Update – 20 June 2014

This week’s Update highlights the new set of standards for food served in schools, new guidance to help teachers to be confident in finding help for at-risk pupils and new standards for vocational qualifications that are on a par with GCSEs.

A new set of standards for all food served in schools was launched by Education Secretary Michael Gove on 17 June 2014. The new standards are designed to make it easier for school cooks to create imaginative, flexible and nutritious menus. All academies established prior to 2010 already have clauses in their funding agreement that require them to comply with the national standards for school food. The Department for Education has recently published revised funding agreements for new academies and free schools, which include the requirement to follow the school food standards and academies that were founded between 2010 and June 2014 have no such clause written in their agreement, but are being encouraged to sign up voluntarily to the national school food standards.

New guidance created by the Department for Education in consultation with headteachers, mental health professors and the Department of Health, is designed to ensure teachers are confident in finding help for at-risk pupils. The guidance outlines to schools that they could use pupil questionnaires, teacher training tool kits and mental health fact sheets to help identify potential issues. This means problems can be tackled before they become more serious, as well as helping schools know when to refer pupils to mental health experts, such as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

The government is introducing Technical Awards which have been developed in partnership with employers and have a higher requirement for external assessment. Pupils can study up to 3 Technical Awards alongside a minimum of 5 core GCSEs, which will ensure a strong grounding in core skills like English and Maths alongside vocational options. From September 2015, Technical Awards will be the first step on a new vocational route available to young people through from the ages of 14 to 19:

  • for 14- to 16-year-olds, pupils will be able to study Technical Awards alongside GCSEs;
  • for 16- to 19-year-olds, alongside or instead of A levels, students will be able to study Tech Levels -Tech Levels can be studied as part of the TechBacc, which also comprises an advanced maths qualification and extended research project.