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.

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.

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.

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.