Announcement of increased core school funding – Friday 21 July 2017

In my final update this academic year, I highlight the Government’s announcement of additional funding for schools, the reduction in EBacc targets, the expectation that KS1 and 2 writing assessments will move to a ‘best fit’ model and publication of revised statutory Exclusions guidance to be used from September.

Additional £1.3bn for core schools budget will deliver a rise in per pupil funding
This week the Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that £1.3bn will be diverted into core school funding from other pots including money earmarked for new free schools and the ‘healthy pupils’ programme. The Education Secretary also confirmed the Government’s commitment to deliver the national funding formula in 2018.

One of the chief concerns that has been raised is that the £1.3 billion is not ‘new’ money from the Treasury, but will instead be recouped from savings to be made in other areas of the DfE’s budget.

EBacc target reduced to 75% following consultation
In 2015, the Government pledged that 90% of pupils would be entered for the full raft of EBacc subjects by 2020.  Responding to a 2015 consultation on the EBacc published this week, the Government is now aiming for 90% “starting to study EBacc GCSE courses” by 2025, meaning that they would not achieve the original target of 90% entered for the EBacc until 2027.

Justine Greening has stated that the consultation has allowed the Government to listen to the concerns of schools and the barriers they face in achieving the original target. As a result, they have now set a new target of 75% of pupils studying EBacc subjects by 2022. Since 2010 the numbers of pupils studying the EBacc has risen from 22% to 40%.

Headteachers advised to prepare for ‘secure-fit’ writing assessments to be scrapped Headteachers across England have been told this week to expect changes to the way pupils’ writing is assessed next year. The SATs were reformed in 2016 to make them tougher and included changes to the statutory writing assessments in Year 2 and Year 6.

These have proved controversial because they use a “secure-fit” system in which pupils must reach all the criteria set out by Government before being judged at the expected standard. Opponents have said that this discriminates against children with dyslexia and that pupils who have reached all but one of the 18 criteria are given the same judgement (working below the expected standard) as those pupils who do not reach any.

The Government has been consulting on plans to move to a “best fit” model, which would place more weight on the judgment of teachers. The wider consultation on primary testing also includes proposals to scrap Key Stage 1 SATs and replace them with a new baseline assessment for Reception children.

Whilst the Government is not expected to respond until September the NAHT headteachers’ union has advised its members that it has been “encouraged by the level of engagement from Government on this issue”. It goes on to say that, while it cannot guarantee things will change, it is urging all members “not to do any further work or planning using the current writing frameworks and await the Government’s response to the consultation in September”.

Revised Statutory guidance on the exclusion of pupils from local authority maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units.
On Wednesday, the DfE published its response to the consultation on proposed revisions to school exclusion statutory guidance.

The guidance sets out the process to which relevant schools must have regard when issuing an exclusion, and the process by which parents can make representations against a decision to exclude. The proposed changes were intended to provide greater confidence to Headteachers on their use of exclusion and to provide greater clarity to independent review panels (IRPs) and governing bodies on their consideration of exclusions.

The new guidance will come into force in September 2017. Any pupil who was excluded before September 2017 and whose exclusion is still subject to review should be considered on the basis of the September 2012 guidance.

Following the responses requesting a guide for governors, it is DfE’s intention to produce a further non-statutory guide for governors which will be issued in due course.

Report on measuring the quality of school governance – Friday 14 July 2017

This week I highlight new research into whether it’s possible to define and collect metrics to measure the quality of school governance, a reminder that RAISEonline will close at the end of this month and a new report has been published on the impact of the Prevent duty in schools since it was introduced two years ago.

Research into defining and collecting metrics measuring the quality of school governance
On Wednesday, the Department for Education (DfE) published the results of a feasibility study it had commissioned to determine whether it was possible to define and collect metrics on the quality of school governance. The study aimed to establish a set of criteria showing whether a governing board was effective or not; it assessed the quality of governance in a sample of schools through an external review of governance (ERG) and compared the results of the ERG and survey to test whether the survey correctly measured the quality of governance.

Key findings and recommendations:

  • The study demonstrated that defining and collecting metrics on the quality of governance is broadly feasible. However, to secure confidence in the metrics, further validation was recommended.
  • Nine statistically-reliable metrics were developed, validated to a certain extent by expert reviews, that broadly identified the components of effective governance.
  • With further developmental work these metrics could possibly be applied on a large scale.

Update on Analyse School Performance and RAISEonline
On 31 July the RAISEonline service will close and the DfE is asking schools to save any data needed from RAISEonline such as school summary reports before this date. Schools are also being asked to log into the replacement service, Analyse School Performance (ASP), before the end of the summer term.

New report on the impact of the Prevent duty in schools Cov-Uni-EandI-logo
The Prevent duty for schools was introduced two years ago this month. To mark the occasion, the University of Coventry has published a research report on what the Prevent duty means for school and colleges in England. The report found that:

  • The message that Prevent is about ‘all forms of extremism’ and that it should form part of a schools’ wider safeguarding duty, is widely accepted.
  • There has been some opposition around the requirement to teach British values, which is linked to Prevent. In particular, schools are uneasy about calling the values “British” and are unsure about how to embed this into the curriculum effectively.
  • Staff who are not part of “safeguarding teams”, or are relatively junior in a school, are less confident about fulfilling the Prevent duty. Nevertheless, many practitioners reject the idea that Prevent has had a “chilling effect” on students in the classroom.
  • There were “widespread concerns” that the Prevent duty caused “increased stigmatism of Muslim students”.

 

KS2 SATs results announced – Friday 7 July 2017

This week I report on the release of this year’s interim KS2 SATs results, confirmation that universal infant school meals will continue and that the Government is still considering the responses received from the consultation on proposals for a new national funding formula and the publication of updated guidance on preventing bullying.

Increase in pupils achieving the expected standard in this year’s KS2 results
On Tuesday, the Department for Education (DfE) released the interim 2017 Key Stage 2 attainment figures with 61% of pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics, compared to 53% last year. Scaled scores which indicate how many marks pupils need to achieve the expected standard were also released.

The results are the first of several statistical publications that will analyse pupils’ performance in the SATs. The local authority results are due to be published in August. The floor standard thresholds, which are used to highlight which schools may require intervention will be published in September, and the number of schools below the floor standards will be revealed in December when the performance tables are published.

The Government has already said that “a broadly similar” proportion of schools will be below the floor standard compared to 2016, when 665 schools were below the floor standard.

Confirmation that universal infant school meals will continue
This week the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, confirmed in Parliament that plans to remove universal infant school meals had been scrapped. The  plans to save £650 million by stopping free meals for all infant schools in favour of an entirely means-tested policy for all primary school pupils had prompted criticism when they were announced during the election campaign. However, the announcement has raised fresh questions about the Government’s manifesto pledge to increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion, most of which was due to be funded through scrapping universal infant free school meals.

Mr Gibb said the Government was in the process of looking at the 25,000 responses to its consultation on proposals for a new national funding formula, and would respond with its plans in due course.

Guidance for schools on preventing and responding to bullying
The DfE has merged its publications ‘Supporting children and young people who are bullied: advice for schools’ with ‘Preventing and tackling bullying’. The new version of ‘Preventing and tackling bullying‘ includes additional information about how schools can support children and young people who are bullied.

 

 

Mental Health training for teachers – Friday 30 June 2017

This week I report on new mental health training that will be offered to teachers over the next 5 years, the review of fire safety in schools following the Grenfell Tower fire, the announcement of the pass mark for this year’s Phonics screening check and that schools will now get the opportunity to appeal GCSE and A Level marking errors.

Mental Health training for teachers
The Government has pledged that every secondary school in the country will receive mental health training by 2020 and that this will be extended to primary schools by 2022. The programme will be delivered by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, a social enterprise organisation, and is backed by £200,000 in Government funding.

Staff will receive practical advice on how to deal with issues such as depression and anxiety, suicide and psychosis, self-harm, and eating disorders. They will also be invited to become ‘first aid champions’, sharing their knowledge and experiences across schools and communities to raise awareness and break down stigma and discrimination.

Fire Safety in schools
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy the Government is analysing school buildings to identify those that are over four storeys high and establish which, if any, external cladding has been used on them. At the end of last week, the Government had instructed councils and academy trusts to carry out fire safety checks on school buildings to identify any that may need further investigation in light of the blaze.

The DfE is also reportedly dropping proposals to change fire safety rules around the installation of sprinklers and teaching unions have called on the Government to officially confirm they have abandoned the proposed fire safety rule changes.

Phonics screening check pass mark announced
On Monday, the Government announced the pass mark for the phonics screening check will be 32 out of 40, for the sixth year running. The phonics check was taken by more than 600,000 five and six year old pupils in Year 1. It is a test of 40 words, half of which are nonsense words, and is administered and marked by a teacher or staff member who is known to the pupil. Last year, 81% of pupils met the expected standard in Year 1, up from 77% in 2015.

Schools to get right to appeal GCSE and A-level ‘marking errors’
This week the exams regulator Ofqual has announced that schools will be given the right to appeal against GCSE and A-level results if they suspect there has been a marking error. This comes on the back of a successful pilot last year in which it allowed schools to appeal on the grounds of marking errors in three A level subjects.

The exams regulator changed the rules in recent years so that schools could only appeal an exam result if they felt exam boards had not properly followed procedures. Schools could not appeal if they believed there had been an error in the marking or moderation of an exam. The new rule will be phased in over the next 2 years, starting with all AS and A-level subjects from this summer.

 

Queen’s Speech and education priorities – Friday 23 June 2017

This week I report on the Queen’s speech and the impact it will have on education, the publication of information for parents/employers/FE and HE providers on the new GCSE grading structure and two new EEF trials to test school careers programmes.

Queen’s Speech – legislative priorities for next two years
On Wednesday, the Queen unveiled the Government’s legislative priorities for the next two years. Whilst the speech set out laws the Government wants to pass, it was silent on a series of promises made in the Conservative election manifesto including overturning the ban on grammar schools and scrapping free school lunches.

The speech included a commitment to ensure “all schools are fairly funded”. The government has indicated that the national funding formula for schools that it recently consulted on will go ahead in some form. The Conservative manifesto pledged that no school would see its budget cut under the new formula. It is not clear if the Government has the votes to push the reform through the Commons, and the Queen’s Speech did not promise any legislation on this.

In relation to technical education the Queen said the Government would “work to ensure that people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future” with “a major reform of technical education”.

The Government also said it will publish a green paper on children and young people’s mental health “focused on helping our youngest and most vulnerable members of society receive the best start in life”. The manifesto committed the Government to publishing this “before the end of this year”.

Information on the new GCSE grading structure      
This week the DfE published information about the new GCSE grades for parents, employers and further and higher education providers.

New trials launched to test school careers programmes 
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has announced two new trials will test how different careers education programmes can boost teenagers’ motivation at school. One will link-up pupils with business mentors to deliver community projects and the other will test the impact of supporting pupils to apply and participate in Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM)-related work experience.  Both programmes will be funded under a million-pound partnership between the EEF, the Careers & Enterprise Company and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

 

Justine Greening stays as education secretary in May reshuffle – Friday 16 June 2017

This week it was confirmed that Justine Greening would remain as Education Secretary, Ofsted has launched a consultation on proposals to improve the short inspection model and a new study has found that pupils are more alert in the afternoon.

Small departmental reshuffleDfE image
Following last week’s general election, Theresa May has carried out a very minor reshuffle of her ministers. Justine Greening remains Secretary of State for Education and Nick Gibb (School Standards), Jo Johnson (Universities), Caroline Dinenage (Early Years) and Lord Nash (School System) have all retained their pre-election briefs. The new Children and Families Minister is Robert Goodwill and Anne Milton has been appointed Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills.

Launch of consultation on improving the short inspection model Ofsted image
Yesterday Ofsted launched a consultation on proposals to improve the short inspection model. Short inspections were introduced in September 2015 for schools previously judged to be good. They last for one day and, in most cases, the inspectors are satisfied that the school remains good. Currently a third of short inspections are converted to full inspections when the lead inspector decides there is insufficient evidence to confirm the school is still good, or thinks it may now be outstanding. A team of inspectors then arrives at the school within 48 hours, to gather more evidence and reach a final judgement.

Ofsted has found the 48-hour conversion period challenging because it means that inspection schedules often change at the last minute, standing inspectors down at short notice. They have also noted that school leaders find the current experience of conversion “overwhelming”. Finally, they say that “in about 20% of cases, before a short inspection takes place it is already clear that a school is facing complex circumstances that warrant a full inspection”. Ofsted is therefore proposing two operational changes:

  • When a short inspection converts, the full inspection will be completed within a maximum of 15 working days, rather than 48 hours.
  • A full inspection will automatically take place in around 1 in 5 cases where Ofsted has prior evidence that a school is in complex circumstances.

These changes are being piloted in around 35 schools this term. If the proposals are accepted, it is expected that the changes will take effect immediately after the October half term this year. The consultation is open for around 2 months and will close at 11:30pm on 18 August 2017 if you would like to submit a response.

New study finds pupils more alert in the afternoonTerrific Scientific
A new study by BBC Terrific Scientific and the University of Oxford has found primary pupils may be more alert in the afternoon, which “contradicts” the practice of schools scheduling maths and literacy lessons in the morning because teachers think youngsters will be “more awake to learning”.

In March, this year 900 children (aged 9 to 11) from schools across the UK took part in the study, with researchers finding that pupils on average were faster in the afternoon than in the morning, and that reaction times appeared generally slower before the clock change. The study also found that sleep time for the children increased by an average of 30 minutes after the clock-change weekend and that 68% of the children participating felt they had higher levels of energy later in the day.

 

Impact of hung Parliament on education – Friday 9 June 2017

In another momentous week in UK politics we have a hung Parliament and if the Conservative Party can form a new government it seems likely that the plans for new grammar schools and the national funding formula will be dead in the water. Without a majority, the Conservatives will find it difficult to push through these contentious decisions, particularly given the rebellion that had already been brewing in the Tory party backbenches.

Election outcome
It was announced this morning that Theresa May will visit Buckingham Palace at 12:30 p.m. today to seek permission to form a UK government, despite losing her Commons majority. The prime minister is attempting to stay in office on the understanding that the Democratic Unionist Party will support her minority administration. With one seat left to declare, the Tories are eight seats short of the 326 figure needed to command a majority.

In the past, when minority governments have been formed at Westminster, the prime minister has held another election at the earliest opportunity to try and gain a working majority. Or the opposition has forced another election by tabling a “confidence” motion.

The Fixed-Term Parliament Act (passed by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives to make their 2010 coalition less likely to collapse) means an election can only be held if:

  • Two thirds of MPs vote for it. In practice, it would need to be supported by both Labour and the Conservatives;
  • If MPs pass a motion of no confidence in the government AND an existing or new government cannot win a confidence vote in the Commons within 14 days of the no-confidence vote.

Impact from an Education perspective
The former Chair of the Education Select Committee Neil Carmichael has lost his seat in Parliament in one of many shock upsets for the Conservative Party. Mr Carmichael lost to his Labour opponent (former Labour MP and teacher David Drew) by almost 700 votes, while the Education Secretary Justine Greening’s majority in her south London seat of Putney was cut from more than 10,000 to less than 2,000. Edward Timpson, the Children’s Minister, has lost his Crewe and Nantwich seat to Labour candidate, teacher and school funding campaigner Laura Smith by just 48 votes.

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, has also lost her Richmond Park seat back to Conservative former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, who she beat in a by-election last December.

Lucy Powell, the former shadow education secretary, saw her majority in Manchester Central increased, while Mike Kane, the shadow schools minister, also retained his seat.

 

GCSE English Literature exam paper error – Friday 26 May 2017

This week I report on the error in a GCSE English Literature exam paper, the release of the first part of the 2015/16 absence statistics and an analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility data from 2011 to 2015.

English GCSE exam error admitted by board
One of the country’s biggest examination boards, OCR, has admitted to an error in today’s English Literature GCSE exam, taken by around 14,000 students. The mistake related to a question on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in which the family background of a key character, Tybalt, was mixed up. The question suggested he was a Montague when in fact he was a Capulet.

The examination board has apologised and in a statement said that it would put things right when the exam was marked and graded so no student needed to worry about being disadvantaged. An investigation will be taking place as a matter of urgency to see how this error got through their assurance processes.

Absence statistics for 2015/16 academic year
On 18 May, the Department for Education (DFE) released information on the absence rates in schools for the 2016 autumn term. Whilst the overall absence rate had risen slightly from 4.1% to 4.3%, with illness remaining the most common cause of absence, unauthorised absence for holidays has also made a significant contribution to the rise. The percentage of pupils who missed at least one session due to an unauthorised family holiday, rose from 4.2% to 5.0%.

This is the first set of absence statistics since the landmark decision by the High Court ruled in favour of the Isle of Wight parent that had challenged the regulations forbidding term-time absences for pupils except in ‘exceptional’ circumstances. A further appeal from the Government resulted in this decision being overruled and the DfE has said it is too soon to draw links between the High Court ruling and the unauthorised absence rate.

Report analysing teacher supply, retention and mobility
Yesterday the DfE released an analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility data from 2011 to 2015. Key findings included:

  • More teachers were leaving the profession – the teacher wastage rate (those who are either leaving the profession, retiring or going on maternity leave) increased in every subject, of which the overall rate went from 6.6% to 8.7%.  Physics, where graduates with a first-class degree are now offered £30,000 tax-free bursaries to train in, had either the highest or second highest wastage rate in each year between 2011 and 2015.
  • The EBacc has caused a slump in new Drama teachers – entrant rates increased in every EBacc subject except Biology, where the rate fell by 0.1%. However, the biggest drops were found in non-EBacc subjects, mainly in Drama which had a 1.4% decrease.
  • The most newly-qualified teachers (NQT) were in EBacc subjects – whilst the overall number of NQTs remained relatively stable the rate was highest in Maths, English and the sciences and ‘core’ EBacc subjects – classics and History.
  • Teachers on permanent contracts were most likely to stay in the profession – teachers and leaders with permanent contracts had higher retention rates, both in school and in the system. Retention rates also increased with age and experience were higher outside London and in schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
  • Most teachers stay within commuting distance when moving schools – around 70.0% of all teachers who moved between 2010 and 2014 moved 25 kilometres or less. Secondary teachers were more likely to move a greater distance than primary teachers, and men were slightly more likely than women to move a greater distance, but the variation was likely to be because primary teachers were disproportionately female.

General Election manifestos education pledges – Friday 19 May 2017

With Parliament dissolved and the election soon upon us, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at the three main Parties key education pledges which were published this week.


conservative_logo_2006-svg

Conservative Party education pledges

  • End the ban on selective schools and continue the free schools programme, aiming to build 100 new ones each year
  • Prohibit councils from creating any new places in schools that have been rated either Inadequate or Requires Improvement
  • Ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools
  • Increase overall schools budget by £4bn by 2022 and ensure no school is worse off as part of the new funding formula
  • Open a specialist maths school in every major city in England
  • Introduce a curriculum fund for developing knowledge-rich materials
  • Expect 75% of pupils to have entered EBacc subjects by the end of the next parliament, with 90% by 2025
  • Offer forgiveness on student loan repayments for teachers to help retain them within the profession
  • Create a jobs portal for schools to advertise vacancies to reduce costs and help with recruitment
  • Offer free school breakfast to all primary school pupils and scrap universal infant free school meals
  • Introduce mental health first aid training for teachers in all schools
  • Replace rules preventing the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools
  • Create more nurseries by introducing the presumption that all new primary schools should include one
  • Deliver a world-class technical education by replacing 13,000 existing technical qualifications with the new T-levels

 Labour image

Labour Party education pledges

  • Create a unified National Education Service (NES) as one of the “central institutions of fairness” for the 21st century
  • Introduce a fairer funding formula which would leave “no school worse off”
  • Reduce class sizes to less than 30 pupils for all 5, 6 and 7 year olds
  • Introduce free school meals for all primary school children
  • Abandon baseline assessments and review KS1 and KS2 SATs
  • End the public sector pay gap and consult on introducing teacher sabbaticals and placements with industry
  • Give teachers “more direct involvement” in the curriculum
  • Reduce “monitoring and bureaucracy”
  • Reintroduce national pay bargaining for teachers
  • Undo the requirement for schools to pay the apprenticeship levy
  • Extend schools-based counselling to all schools to improve children’s mental health
  • Deliver an inclusive SEND strategy and embed it more substantially into training for all school staff
  • Extend free childcare to 30 hours for all 2 year olds
  • Scrap tuition fees in England
  • Reintroduce maintenance allowances

Liberal Democrats Party.png

Liberal Democrats Party education pledges

  • Scrap grammar schools plans and devolve all capital money for new school spaces to local authorities
  • Introduce a fairer National Funding System with a protection for all schools
  • End the 1% cap on teachers’ pay rises
  • Extend the free school meal programme to all primary school pupils
  • Introduce 25 hours of high quality CPD by 2020, rising to 50 hours by 2025
  • Tackle teacher workload by reforming Ofsted inspections and focusing on an evidence-based approach
  • Allow Ofsted to inspect academy chains
  • Introduce a curriculum entitlement – a slimmed down core national curriculum
  • Prioritise primary progress measures instead of floor thresholds and work with the profession to reform tests at age 11
  • Provide training to all teaching staff to identify mental health issues
  • Amend the Ofsted inspection framework to include promoting wellbeing as a statutory duty of schools
  • Improve links between employers and schools, encouraging all schools to participate in employment and enterprise schemes

 

 

DfE intervention following parents’ complaints about this year’s SATs – Friday 12 May 2017

In a quiet week in the run up to the General Election I report on the DfE’s monitoring of social media to prevent parents from revealing some of the question in this year’s SATs papers and the publication of the APPG for Education’s report on how well schools prepare children for the future.

DfE’s intervention follows parents’ complaints on social media about questions in this week’s SATs assessments
Parents have been reprimanded online by the Department for Education (DfE) for tweeting answers from their children’s SATs exams. This week, Year 6 children have been taking tests in reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) and maths.

0fficials appear to be monitoring social media in a bid to clamp down on cheating. The DfE’s official Twitter account has warned against publishing answers, as some Key Stage 2 pupils are still due to sit the assessments.  It wrote: “Some children will be taking the KS2 tests next week using timetable variations. Please help us to keep the test content secure. Thank you.”

The plea followed a series of interventions against disgruntled parents who had aired concerns about questions in the tests.

APPG for Education report – schools preparing children for the future
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Education has published a report on their inquiry on how well schools prepare children for their future.

Examining changes in the labour market and the necessity for basic literacy and numeracy skills, the report emphasises the need for children and young people to also have “soft skills, character and resilience” as well as the increasing demand for skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers.

The report also explores the importance of high quality employer engagement, work experience, and careers education in terms of “levelling the playing field” for young people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The inquiry found that that a rising number of schools were struggling with increasingly limited resources, meaning that time and money are not being focused on areas crucial for a young person’s future life chances, such as good quality careers guidance or “soft skills development”.

The inquiry recommendations include:

  • that the Government reinstates mandatory work experience
  • careers advice and guidance should always be provided by a “qualified, independent and impartial counsellor”
  • children with SEND must be “more visible in debates around careers provision”
  • the Government should allocate additional resources to schools for the explicit purpose of providing careers advice