The House Of Play and Education (HOPE) are running a holiday club this coming half term. Details are on the attached poster. We are lucky to have a number of inspiring organisations like HOPE, who do important work in our community providing extra opportunities for young people to develop their potential in a fun way.
Acocks Green has been, rightly, a big beneficiary of the introduction of the Pupil Premium by the coalition government. A key Lib Dem policy at the last general election, its implementation provides our schools with a significant level of extra resources to do whatever they decide they need to help disadvantaged pupils succeed.
The latest figures (2013/14) for Acocks Green schools (with the 2012/13 figures in brackets for comparison) are as follows:
Acocks Green J&I £153,000 (up from £97,800)
Archbishop Ilsley £509,400 (up from £381,000)
Cottesbrooke Infants £91,800 (up from £62,400)
Cottesbrooke Junior £142,200 (up from £78,600)
Holy Souls J&I £143,100 (up from £91,800)
Lakey Lane J&I £148,500 (up from £111,000)
Oaklands J&I £128,700 (up from £86,400)
Yardleys School £494,100 (up from £328,800)
Yarnfield J&I £304,200 (up from £205,200)
The exact amount depends on the number of children eligible for free school meals at each school (£900 per pupil). In 2014/15 primary schools will see a similar increase, while secondary schools will see a small increase.
Overall Acocks Green schools will receive £2,388,600 this year up from £1,609,800 last year. Next year the level of pupil premium for our schools is likely to rise above £3m.
There has been huge local publicity recently about the proposal by Cottesbrooke Junior School to close at 1pm on Fridays. The school says this would enable better use of teacher PPA time – which stands for planning, preparation and assessment. I attended a packed meeting at the school last Wednesday, which discussed the plans. Its fair to say that the large number of parents who attended were overwhelmingly hostile to the proposal. I share their concerns.
Teachers have to be given 10% PPA time, but when this is done and how it is organised is largely up to each school’s governing body. Up till now Cottesbrooke Junior (like virtually every other school in Birmingham) has employed supply teachers to free up teachers for their PPA time, while enabling lessons to carry on. The proposal discussed last Wednesday would mean the school would shut at 1pm on Fridays, with other timings remaining unchanged. We were told this would result in a reduction of teaching hours from 25 hours per week to 23 hours 50 minutes per week (the statutory minimum is 23 hours 30 minutes per week). The Friday afternoon would then be free for PPA time, with all teachers able to work together.
The changes would also lead to a big saving in supply teaching costs (Cottesbrooke Junior School paid £67k for PPA cover by supply teachers last year). Provision would be made to enable children with both parents in work or full time education to remain in school, in after school clubs, until the normal end of the school day.
Some parents were concerned about the inconvenience this would cause – and it was made clear that Cottesbrooke Infant School has no plans to make the same change, so some parents with children at both schools will have two different journeys to make on Fridays, if the plans come to fruition. However parents were also very clear that their main concern is the reduction in teaching time their children would receive; which is over an hour a week. The school basically argues that there will be no negative impact as the reduction is in supply taught hours, not hours taught by the class teacher and the class teacher will benefit from better organised PPA. However the school did say that the current supply teachers are good, so by logic this means each child will lose what amounts to well over a week’s worth of good teaching a year. This seems highly likely to have a negative impact on their education.
The School’s presentation also argued that Ninestiles, an OFSTED assessed excellent secondary school in Acocks Green closes early on Fridays. However they neglected to point out that Ninestiles pupils only leave early every other Friday afternoon and make up the time by starting earlier each day. When this was pointed out by a Director of Ninestiles, who was in the audience, they had to agree this was true.
The Head was keen to stress this was a consultation exercise and nothing has been decided. I worry that the way this ‘consultation’ has been conducted so far, seems very much on the basis that the School is trying to sell the idea to the parents, rather than even handedly giving the options. It that was the aim, its clear that its backfired rather dramatically.
A final decision will be taken by the School’s Governing Body on 8th December. I’d strongly recommend that any parent who hasn’t responded so far, writes to the Chair of Governors at the School, expressing their views on the proposals.
Birmingham City Council has published a consultation document on the expansion of The Oaklands Primary School. The Council wants to double the capacity of the school from 210 to 420.
Demand for places has grown rapidly during recent years due to increasing birth rates. Unless action is taken there will not be enough mainstream school places to meet the needs of this part of Acocks Green.
The proposal would see the reception intake double from 30 to 60 children in September 2013 and the school then doubling in size over the following 6 years.
Staff and Pupils should be generally unaffected by the proposals. However, due to the increase in number the school may decide to organise the itself slightly differently; this will be up to the head teacher and the board of governors.
As part of the expansion an extension would have to be built on to the current school building to accommodate extra class rooms. The building work should be completed by September 2013.
The proposals are currently in the consultation phase which is due to end on the 30th of March 2012. During this phase, local resident have the opportunity to have their views heard and give their input into the proposals. If you would like have your say or to get more details of the proposals you can do so by writing to :-Peter Speers School Organisation Team Manager Education and Skill Infrastructure PO Box 15841 Birmingham B2 2RR
Or by Email: [email protected]
Or by Phone: 0121 464 5812
Many congratulations to everyone at Acocks Green Primary School which has been graded as “outstanding” by OFSTED following a recent inspection. This is the top OFSTED grade and is a reflection by many years of hard work by everyone at the school. The opening paragraph of the inspection report says it all:
“Pupils make exceptional progress in this outstanding school. ‘My child and the children I care for are extremely happy and proud to be at Acocks Green School. It is a wonderful community that prides itself on achieving and aiming high.’ These words from one parent and carer sum up what the inspectors found. Pupils achieve high academic standards and their personal development is outstanding.”
Last week the Coalition Government announced that a Pupil Premium, funded from outside the schools budget, will be introduced next September. It will mean that from next year, schools taking disadvantaged children will get the additional money they need to provide them with the extra support they deserve, no matter where they are in the country. This could mean more individual tuition or catch-up classes, but it will be for the school to decide; thankfully the Government won’t be telling headteachers how to spend the money.
This is a real Liberal Democrat achievement. It was the centrepiece of our education policy during the election campaign, and it is now being implemented in Government. While the Conservatives had a similar policy, it was the Liberal Democrats who pushed for it to be funded from outside the schools budget, and for it to feature specifically in the coalition agreement. And it’s no secret that it was one of the sticking points of the negotiations with Labour – they simply refused to agree to it. Make no mistake, it is the Liberal Democrats who are now the party for the most disadvantaged, championing policies like the Pupil Premium in opposition, placing them at the heart of our manifesto, and making them happen in government.
Liberal Democrats are committed to the Pupil Premium because we understand that education can be a key driver of social mobility. But it is shameful that we still have an education system which too often perpetuates inequality rather than tackles it. The poorest children are only half as likely to leave school with 5 good GCSEs than their better-off classmates. The Pupil Premium will help in tackling Labour’s failure to break the link between social background and performance at school, opening up opportunities for children regardless of where they are born.
The Coalition Government is now consulting on the way in which the Pupil Premium should be implemented. The consultation includes options for how deprivation should be calculated
- in relation to children on Free School Meals
- in relation to tax credits
- by using marketing classifications like MOSAIC or ACORN
While operating in slightly different ways, it is clear that any of these mechanisms will mean the Pupil Premium will bring significant benefit to schools in Acocks Green.
The consultation also includes questions about other groups who might benefit, such as children in care or children of those serving in the armed forces, and raises the issue of how it could be extended to cover children in the early years.
As Sarah Teather MP, Lib Dem Children’s Minister said “We are determined that the pupil premium has the best possible impact and I urge you to get involved in the consultation and to give the Department for Education your views.” The consultation runs until 18 October and there is a link to it here.
This week the Coalition Government’s Academies Bill will also become law. It wouldn’t be my priority for legislation at the moment, but by working within the Coalition, Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords have been able to secure important protections for the most vulnerable, such as children with Special Educational Needs, that could not have been achieved from the Opposition benches. This is what coalition is all about – the Academies Bill is a flagship Conservative policy and the pupil premium is a flagship Liberal Democrat policy – and they are both part of the Coalition’s programme for Government. If we had a majority Conservative Government we would almost certainly have the Academies Bill (with fewer Lib Dem amendments) and no Pupil Premium. Similarly we would have no Pupil Premium under Labour. So this is another case where residents of Acocks Green will soon be able to see very tangible benefits from having a Lib Dem MP – benefits that will improve local schools and would not have been delivered by the Tories or Labour running the country on their own.
I’m really pleased to see that, despite the current financial pressures, the Lib Dems have restated their commitment to scrap University Tuition Fees. The state of the economy has meant that to keep our plans financially responsible, phasing out fees will take a total of six years, but it will be done in such a way that all students feel some benefit soon.
In the first year fees will be scrapped for final year students, the year which is most painful for students to pay. In the following 2 years, part-time fees will be regulated and fee loans will become available to part-time students. In year 4 free tuition will be extended to all full time students except for the first year of undergraduate study. In year 5 the same will apply to part-time students and finally in year 6 all tuition fees, for first degree students, will be scrapped.
The cost of this will be met by a programme of cuts elsewhere in government, with full costings published along with the Party’s manifesto at the time of the General Election.
There are two main reasons I think it was important to keep this policy despite the tough economic times we face. First is that fees act as a barrier to people from low income families participating in higher education. A debt of £20k – typical for students leaving Uni – is a much bigger worry to the child of someone on minimum wage than it is for the child of a doctor.
The other reason is that it is simply wrong for the State to encourage people to get into a lifetime of debt. After they qualify students tend to earn more and pay more tax – these taxes are how I believe Universities should be funded.
With both the Conservatives and Labour believing we should keep tuition fees, it will be an interesting area of difference between the parties at the General Election in the coming year and one I think will benefit the Liberal Democrats.
Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, praised the achievement of Birmingham’s schools yesterday. He highlighted the reduction in the number of schools in the City that have under 30% of pupils achieving 5 A-Cs at their GCSEs, and said:
“I would say that Birmingham is one of the authorities which has really been embracing its responsibilities and driving this forward. It’s really improved.”
Achieving good results with pupils from a broad cross section of society is much harder than topping the performance tables when you have been able to pick and choose the brightest youngsters, as the King Edward’s schools can. Acocks Green’s schools have excelled at doing well with a normal intake for some time now, and its great to see our success spreading to other parts of the City.
Its also very welcome that this achievement, under a Lib Dem / Tory run Council, is recognised by a Labour Minister. My belief is that one of the reasons why Birmingham is doing so well, is that all parties have agreed that education must be a priority for many years. Unlike some other services it hasnt been a political football or ignored in favour of more prestigious activity. Indeed Labour did education in this City a tremendous service by appointing Tim Brighouse as our Chief Education Officer back in the 1990s and giving him the resources to improve standards. Some of the fantastic GCSE results our youngsters achieved this year go back to that move. The Progressive Partnership of Lib Dems and Tories has done a great job in improving things, but in this case it has built on sound foundations.