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CMRE Policy Forum Notes for the Record

CMRE Forum breakfast: ‘Autonomy? Accountability? Leadership?: What’s stopping Academies?’ (31st August 2016)

with Dr Olmo Silva, Associate Professor of Economics, London School of Economics;
James Croft, Executive Director, CMRE;
John David Blake, Education Commentator, and Consultant, Leadership, Teaching and Learning, The Harris Federation; and
Amy Finch, Research Manager and Head of Education, Reform.
and Chaired by Professor Daniel Muijs, Director of Research, Southampton Education School,  University of Southampton

Academies, and in particular academy chains in the form of multi-academy trusts, are seen as key to the emergence of a ‘self-improving’ schools system. Yet academy performance is variable, and we don’t really know why.

Meanwhile, the Government is seeking to accelerate the pace of academisation to address a persistent long tail of underachievement; regional, rural and coastal inequities; and complacency among ‘coasting schools’.

On the morning of 31st August, members of CMRE’s Forum and invited guests gathered to consider where and how present arrangements may be helping or hindering the cause of system-wide improvement; whether the balance between autonomy and accountability may be out of kilter; and whether, specifically, increasing regulation and a lack of the right incentives may be acting as a drag on improving standards throughout the system by compromising the scope for impactful leader decision-making.

Click below to download the Notes for the Record:

CMRE Forum roundtable on school autonomy and oversight, and priorities for academy reform (14th June 2016)

with Sir Daniel Moynihan, Chief Executive, The Harris Federation

The relationship between autonomy, accountability, and attainment is complex. While the theoretical and international evidence base for autonomy reforms is persuasive, little is known about the relative importance of different facets of school autonomy reforms. In that the purpose of such reforms is the discovery and scaling of what works, however, it is important that schools innovate and explore the opportunities open to them. There is good evidence that they are inhibited from doing so by a combination of continued and mounting regulation and a lack of incentives to do so.

On the afternoon of 14th June, members of CMRE’s Forum and invited guests gathered to discuss with Sir Dan Moynihan the range of constraints at work upon school leaders and various reform proposals addressed to realising the potential of autonomy reforms.

Click below to download the Notes for the Record:

CMRE Forum dinner on new school provision (25th May 2016)

with Nick Timothy, then Director of the New Schools Network

Recent projections by the Local Government Association suggest that the population bulge that has hit schools at the Primary level is now reaching Secondary. It is now estimated that the country may need over 500,000 additional Secondary places by 2024. Meeting this basic need is becoming one of the most preoccupying challenges facing school commissioners and local authorities alike. Meanwhile, the rate of free school starts appears to be slowing and academy sponsors appear put off by mixed messages from the government and its agencies about growth and the lack of incentive to do so. Against this background, it’s easy to lose sight of why new school start-ups might be important in and of themselves, quite apart from their usefulness to meeting basic need.

On the evening of 25th May, members of CMRE’s Forum and invited guests gathered to discuss with Nick Timothy strategies for leveraging new supply and the importance of introducing new ‘challenger schools’ to the local schools landscape.

Click below to download the Notes for the Record:

CMRE Forum dinner: ‘Balancing autonomy with accountability in the “self-improving” schools system’ – a view from the School Commissioner’s Office (25th April 2016)

with Sir David Carter, National Schools Commissioner, DfE

Academies, and in particular academy chains in the form of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), are seen as key to transforming our ‘self-improving’ schools system. But there is still a significant long tail of underachievement, and rural and coastal areas are seen as a major challenge to the system. Reflecting Ministers’ concerns that the pace of reform is too slow, the Education and Adoption Act 2016 and the Cameron Government’s White Paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ aimed to accelerate academisation, particularly in under-served areas, and extend the basis of intervention in under-performing schools.

Integral to the development of the Academy sector has been investment in the accountability framework - widely understood to be of key importance for keeping school leaders on track and improving student outcomes. But concerns are now being expressed that the balance is out of kilter, and that government regulation and a lack of attention to the incentive structure act rather as a drag on improving standards.

On the evening of 25th April, members of CMRE’s Forum and invited guests gathered to hear and discuss the new Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter’s views.

Click below to download the Notes for the Record:

CMRE Forum roundtable: ‘OECD PISA: Is it fit for purpose? (Do we even know what it’s for?)’ (20th April 2016)

with Juliet Sizmur, Research Manager, Centre for International Comparisons , National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey, which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing 15-year-old students’ problem-solving ability in reading, maths, and science. To date, students representing more than 70 economies have participated in the assessment.

Features of the assessment method, the way the findings are interpreted, and aspects of OECD policy have led CMRE researchers to question whether the importance attached to the PISA findings is warranted and whether its influential narrative is entirely helpful to countries’ reform efforts.

On the afternoon of 20th April, members of CMRE’s Forum and invited guests gathered to discuss these issues and whether we can believe what the PISA survey purports to be able to tell about the quality of countries’ education systems.

Click below to download the Notes for the Record:

CMRE Forum working lunch: ‘The future of school choice’: a report on CMRE’s ‘School Choice UK’ focus week (6th April 2016)

with James Croft, Executive Director, CMRE, and Forum Chair

CMRE has been at the forefront of efforts to disseminate research exploring the potential of market-oriented solutions to improve education, focusing, in particular, on the role of incentives. International evidence indicates that increasing school choice — and thereby diversity and competition among schools — can have a transformative effect on education provision.

With a view to raising awareness of the research and exploring policy options and overall viability, in January of this year CMRE convened a ‘School Choice UK’ focus week. At lunchtime on 6th April, members of CMRE’s Forum and invited guests gathered to discuss areas of consensus, divergence, and challenge that emerged during the course of the week.

Click below to download the Notes for the Record: