Category Archives: Uncategorized

DfE guidance to support schools re-opening from 1 June – Friday 15 May 2020

This week I report on a series of guidance the DfE has published to support the Government’s desire for a phased re-opening of schools from 1 June and a free webinar for governors on safeguarding during this pandemic.

DfE guidance on preparing to re-open schools to specific year groups
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that there would be a phased re-opening of schools from 1 June at the earliest, the DfE has published various guidance documents to help schools to plan for this.

Primary schools have been advised to welcome back Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils, alongside priority groups. Yesterday the DfE published a planning guide for primary schools to compliment the initial planning framework and guidance on implementing protective measures that was already available.

Secondary schools, sixth forms and further education colleges are to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of Year 10 and Year 12 students who are due to take key exams next year, alongside the full time provision they are offering to priority groups.

The DfE is also asking nurseries and other early years providers, including childminders, to begin welcoming back all children. Alternative provision settings should mirror the approach being taken for mainstream schools and also offer some face-to-face support for Year 10 and Year 11 students. Special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools will work towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups.

Teachers’ unions are to meet the Government’s scientific advisers later today to seek assurances that it will be safe to open schools in England. The meeting follows challenges to the DfE to publish the scientific evidence on which the return to school has been based.

Free webinar on Safeguarding during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Governors for Schools in conjunction with Better Governor are hosting a free new webinar on Thursday 21 May from 8-9 a.m. on safeguarding during the current pandemic.

The webinar will explore the potential current threats to children and young people’s safeguarding and well-being and encourage those involved in school governance to reflect on how these should be monitored by governing bodies. Please use this link to register.

DfE Coronavirus latest advice – Friday 13 March 2020

This week I highlight the latest advice regarding the Coronavirus and the impact of the 2020 budget on the sector.  Please be aware that the situation with Coronavirus is dynamic and could change at any time.

DfE Coronavirus latest advice
The Prime Minister last night confirmed that  anyone with a new persistent cough or high temperature is now advised to self-isolate for seven days, as the UK government moves to the “delay” phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus.

Schools have been advised to cancel trips abroad, and older people and those with pre-existing health concerns have been told not to go on cruises.

The DfE has launched a helpline (tel: 0800 046 8687) which “complements the advice being provided by Public Health England (PHE) and the regular updates the DfE has been sending to all educational settings since the start of February”. The helpline is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm on weekdays.  The DfE has notified all educational settings that the helpline is now open to school staff, leaders and parents.

Impact of the 2020 budget
The chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his budget address in Parliament this week and the announcements relevant to schools were as follows:

  • Freelance workers affected by coronavirus can claim benefits more easily – supply teachers and other freelancers in the education sector will be able to access benefits more easily if they cannot work due to coronavirus. To help freelance workers, who do not qualify for statutory sick pay, they will be able to access benefits from day one of their absence and will be able to sign up online rather than by going to a job centre.
  • Spending pledges – a list of spending pledges was highlighted during his speech, including funding for specialist 16-19 maths schools in every region, £25,000 on average for each secondary school to invest in arts activities and £29 million a year to improve PE teaching.
    However, none of these are new as the Education Secretary, made the maths schools pledge last year, and the funding for arts and PE were in the Conservatives’ manifesto.
  • The ‘reading tax’ is being abolished – VAT currently charged on digital publications will be removed from December 2020 and as this is charged on things like digital fiction and textbooks and education resources this move may prove helpful to schools.

September 2019 version of Keeping Children Safe in Education published – Friday 28 June 2019

This week I report on a range of guidance that has been published by the Government consisting of the September 2019 version of Keeping Children Safe in Education, non-statutory guidance on teaching pupils how to stay safe online, non-statutory guidance on reducing the need for restraint and restrictive intervention in Special schools and statutory guidance on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education which comes into effect from September 2020.

Keeping Children Safe in Education – September 2019
The 2019 draft document was published this week for information only. Schools and colleges should continue to use the 2018 documents until they are withdrawn on 2 September 2019.

It sets out the legal duties that must be followed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people under the age of 18 in schools and colleges. Governors should ensure they read part 1 of this guidance.

Teaching online safety in school
New non statutory guidance supporting schools to teach their pupils how to stay safe online, within new and existing school subjects was published on Wednesday. It complements existing and forthcoming subjects including Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education, Health Education, Citizenship and Computing. It does not imply additional content or teaching requirements.

Reducing the Need for Restraint and Restrictive Intervention
This new non statutory guidance is for special schools, health and social care services. It sets out how to support children and young people with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum conditions and mental health difficulties who are at risk of restrictive intervention.

Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education Statutory Guidance
Statutory guidance was published this week which will come into effect from September 2020 when the following subjects will become compulsory in applicable schools in England:

  • relationship education in primary schools
  • relationship and sex education in secondary schools
  • health education in state funded primary and secondary schools

School must publish policies for these subjects online and make them available to anyone free of charge.


New Ofsted Inspection Framework is published – Friday 17 May 2019

This week I report on the publication of the new Ofsted Inspection Framework that comes into force in September this year and changes to assessment in primary schools with the introduction of the new Reception Baseline Assessment from September 2020.

Changes to Ofsted Inspections from September 2019
This week Ofsted published the finalised version of its new inspection framework, which will govern school inspections from this September. The key changes from the draft version are as follows:

  • On-site preparation plans have been scrapped – Ofsted had proposed that the lead inspector would arrive the afternoon before an inspection to do their preparation on-site. This has been replaced with a 90-minute phone call between the lead inspector and headteacher the day before an inspection begins.
  • ‘Good’ small schools avoid two-day inspections – plans to increase the length of time inspectors spend in previously ‘good’-rated schools will go ahead, however ‘good’ or non-exempt schools with 150 or fewer pupils on roll will continue to receive a one-day inspection.
  • Schools will get time to shake up their curriculums – Ofsted’s new “quality of education” judgement will be implemented as planned but it’s proposing to phase in part of the new framework which looks at the “intent” of schools’ curriculums. The transitional phase will be reviewed in the summer of 2020.
  • Separate judgements for ‘behaviour and attitudes’ and ‘personal development – clarifying amendments have been made to the ‘behaviour and attitudes’ grade criteria to better reflect the realities of providers working in challenging circumstances. The absence of bullying is no longer focused on instead, emphasis is now placed on whether or not providers tolerate bullying and how swiftly and effectively they take action if issues occur. Changes have been made to the ‘personal development’ grade criteria to allow inspectors to properly recognise the importance of high-quality pastoral support.
  • Headteachers use of internal data will not be assessed – inspectors will not look at schools’ internal data during inspections and has made some amendments and clarification to its inspection handbook “to try to ease concerns” raised by those who objected. The clarification recognises that school leaders draw on “a variety of sources when considering pupil performance, including internal assessment information”. It explains that inspectors will consider “the actions taken by schools in response to whatever internal assessment information they have”. Inspectors will review the impact of those actions without reviewing the assessment information itself.
  • Up-to-date private school judgements delayed to 2020 – Ofsted will issue up-to-date judgements following emergency “additional inspections” of the private schools it inspects, but this will not commence until September 2020.

Changes to assessment in primary schools

All state-funded primary schools with a reception cohort will need to carry out the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) scheduled for introduction in September 2020. This year over 9,600 schools are participating in the RBA pilot in autumn 2019. Schools will no longer have to carry out Key Stage 1 assessments from September 2022, following the scheduled statutory introduction of the RBA.

The RBA is a short assessment carried out by a teacher in the first 6 weeks of reception. Teaching assistants and other qualified school staff, such as early years leads and special educational needs co-ordinators, can also carry out the assessment with individual pupils.

It is similar to the on-entry checks that many schools already conduct when children start school. The RBA takes about 20 minutes per child and is not a timed assessment. It is an assessment of a child’s early language, communication, literacy and mathematics. Children will provide answers by speaking, pointing or moving objects. The teacher inputs yes or no answers onto an online system for each task.

Teachers will receive a series of short, narrative statements that will tell them how the children performed in the assessment. The DfE will collect the data from the assessments to create school-level progress measures for primary schools, showing the progress schools make with their pupils from reception to the end of Year 6. The DfE will use the data at the end of Year 6 to measure pupils’ progress from reception to the end of Key Stage 2. The RBA will not be used to track individual pupils or as a performance measure for early years providers.

Long awaited Timpson Review on exclusions is published – Friday 10 May 2019

This week I report on the publication of the Timpson Review on exclusions, a new scheme to help teachers tackle bad behaviour in schools and a new programme to protect children at risk of exploitation.

Timpson Review on exclusions published this week
The Timpson review was finally published this week and makes 30 recommendations for the Government to consider, and the Education Secretary Damian Hinds has confirmed he accepts them all “in principle”.

Addressing Mr Timpson’s recommendation that changes should be made to strengthen accountability around the use of exclusions, the Government announced that it will launch a consultation later this year. This will include how to make schools accountable in the most effective and fair way, so they can fulfil their responsibilities for permanently excluded children. This may include through reform to commissioning and funding arrangements for alternative provision.

£10 million scheme to help teachers crack down on bad behaviour in the classroom
The Government has announced that more than 500 schools will be part of a new scheme to tackle bad behaviour in schools, backed by £10million investment. The programme will launch in September 2020 and the programme will run for an initial period of 3 years. Behaviour expert and former teacher Tom Bennett, who led a national review to identify the best ways of dealing with disruptive behaviour in schools, will lead the programme, where a network of expert schools will be identified to help teachers and school leaders in need of support.

A team of advisers (education professionals with a track-record and understanding of improving behaviour in schools) will be appointed to work alongside Mr Bennett to help develop and deliver the programme of support. They will help select the lead behaviour schools which will deliver additional support to others; work with supported schools to develop an understanding of the causes of the behaviour issues and how these could be addressed; develop comprehensive, bespoke action plans for the supported schools;
carrying out a series of follow-up visits; and participating in behaviour conferences to share best practice and ideas.

New programme to protect children at risk of exploitation
Yesterday the DfE announced a new ‘Tackling Child Exploitation Support Programme’ which has been designed to improve how different local areas respond to child exploitation such as gang, ‘county lines’ drug dealing, online grooming, sexual exploitation, trafficking or modern slavery and is backed by £2 million. It will help equip professionals involved in the protection of young people to identify those most at risk from dangers in their communities and online.

Councils in England will be able to apply for bespoke support from the scheme to tackle specific threats in their area, bringing social workers, police forces, schools, health services and charities together to improve how they respond to cases of exploitation, and learn from what works. The programme will be led by a team of academics and experts led by Research in Practice, together with The Children’s Society and the University of Bedfordshire.

Free Governor training webinars – Friday 3 May 2019

This week I highlight a series of free Governor training webinars available this term from Governors for Schools and the Education Secretary’s call for evidence on the funding arrangements for pupils with SEND.

Free Governor training webinars this term
Governors for Schools (previously School Governors One Stop Shop) has announced a series of free webinars for Governors this term as follows:

All sessions will be hosted by governance experts Steve Barker and Linda Waghorn. They’ll include a mix of information and advice, opinion polls and the opportunity to ask your own questions. Recordings of the webinars will be available on their website shortly afterwards.

Education Secretary calls for ideas on to improve SEND funding system
In a speech to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) today, the Education Secretary will launch a Call for Evidence on the funding arrangements for pupils with complex Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and praise the work of schools, teachers and support workers for enabling those pupils to achieve great outcomes.

Ministers have already identified high-needs funding as one of two areas most in need of a funding uplift in the forthcoming spending review, the other being post-16 funding. The call for evidence launches today and will run until 31st July.

Confirmation of National Schools Commissioner – Friday 26 April 2019

This week I report on the appointment of the National Schools Commissioner, the Upskirting law that came into force on 12 April 2019  and funding to provide sanitary products extended to primary schools from early next year.

National Schools Commissioner appointed
The Government has appointed Dominic Herrington as its permanent National Schools Commissioner. Mr Herrington, also the Regional Schools Commissioner for south London and south east England, was appointed on an interim basis last September to succeed Sir David Carter but will now take on the job permanently.

He will also oversee “operational changes to the work of regional schools commissioners in the coming months to help schools, academy trusts and local authorities work with them by creating an even more joined-up team in each of the eight RSC regions”.

Upskirting now a crime
‘Upskirting’ – the act of taking a picture or video under another person’s clothing without their consent – has been made a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison, under the new Voyeurism Act.

Almost 100 cases of upskirting have been reported to the police in the last year, including incidents in schools.

Schools will need to review their Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy in line with the new law and make amendments/additions as appropriate.

Government funding to provide sanitary products in primary schools
The Government committed to fund sanitary products in England’s secondary schools and colleges in last month’s Spring Statement, and the Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi has now confirmed access to sanitary products will also be fully-funded by the DfE in all primary schools across the country from early 2020.

Extending the programme to primary schools follows feedback from teachers, students and parents, and the DfE is now working with key stakeholders in the public and private sector to roll-out the programme in a cost-effective manner.

New technology strategy launched – Friday 5 April 2019

This week I report on the publication of a new technology strategy aiming to reduce workload and improve outcomes, plans for a new register of children not in school along with providing support to parents who choose to home educate and the Education Secretary’s response to the Home Office’s proposal to give schools a legal duty to take action to prevent knife crime.

Realising the potential of technology in education
This week the DfE published a strategy to help education providers make the most of the opportunities presented by technology. It indicated there were a range of benefits to using technology including workload reduction, supporting inclusion and driving improvements in educational outcomes.

The DfE also published a range of guidance (Assessing your school ICT infrastructure, Choosing the right broadband for your school, Moving your school to the cloud) on things schools should consider when implementing or changing their use of technology.

Proposed new register of children not in school
The Government has set out plans for a register of children not in school, enabling councils to act effectively if they have concerns for a child’s education. Estimates suggest almost 60,000 children are deemed to be educated at home – a figure that is thought to be rising by around a quarter every year.

The Department is also proposing new measures to support parents who choose to educate their children at home, in the form of a legal duty for local authorities to provide assistance such as helping to pay for exam costs and providing teaching resources.

Under the plans, it will be parents’ responsibility to register their child if they are not being taught in a state-funded or registered independent school.

The consultation follows a call for evidence carried out last year which collected views from across the sector. The consultation will be open for 12 weeks until Monday 24 June.

Protecting teachers from knife crime burden
The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds has pledged to protect teachers from “unnecessary burdens” after the Home Office said earlier this week that it wanted to give schools a legal duty to take action to prevent knife crime.

In an interview with the Times Education Supplement the Education Secretary reassured the profession over the controversial proposals that unions claim are “scapegoating” teachers. “What I will make sure is that we don’t add unnecessary burdens on teachers because I have said many times before, teacher workload is a real issue, teachers are working too many hours, and we don’t want to add to that.”

The proposals would mean that schools are held accountable if they fail to spot the warning signs of violent crime among pupils. The consultation on the plan says that schools would be held to account “by their relevant inspectorates, or possibly through joint inspections”.

New vision for character and resilience – Friday 8 February 2019

This week I report on the Education Secretary’s five foundations for character education, a series of trials testing different approaches to supporting young people’s mental health and an EEF trial of an English mastery programme at Key Stage 3.

Vision for character and resilience
This week the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds laid out the 5 Foundations for Building Character and pledged to work with schools and external organisations, including membership bodies and charities, to help every child access activities within each of those foundations. The foundations are:

  • Sport – which includes competitive sport and activities such as running, martial arts, swimming and purposeful recreational activities, such as rock climbing, hiking, orienteering, gym programmes, yoga or learning to ride a bike.
  • Creativity – this involves all creative activities from coding, arts and crafts, writing, graphic design, film making and music composition.
  • Performing – activities could include dance, theatre and drama, musical performance, choir, debating or public speaking.
  • Volunteering & Membership – brings together teams for practical action in the service of others or groups, such as volunteering, litter-picking, fundraising, any structured youth programmes or uniformed groups like Beavers, Brownies, Cubs, Guides, Scouts, Cadets and Duke of Edinburgh.
  • World of work – practical experience of the world of work, work experience or entrepreneurship. For primary age children, this may involve opportunities to meet role models from different jobs.

To help to make this happen the Education Secretary announced:

  • Plans for an audit of the availability of out of school activities across the country, to help understand where more focus is needed to increase access and choice.
  • A call on businesses and charities to offer more work experience and volunteer placements to young people.
  • Relaunching the Department for Education’s Character Awards, which highlight innovative or outstanding programmes that develop a wide variety of character traits.
  • A new advisory group will develop a new framework to help teachers and school leaders identify the types of opportunities that will help support their pupils to build character. The framework will also provide a self-assessment tool for schools to check how well they are doing.

Mental Health trials launched in 370 schools
To mark Children’s Mental Health Week (4-10 February), the Education Secretary Damian Hinds has announced that up to 370 schools in England will take part in a series of trials testing different approaches to supporting young people’s mental health.

Children will benefit from mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to help them regulate their emotions, alongside pupil sessions with mental health experts. The study will run until 2021 and aims to give schools new, robust evidence about what works best for their students’ mental health and wellbeing.

Mr Hinds also confirmed the nine areas across the country that will trial new high-quality mental health assessments for young people entering care, helping them get the support they need to meet their individual needs at a time when they are more vulnerable.

English mastery programme trial by the EEF
A Key Stage 3 English mastery programme has been selected for a trial by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). The EEF will test the approach, which is supported by Ark Ventures, an arm of Ark Schools, in 110 schools over two years to find out if it will boost pupil progress. Around 700 teachers and 40,000 pupils are expected to be involved.
Ark recently announced that it is developing a school curriculum programme covering “all the major subjects” that it plans to sell to other schools. It comes as Ofsted’s new framework shifts its focus from exam results to how schools deliver curriculum.

The new trial is one of five unveiled today by the EEF, which exists to test approaches that “break the link between family income and educational achievement”. Other successful projects include a scheme to improve access to glasses, and programmes for struggling readers.

£50 million fund for Grammar schools to expand – Friday 11 May 2018

This week I report on the announcement that funding will be available for the expansion of Grammar schools and an increase in Faith and Free schools; publication of a series of questions for governors to use to help their schools to manage their resources and money efficiently and a programme being rolled out in the North East to bring experienced Maths and Physics teachers from other countries to work in the UK.

Funding to allow Grammar school growth
This morning the Education Secretary announced a series of measures to allow Grammar schools, Faith and Free schools to expand:

  • A new wave of free school applications, targeting areas where there is demand for places and a need to help raise school standards;
  • £50 million funding available for 2018/19 through the Selective Schools Expansion Fund, to expand the number of places at existing good or outstanding selective schools, alongside measures to give more disadvantaged pupils the opportunity to attend these schools;
  • Working with local authorities to provide support for faith schools where there is demand for good school places, and
  • fresh agreement with the independent schools’ sector to help improve outcomes for pupils of all backgrounds.

Publication of school resource management: top 10 planning checks for governors
Governors at schools and academies can use information provided by the DfE as a starting point to check if their school is managing resources and finances effectively. Particularly useful for Finance/Resources Sub Committees as the checks can be used early in the annual budget planning cycle and when looking ahead at the 3 to 5 year position.

Programme to recruit Maths and Physics teachers rolls out to the Northern region
Following a successful pilot in the South-East region last year, a new DfE-funded programme is being rolled out to the Northern region to help to address the teacher recruitment crisis, by bringing across experienced Maths and Physics teachers from the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to work in the UK.

Schools will be required to pay the teacher’s salary, but the recruitment costs are being covered by the DfE and schools will also be given logistical support by the DfE’s appointed international recruitment provider, Prospero Teaching.

The international teachers will receive pre-arrival support, attend an acclimatisation residential and receive an on-going package of quality-assured professional support led by the Great North Maths Hub. If you would like to hear more about the programme, SCHOOLS NorthEast will be hosting a webinar at 4.00pm on Wednesday 16th May (go to for more information), or alternatively your school can register its interest in the programme by contacting Paul Johnson at