Monthly Archives: October 2016

Secretary of State announces new Primary Assessment plans – Friday 21 October 2016

This week I report on the Secretary of State’s announcement on new primary assessment plans including confirming there will be no Year 7 resits, the publication of technical guidance which defines what is a coasting school and how the DfE is calculating primary progress measures and a new on-line toolkit to measure and monitor children and young people’s mental wellbeing.

Primary Assessment plans
Earlier this week Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, announced that new plans had been drawn up to improve and simplify assessment arrangements given that the pace and scale of assessment changes “has been stretching”.

Whilst statutory Maths and reading resits are not being introduced for pupils in Year 7, resit papers will be made available for teachers to use as part of ongoing assessments. The Government has also said it will be introducing a targeted package of support for struggling pupils.

Under the new plans, the Key Stage 1 grammar, punctuation and spelling test will remain non-statutory for schools this year and there will be no new national tests or assessments introduced before the 2018/19 academic year.

Primary School accountability in 2016
This week the DfE updated the main technical guidance document with a ‘coasting’ schools definition and updated the summary document with further information about how it calculates primary progress measures.

Its proposed definition of a ‘coasting’ school is based on the same performance measures that underpin the floor standards. Therefore, in 2016, a primary school will be coasting if:

  • it meets the 2014 part of the definition of fewer than 85% of pupils achieving level 4 in English reading, English writing and mathematics and below the national median percentage of pupils making expected progress in all of English reading, English writing and mathematics; and
  • it meets the 2015 parts of the definition – of fewer than 85% of pupils achieving level 4 in English reading, English writing and mathematics and below the national median percentage of pupils making expected progress in all of English reading, English writing and mathematics; and
  • it also meets the 2016 part of the definition – if fewer than 85% of children achieve the expected standard at the end of primary and average progress made by pupils is below -2.5 in English reading or -2.5 in mathematics or -3.5 in English writing.

A school will have to be below the coasting definition in 3 consecutive years to be defined as coasting and no school will be identified as coasting until after the 2016 primary performance tables are published in December. Schools will be excluded from the coasting measure if:

  • they have fewer than 11 pupils at the end of key stage 2; or less than 50% of pupils have key stage 1 assessments that can be used to establish prior attainment; or
  • the school closes within the academic year (except if they reopen as a converter academy).

Subject to Parliament agreeing to the Regulations, the coasting definition will apply to all mainstream maintained schools and academies with the relevant key stage 2 data. It will not apply to PRUs, special schools and academies, alternative provision academies or maintained nursery schools.

New online toolkit to measure and monitor children and young people’s mental wellbeing
A free, online toolkit to measure and monitor children and young people’s mental wellbeing was launched for schools last week. The development of the toolkit was commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) and led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (AFNCCF).

According to AFNCCF, half of all diagnosable mental health disorders are established by the age of 14 and figures published last month by the Office for National Statistics showed the highest number of suicides by 15 to 19 year olds since 1998.

The toolkit aims to support school staff by highlighting a range of validated tools to measure and monitor student mental wellbeing alongside real-life case studies. In turn, school leaders can use the information gathered to assess and develop the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils, a key judgement area within the Ofsted inspection framework.

Provisional GCSE results data published – Friday 14 October 2016

This week I report on the publication of the provisional GCSE results data using the new accountability measures and the potential for a boycott of next year’s SATs by the unions, with an announcement expected from the DfE on primary assessments due at any time.

Analysis of provisional GCSE results data
Yesterday the Government published analysis of provisional GCSE results data which showed for the first time national analysis of Progress 8 scores and other measures in its new accountability system for schools.

From this year, schools are judged based on their attainment 8 and progress 8 scores, attainment in English and Maths and the number of pupils entering and achieving passes in the EBacc subjects (English, Maths, History or Geography, the sciences and a language). Progress 8 measures pupils’ progress across eight subjects from age 11 to 16, while attainment 8 measures average attainment across those subjects.

The data indicates attainment has increased across the headline measures in 2016 compared to the equivalent provisional data from 2015, both for all schools and state-funded schools. The DfE has suggested these increases are likely to be due to a range of factors including a range of behaviour changes as schools adapt to the new accountability system and changes in methodology.

Potential SATs boycott next year
Unions are stepping up their campaign to boycott next year’s SATs tests, with both the NAHT Heads’ union and the NUT teaching union writing to their school leadership members, outlining plans to carry out an indicative ballot this month. The unions plan to hold indicative ballots this month, in order to provide fair notice to members and if successful, the NAHT says a full ballot will be held in March next year.

The NAHT has said that it expects the Government to make some changes to the current assessment following union negotiations with the Department for Education. This seems to have been confirmed by the Education Secretary yesterday, who told delegates at the Schools North East Summit that there would be a new announcement about primary assessments in the next few weeks.

Updated statutory guidance on the constitution of maintained schools governing bodies – Friday 7 October 2016

This afternoon the DfE published its updated statutory guidance on the constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools.  Key updates include:

  • the requirement of a Disclosure and Barring Service check within 21 days of appointment/election
  • the requirement to supply information to the Secretary of State about those involved in governance via Edubase
  • clarified information on governors’ access to training and the role of the Governing body in addressing the training and development needs of individual governors
  • clarified information on Parent Governors

The new version of the guidance references the DfE’s Governance Competency Framework, which is expected to be published this term.

The DfE also clarifies that Parent Governors have a valuable perspective to offer and are a good source of knowledge about the school. However, parental engagement is a separate activity for which the whole Governing body is responsible.

New social mobility package unveiled by Education Secretary – Friday 7 October 2016

This week I highlight the Education Secretary’s announcement of the creation of new ‘opportunity areas’ that will receive £60m towards school improvement, concerns raised on social media about schools collecting census nationality data and confirmation of changes at the Northern Regional Schools Commissioner’s office.

New £60m ‘opportunity areas’
On Tuesday the Education Secretary, Justine Greening announced the creation of new ‘opportunity areas’ across the country which will receive £60m towards school improvement, teacher support and school-business collaboration.

The ‘opportunity areas’ are social mobility “cold spots” identified by the Social Mobility Index (published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission), with the first in West Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough, Derby and Oldham, before the programme is widened out to four other parts of the country in the coming months. Whilst three North East Local Authority areas have been identified by the report as being social mobility “cold spots”, they are ranked in the bottom 20%.

Requirement for schools to collect census nationality data
Changes to the school census that require the collection of data on pupils’ country of birth and nationality are back on the agenda again after parents took to twitter to share examples of their schools’ responses to the new rules. The debate has also been potentially reignited following an announcement at the Conservative Party conference that companies will be forced to list foreign workers.

The information is being collected for inclusion in the national pupil database (NPD) which helps civil servants and researchers get a full picture of a school’s roll, and the Government has claimed the additional information is needed to make that picture more complete. Among the concerns of parents and activists is that the data could be passed to the Home Office and be used to help curb immigration, but the DfE has said it has no current plans to do so.

Whilst the rules place an obligation on schools to ask parents for the country of birth and nationality of their child, there is no requirement for either parents or pupils to supply the information and schools can record that refusal in their census submission. Schools also have the option to tick either ‘not yet obtained’ or ‘not known’.

Changes at the Northern Regional Schools Commissioner’s office
The start of the new academic year has seen a number of changes at the Northern Regional Schools Commissioner’s office with two new Deputy Directors, Katherine Cowell and Jane Wilson.  Following restructuring, Steve Bibby, Jean Jackson and Mark Marshall now have responsibility for Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, South and North Tyneside, Sunderland, and Durham.

There are also two new co-opted appointments to the Northern Head Teacher Board; Sir Michael Wilkins (retired former CEO of Outwood Grange Academies Trust), and Elizabeth Horne OBE (CEO of Horizons Specialist Academy Trust in the Tees Valley).

The RSC North newsletter that announced these changes also carried a message from the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, who wanted to reassure primary schools that the changes in Key Stage 2 testing and assessment would not mean that significantly more schools would be classed as below floor targets.