Monthly Archives: January 2017

Tougher Ofsted guidance could be drawn up for better careers advice in schools – Friday 27 January 2017

This week I report on the Government’s plans for a ‘comprehensive careers strategy’, new secondary school resources to help to teach pupils about Brexit and the Article 50 process and new publications from the DfE to support schools to save money on their non-staff spend by improving how they buy goods and services.

Ministers review incentives and consider toughening Ofsted over school careers advice
The Government is to unveil plans for a “comprehensive careers strategy” on Monday, which were initially scheduled for the beginning of 2016. Minister for Skills, Robert Halfon, told a meeting in Parliament on Wednesday that incentives for schools to offer better careers advice will be reviewed by officials, as well as a tougher approach by Ofsted.

The Government expects the strategy to be published later this year as the review of careers advice is still ongoing. The Minister spoke of the need to “raise the prestige of careers guidance” and creating “widespread quality provision”.

Brexit and Article 50 process resource pack
Every secondary school in the UK will receive a resource pack developed by the Bar Council and the Citizenship Foundation to help them teach pupils about Brexit and the Article 50 process. The resources were launched on the day that the UK’s highest court dismissed the Government’s appeal, meaning Parliament will now be required to give its approval before official talks on leaving the EU can begin.

New DfE publications on buying and leasing and subscription services for school equipment

  • Schools Buying Strategy – a new document outlining various initiatives to help all schools improve how they buy goods and services. It is intended to support schools to save over £1 billion a year by 2019-20 on their non-staff spend, allowing them to maximise the resources they can invest in high quality education for their pupils and supporting them in managing cost pressures.
  • Leasing and subscription services for school equipmentnon statutory guidance designed to help schools to select a cost effective solution for their needs and highlight some of the common pitfalls some schools have encountered in the past.

Announcement of 6 new ‘opportunity areas’ – Friday 20 January 2017

This week I report on the expansion of the ‘opportunity areas’ programme, the publication of final KS4 figures and performance tables based on last year’s GCSE results, guidance on Progress 8 and Attainment 8 headline measures and confirmation from the DfE for funding for SEND from April this year.

Expansion of ‘opportunity areas’ programme
Yesterday Justine Greening the Education Secretary announced the expansion of the ‘opportunity areas’ programme by adding Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent as areas of focus.

The Government will also partly fund a new £3.5m programme that will see the Education Endowment Foundation establish a research school for each of the 12 opportunity areas. These schools will lead the development and dissemination of evidence-led practice in local schools.

All opportunity areas are social mobility cold spots identified by the Social Mobility Index, published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. A key aim of the programme is to build young people’s knowledge and skills and provide them with the best advice and opportunities, including working with organisations such as the Careers and Enterprise Company, the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Citizen Service.

Finalised KS4 figures and performance tables and Guidance on Progress 8 and Attainment 8
Yesterday the Government released the final Key Stage 4 figures and performance tables based on last summer’s GCSE results. Schools are now judged against a new Progress 8 measure, rather than the proportion of pupils that achieve five A* to C at GCSE.

This week the DfE has also published guidance on how the two new headline measures (Attainment 8 and Progress 8) were calculated last year and changes that will apply this year, in 2018 and 2019.

Funding for special educational needs support confirmed
Last week the Government confirmed funding from April this year of nearly £60 million to support children with special educational needs and disability (SEND). The funding includes:

  • £15 million for the Independent Supporters programme in 2017 to 2018, run by the Council for Disabled Children;
  • £2.3 million for Parent Carer Forums in 2017 to 2018, which aims to give parents a voice in influencing local decision-making;
  • £1.8 million to Contact a Family, to support Parent Carer Forums and their National Network, and to run a national helpline for families.

The funding also includes £40 million (up by £4.2 million last year) to support councils planning for the final year of the transition to the new SEND system.


Publication of Competency Framework for Governance – Friday 13 January 2017

This week I report on the publication of the new Competency Framework for Governance, the newly updated version of the Governance Handbook and the Prime Minister’s plans to transport mental health support.

Competency Framework for Governance
Yesterday the DfE published the much-anticipated Competency Framework for Governance, which sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for effective governance. It is non-statutory guidance applicable to governing boards of maintained schools and academies and should be read alongside the updated version of the Governance Handbook.

The framework begins with the principles and personal attributes which, alongside the commitment of time and energy to the role, underpin effective governance. Around 200 competencies have been identified, grouped under the headings of the six features of effective governance as follows:

  • strategic leadership – that sets and champions vision, ethos and strategy;
  • accountability – that drives up educational standards and financial performance;
  • people – with the right skills, experience, qualities and capacity;
  • structures – that reinforce clearly defined roles and responsibilities;
  • compliance – with statutory and contractual requirements;
  • evaluation – to monitor and improve the quality and impact of governance.

Within each of the six features of effective governance the competencies have been organised into those which are essential for everyone on the governing board, those which are required of the chair and those which at least one member of the governing board should have.

I will provide a full briefing paper for our meetings as governors will need to consider which knowledge and skill areas outlined in the framework are most important for their context. It would be sensible for governors to bear in mind that the core competencies are designed not to be used as a checklist and the National Governors’ Association is going to update it model skills audit as soon as possible.

Governance Handbook (January 2017)
The latest edition of the Governance handbook was also published yesterday by the DfE, having last underwent review in November 2015. As well as the content being revised to take account of changes made to the law and policy over the past year, the DfE has also given the handbook a complete restructure.  It’s now structured around the newly identified “six features of effective governance” developed alongside the new competency framework.  It sets out the Government’s vision and priorities for effective governance by:

  • outlining the core role and functions of the governing board;
  • summarising and providing a first point of reference on all the legal duties on governing boards, signposting to more detailed information, guidance and resources; and
  • providing information on the support available to governing boards to be effective.

The most significant changes to the content from the previous version include:

  • Section 2 – a new section at 2.3 bringing together material about the board’s role as the key decision-maker.
  • Section 3 – a stronger emphasis on ensuring financial propriety at 3.4.
  • Section 4 – updated text at 4.1.2 to reflect the new requirement that all those involved in governance in maintained schools and academy trusts must have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.  New advice on conducting informed elections at 4.1.4.  New sections bringing together material on the important role of the chair at 4.3 and the clerk at 4.4.  A new explanation at 4.8 of the risks associated with close family relationships between those involved in governance or between them and senior employees.  Details of the duty on boards to provide information about individuals involved in governance via Edubase at 4.8.
  • Section 5 – updated guidance on the role of Trustees and Members at 5.2.1.  Clarification at 5.6 that all boards are required to publish a scheme of delegation to explain their governance arrangements, together with new guidance on what makes an effective scheme of delegation.
  • Section 6 – confirmation at 6.7 that an individual on the board should take leadership responsibility for the organisation’s safeguarding arrangements, which include its Prevent duty.  New advice at 6.7.1 on handling allegations of abuse made against other children.
  • Section 7 – updated content on schools causing concern and on coasting schools at section 7.4.

Government plans to transform mental health support
On Monday, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced a package of measures designed to transform mental health support in schools, workplaces and communities. The support includes free mental health first aid training for secondary school staff and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.

The Prime Minister has also asked the Care Quality Commission to lead a “major thematic review” of children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) across the country. This will identify what is working and what isn’t and will produce a new green paper on children and young people’s mental health which will “set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families”.

Schools Commissioner suggests schools should teach all pupils ‘digital citizenship’ – Friday 6 January 2017

Welcome back!  This week I report on the publication of the Children’s Commissioner’s Growing up Digital Taskforce Report on equipping children and young people with adequate skills to negotiate their lives online, provide information on a SCHOOLS NorthEast Regional Governance Conference and congratulate those who were recognised in the New Years Honours  for their services to education.

Schools should teach all pupils ‘digital citizenship’, says Children’s Commissioner
Yesterday the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield said schools should teach ‘digital citizenship’ to all pupils aged 4 to 14 to help keep them safe online. In a report from her Growing up Digital taskforce, the Commissioner calls for 3 key interventions:

  • creation of a digital citizenship programme to be compulsory in all schools from age 4-14 (this would include what it means to be responsible online, how to protect your rights and how to respect those of others. It would also cover how to disengage and engage with the digital world);
  • implementation of the intent of the General Data Protection Regulation by introducing simplified Terms and Conditions for digital services offered to children;
  • a new Children’s Digital Ombudsman to mediate between under 18s and social media companies.

This follows confirmation by the Government in December that it is considering its position on compulsory PSHE as it attempts to get the children and social work bill passed.

The Commissioner is also supporting a proposal to review the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and bring the articles up to date for the digital age.

SCHOOLS NorthEast Regional Governance Conference – 30 March 2017
SCHOOLS NorthEast is holding a conference at Durham County Cricket Club in Chester-le-Street on Thursday 30 March to support those in school governance roles in carrying out their duties confidently and effectively. The event is also aimed at senior leaders who want to make sure they have a high performing governing board and those looking to recruit new governors. Belita Scott HMI, Ofsted’s National Lead for Governance will be a keynote speaker and key themes will include:

  • Ofsted and compliance: what is expected of governing boards and how to make sure you are inspection ready (including feedback from schools that have recently been inspected).
  • Selection and recruitment of governors: what makes a good governor and how can schools attract the right people.
  • The changing education landscape: helping governors and school leaders horizon scan the changes to come (including changes planned in the National Funding Formula and how schools will have to cope on ever tightening budgets)
  • The future economy: the Government is focusing on the destination outcomes for young people.
  • Pushing for excellence: best practice in governance (how leaders and Chairs can work more effectively together; the importance of external support; training and development for governors).

The cost is £40 per delegate with SCHOOLS NorthEast Partner Schools attracting a half price discount at £20 per delegate and you can get a third free delegate when you book two places. To book your place at this event, please email

New Years Honours 2017
Four people from the North East received an award in the New Years Honours for their services to education.  Many congratulations go to Tracey Booth, Chair of Governors at Churchill Community College who was awarded an MBE. She’s been Chair at the College for the past 15 years and is also a National Leader of Governance.