Seismic change in education landscape – 18 March 2016

Given the Chancellor’s Budget on Wednesday and the publication of the Education White Paper yesterday, this week I am focusing on the impact these fundamental changes will have on schools and their Governing bodies.

I have no doubt in Governing body meetings over the next 12 months we will be formulating plans to ensure the best outcomes for our children and young people whilst we get to grips with the changes we will need to make.

On Wednesday the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced the 2016 budget with headlines including:

  • all schools to be in the process of, or have already become academies by 2020;
  • from April 2017 there would be a new national funding formula;
  • £20 million a year of additional money available for schools in the North of England, as part of its Northern Powerhouse Initiative;
  • from September 2017, 25% of secondary schools to be able to opt-in for a longer school day to offer an extra 5 hours of teaching or extra-curricular activities with potential funding to pay for this;
  • from 2017 funding for the Primary schools’ sports premium doubled to £320 million a year, paid for through a levy (the ‘sugar tax’) on soft drinks companies.

Yesterday the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, laid out plans for an overhaul of the education sector with the publication of the White Paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ which will see significant changes to structure, training, support and development over the course of this Parliament.  The White Paper sets out 7 elements which the Government believes will deliver educational excellence across England and the key headlines for Governors are:

  • A move to make all schools academies or in the process of conversion by 2020 as well as plans to force schools to become academies in local authority areas that are under-performing or where the LA no longer has capacity to maintain its schools. Whilst there will be a continued push to get schools joining/forming multi-academy trusts successful, sustainable schools will still be able to continue as Single Academy Trusts.
  • Development of a new competency framework defining the core skills and knowledge needed for governance in different contexts and establishing a new database of everyone involved in governance.
  • All governing boards are expected to focus on seeking people with the right skills for governance so academy trusts will no longer be required to reserve places for elected parents. This will be offered to all open and new academies.
  • Three clearly defined core functions for LAs – (1) ensuring every child has a school place; (2) ensuring the needs of vulnerable pupils are met and (3) acting as champions for all parents and families. Shifting responsibility for school improvement from LAs with a new means to broker support and an increased focus on teaching schools, National Leaders of Education (LNEs) and other system leaders to spread expertise and best practice.
  • Consulting on making the school admissions system simpler and clearer including requiring LAs to co-ordinate in-year admissions and handling the administration of an independent admission appeals function.
  • Setting up a new online Parent Portal containing information about the school system and how to support their child; guidance for parents and pupils on complaints, making it simpler to escalate complaints beyond the governing board to the DfE, and up to a public service ombudsman.
  • Creating ‘Achieving Excellence Areas’ with a focus on areas of chronic and persistent under-performance through building teaching and leadership capacity as well as additional school improvement funding and sponsorship.
  • Meeting the needs of neglected groups of children with a focus on boosting attainment of four groups of children: ensuring schools stretch the lowest-attaining and most academically able pupils, better support children with special education needs and disability, and reforming the alternative provision (AP) system so that schools remain accountable for the education of children in AP and are responsible for commissioning provision.
  • Ofsted to consult on removing separate graded judgments on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment to focus inspections on outcomes and to reduce the burdens on schools and teachers.

As you can see from the areas listed above these are fundamental changes in which schools and Governing bodies operate.