New Schools White Paper: Opportunity for All – Friday 1 April 2022

This week I highlight the publication of the Schools White Paper, the SEND and Alternative Provision green paper and the launch of the NGA’s updated governing body self-evaluation questions.

Publication of the Schools White Paper: Opportunity for all
On Monday the White Paper was published setting out the DfE’s policy plans over a period of several years and a summary of the key points is detailed below:

  • New attainment targets – by 2030 at Primary level 90% of pupils will achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by the time they leave primary school and at Secondary level the national GCSE average grade in both English language and maths will increase from 4.5 in 2019 to 5.  A ‘sample’ of year 9 pupils will also complete an online literacy and numeracy test to ‘estimate performance at a national level’.
  • Attainment interventions‘Parent pledge’ requirements: schools will be required to inform parents if their child is falling behind in English and maths and detail the progress they’re making. Pupil premium spending: the DfE is developing a menu of approaches for PP spending, designed to help schools make decisions about how best to support pupils, especially with numeracy and literacy skills. Tutoring: schools will be expected to use tutoring as a ‘staple offer’ for intervention and are expected to make tutoring available to every pupil who needs it. New curriculum resources: a new ‘arms-length’ curriculum body will be established and schools will be able to access a digital curriculum and online resources for every subject.
  • Ofsted inspections – all schools will receive a full inspection under the 2019 Ofsted inspection framework by the end of the summer term 2015.
  • New expectations on attendance – schools (apart from Special schools, PRUs and alternative provision) will be expected to provide a 32.5 hour school week.  It’s likely this is a requirement for hours on the school site rather than learning hours, and therefore time can be spent in break/form time or on extra-curricular activities, although this won’t include after-hours activities. In addition new legislation to establish statutory expectations for Local authority attendance services is set to be announced.
  • Changes to behaviour guidance – there will be revisions to the Behaviour in Schools and Suspension and Permanent Exclusion guidance.  A new national behaviour survey for staff, pupils and parents will be launched.
  • CPD and leadership opportunities – new national professional qualifications will be introduced for leading literacy, early year leadership, behaviour and culture, SENCOs.  Teachers and leaders in state schools will be able to apply for a funded scholarship to pursue these.
  • Plans for an academy-led system – by 2030 all schools will be part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) or will have plans to join or form one.  Local authorities will have the power to launch a new MAT, but this will be limited to areas with a shortage of existing trusts. Local authorities will have the power to ‘request’ that a school joins a trust.
  • Academy governance changes – all trusts should have local governance arrangements but there are no details on how this will be implemented, a new statutory framework will change the academy admissions system and trusts will have a statutory obligation to follow the School Admissions Code.  Local authorities will have ultimate responsibility in making sure every child is allocated an appropriate school place, including all in-year admissions.

Also the DfE has opened a consultation on a new intervention measure that would apply from September 2022 to all schools (including special schools and PRUs) with two or more consecutive Ofsted ratings below ‘good’ to join an academy trust or change trusts. These powers would initially focus on the DfE’s Education Investment Areas (EIAs) and Regional Directors (the new name for Regional School Commissioners) might also consider taking intervention action in some schools struggling to make necessary improvements outside of EIAs. In those cases, Regional Directors would be expected to prioritise schools that have spent the longest time being judged as less than Good by Ofsted.  The consultation closes on 23 May and the DfE intends to publish the results and its response within 12 weeks.

Publication of the DfE’s SEND and Alternative Provision green paper:
On Tuesday the Government’s long awaited SEND and alternative provision green paper was published which sets out its vision for a single, national SEND and alternative provision system that will introduce new standards in the quality of support given to children across education, health and care.  Backed by £70 million of new funding, the green paper sets out proposals which include:

  • setting new national standards across education, health and care
  • a simplified Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) through digitising plans
  • a new legal requirement for councils to introduce ‘local inclusion plans’
  • the publication of new ‘local inclusion dashboards’ to make roles and responsibilities of all partners within the system clearer for parents and young people
  • a new national framework for councils for banding and tariffs of High Needs, to match the national standards
  • changing the culture and practice in mainstream education through earlier intervention and improved targeted support
  • introducing a new SENCo NPQ for school SENCos and increasing the number of staff with an accredited level 3 qualification in early years settings
  • a reformed and integrated role for alternative provision, with a new delivery model in every local area focused on early intervention.

Updated NGA Governing body self-evaluation questions
To support governing bodies evaluate and improve their practice, the National Governance Association has updated the long standing governing body self-evaluation questions.

The 20 questions for single school governing boards, 21 questions for multi academy trust boards, and 16 questions for academy committees (local governing bodies) have been updated following consultation with governors, trustees and governance professionals.

The revised and restructured questions now include a greater emphasis on board dynamics, culture and behaviours and have replaced multi-layered questions with shorter, focused statements for reflection. The NGA has also published new guidance to support governing bodies to make the most of the self-evaluation questions.