Friday Catch Up – 16 May 2014

Regional School Commissioner for the North

As announced in Wednesday’s Education Select Committee Meeting on Academies and Free Schools, Janet Renou is the new Regional School Commissioner for the North.  Ms Renou is Head Teacher at Skipton Girls’ High School.  The meeting saw MPs quiz witnesses on the role of RSCs and how Head Teacher Boards would be constituted and you can find a written response from the DfE which provides more detail on the RSC role and the constitution of Head Teacher Boards here Written answer

Education Select Committee inquiry into PSHE and SRE

The House of Commons Education Select Committee has announced an inquiry into the Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationship Education (SRE). The committee are looking at four key questions:

  • whether PSHE ought to be statutory, either as part of the National Curriculum or through some other means of entitlement
  • whether the current accountability system is sufficient to ensure that schools focus on PSHE
  • the overall provision of Sex and Relationships Education in schools and the quality of its teaching, including in primary schools and academies
  • whether recent government steps to supplement the guidance on teaching about sex and relationships – including consent, abuse between teenagers, and cyber-bullying – are adequate
  • how the effectiveness of SRE should be measured

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) publishes report into free schools

Following an inquiry into the establishment of free schools, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its report, which includes a number of recommendations. At the time of writing, there were 174 free schools open, with over 100 more due to open in September. The Department for Education (DfE) has estimated that by March 2014 it will have spent £1.1bn on the free school programme of which £0.7bn was capital expenditure on buildings and land.

The report makes a number of recommendations, one of which specifically relates to oversight and governance. The report states “one of our primary concerns in relation to the implementation of this policy is that arrangements for the audit and governance of free schools are not yet effective.”  It noted that although there is a statutory requirement for free schools to submit audited accounts, for the last financial year available (2011-12), 56% did not submit their accounts to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) by the deadline.

The committee’s other recommendations relate to the capital costs of setting up new free schools; learning lessons from already open free schools about how many places will be filled in the first years after opening and more transparency from the DfE about how it ultimately decides which applications are approved.