This week I report on new mental health training that will be offered to teachers over the next 5 years, the review of fire safety in schools following the Grenfell Tower fire, the announcement of the pass mark for this year’s Phonics screening check and that schools will now get the opportunity to appeal GCSE and A Level marking errors.
Mental Health training for teachers
The Government has pledged that every secondary school in the country will receive mental health training by 2020 and that this will be extended to primary schools by 2022. The programme will be delivered by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, a social enterprise organisation, and is backed by £200,000 in Government funding.
Staff will receive practical advice on how to deal with issues such as depression and anxiety, suicide and psychosis, self-harm, and eating disorders. They will also be invited to become ‘first aid champions’, sharing their knowledge and experiences across schools and communities to raise awareness and break down stigma and discrimination.
Fire Safety in schools
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy the Government is analysing school buildings to identify those that are over four storeys high and establish which, if any, external cladding has been used on them. At the end of last week, the Government had instructed councils and academy trusts to carry out fire safety checks on school buildings to identify any that may need further investigation in light of the blaze.
The DfE is also reportedly dropping proposals to change fire safety rules around the installation of sprinklers and teaching unions have called on the Government to officially confirm they have abandoned the proposed fire safety rule changes.
Phonics screening check pass mark announced
On Monday, the Government announced the pass mark for the phonics screening check will be 32 out of 40, for the sixth year running. The phonics check was taken by more than 600,000 five and six year old pupils in Year 1. It is a test of 40 words, half of which are nonsense words, and is administered and marked by a teacher or staff member who is known to the pupil. Last year, 81% of pupils met the expected standard in Year 1, up from 77% in 2015.
Schools to get right to appeal GCSE and A-level ‘marking errors’
This week the exams regulator Ofqual has announced that schools will be given the right to appeal against GCSE and A-level results if they suspect there has been a marking error. This comes on the back of a successful pilot last year in which it allowed schools to appeal on the grounds of marking errors in three A level subjects.
The exams regulator changed the rules in recent years so that schools could only appeal an exam result if they felt exam boards had not properly followed procedures. Schools could not appeal if they believed there had been an error in the marking or moderation of an exam. The new rule will be phased in over the next 2 years, starting with all AS and A-level subjects from this summer.