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.


Delay to the introduction of Reception baseline assessment and Behaviour Hubs – Friday 26 June 2020

This week I report on the delay of the introduction of Reception baseline assessments and Behaviour Hubs, the launch of a consultation on amendments to the School Admissions Code, the publication of DfE guidance on the COVID Summer Food Fund and plans to consult on delaying next year’s GCSE and A Level examinations.

Delay to the introduction of the Reception baseline assessment and Behaviour Hubs
This week it was confirmed that primary and first schools will not have to set the new Reception baseline assessment this autumn after the Government delayed its statutory introduction as a result of the coronavirus. Schools will have the opportunity to sign up to the Reception Baseline Assessment early adopter year to familiarise themselves with the content and administration, with the reassurance that this year’s data will not be used for accountability purposes.

Also, roll out of the Government’s £10 million behaviour hubs programme has been pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. The project, led by behaviour tsar Tom Bennett, will support 500 schools across England to develop policies such as detention systems and sanctions for misbehaving pupils. Originally the DfE had planned to recruit up to 20 lead schools to become behaviour hubs and work with advisers to support struggling schools from September this year. However due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the DfE has said it is now expecting to appoint and induct lead schools in the Spring next year.

Consultation on changes to the School Admissions Code
The DfE has launched a consultation on a revised version of the statutory School Admissions Code today. The revised Code seeks to clarify and improve the process in which often the most vulnerable children are admitted to school outside of the normal admissions round in light of a number of Government reviews. The revised Code will also provide additional information and details that will support admission authorities in discharging their duties effectively.

In addition, the DfE has published an updated statement on admission of summer-born children. In 2015 the DfE committed to amending the School Admissions Code so that summer born children could automatically be admitted to a Reception class at the age of five where that is what their parents wanted, and could remain with that cohort throughout their education. The DfE could not consult on this at the same time as the proposed changes detailed above, because a provision to enable children to remain in a particular cohort goes beyond the remit of the Code and requires primary legislation.

COVID Summer Food Fund guidance
Guidance for schools and LAs on providing vouchers to support pupils eligible for free school meals over this year’s summer holiday period has now been issued.

Plans to consult on the delaying of exam season 2021
At the start of the week the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, told MPs that the Government would be “consulting with Ofqual about how we can move those exams [in 2021] back” to maximise teaching time.  The news comes amid growing pressure on Ministers to reveal their plans to make next year’s exams run smoothly, following the cancellation of this year’s series as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

An Ofqual spokesperson said: “We recognise students expecting to take exams next year, and their parents and teachers, are concerned about the disruption to teaching and learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  We are working closely with the DfE, exam boards and groups representing teachers, schools, colleges and students, to carefully consider a range of possible measures. We are planning to publish for consultation, before the end of term, our proposals for 2021.”


Catch-up plan announced – Friday 19 June 2020

This week I report on the Government’s announcement of a £1 billion catch up plan for next academic year and the publication of the updated Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance that will come into force on 1 September 2020.

£1 billion ‘Covid catch-up plan’ announced
Today Number 10 and the DfE announced a £1 billion package to help to tackle the impact of teaching time lost owing to the coronavirus crisis. The “Covid catch-up plan” will include £350m to pay for a national tutoring scheme for the most disadvantaged pupils as well as £650m to be shared across primary and secondary schools during next academic year for all pupils who need it.

However, the details aren’t yet clear. The DfE has said heads will have discretion on how to spend the £650 million, which is equivalent to just over £91 per pupil. But the department also said it expects them to spend the cash “on small group tuition for whoever needs it”. The DfE has said schools can spend the money on other initiatives, such as summer schools, but has not yet explained how that fits with their demand that schools use it for tutoring and the funding will be for the 2020/21 academic year, so its not clear whether schools will receive it in time to pay for activities this summer.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is due to publish a guide later today to help school leaders decide how to use their £650 million in additional funding. Suggestions highlighted by the DfE include “intervention programmes, extra teaching capacity, access to technology and summer schools”.

The £350 million National Tutoring Programme will be run by the EEF, Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta, and will be split into two strands.

  • NTP Partners – schools will get access to “heavily subsidised” tuition sessions for their pupils from an approved list of organisations. The sessions will be subsidised by as much as 75% meaning they will cost £12 per session.
  • NTP Coaches – recent graduates will be trained up and then employed by schools to provide “intensive catch-up support” to pupils, with their salaries paid for by the programme.

In both cases, it will be up to schools to decide how to deploy the tutoring, and whether to use it for individual pupils or small groups. Schools will be able to decide whether to use tuition sessions in addition to their pupils’ normal school day, or during their timetabled day. The Government hasn’t said how many children will benefit from the tutoring programme, just that it will be for those eligible for pupil premium.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (September 2020)
On Wednesday, the DfE published the updated statutory guidance which will come into force from 1 September 2020. Changes have been made in three circumstances:

  1. where legislation has required it e.g. reflecting mandatory Relationship Education, Relationship and Sex Education and Health Education from September 2020;
  2. where  helpful additional information has been provided that will support schools and colleges to protect their children e.g. mental health, domestic abuse, child criminal and sexual exploitation and county lines;
  3. important clarifications which will help the sector better understand and/or follow the guidance.

Annex H of the document is a table of the substantive changes that have been made from the current version, which schools must continue to follow until 1 September.

Catch-up programme for pupils to be announced – Friday 12 June 2020

This week I report on the announcement of a ‘catch-up’ programme for pupils to help with missed education due to the pandemic, the publication of some new guidance for schools to help identify gaps in understanding, planning a curriculum to teach at school and home and curriculum planning for a phased return; as well as information on two Schools NorthEast webinars and the announcement of extra mental health support for pupils and staff.

Catch-up operation for pupils to be announced
This week the Prime Minister promised catch-up activities over the summer for pupils who have missed education because of the coronavirus and the Education Secretary will provide information on this catch-up programme next week. The Prime Minister also suggested the programme would run after summer to help children with the work they had missed and would be an “educational catch up and economic bounce back at the same time”.

The DfE hasn’t yet confirmed if schools will be open during the summer break and if teachers will be expected to provide activities as part of the catch-up programme. The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure to publish a plan to get all pupils back to school in September.

Today the DfE has published some new guidance for schools on identifying and addressing gaps in pupils’ understanding, planning a curriculum to teach at school and at home and supporting staff in curriculum planning for a phased return, which you might find useful.

Schools NorthEast webinars
There are two free webinars for school staff (including governors) being offered by Schools NorthEast as follows:

  • Live Q&A with Ward Hadaway Law Firm on the wider opening of schools – Monday 15 June at 3.00pm: Graham Vials from Ward Hadaway will be delivering this webinar and will answer questions on topics including Risk Assessment, Staffing, Governance, PPE and Liability.  Register using this link.
  • Recruiting staff in schools through COVID-19 Lockdown and beyond – Wednesday 17 June at 2.00pm: Sarah Louise France-Gorton, Head of Resourcing Solutions at NYES will discuss how other schools have carried on with recruitment where possible, considering innovative and dynamic ways to recruit talent including virtual interview methods, platforms to use, task and assessment ideas, the future of recruitment and recruitment tips.  Register using this link.

Both webinars are free for school staff and £50+VAT for non-school delegates.

Extra mental health support for pupils and teachers
The DfE has announced new online resources designed by health and education experts will be provided to schools and colleges to boost mental health support for staff and pupils, encouraging them to talk more confidently about the anxieties and concerns they feel as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The DfE has confirmed grants worth more than £750,000 have been awarded to the Diana Award, the Anti-Bullying Alliance and the Anne Frank Trust to help build relationships between pupils, boost their resilience, and continue to tackle bullying both in person and online. As well as announcing a new £95,000 pilot project in partnership with the Education Support Partnership focusing on teachers’ and leaders’ mental health, providing online peer-support and telephone supervision from experts to around 250 school leaders.

The School Standards Minister has also written to members of the DfE’s Expert Advisory Group on education staff wellbeing, accepting its recommendations including a commitment to develop a wellbeing charter for the teaching sector. The charter will help create an open culture around wellbeing and mental health, breaking down stigma, and will include commitments from the Government to regularly measure staff wellbeing, and to embed this into training, guidance and policy making.

Latest DfE school governance update – Friday 5 June 2020

This week I report on the latest DfE school governance update as well as updated guidance on actions for schools during this pandemic, young carer awareness sessions for education professionals being offered by the North Tyneside Carers’ Centre and additional funding for a coalition of charities to provide targeted help to vulnerable children and young people affected by the pandemic.

DfE school governance update and updated guidance on actions for schools
Yesterday the DfE published its latest school governance update which aims to share practical planning advice as well as further detailed guidance, including frequently asked questions for governors and trustees. A further update was made to the guidance on actions for schools and the DfE has now helpfully started to list what these changes/additions are at the beginning of the document.

Carers Week activities for professionals
The North Tyneside Carers’ Centre is an independent charity and the only generic carer support service in North Tyneside supporting both young and adult carers. This year’s Carers Week takes place from 8-14 June and the Centre is offering Young Carers Awareness sessions for education professionals as follows:

  • Monday 8th June at 11am (Primary Schools session)
  • Wednesday 10th June at 11am (all schools)
  • Friday 12th June at 11am (Secondary Schools session)

They are also hosting two Q&A webinars (via Microsoft Teams) to discuss the impact caring has on young carers during COVID-19 and how professionals can help identify those young people who may have caring responsibilities. These will be held on Tuesday 9th and Thursday 11th June 2020 and you should contact the Centre on tel: 0191 643 2298 for further details.

£7 million for new coalition of vulnerable children’s charities
The DfE has pledged more than £7 million to a coalition of charities to help vulnerable children most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The See, Hear, Respond Service will provide targeted help to vulnerable children, young people and their families affected by the virus and the measures put in place to stop its spread. Led by Barnardo’s, it will work alongside local authorities, schools and colleges, police forces, healthcare professionals and other vital services involved in protecting these children. The funding will provide:

  • Access to an online support package to children and families ensuring they have readily available, accessible and interactive information
  • Online and telephone referral service by trained professionals who can source further help and support from charity workers within the partnership
  • Online counselling or therapy for those experiencing high levels of anxiety, trauma or other mental health issues that can be safely addressed through digital means
  • Youth interventions and face-to-face crisis support, particularly for those at risk of or experiencing various forms of exploitation, including criminal exploitation

Updated guidance to support schools reopening from 1 June – Friday 22 May 2020

This week I report on updated guidance from the DfE supporting the Government’s continued desire for a phased reopening of schools from 1 June, the recording of a free webinar for governors on safeguarding during this pandemic, funding for a project to place social workers in schools to work with teaching staff and the announcement of an emergency fund to support home education for pupils with SEND.

Updated DfE guidance to support schools reopening from 1 June and scientific evidence underpinning this decision
Amid much media speculation on whether the Government will be able to meet its five key tests by 28 May, the day it makes its final decision on whether to reopen schools from 1 June, the DfE continues to update some of its guidance to help schools as they plan for more children to return. In particular, safeguarding guidance and procedures for planning remote education strategies and teaching remotely have been updated, as well as new guidance on writing end of year reports following the cancellation of this year’s summer exam series and primary assessments.

It has also published information for parents and carers on how they can support their children’s home learning whether they are in primary or secondary school.

The scientific evidence underpinning the Government’s decision to reopen schools to more pupils from 1 June is expected to be published today. However, some schools and academy trusts have already indicated they are taking a cautious approach and will only reopen when they believe it is safe to do so.

Recording of a free webinar on safeguarding during the coronavirus pandemic
As reported in last week’s Update, Governors for Schools in conjunction with Better Governor hosted a free webinar yesterday on safeguarding during the current pandemic. You can use this link to view the recording of the webinar.

Social workers to work with teachers in schools
At yesterday’s Hidden Harms Summit in Downing Street the Education Secretary announced nearly £10 million for projects aimed at boosting the educational outcomes of vulnerable children, and to keep them safe from harm.

This included £6.5 million to involve more than 150 schools in a project that will place social workers in schools to work with teaching staff, reflecting that the second largest source of referrals to children’s social services is schools (18%).

£10 million fund launched to support home education for pupils with SEND
The Government has set up an emergency £10 million fund to help around 19,000 children with special education needs with home education to spend on a variety of equipment including computers and educational toys. The announcement comes alongside confirmation the £26 million Family Fund (providing grants to low income families with seriously ill or disabled children to help with the cost of equipment, good or services) will continue next academic year. 


DfE guidance to support schools re-opening from 1 June – Friday 15 May 2020

This week I report on a series of guidance the DfE has published to support the Government’s desire for a phased re-opening of schools from 1 June and a free webinar for governors on safeguarding during this pandemic.

DfE guidance on preparing to re-open schools to specific year groups
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that there would be a phased re-opening of schools from 1 June at the earliest, the DfE has published various guidance documents to help schools to plan for this.

Primary schools have been advised to welcome back Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils, alongside priority groups. Yesterday the DfE published a planning guide for primary schools to compliment the initial planning framework and guidance on implementing protective measures that was already available.

Secondary schools, sixth forms and further education colleges are to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of Year 10 and Year 12 students who are due to take key exams next year, alongside the full time provision they are offering to priority groups.

The DfE is also asking nurseries and other early years providers, including childminders, to begin welcoming back all children. Alternative provision settings should mirror the approach being taken for mainstream schools and also offer some face-to-face support for Year 10 and Year 11 students. Special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools will work towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups.

Teachers’ unions are to meet the Government’s scientific advisers later today to seek assurances that it will be safe to open schools in England. The meeting follows challenges to the DfE to publish the scientific evidence on which the return to school has been based.

Free webinar on Safeguarding during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Governors for Schools in conjunction with Better Governor are hosting a free new webinar on Thursday 21 May from 8-9 a.m. on safeguarding during the current pandemic.

The webinar will explore the potential current threats to children and young people’s safeguarding and well-being and encourage those involved in school governance to reflect on how these should be monitored by governing bodies. Please use this link to register.