Free webinar on balancing support with challenge during the pandemic – Friday 16 October 2020

This week I highlight a free governors webinar on balancing support with challenge during the pandemic, the latest education news and the publication of new Headteacher’s standards and reformed national professional qualifications from September 2021.

Free governors webinar on balancing support with challenge during Covid-19
Governors for Schools is offering a free webinar on Thursday 5 November 2020 from 8 to 9 a.m. which will focus on how governors can balance the need to hold schools to account while providing support to school leaders and being aware of the impact on workload that the pandemic is having.

It will explore ways of showing sensitive and meaningful support along with practical and pragmatic strategies for continuing the work of governance under the challenging circumstances we all find ourselves in. Use this link to register for the webinar.

Education news round up
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister confirmed that schools in areas with a “very high” or tier 3 coronavirus alert would not be subject to blanket closures. Currently the North East is in tier 2 and Liverpool and Lancashire are in tier 3.  Schools are also subject to their own four “tiers” of action that can be taken in areas under local lockdowns and these are not in line with the three tiers announced by Mr Johnson.

Next summer’s A levels and GCSEs in England will go ahead but with reduced content for some subjects and a start date pushed back by three weeks.  In an attempt to make up for lost teaching time, most exams will now start from 7 June, rather than mid-May.  Results days for A levels and GCSEs will be in the same week – 24 August for A levels and 27 August for GCSEs.  The DfE says it expects vocational qualifications to also align with this changed timetable.

Marcus Rashford’s petition to end child food poverty and provide free meals during all school holidays has passed 200,000 names – just a day after it was launched. The Manchester United and England striker is also campaigning for the free meals to be expanded to all households on Universal Credit.

New Headteacher’s standards and reformed national professional qualifications
Headteachers are leading professionals and role models for the communities they serve. Parents and the wider public hold high expectations of headteachers and the headteachers’ standards set out how headteachers meet these high expectations. The new standards replace the national standards of excellence for headteachers 2015. They are non-statutory and intended as guidance to be interpreted in the context of each individual headteacher and school.

From September 2021, a reformed suite of National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) will be available for teachers and leaders who want to develop their knowledge and skills in school leadership and specialist areas of teaching practice. These reforms include:

  • reforming the 3 existing NPQs in senior leadership, headship and executive leadership;
  • replacing the current NPQ in middle leadership with 3 new NPQs for teachers and leaders who want to develop their expertise in specialist areas of teaching practice.

Latest DfE governance updates – Friday 9 October 2020

This week I report on the publication of the DfE’s latest governance update, the updated Governance Handbook and new role descriptors.

Latest DfE Governance update
The October edition of the governance update from the DfE provides information on the following:

  • The updated Governance Handbook and new role descriptors (further details provided below).
  • Guidance for governing bodies that choose to hold face to face meetings to ensure they comply with the rule of 6, social distancing, any local health and safety measures and the school or trust’s risk assessment. 
  • Guidance for schools on cyber security due to the increasing number of cyber-attacks involving ransomware infection affecting the education sector.
  • Publication of NFER research on school and trust governance with conclusions drawn about the governance system as a whole, as well as about specific types of governing bodies, and the report suggests areas where support and guidance for the sector could be improved.
  • Publication of National Leaders of Governance reform recommendations.
  • Information on the funded governance leadership training and development programmes that are now available virtually.

Updated Governance Handbook and new Role Descriptors
Yesterday the latest edition of the Governance Handbook was published to reflect policy and legislation changes from the past year and to clarify language where appropriate. Board diversity, professional clerking and executive leaders’ understanding of effective governance feature among the updates.

For those new to governance the Handbook defines the roles, functions and legal duties of governing bodies in maintained schools, academies and multi academy trusts. It’s described as setting out “the government’s vision and priorities for effective school and trust governance” and acts as a signpost for governance resources including many from the NGA.

In addition to the Handbook, the DfE has also produced new ‘governance role descriptors’ for maintained schools and academies which describe high-level school and trust governance structures and the responsibilities of each role.

They are an introduction to the governance system across the education sector and can be used in inductions for new volunteers.  The descriptors also include links to further support and guidance that governors may find helpful.

Schools new legal duty to provide remote education – Friday 2 October 2020

This week I report on the new legal duty for schools to provide remote education for school age children who can’t attend due to Covid-19, the removal of the outstanding inspection exemption and a new inquiry in home learning being carried out by the Education Select Committee.

Schools legal duty to provide remote education
Yesterday the DfE published a temporary continuity direction under the Coronavirus Act 2020 saying it would provide legal certainty for all involved in the education sector and makes clear schools have a legal duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children unable to attend school due to coronavirus (Covid-19).

The direction comes into force on 22 October and will have effect until the end of the current school year unless it is revoked by a further direction.

Removal of the outstanding exemption
The Government has published its response to the consultation on removing the inspection exemption for outstanding schools which was carried out in January and February this year. The Government will now seek Parliamentary approval to remove the exemption and outstanding schools will start to be inspected again when Ofsted inspections resume next year. All formerly exempt schools must now receive an initial full inspection or short inspection within six years.

Education Select Committee inquiry into home learning
This week MPs launched an inquiry into home learning which will include looking at the role inspections should play in the future regulation of home educating.

In April 2019, the Government published a consultation on proposed legislation concerning children not in school, which included a proposal for a register of children not attending mainstream schools, maintained by local authorities, but has not yet published its response.

The Education Select Committee is now inviting written submissions, including on the duties of local authorities and the advantages and disadvantages children may face from home education. It is also asking for submissions on the role inspection should play in future regulation of home education and the support, including financial support, available for home educators and their children.

Maintained schools to publish financial information on their websites – Friday 25 September 2020

This week I report on the new requirement for maintained schools to publish financial information on their websites, guidance on the admission of summer born children into school and a delay in publication of the SEND Review.

Financial information maintained schools must publish online
From this academic year maintained schools must publish financial information on their website as follows:

  • how many school employees (if any) have a gross annual salary of £100,000 or more in increments of £10,000;
  • a link to the webpage which is dedicated to their school on the schools financial benchmarking service.

Summer-born children: school admission
Yesterday the DfE published an updated statement on the admission of summer born children into school.  Whilst it does not intend for it to become the norm for summer born children to start school at age 5, where parents genuinely believe that delaying admission is right for their child, it expects admission authorities to give careful consideration to the age group in which the child’s needs can best be met, and to make sure they get the process right.

It also published some new advice to help parents who have concerns about their child’s readiness for school to make an informed decision about what would be right for their child, alongside some updated guidance to support admission authorities in fulfilling the duties imposed on them by the code.

Delay to publication of the SEND Review
The Education Secretary has confirmed that a review into provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities won’t now be published until next year, as work had stalled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ministers commissioned the review last September to look at how the system has evolved since reforms in 2014 that brought in new education, health and care plans, and explore the role of health care in SEND in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care.

Ofsted visits this term – Friday 18 September 2020

This week I report on the HMI visits taking place this term and a new research project to help understand Covid-19 transmission in schools.

Ofsted visits this half term
Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) will visit around 1,200 schools across England this Autumn term, as Ofsted aims to tell parents, government, and the public about how schools are managing the return to full education of their pupils. The visits, initially announced in July, will include schools of different types and of all Ofsted grades across England. Visits will be based around constructive discussions with the school or college leaders; they are not inspections, so will not result in a grade.

They will notify a school of the visit on the day before and talk about the practicalities of the visit – including any specific considerations related to COVID-19. Normally, 2 inspectors will visit a school for 1 day, when they will have collaborative conversations with school leaders.

On the visit, they will talk about any barriers that the school is facing in managing the return to opening fully, how pupils are getting back into expected routines and their behaviour, and the school’s safeguarding arrangements. Inspectors will also talk to school leaders about how remote learning fits into their wider curriculum plans. After a visit, the inspector will write a short letter, which will be published on our reports website.

The first visits will take place at the end of this month. Inspectors will observe social distancing and all other national or local guidance from the government to carry out these visits safely. Full inspection is set to resume in January 2021, but this is being kept under review.

Major research project to help understand coronavirus transmission in schools
The University of Bristol study will saliva-test 4,000 pupils and 1,000 school staff across Bristol once a month for six months. The aim of the study is to understand exactly how pupils transmit coronavirus, whether or not they are symptomatic – it should provide information on how schools should deal with outbreaks.

Schools and the NHS Test and Trace programme will receive the data from the study to help map infections in Bristol. Researchers will also work with schools to help them put appropriate measures in place to stop the transmission of the virus.

Launch of Wellbeing Governors campaign – Friday 11 September 2020

This week I report on the Governors for Schools new Wellbeing Governors campaign, HSE plans to carry out telephone safety checks with schools and the latest news on plans for next year’s A Level and GCSE examinations.

Wellbeing governors
On Tuesday Governors for Schools launched a year-long campaign (Wellbeing Governors) to highlight why they think link governors for wellbeing are vital on school governing bodies.

Working with Place2Be, the children’s mental health charity, over the next few months they will share blogs on key topics around mental health and wellbeing, questions for link governors to ask at meetings and best practice.  They are also hosting a panel about pupil wellbeing later this month via a webinar and you can register your attendance here.

Health and Safety Executive plans telephone safety checks and possible follow-up visits in schools
The HSE will be calling schools to check on plans for keeping pupils and staff safe and reducing the transmission of coronavirus.  During these calls, the HSE will also check on schools’ risk assessments, and if any concerns are raised, on-site visits may be conducted.

Schools have been told to ensure staff are aware that these checks are taking place and that designated individuals are familiar with their school’s risk assessment.

Ofqual chair suggests using online tests as a back-up plan for 2021 exams
According to Ofqual whatever next Summer’s circumstances are, exams will go ahead in some format. In last week’s Education Select Committee hearing, Ofqual was asked what the 2021 exam series will be like, including what contingency plans will be in place if pupils are unable to sit traditional exams.  Ofqual’s Chair, Roger Taylor, said it is “absolutely essential that students are themselves able to take part in some kind of fair, comparative test that gives them the ability on a level playing field to demonstrate their skills and knowledge and to be able to influence their own future”.

When asked further about how this would operate in areas under local lockdown, Mr Taylor said: “There are mechanisms including, for example, using online tests. We feel we have enough time [to] come up with a solution to that problem.”

Since June, Ofqual has been considering whether next year’s exams could be delayed and it’s Executive Director for general qualifications, said that this decision would need to be made in conjunction with the DfE and was aiming to publish its conclusion with the DfE in the coming weeks.

Welcome back – Friday 4 September 2020

This week I highlight the NGA’s guidance on continuity and recovery post Covid-19, their revised model Code of Conduct and Skills Audit and Matrix, publication of the latest version of KCSIE and an addendum to the DfE’s guidance on School Attendance.

Helpful NGA documents
The NGA has produced some guidance which you might find useful in preparation for your governing body meetings this term. The documents provide advice as well as suggested questions governors might want to consider.

The Continuity and Recovery document covers key considerations for monitoring the safe opening of schools, developing a recovery plan/strategic priorities, tips on virtual governance and resuming elections and other board business. Separate documents have been produced on monitoring the full school opening and reducing the impact of school closures on disadvantaged pupils.

The NGA has also refreshed its model Code of Conduct and Skills Audit and Matrix for the new academic year. Whilst the core content and substance are unchanged there have been some updates which I will share with you at our first governing body meetings this term. Accompanying guidance has also been produced for both documents.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (September 2020)
A quick reminder that the latest version came into force on 1 September and I will be providing all governors with a copy of Part 1 as part of our first governing body meeting this term.

Addendum to DfE Attendance guidance
For this school year a new category has been added to record instances when a pupil is ‘not attending in circumstances relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) and the addendum provides advice on the application of code X.

Taking a well earned break – Friday 17 July 2020

A follow-up on dealing with uncertainty - Clear Vision Accountancy

This year has been one of the most challenging and unprecedented we have faced in education.  Schools closed to most pupils in March,  risk assessments were produced, volumes of updated guidance from the DfE were waded through and some year groups were welcomed back into school in June.

Most schools have now finalised their plans and risk assessments for a full return of all pupils in September with measures in place to keep everyone safe, so classrooms will probably resemble how they looked when I was at school in the late 1980’s – two students to a table, all facing the front!

Senior Leadership Teams and Governing bodies have risen to the challenge, worked extremely hard during this time and we’ve embraced virtual meetings, focused on critical business decisions and getting it right for our pupils, staff and local communities.

I expect we will face more challenges in the Autumn term and the summer break is needed to recharge everyone’s batteries.

So for now take care and see you all in our first Governing body meetings in the autumn term,


Confirmation of PE and Sports Premium funding – Friday 10 July 2020

This week I report on confirmation of PE and Sports Premium funding for next academic year, publication of guidance for teaching maths at KS1 and 2 and a checklist to support the re-engagement of pupils in terms of behaviour next academic year.

PE and Sports Premium funding confirmation
The DfE has confirmed that PE and Sports Premium funding will continue next academic year. It has published guidance to help schools in light of Covid-19, advising that the online reporting deadline of 31 July is still in place and swimming and water safety attainment should be entered into the online report with a note to clarify the proportion of the year group that this relates to and any other limitations of the data.

As a result of Covid-19 schools are allowed to carry forward under-spends and their published online report should set out the amount being carried forward and give brief reasons for this under-spend. Any under-spends carried forward will need to be spent in full by 31 March 2021 and schools should factor this into spending plans for their 2020 to 2021 PE and sport premium allocation.

Publication of guidance for teaching maths at KS1 and 2
Non statutory guidance for teaching mathematics at key stages 1 and 2 to help pupils progress through the national curriculum was published this week by the DfE. The guidance aims to:

  • bring greater coherence to the national curriculum by exposing core concepts in
    the national curriculum and demonstrating progression from year 1 to year 6;
  • summarise the most important knowledge and understanding within each year
    group and important connections between these mathematical topics.

It can be used to support long-term, medium-term and short-term planning and assessment. As well as supporting transition conversations between teachers of adjacent year groups, so that class teachers understand what pupils have been taught in the previous year group, how they have been taught it, and how effectively pupils have understood and remembered it.

Checklist to support full opening: behaviour and attendance
The DfE has published a checklist to assist school leaders and staff in preparing to welcome back all pupils full-time from the beginning of the autumn term. It’s a tool for schools to support the re-engagement of pupils and the return to orderly and calm environments in which all pupils can achieve and thrive.

Guidance published on a full return to school in September – Friday 3 July 2020

This week I report on the publication of guidance helping schools to plan for the return of all pupils in September, as well as a consultation launched by Ofqual on the 2021 exams series reflecting the impact of Covid-19 on teaching time.

DfE guidance on a full return in September
Yesterday the DfE published guidance to help schools to plan for the return of all pupils in September including separate guidance for Special schools. Whilst Covid-secure measures will remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission, schools will be expected to deliver a full curriculum. Schools have been asked to keep pupils in class bubbles or year group bubbles with staff able to work across bubbles.

Schools will also be expected to have plans in place to offer remote education for pupils who are self-isolating. Mandatory attendance will be reintroduced, and routine Ofsted inspections won’t resume until January 2021.

Primary tests will also go ahead as planned next year and these include the phonics screening check, Key stage 1 and Key stage 2 SATs and Year 4 times tables test.

School Senior Leadership Teams will be working on their risk assessments and control measures for a full return of pupils in September and the NGA held an informative webinar yesterday on issues governing bodies need to consider ahead of the Autumn term.

Consultation on the 2021 examination series
Yesterday Ofqual launched a consultation on the 2021 exams and assessments with a range of proposals for general qualifications including:

  • Adaptations to free up teaching time – to give teachers more time to cover the full content in some subjects and help relieve the pressure on students.
  • Adaptations to allow for future public health safeguards – identifying those subjects that could be particularly affected if public health safeguards were needed and suggestions on how these might be addressed.
  • Sampling of subject content – exploring the use of content sampling in question papers and increasing the use of optional questions – but not for English literature, maths and the sciences.
  • Changes to the exam timetable – whether GCSE exams could start after half term, on 7 June 2021 and whether it would be appropriate for the AS/A level exam timetable, and the impact of any delay in issuing results.

The consultation is open until Thursday 16 July, with final decisions announced in August.  Ofqual has indicated that learners taking vocational and technical qualifications have also experienced lost teaching time and appropriate arrangements need to be put in place to mitigate the impact of this disruption, with plans to be published in more details in the coming weeks.