Saturday, November 29, 2008

More British state teachers quitting jobs for better working life in independant schools

State school teachers are fleeing to the independent sector in record numbers to escape big classes and Government targets, it emerged yesterday. Staff who moved over from state primaries and secondaries now make up one in four teachers in private schools following a surge in recruitment over the past decade. Private schools employ more than 14 per cent of all teachers despite educating just eight per cent of pupils, according to research presented to an education conference yesterday. The National Union of Teachers accused the Government of driving teachers out of state schools by failing to clamp down on large classes and persisting with a testing and target-setting regime.

Academics who conducted the study said the 'poaching' of experienced teachers by independent schools had 'negative' effects on the state system. Figures from the universities of Kent and London School of Economics showed that the number of teachers transferring from state to fee-paying schools outstripped the numbers moving in the opposite direction by 1,500 last year. In 1994, the figure was just 400. In total, some 2,000 teachers transferred to independent schools last year - up from 600 in 1994. Out of 45,000 to 50,000 private school teachers, 12,000 - around a quarter - previously worked in the state sector.

The sharp upturn in little more than a decade is partly down to the expansion of the independent sector over the past 10 years due to rising pupil numbers. But they have also invested heavily in staffing, enabling them to reduce class sizes while raising recruitment of pupils.

Research co-authored by Francis Green, professor of economics at Kent University, found that independent schools tend to employ better-qualified teachers. They are also able to attract a significantly greater share of teachers in shortage subjects such as the sciences than the state system. 'There is no doubt that the rising resources flowing to independent schools have raised the quality of the education input in these schools,' the study concluded.

John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, criticised levels of 'poaching' by the independent sector. He said the Government must learn a 'massive lesson'. Mr Bangs said: 'Many teachers go into the independent sector because they feel the professional freedom and smaller class sizes are something they want, and they want to escape from the heavy duty accountability culture in the state sector. 'There's a massive lesson for the Government. 'The Government needs to ask itself what is driving some of our most talented teachers into independent schools.'

Presenting the figures at the Westminster Education Forum yesterday, Professor Green urged independent schools that 'attract an experienced teacher away from the maintained sector' to ensure that top staff are shared with local state schools.

However David Lyscom, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council said fee-paying schools were willing to forge links with state schools and share teaching expertise but warned that it 'takes two to tango', implying some comprehensive heads are reluctant to work with their fee-paying counterparts.

Mr Lyscom also sounded a warning that new laws requiring fee-paying schools to pass a public benefit test in order to retain their charitable status could lead to perverse consequences. It raised the prospect of a boys' school failing the test if charitable activities involved girls from neighbouring state schools. 'What I am worried about is a narrow legislative approach to decide what can count and can't count by looking at the articles of individual charities and trying to interpret what they do within the legal terms of their status. 'For example, I worry that if a boys' school does an activity with a girls' school, it won't be counted because it is not part of the purpose of their charity.'

Mr Lyscom said it will be unfortunate when 'hard-pressed heads have to look at what they are doing and if it's not regarded as being positive have to look for other opportunities'.


Student testing 'gets best results' says New Yorker visiting Australia

TESTING literacy and numeracy is vital to helping students complete high school and continue their education into adulthood, says the head of New York's education department, Joel Klein. In Australia at the invitation of the federal Government, Mr Klein yesterday dismissed concerns that publicly reporting test results between peer groups of schools meant students only mastered what was in the tests.

"What we've found is that kind of mastery is significant, and has the most significant impact on students' achievement," he told The Australian. "We're finding right now with student progress that you can seea direct correlation with likelihood of a student graduating and making it to post-secondary education." Mr Klein is a leading proponent of using tests to measure the improvement of students and school performance, and publicly reporting the results to share expertise and hold schools to account. Even among high-performing schools in New York, Mr Klein said lifting students' test scores by 0.2 points increased their chances of graduating by 15 points.

Punchbowl Boys High School principal Jihad Dib said increased literacy and numeracy testing had been a key part of a remarkable turnaround in student performance at his school. "We put literacy and numeracy in every activity and I always ask teachers where that component is," Mr Dib said.

During Mr Klein's week-long visit in Australia, sponsored by global financial firm UBS, he will promote the tools underpinning the accountability system adopted in in New York. He addressed a forum in Melbourne yesterday on leading transformational change in schools, will address the National Press Club in Canberra today, and tomorrow will speak at a corporate dinner hosted by UBS on strengthening the links between business and schools.

Mr Klein's visit comes ahead of a looming showdown between the commonwealth and states and territories at the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments on Saturday over the reporting of school performance.

Addressing the forum yesterday, Mr Klein was effusive in his praise for Education Minister Julia Gillard, and described her speech outlining the Government's commitment to transparency in schools as one of the "greatest" on education reform he had heard. "The level of courage in a public official isn't as rare as I sometimes thought," he said. He warned that any changes depended on political will.

Ms Gillard said yesterday the Government was still working on the final form of school reports, but she envisaged a paper report for parents on their child, and a website on schools. Ms Gillard made it clear the Government would not bow to pressure from the states and teaching unions over reporting school results. "We want a new era of transparency so that parents and taxpayers know what is happening in Australian schools," she said. "I want to see a system where parents can get full information about schools in their local community which (they) can compare with similar schools around the nation."

In her speech, Ms Gillard acknowledged concerns over reporting school results, saying publishing test performances "out of context can be misleading". But she said Australia had failed to grasp that it was not appropriate for information on students' learning to be held by schools and government but not made available to the community. "I absolutely reject the proposition that somehow I am smart enough to understand information and parents and community members are somehow too dumb," she said. Ms Gillard said boosting teacher quality was key to improving standards, especially at schools in disadvantaged areas that did not attract their share of good teachers.

Mr Klein received a mixed response from the 100-strong group of educators and policymakers at the Melbourne forum. While teachers generally supported boosting accountability and empowering parents, president of the Australian Secondary Principals Association Andrew Blair was concerned that tests for ranking schools were simplistic. Mr Blair said measurements of performance should cover multiple methodologies, beyond "raw grabs" of test data.

Mr Klein said multiple measurements risked covering up underperformance. "The more we have multiple measures the risk is we dilute the power of accountability," he said. "What matters isn't finding the perfect indicator, but settling on a consistent intelligent method of assessing outputs and tracking them."

Mr Klein trumpeted the importance of mathematics and literature, and defended tests as being effective in teaching higher order thinking beyond the test itself.

It was important to empower parents with information. "Don't believe for a second that when you provide them with the information and the transparency, that parents won't become the greatest advocates for their kids. Sure, it will make you uncomfortable to think your kid isn't in a great school, but it will make you much more uncomfortable not to know that."

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Klein said the key was to measure progress in groups of like schools, to give information to parents and identify the most effective teaching practices.

An analysis of middle schools in New York found that almost regardless of the level of achievement at which students started, students in 90per cent of schools lost ground in their results from year to year. But in 10 per cent of schools, student results improved. "We learn by studying that 10per cent and particularly wondering why students in one out of 10 schools are moving forward," he said. "We analyse different results from different teachers, and how some are getting steady progress of students, and use that information to support teachers and improve their work. That's the power of accountability systems; to shine a spotlight right on the best practice. There is no question about it."

Mr Klein said three basic tools of accountability underlined his system: a progress report measuring student improvement; a quality review of schools; and surveys of parents, students and teachers.


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