Monthly Archives: July 2015

Friday Update – 17 July 2015

This is my final update of this academic year. Since September I’ve highlighted amongst other things, the launch of the new national curriculum, a new SEND Code of Practice and Progress 8 School Performance Measures, not to mention a new Conservative government, guidance on the promotion of British Values, revised guidance on the constitution of Governing bodies and the introduction of the new term “coasting schools”, it has certainly been an eventful year.

This week I highlight a paper from the Department for Education (DfE) regarding possible changes to Governing body constitution arrangements, the updated National Governors Association’s (NGA) Skills Audit and Matrix, the production of illustrative regulations on coasting schools and the announcement of a Special Needs expert to head up a review into assessment of pupils with lower attainment.

Have a restful summer break and I look forward to seeing you all again in the Autumn term.

ADVISORY GROUP ON GOVERNANCE DISCUSSION ON CONSTITUTION ARRANGEMENTS
Following the Secretary of State’s speech at the NGA’s summer conference, a paper was released from the DfE last week to members of its Advisory Group on Governance (AGOG) regarding possible changes to Governing body constitution arrangements.

“We want to start a discussion about moving away from prescribed categories of governor to give governing boards more freedom to constitute a board as they see fit to best deliver their non-executive strategic leadership role. It is only after informal discussions that we will look to initiate a formal public consultation”.

A specific discussion will take place at the AGOG meeting on 22 September 2015 to discuss initial views on a number of questions including:

  • the role that central government plays in putting parents, staff, headteachers and local authority governors on a board
  • the role and interests of foundations
  • how diverse the governing board is and the importance of elections
  • the constraints of current constitutional requirements
  • the identification and prescription of required skills

UPDATE TO NGA’S SKILLS AUDIT AND MATRIX
Late last week the NGA released an updated version of its widely used skills audit and matrix for governing boards. The 2015 skills audit has been improved with the advice of the RSA (the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce) to include skills commonly found in the creative industries. The NGA has also updated its skills matrix which gives an overview of the strengths and weaknesses across a governing board.

EDUCATION AND ADOPTION BILL: COASTING SCHOOLS – ILLUSTRATIVE REGULATIONS
Illustrative regulations have been prepared by the DfE to accompany the passage of the Education and Adoption Bill through Parliament.

SPECIAL NEEDS EXPERT TO HEAD REVIEW INTO ASSESSMENT OF PUPILS WITH LOWER ATTAINMENT
Ms Diane Rochford, Executive Headteacher of the John F Kennedy School, a leading special needs school in East London, will oversee a new review into how to assess accurately pupils with lower attainment.

It is estimated that there are more than 50,000 pupils whose ability falls below the standard required to take national curriculum tests. The review will consider how best to assess the attainment and progress of this group of pupils so that parents know how their children are doing and schools can be given appropriate credit for the work they do to support their pupils. They will consult widely with heads and teachers to find a solution for a comprehensive statutory assessment for these pupils.  The review will publish a final report by December 2015.

Friday Update – 10 July 2015

This week I highlight the publication of two reports on the impact of the pupil premium since it was introduced in 2011 and some research carried out the Scouting Association looking at children’s perceptions of their emotional and social skills and their attitudes towards opportunities for extra-curricular activities.

REPORTS ON THE IMPACT OF THE PUPIL PREMIUM
Two important reports have been recently released about the impact of the pupil premium since it was introduced in 2011. These reports, one from the Sutton Trust and the other from the National Audit Office (NAO), are useful in helping Governors to understand the current practical applications and challenges of the pupil premium.

RESEARCH ON CHILDREN’S PERCEPTIONS OF THEIR EMOTIONAL AND SOCIAL SKILLS AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS OPPORTUNITIES FOR EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Last week the Scouting Association published research which looked at children’s perceptions of their emotional and social skills and their attitudes towards opportunities for extra-curricular activities. Its report Learning by Doing revealed that many state-school children felt that they didn’t receive the same opportunities for ‘non-formal’ learning than those attending fee-paying schools. Furthermore, those children on free school meals (FSM) were less likely to participate in extra-curricular activities such as sporting, outdoor and volunteering and this in turn, was likely to impact on the attainment of such children.

Friday Update – 3 July 2015

This week I highlight the Education Secretary’s views on the stakeholder model of school governance, the Government’s definition of ‘coasting’ schools and the publication of new advice and guidance on protecting children from radicalisation.

POTENTIAL MOVE AWAY FROM THE STAKEHOLDER MODEL OF SCHOOL GOVERNANCE
On 27 June the Education Secretary addressed the National Governors’ Association Summer Conference and indicated she was looking at how the stakeholder model of school governance could be moved away from over this Parliament.

She acknowledged that schools needed to fully integrate with their local community, be responsive to parents, connect with, learning from and support other schools and that governors had a crucial role to play in ensuring their school was fully linked with the world outside. However, she didn’t believe the stakeholder model of school governance was necessarily the way to achieve this. What was most important wasn’t the particular group a governor represented, but the skills, expertise and wisdom they brought to the running of the school.

In many cases, schools were already benefiting from recruiting more governors from business backgrounds and over the next 5 years the Education Secretary believes the best run schools will be those with highly skilled governors who can both hold schools to account and direct their future path.  She stressed this was particularly important in the field of financial management – a core function of governing bodies with every governing body and every individual governor taking seriously their role in ensuring that schools remain financially healthy with robust management systems in place.

GOVERNMENT’S DEFINITION OF ‘COASTING’ SCHOOLS
The Education and Adoption Bill has already had its first and second readings in the Commons and the committee stage is expected to be completed no later than 14 July.  The term ‘coasting’ schools is not defined in the Bill but will be defined by regulations. At the end of June, Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, outlined what the standards will be as follows:

  • Secondary schools – in 2014 and 2015 the level will be set at 60% of pupils achieving 5 good grades in GCSE exams or an above average number of pupils making good progress. The current floor standard is 40% A*-Cs. From 2016, the level will be set based on Progress 8, the accountability measure which shows how much progress pupils in a particular school make between the end of primary school and their GCSEs.
  • Primary schools – using current attainment criteria 85% of pupils should reach an acceptable secondary-ready standard (Level 4) in reading, writing and maths over the course of 3 years, and an average or higher than average proportion be making expected progress.

Schools eligible for intervention will be those which fall below the new ‘coasting’ level for 3 years. They will be required to submit improvement plans to Regional Schools Commissioners. If they are judged to be credible they will receive support; if not, inadequate maintained schools will be converted into academies, while academies are likely to be given new sponsors. The Government expects the measure to create 1000 new academies during the lifetime of this parliament.

ADVICE TO CLARIFY SCHOOLS AND CHILDCARE PROVIDERS’ ROLE UNDER THE NEW ‘PREVENT DUTY’
This week new advice and social media guidance was issued to schools and childcare providers to help them keep children safe from the risk of radicalisation and extremism.  The Government believes building resilience of young people and the promotion of fundamental British values is at the heart of preventing radicalisation. Schools could do this by providing safe places in which children can discuss controversial issues, and be given the knowledge and confidence to challenge extremist beliefs and ideologies.

The advice has been published to coincide with the new prevent duty, introduced as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which legally requires a range of organisations including schools, local authorities, prisons, police and health bodies to take steps to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.