Brian Lightman is someone who may not be familiar to those outside the world of education but someone we suspect you will come to know over the coming months. As the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Brian was the Head teachers’ boss, a position he relinquished late last year.
Since he resigned he has been busy compiling a report on the learning environment in schools. Launched just a few days before this issue went to press, the Lightman report, published by Smarter Spaces, found that more than 80% of teachers believe the learning environment has a notable impact on learners’ attainment, behaviour and engagement. No surprise, we hear you say – and yet fewer than 4% of teachers feel schools are in an excellent condition, with widespread concerns being raised about a lack of space, poor layouts and declining durability, particularly in newer builds.
The Lightman report was compiled from responses of 184 teachers across primary and secondary sectors, but there is no doubt this report will be at least referenced by the Government in the coming months as they argue the case for the roll-out of academies. So whether, as a reader, you provide for the world of education or see a parallel with the commercial office environment, it seems that many issues highlighted in the report should help the continued trend towards better workspaces right across the UK.
Whether the aim is to learn or to work efficiently, it seems that office and education have many similarities – who’s to say whether the education sector or the commercial office sector does it better? Have a look at some of the great examples of higher education (HE) and further education (FE) from the last 12 months – we hope it provides some food for thought.
Ringing the bell of change
Chancellor George Osborne has used his recent budget speech to reveal that all schools in England will become academies and the school day is to be extended.
Even a vague understanding of modern British history will tell you the two main parties in the British Government have generally been in favour of or against privatisation. As we go to press things are really hotting up on the debate of whether Tata steel should be nationalised. The other debate (and one that the Government wouldn’t thank us for calling privatisation) is the transformation of all schools into academies.
Some suggest that the Government are so obsessed by an ideological drive to the free market that they are completely missing the needs of our learners and the developing wider crisis in the education system. Whilst key parts of our sector will benefit from the massive development of the academies we felt it was worth noting in a little more detail as part of our focus on the sector.
• Academies are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central Government, rather than through a local authority
• All schools in England will either have to convert by 2020 or be committed to converting by 2022, effectively ending the link between local authorities and schools that began in 1902
• Government plans to remove 17,000 English primaries from state control and make them privately run within six years
• Any schools that do not meet these requirements will be forced to do so by the Government using radical new powers
• Academies were introduced to improve failing schools introduced under Labour (sponsored academies)
• Generally results are positive from the sponsored academies but far from conclusive from converter academies (those that volunteered to change their status)
• Private providers now run large ‘chains’ of schools. Some have failed to live up to expectations – the Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw criticised seven sizeable academy chains for failing to improve the results of too many pupils in their schools, while paying board members large salaries
• In a letter to a constituent, Graham Brady (Chairman of the 1922 Committee) expressed concerns about accountability and parental involvement and warned that ‘instead of more freedom for schools, we might see new and distant bureaucracies’