Delay to the introduction of Reception baseline assessment and Behaviour Hubs – Friday 26 June 2020

This week I report on the delay of the introduction of Reception baseline assessments and Behaviour Hubs, the launch of a consultation on amendments to the School Admissions Code, the publication of DfE guidance on the COVID Summer Food Fund and plans to consult on delaying next year’s GCSE and A Level examinations.

Delay to the introduction of the Reception baseline assessment and Behaviour Hubs
This week it was confirmed that primary and first schools will not have to set the new Reception baseline assessment this autumn after the Government delayed its statutory introduction as a result of the coronavirus. Schools will have the opportunity to sign up to the Reception Baseline Assessment early adopter year to familiarise themselves with the content and administration, with the reassurance that this year’s data will not be used for accountability purposes.

Also, roll out of the Government’s £10 million behaviour hubs programme has been pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. The project, led by behaviour tsar Tom Bennett, will support 500 schools across England to develop policies such as detention systems and sanctions for misbehaving pupils. Originally the DfE had planned to recruit up to 20 lead schools to become behaviour hubs and work with advisers to support struggling schools from September this year. However due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the DfE has said it is now expecting to appoint and induct lead schools in the Spring next year.

Consultation on changes to the School Admissions Code
The DfE has launched a consultation on a revised version of the statutory School Admissions Code today. The revised Code seeks to clarify and improve the process in which often the most vulnerable children are admitted to school outside of the normal admissions round in light of a number of Government reviews. The revised Code will also provide additional information and details that will support admission authorities in discharging their duties effectively.

In addition, the DfE has published an updated statement on admission of summer-born children. In 2015 the DfE committed to amending the School Admissions Code so that summer born children could automatically be admitted to a Reception class at the age of five where that is what their parents wanted, and could remain with that cohort throughout their education. The DfE could not consult on this at the same time as the proposed changes detailed above, because a provision to enable children to remain in a particular cohort goes beyond the remit of the Code and requires primary legislation.

COVID Summer Food Fund guidance
Guidance for schools and LAs on providing vouchers to support pupils eligible for free school meals over this year’s summer holiday period has now been issued.

Plans to consult on the delaying of exam season 2021
At the start of the week the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, told MPs that the Government would be “consulting with Ofqual about how we can move those exams [in 2021] back” to maximise teaching time.  The news comes amid growing pressure on Ministers to reveal their plans to make next year’s exams run smoothly, following the cancellation of this year’s series as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

An Ofqual spokesperson said: “We recognise students expecting to take exams next year, and their parents and teachers, are concerned about the disruption to teaching and learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  We are working closely with the DfE, exam boards and groups representing teachers, schools, colleges and students, to carefully consider a range of possible measures. We are planning to publish for consultation, before the end of term, our proposals for 2021.”