Education Secretary’s ‘vision’ for a clearer school system – Friday 4 May 2018

This week I report on the Education Secretary’s plans to overhaul the system of school accountability, the announcement of funding to boost children’s early language skills and funding to help the country’s brightest pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to support their continued academic attainment.

Consultation to overhaul the system of school accountability
Today the Education Secretary is addressing the National Association of Head Teachers’ (NAHT) annual conference, setting out plans for a clearer system of accountability in the education sector.

A series of key principles have been published by the DfE on how the accountability system for educational performance will operate, and how the different organisations fit within it. The DfE will work through the detail of how this will be implemented with the sector by the Autumn.  Headlines include:

  • removing floor and coasting standards as this can be confusing and replacing them with a single, transparent data standard;
  • the removal of ‘inspections’ of schools by representatives of Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs);
  • academy conversion, leadership change or re-brokerage of a school will only be mandated on the grounds of educational underperformance if Ofsted has judged it Inadequate;
  • identification of schools that are underperforming and would benefit from an offer of support, which could be provided from a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), an accredited system leader such as a teaching school, or a school improvement provider using evidence-based programmes.

MPs to investigate the impact of early years education on life chances
An inquiry into the impact that early years education has on children’s life chances has been set up by the parliamentary education committee.  The inquiry will look at the effect early years education and social policy has on children later in life and will examine current government policy in those areas.

The launch of the inquiry comes days after the DfE announced £13.5 million funding for two schemes aiming to help boost early language and literacy development for disadvantaged children.

  • a £5m programme introduced by the DfE and run by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) which will trial projects in the north of England to provide “practical tools and advice” to parents so they can help their children learn new words.
  • £8.5 million committed to the Local Government Association (LGA) for a new early-years social mobility peer review programme, which will help fund councils to work together to improve disadvantaged children’s early language and literacy skills.

Launch of a fund for bright disadvantaged pupils
The DfE has launched its Future Talent Fund programme, which aims to test new ways of helping the brightest children from disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their potential. Schools and multi-academy trusts will be eligible to apply for the funding this Autumn and projects supported by the fund will cover at least one of the following strands of work:

  • Curriculum: such as broadening or deepening what is covered in the curriculum;
  • Pedagogy: for example, individualised teaching, the use of digital technology or feedback;
  • Parental involvement: which could include aspiration interventions, engagement through technology or behavioural insight techniques;
  • Mentoring and tutoring: including academic mentoring, community based mentoring, school based mentoring, one-to-one tuition, group tuition or peer tutoring;
  • Transition between key stages: such as summer schools or transition practices in schools; and
  • Enrichment activities: which could include after-school classes, extra-curricular activities or visits.