Why we need to invest in expertise

July 30, 2019
Melanie Renowden

Melanie Renowden

Interim CEO, Ambition Institute

With the promise of fairer funding for schools cutting through the Brexit noise, Melanie Renowden explores why it’s important that the government invests this money in evidence-based initiatives for educator development.

Last week on the steps of Number 10, the Prime Minister stated his commitment to delivering social, economic and industrial improvements across the country, reaching outside the realms of Brexit. As part of this, he also pledged to deliver fairer school funding and increase spending per pupil.  

This message was echoed by the new Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, who has stated that education will be “at the very heart” of the new government.  

Like everyone in the education sector, I welcome this commitment. 

We all know there are challenges facing the education system, and schools, sector bodies and the Department for Education are taking myriad approaches to tackling them. In particular, the DfE’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy, released earlier this year, advanced sound policy recommendations which will helps us to attract, and keep, educators in our state school system. The Prime Minister and Education Secretary need to build on this strong start.  

Randal Cremer_children group portrait reading in library

Gavin Williamson has stated that "children only have one chance in education, I want to make sure that chance works for them”. I couldn’t agree more: pupils only get one chance and we owe it to them to give them the best.  

Schools are at the heart of our communities. They are the levellers of our society. And they’re the medium through which we give our young people the confidence and skills to navigate the world – whatever it might look like. 

However, in England today, almost half of all disadvantaged children will not meet expected standards at the end of primary school. This increases to more than seven in ten by the end of secondary school – that’s 21 pupils in a class of 30.  

"Current figures suggest it will take 500 years for us to close the gap. This is not okay. "

Moreover, recent research from Education Policy Institute (EPI) has found poorer pupils in England are, on average, a year and a half behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs. The geographic variation means some areas see an even wider gap. 

This helps explain why, compared to their more advantaged peers, disadvantaged pupils are only a third as likely to go to top universities, find it harder to access selective apprenticeship programmes and are three times more likely to end up not in employment, education or training when they leave school. 

Current figures suggest it will take 500 years for us to close the gap. This is not okay. 

Evidence shows us that improving teaching and school leadership is the best way to close this attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. 

This is why I urge our new Secretary of State to ensure that a portion of any additional spending in the school system is invested in evidence-informed educator development.  

Randal Cremer_two teachers talking in library 3

At Ambition Institute, our mission is help educators serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds to keep getting better. Through our programmes we want to ensure there are expert teachers in every classroom being led by exceptional school leaders at all levels. 

Our programmes are designed by experts in their field and through our Department for Education funded programmes we have had a long history of positive impact. We don’t take this for granted and continue to find ways in which we can keep getting better – by using cutting-edge research from around the world and drawing on the lessons from educators on the frontline – to meet the needs of our modern education system.  

But our programmes are only as impactful as the people that are on them – I am continually inspired by the educators we work with. For example, when attending the Future Leaders induction weekend, I met our 2019 cohort; 100 leaders who have committed to reaching headship in the schools that need them the most. These leaders have willingly walked towards the toughest issues in education – they’ll spend the next couple of years embracing new thinking, supporting each other through their peer learning groups and challenging themselves to keep getting better.  

By investing in educators like this we will unlock the potential of our pupils and ensure we don’t just leave our young people’s lives to chance.

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