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.

Government review into sexual abuse in schools – Friday 16 April 2021

This week I highlight the government’s review into sexual abuse in schools and updates from the DfE in relation to face coverings in secondary schools, changes to asymptomatic testing requirements and the resumption of educational visits.

Government review into sexual abuse in schools
Following numerous anonymous testimonials of sexual harassment and abuse submitted to the website Everyone’s Invited the DfE has set up a new helpline to support potential victims of sexual harassment and abuse in education settings. Run by the NSPCC, the dedicated number (0800 136 663), provides both children and adults who are victims of sexual abuse in schools with the appropriate support and advice.

The government has also asked Ofsted to undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies in state and independent schools. The review will look at the extent and the severity of the issue and ensure schools have appropriate processes in place to allow pupils to report concerns freely, knowing these will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

Ofsted will work with representatives from social care, police, victim support groups, school and college leaders and the Independent Schools Council. The review will conclude by the end of May 2021 and will seek to establish where safeguarding arrangements and processes are good and have worked well and where improvements are needed.

DfE Covid-19 update
Face coverings – during the Easter break the government confirmed that face coverings should continue to be worn in secondary school classrooms as a precautionary measure when students returned after the Easter break. It is expected that face coverings will no longer be required to be worn in classrooms, or by students in other communal areas, at step 3 of the government’s roadmap, which will be no earlier than 17 May.

Changes to Asymptomatic testing requirements – the DfE has updated its guidance in line with the Department for Health and Social Care’s announcement that a confirmatory PCR test is required within two days of a positive lateral flow test result in England. This means that negative PCR tests will now overrule a positive lateral flow test, so self-isolating pupils and staff can return to their schools and their contacts may also stop self-isolating.

Educational visits – educational day visits were permitted to take place from 12 April and from 17 May, residential trips will return. Full details of the government’s reintroduction of school trips is available on the DfE’s website.

Free webinar on developing and monitoring the school’s vision – Friday 26 March 2021

This week I highlight a free governors webinar on developing and monitoring the school’s vision, publication of guidance from the DfE’s schools benchmarking service which will be of particular interest to members of Finance and Staffing or Resources Committees and statutory guidance on induction for early careers teachers (formerly known as NQTs) which comes into force on 1 September this year.

Webinar on developing and monitoring the school’s vision
On Thursday 1 April 2021 from 8:00 to 9:00 am Governors for Schools are holding a webinar on developing and monitoring the school’s vision.   The session will explore good practice in:

  • developing vision statements
  • how statements should guide the work of the school’s governance
  • monitoring and evaluating success in pursuing the vision

To book a place on the webinar please use this link to access the Governors for Schools website.

Financial Benchmarking
Earlier this week the DfE published guidance for schools on benchmarking their income and expenditure.  Leaders and governors can use this service to:

  • compare their income and expenditure to similar schools and academy trusts
  • visualise the information using benchmarking charts
  • use the data to build relationships with other schools and academy trusts

Induction for early careers teachers
Statutory guidance on induction for early career teachers was published this week which will come into force from 1 September 2021 and updates and replaces the induction for newly qualified teachers (NQTs).

Ofsted pilot to look at whether the framework requires tweaks – Friday 19 March 2021

This week I highlight an Ofsted pilot to look at whether the inspection framework requires tweaks ahead of full inspections resuming from September, the impact of changes to pupil premium funding from April and implementation of the new EYFS Framework from September.

Ofsted pilot to look at whether framework tweaks are needed ahead of full inspections
This morning Schools Week is reporting that Ofsted will conduct full on-site inspections at about 25 schools over the next fortnight to assess whether its framework needs to be tweaked ahead of a return to graded inspections in September.

Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector, speaking at ASCL’s annual conference this week advised that full inspections would not return until the new academic year, instead plans would be announced shortly for a “sensible and proportionate next step” as part of its phased return during the summer term.

It will use the pilots to examine how it can reintroduce the inspection framework during the pandemic, including how it inspects in line with safety measures.  Ofsted will also use the trial to look at whether it needs to tweak the framework to reflect changes over pupil attendance and the lack of exams data.

The pilots are optional, with some schools being approached and others volunteering to take part. They will not result in a published report or grade for schools. 

Impact of pupil premium loss
On the final day of the autumn term the DfE stated it would be calculating the number of children eligible for pupil premium funding from April 2021 based on the October census, rather than using the January census as usual.  As a result any disadvantaged pupils who became eligible for free school meals between October and January would not be factored into pupil premium funding schools would ordinarily have been entitled to.

Last month the government introduced a new £302 million Covid recovery premium which would be allocated to schools on the same basis as pupil premium. It said the average primary school would receive £6k in funding.  However, a recent NAHT survey of primary school leaders indicated that the majority of primary schools in England would have all of their Covid recovery funding swallowed up by the loss of pupil premium funding.

Changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework
From September 2021 there are changes to the EYFS statutory framework to improve outcomes at age 5, particularly in early language and literacy and to reduce workload such as unnecessary paperwork, so that staff can spend more time with the children in their care.

Some schools, known as early adopter schools, are already using a new early adopter framework as part of the EYFS reforms this academic year.  The new framework will be published for all schools later this academic year and a new version of the ‘development matters’ non-statutory curriculum guidance is already available on the early adopter page of the DfE’s website.

Upcoming Governor training – Friday 12 March 2021

This week I highlight upcoming governor training through Governors for Schools and Schools North East, the first meeting of a new action group to boost mental health education and confirmation schools can now apply for funding through the new Turing scheme which replaces the Erasmus+ scheme in the UK.

Governor webinar and conference

  • Thursday 25 March from 12.30-1.30pm – free Governors for Schools webinar on how governors can integrate staff and pupil wellbeing and embed this approach in school culture.  To register please us this link to go to the Governors for Schools website.
  • Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 March Governance conference – Schools North East’s annual conference will feature keynotes from Hannah Stolton, CEO of Governors for Schools looking at how to effectively challenge; Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governance Association looking at a return to strategic working for governing bodies and Belita Scott, Senior HMI for North East, Yorkshire and Humber region, Ofsted.  The cost is £100 for a whole school ticket for a Partner School (£60 single delegate ticket) and £120 for a whole school ticket for a Non-Partner School (£80 single delegate ticket).  To book a place use this link.

New Action Group to boost mental health education
A new coalition of health and education experts met for the first time this week to look at the impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and education staff across England.  The Education Secretary was joined by ministers from across Government, as well as Youth Mental Health Ambassador Dr Alex George, to discuss how best to respond to the mental health issues of greatest concern including the increase in eating disorders and self-harm among young people, and how to help education staff manage their mental wellbeing.

Turing scheme to open up global study and work opportunities
From today schools, colleges and universities can apply for funding to allow students to study and work across the globe as part of the new Turing Scheme. The programme, backed by £110 million, replaces the Erasmus+ scheme in the UK and will fund 35,000 global exchanges from September 2021, including university study, school exchanges, and industry work placements.

The new scheme aims to improve social mobility, targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas which did not previously have many students benefiting from Erasmus+, making life-changing opportunities accessible to everyone across the country. The British Council and Ecorys will be targeting disadvantaged parts of the country to promote the scheme to improve take up.  Programme guidance, including information on the application process, has also been published on the Turing Scheme website.

Free governor webinars – Friday 5 March 2021

This week I highlight two new free governor webinars on the strategic role of governors in reducing avoidable school exclusions and governance and safeguarding during the pandemic as well as the latest governance update published by the DfE.

Free governor webinars

  • Wednesday 17 March from 12.30 to 1.30pm: Exploring the strategic role of governors in reducing avoidable school exclusions – in partnership with Allen & Overy, Governors for Schools are running a series of panel events looking in-depth at the impact of school exclusion.  This first panel will explore the impact of exclusions on the life chances of children and young people, strategies that can help to reduce avoidable exclusions, and the role of governors in creating change. To register for the event please use this link to go to the Governors for Schools website.
  • Thursday 18 March from 4.30 to 5.00pm: Governance, safeguarding and the pandemic – a key responsibility for all those governing is to keep pupils safe and well. In this webinar the National Governance Association’s Head of Consultancy will explore some of the new experiences and practical approaches that have emerged while tackling this unexpected governance challenge. To register for the event please use this link.

Latest DfE Governance update
This week the DfE published its latest governance update for anyone involved in school and trust governance.  This edition provides:

  • Links to the main Covid-19 guidance pages that cover a range of topics around pupils returning to schools from 8th March.
  • The opening of nominations for the National Governance Association’s Outstanding Governance Awards and an invitation for Clerks and other governance professionals serving schools to complete a new national survey to help understand their views and experiences of their career development.
  • Updated school land guidance explaining how and when it’s mandatory to involve the Secretary of State in land transactions, including the disposal and acquisition of school land and the change of use of school playing fields.
  • The delay of submission of the School Financial Value Standard (SFVS) for maintained schools due to the impact of the pandemic.
  • Wellbeing for Education Return – a new webinar and supporting resources for use by education leaders with all staff, INSET sessions, or for education staff to work through individually.

Return to school for all pupils in March- Friday 26 February 2021

This week I report on the return to school for all pupils from 8 March, confirmation of teacher assessed grades this year, a free webinar on schools financial benchmarking and the role of governance and information on the new education recovery support package for children and young people to catch up on missed learning and development due to the pandemic.

Return to school for all pupils from 8 March 2021
On Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed that all schools in England must begin offering full provision to all pupils from 8 March. Attendance will be mandatory except for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or need to self-isolate. Schools are required to provide remote education for pupils who are unable to attend school because they are following government guidance.

The DfE has issued new operational guidance for the school return as essential control measures must be in place to minimise COVID-19 transmission. Most of the control measures set out in the updated guidance replicate those implemented in September last year, however I’ve highlighted some new and important elements below:

  • Asymptomatic testing for all school staff and for secondary school pupils – returning secondary pupils will be tested three times at school (three to five days apart) and will be provided kits for at-home testing thereafter. There will be no testing of primary pupils. All testing carried out in school will use lateral flow devices (LFD) which provide a result in 30 minutes. Staff and pupils with a positive LFD result will need to follow self-isolation guidance and obtain a PCR test to confirm the result. Close contacts of anyone who tests positive must not attend school for ten days. All testing is voluntary.  Secondary schools have the discretion to stagger their return arrangements to support this but should only permit participating pupils to return to lessons following their first negative result. 
  • Extended use of face coverings in secondary schools – previously, the guidance asked secondary pupils and staff to wear face coverings in indoor communal areas. The new guidance extends this recommendation to all indoor environments in secondary schools (including classrooms) when social distancing cannot be maintained. Exemptions (such as pupils who rely on visual signals for communication) apply.
  • Wraparound care and extra-curricular activities to resume – from 8 March schools are encouraged to resume before and after school activities that help parents to attend work and support pupils’ wider education.
  • Supporting parents, pupils and staff – the DfE has recognised that some families and school staff may be feeling anxious about school resuming and the guidance encourages schools to discuss any concerns and provide reassurance on the measures they are putting in place to reduce any risks, reiterating that pupil attendance is mandatory.
  • Adjusting start and finish times – whilst overall teaching time should not be reduced, schools can stagger start and finish times to keeps groups apart as they arrive and leave. Schools should think about how best to communicate changes to parents and remind them not to gather outside the school entrance.

Confirmation of teacher assessed grades for students this year
Yesterday the Education Secretary announced that this year students will receive A level and GCSE grades awarded and determined by teachers, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught.

Guidance has been published which indicates teachers will be able to draw on a range of evidence when determining grades, including the optional use of questions provided by exam boards, as well as mock exams, coursework, or other work completed as part of a pupil’s course, such as essays or in-class tests. No algorithm will be used.

Teachers will submit grades to exam boards by 18 June, allowing as much teaching time as possible before teachers make their assessments. Results days for GCSE, A level and some vocational qualifications will take place in the week of 9 August – moved forward from the week of the 23 August. These earlier dates provide additional time for appeals to be completed, so students reliant on those outcomes to achieve their university offer have the best chance of accessing a place.

To support teachers in making their judgements, exam boards will provide detailed guidance before the end of this term.

Webinar on schools financial benchmarking and the role of governance
Governors for Schools are offering a webinar, facilitated by Better Governor on Thursday 4 March 2020 from 8.00 to 9:00 am which will focus on the role that financial benchmarking plays in schools.  The session will explore DfE benchmarking data, outline how boards should use it in order to meet expectations and statutory duties for 2021, and point to the questions that governors and trustees should be asking.  To register use this link to access the Governors for Schools website.

New education recovery package for children and young people
On Wednesday, the government announced further elements of the recovery support package so children and young people can catch up on missed learning and development due to the pandemic. The new recovery package for England includes:

  • A new one-off £302 million Recovery Premium for state primary and secondary schools, building on the Pupil Premium, to further support pupils who need it most. The average primary school will receive around £6,000 extra, and the average secondary school around £22,000 extra. This will help schools to bolster summer provision for their students or for evidence-based approaches for supporting the most disadvantaged pupils from September.
  • £200 million (from the £300 million announced by the Prime Minister in January to expand our successful tutoring programmes). This will fund an £83 million expansion of the National Tutoring Programme for primary and secondary schools; a £102 million extension of the 16-19 Tuition Fund for a further year to support more students in English, maths and other vocational and academic subjects; and £18 million funding to support language development in the early years, supporting a critical stage of child development.
  • £200 million (including the final £100 million from the Prime Minister’s announcement) will be available to secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools. Schools will be able to target provision based on pupils’ needs but the government is suggesting they may want to initially target incoming year 7 pupils.
  • A range of high-quality online resources will be available for all teachers and pupils, starting from the summer term and throughout summer holidays provided by Oak National Academy, to help give pupils the confidence they are ready for the next academic year.

As part of the government’s commitment to develop a longer-term education recovery plan, Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, will lead the way on longer-term engagement work with teachers, school and college leaders, educational charities and families to review how evidence-based interventions can be used to address the impact the pandemic has had on learning.

Consultation on allocation of high needs funding – Friday 12 February 2021

This week I report on two consultations from the DfE on the allocation of high needs funding as part of the national funding formula and a new service on buying goods and services as well as the publication of non-statutory guidance to help schools identify whether they have lightweight concrete in their buildings and if any further action is required.

Consultation opens on national funding formula for allocation of high needs funding to local authorities
On Wednesday, the government launched a consultation looking at changes to the allocation of high needs funding for the 2022/3 academic year and seeking wider views on longer term changes that would be considered in the future.

High needs funding is issued to local authorities based on nationally set criteria. It funds places for pupils with a statement of special education needs or an education, health and care plan (EHCP).  Ministers are looking at wider SEND system changes and the government’s delayed response to the SEND review is due to be published in the Spring. Consultation proposals include:

  • Finding an alternative to the ‘historic spend’ factor – this factor probably doesn’t reflect the current situation in a local area now, so councils and schools are being asked for their views on alternatives. Previous research showed the main drivers behind the difference in spending by councils was parental preference, capacity and ability of providers and the pattern of provision provided. The earliest a change would be introduced is in 2023/4.
  • Using 2019 attainment data for the next two years – low attainment at the end of key stages 2 and 4 is used as one of the indicators of SEND under the formula, but for the coming years, that data won’t be available as exams were cancelled. It’s proposed data from 2019 will be used as a substitute to work out funding for 2022/3 and 2023/24.
  • Plans for new proxy factors for SEND – as well as historic spend and low attainment factors, other measures such as the number of children in bad health, on free school meals and in families given disability living allowance are used as proxies for children with SEND as part of the formula.  Calls to base allocations on the actual number of children with EHCPs have been made but there isn’t a consistent national threshold for issuing a plan. The SEND review will consider providing more consistency on EHC needs assessments, but responses are invited on whether any new factors could replace the current “proxy” factors which may have become out of date or to address particular types of needs.

The consultation ends on 24 March 2021.

Consultation on new ‘Get Help Buying’ service opens
Yesterday the DfE launched a consultation on a new service that will be available from the Autumn to all maintained schools to ensure they are “efficiently delivering value for money” when buying goods and services.  The service will offer DfE recommended deals in areas such as energy bills, catering and cleaning, along with examples of services other schools use.

Two pilots in the North West and South West have saved £19.4m on non-staff spend across 2,000 schools and under the proposal, schools will be able to access the national service through its outreach and engagement team or through going directly to the Buying for Schools gov.uk pages.

The consultation ends on 11 March 2021.

Non statutory guidance on lightweight concrete in school buildings
The DfE has published non statutory guidance to help schools to identify the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) which was mainly used in roofs and occasionally in floors and walls from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, and to check whether any further investigation or action is needed.

Appointment of a new Education Recovery Commissioner – Friday 5 February 2021

This week I report on the government’s appointment of an Education Recovery Commissioner to deliver measures that will support children who have missed out on face-to-face education due to extended school closures, two new careers related learning webinars for governors and the delay for submission of the SFVS to May 2021.

Appointment of an Education Recovery Commissioner
On Wednesday, the appointment of Sir Kevan Collins was announced as the government’s Education Recovery Commissioner, to oversee a comprehensive programme of catch-up aimed at young people who have lost out on learning due to the pandemic. Sir Kevan has worked in the sector for over 30 years as a teacher, a Director of Children’s Services and most recently as Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation.

In his new role he will work with government to deliver measures that will support children who have missed out on face-to-face education due to extended school closures. This will include addressing factors such as curriculum content and quantity of teaching time in the coming months, to ensure the impact the pandemic has had on learning is addressed as quickly and comprehensively as possible.

Governors for Schools free webinars
In conjunction with the Careers and Enterprise Company two free webinars are taking place as follows:

  • Career-related learning in primary settings on Tuesday 9 February from 12:30 to 1:30 pm: career-related learning in primary schools is not about pupils identifying their future job but about a broadening of horizons, raising of aspirations and a challenging of stereotypes and limiting self-beliefs at an early age. This seminar explores what this could look like in your school and what resources there are to help.
  • Career-related learning in secondary settings on Tuesday 16 February 2021 from 12:30 to 1:30 pm: with careers prominent in the new Skills for Jobs White Paper, what are your responsibilities? How can you be sure of the quality of content and delivery in your setting? How can you engage with partners to support you? What questions should you be asking the leadership team? What is a Careers Link Governor and why is this role vital?

To register for either of these sessions please use this link.

Delay for submission of the Schools Financial Value Standard (SFVS)
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the DfE has decided that the SFVS return should be delayed this year. This is to take account of the current pressures schools and local authorities are facing.

For the financial year 2020 to 2021, schools should submit their SFVS to their local authority no later than 28 May 2021 and Local authorities should submit their assurance statement to the DfE within 6 weeks, no later than 9 July 2021.

Government plans for the reopening of schools – Friday 29 January 2021

This week I report on confirmation schools will not reopen until 8 March at the earliest, the latest information about Ofqual’s consultation on the replacement for this year’s A level and GCSE exams and the publication of new research around remote education in terms of pupils’ engagement and motivation

Government plans for the reopening of schools
The Prime Minister told Parliament on Wednesday that he hoped it would be safe to begin the reopening of schools from Monday 8 March. However, this was dependent on the Government reaching its target of vaccinating the four most vulnerable groups of people by 15 February.  More details on re-openings would be set out in the Government’s “plan for leaving lockdown”, due out in mid-February and the DfE has said it will keep its promise to provide two weeks’ notice before reopening.

The DfE has also confirmed that schools will close as usual during the February half term and are not expected to remain open to vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, as happened in last year’s lockdown.  However, staff will be on-call during half term for contact tracing purposes.

Ofqual consultation update and a proposal for externally-set papers
This morning Ofqual’s Chief Regulator, Simon Lebus, published a blog confirming that over 90,000 responses to its consultation had already been received.  The consultation closes this evening, and Ofqual has committed to announcing its plans in the week of 22 February. 

In his blog Mr Lebus confirmed several themes were emerging from the consultation and it was clear that there were no straightforward options for how exams are to be replaced. Mr Lebus addressed concerns from students that the proposal to have externally-set papers or tasks to help teachers to assess their students objectively were ‘mini exams’ and explained that an externally-set task would help teachers by providing them with an external reference point, giving them greater confidence in the grade they were awarding.

COVID-19: Pupil motivation around remote education is a significant concern
Newly published research by Ofsted has found that pupils’ engagement and motivation around remote education is a significant challenge for schools and parents and may prove barriers to children’s learning and development.

Results showed that it was an even greater concern for parents of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), as nearly 2/3 of parents of a child with SEND said they had been disengaged with remote learning, compared with almost 40% of parents of children without additional needs.

Schools to get two weeks’ notice of reopening – Friday 22 January 2021

This week I report on confirmation schools will be given two weeks’ notice of reopening, the pausing of daily contact Covid testing in schools, confirmation the submission of this year’s EYFSP is no longer mandatory and consultations on alternative arrangements for GCSE and A Level results in the summer and new proposals for post-qualification admissions have opened.

Schools to get two weeks’ notice of reopening
Yesterday the Education Secretary announced in press interviews that the Government wanted to give schools as much notice as possible of full re-openings, so teachers and parents could get ready and children could prepare. Schools would be given a clear two weeks’ notice period however, he was non-committal on a return date saying it would happen “as soon as scientific and health advice is there”, and he hoped it would happen “before Easter”.

Daily contact Covid testing in schools paused
Until now the DfE has been telling secondary schools, special schools and colleges to use rapid lateral flow tests in three ways: to test pupils returning to school, to carry out weekly tests on staff and to do serial testing of anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed case of the virus. Contacts were to be given a daily test for seven days and allowed to stay in school if they tested negative rather than being asked to self-isolate. However, this week the DfE paused this last part of the school testing programme after a recommendation by Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace.

Testing of staff and pupils in secondary schools will continue and Public Health England has said secondary schools should continue to test pupils twice upon return to school, as has been the case since the start of January.

Other DfE news/consultations this week
This week the DfE has also confirmed arrangements regarding the EYFSP and is carrying out two consultations as follows:

  • Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) no longer mandatory – it was confirmed the assessment was no longer mandatory this year and schools that decide to complete the profile and provide the information to parents and Year 1 teachers, will not be externally moderated. The requirement to submit the data to LAs or confirm whether they have completed it has also been removed.
  • Consultation on alternative arrangements for GCSE and A Level results in Summer 2021 opens – Ofqual has now published its two-week consultation and you can use this link if you would like to respond. 
  • Consultation on new proposals for post-qualification admissions (PQA) – a consultation into proposed changes for a PQA system into higher education opened today.  One model would see pupils apply to university after receiving their A-level results, while a second model would allow pupils to make ‘pre-qualification’ applications but would likewise only receive offers after results are announced. Under the first model there would be the need for a longer application window which would be created by moving A-level results day forward from mid-August to the end of July and pushing back university term start dates to “no earlier than the first week of October”. Under the second model, applications would be made during term-time, as they are now, but offers would come after results day. The consultation closes on 13 May.