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.