Monthly Archives: March 2017

Consultation proposing the end of KS1 SATs – Friday 31 March 2017

This week I report on the start of a consultation on reforms to the Primary Assessment system including the recommendations from the Rochford Review,  the Education Secretary has clarified the new GCSE 9 to 1 grading system and the findings from a consultation on peer support and children’s and young people’s mental health was published.

Consultation on reforms to the Primary Assessment system
Yesterday the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, set out proposals to replace Key Stage 1 SATs with a new baseline test at Reception to create a more “stable and proportionate” primary assessment system. The consultation proposes:

  • improvements to the early years foundation stage profile – consulting on how to make improvements and reduce burdens to the existing assessments on children’s readiness to start school at the end of their early education;
  • bringing forward the starting point for school progress measures during primary education – through the introduction of a new teacher-mediated assessment in Reception;
  • reviewing the statutory status of Key Stage 1 assessment – schools will still be provided with test materials to help them benchmark their pupils and inform parents;
  • reducing the burdens of teacher assessment – removing the requirement to submit teacher assessments where the assessment is not used in the accountability of schools;
  • considering whether there should be greater flexibility for teachers to use their judgement to assess pupils’ ability in writing.

A parallel consultation on the recommendations of the independent Rochford Review opened at the same time looking at the future of statutory assessment arrangements for pupils
working below the standard of national curriculum tests in England.  This is a diverse group of children – a high proportion have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), some are from disadvantaged backgrounds and some have English as an additional language.

Both consultations will last for 12 weeks, closing on 22 June.

Clarification around the new GCSE 9 to 1 grading system
The Education Secretary has written to the Chair of the Education Select Committee to provide certainty about how the new grading will work and, in particular, the consequences for individual pupils of achieving a grade 4 or grade 5.

Rather than reporting on the “good pass”, achieving a grade 4 will be regarded as a “standard pass” and a grade 5 as a “strong pass”.  Under the new system, a grade 4 and above will be equivalent to a C and above.  This is the level that pupils must achieve in order not to be required to continue studying English and maths post 16.  Therefore, the expectation is that employers, FE providers and universities that currently accept a grade C would continue recognising a grade 4.

The Government will publish not just the “standard pass” (grade 4 and above) but
also the “strong pass” (at grade 5 and above) in school performance tables.  Achievement at the “strong pass” will be one of the benchmarks used to measure the performance of schools.

Consultation outcome on peer support and children’s and young people’s mental health
The Government established a Steering Group and an Advisory Group in December 2015 to identifying ways to increase and improve the quality of peer support for mental wellbeing made available to children and young people by schools.  This week it published a report which summarises and presents the findings from the range of activities that were undertaken including workshops with stakeholders and young people and ‘flash’ Twitter polls.  A short analysis aimed at children and young people was also produced.

New Behaviour Review published – Friday 24 March 2017

This week I highlight the newly published review of behaviour in schools, guidance on eligibility criteria for 30 hours childcare and research on the current provision and operational practice of work experience and work-related activities at schools and colleges in England.

Today the Government published its independent review of behaviour in schools led by teacher and behaviour expect Tom Bennett. It was commissioned to help identify evidence of effective strategies so school leaders can “optimise behaviour” among their pupils. Mr Bennett spent several months meeting classroom teachers and leaders from a variety of schools to identify successful strategies. The Department for Education (DfE) has welcomed the report and in its response has said it will  use the report’s findings to inform ongoing work to help and support schools to deal with this issue.

Earlier this week the DfE published a short guide setting out the eligibility requirements for 30 hours childcare for parents of 3- and 4-year-olds in England. More information on 30 hours childcare is available from the childcareworks website.

On Tuesday, a research study commissioned by the DfE was published looking at:

• the type, coverage and take up of work experience
• post-placement activities
• the effects of work experience and work-related activities on learners and employers
• good practice in providing effective placements

New report on consequences of proposed national funding formula – Friday 17 March 2017

This week I report on the growing pressure on Government to scrap the proposed national funding formula, the launch of a new consultation on revised School Exclusion guidance and publication of new guidance on the Apprenticeships Levy.

Report on the consequences of the Government’s proposed national funding formula
Today the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published the first comprehensive review of the consequences of the Government’s proposed national funding formula. The report raises concerns that cash will not reach the poorest pupils, that secondary schools with the most deprived intakes will lose out, as well as those schools with growing in-year admissions.

Given that every school is facing real-term losses by 2019/20 because of the removal of the education services grant, inflation and the funding formula in combination, it estimates that primary schools will lose about £74,000 on average each (the equivalent of two teachers) and secondary schools will lose about £291,000 (the equivalent of six teachers).

Revised School Exclusion guidance consultation
On Tuesday, the Government launched a five-week consultation on revised statutory School Exclusion guidance, which it says aims to “clarify” areas that were “causing confusion in the system”, rather than change existing policy. It also includes “corrected descriptions of legal requirements” that it said weren’t clear enough in the previous guidance which dates from 2012.

The Government has also issued two non-statutory annexes to the document, one for Headteachers and the other for parents, to help them understand the exclusion process. The proposed changes are due to come into effect in September 2017 and the consultation runs until 25 April if you would like to submit a response (via email:

Apprentice Levy
This week the DfE released guidance for schools on the Apprenticeships Levy that will come into effect next month. It provides information specific to schools on what apprenticeships are, how schools can use them, and how the apprenticeship levy and public sector target applies.

The levy applies to all employers operating in the UK, but only employers with an annual pay bill of over £3 million will pay the levy, charged at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s annual pay bill. The way in which the levy applies to schools depends on the type of school and the overall employer. For example, for schools where the governing body is the employer (and has an annual pay bill of over £3million) it will need to pay the levy, and if the local authority is the employer (for those schools with an annual pay bill of over £3 million) it will pay the levy.

Subject to parliamentary approval of regulations, public sector bodies in England with 250 or more employees will be set a target to employ an average of at least 2.3% of their headcount as new apprentices over the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2021. The target is for new ‘apprenticeship starts’, which includes both existing employees who start on an apprenticeship, and newly employed apprentices.

Schools in England with 250 or more employees will be in scope of the target, and will therefore need to have regard to it. They will be required to publish certain information annually on their progress towards meeting the target, and send information to the DfE. The DfE has indicated that it will shortly publish employer guidance on what information needs to be published and shared, and the specific format in which it should be returned. The first reports will be due by 30 September 2018.



Funding for new free schools announced in this week’s Budget – Friday 10 March 2017

This week I report on the education related aspects of Wednesday’s Budget, the launch of the updated NGA’s Skills Audit, which incorporates elements from the Core Competency Framework for Governance and publication of the Government’s new Early Years Workforce Strategy.

Education implications of the Budget 2017
The Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first Budget on Wednesday and detailed below are the key points relating to education:

  • Free schools and grammar schools expansion – extending the free schools programme with investment of £320m in this Parliament to help fund up to 140 schools, including independent-led, faith, selective, university-led and specialist maths schools. Also the current ‘extended rights’ entitlement for children aged 11-16 who receive free school meals or whose parents claim Maximum Working Tax Credit will also be extended so that they will now get free transport to attend the nearest selective school in their area.
  • T-levels: funding technical education – a pledge to increase the number of programme hours of training for 16-19 year olds on technical routes by more than 50%, to over 900 hours a year on average, including the completion of a high quality industry work placement during the programme. The routes will be introduced from 2019-20 and £500m of additional funding per year invested once routes are fully implemented.
  • Funding for school maintenance – a further £216m investment in school maintenance, to help rebuild and refurbish existing schools. The money will be allocated over the course of two academic years, with half spent in 2018/19 and the other half in 2019/20.
  • £1bn funding for school sports from the sugar tax – whilst the sugar tax revenue was lower than initially forecast (as manufacturers have reduced the sugar content in some products) the Department for Education will get £1bn over the rest of this Parliament to spend on sports activities in schools and to help promote healthy lifestyles amongst pupils.

New 2017 NGA Skills Audit
As promised the NGA has published a brand new version of its skills audit tool, in response to the DfE’s Core Competency Framework for Governance which was published in January. Whilst the interactive version is not yet available I thought it would be helpful for you to see the new version.

The NGA continues to believe that governing bodies are best placed themselves to individually assess which areas outlined in the framework are most important for them, so while the new skills audit is structured around the DfE’s six features of effective governance, it doesn’t attempt to replicate all 200 plus competencies, knowledge skills and behaviours. Instead it combines the core aspects of the framework with the experience and feedback of its members to inform the skills, experiences and knowledge included.

Publication of the Early Years Workforce Strategy
Launching the Government’s Early Years workforce strategy late last week, the Early Years Minister, Caroline Dinenage, confirmed that equivalent qualifications would now count again from April this year.  Since 2014 new recruits have needed at least C grades in GCSE English and maths, with equivalent “functional skills” qualifications not accepted. Childcare organisations have been complaining that this requirement was putting off talented staff, risking a recruitment crisis and the roll out of the 30-hours free childcare scheme for working families in September could only make this situation more difficult.

Commitments included in the Strategy are:

  • enabling staff with an Early Years Educator (EYE) qualification who also hold level 2 English and mathematics qualifications, including Functional Skills, to count in the level 3 staff:child ratios;
  • consulting on allowing those with Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS), and its predecessor Early Years Professional Status (EYPS), to lead nursery and reception classes in maintained schools;
  • working with the sector to develop level 2 childcare qualification criteria;
  • improving the quality of early years training and providing access to continuous professional development (CPD);
  • providing funding to support the sector to develop quality improvement support in partnership with schools and local authorities.


Schools to teach 21st century relationships and sex education– Friday 3 March 2017

This week I report on the Government’s plans for all secondary schools in England to teach relationships and sex education, £415m funding for schools to improve facilities and encourage healthier lifestyles and two new DfE guidance documents on managing staffing and employment issues.

Schools to teach 21st century relationships and sex education
On Wednesday, the Government tabled amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill which will make it a requirement that all secondary schools in England teach relationships and sex education (RSE).

The amendments also allow the Government to make regulations requiring personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) to be taught in all schools in England – primary, secondary, maintained and academy – in future. Currently only pupils attending local authority maintained secondary schools are guaranteed to be offered current sex and relationships education, and PSHE is only mandatory at independent schools. Neither are currently required to be taught in academies.

The Government is proposing the introduction of the new subject of ‘relationships education’ in primary school and renaming the secondary school subject ‘relationships and sex education’, to emphasise the central importance of healthy relationships.

Full public consultation will take place later this year and its expected the new curriculum will be taught in schools as soon as September 2019. Schools will have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects, so they can develop an integrated approach that is sensitive to the needs of the local community; and, in the case of faith schools, in accordance with their faith.

Schools to benefit from £415m to transform facilities and encourage healthy lifestyles
The Education Secretary, Justine Greening, has announced £415m funding to boost school facilities and help pupils benefit from healthier, more active lifestyles. The Healthy Pupils Capital Programme will be available to all primary, secondary and sixth form colleges in 2018/9 and will be paid from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, introduced by the Government last year to tackle childhood obesity.

Under the new programme, schools will be able to use the funding to support physical education (PE), after-school activities and healthy eating. Schools will also be able to use it to improve facilities for children with physical conditions or support young people struggling with mental health issues.

Local authorities and larger MATs will receive an allocation for schools and will make decisions locally on how this money is invested. Smaller MATs, individual academies and sixth-form centres will be able to bid for grants for specific one-off projects.

DfE Guidance on managing staffing and employment issues
This week the DfE published two new guidance documents:

  • Staffing and employment advice (replacing the 2009 ‘Guidance on managing staff in schools’) to help schools with staffing and employment issues, and to inform their decision making.
  • Flexible Working in schools to help schools consider how best to encourage, support and enable flexible working requests.

Whilst helpful documents they don’t replace HR advice obtained from the school’s HR providers.