Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Education Secretary defends controversial plans to convert every school into an academy – Friday 29 April 2016

Concerns around the implications of the Education White Paper continue to make headlines and this week I highlight the Education Secretary’s appearance in front of the Education Select Committee, confirmation that the DfE will be using the results from schools that sat the Key Stage 1 spelling, punctuation and grammar test early to set expected standards for next year and the implications of new nursery staff being required to have achieved a good GCSE in English and Maths.

MPs GRILL EDUCATION SECRETARY OVER ACADEMY PLANS
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary appeared in front of the Commons Education Select Committee on Wednesday for the first time since the publication of her department’s White Paper Education, Excellence, Everywhere. Just hours after the Prime Minister had ruled out any possible U-turn over plans to convert every school into an academy, Ms Morgan spelled out her intention to see through the controversial proposals. Responding to questions, the Education Secretary said “it is absolutely the government’s commitment to have all schools as academies by 2022”.

The hearing can be watched on Parliament TV, as well as the House of Commons oral questions.

DITCHED PRIMARY SATS WILL STILL SET STANDARDS
Schools Week has reported that primary schools that carried out the now-defunct Key Stage 1 test must still provide their results to the Government so they can be used to set expected standards. The DfE has indicated there would be “sufficient data” from those who sat the test early to set standards, despite tens of thousands of pupils, parents and teachers potentially having seen the answers. Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said there was “no possible way” schools could have confidence in any standard that emerged.

NEW NURSERY STAFF TO HAVE GOOD GCSE GRADES IN ENGLISH AND MATHS
Starting in September, all Level 3 Early Years Educators (EYEs) will be required to have C grades or above in GCSE English and Maths before being able to enter the childcare sector. Alternative equivalent qualifications such as functional skills qualifications will no longer be acceptable.

Currently, there is a limit to how many children each member of staff is allowed to look after and after September, staff who do not have the requisite grade Cs in GCSE Maths and English will still be able to work in nurseries, but will not count towards the ratios.

According to the Save our Early Years campaign employers are already feeling the recruitment crisis and there are worries that this will be intensified as the new requirement to deliver 30 hours of free childcare for three and four-year olds comes into effect from next year.

KS1 SATs paper accidentally published on DfE website – 22 April 2016

This week I highlight the dramatic news that first and primary schools won’t need to administer this year’s KS1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test as it was published in error on the DfE’s website back in January, the publication of the Regional Schools Commissioner’s plan to raise school standards in the North East and entries invited for this year’s DfE Character Awards.

KEY STAGE 1 GRAMMAR, PUNCTUATION AND SPELLING TEST NOT BEING TAKEN THIS YEAR
The Department for Education has confirmed that this year’s Key Stage 1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test was accidentally uploaded onto the Standards and Testing Agency website in January along with other practice papers. The error was only discovered when teachers at the schools taking part in piloting the new tests this week recognised the questions.

The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, has commissioned an investigation into how the breach has occurred and stated that “to remove any uncertainty and clarify the situation for schools, I have decided that we will remove the requirement on them to administer the KS1 grammar, punctuation and spelling test for this year only.”

Schools will still need to submit a teacher assessment judgement based on pupils’ work in the classroom, however there will be no requirement to administer the test or use the result as part of that assessment.

NORTH OF ENGLAND REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMISSIONER’S CONTRIBUTION TO RAISING SCHOOLS STANDARDS 2015-16
The DfE has released information about each Regional School Commissioner’s contribution to raising school standards for 2015-16. Our Regional School Commissioner’s plan aims to ensure our diverse geography and communities work together to promote a self-improving school led system that can deliver higher standards across the region. There’s also the promise to improve communications and transparency via newsletters, an annual report and social media.

ENTRIES NOW INVITED FOR THIS YEAR’S DfE CHARACTER AWARDS
The Awards seek to identify, recognise and celebrate those leading the field in character education and support young people to develop the traits that:

  • support academic attainment
  • are valued by employers
  • enable them to make a positive contribution to British society

The closing date for entries is 23 May 2016 via the Pearson Teaching Awards website.

DfE dispels myths about the academies programme – 15 April 2016

Welcome back after the Easter break. The Education White Paper continues to make headlines and spark much debate and this week I highlight the DfE’s publication of a ‘10 facts’ document about the academies programme, the Government’s decision not to use Reception baseline assessments as an accountability measure this year and the opportunity for schools to buy tablet devices through a DfE led procurement process.

DISPELLING POPULAR MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ACADEMIES 
Earlier this week the DfE published information about the academies programme to help clarify some potential misconceptions that had been voiced since the publication of the Education White Paper, before the Easter break. Of particular note the DfE states “successful, sustainable schools will not be forced to join up in a trust with other schools”, although the White Paper states that it expects most schools will form or join Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). Clearly Governing bodies will have to consider carefully how to proceed to ensure they make the best decision for their school.

RECEPTION BASELINE ASSESSMENTS NOT BEING USED AS AN ACCOUNTABILITY MEASURE IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS  
The DfE has decided not to use the Reception baseline assessment as a starting point to measure pupil progress. Results from their recent comparability study found that the three providers schools could use for the assessments were incompatible, making it difficult to compare schools. As a result, Key Stage 1 will continue to be used as the starting point to measure pupils’ progress to Key Stage 2, rather than Reception. The DfE outlined that schools can choose to continue using baseline assessments in 2016 and 2017 but the outcomes from the assessments will not be used for accountability. Over the coming months the DfE will be considering options for improving assessment arrangements in Reception beyond 2016 to 2017 and will make an announcement in due course.

OPPORTUNITY TO REGISTER TO BUY CHEAPER TABLET DEVICES THROUGH THE DFE 
The DfE is facilitating a further procurement to allow schools to buy tablet devices (Apple iPad, Microsoft Surface Pro, LearnPad or a generic tablet) using ‘collective buying power’, after the pilot saved 12% on the price. The procurement will be completed by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and schools should register their initial interest by 6 May 2016 by emailing CG.Communications@education.gsi.gov.uk.