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.

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.


GCSE and EYFS data published – Friday 19 October 2018

This week I report on the publication of GCSE and EYFS data from last academic year and the Education Secretary’s speech on school exclusions.

Provisional GCSE and equivalent results in England, 2017 to 2018
Provisional results for 2017/18 were released this week and the key headlines are that the average Attainment 8 score per pupil remained relatively stable in comparison to 2017, EBacc entry has increased slightly since 2017 and the percentage of pupils achieving at least a grade 5 in English and Maths at GCSE has increased.

School performance tables – the achievements of pupils at Key Stage 4, and how they compare with other schools in their local authority area and in England were also published by the DfE this week. Revised figures, accounting for amendments made after September 2018, will be published in January 2019.

Destination data: Good practice guide – this guide is intended as an aid to understanding what destinations data is, what Destination Measures are (that are included in performance tables), and how they can both be used to improve careers provision and outcomes for young people in a school.

Early Years Foundation Stage national data published
Early Years Foundation Stage profile results were also released by the DfE this week showing that attainment is continuing to improve. Girls continue to do better than boys, but the gender gap has decreased for the percentage achieving a good level of development and other key measures.

Education Secretary to take action on school exclusions
On Wednesday the Education Secretary Damian Hinds spoke at a roundtable at the Centre for Social Justice on alternative provision and exclusions. The Government launched an externally-led review by former Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, this Spring to look at how exclusions are used and why certain groups are disproportionally affected.

The Education Secretary indicated he would take action on exclusions once Edward Timpson’s review has concluded, saying he would not rule out legislation to ensure more accountability for schools that permanently exclude children and place them in alternative provision.

Ofsted’s proposed inspection changes – Friday 12 October 2018

This week I report on Ofsted’s Chief Inspector’s keynote speech at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit on the reasoning behind the proposals for the 2019 education inspection framework, the launch of Opportunity North East, a £24 million programme to boost social mobility and raise aspirations and the publication of a DfE report on the information schools provide to support their pupils’ wellbeing and mental health.

Amanda Spielman speech to the SCHOOLS NorthEast summit
At yesterday’s SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit Ofsted’s Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman announced details of planned changes to the way Ofsted inspects schools from September 2019. These changes will move Ofsted’s focus away from headline data to look instead at how schools are achieving these results, and whether they are offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep, or simply teaching to the test.

Ms Spielman acknowledged that the current inspection model has contributed to excessive workload in some schools, much of which falls on classroom teachers. She said that when it comes to assessing a school, Ofsted should complement, rather than intensify, performance data.

Ms Spielman announced that Ofsted will consult on the introduction of a new judgement for ‘quality of education’. This will replace the current ‘outcomes for pupils’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ judgements with a broader, single judgement. The Chief Inspector also announced the three other inspection judgements that Ofsted will consult on:

  • personal development
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • schools’ leadership and management

The ‘personal development, welfare and behaviour’ judgement in the current framework will be split into 2 distinct areas. This change recognises the difference between behaviour and discipline in schools, and pupils’ wider personal development and their opportunities to grow as active, healthy and engaged citizens.

An overall effectiveness judgement will continue to be awarded, and all judgements will be made using the current 4 point grading scale.

In January, Ofsted will launch a consultation on the new inspection framework. Unlike previous consultations, views will also be sought on each individual inspection handbook. Further details of the consultation and how to respond will be published early next year.

Education Secretary launches £24 million programme for North East
On Monday the Education Secretary Damian Hinds launched Opportunity North East, pledging £24 million to boost social mobility and raise aspirations for children. It will aim to:

  • invest £12 million in targeted approaches to improve the transition from primary to secondary school, drive up standards (particularly at secondary level) and improve outcomes for pupils post 16;
  • work with secondary schools and colleges to encourage young people to consider university, degree apprenticeships and other high quality technical education options;
  • partner with local businesses to improve job prospects for young people across the region;
  • invest a further £12 million to boost early career training for new teachers and help improve the quality of teaching and raise standards in the region’s schools, ahead of roll-out in other regions.

Report on Mental health and wellbeing provision on schools
The DfE has published a report on a study it commissioned to further understanding of the extent the current content of schools’ published policies and other information demonstrates relevant approaches and activities.

This evidence will be used to inform decisions about how schools can best be supported to use existing requirements to strengthen their work in these areas and better meet their statutory duties.

Conservative Party’s key education announcements – Friday 5 October 2018

This week I report on the Conservative Party’s education announcements at its annual conference, the publication of a Sutton Trust report on parental engagement and the launch of a new programme to connect UK schools with classrooms around the world.

Conservative Party’s Education announcements
The Education Secretary announced little that was new in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.  None of the new projects he mentioned are backed by new money from the Treasury, so they will need to be funded through the DfE’s existing budget. Projects included:

  • £10m behaviour training fund and new guidance – to improve training on behaviour for teachers to ensure they are able to manage behaviour and thrive in their primary task of teaching.  Ministers will also update government guidance on behaviour.
  • More careers leaders and employer networks – a further £5 million to go into training “careers leaders” in 500 schools, extending the number of schools affected to 1,300 and creating another 20 networks, making a total of 40.
  • English Hubs named – 32 schools have been named that will split £26.3 million to become “English Hubs”.  There are two in the North East, but they aren’t in North Tyneside.

Sutton Trust Report on Parental Engagement
In 2013 the Sutton Trust published Parent Power?, a landmark piece of work demonstrating how social class influences parents’ ability to support their children in their schooling.  Five years later Parent Power 2018 revisits the cultural and financial resources parents use to boost their children’s chances of educational success.

Based on a survey conducted by YouGov, the Sutton Trust found similar trends to those found in 2013.  From choosing the best school to attend, to paying for out of school extracurricular activities, better-off parents continue to have the upper hand when it comes to navigating the education system and preventing their children from falling behind in school.

The report also reveals new challenges.  The ‘hidden costs’ of education such as uniforms and travel expenses are an increasing concern for parents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, while schools are demonstrating increasing reliance on extra financial contributions from parents following recent school budget cuts.

UK aid to connect UK schools with classrooms around the world
Last month saw the launch of the Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme by the International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds and Love Actually director Richard Curtis.

The programme is co-funded by the British Council and unites pupils in the UK with school children in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It will offer grants to fund visits by UK and developing country teachers to the partner school and mobile digital platforms (such as WhatsApp and Zoom) will also be used to enable classroom-to-classroom activities between teachers and pupils.

The programme is for children aged between 7 to 14 years and schools can sign up by going to the British Council’s website and selecting the part of the programme they are interested in, or by emailing

Labour Party’s key education announcements – Friday 28 September 2018

This week I report on the Labour Party’s education announcements at its annual conference, the release of the draft 2018/19 Pay policy and Sport England’s announcement of a £13.5m scheme to train 17,000 teachers in delivering PE and sport in secondary schools.

Labour Party’s Education announcements
This week the Labour Party convened in Liverpool for its annual conference. The Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner’s education policy announcements included:

  • Tighter controls on academies and expanded powers for local authorities
  • The right of councils to create new schools would be re-established.
  • Councils would again become the admissions authorities for all schools, including academies.
  • End the requirement for local authority schools to convert to academies if they are rated “inadequate” following inspection.
  • Local authorities would be able to take back academies that are being re-brokered.
  • Local authorities will be able to force academies to expand to meet demand for school places.
  • “National pay rules” would be imposed across all schools, including a 20:1 ratio for CEO pay, meaning academy chiefs could only earn 20 times the salary of the lowest paid employees.
  • Encouragement of ‘community-run schools’, a now obscure type of school promoted under the Blair Government that allows parents and teachers to get involved in running schools.

The Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn also made some announcements on early years, indicating that Labour would extend the 30 hours of free childcare programme to the parents of all three and four year olds with no means testing; establish a national pay scale to raise standards of care by creating a graduate-led workforce, increase average early years funding rates to help the childcare providers that are struggling as a result of the 30-hour policy and launch a national childcare online access portal, which would replace the existing mix of vouchers and credits.

2018/19 Pay policy
Earlier this week schools in North Tyneside received information from the LA’s HR Team advising that the DfE had only published the 2018 school teachers pay and conditions document on Friday 14th September, when it was laid before Parliament. Therefore, HR was only now in a position to issue the proposed guidance pay policy for 2018.

There were various increases in teachers pay across the pay ranges for this year and a significant increase in employer pension contributions (rising from 16.47% to 23.6%) from September 2019.

Whilst it is not practical for some school governing bodies to review their existing pay policy, undertake consultation with their employees on changes and adopt a Schools Pay Policy for 2018/19 by 31 October 2018. It’s been suggested that at our governing body meetings we formally minute that its our intention to put a Pay policy in place using the LA’s HR guidance, that we have instructed the Headteacher and the relevant committee (e.g. Finance and Staffing or Resources) to review and bring the proposed policy to our next full Governing body meeting. Any pay increases will be appropriately back dated.

Sport England launches £13.5m drive to boost secondary school PE
Sport England is launching a £13.5m scheme to train 17,000 teachers in delivering PE and sport in school, after research found that almost 20% of secondary students hated PE lessons. The scheme will run through the national network of teaching school alliances, training teachers in new activities from zumba to volleyball and encouraging school leaders to value PE.

Last year the government doubled the funding for PE in primary schools to £320m a year, and 1 million primary school children are now taking part in the Daily Mile running programme, but secondary schools have been without any financial investment or national schemes in the subject for the last decade.

Curriculum will be a central focus of the new Inspection Framework – Friday 21 September 2018

This week I report on Amanda Spielman’s view that the new inspection framework due in September 2019 will have curriculum as a central focus, the publication of the Teachers’ Pay Grant methodology and a new report from the EEF on improving Secondary Science teaching, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.

Curriculum will be ‘central focus’ in new Ofsted framework
Following the findings of Ofsted’s latest curriculum research, HMCI Amanda Spielman has said it’s “imperative” that the curriculum is a central focus of Ofsted’s new framework.  Ofsted has promised to give the curriculum “greater coverage” in its new framework after admitting inspectors have placed “too much weight on test and exam results”.

Teacher Pay Grant methodology released
The DfE has today confirmed teachers’ pay rises for 2018/19 in the finalised version of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document, as well as initial information about how the Teachers’ Pay Grant will be calculated. The grant is designed to help schools cover the pay rise that was announced back in July and the formula uses pupil numbers to calculate the Grant for mainstream schools and capacity for special and alternative provision.

New report from the EEF on improving Secondary Science
The Education Endowment Foundation has published a new report on ‘improving secondary science’, which gives seven recommendations to try out in the classroom.  Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said he hoped the research will help to boost science teaching, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.


Future Talent Fund cancelled – Friday 14 September 2018

This week I report on the cancelling of the DfE’s Future Talent Fund, updated guidance on school attendance and a report from the Commission on Religious Education suggesting RE should be renamed Religion and Worldviews.

£18m ‘future talent fund’ cancelled
The Government has cancelled a key strand of its social mobility action plan, withdrawing £18 million of funding that would have helped secondary schools improve the performance of the brightest disadvantaged pupils.

The future talent fund was unveiled by former education secretary Justine Greening only last December and the DfE has said its choosing to prioritise improvements in the early years instead.

Updated guidance on school attendance
This week the DfE released updated non statutory school attendance guidance which provides information on pupil registers and attendance codes, the school day and school year, as well as information on interventions to address pupils’ poor attendance and behaviour at school.

Report recommends teaching religion and worldviews instead of RE
Two years ago, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales set up an independent commission amid growing concerns about the quality of RE lessons.  The Commission has now produced its report suggesting RE in England’s schools should be renamed Religion and Worldviews to reflect the diversity of modern Britain.

The new subject would allow pupils to study the different traditions of major religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism but alongside these they would also look at non-religious worldviews like humanism, secularism, atheism and agnosticism.  The DfE has said it will look into the report’s recommendations.

Safeguarding update – Friday 7 September 2018

welcome back 2

This week I provide details on safeguarding updates that happened during the summer, the publication of the Government’s response to the Select Committees report on the children and young people’s mental health green paper and the production of DfE documents designed to provide help and support for schools to reduce cost pressures.

Safeguarding update
Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance was updated earlier in the year, and on Monday this week the changes came into effect. Updated Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance also came into effect over the Summer.

In late August the DfE announced that a new national response unit will be established to help local authorities support vulnerable children at risk of exploitation by criminal gangs.

On 31 August, revisions to the ‘Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006’ came into effect, meaning that schools are no longer required to establish whether a member of staff is disqualified by association.

Government response to the select committees report on the children and young people’s mental health green paper
Just after the end of last academic year the Government published its response to the joint report of the Education and Health and Social Care Committees on ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision: a green paper’.  It rejected the Committees’ assertion that the plans lacked ambition in terms of scale and pace, indicating recruiting and training a cadre of new staff to form teams would take time.

Supporting excellent school resource management
The DfE has produced a document Supporting excellent school resource management which summarises the help and support it provides to help schools reduce costs and get value for money.  Supporting excellent school resource management: strategy has also been published which aims to provide schools with practical advice on how to reduce the £10 billion non-staffing spend spent across England last year.