Friday 31 March 2023

Nearly 50 years on, time for a new 'Great Debate' on education? Ofsted, high stakes testing, narrowed curriculum and a devalued profession all features of the current crisis


I was in my first year of teaching, as a mature entrant, almost 50 years ago in 1976 when the Prime Minister James Callaghan launched the 'Great Debate' on education in a speech at Ruskin College. LINK

That speech was the launchpad for the many changes that followed implemented by both Labour and Conservative governments, some good, some bad and often with unexpected consequences.

Today government attitudes towards teachers exemplified by the derisory pay offer are clear and contribute to low morale, demotivation and a recruitment and retention crisis. The role of Ofsted is under scrutiny as never before following the tragic death of a headteacher in the wake of an expected poor Ofsted judgement on the school that she cherished. Ofsted itself, despite claims of its independence is linked to Government policies including the high stakes testing found in primary schools, which in turn contributes to a narrowing of the curriculum and the loss of arts  subjects.  This is compounded by a school funding crisis that means such subjects are a low priority when it comes to allocating the school budget.

It is worth quoting Callaghan:

Everyone is allowed to put his oar in on how to overcome our economic problems, how to put the balance of payments right, how to secure more exports and so on and so on. Very important too. But I venture to say not as important in the long run as preparing future generations for life. RH Tawney, from whom I derived a great deal of my thinking years ago, wrote that the endowment of our children is the most precious of the natural resources of this community. So I do not hesitate to discuss how these endowments should be nurtured.


Let me answer that question 'what do we want from the education of our children and young people?' with Tawney's words once more. He said: 'What a wise parent would wish for their children, so the state must wish for all its children.'

The campaign group 'More Than a Score' has undertaken research to see what parents wish for in terms of their children's education and their report concludes LINK:

It is wrong to use SATs results as shorthand for high standards in primary education. While test data may generate easy headlines, parents and school leaders understand that an 11-year-old’s tests results cannot provide an accurate picture of their overall academic abilities and should not be used as a blunt tool to measure standards.

These views — held by an overwhelming majority — are not reflected in current policy. Everyone who values children’s education believes in high standards, but it is time to change the language and shift the debate so that children’s learning, not data, is prioritised.

The report is extremely important at a time when government ministers justify their education policy, including Ofsted and SATs with the mantra 'we know this is what parents want' backed up with very little evidence. Callaghan called for a 'rational debate based on the facts' - More Than a Score's effort to intruduce some evidence into the discussion is very welcome.

Reacting to the report Rosamund McNeil, assistant general secretary off the National Education Union, said;  

The views of education staff and parents have been made clear in More Than a Score’s research – primary school SATs are not an indicator of educational standards, or whether a child is ready for secondary school.

Both parents and educators feel standards should be measured in better ways, such as engagement with a broad and rich curriculum, not limited to English and Maths. This is a standard our high-stakes system is failing to meet. Schools face incredible pressure from government to prioritise tested subjects which mean the arts, humanities, and sciences are being squeezed from the school week.

Children’s mental health should also be an indicator of standards. Engagement with, and excitement about learning is not well served by SATs preparation or the SATs pressure. Children deserve a fairer system which captures more of what they achieve and they contribute. Children should be looking forward to another day of primary school, where they feel inspired and happy to learn.

The NEU wants to see an assessment system that supports children's learning and gives meaningful information to parents and educators. The system needs to be redesigned to meet those standards, not the ones set by government to hold schools to account.

High Stakes Testing is just one aspect of the current crisis and the report (below) perhaps will start a process of evidence gathering that will contribute to a new debate.

Thursday 30 March 2023

Brent Private Renters Union: Brent should follow Hackney in funding rnforcement action on damp and mould in private accommodation

Recently Wembley Matters carried the news that members of the London Renters Union in Hackey had won £400k from Hackney Council to address issues of mould and damp in privately rented accommodation.

Asked for a comment the Brent branch  of London Renters Union said:

 We say well done to Hackney Council - they will invest a further £400,000 in the housing standards enforcement team to crack down on mould and damp. Stronger enforcement means that is harder for landlords to get away with forcing renters into dangerous conditions. This will hopefully improve the health and well-being of tens of thousands of people and raise standards of accommodation.

We hope Brent will follow. 

Although Brent agreed to our demand to try to bring in borough-wide licensing, this on its own won't be sufficient - just look at the level of dangerous hazards in areas that already have licensing, like Mapesbury and Kensal Green. In addition to this, we trust they'll continue to lobby energetically the national government for the protections that private renters deserve. After all, most private renters are handing over a huge percentage of their income to property owners! [ go to pg 29]

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Michaela petition now at 4,323 signatories. No comment from school or Brent Council yet. Petition call for Michaela School to provide a Prayer Room for students amid allegations of 'disturbing' treatment of Muslim students

A petition has been launched calling for Michaela School in Wembley, where Home Secertary Suella Braverman was one of the founders and the first Chair of Governors, to provide a Prayer Room for students. By noon Thursday the petition had 4,323 signatories.

The petition makes a number of allegations about the treatment of Muslim pupils in the school and claims that this is disturbing 'Islamophobic' behaviour: 

A school that prides itself on being “multi cultural” and “multi faith” is treating their Muslim students in this way?? What’s worse is that this school is majority Muslim students and there is no prayer room designated for them. Students have requested for a prayer room which has  been refused by the school and so they have to pray on the floor outside.

The petition asks students who have experienced such treatment and concerned parents to get in touch because the petitioner wants to escalate the issue to the 'school board' (Board of Governors) and the local council.

Michaela is a free school so not under the direct oversight of Brent Council, but the local authority does have responsibility for the safeguarding and wellbeing of all children in the borough.

You can read the Petition in full HERE

 Both Michaela Community School and Brent Council were asked for a comment yesterday but neither had responded by the time this was published today.

UPDATE: No comment from either by noon today despite social media commentary.

Monday 27 March 2023

NEU Executive recommends rejection of derisory unfunded Government pay offer

 20,000 teachers took part in a National Education Union on-line meeting this evening to hear the Government's pay offer after 6 days of intensive negotiations. As the meeting progressed, on-line comments showed teachers' anger at the offer and Co-General Secretary Kevin Courtney had to reassure them that the NEU was recommending members  reject the the ballot - which was to be sent out after the meeting.

The pay offer averaging 4.5% itself was poor but worse was it going to be unfunded apart from a Government contribution 0.5% thus creating a financial crisis for many schools, leading to potential redundancies, particularly in support staff.

The Government attempted to impose a condition that the offer would only stand if all four unions involved either recommended acceptance or were neutral, otherwise the offer would be witdrawn. The NEU will recommend rejection.

Clearly the ball is now in the Government's court.

The slides below give some headlines but you can see the full meeting HERE





Vix Lowthion, a high school teacher and Green Party spokesperson on education said this morning:

Could teachers feel any more let down, abandoned, insulted, angry and hated by government than we do this morning? 

We don't do this for them. We do it for our young people. We keep going. 

I can only conclude that the govt despise the entire profession. 

The feeling's mutual.

A useful campaigning summary of Part A of the very disturbing latest IPCC report on climate change


I, and many others, are grateful to Tahir Latif of the Greener Jobs Alliance for this summary of the latest IPCC Report

This piece provides a summary of the latest IPCC synthesis report based on their sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

Given that even the relatively short ‘summary for policy makers’ is not an easy read, here we attempt to draw out the basic information about where we currently are. None of these points will surprise anyone but having them to hand in this way will we hope be useful. Note that this piece deals only with section A of the report, covering the current state of the climate. A further blog will cover parts B and C, which are about modelling to project likely scenarios for the long and short-term respectively.

Headline figure

Average global temperature for 2011-2020 is 1.1 deg C above that for 1850-1900.

IPCC is unequivocal about the primary role of human activity in this increase; the contribution ascribed to ‘natural’ drivers is between -0.1 deg and +0.1 deg C.

Emissions since 1850 = 2400 gigatons CO2; 42% of that figure has been emitted since 1990.

CO2 parts per million in the atmosphere is 410, the highest for 2million years.
Methane and NOx levels are highest for 800,000 years.

GHG emissions in 2019 are 12% higher than in 2010, and 54% higher than 1990.
The decade 2010-2019 has the highest absolute emissions, but the growth rate has been lower than for 2000-2009.

2019 emissions were

79% from the energy, industry, transport and building sectors.

22% from agriculture, forestry and other land use.

Emissions reduction efforts were outweighed by increases during the last decade.

Global distribution

(on a CO2-equivalent per capita basis)
Global average = 6.9t per person
35% of population = above 9t
41% of population = below 3t
Least Developed Countries populations = 1.7t
Top 10% of global population contributes 34-45% of emissions.
Bottom 50% = 13-15%

Changes in sea level rise

1901-1971 = 1.3mm per annum
1971-2006 = 1.9 mm p.a.
2006-2008 = 3.7mm p.a.

Highly vulnerable to mortality and illness attributable to climate change = 3.3-3.6 billion people.

Covers Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Islands, the Arctic, along with indigenous people and low-income households everywhere.

Ecosystem degradation approaching irreversibility in a number of regions, particularly permafrost thaw in the Arctic.

Reduced food and water security is hindering efforts to meet UN Sustainability Development Goals. Half the world experiences severe water scarcity for at least part of the year.

Extreme heat has led to increased food-borne and water-borne diseases, mental health issues and trauma, loss of livelihood and culture.

Adverse impacts, unequally distributed, include damage to industry and services, destruction of homes and infrastructure, effects on gender and social inequalities.


Planning and implementation has progressed, and shown benefits, but with varying effectiveness. Gaps exist and will grow at current implementation rate. Limits of adaptation reached in some regions.

Global financial flows are preventing implementation, especially in Less Developed countries (LDCs) due to:

  • Insufficient funds,
  • Low climate literacy,
  • Lack of political commitment,
  • Low sense of urgency.

Gap between cost of adaptation and finances allocated is widening.

Green energy is technically viable and reducing in cost. In some regions transitioning to green energy is cheaper than maintaining emissions-intensive systems. A shortfall in meeting commitments made at Kyoto, Paris and Glasgow make keeping to 1.5 deg C unlikely.

Deep reductions in emissions are required during the 2020s to keep below 2 deg C by 2100. Median scenario, if all pledges are kept, is 2.8 deg C by 2100. Net zero pledges have limited policies to deliver on them. The implementation gap suggests a median scenario of 3.2 deg C by 2100.

Tahir Latif
Secretary, Greener Jobs Alliance
March 2023

Sufra's Ramadan Emergency Appeal



Sufra do an amazing job so please consider supporting their appeal HERE

 Crisis is all around us and millions are suffering in countries across the world. This Ramadan, we are acknowledging our shared struggles and responsibilities as members of an extended human family and we are counting (and sharing) our blessings for living in relative peace and security. 


Our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters affected by the tragic events in Syria and Turkey, as well as those living with conflict and war in Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere. At Sufra, we see the devastating impact of these disasters on those we support every day such as the many refugees and asylum seekers we support who are fleeing conflict and facing an extremely hostile environment in the UK. 


Unsurprisingly, our migrant guests struggle to build a new life in a country where a fifth of the population now live in poverty, 7 million families are skipping meals, and the cost of living is impossibly high even for the average family. 


It's no wonder our refugee and advice services are at bursting point and our social media posts are littered with requests to help top up our food bank shelves with essentials that have run dry. 


It doesn't have to be this way. If we act together in a spirit of love and selfless giving, our combined effort can make a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of people. 


This Ramadan, we are asking you to stand in solidarity with Sufra NW London, to share your blessings, and to help us support thousands of local people who are struggling to survive.

Wembley Event Day arrangements Sunday 2nd April and Thursday 6th April

 From Brent Council

Papa John's Trophy Final and Women's Finalissima

Two events are planned in Wembley over the next couple of weeks. Please read below to find out how this may affect you.

Papa John's Trophy Final 2023

On Sunday 2 April, Wembley Stadium will be hosting the Papa John's Trophy Final 2023 between Bolton Wanderers and Plymouth Argyle.

The match will start at 3pm and road closures will be in place from 11am.

Women's Finalissima 2023

On Thursday 6 April, Wembley Stadium will be hosting the Women's Finalissima 2023 between England and Brazil.

The match will start at 7.45pm and road closures will be in place from 3.45pm.


We expect the area around Wembley Stadium to be very busy before and after these games so please avoid the area if you can, unless you have a ticket.

Event day parking

Event day parking restrictions will be in place from 8am to midnight on main roads, and from 10am to midnight on residential roads on both 2 April and 6 April 2023.

If you have a paper permit, please make sure you clearly display it in your vehicle. If you have an electronic permit, you do not need to display this. 

Drink-free zone

We want to create a safe and enjoyable experience for all visitors. 

To crack down on anti-social behaviour, we will be enforcing a ban on street drinking in the streets around Wembley Stadium before the match, as part of the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO)

If we find anyone drinking on Olympic Way or in the surrounding streets, they will be asked to hand over their alcohol and enforcement action may be considered.  

Latest information 

For up-to-date information about Wembley events, please visit the Wembley Stadium website.

Saturday 25 March 2023

'Which side are you on, Brent? Tug of War challenge to Brent Council on Fossil Fuel investments


From Divest Brent


Divest Brent yesterday organised, as street theatre, a symbolic tug of war with Brent Pension Fund being pulled between the big oil companies, who are anxious to keep their place in the Pension Fund’s portfolio, and the rest of us who believe that in a climate emergency the Pension Fund should not be financing climate break-down. Although light-hearted there was a very serious point behind the event. 


In July 2019 Brent Council declared a climate and ecological emergency and committed to do all in its gift to strive for carbon neutrality by 2030.This declaration did not extend to Brent’s billion-pound Pension Fund because the Fund looks after the pensions of Council staff. The Fund has made some progress with investment into a low-carbon fund (but this is only 3% of the Fund) and a Net Zero Roadmap charting a course which should eventually lead to divestment. But global warming is indeed a climate emergency as recognised by the Council and we do not have time for the Roadmap to run its course. 


We are supportive of the Roadmap - but we are asking for a more rapid divestment from the fossil fuels which are so much to blame for the emergency. Many things are not in the Council’s power but this action is!


Thursday 23 March 2023

Millions unspent on retrofitting London’s homes

 This story from Green Party Asssemby Member Zack Polanski, puts today's retrofit announcement from Brent Council in perspective. Brent was awarded the second lowest amount of the successsful London boroughs:

Green London Assembly Member Zack Polanski today revealed to the Mayor that just 45 homes had been retrofitted across London under the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, despite £18 million being made available to London councils over a year ago.

The measures to improve the energy efficiency of London’s homes were supposed to be completed by the end of March 2023, but a shortage of skilled workers has delayed delivery.

Green London Assembly Member Zack Polanski said:

The Mayor is still sitting on his hands despite declaring a ‘retrofit revolution’ two years ago.

His failure to get a handle on the retrofit skills gap is preventing London benefitting from available Government funds.

The Mayor needs to get his retrofit revolution on the right track, support the upgrading of homes and protect Londoners from sky-high energy bills.

Nine of the 11 London boroughs awarded funds have failed to deliver any retrofitting works at all. This represents over £13 million of available government funding not being put to use.

Across the country, just 14% of the planned 20,000 homes expected to be upgraded have had works completed. As a result, the deadline for local authorities to spend the first wave of funding has been extended to June.

Housing experts, including representatives from the Chartered Institute of Housing, say the slow rollout of retrofit upgrades stems from a national skills shortage in the retrofit sector.[5] London Councils have said that London needs 110,000 people working in retrofit by 2030. Currently, there are only 4,000

The publication of this data comes after the Mayor of London showed hesitance to ramp-up his retrofit skills training offer using his £320 million Adult Education Budget. Speaking to the London Assembly in November, the Mayor said, “what we need is some certainty there are [retrofit] jobs to go to.”

With Londoners facing rising bills during the cost of living crisis, retrofitting homes to improve their energy efficiency is a way to reduce energy bills and household costs – while reducing emissions.

The second wave of funding, being made available to local authorities and housing associations later this year, is around four times the budget of the first wave, at almost £800 million.


£1.32m boost for energy efficiency measures in 127 units of Brent's social housing

127 units of Brent Councils' most energy inefficient social housing stock are to benefit from a £1.32m grant from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund for energy efficiency improvements. Bent Council say that the  project will help equip Brent to achieve its goal in reducing CO2 emissions from social housing and improve tenants’ comfort and wellbeing

The works will be managed by Brent’s long-term delivery partner, Wates, with project oversight from the Brent Major Works team.

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Join Fuel Povery Action Manifesto for 'Energy for All' launch tomorrow at 6.30pm


From Fuel Poverty Action

Fuel Poverty Action is launching an Energy For All Manifesto. Join us online on Thursday 23rd March to mark this event!   Register HERE

Hear about the energy pricing revolution, for a cheaper, greener and fairer system to meet everyone's needs.

Speakers to include:

Clive Lewis MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Anne McLaughlin MP

Ian Hodson - Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union.

Paula Peters - Disabled People Against Cuts

Mia Watanabe - Warm This Winter Coalition

Indigo Rumbelow - Just Stop Oil

Chaitanya Kumar - New Economics Foundation

Ruth London - Fuel Poverty Action

In recent months, we’ve built pressure through a range of strategies and tactics. Our Energy For All petition received over 650,000 signatures before we handed it into parliament. We collaborated with MPs from a range of parties on an Early Day Motion for a Universal Basic Energy Allowance. We carried out two nationwide mobilisations; in December gaining mass coverage for E4A, and in January delivering a major win on our short term goal to end the forced installation of prepayment meters. Meanwhile, the New Economics Foundation has been carrying out costing and modelling of the proposal, with very positive results so far.

We call on organisations, trade and tenants unions, community and faith groups, MPs, local authorities and distinguished individuals to sign in support of our Manifesto, to help build weight behind the demand for Energy For All. Sign here!

(We plan for the event to last an hour but may run over to allow every speaker to have their chance).





Tuesday 21 March 2023






Teachers and leaders work under the shadow cast by Ofsted. An unfair and unreliable inspectorate.

As Ofsted approaches its 30-year anniversary, now is the right time to examine what effect its inspections have on the quality of education that teachers and leaders are able to provide and, in particular, for our most disadvantaged pupils.

In 2017, the National Audit Office concluded that: “Ofsted does not know whether its school inspections are having the intended impact: to raise the standards of education and improve the quality of children’s and young people’s lives.”

Ofsted has never published any research to prove that its inspections accurately reflect the quality of education schools provide. Comprehensive, independent analysis of Ofsted judgements show they discriminate against schools in deprived areas – awarding ‘outstanding’ grades to four times more secondary schools with better off pupils than schools with students who are worse off. A major research study showed that, even when schools in deprived areas are making excellent value-added progress, they are still more likely to be given poor Ofsted judgements.

Teachers and leaders know that working in disadvantaged areas is likely to be harmful to their careers because of the unfairness of Ofsted judgements. It is harder to recruit and retain teachers in these schools. Poor children, who most need qualified and experienced teachers if they are to fulfil their potential, are least likely to get them.

School inspection must be fair. It should be supportive. It should not be, as too many Ofsted inspections are, punitive.

The stress and unsustainable workload generated by Ofsted is a major factor in the appalling teacher retention rates that blight English education. Nearly 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession within ten years. No education system can improve while it haemorrhages school leaders and teachers.

We must create a new approach to school and college evaluation which is supportive, effective and fair.

We are calling on the Government to:

  1. Replace Ofsted with a school accountability system which is supportive, effective and fair;
  2. Work with teachers, leaders and other stakeholders to establish a commission to learn how school accountability is done in other high performing education nations;
  3. Develop an accountability system which commands the trust and confidence of education staff as well as parents and voters.

Ofsted inspection at 'refuse entry' school goes ahead 'following discussions with the parties involved'. Petition calling for inquiry into Caversham Primary inspection takes off.


Staff stage silent protest outside John Rankin School this morning

Schools Week reported this morning LINK  that the Ofsted inspection of John Rankin School in Newbury will go ahead today despite the Executive Headteacher's statement yesterday that she would refuse entry to the inspection team:

Flora Cooper, executive headteacher at John Rankin Infant and Nursery School had originally called on other headteachers who want Ofsted reform to join the protest.

But yesterday afternoon, she asked them not to turn up. “I have to protect our children, our staff and our community,” she wrote on Twitter.

West Berkshire Council has now confirmed the inspection will go ahead “following discussions between the parties involved”.

The school said it could not comment.

The Department of Education (DfE) issued a statement yesterday, stressing the legal requirement of schools and nurseries to be inspected by Ofsted.

Under the Education Act, it is a criminal offence to intentionally obstruct inspectors from carrying out their duties, with a fine of up to £2,500.

However, it appears staff did hold a silent protest outside the school gates this morning.

Meanwhile a petition calling for an inquiry into the Ofsted inspection of the school where the headteacher took her own life has been gathering signatures. LINK

The petition reads:

Ruth Perry had been the headteacher at Caversham Primary School for 13 years when Ofsted visited her school on the 15 and 16 November 2022.  The experience drove her to sadly take her own life.

Ofsted need to force an inquiry into this inspection and review the actual inspection report that the school are now forced to have on their school website that callously and unnecessarily makes reference to Ruth’s death within it.

Ofsted inspections have evolved into such a monster that the mere thought of them causes fear, stress and anxiety to schools, school leadership and staff alike.  Actual inspections can leave staff in tears.  Many leaders leave the profession following an inspection because the stress caused by the inspection is simply too great and sadly some take their own life, like in the very sad case of Ruth Perry.

It shouldn’t be like that an Ofsted or equivalent inspection should be a supportive process and help the school to find the whys and support to work on the weakness an inspection shouldn’t seek to crush and destroy.  The Ofsted inspection should be there to ensure that children are looked after and taught in a safe environment and that the standards are in place for them to thrive and sometimes that means that the framework has to bend the framework has become unwieldy and cumbersome and inspectors have become less supportive and instead seek to trip schools up, terrorise and traumatise.  

Ofsted need to look into this case specifically, review the inspection and the actual wording of that report, what could have been done better.  

They also need to review the whole system, it isn’t working, inspections are too unwieldy and it takes too long to get through them leaving schools for too many years between inspections 3, 5, 10, 13 plus years is too long between inspections.  They need to be smarter, quicker and more supportive. 

Please take action now, sign the petition and let’s see if we can drive change so that the actions that Ruth Perry felt she had to take, never, ever happens again.

RIP Ruth Perry.

It appears that the published Ofsted report has already been modified: