If the English Education System is to move forward it has to address a long tail of underachievement. This underachievement can be greater for certain groups of pupils; disadvantaged, particularly white working class, looked after children and those with special educational needs. The move towards greater equity, in terms of educational outcomes, is likely to be achieved as we become more inclusive as a system.
The challenge schools face is that the accountability drivers are not aligned with inclusion; anecdote, stories and whispers abound of school improvement, enhanced Ofsted grades and performance table positions, brought at the cost of individual pupils’ education. These pupils are often those who provide greatest challenge in terms of inclusion. Off rolling via permanent exclusion, moved to alternative providers, “forced” off roll through excessive fixed term exclusions to the school down the road or advised that elective home education would be their best option. There is sadly no recognition and punishing accountability measures for taking the most challenging pupils on roll.
Headteachers’ Roundtable is keen to help devise and promote an Inclusion Measure for schools; we do need help but fortunately don’t need to wait for the Department for Education to act. It’s to the latter’s shame that they are not leading the way on promoting inclusion; sometimes words are important, sometimes they are just hot air.
An Inclusion Measure matters; we will be able to investigate whether school improvement, improved value added score/Ofsted grade, is linked to more inclusive or less inclusive practice or that there is no particular correlation/pattern. Imagine we found that schools generally improve their Ofsted grade/performance table position by becoming less inclusive or that the highest rated schools, according to Ofsted grade/performance table position, are not particularly inclusive; is this acceptable? If schools are wildly varying on the Inclusion Measure what should the system’s response be or do we just accept that there will be a range of levels of inclusivity across the system and variation is to be expected.
An inclusion measure alongside performance measures would create the necessary checks and balances a system needs for high achievement and high equity, that is, to become World Class. Any Inclusion Measure should be based on three consecutive years of data; general principles should be public but the exact means of calculating should be confidential, to minimise gaming; the measure should evolve over time as priorities change and lessons are learnt and be presented in a similar manner to the performance measures; for example, Progress 8 currently has schools divided into well above average, above average, average, below average and well below average and so could the Inclusion Measure.
Here’s a starter for ten on how the Inclusion Measure calculation could work. It should be based on: an admission measure, a retention measure and an achievement measure for key underachieving sub-groups, for example, disadvantaged pupils who are identified via the pupil premium funding.
- A point’s tariff is determined for each pupil from an underachieving sub-group who is admitted to the school; this could be the same or enhanced for pupils admitted at times other than the standard ones (reception or Year 7).
- A point’s tariff is determined for each pupil from an underachieving sub-group who is retained by a school from one year to the next and subtracted for each pupil from the sub-group who leaves irrespective of the reason for leaving; this will ensure schools don’t waste time on trying to manipulate the means for not retaining.
- At the end of primary/secondary a point’s tariff is determined for each pupil from an underachieving sub-group who reaches a particular standard or who makes a certain level of progress.
- To match national priorities and based upon statistical data the tariff could be increased for certain groups of disadvantaged pupils; looked after children or those who have been persistently disadvantaged, eligible for free school meals for 80% of their time at school.
- A school’s individual tariff is compared to the average for the phase and graded well above average, above average, average, below average and well below average.
Tomorrow it’s back to the day job; the hard winter months that lead to a peak in permanent exclusions in December. There’s a more limited festive outlook for some of our pupils in the months ahead.