Care leavers to receive laptops/devices – Friday 22 October 2021

This week I report on funding to provide care leavers or children with a social worker laptops or devices from the DfE to support their learning as well as the government’s response to the Education Committee’s report on ‘left behind’ white working class pupils.

Care leavers to benefit from laptops and tablets
Ahead of Care Leavers Week (25-31 October), the government has announced an expansion of the Get Help with Technology programme, with up to 10,000 devices for children with a social worker and those leaving care. Devices will also be allocated to children who have recently arrived from Afghanistan, to help them to adjust to life in England and support their education.

Additional devices will be provided to schools and colleges to help give children and young people who are not in school or college due to Covid, access to lessons. Schools, colleges and councils will be invited during November and December to order their allocation of devices, which will be determined by the proportion of pupils on free school meals and numbers of care leavers in each local authority.

Government response to Education Committee report on ‘left behind’ white working class pupils
The government has responded to concerns raised by the Education Select Committee in their report ‘The forgotten: how White working class pupils have been let down, and how to change it’. The report published in June this year found that disadvantaged white pupils fell behind their peers at every stage of education and called on the government to take action in a series of recommendations, which included greater accountability around government funded careers advice and more targeted data so that interventions and funding could go straight to those that needed it most.

The government largely accepted the majority of the recommendations and where they didn’t they felt that existing or planned policies were “better formulated” to address disadvantage.

Funding for staff development – Friday 15 October 2021

This week I report on DfE funding for staff development through the newly reformed suite of NPQs, the appointment of a new Social Mobility Commissioner and an article in Schools Week raising concerns around rising energy bills.

Funding for staff development via NPQs
On Tuesday the new School Standards Minister, Robin Walker confirmed that the development of the education workforce was going to be at the top of his priorities.  With £184 million of funding, the newly reformed suite of National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) would be freely available to all teachers and leaders in state-funded schools, with the aim of delivering 150,000 NPQs to teachers and leaders across the next three years.

Appointment of a new Social Mobility Commissioner
Katharine Birbalsingh has been appointed by the government as the new Social Mobility Commissioner.  The Social Mobility Commission has been led by the interim co-chairs Sandra Wallace and Steven Cooper since July 2020, after the resignation of the previous chair, Dame Martina Milburn.  It is anticipated Ms Birbalsingh will focus on education, enterprise and employment.

Concerns around rising energy costs in schools
An article in Schools Week has reported that schools are concerned about rising energy bills given that since January, wholesale gas prices have risen 250% across the world, alongside the requirement to ventilate classrooms to try to control the spread of Covid.

Whilst many schools are on fixed term energy deals some schools, particularly here in the North East, have their energy handled by an organisation which uses a ‘flexible purchasing method’ which could mean rates vary throughout the contract.  Also schools renewing energy deals in the coming months could also be hit by increased prices. 

Plans for an education white paper next year – Friday 8 October 2021

This week I report on a new education white paper to tackle innumeracy and illiteracy and a £3k level up premium to send teachers to areas that need it.

Education Secretary plans a white paper for next year
In a speech at the Conservative Party conference on Monday, the Education Secretary pledged a white paper for 2022 which would outline plans to “tackle innumeracy and illiteracy”. He didn’t go into great detail about the intentions of the white paper and instead referred to existing plans, including “up to six million packages of tutoring in schools this parliament” and a promise made in June 2021 to fund 500,000 teacher training opportunities.

£3k level up premium
On Wednesday the Prime Minister announced the government will offer a “levelling up premium” of up to £3k to send the “best” maths and science teachers to areas that “need them the most”.

The Conservative party said the payments would target teachers in the first five years of their career in maths, physics, chemistry and computing – the four subjects facing the “greatest supply challenges”.

Governor training opportunities – Friday 1 October 2021

This week I highlight various governor training opportunities, new non statutory guidance for teaching Maths at KS3, information on how schools can apply for a grant for senior mental health lead training and confirmation of adaptations in the 2022 summer exams series.

Governor training
Governors for Schools Governance of Safeguarding in 2021 Webinar on 7 October from 8-9am: focussing on the new version of Keeping Children Safe in Education which came into force on 1 September, this webinar will explore the key changes that those in governance need to know about in order to ensure they have effective strategic oversight of this vital aspect of all schools’ work. To register use this link to go to the website.

Careers & Enterprise Company free Online learning module on Careers Awareness – the aim of this module is to equip governors with the knowledge needed to provide appropriate support and challenge, to ensure that all students receive high quality careers education. To complete the module use this link to go to the website.

NTLT Trust Governor Workshops – a range of sessions are being provided through this academic year; all being delivered remotely using Zoom. Governors can upskill in areas including Pupil Premium, understanding data, finance, preparing for Ofsted inspection. Please contact me if you would like to book a place on a session as there are two places per school available on a first come, first served basis.

DfE publications: non statutory guidance for teaching Maths at KS3 and information on senior mental health lead training

Guidance for teaching Maths at KS3 – this week new non statutory guidance was published which builds on the non statutory guidance for primary schools. It aims to identify the significant ideas that are needed for pupils to progress in their study of maths and demonstrate how they can build their understanding of these concepts at KS3 in the context of the wider curriculum.

Grant funding for senior mental health lead training – DfE is offering a grant for a senior member of school staff to access quality assured training to implement an effective whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing. The grant (£1,200) is provided to cover (or contribute to) the cost of attending a quality assured course and may also be used to hire supply staff whilst leads are engaged in learning.

The grants will be available to around a third of all state schools and colleges this financial year and a waiting list will be created with future grant funding to be confirmed in the spring of 2022. The online grant application service will become available later this term.

Adaptations in 2022 summer exams to ensure fairness for students
Following a public consultation, the government and Ofqual yesterday confirmed GCSE, AS and A level exams in England next summer will be adapted to ensure fairness for students whose learning has been disrupted due to the pandemic. Changes include a choice of topics in some GCSE exams like English literature and history; advance information on the focus of exams to focus students’ revision in subjects where there is not a choice of topics; and support materials like formulae sheets in maths.

Ofqual has also set out its approach to grading with next year a transition year to reflect the recovery period, with grade boundaries to be set by exam boards reflecting a midway point between 2021 and 2019 – so that more students get higher grades in 2022 than before the pandemic. This approach will provide a safety net for this year’s students as well as a step back to normality, with results expected to return to the usual grade profile by 2023.

New Academies Minister – Friday 24 September 2021

This week I report on the new Academies Minister, the announcement that Ofsted will review whether the DfE’s Covid catch up plans work and the expansion of the Glasses in Classes scheme to boost literacy.

New Academies Minister
Baroness Berridge has been replaced as Academies Minister by Baroness Diana Barran, who joins the DfE from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport where she was the minister for civil society, youth and loneliness.

Ofsted to judge whether DfE’s Covid catch-up plans work
Ofsted has been asked by the government to review the effectiveness of its two main Covid catch-up plans – tutoring and teachers’ professional development. The watchdog has said its independent reviews will investigate how the government’s policies are working on the ground by gathering evidence through research visits and from its school inspections.

Tutoring and teacher development were the two key elements of a £1.4 billion catch-up plan announced by the DfE earlier this year. In relation to tutoring Ofsted has said the review will consider the overall quality of tutoring offered by schools regardless of whether it is provided directly or through National Tutoring Programme tuition partners. The evaluation will also consider how well schools are integrating tutoring into their curriculum, its effect on the overall quality of education, and the likelihood that it will actually help children catch up.

Glasses in Classes scheme rolled out to boost literacy
A pilot scheme launched in Bradford to give pupils free glasses is now being rolled out to other Opportunity Area schools. Children identified as needing glasses will receive one pair for home and one for school, helping them concentrate in the classroom and improve their literacy skills.

New Education Secretary – Friday 17 September 2021

This week I report on the new Education Secretary as part of the Cabinet reshuffle and confirmation of the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations for 12-15 year olds.

New Education Secretary
Not unsurprisingly the Prime Minister’s first Minister to be sacked during this week’s Cabinet reshuffle was Gavin Williamson. The new Education Secretary is Nadhim Zahawi moving from leading the vaccine rollout.

Minister of State for School Standards is Robin Walker MP replacing Nick Gibb and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Children and Families) is Will Quince MP. Baroness Berridge remains as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for the School System).

Covid vaccinations for 12-15 year olds
On Wednesday the Government published guidance on how the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out in schools for 12 to 15 year olds will work. As with normal school vaccinations, the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS) will plan the roll-out, administer the jabs and be legally responsible for the delivery.

Schools will have no role or responsibility for obtaining consent from parents or mediating between parents and their children over the vaccination.

Free resources to help reduce avoidable exclusions – Friday 10 September 2021

This week I highlight free resources on reducing avoidable exclusions, confirmation from DfE that permanent exclusions meetings can continue to be held remotely if required and information on the requirements in the pupil premium strategy statement for this year.

Reducing avoidable exclusions: resources for governing bodies and schools
Throughout 2021 Governors for Schools, in partnership with Allen & Overy, has been running a campaign to highlight the rise in exclusions in English state schools in recent years. They have developed and brought together a range of free resources to help governors understand the issue in their school and explore and advocate alternatives to exclusion where appropriate. Please use this link to access the resources.

School suspensions and permanent exclusions
All suspensions (fixed term) and permanent exclusions occurring between 25 September 2021 and 24 March 2022 (inclusive of those dates) are subject to temporary arrangements with regards to the use of remote access technology for meetings of governing bodies or independent review panels. This is a contingency measure should there be any further public health restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 that might make it difficult for meetings to be held in person within the normal statutory timescales.

Any such meetings should still take place within the normal statutory timescales described in the statutory guidance.

Pupil premium in the 2021 to 2022 academic year
As in previous years schools continue to use the pupil premium to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. For this academic year schools are required to use their recovery premium alongside their pupil premium funding and report on their use of them as a single sum in their strategy statement.

The DfE has provided a template schools should use to publish their strategy statement by 31 December, as this will give schools time to take the needs of their new intake into account.

Free Governors Conference – Friday 3 September 2021

Welcome back! In the first week of this new academic year I highlight a free Governors for Schools Conference and the latest updates from the DfE and the NGA.

Governors for Schools Conference 20-24 September 2021
In this first Governors for School Conference there will be five days of talks and workshops for governors, schools, and partners.  Each day participants will explore a variety of topical governance and education related issues, from skills development to the future of the role itself, led by key names in the education sector. 

To find out more about each session and book your place to attend please use this link to access the website.

DfE and NGA updates
Carbon dioxide monitors in schools – CO2 monitors will be provided to schools from September so staff can quickly identify where ventilation needs to be improved. The majority of the monitors will become available over the Autumn term, with special schools and alternative provision prioritised to receive their full allocation from September given their higher-than-average numbers of vulnerable pupils.

Keeping Children Safe in Educationstatutory guidance which sets out what schools must do to comply with the law.  All governors need to read Part 1 of the guidance.

Sexual violence and harassment between children in schools – updated advice for schools on how to prevent and respond to reports of sexual violence and harassment between children. The advice sets out what sexual violence and sexual harassment is, how to minimise the risk of it occurring and what to do when it does occur or is alleged to have occurred.

New School Admissions Code – it is the responsibility of admission authorities to ensure that their admission arrangements are compliant with this Code. Where a school is their own admission authority, this responsibility falls to the governing body or Academy Trust.

NGA Governing body Code of Conduct – the content of the model code is largely unchanged from 2020; however, the Nolan Principles are now included in full and three new statements have been added, which cover equalities, inclusive practice and the expectation that those governing on academy committees (local governing boards) will abide by their scheme of delegation.

NGA Skills Audit – the new audit aims to make the process more manageable both for individuals completing and those evaluating the results.  Make it easier for individuals to use their audit to build their own development plans.  Make it easier for those evaluating the results to identify whole governing body development priorities (such as recruitment, whole governing body training or e-learning) and make clear recommendations.   There is also a new skills dashboard allows the governing body’s audit responses to be readily copied and pasted, makes it easier to identify priorities for the whole governing body and signposts to helpful resources, development and training opportunities to meet those priorities.

Latest DfE school governance update – Friday 16 July 2021

This academic year has been challenging and incredibly busy for everyone working in and with schools. We are all ready for a summer break to recharge our batteries ready for what September will bring.

As ever this final update of the year is jam packed with information as I highlight the latest DfE governance update for maintained schools and academies, the launch of a consultation on GCSE and A level adaptations for the 2022 examinations series, updated statutory Careers guidance and a new School Admissions Code as well as non-statutory guidance on Fair Access Protocols.

DfE Governance update
Yesterday the DfE published its July school governance update for LA maintained schools and academies. Both documents contain:

  • A thank you to governors for the voluntary work they do from Baroness Berridge;
  • Information on the opening of the application round for National Leaders of Governance;
  • Information on the updated statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education for September 2021;
  • Information on the opening of a consultation on proposed arrangements for exams in 2022 (see below for further details);
  • Non statutory guidance for Trust Partnerships;
  • Information on Early Career Framework reforms.

In addition the Academy update provides information on the Academy Trust Handbook 2021, updated Model Articles of Association and a reminder that Chairs of Trustees in Academy Trusts must complete a suitability check on appointment or re-appointment if it wasn’t completed at the original time of their appointment.

Consultation on GCSE and A-level adaptations for 2022 examinations opens
The DfE and Ofqual have launched a new consultation proposing a range of measures to help mitigate the impact of education disruption to pupils sitting GCSE and A-level exams in 2022. The measures under consideration include:

  • Giving schools some choice about the topics or content their pupils will be assessed on for GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography;
  • Providing advance information of the focus of exam content, to help students focus their revision;
  • Providing pupils with a formulae sheet in GCSE mathematics and an expanded equation sheet in GCSE physics and combined science;
  • Changing requirements for practical science work and art and design assessments.

The plans for summer 2022 GCSE, AS and A level exams are expected to be confirmed early in the coming Autumn term. Ofqual is also considering how best to grade qualifications in 2022 to be as fair as possible to that cohort, as well as to past and future students, and will announce a decision in the Autumn. It’s expected these arrangements will not be necessary for exams in 2023.

Updated statutory Careers guidance and access for education and training providers
Yesterday the DfE published its updated statutory Careers guidance and changes include:

  • Bringing together the statutory guidance for schools and the guidance for colleges on careers guidance into a single document;
  • A new section to bring the key points for governors and senior leaders into one place;
  • Text added to describe the range of support made available by the department, particularly through The Careers & Enterprise Company and the National Careers Service, to help schools and colleges achieve the Gatsby Benchmarks;
  • New paragraphs explaining the importance of the skills and technical education reforms set out in the department’s white paper, ‘Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth’ and how schools and colleges should highlight the opportunities these reforms will create for students;
  • Text added to make it clear that schools and colleges should not promote HE as a better or more favourable route than FE and apprenticeships; and should inform students when evidence suggests that courses they are considering lead to poor career outcomes;
  • Changes to reflect the coverage of careers guidance in Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework, published in 2019 and Ofsted’s school inspection handbook, updated in June 2020;
  • References to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how schools and colleges can adapt their careers provision.

New School Admissions Code for September 2021
On Tuesday, the DfE published its new statutory School Admissions Code which comes into force on 1 September as well as non-statutory guidance on Fair Access Protocols.

Covid restrictions for schools to end at Step 4 – Friday 9 July 2021

This week I report on the new guidance issued by the DfE on Covid restrictions in education settings ending from Step 4 as well as the 2021 version of Keeping Children Safe in Education and a new version of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment guidance.

Covid restrictions in education settings to end at Step 4
On Tuesday, the Education Secretary confirmed that Covid restrictions in education settings will end from Step 4 in line with the general removal of restrictions for England at Step 4.  Key headlines include:

  • Over the summer, staff and secondary school students should continue to test regularly if they are attending settings that remain open
  • Secondary schools are to prepare for on-site testing at the beginning of the Autumn term as all secondary school students should receive two on-site lateral flow device tests, 3 to 5 days apart, on their return in the autumn
  • Schools can commence testing from 3 working days before the start of term and can stagger students’ return across the first week to manage this
  • Secondary schools should retain a small on-site testing facility until further notice in case students are unable to test themselves at home
  • Students should then continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when this will be reviewed by the DfE
  • Only students that test positive will need to self-siolate
  • Schools will no longer trace close contacts, although they will still be identified via NHS Test and Trace and those identified as close contacts will be advised to take a PCR test, and will only need to isolate if they test positive
  • Students will not need to remain in a consistent group (‘bubble’)
  • Face coverings will no longer be advised for students, staff and visitors either in classrooms or in communal areas
  • Schools should provide remote education equivalent in length to the core teaching students would usually get in school if they can’t attend due to contracting Covid
  • All schools will have outbreak management plans in place outlining how they will operate if there is an outbreak in their setting or local area. The Government may also offer local areas of particular concern an enhanced response package to help limit increases in transmission. Revised Operational Guidance has been published in relation to this.

Keeping Children Safe in Education for September 2021 Published
This week the DfE also published the 2021 version of Keeping Children Safe in Education which will come into force on 1 September 2021, in addition a new version of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment guidance has also been published, ready to come into force on 1 September.