Education White Paper - key points

24 Nov 2010

The education White Paper - 'The Importance of Teaching'  - brings together a raft of announcements that have mostly already been made over the past few months. However it has some interesting new things to say, particularly on teacher training, and quite a bit of new detail.

An analysis will follow on this blog (and my analysis piece on the teacher training reforms will be on the BBC website tomorrow)  but - for now - here is a summary of the key points.

Education Secretary's introduction:   

 "We know that nothing matters more in improving education than giving every child access to the best possible teaching. There is no calling more noble, no profession more vital and no service more important than teaching. It is because we believe in the importance of teaching – as the means by which we liberate every child to become the adult they aspire to be – that this White Paper has been written. The importance of teaching cannot be over-stated'.

Teacher Training:

  • Raise the bar for entry to PGCE teacher training by ceasing to provide Department for Education funding for applicants who do not hold at least a 2:2 degree or equivalent from September 2012.

  • Review the operation of the current ‘basic skills’ tests of literacy and numeracy which teachers are required to pass before they can practice. We will make sure student teachers take the test at the start rather than the end of the course, reduce the scope for retaking, and strengthen the rigour of the tests to ensure they set a high enough standard.

  • Highly effective models of teacher training (including those of Finland, Singapore, Teach First and Teach for America) systematically use assessments of aptitude, personality and resilience as part of the candidate selection process. We are trialling such assessments and, subject to evaluation, plan to make them part of the selection process for teacher training.

  • Provide funding to more than double the size of Teach First from 560 new teachers to 1,140 each year by the end of this Parliament. This will include extending it across the country, and into primary schools.

  • Teach Next will seek to draw in talented professionals with similarly strong academic records and interpersonal skills to those on Teach First, and with experience of the world of work. It will provide an accelerated route to leadership, will begin recruiting in 2011, and by September 2013 will have trained and placed around 200 highly talented career changers.

  • Encourage Armed Forces leavers to become teachers, by developing a ‘Troops to Teachers’ programme which will sponsor service leavers to train as teachers. We will pay tuition fees for PGCEs for eligible graduates leaving the Armed Forces and work with universities to explore the possibility of establishing a bespoke compressed undergraduate route into teaching targeted at Armed Forces leavers who have the relevant experience and skills but may lack degree level qualifications.

  • Explore how we might pay off the student loans of high-performing graduates in shortage subjects who wish to enter teaching. Incentives could be tailored to offer more to graduates with good degrees and to those who would teach shortage subjects.

  • Examine how to provide scholarships through university for capable students who commit to entering teaching after graduation. Online educational institutions, such as Everest University online, can help circumvent the high cost of university learning.

National Curriculum:

  • A tighter, more rigorous, model of the knowledge which every child should expect to master in core subjects at every key stage.

  • Ensure support available to every school for the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics, as the best method for teaching reading;

  • Introduce the English Baccalaureate to encourage schools to offer a broad set of academic subjects to age 16, whether or not students then go down an academic or vocational route.


  • National testing: at age 6, a simple test of pupils’ ability to decode words; at 11, as pupils complete primary education; and at 16 as pupils complete compulsory schooling.

  • Explore where linear A-levels can be adapted to provide the depth of synoptic learning which the best universities value.

  • Ask Ofqual to change the rules on GCSE and A-level re-sits to prevent students from re-sitting large numbers of units.

  • Ask Ofqual to consider how best to reform GCSEs so that exams are typically taken only at the end of the course.

  • Ask Ofqual to advise on how mark schemes could take greater account of the importance of spelling, punctuation and grammar for examinations in all subjects.

Accountability/League Tables: 

  • Reform performance tables so that they set out our high expectations – every pupil should have a broad education (the English Baccalaureate), a firm grip of the basics and be making progress;

  • Institute a new measure of how well deprived pupils do and introduce a measure of how young people do when they leave school;

  • Establish a new ‘floor standard’ for primary and secondary schools, which sets an escalating minimum expectation for attainment. 


  • Consult on developing and introducing a clear, transparent and fairer national funding formula based on the needs of pupils, to work alongside the Pupil Premium;

  • End the disparity in funding for 16–18 year-olds, so that schools and colleges are funded at the same levels as one another. 


  • Increase the authority of teachers to discipline pupils by strengthening their powers to search pupils, issue detentions and use force where necessary.

  • Support teachers to challenge behaviour by legislating to grant them anonymity when accused by pupils and speeding up investigations (In the Commons, Gove said anonymity would be up to the point of a teacher being charged).

  • Strengthen head teachers’ authority to maintain discipline beyond the school gates and improve exclusion processes.

  • Change the current system of independent appeal panels for exclusions so that they take less time and ensure that pupils who have committed a serious offence cannot be re-instated (N.B.The election  promise to abolish appeals panels seems to have been dropped).

  • Ensure that all children being educated in alternative provision get a full-time education.

  • Improve the quality of alternative provision by giving existing providers more autonomy and encouraging new providers – including new alternative provision Free Schools.

  • Pilot a new approach to permanent exclusions where schools have the power, money and responsibility to secure alternative provision for excluded pupils.

User Comments

Iftikhar Ahmad - 24 Nov 2010

Free Our Schools

Almost all children now believe they go to school to pass exams. The idea that they may be there for an education is irrelevant. State schools have become exam factories, interested only in A to C Grades. They do not educate children. Exam results do not reflect a candidate’s innate ability.

Andrew Newell - 24 Nov 2010

Response to the whitepaper

The extent to which this whitepaper draws on the 2007 McKinsey and Co report “How the World’s Top Performing School Systems Come Out on Top” is extraordinary. The report had 3 key recommendations:

• Getting the right people to become teachers
• Developing these teachers into effective instructors
• Ensuring the ‘system’ is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child

It would be fair to say that the whitepaper is very much focused around these objectives.

The most welcome aspect of this whitepaper is the emphasis it places on supporting teachers to improve educational outcomes. We have long believed that teachers are the most important part of the education system.

This is the provocative question we ask...

“Would you prefer children to be educated in a brand new state of the art BSF School by an adequate teacher, or a 1960’s classroom with only a chalkboard and an extraordinary teacher?”

The development of teaching schools is definitely a step in the right direction. It is only through firsthand experience of teaching that trainees can fuse theory and practice, but if this embedded model is going to work, we believe lesson observation, collaboration and easy communication within a network of schools has to be at the core of this new system.

For this model to be truly scalable we believe it needs to be technology enabled.

Please click to find out more

Paddy O'Dea - 24 Nov 2010

New alternative provision ... including free school-type alternative provision...

A tad anxious that this might open the door to all kinds of mad cap bootcamp type of free schools... BUT it could, if people seize the opportunity, open the way for those who have already run successful extended services aimed at improving behaviour, attendance and attainment among young people who are on the brink of being excluded, to set up and run excellent alternative provision 'free schools'. Just an idea...

Paul - 24 Nov 2010

White Paper

Current PGCE courses spend about 65% of their time in schools - they gain this "fusion of theory and practice" and all their tutors are or have been excellent teachers. The "training hospital" model is in many ways how the PGCE system already works.

A student - 24 Nov 2010

RE: Free Our Schools

Speaking as a student of a state school, I can tell you that we are pushed to reach our full potential.
I can also tell you that very little of what we are taught is instantly forgotten after the exam.

Pascale Scheurer - 24 Nov 2010

New alternative provision and Free Schools

Paddy - this is exactly what we are trying to achieve with a new Free School in Hackney. We have worked for many years with very successful leaders of alternative provision, for whom innovation is a given. These are provisions with 80-100% success at getting excluded or at-risk children successfully reengaged with their schooling - quite extraordinary. We are therefore interested in how the learning from the 'behaviour front line' can feed back into so-called mainstream schools (which it does already in many Boroughs) through strong partnerships as well as sharing methods, and tailored ICT support.

Elaine Hendry - 25 Nov 2010

Teaching Schools and Funding Agencies

I've never been in a teaching hospital, but - if the Carry On films were to be believed! - you get gangs of raw recruits trailing round after a 'guru', having questions fired at them while hapless patients look on.

I'm sure this isn't how the model will transfer to Teaching Schools, but I'm not clear how these schools will absorb large numbers of trainees and give them the experience and support they need without damaging the experience of the young people. There is no mention of extra resources being put their way.

I'm also confused about how the Education Funding Agency will be any different to the Young People's Learning Agency, as it appears to have the same remit. Can anybody shed any light?

Dr John Steers, NSEAD - 25 Nov 2010

Arts and Creativity

'It is quite extraordinary that given the importance of the creative industries to the British economy - importance acknowledged by the DCMS -that the White Paper makes only one passing reference to the 'visual arts' and no mention at all of Art & Design or Design and Technology. This despite the DCMS's own figures showing that the creative sector is roughly equal to financial services in terms of GDP - and they certainly cause a whole lot less trouble! Having heard ED Vaizey at the Cultural Learning Alliance event on Tuesday, I'm sure it will be noticed that the principal references to 'culture' are in the context or 'respect' and 'behaviour'. A single paragraph suggests that 'Children should expect to be given a rich menu of cultural experiences' and by implication this would be achieved through a programme of school visits. There is no requirement to provide this and the inherent message seems to be that creativity and culture are of little importance in a twenty-first century curriculum.'

Leon Cych - 25 Nov 2010


I could comment on almost any aspect of the White Paper but I am particularly concerned about the Phonics "check". Phonics are flagged up - misleadingly - in the White Paper as the only way to teach reading - their use is not contextualised. Basically my problem with yet another "test", as the papers are already calling it, is that it is a "summative" benchmark of how literate or illiterate a child is. The government already know by postcode and free school meals data what level a lot of these children will reach before they step in the school door at 4. This is merely a smokescreen to pretend to garner a very narrow set of metrics to show they are doing something. What, in fact, needs to be done, is a whole raft of early reading measures from birth - breakfast reading clubs for babies, books and storytelling for the community and a lot more. Funding for this would indeed solve the literacy levels of ALL children. Unfortunately it is much easier and cheaper to bring in a "summative" one off phonics "check" than pay for all these tried and tested strategies. This is a diversion of the worst possible kind and is a waste of time and money that could be given to people to effect REAL change not just after the horse has bolted number crunching. I do not think people should be hoodwinked by this measure and Mr Gove should be cross questioned on this by all interviewers in the media.

Leon Cych - 26 Nov 2010

White Paper Annotation

Mike - people might like to read and annotate the White Paper here:

There are some interesting comments there...

Ben Morris - 28 Nov 2010

primary teacher

The best thing I have seen recently is an article in the TES which says that the best schools are the ones that ignore government initiatives. Most of us will be doing our utmost to achieve excellence in this tried and tested manner. The real issue for us is going to be the spending cuts, which will make all the "teaching matters" rhetoric irrelevant. Many teachers are already at breaking point with the insane bullying "floor targets" regime imposed by Balls, which gives NO allowance for social context. Notching it up a level will lead to total breakdown of relationships between staff and management in many schools. Expect anti-bullying strikes, many heads being pushed into breakdowns, and severe recruitment problems hampering efforts to improve (or even hold things toghether) schools in poorer areas. To be fair, how could a man like Gove be expected to understand schools in the real world. He's never been anywhere near it..

Elaine Hendry - 29 Nov 2010

Executive Agencies

DfE will be going from 0 executive agencies to 3, according to the White Paper (the National College, the TDA and the replacement for the QCDA). Is this cost-cutting pragmatism or an extreme case of centralisation?

Suffolk Science Teacher - 29 Nov 2010


I agree that the plans will churn out top quality teachers, but it will also result in an even greater shortage of quality staff than already exists.

The idea of "teaching schools" will prevent married people, tied to their family's location, from taking up the profession, and people burdened with student loans will not be able to afford even more house-moves.

There are three things we need to be good teachers:

1. More realistic targets with less administration required to track them.

2. More non-teaching time to keep up with the admin, tracking, marking, planning, training ...

3. Respect.

Of course, we will never get these

1. If they make the targets realistic, they will not have the excuses to keep adopting "improvements" which also happen to save money (our local authority [Suffolk] is closing all the Middle schools, allegedly to improve standards, but they have already admitted that it was really to save money - after July, two thirds of the staff in my school [including me] will be made redundant as the pupils are crammed into over-large classes in an under-resourced high school).

2. Requires more teachers, when there is already a shortage.

3. We haven't had the respect of government or public for years - empty words from the front benches won't change that (and the media doesn't help, only reporting on poor examples, and showing unrealistic rubbish like Waterloo Road).

Dave (ex PGCSE student) - 29 Nov 2010


The BEST teachers when I was a pupil were those that had real life experience - they knew the equipment, where to take pupils for visits and real life examples of how and where the knowledge could be used. Theory is great but it isn't anything useful compared to real life.
The best teachers also tend to be those that are enthusiastic, do things outside of the classroom and realise that a 9-4 job with huge amounts of time off and long holidays may seem stressful but is nothing compared to the 8-7 5.5 day a week, 2 weeks hols a year real life experience outside. I know teachers do marking and prep work when they are at home - I also do work things outside of my nominal working hours, most of those though have to be done in a dark office with no one else around and my dinner getting cold in the microwave.

Ges Cocker - 12 Dec 2010

Educational white paper-key points

Sadly having read the current white paper not only do I fear we are heading into a black hole regarding vocational courses but equally there is no mention of the future for Design Technology and the other creative subjects within the new vision.
I know from prior experience that these omissions are not always intentional but many head teachers and leadership teams that I have spoken to see this omission as a chance to reduce or even get rid of the subjects. Their reason being cost savings, which I am sure is not the intention of the government!, and the plans are already being discussed with this in mind.
As the STEM agenda, healthy lifestyles and diet, our ability to tackle issues such as climate change, develop energy efficient products and a sustainable income source would surely be high on the governments list of long term planning. I am worried that the desire to make everyone an academic is being bulldozed through at the expense of our ability to produce the next generation of Jonathan Ives and James Dysons through the only subjects in the curriculum that truly teach the next generation about the application of problem solving skills, knowledge and theory. It was once coined by Zanussi as " the appliance of science". The current version seems to be "let someone else apply it hopefully we might be able to fund some of it but that depends on the bankers leaving enough in the pot to finance it"

Philip Nash - 18 Apr 2011

Education White paper

Really good education needs flexibility and high quality management. These can only be achieved by well led enthusiastic teachers who feel involved. One of the most recent dysfunctional developments has been the creation of senior management teams. This reflects the view that schools are businesses rather than the reality that they are communities where the objective is education and encouraging children and young people to take up life long learning as an attitude to life.

LB Head - 21 Apr 2012

Education White Paper SMT response

I agree that really good education needs flexibility - indeed versatility and high quality management. But... to suggest that the development of Senior Management Teams has created dysfunctionality is naive. As a serving head it is imperative to have the best teachers on your Leadership team and if the team has these teachers its core aims will be the best possible pupil outcomes. Of course it also requires good governance which may also be part of the remit of the school development plan, led by an inspiring headteacher. The challenge is to deliver these outcomes with very limited budgets and often inherited staff that aren't as committed to pupil outcomes as the leadership team. (I have a Senior Leadership Team rather than a management team as Leadership is my principal aim).

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