Category Archives: Friday Updates

Each week School Clerk UK publishes an update for member governors on key issues affecting Governing Bodies. They are published here for easy browsing and future access.

Maintained schools to publish financial information on their websites – Friday 25 September 2020

This week I report on the new requirement for maintained schools to publish financial information on their websites, guidance on the admission of summer born children into school and a delay in publication of the SEND Review.

Financial information maintained schools must publish online
From this academic year maintained schools must publish financial information on their website as follows:

  • how many school employees (if any) have a gross annual salary of £100,000 or more in increments of £10,000;
  • a link to the webpage which is dedicated to their school on the schools financial benchmarking service.

Summer-born children: school admission
Yesterday the DfE published an updated statement on the admission of summer born children into school.  Whilst it does not intend for it to become the norm for summer born children to start school at age 5, where parents genuinely believe that delaying admission is right for their child, it expects admission authorities to give careful consideration to the age group in which the child’s needs can best be met, and to make sure they get the process right.

It also published some new advice to help parents who have concerns about their child’s readiness for school to make an informed decision about what would be right for their child, alongside some updated guidance to support admission authorities in fulfilling the duties imposed on them by the code.

Delay to publication of the SEND Review
The Education Secretary has confirmed that a review into provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities won’t now be published until next year, as work had stalled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ministers commissioned the review last September to look at how the system has evolved since reforms in 2014 that brought in new education, health and care plans, and explore the role of health care in SEND in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care.

Ofsted visits this term – Friday 18 September 2020

This week I report on the HMI visits taking place this term and a new research project to help understand Covid-19 transmission in schools.

Ofsted visits this half term
Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) will visit around 1,200 schools across England this Autumn term, as Ofsted aims to tell parents, government, and the public about how schools are managing the return to full education of their pupils. The visits, initially announced in July, will include schools of different types and of all Ofsted grades across England. Visits will be based around constructive discussions with the school or college leaders; they are not inspections, so will not result in a grade.

They will notify a school of the visit on the day before and talk about the practicalities of the visit – including any specific considerations related to COVID-19. Normally, 2 inspectors will visit a school for 1 day, when they will have collaborative conversations with school leaders.

On the visit, they will talk about any barriers that the school is facing in managing the return to opening fully, how pupils are getting back into expected routines and their behaviour, and the school’s safeguarding arrangements. Inspectors will also talk to school leaders about how remote learning fits into their wider curriculum plans. After a visit, the inspector will write a short letter, which will be published on our reports website.

The first visits will take place at the end of this month. Inspectors will observe social distancing and all other national or local guidance from the government to carry out these visits safely. Full inspection is set to resume in January 2021, but this is being kept under review.

Major research project to help understand coronavirus transmission in schools
The University of Bristol study will saliva-test 4,000 pupils and 1,000 school staff across Bristol once a month for six months. The aim of the study is to understand exactly how pupils transmit coronavirus, whether or not they are symptomatic – it should provide information on how schools should deal with outbreaks.

Schools and the NHS Test and Trace programme will receive the data from the study to help map infections in Bristol. Researchers will also work with schools to help them put appropriate measures in place to stop the transmission of the virus.

Launch of Wellbeing Governors campaign – Friday 11 September 2020

This week I report on the Governors for Schools new Wellbeing Governors campaign, HSE plans to carry out telephone safety checks with schools and the latest news on plans for next year’s A Level and GCSE examinations.

Wellbeing governors
On Tuesday Governors for Schools launched a year-long campaign (Wellbeing Governors) to highlight why they think link governors for wellbeing are vital on school governing bodies.

Working with Place2Be, the children’s mental health charity, over the next few months they will share blogs on key topics around mental health and wellbeing, questions for link governors to ask at meetings and best practice.  They are also hosting a panel about pupil wellbeing later this month via a webinar and you can register your attendance here.

Health and Safety Executive plans telephone safety checks and possible follow-up visits in schools
The HSE will be calling schools to check on plans for keeping pupils and staff safe and reducing the transmission of coronavirus.  During these calls, the HSE will also check on schools’ risk assessments, and if any concerns are raised, on-site visits may be conducted.

Schools have been told to ensure staff are aware that these checks are taking place and that designated individuals are familiar with their school’s risk assessment.

Ofqual chair suggests using online tests as a back-up plan for 2021 exams
According to Ofqual whatever next Summer’s circumstances are, exams will go ahead in some format. In last week’s Education Select Committee hearing, Ofqual was asked what the 2021 exam series will be like, including what contingency plans will be in place if pupils are unable to sit traditional exams.  Ofqual’s Chair, Roger Taylor, said it is “absolutely essential that students are themselves able to take part in some kind of fair, comparative test that gives them the ability on a level playing field to demonstrate their skills and knowledge and to be able to influence their own future”.

When asked further about how this would operate in areas under local lockdown, Mr Taylor said: “There are mechanisms including, for example, using online tests. We feel we have enough time [to] come up with a solution to that problem.”

Since June, Ofqual has been considering whether next year’s exams could be delayed and it’s Executive Director for general qualifications, said that this decision would need to be made in conjunction with the DfE and was aiming to publish its conclusion with the DfE in the coming weeks.

Welcome back – Friday 4 September 2020

This week I highlight the NGA’s guidance on continuity and recovery post Covid-19, their revised model Code of Conduct and Skills Audit and Matrix, publication of the latest version of KCSIE and an addendum to the DfE’s guidance on School Attendance.

Helpful NGA documents
The NGA has produced some guidance which you might find useful in preparation for your governing body meetings this term. The documents provide advice as well as suggested questions governors might want to consider.

The Continuity and Recovery document covers key considerations for monitoring the safe opening of schools, developing a recovery plan/strategic priorities, tips on virtual governance and resuming elections and other board business. Separate documents have been produced on monitoring the full school opening and reducing the impact of school closures on disadvantaged pupils.

The NGA has also refreshed its model Code of Conduct and Skills Audit and Matrix for the new academic year. Whilst the core content and substance are unchanged there have been some updates which I will share with you at our first governing body meetings this term. Accompanying guidance has also been produced for both documents.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (September 2020)
A quick reminder that the latest version came into force on 1 September and I will be providing all governors with a copy of Part 1 as part of our first governing body meeting this term.

Addendum to DfE Attendance guidance
For this school year a new category has been added to record instances when a pupil is ‘not attending in circumstances relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) and the addendum provides advice on the application of code X.

Taking a well earned break – Friday 17 July 2020

A follow-up on dealing with uncertainty - Clear Vision Accountancy

This year has been one of the most challenging and unprecedented we have faced in education.  Schools closed to most pupils in March,  risk assessments were produced, volumes of updated guidance from the DfE were waded through and some year groups were welcomed back into school in June.

Most schools have now finalised their plans and risk assessments for a full return of all pupils in September with measures in place to keep everyone safe, so classrooms will probably resemble how they looked when I was at school in the late 1980’s – two students to a table, all facing the front!

Senior Leadership Teams and Governing bodies have risen to the challenge, worked extremely hard during this time and we’ve embraced virtual meetings, focused on critical business decisions and getting it right for our pupils, staff and local communities.

I expect we will face more challenges in the Autumn term and the summer break is needed to recharge everyone’s batteries.

So for now take care and see you all in our first Governing body meetings in the autumn term,

Jacqui

Confirmation of PE and Sports Premium funding – Friday 10 July 2020

This week I report on confirmation of PE and Sports Premium funding for next academic year, publication of guidance for teaching maths at KS1 and 2 and a checklist to support the re-engagement of pupils in terms of behaviour next academic year.

PE and Sports Premium funding confirmation
The DfE has confirmed that PE and Sports Premium funding will continue next academic year. It has published guidance to help schools in light of Covid-19, advising that the online reporting deadline of 31 July is still in place and swimming and water safety attainment should be entered into the online report with a note to clarify the proportion of the year group that this relates to and any other limitations of the data.

As a result of Covid-19 schools are allowed to carry forward under-spends and their published online report should set out the amount being carried forward and give brief reasons for this under-spend. Any under-spends carried forward will need to be spent in full by 31 March 2021 and schools should factor this into spending plans for their 2020 to 2021 PE and sport premium allocation.

Publication of guidance for teaching maths at KS1 and 2
Non statutory guidance for teaching mathematics at key stages 1 and 2 to help pupils progress through the national curriculum was published this week by the DfE. The guidance aims to:

  • bring greater coherence to the national curriculum by exposing core concepts in
    the national curriculum and demonstrating progression from year 1 to year 6;
  • summarise the most important knowledge and understanding within each year
    group and important connections between these mathematical topics.

It can be used to support long-term, medium-term and short-term planning and assessment. As well as supporting transition conversations between teachers of adjacent year groups, so that class teachers understand what pupils have been taught in the previous year group, how they have been taught it, and how effectively pupils have understood and remembered it.

Checklist to support full opening: behaviour and attendance
The DfE has published a checklist to assist school leaders and staff in preparing to welcome back all pupils full-time from the beginning of the autumn term. It’s a tool for schools to support the re-engagement of pupils and the return to orderly and calm environments in which all pupils can achieve and thrive.

Guidance published on a full return to school in September – Friday 3 July 2020

This week I report on the publication of guidance helping schools to plan for the return of all pupils in September, as well as a consultation launched by Ofqual on the 2021 exams series reflecting the impact of Covid-19 on teaching time.

DfE guidance on a full return in September
Yesterday the DfE published guidance to help schools to plan for the return of all pupils in September including separate guidance for Special schools. Whilst Covid-secure measures will remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission, schools will be expected to deliver a full curriculum. Schools have been asked to keep pupils in class bubbles or year group bubbles with staff able to work across bubbles.

Schools will also be expected to have plans in place to offer remote education for pupils who are self-isolating. Mandatory attendance will be reintroduced, and routine Ofsted inspections won’t resume until January 2021.

Primary tests will also go ahead as planned next year and these include the phonics screening check, Key stage 1 and Key stage 2 SATs and Year 4 times tables test.

School Senior Leadership Teams will be working on their risk assessments and control measures for a full return of pupils in September and the NGA held an informative webinar yesterday on issues governing bodies need to consider ahead of the Autumn term.

Consultation on the 2021 examination series
Yesterday Ofqual launched a consultation on the 2021 exams and assessments with a range of proposals for general qualifications including:

  • Adaptations to free up teaching time – to give teachers more time to cover the full content in some subjects and help relieve the pressure on students.
  • Adaptations to allow for future public health safeguards – identifying those subjects that could be particularly affected if public health safeguards were needed and suggestions on how these might be addressed.
  • Sampling of subject content – exploring the use of content sampling in question papers and increasing the use of optional questions – but not for English literature, maths and the sciences.
  • Changes to the exam timetable – whether GCSE exams could start after half term, on 7 June 2021 and whether it would be appropriate for the AS/A level exam timetable, and the impact of any delay in issuing results.

The consultation is open until Thursday 16 July, with final decisions announced in August.  Ofqual has indicated that learners taking vocational and technical qualifications have also experienced lost teaching time and appropriate arrangements need to be put in place to mitigate the impact of this disruption, with plans to be published in more details in the coming weeks.

 

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.”

 

Catch-up plan announced – Friday 19 June 2020

This week I report on the Government’s announcement of a £1 billion catch up plan for next academic year and the publication of the updated Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance that will come into force on 1 September 2020.

£1 billion ‘Covid catch-up plan’ announced
Today Number 10 and the DfE announced a £1 billion package to help to tackle the impact of teaching time lost owing to the coronavirus crisis. The “Covid catch-up plan” will include £350m to pay for a national tutoring scheme for the most disadvantaged pupils as well as £650m to be shared across primary and secondary schools during next academic year for all pupils who need it.

However, the details aren’t yet clear. The DfE has said heads will have discretion on how to spend the £650 million, which is equivalent to just over £91 per pupil. But the department also said it expects them to spend the cash “on small group tuition for whoever needs it”. The DfE has said schools can spend the money on other initiatives, such as summer schools, but has not yet explained how that fits with their demand that schools use it for tutoring and the funding will be for the 2020/21 academic year, so its not clear whether schools will receive it in time to pay for activities this summer.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is due to publish a guide later today to help school leaders decide how to use their £650 million in additional funding. Suggestions highlighted by the DfE include “intervention programmes, extra teaching capacity, access to technology and summer schools”.

The £350 million National Tutoring Programme will be run by the EEF, Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta, and will be split into two strands.

  • NTP Partners – schools will get access to “heavily subsidised” tuition sessions for their pupils from an approved list of organisations. The sessions will be subsidised by as much as 75% meaning they will cost £12 per session.
  • NTP Coaches – recent graduates will be trained up and then employed by schools to provide “intensive catch-up support” to pupils, with their salaries paid for by the programme.

In both cases, it will be up to schools to decide how to deploy the tutoring, and whether to use it for individual pupils or small groups. Schools will be able to decide whether to use tuition sessions in addition to their pupils’ normal school day, or during their timetabled day. The Government hasn’t said how many children will benefit from the tutoring programme, just that it will be for those eligible for pupil premium.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (September 2020)
On Wednesday, the DfE published the updated statutory guidance which will come into force from 1 September 2020. Changes have been made in three circumstances:

  1. where legislation has required it e.g. reflecting mandatory Relationship Education, Relationship and Sex Education and Health Education from September 2020;
  2. where  helpful additional information has been provided that will support schools and colleges to protect their children e.g. mental health, domestic abuse, child criminal and sexual exploitation and county lines;
  3. important clarifications which will help the sector better understand and/or follow the guidance.

Annex H of the document is a table of the substantive changes that have been made from the current version, which schools must continue to follow until 1 September.

Catch-up programme for pupils to be announced – Friday 12 June 2020

This week I report on the announcement of a ‘catch-up’ programme for pupils to help with missed education due to the pandemic, the publication of some new guidance for schools to help identify gaps in understanding, planning a curriculum to teach at school and home and curriculum planning for a phased return; as well as information on two Schools NorthEast webinars and the announcement of extra mental health support for pupils and staff.

Catch-up operation for pupils to be announced
This week the Prime Minister promised catch-up activities over the summer for pupils who have missed education because of the coronavirus and the Education Secretary will provide information on this catch-up programme next week. The Prime Minister also suggested the programme would run after summer to help children with the work they had missed and would be an “educational catch up and economic bounce back at the same time”.

The DfE hasn’t yet confirmed if schools will be open during the summer break and if teachers will be expected to provide activities as part of the catch-up programme. The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure to publish a plan to get all pupils back to school in September.

Today the DfE has published some new guidance for schools on identifying and addressing gaps in pupils’ understanding, planning a curriculum to teach at school and at home and supporting staff in curriculum planning for a phased return, which you might find useful.

Schools NorthEast webinars
There are two free webinars for school staff (including governors) being offered by Schools NorthEast as follows:

  • Live Q&A with Ward Hadaway Law Firm on the wider opening of schools – Monday 15 June at 3.00pm: Graham Vials from Ward Hadaway will be delivering this webinar and will answer questions on topics including Risk Assessment, Staffing, Governance, PPE and Liability.  Register using this link.
  • Recruiting staff in schools through COVID-19 Lockdown and beyond – Wednesday 17 June at 2.00pm: Sarah Louise France-Gorton, Head of Resourcing Solutions at NYES will discuss how other schools have carried on with recruitment where possible, considering innovative and dynamic ways to recruit talent including virtual interview methods, platforms to use, task and assessment ideas, the future of recruitment and recruitment tips.  Register using this link.

Both webinars are free for school staff and £50+VAT for non-school delegates.

Extra mental health support for pupils and teachers
The DfE has announced new online resources designed by health and education experts will be provided to schools and colleges to boost mental health support for staff and pupils, encouraging them to talk more confidently about the anxieties and concerns they feel as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The DfE has confirmed grants worth more than £750,000 have been awarded to the Diana Award, the Anti-Bullying Alliance and the Anne Frank Trust to help build relationships between pupils, boost their resilience, and continue to tackle bullying both in person and online. As well as announcing a new £95,000 pilot project in partnership with the Education Support Partnership focusing on teachers’ and leaders’ mental health, providing online peer-support and telephone supervision from experts to around 250 school leaders.

The School Standards Minister has also written to members of the DfE’s Expert Advisory Group on education staff wellbeing, accepting its recommendations including a commitment to develop a wellbeing charter for the teaching sector. The charter will help create an open culture around wellbeing and mental health, breaking down stigma, and will include commitments from the Government to regularly measure staff wellbeing, and to embed this into training, guidance and policy making.