Monday, February 12, 2007

Michael Barber

From Leonie Haimson on her listserve:

With the knowledge that the entire bus fiasco could have been predicted (and was) by looking at A&M’s record in St. Louis three years ago, I decided to take a look at what had happened in the UK over the course of the Blair years – esp. as Joel Klein said at the City Council hearings that Sir Michael Barber was one of his main sources for advice in the new reorganization and funding schemes.

Barber was formerly the top education adviser to Tony Blair and architect of many of his controversial education reforms; he is now working w/ McKinsey and as a consultant to DOE.

Some excerpts from the British press about these reforms and the results are below. There are many eerie similarities, w/ the most scary being the government school funding reforms imposed in 2003 – which were supposed to more fairly equalize funding and give more flexibility to principals (or “head teachers” as they are known in the UK) on how to spend their funds, along w/ a promise to increase resources overall.

Instead, the new funding formula led to huge cuts at many schools, and what was widely seen as a national crisis – with massive teacher layoffs, higher class sizes, and in some cases, students sent home after only four days of school.

The revamping of the funding formula in the UK led to this headline in the Guardian in May of 2003: “A government which has openly declared its number one priority is education is in danger of seeing its reputation shredded by its failure to anticipate the full effects of its new funding formula for schools. “

1997: Michael Barber: The Learning Game: Arguments for an Education Revolution

"Given this unstoppable intellectual surge towards chaos, one has to ask why people in education in the late 1980s and 1990s were so obsessed with structures. It is time to recognise that reforming structures will not bring about real change, least of all in education, where quality depends so heavily on a chaotic myriad of personal interactions. We need to understand that chaos matters too."

Four years later, Barber was appointed as a Chief Advisor to Tony Blair and wrote the following:


Policymakers have hitherto concentrated on standardising the input end of the education system: the number of school places, qualifications of teachers, the content of the curriculum, class sizes, hours of teaching and provision of books and materials. Not surprisingly, given the diversity of our societies and the varying backgrounds of students, the consequence was that the standards achieved "the output" became the variable. But if the output "high standards for all" is to become the constant, then the inputs must become the variable.

Some students need more time to achieve high standards than others; some need intensive individual tuition; and as they get older some students learn better in the workplace than in school. For these needs to be met, teachers need to tailor their pedagogy. [But how can they do this w/ large class sizes? – the answer seems to be through the use of computers and technology.]

Modern technology allows an individualisation that was previously unachievable. Dell does not sell you a computer off the shelf,it builds precisely the computer you order to your specification. Only with this kind of thinking will education systems become responsive enough to remove the barriers to learning which prevent some young people from achieving high standards….

It will simply not be possible for governments to provide all the necessary services for successful education systems in the next few years. New partnerships beyond the school system will be needed. The business sector, traditionally one of the main “consumers” of the “products” of the education system, will increasingly become a partner as an investor and provider of services in education. The explosion of the Internet and other new technologies demands investment in new software products. Businesses, not governments, will largely make that investment.

Education wary of chancellor's gifts BBC, July 15, 2002

People in education have become more sceptical about Labour's announcements of more money. In New Labour's first term, the Department for Education was fond of re-announcing the same funding - sometimes more than once. What's more, overall totals were often not spread among all schools or education authorities - they were pots of money that had to be bid for, so many schools never saw a thing.

Cash for schools tied to further reforms Guardian, Tuesday December 10 2002

New cash for schools will be dependent upon further reform, the education secretary, Charles Clarke, told MPs yesterday as he set out details of the government's £12.8bn spending plans over the next three years. Announcing some simplification of myriad funding streams to create a "simpler and fairer" system, he said local education authorities had been given increases ...…The vast array of "ring fenced" grants, aimed specifically at certain policies, would form a reducing proportion of local spending, Mr Clarke said. Substantial funds would be moved from central education department spending to local authorities. That would amount to an extra £500m in 2003-04 and £800m in 2005-06.

Better, or worse? Guardian, Tuesday February 18 2003

Now you see it, now you don't. This year was supposed to be the one when schools finally got their mitts on all the extra cash the Department for Education and Skills had always said was forthcoming. With more money and a new funding formula, standards would go up, teacher workload would go down and we would enter the promised land of milk and honey. So how come at the very …. The new funding formula was supposed to knock out some of the previous inequalities which heavily favoured schools in the south-east…..Schools are being given more money than ever…. So how come at the very moment when the DfES is pumping more dosh into schools than ever before, so many schools are complaining that they are going to be worse off?

£28m to plug school funding gaps Guardian, Wednesday March 26 2003

The school standards minister, David Miliband, today announced a ý28m bail-out package for 36 local education authorities to bridge the gaps left by the recent overhaul in funding. This year, LEAs and schools will be affected by a new funding formula and changes to the standards fund to reduce ring-fencing of budgets. …John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said with so many changes to the school funding system this year, schools in many LEAs are facing major budget problems. "The extra funding announced today is welcome as a contribution to the situation in many, but by no means all, the worst affected LEAs," he added. … He said many London boroughs had been hit by similar shortfalls through the government's failure to fully fund the inner London pay award, which he said was "playing havoc" with school budgets. Many London authorities would be £1m to £2m short this year.

Heads scoff at Clarke's stopgap funding scheme Guardian, Friday May 16, 2003

Lack of new money a serious error of judgment, union chief says

Stopgap measures giving schools in England greater flexibility in spending their budgets but no extra money, announced yesterday, will fail to solve this year's funding crisis, headteachers said last night.

Children sent home early as budget cuts bite Guardian, Thursday May 22 2003

More than 700 children were sent home early from school yesterday as their headteacher, local council, the government and the Conservatives played a blame game over budget cuts. Iain Duncan Smith told Tony Blair at prime minister's question time that the 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds at Edenham High in Croydon, south London, who left school at 1.45pm yesterday, were the victims of a "botched" reorganisation of school funding under the education secretary, Charles Clarke.

A school timebomb Guardian May 24, 2003

Shrinking budgets risk electoral havoc

Ministers are drifting towards dark and dangerous electoral rocks. A government which has openly declared its number one priority is education is in danger of seeing its reputation shredded by its failure to anticipate the full effects of its new funding formula for schools. …

Ministers have been given plenty of warnings of the disproportionate effects of their new school funding formula. Many schools have benefited, but far too many have been seriously hurt. It is this latter group on which media attention is focusing.

One school has already sent 700 pupils home early, but many more are being forced to issue redundancy notices. Next week is the final deadline. Unless ministers act promptly, many more teachers will be laid off. A survey of 86 of the 150 local education authorities by the National Union of Teachers yesterday suggests there could be 1,570 lost jobs in England with a further 560 at risk. Another 250 teaching posts are reported to be at risk in Wales, with the threat to support staff jobs up to three times worse. Remember this was meant to be the year of a big expansion in teacher assistants to help relieve teachers of 28 administrative tasks.

Of course some redundancies are unavoidable in schools with falling rolls. But far too many flagged up this year are due to unfair budget squeezes. Ministerial attempts to shift the blame on to local education authorities have fallen flat. Even the department's own survey showed a mere 19 out of 150 councils had failed to pass on the full school allocation.

If these cuts are made, the results in affected schools will be devastating: courses cut, teaching teams broken up, and a new corps of teacher assistants lost to the profession. Emails flooding into the Guardian document some of the effects: plans for larger primary classes, cuts to staff training, and even worse, cuts to available courses. One email from Norwich, which the education secretary represents, is from a parent whose sixth-form son has been told he can no longer follow his A-level combination of physics and French. Any MP would be outraged, let alone the education secretary.

Yet Charles Clarke complacently told the Commons on Thursday that "redundancies will be of the same order as last year". The deputy prime minister's office, which is responsible for local government, is being equally dilatory in setting up a taskforce on funding that has been given six weeks to report. It is time for the prime minister to intervene. His own reputation is on line. ….

What does Charles Clarke say?
The government has just reformed the schools funding system to ensure a basic amount is spent on every pupil and to provide separate budgets for schools and local education authorities.

London: Everything cut to the bone Guardian, Saturday May 24, 2003

Stephen Pye has been teaching for 27 years and been a head for the last six, but admits he has never experienced a financial crisis of this scale.

"I wish education ministers and the DfES officials would take the trouble to visit and see what actually goes on in schools. They are living in cloud cuckoo land" said Mr Pye, head of Church Hill Gardens school in Pimlico.

His school and others in Westminster have in the last couple of days been told they are beneficiaries of a share of a £1m emergency funding package announced by the council to try to stave off the threat of redundancies in schools.

So he will get £29,000 to whittle away the large part of his deficit budget of £36,000. That said, things are still looking grim. "I've cut everything to the bone yet I'll still be in deficit and I have no reserves to speak of," he says.

Countdown to confusion Guardianm May 24, 2003

July 2002 Comprehensive spending review - almost universally praised - promises an extra £14.7bn for UK education by 2006, increasing spending per pupil by 50% in real terms since 1997; includes direct grants for head teachers worth £50,000 to a typical secondary school

December 2002 Ministers unveil changes to local government funding formula to redistribute money to more deprived parts of the country

January 2003 Councils learn provisional funding figures for education this year

February 2003 Charles Clarke, the education secretary, orders Westminster and Croydon to raise their planned school spending. Schools receive provisional "indicative budgets". Teachers receive 2.9% pay increase

March 2003 Schools start to finalise budgets and alarm bells are raised. Mr Clarke gives extra £28m to 36 education authorities hit hardest by changes to local government spending formula. Head teachers at Secondary Heads Association conference angrily round on Mr Clarke over budget cuts, taking him by surprise

…May 2003 Mr Clarke says councils have failed to pass on £597m to schools and demands explanation. National Association of Head Teachers says there is a £2.5bn "black hole" in education spending plans. It emerges that Department for Education and Skills failed to spend £1bn of its 2002-3 budget.

Edenham high school in Croydon sents 720 pupils home early because it says it can't afford to keep them. Schools put out redundancy notices in time for May 30 deadline….

No, minister... Guardian, May 24, 2003

As Charles Clarke, the education secretary, continues to deny there is any school funding crisis, the first detailed picture of redundancies and cuts in teaching posts, published exclusively in the Guardian, shows problems across England and Wales.

Here people in the frontline, from heads to parents, tell their stories.

Andy Thompson, headteacher, Oakwood school, Horley, Surrey
"Heads are frightened to be honest, because they're worried that parents won't send their children there if they tell the truth. …If Mr Clarke just said, it's a cock-up, we're sorry, we'd say OK. But when he says it's your fault, it's their fault, it is so patronising.

"We've set a deficit budget of £36,000 this year. .. three teachers who are leaving won't be replaced. The homework club is going; all the extras will go. Teachers will be teaching an extra hour a week. We're being told the next two budgets will be difficult, too. We won't pay the deficit back next year; by 2005, we will have a £400,000 deficit and the school will implode. ….Education, education, education - maybe I misheard that? I have got precisely £8,000 to play with for next September. If we have to increase class sizes to 30, and do other things I fundamentally disagree with, I will resign. This has dominated my life for six weeks now. Where's the teaching and learning in that?

"Since 1997, we could see blue skies; education was being talked up. But now I don't know where we'll be this time next year."

Althea Draper, deputy headteacher, comprehensive in Northallerton, North Yorkshire
"Overnight the optimism, the inclusivity, the quality of staff development and, most important of all, the quality of teaching and learning has been smashed to pieces with a reduced budget that will mean the destruction of all that has been built up over the past six years. What shall we cut first? The luxuries? The water cooler that I placed in the staffroom in the naive belief that a healthy staff meant better teaching? All staff development courses - an expensive luxury we can do without? Teaching assistants? Six teaching staff?

"Shall we opt for redundancy or 'natural wastage'? What an outrageous concept that is. As a result, there will be increased class sizes of 32,... What false economy am I preparing for future years when staff illness, staff stress and low morale will surely reach rock bottom? ….How could a Labour government do this to my special school?"

Kati Nicholl, parent, Barnet, north London
"The roof leaks in places; the lavatories would not be out of place in the third world; there is no hall large enough for the whole school to assemble in; the place hasn't been painted for years ... there aren't enough books to go round and the parents' association uses hard-earned funds that should be used for improvements to buy basics. …And yet this year we face a £450,000 shortfall in funding. Whoever you are, oh faceless Whitehall accounting person, wake up to the fact that no school can cope with that sort of shortfall.

"Does the head refuse to make some of the bare-minimum number of staff redundant and close the school after 10 months of the year when the money runs out? Does he set an illegal deficit budget? Does he bring the school down to a three-day week? And what happens then to my boy's future? …I do not give a damn about who's responsible for the present debacle. What I and every other parent in Barnet wants is for someone to put it right. Just give our schools the money and fight about who owes what to whom later. Our children are not rehearsing for some future learning process: this is their first and last chance. Give them the money!"

Don Gibbons, headteacher, Idsall school, Shifnal, Shropshire
"We have less money to spend than we did last year - about £80,000 less. We have had to reduce our training budget to an absolute minimum. Our investment in IT infrastructure is a third of what it was last year. We have reduced contracted services, so the classrooms are cleaned every other day and not every day. Normally we set a budget for standard repair, maintenance and decoration - we've halved that. Only essential work will be done.

"There's a weakness in Charles Clarke's argument: schools can suspend plans to do work on buildings to support staffing, but how do we catch up? There will be no new money next year. Any new money there is will go to meet the extras imposed on us by the government. ….The only solution is for the government to introduce more funding into the base - special grants are not what we need - to pay establishment staffing and long-term contracts with teaching staff. There is no indication that this is likely. They promised us it last year and we have been cheated and deceived into thinking the money would come through to meet the commitment to upper pay spine, but the government is funding only 60% of that."

Kate Firth, parent governor, Stillness junior school, south London
" we too face laying off staff, virtually no supply money and a chance to use our meagre capital funding to get through the coming year. … our new replacements for three 1960s concrete temporary huts and a 15-year-old mobile classroom have been also just been axed. Why should teachers, support staff and pupils be put into such an atrocious situation of uncertainty when they have worked so hard to raise standards and not only met but surpassed government targets?"

Malcolm Trobe, headteacher, Malmesbury school, Wiltshire
""We will end up with larger classes; there may be reductions in teaching time in one or two areas. … do we put them into six groups of 32, which is financially sound, but educationally not so good? Or seven groups of 27 or 28, which is educationally better, but will cause financial problems? We have a difficult decision to make."

Schools cash fiasco sparks official probe Observer, June 1, 2003
Ministers accused of errors as teachers' jobs are slashed

An inquiry is to be launched into the schools funding fiasco by the Government's public spending watchdog, The Observer can reveal.

Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, and Schools Standards Minister David Miliband will be among those summoned to explain their role in the crisis. Findings from the investigation will be geared to ensuring there can be no repeat of the funding row which is likely to leave hundreds of teachers redundant.

Officials from the Audit Commission are formulating an inquiry that will examine the flow of money and decisions from Whitehall down to local authority staff. ….Surveys suggest almost 1,500 teachers and support staff may have been issued with redundancy notices because of the budget crisis.

School cuts classes to balance books Guardian, June 10, 2003

A cash-strapped Kent secondary school has become the first to announce it is cutting the school week to balance its books as it emerged that the national audit office is to hold an inquiry into the role of central government in the schools funding crisis.

Maplesden Noakes school in Maidstone said some pupils would have fewer classes each week and be sent home early from September because of a budget shortfall. It said it had no alternative but to timetable fewer lessons for some children as part of a cost-cutting package, telling parents that their children were the "victims" of financial miscalculations.

At the same time ministers' attempts to ride out the storm caused by the funding crisis were undermined yesterday by news that the NAO, the government's spending watchdog, is to launch an investigation.

The education secretary, Charles Clarke, has blamed the situation on local education authorities, claiming they are withholding up to £500m. But NAO officials want to get to the bottom of how, despite well-publicised changes to the national funding formula and big increases in staffing costs….

Meanwhile, in an apologetic letter sent yesterday to all council chief education officers in England, Stephen Crowne, director of resources at the DfES, praised local education authorities and said the DfES was "committed to learning quickly" from the problems. But the letter, passed to the Guardian, indicates ministers believe they cannot devise a way of targeting extra money quickly at the hardest-hit areas.

The shadow education secretary, Damian Green, said: "This is the first example of a school planning to reduce the school week but is likely to be the first of many, with disturbing implications for youngsters' education. We are delighted the NAO is investigating the affair to show this is a government cock-up, not a local government conspiracy."

No repeat of funding crisis, says Clarke Guardian, June 20, 2003
The education secretary, Charles Clarke, said today he was "absolutely determined" the funding crisis that has hit schools across England and Wales in recent weeks would never happen again.

….The prime minister, Tony Blair, has admitted that 250 teachers will definitely be loosing their jobs as a result of the crisis. Headteachers say this is just the "tip of the iceberg". The national audit office has begun a full investigation into what went wrong.

Blair faces new row over school funds, Guardian, December 31, 2003

Ministers try to play down clash as No 10 advisers push plan for Whitehall to take over education budgets

Mr Adonis and Mr Barber, two of Mr Blair's most powerful advisers, are known to be campaigning for Whitehall to take control of school budgets in order to avoid a repeat of last spring's funding fiasco - one of the most serious education crises in recent history. Unexpected funding changes left many schools struggling to cope with budget cuts which forced unprecedented teacher redundancies.

Key schools unit axed in shakeup, Guardian, June 9, 2004

A government policy unit set up to drive through Tony Blair's first term education reforms is being scrapped under a shakeup in the Department for Education and Skills. The standards and effectiveness unit, David Blunkett's first initiative as education secretary after Labour's victory in 1997, was hailed by the new government as an engine for school improvement. Among a range of reforms, it oversaw the national numeracy and literacy strategies, and spearheaded the government's post-election assault on failing schools. Now insiders fear that disbanding the unit could eventually lead to the bulk of the department's in-house school improvement work being farmed out in lucrative contracts to the private sector.

Management/Policy/Technology/Finance Guardian, February 2005

Michael Barber, of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, argued that if "everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough" in relation to the government's efficiency drive.

Delivery to die for Guardian, June 21, 2005

Professor Sir Michael Barber, who has headed up Downing Street's delivery unit since leaving the DfES standards and effectiveness unit, is on the move again. In September he joins the management consultancy/brand new Whitehall department McKinsey's, where he will take up a new role as a "global" adviser on public service reform.

It is actually his first job in the private sector, and although he will be subject to a six-month "purdah" before being allowed to touch British policy, his interests lie much further afield, we hear. He addressed a conference organised by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers only last Saturday, baffling his audience with a series of slides featuring "the wheel of continuous improvement" alongside "diversity of suppliers". Particularly sad, they observed, was his remark to the audience that he would like to die with the national literacy strategy "engraved on his heart".

Legal big shot who's back among the NY school kids Guardian, October 13, 2006

Interview w/ Joel Klein by Jane Martinson

“[Joel Klein] sent his only daughter, now 22, to a posh fee-paying school in Washington DC but shows none of the angst this often causes among British politicians. "Each parent owes their children the best education you can get them and I was lucky to be able to afford that school. I believe in public education - believe me, I wouldn't be doing this job otherwise - but I don't believe you should mandate it." …

“Klein is a fan of Blair's education reforms and "learnt a lot" from talking to Sir Michael Barber, the former No 10 education adviser. "The UK is performing better on international tests and moving in the right direction," he says. "They have a lot of the challenges we have." He is surprised when I mention the sense of failure, especially in London. "The work just hasn't finished," he says, blithely.”

Blair sudden turnaround on strategy of reform BBC News, 2 December 2006

The belief that school autonomy was the key - in Blair's favourite phrase, the notion of "independent state schools" - also took a while to move to the forefront of government policy. As he put it, "at first we put a lot of faith in centrally driven improvements".

Although he added that this had given an "immediate uplift in results", he implied that the long-term strategy required setting schools free, not binding them in with targets…. At first, Blair's government continued the trend towards uniformity: with more central direction and over-arching national targets for all children and all schools. But latterly he has been more persuaded of the need for different routes for different pupils.”

School sets out trust proposals BBC News, 26 January 2007

What was their vision for schools? …[Mercers company] spokesman at the Downing Street seminar, Charles Parker, said its approach would be "enlightened private sponsorship". It already has involvement with 16 schools in the state and private sector but wants to extend that. One of his comments might have seemed rather ominous for anyone concerned about the influence that outside organisations could wield over schools. Noting that the Mercers' Company puts about £3.5 million into schools each year, he said: "People do pay attention if you have a bit of cash".

Blair woos Labour's school rebels, BBC News, 27 February 2006
Labour critics feared the bill could set up a two-tier education system by allowing schools to pick the best students to help improve their exam pass rates. (Blair’s reform bill passed with Conservative support – and with 54 labour MPs opposing.)
Where did it all go wrong? New Statesman, 06 March 2006

[Summarizes Blair’s latest series of education reforms; in which schools would be encouraged to become “trust schools”, like charter schools, with complete control over budgets and admissions. Variety of religious, charitable and commercial interests will be allowed to run these schools. ]

Who will run 'trust' schools? BBC News, 10 March 2006

So which organisations were waiting in the wings to develop trust schools? At Downing Street this week, the prime minister produced four of them: the computer company, Microsoft; the accountancy firm, KPMG; the livery company, Mercers'; and the educational charity, Edge.

Monkseaton Community High in Whitley Bay intends to work with Microsoft Education UK, consultants Tribal Education and North Tyneside council. Its Innovation Trust will aim "to create, test and share new ways to improve the achievements, well-being and aspirations of all young people

'Innovation depends on disciplined thinking' Guardian, May 19 2006.

Sir Michael Barber Interview

First, though, teachers must start believing they are the masters of their own fate. "The classic mentality of people in education was summed up by Tory former education secretary Keith Joseph when he said the first words a baby learned in this country were: 'What's the government going to do about it?' The [teaching] profession has to get it into its mind that it is its own job to solve the problems of the education system."

Kinnock swipes at school reforms BBC News, 22 June 2006

Former Labour PM Kinnock said the government's plans to create "trust" schools with more independence would perpetuate social and education differences.

Your views on Blair on education BBC News, December 2006

BBC education correspondent Mike Baker discussed Tony Blair's record on education 10 years after coining his mantra "education, education, education". As usual, we invited your comments. Here is a selection from the range of views received:

Initiative after initiative, target after target. Outcome confused parents and demoralised staff. Local schools are now reverted back to programmes of work that government initiatives forced them to abandon seven years ago. The initiative change weekly with some Primary Schools having received over 200 directives in the last year. Teachers' jobs are being cut because schools are spending more on administration and target reporting. The only education secretary who had any understanding of education was Ms Morris who was effectively sacked for standing up to Blair. Other education secretaries would not get an interview if the applied for a job with a school. Paul Taylor, Ludlow - Shropshire

I am a secondary maths teacher in a department of capacity seven teachers. In the two years since I have been at the school at least 11 members of the department have left due to appalling behaviour and constant abuse (this figure excludes the constant stream of supply teachers). Four of these professionals have been formally signed off with stress (myself included). Teaching an effective lesson is literally impossible. Despite explicitly and forcefully raising my concerns with Ofsted inspectors in February, the situation was deemed "satisfactory" and all of the individual classroom teachers blamed for their "weak classroom management" by Ofsted and the senior leadership team. How is it possible to have any faith in this system?
Stephen Hewson (Dr.), Cambridge UK

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