Monthly Archives: May 2016

Revised Statutory Guidance on Keeping Children Safe in Education – Friday 27 May 2016

This week I report on the publication of the draft Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance that will be used from early September, that applications are now invited for schools to apply for this year’s character grants and Lord Sugar has been appointed as the Government’s new Enterprise Tsar.

DFE RESPONSE TO THE KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE IN EDUCATION STATUTORY GUIDANCE CONSULTATION
Yesterday the DfE published its response to the consultation on revising the Keeping Children Safe in Education Statutory guidance together with the revised draft guidance that will be used from 5 September 2016.

The proposed changes primarily impact Parts 1 and 2 of the guidance (and associated Annexes) with a number of factual or drafting changes made to Part 3. The DfE has published the draft of the revised guidance now so that schools and colleges can plan for the commencement of the guidance on 5 September 2016. Until the new guidance commences in September the existing statutory guidance is still in force and is what schools and colleges must continue to have regard to.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY FOR SCHOOLS HELPING PUPILS TO DEVELOP CHARACTER
Applications for this year’s character grants (a scheme that began in 2015 to fund schools and organisations promoting traits such as resilience and respect through activities such as sports, debating or music) are now invited. Schools, colleges and organisations can apply for a share of the £6 million fund until 23 June, with grants expected to be awarded by the end of September.

LORD SUGAR APPOINTED AS THE GOVERNMENT’S ENTERPRISE TSAR
Lord Sugar has been appointed Enterprise Tsar as part of the Government’s drive to get more young people to consider starting their own business or undertaking an apprenticeship.   He will also be encouraging businesses to take on apprentices themselves and will be undertaking a series of roadshow events across England, speaking to local school leavers and businesses.

New Education bill confirms plans to target underperforming and unviable councils – Friday 20 May 2016

This week I report on the new Education for All bill outlined in the Queen’s Speech, the High Court ruling in favour of the father who took his daughter on holiday in term time and the end of Data Dashboards with the introduction of a new DfE school comparison tool.

QUEEN’S SPEECH: NEW BILL CONFIRMS PLAN TO TARGET UNDER-PERFORMING AND UNVIABLE COUNCILS
Yesterday the Queen’s Speech clarified what legislation the Government intends to bring before Parliament, including an Education for All bill. The bill will confirm that not all maintained schools will have to become academies, only those in the worst performing local authorities and in local authorities where so many schools have already become academies that they cannot viably support the rest.

Although detail on how the Department for Education will define under-performance or unviability in councils is awaiting formal consultation and a vote in Parliament, the legislation will include a new duty on councils to “facilitate” the process of academy conversion, aimed at making it “swifter and smoother” for schools. Although details are still patchy, the Government is expected to publish guidance for local authorities and schools in due course.

HIGH COURT RULING IN FAVOUR OF PARENT
Further to last week’s Update, the father from the Isle of Wight who took his daughter on a term-time holiday has won his case against the school and the subsequent appeal made by the local authority.

The rule that said children should not be taken out of school for holidays was not part of primary legislation and was determined by a Statutory Instrument (SI) issued by the Education Secretary in 2013. The High Court ruled that changing the regulations via a SI didn’t affect the 1996 Education Act’s obligation on parents to ensure their children attend schools regularly, and that in this case a child’s 94% attendance record constituted regularity. Some commentators have said that a possible definition of “regular” is 90% attendance because that is the threshold for persistent truancy. Given that the law states that a full year is 190 days, this would allow any child 19 days’ holiday a year, provided they had no other absence. The Government’s attendance target is 95%.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the House of Commons that the ruling in favour of the parent represented a “significant threat” to improving school attendance and that the Government will do “everything in its power” to ensure children are kept in school. A DfE spokesperson said that it would be looking to change the law and to strengthen statutory guidance to schools and local authorities.

OFSTED DROPS GOVERNORS’ DATA DASHBOARD
Ofsted has decided to discontinue the School Data Dashboards which have been produced for the last three years, with the aim of giving Governing bodies key information on the standards achieved in the school. Ofsted will stop publishing them in September, but they have already been phased out as Ofsted didn’t populate them with the 2015 SATs and GCSE results.

A reason given for dropping the dashboards is the production by the DfE of a new tool, Compare School and College Performance which I reported on back in March. If you enter the name of a school, you are given headline performance information on its most recent Key Stage 2 SATs results if it is a primary school and the Key Stage 4 exams if it is a secondary. Information on the trend over three years is also given, together with key data on finance and the numbers of staff. The site offers a list of similar schools from across the country so that you can select any of these to see how its outcomes compare with your own school’s.

Government to define ‘underperforming’ councils with consultation and MPs vote – Friday 13 May 2016

This week I report on how the DfE is enduring another week of media attention with its announcement that a definition of ‘underperforming councils’ will be used to force schools to convert to academies, the High Court will rule on taking holidays in term time and test results for this year’s Key Stage 2 SPAG test were leaked to a journalist.

EDUCATION SECRETARY TO DEFINE ‘UNDERPERFORMING’S COUNCILS WITH CONSULTATION AND VOTE
The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, stated in the House of Commons yesterday that the definition of “underperforming” councils that would be used to force schools to convert to academies would be set out in a consultation and put to a vote of MPs. She didn’t say when the consultation documents would be published but subjecting the definition to an affirmative resolution means it would need the support of a majority of MPs to become law.

The proposed new powers were announced last week as a compromise on the Government’s Education White Paper proposal to force all schools to convert to academies by 2022, which were widely criticised by school leaders and politicians, including those inside the Conservative party.

The Education Secretary had also sought to reassure schools that they would not be forced to join multi-academy trusts, instead saying she expected “most schools” to join local clusters.

HIGH COURT TO RULE ON TERM TIME HOLIDAYS
The case of a father who was fined £120 for taking his daughter on holiday during term time will be heard by the High Court today. Mr Platt was originally cleared by Isle of Wight magistrates who ruled he had no case to answer as his child still attended school regularly. However, Isle of Wight Council, who issue the fine, have pursued the case in the High Court to seek clarification on whether taking a seven-day absence amounts to regular attendance.

Mr Platt won his case in the Magistrates court after successfully arguing Section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996 required parents to ensure their children attended school “regularly” – but did not put restrictions on taking them on holidays in term time. Today’s High Court ruling could set a precedent for how cases are dealt with in the future and potentially a change in the law.

KEY STAGE 2 SATs TEST LEAKED THE DAY BEFORE IT WAS TAKEN
The Department for Education is blaming a “rogue marker” for leaking this year’s Key Stage 2 Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPAG) test to The Guardian, after the SATs paper and its answers were mistakenly uploaded onto a password-protected website by Pearson, the test supplier.

On Tuesday, Schools Minister Nick Gibb addressed Parliament about the leaked test and announced that the SPAG exam would go ahead because it had not been shared online or in the press. Pearson has apologised for the problem and is investigating. According to its Chief Executive, John Fallon, 102 markers had seen the paper in the four hours it was available but they were bound by confidentiality and had a duty not to share it.

 

Government climbdown on forcing all schools to become academies by 2022 – Friday 6 May 2016

In a press release issued by the DfE this afternoon the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has confirmed that the Government will not be bringing in legislation requiring all schools in England to become academies.  Mrs Morgan  stated that since the launch of the Education White Paper the Government had listened to feedback received from MPs, teachers, school leaders and parents.

In an interview with the BBC Mrs Morgan said “this is about being a listening government and I would consider myself to be a listening secretary of state.  Better to have reforms than have none at all.”

The Government will continue to require underperforming schools to convert to academy status and will bring forward legislation which will trigger conversion of all schools within a local authority in 2 specific circumstances:

  • where it is clear that the local authority can no longer viably support its remaining schools because a critical mass of schools in that area has converted. Under this mechanism a local authority will also be able to request the Department for Education converts all of its remaining schools
  • where the local authority consistently fails to meet a minimum performance threshold across its schools, demonstrating an inability to bring about meaningful school improvement

 

Consultation opens on changes to disqualification by association arrangements – Friday 6 May 2016

This week I draw your attention to the new Government consultation on changing the childcare disqualification arrangements in schools and non-domestic registered settings, the removal of the role of the schools mental health champion and the extension of the EEF’s families of schools toolkit which now includes all primary schools in England.

CONSULTATION ON CHANGING THE CHILDCARE DISQUALIFICATION ARRANGEMENTS IN SCHOOLS AND NON-DOMESTIC REGISTERED SETTINGS
Currently, a childcare worker can be disqualified because someone who lives or works in their household is disqualified – this is known as disqualification ‘by association’. Disqualification by association was introduced by the Government with the intention of preventing an individual from working with young children, where the individual may be under the influence of a person. However, in response to concerns raised about the fairness and proportionality of the existing arrangements the DfE has today opened a consultation on three separate options for changing the arrangements in schools and non-domestic registered settings. These are:

  • Option 1 – remove disqualification by association in schools and non-domestic registered settings
  • Option 2 – retain disqualification by association, but introduce a new right to make representations to Ofsted before the disqualification takes effect
  • Option 3 – retain disqualification by association, but reduce its scope and introduce a new right to make representations to Ofsted before the disqualification takes effect

If you would like to respond to the consultation you can do so using this link until Friday 1 July 2016.

SCHOOLS MENTAL-HEALTH CHAMPION REMOVED
It was announced this week that the DfE’s role of mental-health champion for schools in England has been removed. Natasha Devon who was appointed last August used a Headteachers’ conference last week to highlight the level of mental strain being put on pupils. She described the rigorous testing and academic pressure children faced as “detrimental” to their mental health. The DfE has denied the role was axed to silence criticism, indicating an independent NHS task force report published in February had recommended that a cross-government mental health champion be created. A DfE spokesperson commented that for this reason, and to avoid confusion, they had reconsidered the department’s own role.

EEF EXPANDING FAMILIES OF SCHOOLS TOOLKIT TO INCLUDE EVERY PRIMARY SCHOOL IN ENGLAND
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has now extended its families of schools toolkit to include all primary schools in the country. The toolkit groups schools into “families” that share similar characteristics (such as similar prior attainment, eligibility for free school meals and the number of pupils who speak English as an additional language). The aim is to facilitate collaboration between those schools facing similar challenges. Launching the toolkit, the EEF emphasised that there can be big variation in terms of pupil attainment between schools with the same characteristics.

The families of schools toolkit is free to use and does not require login details. Please click here to access the toolkit.