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

Governing bodies to have the power to remove elected parents and staff governors – Friday 5 May 2017

This week I report on changes to constitutional arrangements for maintained schools giving governing bodies the power to remove elected parents and staff governors, provide further information from the DfE on the replacement for RAISEonline and highlight a new report on financial pressures facing some schools who are cutting back on mental health provision.

Changes to constitutional arrangements for maintained school governing bodies
Late last week the Government published the School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 which will enforce changes to the constitutional arrangements of maintained school governing bodies (including federated governing bodies).

From 1 September 2017, maintained school governing bodies will have the power to remove elected parent and staff governors in the same way as they can remove co-opted governors – that is, by majority decision of the governing body.

From 1 May 2017, any person who has held office as an elected parent or staff governor and removed from the governing body during their term of office, will be disqualified from serving or continuing to serve as a school governor for five years from the date of their removal.

Information on the replacement for RAISEonline
The DfE has released a video with information on the replacement for the RAISEonline service. The new “Analyse School Performance” service will be a “sister service” to the DfE performance tables. Unlike the performance tables, it will require secure access and governors should speak to their school about obtaining access from the secure access approver. Any access provided should be in anonymised form. The anonymised data will also be available to Ofsted, local authorities, multi-academy trusts and dioceses.

The service will allow governors and trustees to “view and analyse details on key headline measures” and compare performance at “school and pupil group level against national averages”. The system allows for both overview and in-depth reports (eg breakdown by pupil groups) on headline measures. The new system also allows users to use scatter graphs to identify trends over time. This will help governors to see if “their school development plan and priorities” are being translated into better results in key areas.

New report suggests schools are cutting back on mental health provision due to financial pressures
A joint report conducted by the Education Select Committee and the Health Select Committee urges the next government to review the impact of squeezed school budgets on mental health services. It also advocates more training for teachers when completing their initial qualifications and greater consideration of children’s well-being by school inspectorate Ofsted.

While it welcomed the Government’s commitment to making PSHE a compulsory part of the curriculum, the report suggested the promotion of well-being cannot be confined to the provision of PSHE classes.

Surprise General election and new Clerking Competency Framework – Friday 28 April 2017

Welcome back after the Easter break. With a General election in June the country continues to experience change and the DfE has published a new Clerking Competency Framework before restrictions on the activity of civil servants are put in place. The NFER has produced a new report highlighting that the Northern RSC region has one of the lowest sponsor capacity to need ratios and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a report on disability inequality which includes a focus on education.

Current position
2017 continues to surprise, with more political uncertainty and a General election taking place on 8 June. If the Conservatives return to Government will the Education Secretary remain in place? Is Justine Greening seen as a safe pair of hands or has she not been supportive enough of the grammar schools’ agenda?

With the onset of ‘purdah’, the DfE will go quiet until after the election. In the meantime, it has published a new Clerking Competency Framework. This is non-statutory guidance setting out the competencies required to deliver professional clerking in maintained schools and academies. I have prepared a briefing for this half term’s Governing body meetings and will spend time this term reviewing my practice and identifying any training needs.

New report finds sponsor capacity to need ratio in the North RSC region amongst the lowest
A new report by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) has found that the North of England RSC region has one of the lowest available sponsor capacity to need ratios and finding new sponsors could be a challenge. The ratio in the region is second lowest at 1.1 to 1, with Lancashire and West Yorkshire having the most need of new sponsors with a ratio of 0.7 to 1.

The report has identified 59 underperforming schools in the Northern region that have an immediate need for a new sponsor. There are currently 49 MATs that are ready for expansion in the area, with the capacity to take on 63 underperforming schools. Whilst the NFER said growing sponsor capacity is now a key priority for RSCs, it points out that RSCs will struggle matching suitable sponsors, as the available sponsors and schools in need could be at opposite ends of the large regions they are in charge of.

Equality and Human Rights Commission report on disability inequality in Great Britain
This new report looks at 6 core areas of life: education; work; standard of living; health and care; justice and detention; and participation and identity. It highlights areas where there has been progress and where improvements still need to be made.

In relation to education, the report looks at attainment for children and young people, exclusions from schools, bullying in schools, young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and also educational qualifications for adults.

The report highlights that in 2014/15 the overall proportion of children with SEND in England who achieved at least five A*-C GCSEs, including English and mathematics, was 20%, whereas this was 64.2% for non-disabled children. In 2014/15, pupils with identified SEND accounted for just over half of all permanent exclusions and fixed-period exclusions.

As no government department collects regular data on bullying, the report cites various studies that support the view that bullying amongst pupils with SEND is higher than those without. In 2015/16, the proportion of disabled 16-18-year-olds who were NEET (13.2%) was higher than for non-disabled 16-18-year-olds who were NEET (5.8%). Finally, in 2015/16, the proportion of disabled people with no qualifications was higher (17.4%) compared with that of non-disabled people (6.3%).

Governing bodies should try to ensure that pupils with SEND are receiving the support they need and, where appropriate, are receiving all the opportunities available to pupils without SEND.

Parent loses term-time holiday legal challenge – Friday 7 April 2017

This week I report on the parent from the Isle of Wight who’s lost his case in the Supreme Court allowing him to take his child on holiday during term-time, new rules requiring schools with more than 250 workers to publish their gender pay gap statistics have come into force and the DfE has published a form that new Chairs of Trustees of academies, free schools and independent schools must complete in conjunction with their DBS application.

Parent loses landmark term-time holiday legal challenge
Yesterday the Supreme Court upheld the Isle of Wight Council’s right to fine a father who took his daughter out of school to go on holiday to Florida in April 2015.  The decision overrules the High Court decision and Isle of Wight magistrate’s court, which both ruled in the father’s favour.

Mr Platt had argued that because his daughter still had a 90.3% attendance record, even when she returned from their seven-day holiday to Disneyland, he had not broken rules requiring his child have “regular attendance” at school.  However, the five judges ruled unanimously that regular attendance at school had to follow the rules of the school.  They found that attending “regularly” must mean in accordance with the rules set by the school or the “appropriate authorities” such as a council.  The Department of Education (DfE) welcomed the ruling and had covered the Isle of Wight Council’s costs for the case.

Schools now have 12 months to publish gender pay gap statistics
New rules requiring academy trusts and schools with more than 250 workers to publish their gender pay gap statistics came into force yesterday. Employers that fall under the new requirement have until April next year to publish figures on their websites, as part of a Government pledge to champion gender equality.  Statistics will then have to be published every year thereafter.

Mandatory figures for reporting include the median and mean gender pay gap, the proportion of men and women in each quartile of the pay structure, and pay gaps in any bonuses paid out during the year. Employers will also be encouraged to publish an action plan alongside their figures showing how they will close any pay gap.

Completion of an identity verification form for new Chairs of Trustees for academies, free schools and independent schools now required
On Wednesday, the DfE published a form that new Chairs of Trustees of academies, free schools and independent schools must now complete in conjunction with their Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) application.

They are required to complete the new form and take it to one of an approved list of professionals to verify their identity and then must submit it along with their DBS application form to the DfE. It is not yet clear how that process will work if an on-line DBS application is usually applied for.

Consultation proposing the end of KS1 SATs – Friday 31 March 2017

This week I report on the start of a consultation on reforms to the Primary Assessment system including the recommendations from the Rochford Review,  the Education Secretary has clarified the new GCSE 9 to 1 grading system and the findings from a consultation on peer support and children’s and young people’s mental health was published.

Consultation on reforms to the Primary Assessment system
Yesterday the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, set out proposals to replace Key Stage 1 SATs with a new baseline test at Reception to create a more “stable and proportionate” primary assessment system. The consultation proposes:

  • improvements to the early years foundation stage profile – consulting on how to make improvements and reduce burdens to the existing assessments on children’s readiness to start school at the end of their early education;
  • bringing forward the starting point for school progress measures during primary education – through the introduction of a new teacher-mediated assessment in Reception;
  • reviewing the statutory status of Key Stage 1 assessment – schools will still be provided with test materials to help them benchmark their pupils and inform parents;
  • reducing the burdens of teacher assessment – removing the requirement to submit teacher assessments where the assessment is not used in the accountability of schools;
  • considering whether there should be greater flexibility for teachers to use their judgement to assess pupils’ ability in writing.

A parallel consultation on the recommendations of the independent Rochford Review opened at the same time looking at the future of statutory assessment arrangements for pupils
working below the standard of national curriculum tests in England.  This is a diverse group of children – a high proportion have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), some are from disadvantaged backgrounds and some have English as an additional language.

Both consultations will last for 12 weeks, closing on 22 June.

Clarification around the new GCSE 9 to 1 grading system
The Education Secretary has written to the Chair of the Education Select Committee to provide certainty about how the new grading will work and, in particular, the consequences for individual pupils of achieving a grade 4 or grade 5.

Rather than reporting on the “good pass”, achieving a grade 4 will be regarded as a “standard pass” and a grade 5 as a “strong pass”.  Under the new system, a grade 4 and above will be equivalent to a C and above.  This is the level that pupils must achieve in order not to be required to continue studying English and maths post 16.  Therefore, the expectation is that employers, FE providers and universities that currently accept a grade C would continue recognising a grade 4.

The Government will publish not just the “standard pass” (grade 4 and above) but
also the “strong pass” (at grade 5 and above) in school performance tables.  Achievement at the “strong pass” will be one of the benchmarks used to measure the performance of schools.

Consultation outcome on peer support and children’s and young people’s mental health
The Government established a Steering Group and an Advisory Group in December 2015 to identifying ways to increase and improve the quality of peer support for mental wellbeing made available to children and young people by schools.  This week it published a report which summarises and presents the findings from the range of activities that were undertaken including workshops with stakeholders and young people and ‘flash’ Twitter polls.  A short analysis aimed at children and young people was also produced.