Latest DfE governance update – Friday 23 April 2021

This week I highlight the DfE’s latest governance update and Ofsted’s approach as inspections resume.

Latest DfE Governance update
The April governance update provides information on:

  • Governing and trust boards meetings and visits into schools – boards should continue with their alternative meeting arrangements where possible but could consider whether a blended approach of face-to-face and virtual meetings would be appropriate if needed.
  • National Tutoring Programme – maintained schools can still access tutoring subsidised by 75% through the NTP to support pupils who need extra help.
  • Early Career Framework Statutory Induction Guidance change – from September 2021 statutory induction for teachers will change as part of the ECF reforms. Early career teachers in England undergoing statutory induction will be entitled to 2 years of high-quality professional development and training. Schools offering statutory induction need to replace their current induction process in line with this.
  • Honours nominations for those who work or volunteer in school or trust governance – anyone can nominate someone worthy for an honour if they consistently go above and beyond in their role; make an exceptional contribution; have contributed to notable achievements in public life.
  • Governor and trustee recruitment – Inspiring Governance and Academy Ambassadors are dedicated, free services which continue to assist schools and trusts with finding people with the right skills and experience for their boards.
  • Completing or updating Academy trusts governance contacts on Get Information about Schools – a short video to demonstrate what information is required and how to record governance contacts on the GIAS service is now available.

Inspection during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic
Earlier this week Ofsted set out its approach as inspections resume. It covers how inspectors will reflect the COVID-19 context and the disruption it has caused to all education providers when making judgements. To minimise burdens on the sector, it has also made a few changes to the inspection handbook as follows:

  • Ofsted will check how the curriculum was ‘adapted and prioritised’ – as schools weren’t required to provide education to all pupils between March and July last year, inspectors will seek to understand how the school has adapted and prioritised the curriculum from September 2020. This will include how the curriculum was implemented remotely and how curriculum planning has responded to learning gaps.
  • Inspectors will be ‘mindful’ about old data – Ofsted will not be using teacher assessed grades from 2020 or 2021 but will still consider externally published data throughout the inspection. Inspectors will be “mindful of the age of this data, especially around statutory assessment and qualifications, when making judgments” and “will not expect or accept internal data” instead of or in addition to published data.
  • Leaders to explain how they supported the school community – inspectors will seek to understand how leaders supported the school community and areas of interest will include how remote education was put in place, how vulnerable pupils were kept safe and prioritised for face-to-face education and how staff and pupils’ well-being have been promoted.
  • How schools ensured ‘best possible attendance’ – attendance patterns will be discussed to understand how “the school ensured the best possible attendance for those pupils eligible to attend in person”. However, attendance recorded between March 2020 and March this year will not impact Ofsted’s judgement of a school. Inspectors will “consider the specific context and the steps school leaders have taken to ensure the best possible rates of attendance since the school opened to all pupils in March 2021”.
  • Covid cannot be the ‘sole factor’ behind an inadequate judgement – when considering a judgement between good or requires improvement, inspectors will look at whether the overall quality of the school is most closely aligned to the descriptors set out.
  • Ofsted will be ‘sympathetic’ on relationships education progress – teaching of relationships and health education in all schools, and sex education in secondary schools, became mandatory this academic year. However schools have been given flexibility on when during the year to begin teaching the curriculum because of Covid and all schools will still be required to have taught some of the new curriculum, and to have consulted on and published a policy during this academic year.
  • Warning over blocking inspectors speaking to pupils – if inspectors cannot corroborate safeguarding evidence by talking to pupils during the inspection, safeguarding will be judged as “ineffective” and the relevant independent school standards judged as not met. But inspectors will respect COVID-19 “safety measures agreed with the school leadership when engaging with pupils, formally and informally”.