Mel Ainscow’s assertion that there is more variation within a school than between schools ties neatly into what Professor Richard Teese had been talking about at the recent ADES conference. i.e. socially disadvantaged children’s attainment is significantly lower than their socially advantaged peers.
So here’s the Leadership Dilemma.
You are in a strategic leadership position within a Local Authority responsible for a wide range of schools serving the 3-18 population. You have been asked by the government to improve the educational outcomes of more socially disadvantaged children. You are committed to promotiong school autonomy and want to avoid the universal intervention strategy and instead wish to use the allocation of funds to schools as the lever for change.
Your authority currently provides the vast bulk of funding to schools on a per capita basis which does not take any account of social background. A small proportion of funding is linked to a “deprivation factor” which uses free school meal entitlement as the key indicator.
Pupils entitled to free school meals are those within families who receive Income Support ( IS) or Income-based Job Seekers Allowance ( IBJSA). Those within families who receive support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 may also be entitled. Children who receive IS or IBJSA in their own right are also entitled to receive free school meals. Also entitled are children whose parents or carers receive Child Tax Credit, do not receive Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by the Inland Revenue) of below £14,495.
Free School Meal Entitlement is a suitable indicator of relative poverty although there are a wide range of other indicators which could be used, nevertheless the collection and protection of such data would prove difficult. For further reading in this area I recommend the Scottish Indicators of Poverty and Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland 2008.
Having listened to Richard Teese you want to find a way of linking funding with accountability for the achievements of more socially disadvantaged children in every school.
Using an outcome based approach the Local Authority agrees a set of outcomes which will relate to the achievement and attainment of children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The question you are faced with is how to hold schools accountable for the delivery of those outcomes and the additional funding which might be attached to their presence in the school. Here are three options which you might consider as possible solutions to the dilemma. You are welcome to suggest any other possible alternatives.
Option 1. Money is removed from schools if agreed outcomes for disadvantaged children are not achieved.
Consequence – this seems unfair as it penalises a school and the children in that school which might already be working in difficult circumstances.
Option 2.The Headteacher/Principal is held accountable and would be an important element of judging the quality of their performance. Additional support could be put in place to help the Headteacher, which might be followed eventually by a disciplinary process.
Consequence– This would certainly focus the school leader’s attention on the issue and may indeed lead to a change in the way in which education is delivered in the school. However, it adds a significant pressure to a job which is already stressful and a simplistic analysis of figures might not demonstrate the change that has taken place in the school or a school which has been affected by other external influences. It might also only serve to alienate schools and the authority and see them is oppositional as opposed to being in partnership.
Option 3 An Inclusion Board is established for each school. This Board is made up of a wide range of stakeholders, e.g. parents, students, teachers, health representatives, area social workers, police officers, sports representatives, community education workers.
It would the job of the Inclusion Board to review the educational outcomes of children in the school with a specific focus upon those who receive free school meal entitlement; are in the care of the Local Authority; and those who have Additional Support for Learning needs.
The Headteacher/Principal would be accountable to the Board for those identified outcomes as agreed with the Local Authority.
Consequences – This gets things closer to the school but it could also put some pressure on the Headteacher/Principal as in Option 1. It would ensure that inclusion has a high profile in the running of the school.
One unfortunate but inevitable consequence of any change in the way in which education is delivered in the school to make it a more inclusive environment is the reaction of those who have benefited from the existing system, i.e. what if lower ability classes were given the most experienced and most effective teachers?