Monthly Archives: May 2015

Friday Update – 22 May 2015

This week I highlight an Ofsted report into A level uptake and retention rates in 2013/14, the release of statistics for young people not in education, employment or training, the latest data from the DfE on the number of Statements of SEN and EHC Plans in place and support being offered to help schools increase take-up of school meals.

Ofsted recently published a short report about the uptake of A-level subjects in 2013/14. It highlighted which subjects were the most popular and provided a breakdown of the male to female ratio for each AS and A-level. It also outlined the retention rate of students who moved from AS to A-level in each subject.

The report was compiled as a follow up to a previous report ‘Maintaining Curiosity’ which, as one of its recommendations, outlined that secondary schools should ‘monitor and evaluate the progression of different groups of pupils and their continuation to science-related pathways in education, employment or training, against the national proportions for those groups’. The new report publishes information to allow schools to make those comparisons.

Official figures released yesterday show that the proportion of 16 to 24 year olds recorded as NEET in January to March 2015 fell annually and is now at the lowest comparable rate since records began in 2001. Now more than nine in ten 16-17 year olds are participating in education or training. This trend continues for 19 to 24 year olds who are NEET with the lowest comparable rate in 10 years.

The Department for Education has this week published data from the annual SEN2 data return, which is mandatory for local authorities to complete. The return is the only source of data to report on all statements of SEN and EHC plans maintained by individual local authorities. The data indicated there were:

  • 4,205 statutory Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans in place on 15 January 2015
  • 235,980 statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) in place on 15 January 2015
  • 1,360 new EHC plans issued between 1 September and 31 December 2014
  • 25,780 new statements of SEN issued between 1 January and 31 December 2014
  • 2,765 EHC plans transferred from statements of SEN or Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs).

The DfE is offering free support to schools to help them increase the take-up of school meals. Make School Meals Count, a scheme being administered by The Children’s Food Trust provides schools with bespoke training, support and materials to help them develop ways of encouraging more pupils to take up school meals. To benefit schools must apply by the end of May. From September this year Ofsted will look at the meals provided by schools as part of its assessment of how they encourage pupils to adopt healthy lifestyles.

Friday Update – 15 May 2015

This week I take a look at the impact of the election results on education and the promotion of British Values with the introduction of the new Counter Terrorism Security Act 2015 which comes into force on 1 July.

In the aftermath of the election even though the Prime Minister remains the same, we have a new majority Conservative Government, so questions about the future of education are inevitable. The Conservatives education pledges from their election manifesto included:

  • the academisation of all failing or coasting secondary schools
  • more free schools (with 500 already planned)
  • compulsory GCSEs in English, Maths, Science, a language and History /Geography for secondary school pupils (schools that fail to offer this will only be able to receive ‘good’ as their highest possible Ofsted rating)
  • every pupil should know their times tables by heart, be able to read a book and write a short story with accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar by the age of 11

Nicky Morgan continues to serve in her Cabinet role, having been the Education Secretary for the past 10 months. Tristram Hunt is the new Shadow Education Secretary, Nick Gibb retains his role as Minister of State for School Reform, as well as Sam Gyimah who retains his place in the Department as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Education, so the education scene at Westminster has not suffered a dramatic change following the results.

All schools have a duty to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and promote spiritual, moral, social and cultural education (SMSC), which should include promotion of British values. The promotion of British values is a requirement for academies. As of 1 July 2015, the new Counter Terrorism Security Act 2015 means that governors must also ‘have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’.

Governing bodies should, however, deal with the threat of extremism in their school proportionately and appropriately. Indeed, Prevent Duty guidance published by the Home Office in March states schools should incorporate the threat of extremism into wider safeguarding policies. The guidance largely limits itself to setting out the extent of the legal duty, rather than providing any ‘how to’ examples. There is no requirement for Governing bodies to appoint specific link governors for preventing extremism in schools or for governors to raise the issue outside of a safeguarding context.

Friday Update – 8 May 2015

As we all now know David Cameron has returned to Downing Street with the Conservatives having won the general election.  Writing in The Telegraph just before the election Mr Cameron promised to put an education bill before the House of Commons within 100 days of a new Conservative government.  We will have to wait to see who the new Education Minister will be in the coming days.  In the meantime I have detailed below a couple of items of interest that have been publicised over the last week.

This is a new England-wide initiative run jointly by the Carers Trust and The Children’s Society Young Carers in Focus partners that equips schools to support young carers and awards good practice. The initiative is funded by The Queen’s Trust and The Big Lottery Fund.

Cambridge Assessments (an exam board) has suggested that schools should be judged on their performance over five years instead of one. The announcement comes on the back of its report Volatility in Exam Results which found that schools are often faced with unexplained significant changes in exam results from one year to the next, even after adjusting results to take account of external factors such as the reliability of marking.

The report did not explore the reasons for such volatility at school level, but responding to the study Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessments, said that it was sufficiently significant to suggest that schools should be judged over a five year period, rather than one.

Friday Update – 1 May 2015

As you are all aware by going into election purdah, there have not been many releases from the Government, however I have highlighted some links and documents below which you might find helpful in your role as Governor.

A multi-agency resource was recently published to improve the effectiveness of school governance. ‘What Governing Boards Should Expect From School Leaders And What School Leaders Should Expect From Governing Boards’ is designed to encourage mutual support and respect among school leaders and Governors.

The National Governors’ Association (NGA), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the Local Government Association (LGA) have jointly developed the resource, originally released in 2008, to address the changed role of school governance and the challenges this presents.

Some of the expectations this document makes clear are that while Governors must have the confidence to have courageous conversations, in turn, school leaders must be willing to be challenged. Also while Governors must be knowledgeable about the school, including its pupils, staff and community, in turn, school leaders must provide information to them in the appropriate way.

Research from Fit for Sport has shown that high numbers of primary school children are below the recommended level of fitness. From an analysis of 10,000 children, from across 80 different schools, the researchers pulled together the results from their ‘Activity Challenge’ which consisted of three timed activity challenges. These focused on hand/eye and physical coordination, muscular/cardio-vascular endurance and simple catching, jumping and running activities. The findings indicated that:

  • 67% of children did not meet the recommended fitness levels for their age group
  • 24% were well below the recommended fitness levels for their age group
  • less than 20% of children reached their age-related targets in stamina and endurance
  • 40% of 5-7 year olds struggled to do 60 start jumps in 60 seconds
  • only 16% of girls and 21% of boys get the recommended levels of physical activity per week

Social mobility think-tank the Sutton Trust has released a map showing the levels of social mobility in parliamentary constituencies across the country. The map is based on data from five measures:

  • performance of disadvantaged pupils in early years test
  • performance of disadvantaged pupils in Key Stage 2 tests
  • performance of disadvantaged pupils at GCSE
  • progress of non-privileged/disadvantaged pupils to universities
  • progress of non-privileged graduates to professional occupations

The mobility map itself does not include any insight into why certain constituencies have higher social mobility than others, although, the Sutton Trust’s Director of Research and Communications, links the findings to existing evidence. He identifies quality of teaching as being the fundamental issue and suggests high quality professional development could make a substantial difference to school standards.