ASCL comment on government’s levelling up white paper

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the press release about the government’s levelling up white paper.
“We share the government’s ambition to improve numeracy, literacy and therefore the life chances among the one-third of young people who need more support. It is slightly infuriating that the government insists on talking about ‘illiteracy’ and ‘innumeracy’. These children are not illiterate or innumerate and it is somewhat insulting to describe them as such. They just fall below the expected standard at primary school against a specific set of tests. 
“There is no doubt that these children clearly do need more support. We’re not sure this white paper actually achieves that objective because the support they need goes beyond the school gates to address issues around poverty and disadvantage, and there’s a crying need for better funding also for those with special educational needs. All the evidence tells us that investment in early years education would also pay dividends in helping these children.

“There’s much food for thought in the outline of the government’s white paper, but the devil will, as ever, be in the detail. Identifying 55 communities for intensive additional support sounds promising and we look forward to seeing exactly how this will work. We are not so sure about the idea of setting up ‘new elite sixth forms’. This sounds like they will serve children who already do very well and could put pressure on existing provision when the simplest solution would surely be to improve the lamentable state of post-16 funding.

“The idea of moving schools judged less than good in successive Ofsted inspections into multi-academy trusts sounds a little like the defunct ‘coasting schools’ policy that the Department for Education jettisoned a few years ago. Again, we await to find out the detail, and how the government feels it will work better this time round