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.

EEF research on the impact of Covid on Reception pupils – Friday 20 May 2022

This week I highlight a new EEF report on the impact of Covid on Reception pupils, the publication of the DfE’s response to the consultation on RPA proposed car insurance and a cyber-security audit for schools to complete from the National Cyber Security Centre and the London Grid for Learning.

Research finds Reception pupils are falling behind after the pandemic
A new report from the Education Endowment Foundation has found that four and five year olds were less likely to meet the expected levels of development in 2021 than they were before the pandemic.

Using a sample of early years foundation stage data, the researchers looked at the impact of the pandemic on the development of children who were in Reception class for the 2020/21 school year, which began six months after the first Covid lockdown. The findings showed the proportion of children in their sample reaching the expected levels in all areas – communication and language; physical development; literacy; maths; and personal, social and emotional development – was 59% in 2021, compared with 72% for the 2019 cohort. This difference is equivalent to three more children in every classroom not reaching the expected levels by the end of the school year.

RPA consultation proposal published
The DfE has published the response to its consultation on Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA) proposed motor vehicle cover rather than schools using commercial insurance and you can read the outcome in full here.

Schools prompted to complete a cyber-security audit
Schools are being prompted to complete the cyber-security schools audit 2022. The audit has been launched by The National Cyber Security Centre and the London Grid for Learning to assess the risks to schools in the light of increasing numbers of cyber-attacks and the rapid expansion of school IT networks to cope with the demand for remote learning while responding to COVID-19. Schools are being asked to complete the survey to ensure the DfE has the data it needs to support schools and the deadline for completion is Tuesday 31 May 2022.

Free cyber security training – Friday 13 May 2022

This week I highlight free cyber security sessions for school staff and governors, the announcement of additional funding to train senior mental health leads in schools, the publication of new non-statutory attendance guidance and the Schools Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech.

Free cyber security training
London Grid for Learning and the National Cybersecurity Centre (part of GCHQ) are offering a free cyber security training session to raise awareness and help school staff manage some of the key cyber threats facing schools.  The free course, aimed at senior staff and governors, runs on 6 and 22 June from 4-5pm and on 6 July from 9-10am and you can book a place on one of the sessions here.

Additional funding to train senior mental health leads in schools and colleges
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, the DfE this week announced a further £7 million for schools and colleges to train a senior mental health lead, bringing the total amount of funding for 2022/23 to £10 million.

Senior Mental Health Leads will play an important role in helping schools and colleges embed a culture of openness when it comes to mental health, whilst also forging stronger links with local health services to ensure young people can access the right level of support.  More information can be found using this link to the DfE’s website.

DfE releases new school attendance guidance
The DfE has published new non-statutory guidance to help schools, governing boards and LAs maintain high levels of school attendance. The guidance, in effect from September 2022, summarises the various roles and responsibilities of parents and those involved in education, the legal interventions available to schools and LAs, and what schools are required to record in their attendance and admission registers.

Schools Bill announced in Queen’s Speech
The government’s Schools Bill was announced this week as part of the Queen’s speech . The government has committed to providing all children with equal opportunities and the plan for more schools to become academies. The DfE has published policy statements providing a description of each measure which sets out what the government aims to achieve, why the legislation is needed, the effects of the legislation and how the legislation will work in practice. To review all of the documents please use this link.

Free webinar on the Schools White Paper – Friday 6 May 2022

This week I highlight a free webinar on the Schools White Paper and what it means for governance, the DfE’s request to schools to complete an energy price survey, publication of school data on the National Tutoring Programme expected in the Autumn, a commemorative Platinum Jubilee book for all primary school children and publication of a summary of the SEND Green paper for parents/carers, children and young people to explain what the SEND review means for them.

Free webinar on the what the Schools White Paper means for governance
Governors for Schools in conjunction with Better Governor is providing a free webinar on the Schools White Paper and what it means for governance on Thursday 12 May from 8-9 am.

The webinar will explore the content of the white paper from a strategic governance perspective, considering the medium to long-term implications for schools and governing bodies.  Please use this link to register via the Governors for Schools website.

DfE invites schools to complete energy price survey
Yesterday, the DfE emailed all headteachers asking them to submit information regarding their school’s gas and electricity tariffs for a survey. With concerns that rapidly rising energy bills could lead to job cuts, the DfE is considering what “additional support” it can provide.

Publication of school data on the National Tutoring Programme in the Autumn
Yesterday the Education Secretary announced that data of each school’s involvement in the National Tutoring Programme will be published this Autumn. The data will also be shared with Ofsted; the DfE says it will be working with the inspectorate over the coming months to determine the best use of that data.

Platinum Jubilee commemorative book for all primary school children
Primary school children across the UK will begin to receive a free copy of the commemorative book ‘Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration’ this month.  It features a tale helping children learn about historical events across the UK and Commonwealth, as well as inspirational figures, and a timeline of Queen Elizabeth II’s life. The book goes on private sale on 23 June and more information about the book can be found here.

Document explaining the proposals set out in the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper
The DfE has published materials summarising the SEND and AP Green Paper for parents/carers, children and young people to explain what the review means for them.  It is also helpful for governors and you can access a copy here.

Education recovery guidance – Friday 29 April 2022

This week I highlight the publication of DfE guidance for governors on education recovery, the launch of the DfE’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy and its implications for schools and free cyber security checks for schools provided by the National Cyber Security Centre.

Education recovery guidance
During the Easter holidays the DfE published guidance for school governors and academy trustees about the programmes and activities it is funding to support education recovery and children and young people’s wellbeing. 

The guidance is intended to support governors and trustees to have effective discussions about education recovery plans within their school or trust. It offers some suggested questions that governors and trustees may wish to ask school and trust leaders and gives an overview of the support available to schools.

DfE Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy
Last week the DfE launched its Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy which includes the launch of a new natural History GCSE.   The strategy sets out DfE actions for this calendar year including:

  • covering climate change and sustainability in science teachers’ continuing professional development
  • delivering pilots through the National Education Nature Park, which will test an approach for sharing university climate expertise and learning opportunities with colleges, schools and nurseries
  • sharing best practice in early years settings, schools, colleges and universities, so teachers and leaders can consider how best to integrate within their own settings
  • considering where further steps could be taken to support the teaching of sustainability in relevant subjects

By 2023 the DfE will:

  • develop a Primary Science Model Curriculum to include an emphasis on nature to ensure all children understand the world around them
  • support the National Climate Education Action Plan in setting up an independent expert body for the validation and creation of climate education resources that support the delivery of the national curriculum
  • provide free access to high-quality curriculum resources through the National Education Nature Park online hub
  • provide the opportunity for all staff (teaching, leadership and support) to build their understanding of climate change and sustainability by receiving shared carbon literacy training through their sustainability leads within their setting

NCSC offers free cyber-security checks to schools
The National Cyber Security Centre has invited all schools to register for two of their free services to protect against cyber-attacks:

  • Web check – to find and fix common security vulnerabilities within their website
  • Mail check – to assess email security compliance and adopt secure email standards

Both services are part of the NCSC’s active cyber defence program. To access the services schools will need to register for an NCSC account.

Latest Ofsted briefing on education recovery – Friday 8 April 2022

This week I report on Ofsted’s latest briefing on education recovery and publication of updated guidance from the NGA on what governing bodies and school leaders should expect from each other.

Ofsted briefing on education recovery
Ofsted’s latest briefing on education recovery highlights overall clear signs of improvements but casts concern on the impact of high levels of absence on pupil mental health and behaviour. Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said she was “particularly worried about younger children’s development”. The report emphasises the continuing impact on communication and language development as well as the negative implications for children’s personal, social and emotional development.

Updated guidance for governing bodies and school leaders
The 6th edition of the guidance (jointly produced by NGA and the national professional organisations) on what governing bodies and school leaders should expect from each other has been published.

There are now two separate versions: one for governing bodies and headteachers in single schools and federations and another for multi academy trust boards and CEOs. Both versions are focused on ensuring relationships between school leaders and governing boards are as effective as possible, and improve outcomes for children and young people, through:

  • Respecting respective roles
  • Working together to set a strategy
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Ensuring your school/trust is a great place to work
  • Making governance effective
  • Ways of working

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

£150 million to upgrade school WiFi connections – Friday 25 March 2022

This week I highlight the announcement of a £150 million fund to update schools WiFi connections, a trial to boost school attendance in disadvantaged areas with mentors and publication of the national absence figures for 2020/21.

£150 million to upgrade school WiFi connections
This week the Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced that every school in England will have access to high speed internet by 2025. A £150 million fund to support schools most in need to upgrade their WiFi connections will be made available. The DfE also published a set of technology standards aimed at supporting schools in understanding which technologies they should have in place to best support effective teaching and achieve safer, more cost-efficient practices. The standards refer specifically to broadband and in-school connectivity.

£5 million trial to mentor persistently absent pupils
Pupils who are persistently absent will be assigned mentors under a new £5 million trial to boost school attendance in disadvantaged areas. The DfE has published a tender notice for an organisation to recruit and train mentors “to provide targeted one-to-one support” to youngsters and their families to “overcome attendance barriers”.

The successful bidder will initially work for one year in one of the previously identified Education Improvement Areas, supporting between 500 and 1,000 pupils. But the contract will include the option to “scale up to multiple areas nationally and support larger volumes of pupils in years two and three”.

The latest government statistics show an overall absence rate of 4.6% and 12.1% of pupils persistently absent in 2020/21. Pupils missed 328 million in-person school days and 270 million were because of Covid. This represents a five-fold increase in days missed compared with 2018/19, the last normal year before the pandemic.

Free governor webinars – Friday 18 March 2022

This week I highlight two free governor webinars from Governors for Schools on securing improvements in attendance and enhancing governors knowledge of supporting students with SEND in relation to careers related learning.

Thursday 24 March 2022 from 8 to 9 a.m. – The effective governance of attendance
In conjunction with Better Governor, this webinar looks at Ofsted’s recently published research on attendance, new guidance introduced by the DfE, and strategies schools have used to bring about improvements in attendance. It will also explore the role that governance can play in securing improvement in attendance, including the questions that governors can ask in board meetings to provide challenge and seek assurance.

Tuesday 29 March 2022 from 1 to 2 p.m. – Careers related learning for students with Special Education Needs and Disabilities
This webinar is for governors and school staff who want to enhance their knowledge of supporting students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities when it comes to careers education. It will showcase examples of effective careers education and highlight key questions that governors should consider when reflecting on the offering of their own school.

Please use this link to register for either webinar on the Governors for Schools website.

Updated Ofsted School inspection handbook – Friday 11 March 2022

This week I highlight changes in the Ofsted School inspection handbook in relation to harmful sexual behaviour and new DfE funding to provide opportunities for girls to access competitive sport.

Updated School inspection handbook
In February Ofsted updated their School inspection handbook. The changes relate to Ofsted’s approach to harmful sexual behaviour with new paragraphs (67, 236 and 252) inserted on sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence. Inspectors will consider how schools handle such allegations and staff should have appropriate knowledge of part 5 of the statutory guidance ‘Keeping children safe in education’. They should also have good awareness of the signs that a child is being neglected or abused, as described in ‘What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused’ and the barriers that could prevent a pupil from making a disclosure e.g. communication needs and that these have been addressed.

Staff should be confident and well trained in handling reports of sexual harassment, abuse or violence in line with the DfE’s guidance, including incidents between children and those off school premises. That all allegations are taken seriously, comprehensively recorded and dealt with swiftly and appropriately, and pupils are confident that this is the case. If schools do not have adequate processes in place, it is likely that safeguarding will be considered ineffective.

DfE funding to provide opportunities for girls to access competitive sport
At least 50 schools across England are being sought to take part in a programme aimed at giving girls more opportunities to access competitive sport. The DfE has announced up to £980,000 in funding for its “Your Time” programme, which is being led by the Sports Leaders Qualifications (SLQ) awarding organisation.

The three year programme aims to increase opportunities for thousands of girls aged eight to 16 to access competitive sport and sport leadership opportunities. Schools will receive programme orientation sessions, access to learning modules and packs containing promotional materials for teachers and branded equipment items for leaders and participants. The programme will also signpost pupils to extra-curricular activities so they can continue to pursue sports outside school and once the scheme comes to an end.

Schools interested in joining the programme should contact SLQ directly for further information.

Free governor training on Pupil Premium – Friday 4 March 2022

This week I highlight free governor training on Pupil Premium, an update on Covid-19 in terms of lateral flow testing, contract tracing, actions for pupils/staff with symptoms and the accountability arrangements for primary school and KS4 and Post 16 assessments.  As well as links to DfE webinars on how schools can improve attendance.

Free Governor training on the role of governors in making a difference for disadvantaged children: Tuesday 15 March 2022 from 12:30 to 1:30 pm
Governors for Schools are offering this webinar with the NGA and Child Poverty Action Group.  The session will provide an overview of Pupil Premium funding; its core use and what governors should be monitoring and asking to ensure it’s being used effectively. As well as focusing on the Child Poverty Actions Group’s Cost of the School Day project. The project aims to support schools to reduce and eliminate cost barriers that can prevent children from disadvantaged backgrounds from fully participating in learning and wider school life. 

To register your place please use this link for the Governors for Schools website.

Covid update
Lateral flow testing/contact tracing – twice weekly testing in mainstream schools is no longer advised and contacts are no longer required to self-isolate or advised to take daily tests, and contact tracing has ended.  Staff and pupils in specialist SEND settings, Alternative Provision, and SEND units in mainstream schools are advised to continue regular twice weekly testing.

Pupils/staff with symptoms – pupils/staff with Covid-19 should not attend school while they are infectious and should take an LFD test from 5 days after their symptoms started (or the day their test was taken if they did not have symptoms) followed by another one the next day. If both these tests results are negative, they should return to school as long as they feel well enough to do so and don’t have a temperature.

Accountability arrangements for primary school assessments and KS4 and Post 16 – the DfE has confirmed the following arrangements:

  • Primary assessments – this year’s KS2 results will not be published in performance tables but will be shared with schools, academy trusts, local authorities and Ofsted for school improvement purposes and to help identify schools most in need of support. This will be a transitional arrangement and DfE intends to publish the data in performance tables again next academic year. KS2 results from this year will also be used to calculate Progress 8 baselines for future institution-level progress measures.
  • KS4 and Post 16 – results from qualifications achieved this year will be published on school and college performance tables, using the normal suite of accountability measures, as far as that is possible.  The DfE will need to adjust the way that it calculates some performance measures at both KS4 and 16 to 18 stages for this year to take account of the fact that results of qualifications achieved in 2020 and the 2020 to 2021 academic year will not be included. At 16 to 18 in particular, it will not be able to use KS4 baseline data from 2020 or 2021, which will affect the 16 to 18 value added measure and the English and maths progress measure this year and in future years.

School attendance
This week the DfE added links to its website on webinars on how schools can improve attendance.