DfE to take forward disadvantage support proposals – Friday 9 February 2018

This week I report on the Government’s decision to change the threshold for free school meals eligibility under Universal Credit, a report suggesting that the later EAL pupils join the school system the greater the impact on their attainment and the publication of the annual report of the Chief Schools Adjudicator for England.

DfE to take forward disadvantage support proposals
The Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi has announced that the Government will proceed with its plans to change the threshold for free school meals eligibility under Universal Credit.

The proposed new threshold is £7,400 per year, but the Government says once benefits are taken into account, a typical family earning that amount will take home between £18,000 and £24,000. This is higher than the £16,200 earnings threshold that currently entitles pupils to free meals, but much lower than the £55,000 threshold that would have come in without the proposed changes.

Policy experts have also raised series concerns about the impact any change to FSM eligibility will have on disadvantage data.

Late arrival of EAL pupils into the school system ‘perform poorly’
This week the Education Policy Institute and the Bell Foundation published a report suggesting that whilst headline performance figures for pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) suggested they were making good progress, there was significant variation in attainment within that diverse group of pupils.

This variation was based on the native language of the pupil, their proficiency in English, the length of time they had been in school and where they lived. On average, EAL pupils joining towards the end of Key Stage 4 achieved two grades lower (across Attainment 8 subjects) than EAL pupils who started in Reception. The report called for a “late arrival premium to boost support for children with EAL arriving in English schools late in the primary or secondary phase”.

The new national funding formula allocates three years’ worth of funding to EAL pupils, irrespective of when they arrive in the English state-school system. Recent cohorts of GCSE pupils had benefited from the ringfenced Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant throughout their school lives. From 2011 the grant was absorbed into general school funding ending the requirement to spend it on black and minority ethnic pupils and/or those with EAL.

Annual report of the Chief Schools Adjudicator for England
Yesterday the annual report of the Chief Adjudicator Ms Shan Scott, was published recording the progress made by admission authorities in England in complying fully with the School Admissions Code and achieving fair access to schools for all children.

In her report, Ms Scott states that the main admissions rounds for entry to schools worked well and served well the interests of looked-after and previously looked-after children, those with disabilities and special needs or who were vulnerable for other reasons. She was less confident that the needs of children who needed a place outside the normal admissions round were so well met and was concerned that some children, particularly the more vulnerable, spent more time out of school than they should.

Concerns about admission arrangements continued to make up the largest part of the work of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) and accounted for 100 of the total of 163 new cases of all types referred to OSA.