Monthly Archives: November 2016

Review into education in the Northern Powerhouse published – Friday 25 November 2016

This week I report on the publication of the long-awaited review into education in the Northern Powerhouse, the launch of the new online service proposing to make recruitment of governors easier and information on when we should expect to see the new Governor Competency Framework and updated Governance Handbook.

Independent review into education in the Northern Powerhouse
Yesterday, the Department for Education released “A Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy”, an independent review led by Sir Nick Weller, CEO and Executive Principal of Dixons Academies in Bradford. The report outlines a series of proposals to “tackle educational underperformance in the North of England” in the following five areas:

  • Building teaching and leadership capacity
  • School improvement capacity
  • Raising standards by closing the disadvantaged
  • Curriculum
  • System conditions

Whilst the Government has indicated it will invest £70m over three and a half years to improve capacity and raise standards in Northern Powerhouse schools, it is difficult to see how the recommendations in this review could all be taken on-board given the amount of funding available.

Launch of online governor recruitment service
Back in October last year I highlighted a new scheme launched by the Inspiring Governors Alliance to connect skilled volunteers interested in serving as governors and trustees with schools and colleges. It was formally launched on Tuesday this week and run by the National Governors Association (NGA) and Education and Employers, a careers charity, in partnership with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT). It will receive funding from the Department for Education for four years.

I have taken the liberty of registering your school and using the skills and expertise gaps highlighted in your skills audits, will search for suitable matches.  I will flag up any suitable matches with the Chair of Governors and Headteacher.

Governor Competency framework and Governance Handbook
Publication of the Governor Competency Framework is expected around the end of this month and advance information suggests that it will not now be used as a basis for the national development of governor training. The new Governance Handbook will also be published at the end of the month. As soon as they are available I will provide governors with a link.

Study found attending primary school breakfast clubs improved pupil progress– Friday 18 November 2016

This week I report on the EEF’s study on the positive impact providing a school breakfast club can have in primary schools, the opposition leader’s motion to stop schools collecting pupil nationality and country of birth data and £300 million government funding to help young people enjoy the benefits of music and the arts.

EEF funded study found positive impact from primary school breakfast clubs
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published the results of a randomised controlled trial which found that pupils in primary schools who attend breakfast clubs before school benefit from an improvement in their reading, writing and maths. The results are based on the Magic Breakfast project jointly funded by the Department for Education and the EEF.

An independent evaluation by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that:

  • year 2 pupils attending breakfast clubs experienced an improvement in reading, writing and maths equivalent of two months’ progress over the course of a year
  • year 6 pupils experienced a slightly smaller positive impact from attending breakfast clubs
  • teachers recognised an improvement in pupil behaviour and concentration and this may indirectly improve the outcomes for children who do not attend breakfast clubs

Offering breakfast clubs is seen as a cost-effective way to raise pupil attainment. Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the EEF stated that “offering free breakfasts at school is a relatively cheap and straightforward way of alleviating this symptom of disadvantage’’.

Parliamentary motion lodged to stop pupil nationality data collection
On Wednesday, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion in parliament to stop the practice of schools collecting pupil nationality and country of birth data. If it succeeds, the early day motion will cancel new laws introduced by the government in September forcing schools to collect the data in their annual census.

Ministers have sought to reassure parents that the additional data will not be used by the Home Office for immigration processes but to help schools to cope better with pupils with first languages other than English.

Under parliamentary procedure, the early day motion, or ‘prayer’, can be used to revoke legislation providing it gets enough support. Early day motions like this act as official public notice that the opposition is trying to secure a debate on an issue. A timetable for a potential debate and vote is yet to be finalised.

£300 million government investment to help young people enjoy the benefits of music and the arts
Today the Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced that over the next 4 years the government will provide £300 million (of which £75 million has already been announced for this year) to a network of 121 music education hubs to work with schools, local authorities and community organisations to get more young people taking part in music and arts. The funding will be administered by Arts Council England, which has a wealth of experience and strategic partnerships to improve music and cultural education for children.

The government will work to ensure that the funding particularly benefits children in the six (West Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough, Derby and Oldham) recently announced opportunity areas, identified as the most challenged when it comes to social mobility, to give those young people access to the best possible music and cultural education.

Grammar schools to demonstrate how they will improve the ‘social mix’ – Friday 11 November 2016

This week I report on the Schools Minister evidence to MPs in the Education Select Committee regarding grammar schools, the publication of the Sutton Trust’s report on the poor performance of white working class British boys and the IPPR’s report recommending the replacement of lower level apprenticeships with a pre-apprenticeship programme for 16-18 year olds.

Grammar schools to demonstrate how they’ll improve the ‘social mix’
This week Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, was called to give evidence to the MPs in the Education Select Committee as part of the scrutiny process for the Government’s consultation on re-introducing grammar schools.

Mr Gibb stated that strict conditions would be implemented to increase the number of pupils from poor backgrounds in selective schools and that they would also apply to new and existing grammar schools. He said “Under our proposals, existing grammar schools and new grammar schools would only be allowed to open if they met strict conditions designed to ensure increased numbers of less well-off pupils have access to selective education.” The Minister added that new grammar schools and those looking to expand would have to demonstrate how they would “improve the social mix”.

Poor performance of white working-class British boys
The Sutton Trust, the leading social mobility charity, has urged schools to implement targeted attainment improvement programmes for disadvantaged white British pupils.

Their latest report Class Differences: ethnicity and disadvantage found that white British boys eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) have now been either the lowest or second lowest performing ethnic group every year for a decade. The Trust also found the attainment gap between FSM and non-FSM white British boys to be the second highest at 32 percentage points, with Irish boys in the lead displaying a 46 percentage points difference.

Apprenticeships ‘must address distinct needs of teens’
Yesterday the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published a report recommending that the Government replaces lower level apprenticeships with a new, distinct pre-apprenticeship programme for 16–18-year-olds. Its report comes as universities have been awarded £4.5m to develop 5,200 degree level apprenticeships from September next year.

The report suggests level-two apprenticeships for younger learners “are often very job specific, do not include much off the job training, and from next year they will not be required to include a recognised qualification”. Instead the IPPR believes a pre-apprenticeship programme should be designed to “address explicitly the distinct needs of younger learners”, with more “off the job training” and general education.

Shelving of the Education for All Bill – Friday 4 November 2016

This week I report on the Education Secretary’s Written Ministerial Statement signalling schools in “unviable or underperforming” council areas won’t now be forced into becoming academies, the publication of the Rochford Review in to P scales, the increase in the number of KS2 tests appeals and new guidance on calculating progress 8 and attainment 8.

Shelving of the Education for All Bill
During the half term break the Education Secretary made a Written Ministerial Statement announcing a new Technical and Further Education Bill and, importantly, confirmed that plans to force all schools in “unviable or underperforming” council areas into academies would no longer proceed.

Ms Greening advised there would be no changes to education legislation in this Parliamentary session (which runs until next Summer) and said “Our ambition remains that all schools should benefit from the freedom and autonomy that academy status brings. Our focus, however, is on building capacity in the system and encouraging schools to convert voluntarily.”

Many in the education community have claimed the Government has now all but scrapped the proposed Education for All bill, but experts have said the Government could roll elements from the bill into the new legislation which will be needed to introduce its grammar school proposals.

Rochford Review into P scales published
The report of the Rochford Review, an independent group commissioned by the DfE to review statutory assessment arrangements for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests was recently published. Currently, P scales are used to assess and report the attainment of pupils with SEND who are not working at the standard of mainstream statutory assessments. The review recommends that P scales should not continue to be used and that a new approach should be developed. Other recommendations touch on teacher training, sharing of good practice, quality assurance, and the need for further work on the best way to support schools with assessing pupils with English as an additional language (EAL).

Increase in number of Key Stage 2 tests appeals
New statistics published by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) this week reveal a rise in the number of key stage 2 tests that were subject to an appeal. The sharpest increase was recorded in English reading – from 17,469 reviews to 21,587 this year. The mathematics test had the fewest review applications – 0.7% of tests taken.

Overall, 9.8% of review applications resulted in a successful review this year, with the highest change recorded in the mathematics test where 12.6% of applications resulted in a different outcome. Successful reviews applied to 0.2% of all tests taken in 2016.

New guidance on calculating progress 8 and attainment 8
The Department for Education has recently released information on how progress 8 and attainment 8 measures are calculated. It aims to help governors and trustees to understand the new measures. New GCSE qualifications will be graded from 1-9, but not all GCSEs are being moved to the new system at the same time. The DfE has, therefore, developed a methodology to compare the two parallel systems from 2017. A useful table to help people to benchmark the old A* – G grading system against the new 1 – 9 system is provided in the document and shows how unreformed GCSE’s will be translated into the new grading system.