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.

Consultation on draft inspection framework opens – Friday 18 January 2019

This week I report on the opening of the consultation on the draft inspection framework and the changes this will mean for schools and governors as well as the publication of updated guidance for maintained schools about setting up or reviewing complaints procedures.

Consultation on draft inspection framework
Earlier this week Ofsted opened its consultation on the draft education inspection framework to be implemented from September 2019. The framework sets out how it proposes to inspect schools, further education and skills provision and registered early years settings. Alongside the framework Ofsted also published draft inspection handbooks and a reports on its research. The consultation is open until 5 April 2019 and if you would like to submit a response you can do so by responding online or via email at

Key Headlines

  • Increased curriculum focus – shift from scrutiny of pupil data to more discussion of curriculum structure, coherence and sequencing.
  • Continued importance of assessment – published pupil performance data will continue to figure strongly in future inspections under “Curriculum Impact”. However, it’s unclear how much weighting the inspectorate will give to this factor in forming an overall judgement.
  • Pause on full implementation – following concerns around the timetable for implementation Ofsted has inserted a significant caveat on the new curriculum criteria to ensure ‘inspectors will evaluate ‘intent’ favourably’. However, the language surrounding this is vague and open to interpretation.
  • No-notice inspections – Ofsted has proposed that the lead inspector will arrive at the school within hours of notifying the school of inspection but has termed this “on-site preparation” rather than the beginning of an inspection. The scope of activities covered on this first half-day is minimal.
  • Longer short inspections – Section 8 inspections of good schools would double in length to two days, the same length as full inspections, to allow inspectors to cover more ground within an expanded framework. The original intention of short inspections, as a check with conversion to full inspection when inspectors identify problems, appears to have been discarded.

How this affects governance
Inspectors will make judgements on the following:

  • overall effectiveness

and the four key judgements:

  • the quality of education
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • personal development
  • leadership and management

The role that governors and trustees play in the school’s performance is evaluated as part of the judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management, and each report will contain a separate paragraph that addresses the governance of the school.

The framework references the Governance Handbook indicating it sets out the purpose of governance, which is to provide confident, strategic leadership and to create robust accountability, oversight and assurance for educational and financial performance.

In addition, those with governance/oversight are responsible for ensuring that the school fulfils its statutory duties, for example under the Equalities Act 2010, and other duties, for example in relation to the ‘Prevent’ duty and safeguarding. Inspectors will explore how governors carry out this responsibility. The framework notes that inspectors are not expected to construct or review a list of duties.

The draft inspection handbook for maintained schools and academies provides a section on applying the Education Inspection Framework in different contexts such as junior and middle schools, special schools and pupil referral units.

Updated DfE guidance on school complaints procedures
This week the DfE also published updated guidance for school complaints procedures for maintained schools. There are key additions to the original guidance as follows:

  • Establishing a complaints procedure – the DfE has clarified that responsibility for establishing procedures for handling complaints lies with the governing board. The board must have regard to any guidance from the Secretary of State when establishing and publishing its complaints procedures but that doesn’t mean that schools must adhere to every detail in the DfE’s guidance.
  • Publishing a complaints procedure – where a school deems it necessary or reasonable to deviate from its published complaints procedure this deviation should be documented.
  • Stages in the procedure – though the decision still lies with schools, the DfE now recommends implementing a complaints procedure that consists of two stages.
  • Complaints about the Headteacher or the whole governing board – the guidance confirms that a school’s complaints procedure must also outline the steps to follow if the subject of the complaint is the entire governing board. When a complaint is made against the whole governing board, they need to be made aware of the allegations made against them and respond to any independent investigation. Complaints against the headteacher should be dealt with by a suitably skilled member of the governing board at stage 1 of the complaints process, then by a committee of members of the governing board at stage 2.
  • Managing serial or persistent complaints – schools should establish a policy for managing serial and unreasonable complaints and this should be included in the published complaints procedure. Where a decision to enforce a bar on an individual due to poor behaviour has been confirmed, the individual will be notified in writing, explaining how long the bar will be in place and when the decision will be reviewed.
  • Legal representation – where a complaint progresses to a committee of members of the school governors, it is recommended that neither the complainant or the school brings legal representation. The DfE does, however, recognise that there will be occasions where legal representation may be appropriate.
  • Mediation – including a mediation stage in a complaints procedure can be useful in helping schools and complainants to reach an agreement and move forward; however, there may be occasions where this is not an appropriate course of action.
  • Complying with the GDPR – before disclosing information regarding a complaint to a third party, schools must obtain written consent from the complainant. Notes of meetings and telephone calls should be kept securely and encrypted, where possible, to prevent any later challenge or disagreement over what was said. Recording meetings – consent must be obtained from all involved parties before conversations or meetings are recorded. Audio and video evidence – the DfE may accept independently notarised transcriptions of recordings and may ask for the written consent of all recorded parties. Schools will be supported should they choose to refuse to accept recordings of conversations that were obtained without the informed consent of all parties being recorded as evidence.
  • Communicating the outcome – schools should inform the complainant of the conclusion and reasons for any decisions in writing and any further rights of appeal. Copies of minutes should be issued to the complainant, as failure to do so could lead to further complaint.  The guidance clarifies that when responding to a complaint, schools should advise the complainant of any escalation options at each stage of the procedure, e.g. when communicating the outcome of the stage 1 process, the details of the stage 2 process should be included.

I will review our current Complaints procedures and will bring a revised version, if that is required, to this term’s Governing body meetings for discussion and adoption.

Proposal for children to learn life-saving skills in schools – Friday 11 January 2019

This week I report on the DfE’s plans for children to learn life-saving skills as part of health, sex and relationships education, the publication of an activity passport for primary school children to inspire and boost resilience, the Education Secretary’s request for schools to lead the way in reducing plastic waste and the announcement of the first modern foreign languages centre for excellence.

Plans for children to learn life-saving skills
To ensure the next generation knows what to do in an emergency, the Government is planning to make health education compulsory in all state-funded schools. Under the proposed new guidance, by the end of secondary school pupils will be taught how to administer CPR, the purpose of defibrillators, and basic treatments for common injuries.

The proposals are part of the Department for Education’s plans to strengthen teaching of health, sex and relationships education – building on free resources already available for schools to teach first aid including those provided by the Every Child a Lifesaver Coalition, made up of the British Heart Foundation, St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross.

Activity ‘passport’ to inspire children and boost resilience
Early in the new year the Education Secretary launched a ‘Passport’ of activities to enrich children’s experiences and skills, backed by the Scouts, Girlguiding and National Trust.

The ‘My Activity Passport’ list is part of the Education Secretary’s vision for every child to have the opportunity to enjoy new and varied experiences, no matter their background, comprising of key areas:

  • drive and tenacity;
  • sticking at the task at hand;
  • understanding how to work towards long term goals when reward might be a long way off in the future; and
  • being able to pick yourself up and bounce back from life’s challenges.

Schools urged to ban single-use plastic
The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, has urged schools to “lead by example” in the Government’s drive to reduce plastic waste. This would involve avoiding the use of plastic bags, straws and bottles in favour of sustainable alternatives, and talking to pupils about the detrimental long-term effects that discarded plastic has on the environment.

No additional funding has been allocated to assist schools with the changes; however, Mr Hinds has said that his department will “increase communication” with the school supply chain over plastic packaging of “day to day” supplies for schools, but his “ambition” is for schools to work with suppliers to make the changes themselves.

New centre for excellence to boost modern foreign language skills
The School Standards Minister, Nick Gibb, announced yesterday that the University of York was England’s first modern foreign languages centre for excellence.  The centre, which will be known as the Centre for Excellence for Languages Pedagogy, will work with schools to help more young people learn foreign languages.

The university will now co-ordinate the work of nine modern foreign languages hubs – leading schools that are working with other schools and sharing best practice to boost the teaching of Spanish, French and German.

New funding to support children with SEND – Friday 21 December 2018

In the final week of this term I report on new funding to help local authorities support pupils with SEND, the launch of a £9 million Government programme to deliver holiday clubs for pupils eligible for free school meals during the summer break next year and the publication of a new guide for governing bodies from the NGA on careers guidance.

New funding to support children with special educational needs
The Education Secretary Damien Hinds has announced extra funding to help local councils support pupils with SEND. LAs will receive an extra £125 million this year and a further £125 million in 2019/2020 to top up high needs budgets for maintained schools and academies.

The Government has been under increasing pressure over the lack of funding available to schools for supporting pupils with SEND. Mr Hinds said: “We recognise that the high needs budget faces significant pressures and this additional investment will help local councils to manage those pressures, whilst being able to invest to provide more support.”

The Government has also confirmed an expansion of the funding to train more educational psychologists, who are responsible for assessing children’s needs and providing tailored support as part of the Education, Health and Care needs assessment process.

Extra support for disadvantaged children during school holidays
This morning the Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed that more disadvantaged children will benefit from free meals and activities during the school holidays, under a £9 million Government programme.

Organisations from across the country have been invited to bid for a share of the multi-million-pound Government investment to deliver holiday clubs for pupils eligible for free school meals during the 2019 summer break.

The scheme follows a successful £2 million programme in the summer of 2018, which saw charities and community groups provide meals and activities such as football, play sessions and cooking classes for more than 18,000 children across the country.

Launch of NGA Careers guidance: the role of the governing board
The National Governance Association has written a new guide for governing boards on careers guidance with support from the Careers & Enterprise Company, the Gatsby Foundation and Education & Employers.

The new guide sets out the duties of the governing boards of primary and secondary schools in the context of the broader aims of the government’s careers strategy, alongside the key resources, sources of information and data to consider when monitoring the provision and quality of careers guidance.


Replacement for Parent View – Friday 14 December 2018

This week I report on a replacement for Parent View, publication of research suggesting the removal of assessment levels in primary schools had led to some confusion between schools and publication of the 2018 primary performance tables.

Replacement for Parent View
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman has written to the Public Accounts Committee advising that Parents View (the dedicated website used by Ofsted to collect the views of individual parents and particularly used during inspection) would be replaced with a new service, which would better meet parents’ needs. The new system was being specifically designed to increase the volume, quality and diversity of views that Ofsted collects from parents both during and outside of inspection. This includes considering different platforms, ways of gathering and presenting data and the questions parents are asked.

Ofsted has conducted a series of focus groups with parents across the country to better understand how they would like to share their views, how they would like to see the views of others and what they would like to provide views on. After this initial exploration Ofsted will develop options for what this new service could look like. It will test these with parents and inspectors so that they can learn what does and doesn’t work, and once the best option is identified it will be tested and piloted before launching the final, live product.

Scrapping assessment levels has led to some confusion between schools
This week the National Foundation for Educational Research has published its research looking at whether the removal of national curriculum levels in primary schools in 2014 has had the intended effect in schools, such as allowing more time for in-depth teaching and increasing pupil engagement.

But teachers and leaders from 42 primary and secondary schools who were interviewed last year warned the “diversity” of approaches to testing that has replaced levels “makes it difficult to understand” the information they receive about pupils who move, or when moderating work in other schools. Because of this confusion, “schools would welcome a form of national standardisation for non-statutory assessment guided by annotated exemplars of pupils’ work” rather than the current item bank of questions available to schools now, the research suggested.

Publication of the 2018 primary performance tables
The 2018 primary performance tables have been published and show attainment has gone up for each subject nationally compared to 2017, with no changes to the headline figures published in the provisional data in September.

Board of Opportunity North East announced – Friday 7 December 2018

This week I highlight the announcement of the Board of education and business experts that will help to implement the Government’s £24 million investment in a region-led North East Opportunity area and the publication of Ofsted’s Annual Report for 2018.

Opportunity North East Board announced
At the beginning of the week Lord Agnew confirmed the board of education and business experts to help implement £24 million investment to raise school standards and aspirations in the North East. The expert board will help to run the Opportunity North East programme to build a coalition of schools, colleges, local authorities, businesses and higher education institutions to tackle the issues holding back young people in the region.

The group of twelve, which includes the Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, the Director of Schools North East, the Regional Schools Commissioner, the Chief Innovations Officer and Company Secretary of ATOM Bank, the Chief Executive of Tyne Coast College and the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching at Newcastle University, met for the first time on the 3 December.

Opportunity North East will help young people in the North East to reach their potential through secondary education and beyond by:

  • building on good primary school performance to ensure more children continue to achieve at secondary school;
  • unlocking the potential of key secondary schools in the region by encouraging collaboration with schools, high performing academy trusts and local authorities;
  • working with partners such as Teach First to ensure there are more great teachers where they are needed most. The North East will be the first region in England to implement more support for newly-qualified teachers to encourage them to stay in the classroom, with £12 million for early roll-out of the Government’s improved offer from September 2020;
  • raising aspirations and tackling the barriers that prevent young people in the North East from realising their full potential, including accessing high-quality technical education and attending the best universities; and
  • making the most of young people’s skills and talents in the North East through harnessing the pioneering work of local enterprise partnerships to help them find a rewarding, secure job.

Publication of Ofsted’s Annual Report for 2018
This week Ofsted published its 2018 Annual Report and listed below are six key findings:

  1. There are too many children in ‘stuck’ schools – Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that although inner-city sink schools have become largely a thing of the past there were too many pupils in “stuck schools”. Ofsted has identified 490 schools which have not been rated as good since 2005.
  2. The number of good and outstanding schools fell slightly this year – at the end of August this year 86% of schools were good or outstanding at their last inspection, compared with 87% of schools in August 2017. Outcomes are highest for special schools with 92% rated as good or outstanding, compared to 87% of primaries and 75% of secondaries. Of the 2,470 full inspections this year 7% were judged to be outstanding, 47% were judged to be good, 37% were judged to require improvement and 9% were found to be inadequate.
  3. Stark regional variation in children’s ability to read – Ms Spielman warned that children failing to learn properly created a cycle which meant they would not be able to read to their own children. She highlighted a regional imbalance in pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds performance in the phonics check with areas such as Newham and Newcastle performing well while disadvantaged children in more affluent areas like West Berkshire lagging behind.
  4. Assessing multi-academy trusts – Ofsted is continuing to push the DfE to allow it to make full inspections of multi-academy trusts (MATs) arguing that this is “one area where our inspection powers have not kept pace with changes in education”. In the meantime the inspectorate plans to continue to get round this with its batch inspections of schools in the same MAT., but these will now take place over the course of one or two terms rather than a single week.
  5. More scrutiny for schools suspected of off-rolling – Ofsted has found that 19,000 pupils were taken off school rolls between 2016 and 2017 with around half not appearing at other schools. Sean Harford, the inspectorate’s national director of education said around 300 schools had been identified with high numbers of pupil movement. He said these would be subjected to extra scrutiny and added that Ofsted is already highlighting off-rolling in inspection reports. Ofsted also said the new inspection framework it is launching next year will allow inspectors to better report on schools which off roll pupils.
  6. There is a shortage of good MATs – Ofsted has said that unless more good multi academy trusts are found the Government’s plan to deliver system wide school improvement through the academies programme will not be realised. The report says the halfway house approach to academisation is not working and the matching of schools to is “not happening anywhere near as quickly as the inspectorate would hope”. Ofsted said more outstanding schools and school leaders are needed to step up to the challenge of providing system leadership.

Research indicates more support is required for teachers mental health – Friday 30 November 2018

This week I highlight new research on the growing need for schools to support staff wellbeing and a DfE consultation on new school security guidance.

Call for schools to do more for teachers mental health
Three-quarters of teachers say their mental health is not being monitored at work, according to new research that highlights the growing need for schools to support staff wellbeing. The study by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families offers examples of techniques and practices to help schools prioritise the mental wellbeing of their staff and pupils.

The research, released on Wednesday, underlines how British schools are facing a growing tide of mental health problems among both staff and students. Fifty five percent of those surveyed by the Anna Freud centre said staff at their school were not encouraged to speak openly about their mental wellbeing.

Proposed new school security guidance
The DfE is seeking views on proposals for new school security guidance. It’s intended the non statutory guidance will help schools to put in place proportionate and sensible security policies and plans that reflect their individual circumstances. The consultation closes at 11:59pm on 18 February 2019.

New engagement assessments for primary school pupils with the most complex needs – Friday 23 November 2018

This week I report on new engagement assessments for primary school pupils with complex needs, publication of new statistics on child mental health and updated non-statutory guidance on mental health and behaviour in schools, as well as plans for the DfE to publish a list of extra-curricular goals to build pupils’ resilience.

Engagement assessments to be introduced in 2020 for primary school pupils with most complex needs
The DfE has announced a new approach that will enable primary schools to better assess pupils with the most complex needs will be rolled out across the country from 2020. The statutory assessment will replace P scales 1 to 4 and will be based on the ‘7 aspects of engagement’, an assessment approach that focuses on pupils’ abilities in specific areas like awareness, curiosity and anticipation.

The assessment approach will enable every kind of progress made by these pupils to be identified. This addresses a key issue with P scales, which focus on linear progress and this is not always how children with the most complex needs progress. An in-depth review, led by Diane Rochford, has concluded that P scales do not best serve these pupils and recommends an assessment approach that instead focuses on engagement. This was backed by the findings of a pilot that the DfE ran earlier this year.

An expert group, led by Diane Rochford, will now refine the approach based on the findings of the pilot, ready for it to be introduced in all state-funded schools which have pupils not in subject-specific study from 2020.

First official statistics on child mental health published in 14 years and updated non-statutory guidance on mental health and behaviour in schools
The first Government child and adolescent mental health statistics for 14 years have this week been released by NHS Digital. They suggest that around 12.8% of 5 to 19 year olds in England have a clinically impairing mental health condition, equating to around three pupils in an average sized classroom. In the North East the figure was slightly lower at 11.6% (10.5% for boys and 11.6% for girls).

The DfE has recently updated the non-statutory ‘Mental health and behaviour in schools’ guidance to include more information about schools’ responsibilities in relation to mental health and guidelines for identifying behaviour that could be related to a mental health problem. The updated guidance also encourages schools to work collaboratively with external agencies and other professionals to ensure they are providing effective support for all pupils.

Education secretary to publish ‘bucket list’ of extra-curricular goals to build pupils’ resilience
Education secretary Damian Hinds is due to publish a series of extra-curricular goals for pupils to achieve every year which could include exploring a cave, knitting and growing vegetables to develop their resilience.

Building children’s character has been a key theme of Mr Hinds since he joined the Department for Education in January and was mentioned in his first speech as Education Secretary.

Year 4 Times Tables Check – Friday 16 November 2018

This week I report on the proposed Year 4 Times Table check, Ofsted’s slideshow on the new Inspection Framework from September 2019 and the news that the DfE is considering reviewing the inspection exemption for ‘outstanding’ schools.

Year 4 Times Table Check
On Tuesday the Multiplication Tables Check Assessment Framework was published by the Standards and Testing Agency. Whilst the aim of the framework document is to provide guidance to the test developers it also provides a guide to what schools and teachers will be expected to have taught their pupils.

The new Year 4 check doesn’t have to be completed until June 2020, but schools are able to voluntarily administer the check in June 2019. A summary on how it will be administered is set out below:

  • There will be a 3 week window in June each year for the administration of the check. There is no set test day, nor an expectation that all pupils will take the check at the same time.
  • Before the test window opens each year, there will be the opportunity for pupils to access a practice area to become familiar with the style of the times tables check.
  • Pupils will only face multiplication statements in the check.
  • The check is digital so pupils will be presented with 25 questions on screen (laptops, desktops and tables can be utilised), have 6 seconds from the time the question appears to input their answer and the whole check will take less than 5 minutes per pupil.
  • Each child will be randomly assigned a set of questions, which the STA refers to as a ‘form’.
  • There will be repeated questions across different sets of questions each year, but no more than 30% of the questions will be the same in any two sets of questions. This means if the test gets interrupted and pupils need to re-start it, they will only have a minimal advantage.
  • It will be possible to withdraw certain children from the assessment and information will be made available on this next academic year.
  • The results for each pupil will only be available at the end of the 3 week window.
  • The guidance is clear that there is no expected pass rate or threshold. This means that, unlike the KS1 Phonics Screening check, children will not be expected to re-sit the check if they do not meet a set threshold.
  • From 2020, the DfE will report on the performance of pupils in the check nationally and in each local authority but the results will not be published in the school performance tables and will not be used in judging whether schools meet the ‘floor standard’.

Ofsted slideshow on new inspection framework
Ofsted has published 24 slides setting out how it plans to put the curriculum at the heart of its new inspection framework. It says the framework will also have an increased focus on off-rolling and reducing workload for teachers and leaders.

DfE “considering” review of inspection exemption for ‘outstanding’ schools
Last month the parliamentary public accounts committee said that the current rules which have left some schools uninspected for over a decade should be re-examined. On Monday, Nick Gibb the School’s Minister, told the House of Commons “We are considering the public accounts committee’s recent recommendation that we review the exemption, and will be responding formally to this in December”.

Impact of the 2018 Budget on the Education sector – Friday 9 November 2018

This week I report on the impact of the 2018 Budget on the Education sector, the DfE’s new deals for schools to help them to save money and information on the new National Centre for Computing Education.

The 2018 Budget and what it means for Education
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, presented his Budget 2018 speech to Parliament last week. Setting out his spending plans for the next year he said that “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end”.

The Budget allocated a £400 million in-year bonus for schools’ equipment and maintenance, which Mr Hammond said would help schools “buy the little extras they need”. This will be a one-off capital payment made directly to schools and will average around £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 per secondary.

The NEU, NAHT and ASCL have made the “unprecedented” move to consult their members simultaneously over what action to take over school funding. The unions would usually consult their members separately, but they have decided to campaign together after the Budget announcement, which they referred to as a “failure to address the school and college funding crisis”.

DfE Deals for Schools
The DfE has released further deals it has negotiated to enable schools to save money. Both the new and existing deals can be found on the DfE website and include books and materials, ICT, leasing services and facilities management and premises. Has your school’s Business Manager taken a look at this site yet to see if anything could be utilised?

Tech experts to provide National Centre for Computing Education
The UK’s first National Centre for Computing Education will be led by British experts through a consortium made up of STEM Learning, the British Computing Society and the Raspberry Pi Foundation, backed by £84 million of Government investment. The Centre will work with the University of Cambridge, while Google will also support the project with a further £1 million.

The Centre will start working with schools across England later this year, improving teaching and driving up participation in computer science at GCSE and A-Level. It will operate virtually through a national network of up to 40 school-led computing hubs to provide training and resources to primary and secondary schools, and an intensive training programme for secondary teachers without a post A-Level qualification in computer science.

All children to be able to swim by the end of primary school – Friday 26 October 2018

This week I report on the DfE’s announcement of extra help to ensure all children know how to swim by the end of primary school and Ofqual’s desire for rules around the oversight of Key Stage 2 tests to be strengthened.

Drive to ensure all children can swim by the end of primary school
Yesterday, the Department for Education and the Department for Digital, Culture Media in partnership with Sport Swim England, announced extra help for schools to make sure every child knows how to swim and be safe in and around water by the end of primary school, supported by the £320 million PE and Sport Premium.

The extra support will help deliver the government’s sport strategy ‘Sporting Future’, which committed to ensuring that every child leaves primary school able to swim. It includes:

  • using the PE and Sport Premium for extra lessons for children who have not yet met the national curriculum expectation after core swimming lessons, and extra training for teachers on water safety and swimming techniques through courses provided by Swim England;
  • extra guidance, provided by Swim England, will be available to help schools deliver safe, fun and effective swimming lessons; and
  • a drive to boost partnerships with independent schools to offer the use of facilities, coaching and other forms of support to schools in their area.

It comes after the Education Secretary announced a cross-government school sport and activity action plan that will consider ways to ensure all children have access to quality, protected PE and sport sessions during the school week and opportunities to be physically active throughout the school day. The action plan will be launched in the spring next year.

Exams regulator wants rules around oversight of Key Stage 2 tests to be beefed up
Ofqual has written to the Standards Testing Agency, responsible for developing and delivering statutory assessments, to “suggest” the body strengthens its current guidance over SATs.

The STA currently recommends schools “should” arrange for Key Stage 2 tests to be independently observed.  But in an annual report on national assessments regulation published today, Ofqual said this should be made into “more of an expectation or requirement”.

This would further support the “verification of the integrity of test administration”, said the regulator, which added that the STA is currently “considering” the language it uses around test observers.