Monthly Archives: September 2014

Friday Update – 26 September 2014

This week we highlight Ofsted’s announcement of a wave of no-notice inspections, provide a summary of the main points of the new Special Educational Needs system and find out about the levels at which GCSE grades will be set.

Ofsted has announced plans to conduct no-notice inspections of up to 40 schools across England. These no-notice inspections will target schools where there are concerns about rapidly declining standards, safeguarding and behaviour, leadership and governance, and the breadth and balance of the curriculum. They will be carried out under Ofsted’s existing powers. Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of Ofsted, said:

“I’m giving thought to whether Ofsted should move to more routine no-notice inspections as part of our wider education inspection reforms, which we will be consulting on later this year. In the meantime, under our regional structure, inspectors are well placed to use their local knowledge and contacts to identify where these sorts of problems may be taking hold so we can respond swiftly and report publicly on what we find.”

The main points of the new system that has been introduced from the start of this term are:

  • School action and school action plus are abolished.
  • Statements are replaced by Education and Health Care (EHC) plans, which cover from birth to age 25. However, existing statements do not disappear overnight but are to be phased out by April 2018.
  • Local authorities are responsible for bringing together education, health and social care agencies to assess whether a child needs an EHC plan.
  • Local authorities have to publish a Local Offer of the support available for children with SEN.
  • Parents or the young person must be consulted over what the plan will provide.
  • Parents and young people with an Education and Health Care plan may have the option of controlling its budget.

All schools, including academies, receive an element of SEN Additional Support Funding (ASF). They are expected to provide the first £6000 per annum per pupil with special needs out of this and their regular income. Local authorities continue to be required to fund pupils with a statement or an EHC plan.

Ofqual has announced the levels at which GCSE grades will be set when the new 9–1 range replaces the current A*–G one. Grades 9, 8 and 7 will replace grades A* and A, with only the top 20% of people in this band being graded 9. This will make the top grade harder to achieve, as last year in Maths 4.9% of entrants were awarded an A*, but had the new system applied only 2.9% would have got a grade 9.

The baseline for grade 4 will correspond to the baseline for grade C, and the top third of the C grade will combine with the bottom third of a B grade to constitute grade 5. However, it is this grade 5, not grade 4 that will be regarded as the “expected standard”.

The changes will be implemented for English and Maths in 2017 and other subjects the following year.

Friday update – 19 September 2014

This week we highlight the updated version of the Governors’ Handbook,  the revised Ofsted School Inspection Handbook that came into force this month, an updated version of the Department for Education’s Advice on Statutory Policies for Schools, and the announcement of the recruitment of 100 “exceptional school leaders” to support improvement in some of England’s most challenging schools.


The Department for Education produced a new edition of the Governors’ Handbook back in May and has now revised it again. A full “Summary of Changes” made in both the May and September editions is given in the appendix. It includes the following additions since May:

  • details of what it means for governors to set and safeguard an appropriate school ethos in keeping with fundamental British values
  • a new section on appointing a headteacher
  • additional text on the importance of appointing new governors with appropriate skills
  • updated information on the curriculum
  • links to advice on providing free school meals for children in the infant phase
  • text on proposed changes to the schools admission code

You will recall that this last point was featured in the 5 September update . The Handbook and its predecessor, the Guide to the Law, have previously confined themselves to current law and practice, as this is currently only a proposal it adds a news element to what has hitherto been a reference work.


In July Ofsted published a new edition of the School Inspection Handbook which became operative from the start of this term. It gives inspectors more guidance on the duties and responsibilities of governors (on pages 47–8) and in addition to the points listed in the
previous version about ethos, self-evaluation, performance management, challenge and finance, the new edition includes a requirement that inspectors should consider whether governors:

“ensure that they and the school promote tolerance of and respect for people of all faiths (or those of no faith), cultures and lifestyles; and support and help, through their words, actions and influence within the school and more widely in the community, to prepare children and young people positively for life in modern Britain.”

Some key points have been included in the section on governance that had previously been in the subsidiary guidance.  For example, inspectors will expect governing bodies to be transparent and accountable, including in terms of recruitment of staff, governance structures, attendance at meetings, and contact with parents and carers and that they not only provide challenge but “are providing support for an effective headteacher”.


The Department for Education (DfE) has published advice for school governing bodies to help them understand their statutory obligations and duties. It outlines the policies and other documents school governing bodies and proprietors of independent schools are legally required to hold.


The Department for Education (DfE) has announced the recruitment of 100 “exceptional school leaders” to support improvement in some of England’s most challenging schools. The initiative, called The Talented Leaders programme, will be run on behalf of the DfE by the Future Leaders Trust, a charity which supports leadership in challenging schools. The first cohort will be deployed in schools in north Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Bradford and Blackpool, with additional areas added in the following months.

Friday update – 12 September 2014

This week we highlight the updated version of the Department for Education’s Myths and Facts document on running schools, information on how an IT industry led network could help you set up Code Clubs in your schools, and news on a new Department for Education fund paying for a series of teacher-led training programmes to help support the teaching of foreign languages.


The document addresses some common misconceptions about the activities
schools are required to undertake.  It seeks to tackle both recurring myths and
new myths on changes happening during the 2014 to 2015 academic year.


One of the major changes in the new national curriculum to be implemented from this September is the shift from ICT to computing. Over the summer, the media reported concerns over the preparedness of schools and skills of teachers in relation to the new computing curriculum.

Industry leaders in the North East, have welcomed the change hoping that the introduction of coding this term and a focus on digital industries in the curriculum could help bridge this skills gap in the digital sector.

Dynamo North East, the IT industry led network, can help set up Code Clubs and link up schools with IT experts in the region who are keen to volunteer their time. The network reports that currently 32,000 people work in IT in the region with an estimated 2,000 vacancies needing to be filled.


From this week schools across England will teach the new, more challenging languages curriculum – including a new requirement for languages to be compulsory for children aged 7 to 11 years.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced on 9 September that the DfE was providing £1.8 million of government money to fund a series of new school-led programmes to provide thousands of teachers with extra training and support to improve the teaching of foreign languages.

Nine projects will work with more than 2,000 primary and secondary schools over the next 2 years across England. The projects will be focused on supporting teachers with the elements of the new curriculum that may be more challenging.

The Association for Language Learning was successful in being awarded £300,000 for its project which will work with 500 schools across the north east, east of England and the north Midlands. In each area the project will set up one regional centre and 10 local centres in strategically-located teaching schools to provide training and share best practice.


Friday update – 5 September 2014

Welcome back after the summer break. This week we highlight new Ofsted guidance on school inspections, a consultation on changes to the School Admissions Code, an evaluation of the effectiveness of the school exclusion trial at finding alternative provision for excluded pupils and information on national curriculum and assessment from this September.


In July, Ofsted revised its guidance on school inspections by combining all its guidance documents, including subsidiary guidance, into just three documents: The framework for school inspection; the School inspection handbook; and Inspecting safeguarding in maintained schools and academies. Although the content is largely rearranged, the revision does include some updates and substantive amendments, with key changes including:

  • a greater emphasis on actively promoting British values
  • advice for inspectors about judging how well schools track progress, following the removal of National Curriculum levels
  • specific reference to the governing board ensuring strategic direction through long-term planning, such as succession planning
  • schools with early years or sixth form provision will now receive separate numerical grades for these aspects of provision
  • inspectors are explicitly advised not to grade the quality of teaching and learning when observing lessons and not grade the overall quality of the lesson
  • inspectors will now look at how effective a school’s strategy for careers provision is and the impact it has on pupils’ next steps


On 22 July the Department for Education (DFE) launched a consultation on proposals to revise the School Admissions Code. The DfE has indicated its aim is to improve the fair and open allocation of places in maintained schools and academies, and to support social mobility by allowing admission authorities to give priority for school places to disadvantaged children.

It proposes making two main changes which would allow:

  • all state-funded schools to give priority in their admission arrangements to children eligible for pupil premium or service premium funding
  • admission authorities of primary schools to give priority in their admission arrangements to children eligible for the early years pupil premium, pupil premium or service premium who attend a nursery which is part of the school.

The results of the consultation and the Department’s response will be published on the GOV.UK website by the end of 2014.


The School Exclusion Trial has tested the benefits of schools having greater responsibility for meeting the needs of permanently excluded pupils and those at risk of permanent exclusion. This included schools having more responsibility for commissioning Alternative Provision (AP), and local authorities (LAs) passing on funding to schools for this purpose.  The trial started in autumn 2011 (with changes being implemented at different times since then) and ended in August 2014 with volunteer schools drawn from 11 LAs.

The evaluation assesses the issues emerging from the implementation of the trial and the impact it has had on pupils, schools, LAs and AP providers.


The Department for Education has released information for schools on the new national curriculum and assessment process from this September.  It includes information on a range of resources available to schools to support them implementing the new curriculum as well as summarising the key changes to curriculum tests and assessments.