New funding for school breakfast clubs in disadvantaged areas – Friday 23 March 2018

This week I report on support for new school breakfast clubs in disadvantaged areas around the country, the publication of the consultation document on eligibility for free school meals and the early years pupil premium under Universal Credit and updated non-statutory guidance on using children’s biometric data.

Funding for new school breakfast clubs in disadvantaged areas around the country
On Monday the Education Secretary announced the appointment of two charities (Family Action and Magic Breakfast) to run school breakfast clubs around the country from this Spring.

The boost to breakfast provision will be funded through the soft drinks industry levy and will benefit over 1,770 schools. The investment will be targeted at the most disadvantaged areas of the country, including the DfE’s Opportunity Areas, but further details have not been released at this time.

Consultation outcome on eligibility for free school meals and the early years pupil premium under Universal Credit
The Government has published its consultation document outlining the general principles that were applied in considering changes to the criteria for free school meals and the early years pupil premium under Universal Credit. It sets out the measures the Government plans to take to protect those families who would otherwise lose entitlement to free school meals because of the changes and its plans for communicating these changes to parents, providers and local authorities.

Updated non-statutory guidance on using children’s biometric data
This week the DfE published updated non-statutory guidance for schools and colleges on using children’s biometric data. It states that schools and colleges using automated biometric recognition systems, or planning to install them, should make arrangements to notify parents and must obtain the consent required under the duties as set out in the body of the advice.

Interestingly the guidance only refers to the General Data Protection Regulation in the final paragraph, when it advises that new data protection legislation is due to come into force in the UK by 25 May 2018 and it strongly recommends that schools and anyone with responsibility for processing pupils’ biometric data should seek independent legal advice to ensure that they comply with any changes to data protection law.


Alternative provision fund and Exclusions review announced – Friday 16 March 2018

This week I report on the creation of a new Alternative Provision fund and an Exclusions review, the publication of the Integrated Communities Strategy green paper and its implications for schools and confirmation of the chief executive of the new Teaching Regulation Agency.

£4m ‘alternative provision fund’ and Exclusions review announced
Today the Government announced a new £4 million alternative provision fund to support excluded pupils to return to mainstream schools. The fund will be used to test and develop projects that support children back into mainstream or special schools, as well as encouraging parental and carer involvement in the education of their child. It will also fund schemes that support young people as they move from alternative provision in to training or further education at post-16.

This is part of a series of Government measures which includes a review of exclusions led by former Children’s Minister Edward Timpson, to look at how the use and levels of exclusions vary from school to school focusing on those children who are more likely to be excluded. As well as a ‘roadmap’ setting out how the Government will transform alternative provision to make sure these education settings provide high-quality teaching and an education that meets the individual needs of young people in their care.

The DfE has also published updated guidance which beefs up the role of “designated teachers” with responsibility for pupils in or previously in care, requiring them to be trained in attachment issues and emotional trauma, and to share their knowledge with other staff. Research by The Difference, a teacher training programme for the alternative provision sector indicates that excluded pupils are twice as likely to be in care, seven times more likely to have special educational needs and ten times more like to suffer a recognised mental-health problem.

Publication of the Integrated Communities Strategy green paper
Earlier this week the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published its Integrated Communities Strategy green paper and the main proposals relevant to schools are:

  • Free school bids must address integration explaining how they will prepare children for life in modern Britain and how they will attract pupils from different backgrounds and communities, encouraging them to work together and learn about each other’s customs.
  • Admissions rules will change in five areas (Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall, and Waltham Forest) to improve diversity.
  • Unregistered schools will be more closely monitored to ensure the children attending are safe and receiving a suitable education and Ofsted’s powers in relation to unregistered schools will be reviewed.
  • Tougher guidance and enforcement for private schools.
  • New guidance on home education to explain the respective rights and obligations of Local Authorities and parents more clearly.
  • Parents must support school leaders’ policy decisions in relation to pupils’ rights to express their religion or belief.
  • Ofsted will review its British values approach ensuring there is “strong coverage of schools’ promotion of fundamental British values and integration” within its new inspection framework, which comes into effect from September 2019.
  • A new strategy for English language learning will be published, including plans for new community-based programmes and local “conversation clubs”.
  • A bid to improve the data held on pupils from a Roma background will help local service providers to “better understand and meet their needs” and clamp down on truancy.

Chief Executive of the new Teaching Regulation Agency confirmed
The DfE has confirmed Alan Meyrick has been appointed as the Chief Executive of the new Teaching Regulation Agency responsible for the regulation of the teaching profession. He is currently a deputy director in the teacher services division at the DfE and has experience of regulating the profession, having worked as a registrar at the General Teaching Council for England for 11 years before spending a further year as its Chief Executive.

The Teaching Regulation Agency will support employers, schools and headteachers with safeguarding responsibilities. This will include taking action on allegations of serious teacher misconduct and helping employers to complete pre-recruitment checks to ensure that they are employing teachers who are appropriately qualified for their role.


New Governing body guidance on being strategic – Friday 9 March 2018

This week I highlight new guidance for Governing bodies on being strategic, confirmation from the DfE that it won’t be pursuing proposals for mandatory reporting relating to child abuse and neglect and the Care Quality Commission’s call for Ofsted to inspect how well schools respond to pupils’ mental health needs.

New guidance – Being Strategic: A guide for governing boards
The NGA and Wellcome have published Being Strategic: a guide for governing boards to assist governors and trustees in their strategic role in ensuring clarity of vision and strategic direction. This new publication comes three years after their original guide A Framework for Governance was released.

Following extensive feedback and consultation with governors, trustees and senior leaders, drawing on practical experience and real-life examples, the document offers a robust annual cycle for creating, monitoring and reviewing strategy. It provides advice, poses questions for governing bodies on each stage of the cycle, and supports school leaders in taking a broad and long-term perspective.

DfE reverses ‘mandatory reporting’ proposals
On Monday, the DfE announced that following a consultation it won’t be taking forward proposals for mandatory reporting relating to child abuse and neglect. Almost 70% of the consultation respondents said mandatory reporting could adversely impact the child protection system and 85% said it would not in itself lead to appropriate action being taken to protect children.

CQC calls for inspection of schools’ response to mental health needs
This week the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published its review of children and young people’s mental health services and has called for Ofsted to inspect how well schools respond to pupils’ mental health needs. When Ofsted develops its new inspection framework, which is due to be in place from September 2019, the CQC has urged it to account for the affect “school life and the curriculum” have on children’s mental health.

The CQC also suggests that this should include looking at how effective the new senior leads for mental health, set out in the Government’s Mental Health green paper at the end of last year, have been.


New Advanced Maths premium – Friday 2 March 2018

This week I highlight the announcement of a new Advanced Maths premium of £600 per pupil for schools from September, updated statutory guidance on appointing a designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children and revised factsheets on the GCSE grading scale.

New Advanced Maths Premium
Earlier this week the Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Elizabeth Truss announced the Advanced Maths Premium, a new fund to help schools and colleges increase the number of students studying maths after GCSE. The premium will also support institutions to increase the number of girls and those from disadvantaged backgrounds taking advanced maths qualifications.

From September schools will receive £600 for every additional pupil taking the one-year AS maths or the Core Maths qualification. This could mean £1,200 for each additional pupil who takes the two-year A level in maths or further maths.

Designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children
Updated statutory guidance on the duty of Governing bodies of all maintained schools to appoint a designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children on the school roll.

GCSE new grading scale: factsheets
Factsheets for parents, employers and further and higher education providers, produced by the DfE have been updated to show the increased number of reformed GCSEs for the current academic year.


Ofsted to look at possible exclusions malpractice in the North East – Friday 23 February 2018

This week I report on Ofsted’s decision to look at exclusions rates in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the multiplication tables check trials that will start in March, school views being sought by MPs on the impact of social media and screens on children and updated statutory guidance on the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Ofsted to look at possible exclusions malpractice in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber
Cathy Kirby, the Regional Director of Ofsted has written to secondary Headteachers in eight local authorities in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber region of Ofsted to raise concerns over the rates of fixed-period exclusions. Ms Kirby said it was “difficult to understand” why exclusion rates should be significantly higher in some areas than others. She said inspection teams would be “asking inspectors to look very carefully at the use of exclusion in areas with high rates compared with national and regional figures”.

In 2015/16 in the North East, Middlesbrough had 12.75% of its pupils suspended at least once compared to 4.26% nationally and here in North Tyneside it was 3.2%.

Multiplication tables check trials to begin
The DfE has announced that trials of the new multiplication tables check will begin in a small number of schools from next month. Participation in the trials is voluntary and the DfE will inform the schools involved of all necessary arrangements directly. The check consists of a five minute on-screen test which pupils will take in Year 4. The DfE’s intention is that the check will be compulsory for all schools from the 2019/20 academic year.

MPs seek views on the impact of social media and screens on children
The Commons Science and Technology Committee has announced an inquiry into the impact of social media and screen-use on children and young people’s health. The committee says it wants to hear the views of young people themselves, as well as of teachers and youth workers. To submit your views, written statements need to be sent to the Committee’s inquiry page by 6 April.

Early years foundation stage statutory framework (EYFS)
This week the DfE re-published its Early Years Foundation Stage statutory guidance with an updated title and summary.


DfE to take forward disadvantage support proposals – Friday 9 February 2018

This week I report on the Government’s decision to change the threshold for free school meals eligibility under Universal Credit, a report suggesting that the later EAL pupils join the school system the greater the impact on their attainment and the publication of the annual report of the Chief Schools Adjudicator for England.

DfE to take forward disadvantage support proposals
The Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi has announced that the Government will proceed with its plans to change the threshold for free school meals eligibility under Universal Credit.

The proposed new threshold is £7,400 per year, but the Government says once benefits are taken into account, a typical family earning that amount will take home between £18,000 and £24,000. This is higher than the £16,200 earnings threshold that currently entitles pupils to free meals, but much lower than the £55,000 threshold that would have come in without the proposed changes.

Policy experts have also raised series concerns about the impact any change to FSM eligibility will have on disadvantage data.

Late arrival of EAL pupils into the school system ‘perform poorly’
This week the Education Policy Institute and the Bell Foundation published a report suggesting that whilst headline performance figures for pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) suggested they were making good progress, there was significant variation in attainment within that diverse group of pupils.

This variation was based on the native language of the pupil, their proficiency in English, the length of time they had been in school and where they lived. On average, EAL pupils joining towards the end of Key Stage 4 achieved two grades lower (across Attainment 8 subjects) than EAL pupils who started in Reception. The report called for a “late arrival premium to boost support for children with EAL arriving in English schools late in the primary or secondary phase”.

The new national funding formula allocates three years’ worth of funding to EAL pupils, irrespective of when they arrive in the English state-school system. Recent cohorts of GCSE pupils had benefited from the ringfenced Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant throughout their school lives. From 2011 the grant was absorbed into general school funding ending the requirement to spend it on black and minority ethnic pupils and/or those with EAL.

Annual report of the Chief Schools Adjudicator for England
Yesterday the annual report of the Chief Adjudicator Ms Shan Scott, was published recording the progress made by admission authorities in England in complying fully with the School Admissions Code and achieving fair access to schools for all children.

In her report, Ms Scott states that the main admissions rounds for entry to schools worked well and served well the interests of looked-after and previously looked-after children, those with disabilities and special needs or who were vulnerable for other reasons. She was less confident that the needs of children who needed a place outside the normal admissions round were so well met and was concerned that some children, particularly the more vulnerable, spent more time out of school than they should.

Concerns about admission arrangements continued to make up the largest part of the work of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) and accounted for 100 of the total of 163 new cases of all types referred to OSA.


DfE GDPR guidance for schools– Friday 2 February 2018

This week I highlight the DfE’s short video providing guidance for schools on preparing for the GDPR, the publication of the Northern Powerhouse’s latest report calling for more investment for education in Northern England and the launch of the DfE’s new buying advice service for schools.

DfE GDPR Guidance for Schools
At a meeting this week myself and the Governing body watched a short video from Iain Bradley at the DfE, explaining how schools can review and improve their handling of personal data ready for the implementation of the GDPR in May. With this subject on many Governing body agendas it seemed sensible to share this with you all.

Educating the North: driving ambition across the Powerhouse
A new report, “Educating the North”, published yesterday by Northern Powerhouse Partnerships, argues there is still a significant North-South divide in education, with too many northern young people, especially those from disadvantaged homes, falling behind other parts of the UK. The report’s five main proposals are:

  • An initial £300m increase in Government funding for disadvantaged areas across the North.
  • Reforming Pupil Premium to better target funding for disadvantage by allocating more to pupils who spend longer in the free school meals eligibility category.
  • A longer-term Government commitment to Opportunity Areas and urgently addressing the lack of Opportunity Areas in the North East.
  • Simplifying the Northern Regional Schools Commissioners areas to establish three: North West, Yorkshire and North East & Cumbria, working within frameworks and plans set by the Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board.
  • Every Northern business to mentor or otherwise meaningfully reach out on careers and enterprise skills to at least the same number of young people as they have employees, from the age of 11.

Launch of new buying advice service for schools
Yesterday the Government launched a new advice service for schools to help them get value for money when buying in services. Pilots of the scheme have started in the north west and south west of England, with free advice and guidance on buying services like catering, cleaning or technology support on offer.

According to the Government, the service provides expert advice, template documentation, help with “complex contracts” and market intelligence. The service also promotes local collaboration, where there is an “opportunity to reduce costs on areas such as learning resources”.


2017 secondary performance tables published – Friday 26 January 2018

This week saw the publication of the 2017 secondary performance tables, the launch of a new website for primary schools providing mental health teaching resources, a new Commonwealth education resource from the DfE for 11-14 year olds and a new Institute of Coding launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, by the Prime Minister.

2017 secondary performance tables published
Yesterday the DfE published the 2017 secondary performance tables enabling schools to compare their GCSE performance with other schools across the country, based on finalised data from last summer’s results. It has also published guidance and information to help you analyse the data that is reported in all of the school and college performance tables and in the analyse school performance service.

New mental health resources for primary schools
A new website, Mentally Healthy Schools, has been launched by the Duchess of Cambridge, as part of the latest initiative from Heads Together to support children’s mental well-being. The website will give primary schools access to over 1,500 teaching resources focused on supporting children’s mental health and will also provide staff with advice on risks relating to mental ill-health.

DfE launches Commonwealth education resource
The DfE has launched a new resource to support teachers with explaining to pupils about “the importance of the Commonwealth”. The resource will support those working with 11-14 year olds and links to subjects including citizenship, geography and history.

Prime Minister announces £20 million Institute of Coding (IoC)
The Institute of Coding, a key part of the Government’s efforts to drive up digital skills through the Industrial Strategy, was launched by the Prime Minister at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.

The new Institute, a consortium of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts is set to receive £20 million to tackle the UK’s digital skills gap. The Institute is centred around five core themes:

  • University learners – to boost graduate employability through a new industry standard targeted at degree level qualifications.
  • The digital workforce – to develop specialist skills training in areas of strategic importance.
  • Digitalising the professions – to transform professions undergoing digital transformation (e.g. helping learners retrain via new digital training programmes provided through online and face-to-face learning).
  • Widening participation – to boost equality and diversity in technology-related education and careers (e.g. tailored workshops, bootcamps, innovative learning facilities and other outreach activities).
  • Knowledge sharing and sustainability – to share outcomes and good practice, ensuring long-term sustainability of the IoC. This will include building up an evidence base of research, analysis and intelligence to anticipate future skills gaps.


2nd reading for proposed holiday hunger bill – Friday 19 January 2018

This week I report on the second reading of the proposed School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill, the Education Select Committee’s views on tightening up academy trust accountability and concerns around Ofsted’s recent report on the reception curriculum.

MPs urged to back holiday hunger bill
A private members bill proposed by Labour MP Frank Field will get its second reading in the House of Commons today. If passed, the School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill will give councils a legal duty to ensure free meals are provided to children who need them during the school holidays.

Mr Field chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on hunger, which revealed in its report in April last year, that giving just over £100,000 a year to every council would could end holiday hunger. The bill proposes a modest initial pilot of the free meals and activities duty, to be imposed on councils in areas of high deprivation in England, as identified in the English Indices of Deprivation. A report reviewing the pilot scheme would then be published within a year. Under the terms of the bill, local authorities would be required to “facilitate and coordinate” the provision of meals and activities during the holidays.

Education Committee’s views on academy trust accountability
This week the Parliamentary Education Committee suggested the Government should publish “scorecards” for academy trusts and base decisions on whether they are allowed to grow both on educational and financial performance.

The Committee Chair, in a letter to Lord Agnew, the Academies Minister, warned of a lack of joined-up accountability in the school system, particularly over failed trusts, demanding improvements to the way their performance is assessed by officials and communicated to parents and staff.

Concerns raised about Ofsted reception report
Early years experts and teachers are among those who have signed a letter raising concerns about Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report on the reception curriculum, calling for it to be “withdrawn”. Their concerns include that its recommendations will mean the reception year becomes less based on play.

New Secretary of State for Education – Friday 12 January 2018

Welcome back!

This week I report on the cabinet reshuffle resulting in a new Education Secretary, the publication of updated statutory Careers guidance and confirmation that GCSE Computer Science coursework tasks will not count towards students’ final grades this year or next.

New Secretary of State for Education
As a result of the Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle this week, Justine Greening resigned and was replaced by Damian Hinds as Secretary of State for Education.  Mr Hinds was previously the Minister of State for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Statutory careers guidance updated
The DfE has updated its statutory careers guidance to reflect policy changes announced in the Government’s Careers strategy. It includes information about the requirement for schools to have a careers leader from September 2018.

‘No marks’ to be awarded for computing coursework
As a result of its consultation following the discovery that GCSE computing coursework tasks had been leaked online, Ofqual has announced that these tasks will not count towards students’ final grades in 2018 or 2019.   It is not yet known what will happen in 2020.