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.


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