Monthly Archives: September 2016

Labour launches national campaign against grammar school plans – Friday 30 September 2016

This week the Labour Leader announced a campaign to provide inclusive education for all, the DfE published the results of this year’s Phonics Screening Check and Key Stage 1 SATs and I highlight an opportunity for Governors to attend a free seminar  on how to convert to academy status and form and grow a MAT.

Labour Campaign launched against grammar school plans
This week the newly re-elected Labour leader used his victory speech to announce a campaign for “inclusive education for all” that would start with a street demonstration tomorrow, as well as an online and off-line petition, social media campaign, video, mail shots, street stalls and a range of community events over the coming weeks.

The party leader also pledged that if Labour won the next general election, it would introduce an arts Pupil Premium worth £160m of extra funding for schools that would help pupils learn to play instruments, drama, dance and give them regular access to cultural institutions in their local areas.

Phonics Screening Test and Key Stage 1 SATs results
The DfE released data this week on the results of the Phonics Screening Test and Key Stage 1 SATs results.  The proportion of pupils reaching the expected standard in phonics this year was 81% in Year 1 and 91% by the end of Year 2. Figures showed that at the end of Key Stage 1, 74% of pupils achieved the new expected standard in reading, 65% in writing and 73% in maths.

Free Seminar on converting to academy status and how to form and grow a MAT
As we all know the education landscape has changed over the past year and Governors wanting to know more about converting to academy status and how to form and grow a MAT can attend a free seminar on Tuesday 18 October at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead.

The session led by the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools – National Association (FASNA) includes a review of different MAT models, an overview of the legal processes, changes in roles and responsibilities for governors as well as opportunities for discussion and networking.

For further information and to book your place, please click here.


Commons Education Committee inquiry into primary assessment – Friday 23 September 2016

This week the Education Select Committee has launched an inquiry into how this year’s new tougher SATs tests have affected primary schools and the DfE has published new guidance on screening and searching pupils and handling strike action in schools.

Education Select Committee inquiry into primary assessment
This summer was the first year that 10 and 11 year olds took the new tougher tests in reading, maths and spelling, grammar and punctuation. Pupils were also assessed in writing by their teachers according to a new national framework.  Just 53% of pupils reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths and the NAHT, ATL and NUT have said that urgent changes are needed or they will consider a boycott in 2017.

The Commons Education Committee has launched an inquiry looking at the implementation of the new system, its impact on teaching and learning schools and the wider issue of what primary assessment is for.

The Government has already put on hold plans to introduce multiplication tables tests next year and has said that proposed Year 7 resits will not begin in this academic year.

Guidance: searching, screening and confiscation at school
Today the Department for Education (DfE) published updated guidance explaining the powers schools have to screen and search pupils, and to confiscate items they find. The new guidance now includes a link to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety’s advice on responding to ‘Sexting in schools and colleges’.

Given that we now live in a technological age and most pupils have a mobile phone and/or access to a tablet/laptop, Governors are reminded that the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education now includes an annex in relation to online safety. As Governors should be aware pupils should be taught about online safety as part of safeguarding within the curriculum.

Updated guidance on handling strike actions in schools
This week the Government published revised guidance on what to do when school staff go on strike. The document emphasises the DfE’s expectation that all reasonable steps will be taken to keep a school open in the event of a strike. It also provides advice on how to achieve this while explaining the law on trade disputes and picketing.

Consultation on school reform plans opens – Friday 16 September 2016

This week saw the Education Secretary launch the consultation on the Government’s controversial plans to expand grammar schools in England, confirm that the Government will proceed with the Educational Excellence Everywhere white paper and the publication of updated guidance on what schools need to know to plan for the new academic year.

Launch of consultation on Schools that work for everyone green paper
Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education, addressed the House of Commons on Monday to launch the Government’s consultation on proposals for new grammar schools, as outlined in the Schools that work for everyone green paper.

The consultation is structured around four types of institutions – Independent schools; Universities; Selective schools and Faith schools and the proposals include:

  • allowing new selective schools to open, existing ones to expand, or non-selective schools to convert where there is demand (these schools must meet certain conditions such as guaranteeing places for children from disadvantaged backgrounds or helping to establish non-selective free schools);
  • stronger, more demanding requirements for independent schools to retain the benefits associated with charitable status; this could include offering bursaries to those less able to afford them or sponsoring schools in the state sector;
  • requiring universities to open or sponsor schools in exchange for the right to raise their tuition fees;
  • lifting the cap on new faith free schools which requires them to limit the number of pupils admitted on the basis of faith to 50% and replacing it with new measures to ensure all new faith free schools are truly inclusive.

The Government also intends to develop a way to identify children from “families who are just about managing” – i.e. families who are struggling, but are not picked up in pupil premium and/or free school meals measures.

The consultation will close at 11.45 p.m. on 12 December 2016.

Academies white paper to go ahead
The Education Secretary faced her first grilling in front of the Education Select Committee yesterday, where she announced the Government’s plan to enact the Educational Excellence Everywhere white paper.

Ms Greening explained to MPs that the Government is currently “pulling together” legislation to go ahead with the planned changes, adding that she wanted to focus academisation on “struggling” schools.

Whilst the Committee heard that more details will be made available later in the year, Ms Greening did confirm that the controversial policy to remove the need for Parent Governors from academies will be scrapped.

Governor Mandatory Timelines
This week also saw the publication of updated guidance from the Department for Education on what academies, maintained schools and pupil referral units must know to plan for the academic year ahead.

Prime Minister announces controversial school reform plans – Friday 9 September 2016

The new academic year starts controversially as I report on the Prime Minister’s plans to allow new grammar schools to open and state schools to select pupils by academic ability, the launch of the Government’s new plans to reduce childhood obesity and the publication of the updated version of the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education.

Prime Minister’s school reform plans
This morning the Prime Minister announced more education reforms, including plans to scrap the rule which prevents new grammar schools from opening, which was introduced by Labour in 1998. A summary of the main proposals is provided below:

  • Existing grammar schools in England to be allowed to expand, backed by £50m of new funding
  • All state schools in England to be allowed to select pupils by academic ability “in the right circumstances” and where there is demand
  • All selective schools will have to meet access conditions, such as taking a share of pupils from low-income backgrounds, setting up a new non-selective secondary or primary school or backing an underperforming academy
  • New grammars will be able to take pupils at 14 and 16, as well as 11, or take on students from non-selective schools for certain subjects
  • Universities will be expected to sponsor a state school or set up a new free school as part of an overhaul of fair access requirements
  • Catholic schools which are oversubscribed and want to expand will be able to choose 100% of new pupils on faith grounds, not 50% as now
  • All independent schools will have to support state schools in some way, in return for maintaining their charitable status.
  • Fee-paying schools will have to sponsor or set up a new free school or subsidise places for pupils from more modest backgrounds

A consultation will be held on ways to make new selective schools and expanding grammars more inclusive so that places are not limited to families who can “pay for tuition to pass the test”.

Currently there are no grammar schools in the North East and the Prime Minister told Conservative MPs on Wednesday night that the expansion would not be forced on areas that did not want them.

Launch of Government plan to reduce childhood obesity
In August the Government published its plan for action to significantly reduce childhood obesity by supporting healthier choices. The plan looks at how schools can support this in helping children to enjoy an hour of physical activity every day, improving the co-ordination of quality sport and physical activity programmes for schools, creating a new healthy rating scheme for primary schools and making school food healthier.

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2016
An updated version of the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education was published on Monday this week. The document contains information on what schools and colleges should do and sets out the legal duties with which schools and colleges must comply in order to keep children safe.