This week the DfE published the new Governance Handbook, an essential reference for all Governors and the Chancellor announced the Spending Review and Autumn Statement which included details of the DfE’s budget over the course of this Parliament.
The Governors’ Handbook has been re-named the Governance Handbook to make clear that it applies to all those involved in governance. It now refers throughout to the ‘board’ to emphasise that it applies equally to the governing body of a small maintained school as it does to the board of a large MAT.
The Governance Handbook is departmental advice from the Department for Education. It sets out the government’s vision and priorities for effective school governance, and:
- outlines the core role and functions of the board of governors in maintained schools and academies;
- summarises and provides a first point of reference on all the legal duties on boards, signposting to more detailed information, guidance and resources; and
- provides information on the support available to boards to be effective.
It has been brought up to date with reference to the Prevent duty and tackling extremism as well as the new requirement for maintained schools to publish information on their Governing boards.
IMPACT OF SPENDING REVIEW AND AUTUMN STATEMENT FOR EDUCATION
This week the Spending Review and Autumn Statement was published including details of the Department for Education’s budget. Over the course of this Parliament this means:
- doubling free childcare from 15 hours to 30 hours a week for working families of 3 and 4 year olds;
- protecting the schools budget in real terms, enabling a per pupil protection for the dedicated schools grant and the pupil premium;
- making around £600 million savings from the education services grant (ESG) and supporting schools to realise efficiencies;
- £23 billion capital investment over the Parliament to open 500 free schools, provide over 600,000 additional school places, rebuild and refurbish over 500 schools and address essential maintenance needs.
This week I report on a new enquiry into governor effectiveness and a study to determine the quality of governance in schools, a proposal for an amendment to the Education and Adoption Bill to enable schools to sponsor a failing school without converting to academy status and new non statutory DfE advice for schools considering cloud software services.
OFSTED LAUNCHES ENQUIRY INTO GOVERNOR EFFECTIVENESS
Yesterday, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector announced that Ofsted had drafted in “outside experts” to carry out “urgent” external reviews of governance in over 500 schools last year. Inspectors had now been commissioned to carry out an “in-depth and far-reaching survey into the effectiveness of governance in our schools”.
The National Governors’ Association has questioned the suitability of the inspectorate to undertake the review and last week Schools Week revealed that the Department for Education was planning a study to examine whether the quality of governance in schools could be monitored using performance metrics.
EDUCATION AND ADOPTION BILL PROVOKES DISCUSSION IN THE LORDS
The Education and Adoption Bill 2015 is currently being considered by a Grand Committee of the House of Lords. The Local Government Association (LGA) has lobbied for an amendment giving maintained schools or local authorities the option to sponsor a failing school, as there are a lack of academy sponsors available to take on new schools. Currently, schools have to convert to academy status and apply to become a sponsor before they can sponsor another school.
This issue has been raised by the National Governors Association and others throughout discussion of the Bill and as part of the inquiry into the role of regional schools commissioners. The government has stated it anticipates more high performing schools establishing local multi-academy trusts (MATs) to take on failing or struggling schools in their area.
DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION ADVICE ON DATA PROTECTION FOR SCHOOLS CONSIDERING CLOUD SOFTWARE SERVICES
New non statutory advice has been produced by the DfE to assist schools in complying with the law outlining how schools need to consider data security when moving services and sensitive information to internet-based facilities of cloud computing (‘the cloud’).
This week I publicise the new legal duty for teachers to report any cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FBM) to the police and consultation on the English Baccalaureate.
MANDATORY REPORTING OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM) COMES INTO FORCE
From 31 October 2015, teachers now have a legal duty to report any cases of FGM, to the police. In a change to the FGM Act 2003, they will have to report any ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s. ‘Known’ is defined as where a girl informs them that this has taken place, or physical signs appear that do not seem to be from any surgical procedures.
Governing bodies have to ensure that senior leaders have introduced procedures for identifying, and reporting FGM, and that they will monitor those procedures to ensure they are understood and effective. You may wish to check with your Safeguarding/Health and Safety Committees that this item is being discussed.
CONSULTATION ON ENGLISH BACCALAUREATE
The DfE is currently holding a stakeholder consultation on how to get at least 90% of pupils to take GCSEs in the EBaccalaureate (Ebacc) subjects i.e. Maths, English, Science, a foreign language, and either History or Geography. In 2010, fewer than a quarter of pupils (22%) entered this combination of subjects; it is now 39%. The Government wants the EBacc to become the default for pupils, with the exception of a small minority of pupils for whom it is not appropriate. The expectation will be that the 90% mark will be hit by the time that this years’ Year 7 cohort reaches year 11.
Governors are welcome to participate in the consultation which continues until 29 January 2016.
This week has seen the announcement of the re-introduction of formal testing for 7 year olds, plans for a technical and professional education system, the publication of a new DfE report on the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and the creation of a new National Teaching Service.
PLANS FOR THE RE-INTRODUCTION OF KS1 NATIONAL TESTS
On 3 November the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced controversial plans for the re-introduction of formal SAT examinations for 7 year olds. The Department for Education has said these plans were triggered by a need for more confidence in knowing that students are progressing well through primary school. The Government has said it will be working with Headteachers in the following months to ensure clarity, while holding schools to account and also giving them “full credit for the progress they achieve”.
PLANS FOR A TECHNICAL AND PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION SYSTEM
Yesterday the Skills Minister Nick Boles announced plans for up to 20 specific new professional and technical routes leading up to employment or degree-level study, which will be as easy to understand as academic routes.
These new routes will lead young people from compulsory schooling into employment and the highest levels of technical competence, which for many will mean moving on to apprenticeships as quickly as possible. The government has pledged to deliver 3 million quality apprenticeship starts by 2020.
To deliver the reforms, the government will work closely with an independent expert panel, headed by Lord Sainsbury, former Minister of Science and Innovation.
SUPPORTING THE ATTAINMENT OF DISADVANTAGED PUPILS
On Saturday 17 October I attended the NGA’s Northern Regional Conference and we heard from Professor Steven Higgins of Durham University on his research around pupil premium. The formal report has now been published by the DfE and the findings suggest that schools which have been more successful in raising the performance of disadvantaged pupils have put the basics in place (especially addressing attendance and behaviour, setting high expectations, focusing on the quality of teaching and developing the role of TAs) and have moved on to more specific improvement strategies.
CREATION OF A NEW NATIONAL TEACHING SERVICE
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan also unveiled plans this week to create a National Teaching Service (NTS) which will deploy the country’s teaching elite to work in underperforming schools. A pilot of the service has been launched in the North West to recruit 100 teachers and leaders to start work in primary and secondary schools from September 2016.