The first topic we want to discuss is ‘The Purpose of Education’ which we believe is fundamental in steering the future of education policy in the right direction. We have posed a series of questions to stimulate discussion on this topic however, we want you to let us have your views. Please suggest a debate on this first topic by leaving your comments in the box on the right, or go to the debate page to see the topics already being discussed.

Phase II: Improving the quality of teaching and learning and the leadership of learning

Second half of autumn term discussion

Everyone wants their child to go to a good school. The question is how do we deliver these expectations? We know that improving the quality of teaching and learning and the leadership of learning can help us realise this ambition but how do we do this? The second debate paper highlights some of these issues and can be found here. Edit | Delete This paper contains a number of questions on this topic debate – how could the government build greater ownership of an agreed school improvement strategy across England? What are the characteristics of an excellent teacher? What needs to be done in order to attract, develop, recruit and support the next generation of school leaders?

The quality of teaching and teachers

Improving the quality of teachers and teaching isgenerally recognised as being crucial to improving outcomes for students and the performance of an education system. Students who learn with the best teachers can progress up to three times as fast as those placed with low-performing teachers.

High quality leadership

The quality of leadership in a school is second only to teaching in its impact on student outcomes. Good leaders achieve this through building a shared vision based on high expectations for all young people. They then develop the  trategies, the leadership team, the development programmes and quality assurance systems that will improve the quality and consistency of teaching and learning and student outcomes.

Increasingly school leaders have autonomy to lead and run their schools within a framework of accountability2. But in the best systems this operates within a culture where school leaders feel responsible for the outcomes and life chances of young people both from their own school and other schools in the local area. The best schools and school systems also spot and nurture leadership talent and potential, right from the time a teacher joins the profession.

Balanced accountability frameworks

Accountability arrangements can help incentivise educational improvement but need to achieve the right balance between holding schools and school leaders to account and supporting schools to improve. So while the publication of test results can have a positive effect on school and student performance, they can also bring perverse consequences such as teaching to the test, manipulating test scores and making schools with high scores complacent. The higher the stakes attached to test results, the more sophisticated the data needs to be to provide a complete and balanced picture of performance. No single assessment can meet the information needs of policy makers, teachers and parents.

The best accountability systems also include broader student learning objectives and encourage schools to be aspirational. Crucially, they are also more likely to lead to improvement if they focus attention on information relevant to teaching and learning – and motivating teachers and schools to use that information to compare practice with other schools in order to improve performance.

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