Academies are an expensive red herring. Here’s how you really improve school standards

Writing in the Guardian, Francis Gilbert first challenges David Cameron’s idea that converting more schools to academies will help and then suggests an alternative, evidenced-based approach to raising standards…

Teaching quality is the biggest single factor in raising standards. Significant research conducted by John Hattie for the New Zealand government, Robert J Marzano in the US, and the Educational Endowment Foundation in this country, all show that we have to focus on providing teachers like me with meaningful, ongoing training so that we can become better at our jobs.

Academies are a complete red herring. If the billions that have been thrown at this programme had been invested in providing teachers with decent, evidence-based training which is “on-the-job”, then standards would have sky-rocketed and we would be vying with the best education systems in the world, such as those in Finland and Singapore.

At the heart of the problem is that much of our continuous professional development has been woefully inadequate. Furthermore, most Ofsted inspectors are clueless, as the increasingly discredited rubric for school inspections shows. Mike Bell at the Evidence Based Teachers Network estimates that 95% of teachers are not aware of which teaching techniques are proven to work in the classroom.

The best research shows that good results are achieved when teachers are trained on an ongoing basis and are given the time to reflect upon their practice. This is expensive to do properly, but much more cost-effective than the academies programme: it basically means teachers teaching less and being given more time to study their pedagogy…

Sadly, the prime minister would not have hit the headlines today by saying he was going to wheel out more teacher training. But that’s what we actually need. The Punch and Judy politics surrounding education, typified by Cameron’s statement today, has to stop…

More at: Academies are an expensive red herring. Here’s how you really improve school standards


Out of interest, if Francis Gilbert is right, why wouldn’t this approach be an option for a party to ‘sell’ at the election? For example, could a claim like this gain traction with the electorate: ‘We will invest ££ more in training to give our schools the most highly skilled network of teachers in the world’?


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Categories: Teaching and Training.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove wonderfrancis The whole of Westminster will have their hands on their ears shouting “lalalalala” as this is read out

  2. MadgeJesss

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove wonderfrancis The words “evidence based” make them do that. Interferes with headline grabbing/kneejerk policy

  3. MadgeJesss

    SchoolsImprove wonderfrancis The other way is to recruit great teachers and address competence issues with worst. Takes time.

  4. Janet2

    @andylutwyche MadgeJesss SchoolsImprove wonderfrancis For politicians, ‘evidence’ is what chimes with their prejudices.  And it’s unforgivable that heads of so-called ‘mediocre’ schools can have their careers wrecked by a schools minister who’s been criticised by the UK Stats watchdog for her dodgy data-handling skills.

  5. notachilltothe

    wonderfrancis SchoolsImprove as a primary gov I can see that this works, I’m not so sure my secondary children benefit in the same way

  6. Politicians and journalists haven’t done the job they talk about.  Most of us teachers took at least a year to orientate to the reality of the classroom.  At that point we realised that all the opinions we had about teaching before that were almost worthless speculation.  If you haven’t had that ‘reality checkpoint’, you can continue to believe that structural change will improve learning.
    Similarly, at a school/college level, many of those taking decisions are not in the classroom and the same myths can control their minds.
    However, I have yet to meet an effective primary classroom teacher who is swayed by myths.  Most embrace evidence-based teaching as being quite in tune with what they do every day.

  7. JhiaxusPrime

    SchoolsImprove College I used to work at cut all CPD entirely. So yes. Better more consistent training, should have been priority!

  8. JhiaxusPrime

    SchoolsImprove College I used to work at cut all CPD entirely. So yes. Better more consistent training, should have been priority!

  9. AlfredoNokez1

    SchoolsImprove Sensible – but comparisons with ‘Best Education Systems’ – Finland & Singapore dilute his points due to no. of variables.

  10. jolyonr

    SchoolsImprove I’ll ask nicely again. What makes you think Academies don’t want well trained teachers with the best CPD? Not either/or

  11. amirshah316

    SchoolsImprove Quality of Teaching is central was the point and more time for CPD which is seen as poor quality and costly. Budgets dictate

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