Monthly Archives: October 2015

Friday Update – 23 October 2015

This week has seen the launch of the much anticipated Government consultation on proposals to intervene in under-performing maintained schools and views on a definition of what constitutes a ‘coasting school’. There have also been calls for national guidelines for Regional School Commissioners as well as having responsibility for smaller geographical areas.

CONSULTATION ON PROPOSALS TO INTERVENE IN UNDER-PERFORMING SCHOOLS AND AGREEMENT ON THE DEFINITION OF A ‘COASTING SCHOOL’
On Wednesday the Government launched its consultation on proposals for tackling maintained schools causing concern, including seeking views on a definition of what constitutes a ‘coasting’ school.

The consultation document sets out:

  • the background and context, including an overview of the changes being introduced in the Education and Adoption Bill;
  • that the Schools Causing Concern guidance will describe how Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) and local authorities should use their intervention powers in practice; and
  • how it is proposed that schools will be identified as coasting.

A school will only be identified as coasting in light of three years of results. This means in the first instance results from 2014, 2015, and 2016. RSCs will only be able to notify schools that they are coasting at the point of publication of performance tables reflecting final 2016 results and no school can be identified as coasting prior to that point.

According to the Government’s proposed definition, a coasting secondary school would be one that falls below 60% of pupils achieving five good GCSEs or an above average proportion of pupils making acceptable progress in 2014/5. From 2016, the level will be set based on Progress 8, the government’s new accountability measure, which shows how much progress pupils make between the end of primary school and their GCSEs.

At primary level, the definition will apply to those schools who have seen fewer than 85% of children achieving an acceptable secondary ready standard in reading, writing and maths over the course of three years, and insufficient pupil progress. If a school is below the 85% performance standard but above the progress standard, or vice versa, in any of the three years it will not be regarded as coasting.

Whether and when Special schools and Pupil Referral Units might be considered to be coasting is yet to be determined, and will be subject to responses to this consultation.

The deadline for responding is 18 December 2015 and you are encouraged to do this online by visiting http://www.education.gov.uk/consultations. If you are unable to do this you can download a word document and email it to intervention.consultation@education.gsi.gov.uk or post it to Nathan Hug System Reform Group, 3rd floor Department for Education Great Smith Street London, SW1P 3BT.

CONCERNS REGARDING THE WORK OF THE REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMISSIONERS
In the first of a series of hearings into the work of the Regional School Commissioners (RSCs), witnesses from across the schools sector on Wednesday told the Education Select Committee of differing approaches between the eight Commissioners appointed last September to oversee academy performance.

As previously reported the Government is planning to increase their powers to intervene in ‘failing’ and ‘coasting’ maintained schools, but concerns about their different approaches have been raised by many organisations. At present there are no national guidelines on the way Commissioners take decisions and witnesses reported a lack of shared practice for RSCs was leading to inconsistencies in the way they were holding schools to account. There was also concern expressed that the territories represented by each RSC were too large and that an increase in the number of Commissioners was required.

Friday Update – 16 October 2015

This week I provide some advice on how to recruit new Governors, report on the proposed right to request wraparound childcare provision from schools and a consultation on proposals for newly qualified Early Years staff to hold a Paediatric First Aid Certificate.

RECRUITING NEW GOVERNORS
It can sometimes be difficult to find new Governors and I am often asked where Governing bodies can go to for support. There are a number of routes available including registering with:

  • School Governors One Stop Shop (SGOSS) – an independent charity dedicated to recruiting volunteers to serve on school governing bodies across England.
  • Inspiring Governors Alliance – a wide range of organisations demonstrating their commitment to high quality school and college governance. The programme has thousands of employee volunteers with a wide range of skills and experience interested in becoming school governors.

Of course, your skills audits will help you to identify any gaps in expertise and determine how best to recruit. Some schools have also placed adverts in their local post office windows, approached local churches and voluntary organisations or contacted local chambers of trade to help fill gaps on their governing bodies.

NEW RIGHT TO REQUEST WRAPAROUND CHILDCARE PROVISION IN SCHOOLS
Addressing the Conservative party annual conference last week, the Secretary of State for Education, announced that parents would be given a new ‘right to request’ wraparound childcare provision from their children’s school.

Whilst full details weren’t provided Schools Week (newspaper for schools) had access to a briefing note for MPs indicating schools would be “expected” to allow childcare providers to use their sites outside school hours or at times when the sites were used for clubs or activities. A consultation is expected to take place this term to identify and provide models of schools and childcare providers already working together, so that the rule can come into force in September 2016.

CONSULTATION ON PROPOSALS FOR NEWLY QUALIFIED LEVEL 2 OR 3 EARLY YEARS STAFF TO HOLD A PAEDIATRIC FIRST AID CERTIFICATE
The Department of Education has reviewed the current paediatric first aid requirements and is now consulting on proposals for newly qualified level 2 or 3 early years staff to hold a paediatric first aid certificate.

Responses can be made online or via a response form emailed to Consultation.PFA@education.gsi.gov.uk or by post to Paul Oates, Childcare Providers and Regulation, Department for Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BT.

Friday Update – 9 October 2015

This week I highlight the Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference, the Government’s continued commitment to retain universal free school meals and news on the publication of a re-branded version of the Governor’s Handbook.

ALL SCHOOLS TO BECOME ACADEMIES!
On Wednesday, David Cameron caused a stir with his Leader’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester when he declared:

“Head teachers are growing in confidence as they throw off the shackles of local council control……raising the aspirations of children, parents, communities. This movement is sweeping across our country. So my next ambition is this. 500 new Free Schools. Every school an academy……and yes – Local Authorities running schools a thing of the past.”

Mr Cameron didn’t mention that currently decisions on academy conversion in schools performing well are taken by Governing bodies and not the Government.

UNIVERSAL INFANT FREE SCHOOL MEALS TO CONTINUE
Rumours that universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) are to be cut in the government’s November spending review have been dismissed by the Prime Minister. Mr Cameron restated a commitment the Conservative party made in their 2015 election manifesto, saying that the government was “committed to free school meals in England”.

NEW GOVERNANCE HANDBOOK
At yesterday’s National Co-ordinators of Governor Services Conference in Nottingham, it was announced that a re-branded version of the Governors’ Handbook – to be known as the Governance Handbook – is due out sometime in late October 2015.

Friday Update – 2 October 2015

This week I highlight preparations you can make for Ofsted inspection, publication of new Ofsted Inspection Dashboards, a reminder on the revised timetable for the consultation and determination of Admissions arrangements for 2017 and notification on updated guidance on handling complaints in schools.

ARE YOU OFSTED READY?
Is your school anticipating inspection this academic year and are you prepared for when the call comes? Have you identified a small number of Governors who will meet with the Inspection team and have you thought about what the inspectors might ask?

I reported on the new edition of the Ofsted Inspection Handbook in the first Friday Update this term and now draw your attention in particular to the section on governance (page 40, point 145):

‘Inspectors will consider whether Governors:

  • work effectively with leaders to communicate the vision, ethos and strategic direction of the school and develop a culture of ambition
  • provide a balance of challenge and support to leaders, understanding the strengths and areas needing improvement at the school
  • provide support for an effective headteacher or are hindering school improvement because of a lack of understanding of the issues facing the school
  • understand how the school makes decisions about teachers’ salary progression and performance
  • performance manage the headteacher rigorously
  • understand the impact of teaching, learning and assessment on the progress of pupils currently in the school
  • ensure that assessment information from leaders provides governors with sufficient and accurate information to ask probing questions about outcomes for pupils
  • ensure that the school’s finances are properly managed and can evaluate how the school is using the pupil premium and the primary PE and sport premium
  • are transparent and accountable, including in recruitment of staff, governance structures, attendance at meetings and contact with parents.’

NEW OFSTED INSPECTION DASHBOARDS
From a data perspective there are new Ofsted Inspection Dashboards now available to download from RAISEonline. These are different to the existing Ofsted School Data Dashboards, which show a brief overview of each school’s performance data and are publicly available on Ofsted’s website.

Each Inspection Dashboard is only accessible to the school it concerns. It’s primarily aimed at inspectors undertaking the new short inspections of ‘good’ schools, and features charts showing some of the headline data from RAISEonline. Whilst they only include 2014 data currently, they will be updated once the 2015 data is available and for primary schools this should be mid-October and for secondary schools the end of November.

REMINDER ABOUT THE TIMETABLE FOR ADMISSIONS AUTHORITIES TO CONSULT ON AND DETERMINE THEIR ADMISSION ARRANGEMENTS FOR 2017
When we determined Admissions arrangements for 2016, back in the Spring term last academic year, I advised that the timetable for consulting on and determining Admissions arrangements for 2017 had been brought forward as part of the new Admissions Code. I’ve been in touch with the LA’s Access Manager and she will be advising schools of the process for 2017 in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime key points to be aware of:

  • Admission authorities must consult when admission arrangements are changed or if they have not been consulted on within the last 7 years – the minimum consultation period is 6 weeks and should take place between 1 October and 31 January;
  • schools must determine their admission arrangements by 28 February (previously 15 April);
  • Admission authorities must send a copy of their determined admission arrangements to the LA by 15 March (previously 1 May);
  • the deadline for objections to the Schools Adjudicator is now 15 May (previously 30 June).

Depending on when your Governing body meetings are scheduled in the Spring term we may need to delegate the determination of your Admissions arrangements to your Admissions Committees.

NEW GUIDANCE ON HANDLING COMPLAINTS TO BE PUBLISHED
The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed it’s currently working on a toolkit on handling complaints in schools, which will include guidance on best practice. Whilst most of you will have already adopted the LA’s guidance it will be interesting to see what DfE has come up with in January 2016 when the toolkit is scheduled for publication.