new teachers and there will be lots of new teachers! From one primary teacher, to probably over 12. Each of those will have slightly different rules, routines, seating plans, but will all have high expectations. Make sure you put your best efforts in to every piece of work. That mind-set you will make brilliant progress during your time at secondary school.
3. Be prepared to fail. Every day and in every lesson you will not know everything and you will get things wrong. There would be no point to a lesson if you already knew the answers, so don’t think raising your hand first makes you the cleverest person in the class. You just knew the answer before the question was asked. Getting things wrong and failing is the quickest way to learn. Learning how to deal with failure is one of the best life skills you can gain at school. Never say “I don’t know”, without ending the sentence with “yet”. Read and listen to the feedback from the teacher on how to improve your work. Make the changes to that piece of work based on that advice. Keep repeating, “if it is not excellent, it is not finished”.
4.  Be prepared to be silent in lessons.  You need to listen to the expert that you will have in every class, your teacher.  They will explain things that you need to listen to.  Also, you will need to listen to you classmates.  Everyone of you deserve the respect to have your opinion or answer or questions heard.  There will also need to be the time to work in silence, this gives everyone the chance to do their best.

4. Throw yourself in to school life. Join clubs; play sport and try out for the school’s teams; try acting; sing in the choir; join a band or the orchestra; play chess; go to science and maths clubs. Don’t listen to the ‘cool’ group about what you should and shouldn’t do. Those that throw themselves into school life will have the widest friendship groups, including those in different year groups.
5. See it as a fresh start. No matter what happened at primary, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself. You may have felt you were “no good at maths”, well now you can change your mindset to a person who is going to give it your best effort to improve. You may have chatted too much in class and got on the wrong side of your teacher. You might have been mean to your classmates. Take this opportunity to change, we don’t know what you were like only what you are like.
6. Enjoy school. It does seem, from your current perspective, that you are in school for a really long time. But if you live a long life, it makes up approximately 16% of your whole life. 84% will not be in a school.  Looking back you will never have so many friends. So many people looking out for you. People who are desperate for you to achieve your full potential. So enjoy it!
Actually reading this back, I think this is good advice for all students returning to school. 

I hope that you have a successful year.


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The P45 Fortnight – a reprise

I wrote most of this for a local newspaper column a year ago.  This is an update…

 

Many of you will be aware that A level results were released last Thursday and that GCSE results will be announced this Thursday. Of course this is an a hugely stressful time for students and their parents. So much rides on these results. A place at a top university, being able to study the A’levels you wanted or a place on an apprenticeship. Each set of results will have its own story from unbridled success to the feeling of abject failure. For each student the results will be the result of a successful or unsuccessful partnership between the student, their parents and their teachers. It is effected by not only those relationships, but everything that is happening in that student’s life.

Many of you won’t be aware that in the age of high accountability that many Headteachers and teachers this is a very stressful time. This is where a aggregation of the student’s results can result in professionals losing their jobs.

Last week we had looked closely at the Average Point Score (APS) for level 3 qualifications (A’ levels and their equivalents). This is the total score achieved by each student averaged across the institution. Have a high attaining cohort that will tend to take 4 or 5 A levels your score should be well above 800. Have a comprehensive intake, that in the main take 3, you are looking for scores above 700. So the league table is skewed by schools that have high ability intakes and who’s students take more than the required 3 A’ levels. That isn’t to say that a Grammar school Headteacher has any less pressure. They have to ensure that their results are at the top of the league table to ensure healthy numbers the year after from academic children.  This is also one of the key league table battle grounds as selected state maintained grammars do battle with selective private schools.  You can obviously make clunky references to the the Olympics where elites do battle with elites.  But, for these schools the pressure is high to ensure that the decision made by parents when their children were 11 or 13 were correct (see the man suing his son’s private school because he gained 1 GCSE).  This is different for the non selective, we see huge triumphs from students that were able to enter vocational courses and go onto university, most of whom tend to be the first going to a university from their family.  However, at comprehensives we also have the higher attaining who gain straight A*s and are off to Oxford.  I feel it is great to see the full range!

But the league table, as I have explained before, is not a comparison of like for like.  An APS of 600 in a non-selective in a tough area can be more significant that all the schools that post 800+.

Tomorrow is the GCSE results.  These are now will be reported in a very different way, Progress8 or P8, when the league tables are produced sometime in the Autumn.  Now your floor target is your cohort and how they did under you care.   The heartache for staff will still be the student that gets one grade below what is expected.  The problem is that what is expected will only be known once all the results come out.  I’ll pause for a moment to let that sink in.  Yes you heard it correctly.  The target that you have been aiming at will only be fully known once the exams have been marked and reported.

What does this mean?  Well for me it is seriously not really knowing what the outcomes for our students will be for the first time in 10 years (albeit 2012 was tough with the change in grade boundaries).  This is the first year that I am actually unsure.  We had an incredibly hardworking Year 11, but our success or failure will be their performance measured against all the other schools nationally.  If they have done well it will be a positive score, perhaps an exciting 0.75.  Done ok and it will be around 0.  Done badly enough to give you sleepiness nights it will be below -0.5.

So, both results days, require all students to perform consistently across that exam season, for GCSE that involves over 20 exams. When you look at the headline figures you don’t know about the child who has spent the last 6 months in hospital. Or the student that has collapsed under the pressure. Or the one who’s parent has died recently. Each of those children who make up the overall headline figure for the league table are individuals with different backgrounds, ability, home lives, relative poverty or wealth, interested or not interested parents. Yet schools are held responsible for the performance of the students no matter what is going on in the other 18 hours of their day.

So if you know a student, a parent, a teacher or a headteacher, have a thought for them over the next fortnight. Lives are changed irreversibly at this time.