The education admission system is broken

School Admissions

Today was one of the two big dates for parents in the education calendar.  Today is national offer day for primary school places.  Parents around the country having been receiving emails notifying them of their child’s place of education for the next few years.  Earlier in the Spring, on 3rd March, parents received notification for secondary school places.

The news has a big impact on the family’s day to day life, and if we believe the media the decision will have long lasting effects on our children’s life chances.  These days, even for primary or infant and junior schools parents do incredible amounts of research.  When I was a child everyone just went to their local school – choice only kicked in for secondary school and beyond.

Now everyone scours league tables, reads OFSTED reports, goes to several open days/evenings, and look very carefully at the class sizes, specialisms and facilities.  Today’s report from the National Audit Office is official confirmation of what many parents have known – or feared – for the last few years: the shortage of school places is reaching alarming levels. The report said one-in-five primary schools was full or near capacity with London accounting for more than a third of all extra places needed.

The current education admission system is broken.  We see families buying that house in the ever-shrinking catchment area to make sure their children get in?  Others employ tutors so their children can pass entrance exams or the 11+?  Others sign in at church every Sunday when they have no sense of faith.

Every parent wants the best for their children.  Whilst most schools within the UK will provide a good education to all children it is hard to avoid the facts - we know that public school educated people dominate the upper echelons of UK society; politics, sport and the arts (The Guardian).  Then there’s selective state schools. 29% of Labour MPs went to grammar schools (The Sutton Trust).

As a children’s and youth worker, and a school governor, I still believe that education is more than just pure academics.  We need to develop well rounded adults, and whilst it is now near impossible to find employment without a GCSE grade C in English and Maths it is important that the education system supports children’s interests, support friendships between different social, economic and religious backgrounds.

Today for me is a reminder that education has become too focussed on a narrow band of results and league tables that cause stress both for parents and teachers.  We need an education system that truly values and encourages children rather than allowing economically affluent parents to in effect gain priority over other parents.

Job opportunity at job opportunity

The fantastic have a job opportunity:

Are you passionate about work in schools?
Are you interested in professional development?
Would you like to work within a creative, growing team that works nationally but is rooted locally?

We have an exciting new opportunity at for someone to join the team and take the work of the Enable Schools Work course to the next level. The job is part time and is available from May/June. You can download the relevant documents below, which should include all you need to know. Please also pass on the word to anyone you know who might be interested in joining us.

If you have any questions not answered in the documents below, please email or call on 01582 748964. We can also send you all of the documents in an email if it is tricky for you to download them here, or even post them out to you. Just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

We look forward to hearing from you!


Read me first: Introduction letter
The Job Description: Download
Background information: Download
Application Form: Download

Easter Assembly 2014

Hudson plane crash

This morning I started a series of five schools that I will be doing Easter assemblies for in the next week:

Show the children the food or images of food and ask them to name them. Explain that these four types of foods are traditionally eaten at Easter time and in some way relate to the Easter story.

Show the children the simnel cake and ask if they have any idea how this relates to the Easter story in the Bible.

Ask them to count the number of marzipan balls on the top of the cake. Can they think why there would be 11? If they don’t know, explain that, traditionally, the balls represent Jesus’ disciples. The Bible talks about Jesus having 12 disciples, but one of them– Judas Iscariot – betrayed Jesus and handed him over to the soldiers, so the cake shows that he was no longer one of the disciples.

Show the children the hot cross buns and ask them what these could represent.

There are various traditions regarding what the buns represent, but the main one is simply that the cross reminds us of Jesus dying on the cross. In the twelfth century, a monk called Father Rocliffe began to make small, spiced cakes, on to which he stamped the shape of a cross. He gave the buns out on Good Friday as Easter presents to the poor people who lived nearby. The idea was so popular that he repeated this each year and gradually other monasteries began to do the same. Over the years, this tradition became more and more popular.

Show the children the Easter eggs and ask them what they represent.

One traditional story explaining the meaning of Easter eggs is that they represent the stone that was put across the doorway to Jesus’ tomb and found to have been rolled away on Easter morning because Jesus had risen from the dead. The idea is that breaking the egg symbolizes the tomb being ‘cracked’ open and Jesus coming back to life.

Eggs are also a symbol of hope and new life. That is because chicks hatch from eggs and, at Easter, this reminds us that Jesus rose from the dead.

Over the years, ‘Easter food’ has become more and more commercialized, with many people simply buying them because it is traditional to do so rather than thinking about or even knowing their significance. In 2013, 90 million Easter eggs were sold in the UK! Christians believe that it is important for people to be reminded of the true meaning of Easter and talking about these foods is a good way to do this.

The last Easter food you have brought is … fish fingers! Bring out the empty fish finger packet. A strange choice – do we normally eat fish fingers on Easter Day?  No, but we do hear a lot about fish in the stories about Jesus, and one famous story about fish tells of something that happened after Jesus came back to life.

Read, or paraphrase, John 21.1–14. Jesus appeared to his disciples and cooked them a breakfast of fish on a barbecue. This was the third time he appeared to his friends after he had died. They were so excited that he was alive again.

End by talking about how at Easter, Jesus died and came back to life. Christians believe that Jesus is with us now as our friend, even though we can’t see him.

Have you ever heard someone say, ‘That’s a job for the plumber’, or ‘the AA’, or even ‘the dentist’! Some jobs need experts.

Has anyone heard of Captain Chelsey B. Sullenberger? His expertise hit the world news in 2009. (Show image.)

Captain Chelsey B. Sullenberger

On 15 January 2009 Captain Chelsey B. Sullenberger III, or ‘Sully’ as he is known to his friends, took his seat in the cockpit of the US Airways Flight 1549. This routine flight was travelling from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina. There were 155 passengers on board as well as a full crew.

Six minutes after take-off the plane flew into a flock of Canada geese and was disabled by a complete loss of thrust from both engines.

As Air Traffic Control raced to find a nearby airport and runway, Sully glided the plane on to the Hudson River adjacent to mid-town Manhattan. As boats and fire services raced to the rescue all the passengers and crew climbed on to the wings of the slowly sinking plane.

All escaped without loss of life. It was the first time in 45 years that a major aircraft had crash-landed on water with no loss of life. (Show web image of ditched plane on the Hudson River.) It turned out that this plane was equipped with state of the art technology, which assisted the pilot in the very difficult art of crash-landing safely on moving water.

When this event was reported, the media of course focused in on the hero of the day, Captain B. Sullenberger. It was reported that Sully had over 40 years of flying experience. He had trained as a US Air Force fighter pilot and had served as an instructor, safety chairman and accident investigator. In other words, he was extremely experienced!

Captain B. Sullenberger also co-directs the University of California’s centre for Catastrophic Risk Management. This centre researches ways to avoid airline tragedies. And he lectures on emergency landings! One of his colleagues said that there was no one more qualified to land that plane and to help the passengers survive a crisis.

Captain Sully was the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

As we approach the Christian festival of Easter, we learn that Jesus was also the right person in the right place at the right time for the job allotted to him.

Ever since history began, the world has known selfishness, greed, corruption and wars. People of faith believe that this is because people have the potential to do both good and bad things.

Christians believe that Jesus was sent by God over 2,000 years ago to live in the land of Palestine (or Israel, as it is called today). He lived a good life and showed us what God is really like.

Christians also believe that only God’s Son could do that. Jesus was the right person for the job of showing us God.

Time for reflection

Imagine what it must have been like for the passengers on board the plane that day.  Would it have helped the passengers to know the credentials of their pilot?  How does it help us to know the credentials of Jesus?


Dear God, thank you for the skill of Captain Sullenberger.  Thank you that he was able to land that aeroplane miraculously with no deaths.  Thank you for Jesus, that he did everything necessary to bring us to you and your love.  Amen.

Prayer Spaces in Schools: Holy Week resources

Prayer Spaces in Schools - Easter Resource

Prayer Spaces in Schools have created 9 prayer stations around the themes of Holy Week and Easter.  They are free to download and great for a youth group session in the run up to Easter:

Stories are more than entertainment. Good stories invite us to join in. These prayer activities invite students to participate and engage in the Easter story as it unfolds, to consider Jesus’ thoughts and feelings, and to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings as well.

Good stories enable us to see our own life-story in new ways. These prayer activities invite students to reflect on the events and relationships in their lives, and encourages them to express their thoughts and feelings, ask questions, and if they want to, try praying.

Nine ideas for reflection and prayer are included in this series, exploring;
+ Palm Sunday – Joy
+ The Last Supper – Friendship
+ Gethsemane – Big Questions
+ Carrying the Cross – Worries
+ Simon’s Help – Helping Others
+ The Cross: “Forgive Them Father” – Forgiveness
+ The Cross – Saying Sorry
+ The Resurrection – Hopes & Dreams
+ The Great Commission – Making the World a Better Place

Governor training: RAISEonline to improve our schools

HCC governor services

Last night’s governor training was on “RAISEonline to improve our schools” and was led by Chris Martin, from Hampshire Inspection and Advisory Service:

Christine Gilbert, ex head of Ofsted said:

“It is data that will challenge thinking and stimulate discussion leading to improved practice.  It is data than enables progress to be monitored.”

Why should governors use data?

  • School self-evaluation
  • School accountability
  • Preparation for external inspection and accountability
  • Ensuring school is setting challenging and aspirational targets for the future (pupils, cohort and school)
  • Monitoring progress of pupils and cohorts in the school
  • Developing a vision and strategic direction
  • Performance managing the headteacher
  • Determining the allocation of resources: for example, Pupil Premium


Important not to over-simplify data analysis as the organisations are full of people and complex and so it needs to be dealt with sensitively.  RAISEonline focuses on self-evaluation.


RAISEonline: Key Processes

  • RAISEonline makes use of the existing data collected nationally through the school census and the KS2 testing agency.
  • The data is matched together using the Unique Pupil Number (UPN).
  • RAISEonline is an unvalidated report in October, this is unamended data.  Schools have a chance to check that data set.
  • After the school’s checking exercise a second set of validated data is due in March (including the Data Dashboard).
  • The validated data is used to construct the Performance Tables (normally 15th December).


Establishing Protocols

  • The National Governors Association recommends each Governing Body should nominate a couple of governors to have access as a minimum, to allow you to see all the data.
  • Each year in the autumn term, the school’s RAISE Summary Report should be presented by a member of the SLT to a Full GB meeting.
  • The Governing Body must decide how it will consider and analyse the more detailed data, and may set up a committee to consider this or ensure the monitoring of school performance data is within the remit of another committee (Strategy Committee).


Key Understanding

Purple G on a page means it is important for Governors to look at.

Significance: any piece of data can naturally fluctuate down to chance.  Based on Standard Deviation, e.g. 26.8 +/- 1.0 is outside national average 28.2 and so is significant.  A – will mean that significance has not been calculated, often because the percentage is too near 0 or 100.  But in the reading example there was no test, it was done as a combination of writing and entered later.

Point Scores: L x 6 + 3 = Point Scores (with +2 for A and -2 for C).

Trends: look at overall journey, but ————— in-between columns means that the way of calculating the APS:

2009 Eng, Mat, Sci

2010: Eng, Mat

2012: Writing teacher assessed, combined with reading to create English, Maths

2013: Writing, Reading, Maths

The formula for creating the APS for all subjects is:


———  + M




So Maths has a higher weighting, and SPAG is excluded from the All Subjects APS.

Sample size: Instead of FSM it may be old FSM ratings of DIAG Deprivation Scores.

Types of Indicator: Attainment: What did they get – their Points Score.  Threshold measures reaching a particular standard, e.g. Level 4 – doesn’t matter if you got Level 4, Level 5 or Level 6 you passed the Level 4 threshold.  Point Score is focussing on the overall attainment of all pupils.  Progress: the difference from beginning to end – expected 2 levels, e.g L2 at KS1 to L4 at KS2.  Value Added looks at all those on a L2B and looks at how they did in KS2 and then it is compared to the school and national averages – you increase this to move the goal posts and to increase the progress.  With Levels going it will be much more focussed on Value Added.  Achievement: OFSTED’s criteria putting together attainment and progress – high attainment but no progress isn’t good enough; attainment is really low, but children arrived with such low levels so fantastic progress.


RAISEonline Context

  • FMS 2012 onwards is FSM Ever6.
  • Stability is what % of children lasted from 1st October to the last day they were able to be taught within that school.
  • ADACI – every postcode is ranked on the ADACI score – it is the average of where your children live – not where your school is based.
  • Gender balance – are we doing anything differently; do we need to tailor the curriculum for a particular class?
  • Attendance and Exclusion data is painfully slow and so often not on first RAISEonline but the HT should be able to state those in the absence of the data in the Unammended Report.  Median trend line for school’s for FSM level shows schools similar to the context.  Do you have a few pupils absent a lot; do you have a lot of pupils absent a little bit.
  • Prior Attainment: pupils who were not in mainstream education, in the country etc., are not counted – see the coverage to see how many are counted.  School APS is based on the pupils scores – not the school score – so it will be the scores of the pupils you have even if they did KS1 in another school.  Prior attainment bands are: Low L1, Middle L2, High L3.


RAISEonline Attainment

  • Tests in 2013 schools are below the floor standard if:
  • Fewer than 60% of pupils do not achieve Level 4 or above.
  • It is below the English median for progression by 2 levels in reading (91%), in writing (95%) and in maths (92%).
  • For 2014 it is fewer than 65%.
  • If prior attainment was green then attainment should be more likely to be green – in essence not something to celebrate as much as blue or blank in prior attainment to green.


RAISEonline Progress

  • Key is to look at the trends, are we maintaining or growing success.
  • Ask HT for 2014 and 2015 predicted trends.
  • 2 levels of progress is no longer good enough, they on average push their children further.
  • Key to dissect and understand not just whole school, but e.g. how well L1 progress, how well L3 progress.
  • Good means you have to be within at or close to (approximately 5% normally) of the National Average APS.
  • Value Added: coverage says how many of cohort have a KS1 result.  A value added score of 100.8, with a range of 0.6 would be 100.2 to 101.4.   100 is the average national value added score.  Every child has got 0.8 points above what the national average for progress was that year which is why it is a moveable figure.  If the 100.00 sits within the range of the VA Score for the school it won’t be green or blue.
  • In Maths and Writing every mark literally contributes to VA.
  • Value Added Line – you want to be above the line – the pupils got higher than expected – the further the distance from the line shows someone who got much higher than expected.
  • Your school can produce any table or graph with any characteristics, e.g. FSM v non-FSM, SEN v non-SEN, boys v girls through the interactive reports.


RAISEonline Closing/Narrowing the Gaps

  • Focus on the tables with three years to look at the trend of closing the gap.
  • Within School Gap – service children have limited attainment different, the funding is linked to emotional support – that’s why FSM and LAC are highlighted in these tables.  Always check which characteristics you are analysing.  Anything less than 10 is low, anything over 30 is extremely worrying.  Attainment has to be linked to progress, as often FSM has much lower prior attainment so look at both attainment and the prior attainment.
  • National Benchmark is important to ensure we don’t focus too much on CLA/FSM to the detriment of CLA/FSM.  We want gradual improvement of non-CLA/FSM pupils with higher improvement in CLA/FSM pupils – but we will never close the gap.
  • Which characteristic drives the under performance if FSM and SEN for example.


What other performance data is available to us?

  • School Data – are your predictions right and if not there is something wrong in the system – want similar data to RAISEonline and should be able to give you.
  • OFSTED Data Dashboard
  • Performance Tables
  • Fischer Family Trust Data Dashboard – been around a lot longer than RAISEonline – does a comparison to similar schools with same characteristics (creating lower expectations of schools with more FSM but this is not the world we live in), looks at what results might be for next 3 years given the information of pupils; do a lot of 3 year trends which is more reliable, but in 3 years a school could be completely different e.g. change in SLT.


What other data would we like?

  • Pupil attitudes
  • Engagement in community activities
  • Participation in sport
  • Behaviour


How effectively is the school using the data from RAISEonline

  • Is it referenced in self-evaluation documents?
  • Is it referenced in the SIP?
  • Does the school use the question level analysis function?
  • Does it inform performance management processes?
  • Which staff members receive RAISEonline data?
  • Is it used to inform annual review meetings with curriculum leaders etc.
  • What other data does the school use to triangulate with the data from RAISEonline?


Some key messages

  • RAISEonline may provide cause for celebration
  • RAISEonline is a tool for asking robust questions
  • RAISEonline provides insight into the performance of the school, but it is not the only source of evidence.
  • RAISEonline needs to be used sensitively.
  • RAISEonline’s greatest value will be the insights that it provides into plans for school improvement.
  • RAISEonline looks back, governors look forwards
  • Focus on trends
  • Watch your sample size
  • Understand significance.

You’ve got to feel for this teacher

Sam Mangoro

You have to feel for this PE teacher Emma Denham, who was being observed taking a class as part of the interview process at Mountbatten School, in Romsey, when Sam Mangoro’s heart stopped, sending him into cardiac arrest.

Emma Denham

But quick-thinking Emma, along with three other members of staff, ran to his aid and gave him life-saving CPR using a defibrillator that the school had only purchased a few months before.  It was their courage and ability to put their training into practice under such immense pressure, along with the fact that the school had a defibrillator, that saved the 16-yearold’s life say doctors.

Sam, was last night being slowly woken up from a medically induced coma, which he has been in since the incident on Thursday, but his parents are hopeful thanks to the teachers who gave him the best possible chance of making a full recoverery.

Mountbatten School

Head teacher Heather McIlroy, received a call from one of the consultants treating Sam to praise her staff, who, he said, had saved the teenager’s life.  Mrs McIlroy, who told the Daily Echo that, regrettably, Miss Denham did not get the job despite her heroics, said: “It is nothing short of a miracle.”

Assembly: Dealing with Conflict


This morning I did a Junior School assembly on the issue of dealing with conflict:

Explain that about two hundred years ago, it was common for rich or upper class men (the women were too sensible!) to settle a disagreement by having a special sort of fight. Ask if anyone knows what that was called, and what happened, etc.

If someone thought they had been offended by another person and that person refused to apologize, then the person who had been wronged would take a glove and slap the other person on the cheek with it (if appropriate you could demonstrate on a member of staff who’s agreed in advance!). That was the sign that was a challenge to a duel.

If you refused the challenge of a duel then you would be known as a coward. You would lose your honour and respect in society. Duels were often held at dawn in remote places, because duelling was against the law and they didn’t want any witnesses. People were seriously hurt or killed during the duels. We may think it’s mad to behave like this and risk being a killer or being killed just because of an argument, but that’s just what was expected in the society of that time – you might think it’s a bit like gang culture today!

Use five volunteers to show how a duel worked: the two combatants, each with a supporter or ‘second’, and one referee. Begin with the challenge using the glove, as described above.

The referee offered the participants a choice of weapon: pistols, swords, etc. The one who was challenged got to choose what sort of weapon would be used, and the other one (the challenger, who asked for the duel) had to accept this decision and use the same weapon. The referee’s decision on the outcome was final.

If they were using pistols, then starting back to back each combatant would walk five or ten paces away from each other, then turn … and ‘Aim, ready, fire!’

If there was no clear winner, the referee would be asked for their decision who had won.

Ask the children if they think duelling is the best way to settle an argument. Talk about how disputes can escalate and have big consequences.

Now talk about giving offence, apologizing, turning the other cheek (remember the glove?) and being prepared to back down if you’re wrong and being ready to compromise (which isn’t cowardly and sometimes takes more courage).

Optional: Use Jesus’ teaching on turning the other cheek, or ‘Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword’. Explain that these are hard things to understand but Jesus was saying that a peaceful and non-violent answer to any problem is always the best and that is what we should aim for.

What kind of an animal are you? Are you a teddy bear, an owl, a fox, a turtle or a shark?

What on earth am I talking about? Well, apparently we deal with falling out with other people in different ways, so I’ll explain.

Think for a few moments about what you do when you fall out with your brother, sister or friend. Do you ignore the situation, get angry and want to hit out, or do you try to talk about it?

So are you one of these animals? (Pause between each of the following animals to give the pupils a chance to think. Depending on the school, it may be appropriate to get the children to discuss in twos or threes which animal they think they are.)

A teddy bear always gives in to others.

An owl works with others to find an answer that makes everyone happy.

A fox encourages everyone to give in a little, in other words, to compromise.

A turtle avoids arguments, even when in the right.

A shark wants to win at all costs – and doesn’t care what it takes, or the feelings of the other person.


We might think that it’s important not to fall out with other people, always to be friends, never to argue. But, actually, sometimes what’s more important is how we fall out. Learning how to have arguments with people in the right way is an important part of growing up and of playing our part in our world.

For example, a friend in school steals the pencil of another friend. Do we say nothing, and try to keep the peace? No. But a teddy bear would, teddies always give in. A turtle would ignore the fact that there is a problem in the first place. And a shark would go over and hit the friend. Then bring the pencil back.

Obviously none of these ways is right! We need to be an owl or a fox. An owl would get everyone talking to each other to find a solution, and a fox would get everyone to give in a little, get the pencil back and maybe get the friend to lend the pencil for a little while.

Everyone sometimes feels a little angry, or wants to fall out with someone else. Even adults find it difficult to be happy with everyone all the time. The important thing is to find ways of dealing with falling out that help to sort out the problem.

We can’t always ignore how we feel, nor should we ignore bad behaviour, such as a friend stealing a pencil. But if we learn how to talk to other people about how we’re feeling rather than ignoring them, sulking or, even worse, hitting or saying horrible things, we will have learned something very useful for the whole of our lives.

So let’s be owls or foxes – talking about what makes us upset or angry, giving in a little, making sure other people are happy as well as ourselves.

Time for reflection

We’ve had fun with duels. Sports and games can often be a type of duel. As long as we remember to play fair and respect our opponents, these can be great ways to have a contest and remain friends.

But do arguments and games ever go too far? How can you be a person of peace?

Think about a time when you fell out with a friend or family member. What could you have done differently that would have made the situation better?

Dear God,

Help me to be a person of peace.

To have fun with games and sports and contests,

but always be friendly and respectful of other people.