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.

 

Consultation on the Relationships and Sex Education curriculum – Friday 22 December 2017

In the final week of this term I report on the DfE’s call for evidence on the relationships and sex education curriculum, changes to the EBacc in 2018 along with research on the effects of its introduction on schools, pupils and parents and new guidance on the recruitment of a Headteacher.

Consultation on the Relationships and Sex Education curriculum
The Government is asking parents, teachers and young people to help shape a new relationships and sex education curriculum that will help them stay safe and face the challenges of the modern world.  The current statutory guidance for teaching Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) was introduced in 2000 and fails to address risks to children which have grown in prevalence in recent years, including online pornography, sexting and staying safe online.

The survey was launched on the DfE’s website on Tuesday and the deadline to submit views is 12 February 2018.

English Baccalaureate (EBacc) update
The EBacc is a school performance measure that shows how many pupils study the core academic subjects at Key Stage 4 in state-funded and independent schools. The EBacc is made up of:

  • English
  • maths
  • the sciences, including computer science
  • history or geography
  • a language

For 2017, the attainment measure shows how many pupils achieved both a grade 5 or above in English and maths GCSE and a grade C or above in science, a language, and geography or history.

In 2018 the attainment measure will change to a school’s EBacc average point score. To calculate a school’s EBacc average point score the DfE will add together the EBacc average point score for all pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 and divide by the number of pupils in the group. To calculate a pupil’s average point score the DfE will take an average of the points scored in the 5 EBacc subject areas.

Yesterday updated research was published on the effects of introducing the EBacc on schools, pupils, parents and carers.

Recruiting a new Headteacher
Last week new guidance on the recruitment of a headteacher was published by the DfE and NGA recognising that appointing a high quality leader is something under the direct control of governing bodies that positively affects school improvement.

With the recruitment of a school leader being arguably one of the most important tasks a body will undertake, the guidance aims to steer those governing through the legal context and principles of recruitment. The guidance outlines the different stages of the process including:

  • planning and setting up a selection panel
  • preparing the application pack
  • advertising and promotion
  • the interview itself and the actions to be taken once an appointment is made

New to the guidance is information relating to an employer’s responsibilities under the 2010 Equality Act and guidance around flexible working options.

Consultation on Keeping Children Safe in Education – Friday 15 December 2017

This week I report on the consultation on the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education, the publication of new non statutory guidance on peer-on-peer abuse, the Government’s launch of a plan to boost social mobility through education and the Chief Inspector of Ofsted’s first annual report.

Consultation on Keeping Children Safe in Education opens and advice on peer-on-peer abuse is published
A new consultation seeks views on revisions to Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), the statutory guidance to which all schools and colleges must have regard when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The aim is to help schools and colleges to better understand what they are required to do by law and what DfE strongly advises they should do to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Changes have been made throughout the document to reflect the changes being made, in parallel, to the document Working Together to Safeguard Children (WT). WT is being consulted on separately and any resulting revisions to the final version will be reflected in KCSIE.

In addition, the consultation is also seeking views on new non-statutory advice covering sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges.

Launch of plan to boost social mobility through education
The national plan for dealing with social mobility through education was published this week. Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential sets out how the Government will try to remove obstacles that could stop people from achieving their potential. There are five core ambitions: four which span across each life phase – the early years, school, post-16 education, and careers – and a fifth overarching ambition focusing on delivering better educational and career outcomes more evenly across the whole country. It sets out action and investment in a range of areas including:

  • £50 million to boost school nursery provision in some of the most challenging areas, so more children benefit from early education support before they arrive at primary school.
  • A consultation on proposals to enhance early careers support and professional development for teachers, in particular those working in challenging schools and areas.
  • A new £23 million Future Talent Fund to trial a range of new teaching approaches to support the education of the most-able children from less well-off communities.

HMCI launches her first Ofsted annual report
In her first annual report as HMCI, Amanda Spielman has said the life chances of the majority of young people are “the best they ever have been”. However, she also noted “areas of persistent under-performance”, with the report identifying about 130 schools which have not improved for up to 10 years.

Ofsted confirmation of changes to short inspections – Friday 8 December 2017

This week Ofsted confirmed changes to short inspections, the Government’s new Careers Strategy was launched, the green paper on children and young people’s mental health provision was published and consultations on eligibility for the free early years entitlement for 2 year olds under Universal Credit and Early Education and Childcare Workforce Level 2 qualifications opened.

Ofsted confirms changes to short inspections following consultation
Ofsted will go ahead with plans to change the way it carries out short inspections of good-rated schools from next month. Under the new plans inspectors will continue to convert short inspections into full inspections, usually within 48 hours, if they have serious concerns about safeguarding, behaviour or the quality of education provided.

However, if there are no “significant issues” with safeguarding or behaviour, but inspectors have concerns about the quality of education, leadership or management, instead of converting the inspection Ofsted will publish a letter outlining areas for improvement.  A full inspection will then take place within one to two years, to give the school time to address weaknesses. In the meantime, Ofsted’s letter will make it clear that the school’s overall rating has not changed.

If inspectors believe a school is moving towards an outstanding judgement, Ofsted will publish a letter confirming the school is still good and setting out how it can improve. A full inspection will then take place in one to two years, but these schools can apply for an early inspection.

Ofsted ran its consultation after receiving feedback that short inspections that immediately convert to full inspections were challenging for schools and inspectors.

New national Careers Strategy
Earlier this week the Skills Minister Anne Milton launched the long-awaited Careers Strategy which sets out how the Government intends to improve careers advice and guidance across the education system. With detailed plans to the end of 2020 the key actions by September next year are as follows:

By January 2018

  • Schools and colleges should use the Gatsby Benchmarks to improve careers provision, as set out in new statutory guidance.
  • Schools must give providers of technical education and apprenticeships the opportunity to talk to all pupils.
  • Ofsted must comment in college inspection reports on the careers guidance provided to young people.

By September 2018

  • The Careers Employment Company (CEC) will launch a new investment fund of £5 million to support the most disadvantaged pupils.
  • Schools and colleges are expected to publish details of their careers programme for young people and their parents.
  • Job specification and standards for Careers Leaders developed and started to be used by schools and colleges.
  • A named Careers Leader should lead the careers programme in every school and college.
  • The CEC will begin to take on a broader role across all the Gatsby Benchmarks.
  • 20 “careers hubs” will be funded by Government and supported by a coordinator from the CEC.
  • Government sponsors two UK Career Development Awards for 2018.

Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision Green Paper
The Government is asking people for their views on a green paper setting out measures to improve mental health support for children and young people. The proposals include:

  • every school and college encouraged to appoint a designated lead for mental health;
  • creating a new mental health workforce of community-based mental health support teams;
  • a new 4-week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services to be piloted in some areas.

Consultation on eligibility for the free early years entitlement for two-year-olds under Universal Credit 
On Monday the Government launched a consultation inviting views on its proposed approach to setting eligibility for the free early education entitlement for two-year-olds under Universal Credit.  The consultation seeks views on the level at which to set a net earned income threshold under Universal Credit and explains the general principles the Government has taken into account in considering changes to the eligibility criteria in light of the introduction of Universal Credit and its plans for communicating these changes to parents, early years providers and local authorities, and the steps it will take to support their implementation.

Early education and childcare workforce level 2 qualifications consultation
The Government has also launched a 12 week consultation seeking views on the proposed early years assistant (level 2) criteria and their suitability for qualifications in early education and childcare.

£45m boost for young people with SEND – Friday 1 December 2017

This week I report on additional funding to help embed SEND reforms, a report indicating parental engagement could improve pupil progress and publication of a new Ofsted report suggesting reading should be central to the reception curriculum.

Government pledges £45 million to ‘fully embed’ SEND reforms
The Government has announced an extra £29 million for councils “to continue pressing ahead with implementation of the reforms to the SEND system.” A further £9.7 million will go on setting up “internship forums”, which will aim to create work placements for young people with SEND so they can move into paid work. The funding could also be used to train job coaches, said the Government’s release. Finally, £4.6 million will go towards parent-carer forums, which aim to give parents a voice in the processes involving children with SEND.

However, there was concern from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission back in October that pupils categorised as needing “SEN support” were getting a worse deal than those with a full Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). The summary report on local area inspections concluded that these children are more likely to have their needs overlooked, be excluded, and achieve less well than those with a legally binding EHCP.

Parental engagement ‘improves pupil progress’
A Sutton Trust report has found training staff to aid parents of disadvantaged pupils in getting involved with their education helps improve children’s progress. Results of a trial with 18 schools, where parents were provided with resources, showed a “boost to academic progress” in most schools.

Publication of a new Ofsted early years curriculum report called Bold Beginnings
Yesterday, a new report was published by Ofsted indicating a third of five year olds do not have the essential knowledge and understanding they need following their first year at school.  They say the picture for children from poorer homes is worse, with nearly half failing to gain necessary skills.

It recommends headteachers put reading at the heart of the reception curriculum, focus on developing children’s spoken language and teaching them to read using systematic synthetic phonics.  Ofsted is also recommending that the Department for Education:

  • reviews the Early Years Foundation Stage to make sure that it provides sufficient clarity for the effective teaching of reading, writing and numbers
  • streamlines the EYFSP in order to reduce teachers’ workload
  • raises the profile of early mathematics teaching, and makes a similar investment to that made in teaching phonics