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.