Conservatives announce £10m behaviour training fund at Conference

The Education Secretary announced little that was new in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday. Here we take a look at the projects mentioned.

None of the new projects are backed by new money from the Treasury, so they will need to be funded through the DfE’s existing budget.

  1. A £10m behaviour training fund and new guidance

Mr Hinds set out plans to spend £10 million on “improving training on behaviour for teachers” to ensure they are “able to manage behaviour and thrive in their primary task of teaching”. Ministers will also update government guidance on behaviour.

  1. More careers leaders and employer networks

The Secretary of State announced a further £5 million to go into training “careers leaders” in 500 schools, extending the number of schools affected to 1,300 and creating another 20 networks, making a total of 40.

  1. English Hubs named

The Department for Education has named 32 schools that will split £26.3 million to become “English Hubs”. This is an unexplained reduction in the 35 schools former Education Secretary Justine Greening announced would benefit in January.

In the North East, St Michael’s C of E Primary School and Westgarth Primary School will become English Hubs

  1. T-levels funding boost

The government will spend a further £38 million in its T-levels programme, a technical alternative to A-levels. The funding will be available from Spring 2019 to deliver the qualifications from September 2020. The Government says it will fund “the latest industry-standard equipment to ensure that qualifications meet the needs of employers”.


Neil Carmichael lifts lid on Education Committee at SCHOOLS NorthEast AGM

Neil Carmichael, former Chair of the Parliamentary Education Select Committee, addressed delegates at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Annual General Meeting last Friday, discussing the importance of education in driving economic growth and his extensive work with SCHOOLS NorthEast whilst chairing the Committee.

He opened the lid on the horse trading between Government departments to secure funding from the Treasury. Mr Carmichael said the NHS has an easier time securing funding because of the sense of pride people have in it, which is unfortunately not mirrored in the way people see the education system.

He mentioned his exasperation with Ministers’ belated recognition of the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching. Discussing the importance of evidence based education, he also recalled challenging Ministers as Chair of the Committee on the lack of evidence to support their claims that an expansion of grammar schools would be a boon for social mobility.

The SCHOOLS NorthEast AGM is attended by Trustees, Board members and representatives from our Partner Schools. To find out more about our Partner School scheme, click here.  

DfE looking at incentivising school collaboration to cut exclusions

The minister responsible for SEND and disadvantaged children has said he wants to explore ways to encourage schools to work together to not exclude pupils.

Nadhim Zahawi was speaking at a meeting on reducing exclusions and closing the gap for children with SEND at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.

He raised the issue of off-rolling pupils, where parents are encouraged to remove their children from the school roll to avoid a formal exclusion.

He said: “I want to be crystal clear that such activity is illegal, unethical and will not be tolerated.

“I have already said that an excluded child is clearly at a severe disadvantage compared to their non-excluded peers.

“Arguably, an excluded pupil with a special educational need is at an even greater disadvantage, not only does an excluded pupil with SEN lose what their non-SEN counterparts would lose, but they also lose any additional SEN support their school provides them.”

Read the full article in Tes.

Department for Education school funding claims face investigation

The UK’s statistics watchdog is to investigate Department for Education claims over school spending.

It follows BBC News reports which showed that figures quoted by education ministers defending their record on state school spending included the money spent by university students on tuition fees and parents on private school fees. This was also reported in the Weekly Update this week.

Head Teachers’ leaders have accused the department of “disrespecting” schools and teachers by this “extraordinary” use of statistics, warning it has “serious questions to answer”.

The Department for Education accepts that the spending claim is not limited to public spending on schools – but stands by its use of the figures as “accurate”.

The investigation – by the UK Statistics Authority, the watchdog which prevents the misleading use of figures – has been confirmed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) think tank, which compiles the international comparisons of spending figures.

Read more on this article on the BBC.

Education Links w/c 1st October 2018 – Chronicle Live, Ofsted results for North East schools: How do inspectors say they are performing? – Darlington & Stockton Times, Schools and colleges to receive £114m funding boost. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Schools must feature anti-racist messages across the curriculum, MSP says. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Schools exclusion system ‘absolutely flawed’ says former gangster. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Darlington’s Polam Hall School reveals plans to close sixth form. – The Northern Echo, Council opens consultation into special education needs provision in Darlington. – The Northern Echo, Darlington pupils brew up a boost for cancer charity. – The Northern Echo, Durham Sixth Form Centre for an outstanding future. – The Northern Echo, Burst water pipe gets pupils out of school early in Bishop Auckland.  – Hartlepool Mail, School wins gold award for putting children’s rights at heart of work. – Hartlepool Mail, Ex Microsoft Chief immortalised as part of 17m school development in Hartlepool. – Sunderland Echo, Sunderland student rated one of the nation’s top GCSE students heard results while trapped in monsoon flooding in India. – Sunderland Echo, Mobiles and games consoles playing havoc with children’s sleep patterns – says university expert. – Hexham Courant, Students struggling with mental health. – Hexham Courant, Haltwhistle Campus parents to be consulted on age range changes. – Hexham Courant, Ponteland High School to get temporary classrooms. – Hexham Courant, Leven Valley Primary School praised by education watchdog. – Shields Gazette, Sunderland AFC star hails the importance of education during visit to school annual awards. – Shields Gazette, South Shields School drives into car design competition final. – Northumberland Gazette, Spending per pupil falling in Northumberland. – Northumberland Gazette, VIDEO: The wheels on the bus are going round and round at St Michael’s! – Berwick Advertiser, Illustrator visits Berwick Middle School.

Schools hit with rising pension costs

Schools have been told that they must increase contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme by 43% from next year.

Following a government review into public sector pension schemes, schools were told in an email this week that employer contributions will rise to 23.6% from September 2019. The current rate is 16.48%.

The email states that funding will be available from the Department for Education to “help” maintained schools and academies meet the additional costs.

The email, sent by Employer Link on behalf of the Department for Education, states: “There will be funding from the DfE for the financial year 2019-20 to help maintained schools and academies meet the additional costs resulting from the scheme valuation, and a consultation process will take place to determine final funding arrangements. Funding for 2020-21 onwards will be discussed as part of the next spending review round.”

Read the full article on Tes.

Labour Party conference education round-up

This week the Labour Party convened in Liverpool for its annual conference. Here we look at the big education policy announcements from Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner on academies and Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn on early years.

Tighter controls on academies, expanded powers for local authorities

  • The right of councils to create new schools would be re-established.
  • Councils would again become the admissions authorities for all schools, including academies.
  • End the requirement for local authority schools to convert to academies if they are rated “inadequate” following inspection.
  • Local authorities would be able to take back academies that are being re-brokered.
  • Local authorities will be able to force academies to expand to meet demand for school places.
  • “National pay rules” would be imposed across all schools, including a 20:1 ratio for CEO pay, meaning academy chiefs could only earn 20 times the salary of the lowest paid employees.
  • Encouragement of ‘community-run schools’, a now obscure type of school promoted under the Blair Government that allows parents and teachers to get involved in running schools.

Speaking ahead of the conference Mrs Rayner also promised a crackdown on ‘off-rolling’, saying Labour would “ensure that there is no unintended reward for so-called off-rolling”.

SCHOOLS NorthEast analysis:

The Shadow Education Secretary’s speech stopped short of pledging to return all academies to local authority control; her proposals as they stand would only limit their autonomy and lead to a gradual reduction in the number of academies over time.

Labour also signalled that they would rein in the autonomy accorded to MATs should they form the next Government. Changes around related party transactions, CEO pay and admissions are clear signals that the Party intends to impose stricter limits on what MATs can do. Labour also briefed journalists that they would “transfer responsibility for decision making and budgets back to schools, requiring every school to have a governing body of democratically elected parents, teachers, other school staff, community representatives, and to consult on any major changes in school policy or governance before they are introduced”.

Following the Shadow Education Secretary’s speech, conference delegates voted for a motion which calls for the urgent development of proposals to wind up MATs and turn over control and management of schools to local democratically controlled structures”, though Angela Rayner herself has not committed to this. It is therefore unclear whether Labour is officially committed to abolishing MATs, though it appears the Party’s thinking is moving in that direction.

Early Years: universal 30 hours coverage and subsidised additional hours

  • Extend the 30 hours of free childcare programme to the parents of all three and four year olds with no means testing.
  • Phase in subsidised provision on top of these entitlements, with free provision for families whose incomes are under £16,200 and a maximum of £4 per hour for families with incomes over £66,000.
  • Gradually require all staff to be qualified to Level 3 or working towards a Level 3 qualification, including offering routes for those already working in the sector to attain these qualifications on the job.
  • Increase the proportion of staff with qualifications Level 4 and above from 20 per cent to 45 per cent
  • Increase the graduate workforce three-fold, so graduate staff can spend 80 per cent of their time in contact with children and 20 per cent supervising other staff.
  • Increase average early years funding rates to help the many childcare providers that are struggling as a result of the 30-hour policy.
  • Put an extra £4.8bn into early years provision to ensure that offering these hours is affordable for providers.
  • Increase funding for providers to £7.35 per hour of contact time by the end of the roll out.
  • Establish a national pay scale to raise standards of care by creating a graduate-led workforce, improving skill levels of staff.
  • The childcare system would be simplified with the launch of a national childcare online access portal, which would replace the existing complicated mix of vouchers and credits.

SCHOOLS NorthEast analysis

Given existing concerns around the shortfall in funding for the existing 30 free hours policy, providers may remain sceptical of this proposal until more detailed costings are published.

Recruiting Early Years workers in large numbers and improving qualification levels will be challenging but action to reverse the current downward trend in levels of qualification is needed. Highly qualified Early Years staff are an ageing workforce, with more than half of level 6+ qualified staff over 40 and 21% approaching retirement in the next 10 to 15 years.

On pay, there are concerns in the sector that existing plans for wage increases will drive up costs significantly and put some providers out of business. Providers may therefore consider that the Labour leaders’ £7.35 per hour pledge is not as attractive once the new national pay scale is factored in, though the detail of the policy is needed to make a judgement.

Jeremy Corbyn to extend Labour’s free childcare offer beyond 30 hours-a-week

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to extend his party’s free childcare offer beyond 30 hours for low-income families.

The Labour leader is already promising 30 free hours for all two, three and four year olds – but will say even more will be available if Labour wins office.

Currently families in England receiving some forms of support are entitled to 15 hours free childcare for their two year olds.  Then all families are entitled to the same amount for children aged three and four.

But some working households with three and four year olds are then entitled to an additional 15 hours, bringing the total for many employed parents to 30 hours free.

Under plans proposed last year, Labour would give a blanket 30 hours to all two, three and four year olds, with Mr Corbyn’s latest offer now going further.

There would be additional free hours of childcare on top of the free 30 hour allowance for low income families, and additional care charged at no more than £4 per hour for those in a higher income bracket.

The party says the extra childcare would be met by providing at least an extra £4.8bn of funding.

However, a regional Nursery lead has said that although the plans would provide families with greater support, nurseries are already heavily subsidising the free childcare.

Jane Bell, Director of Oranges and Lemons Nursery in Darras Hall, said: “I agree with the principles of the plans – they provide more support for families, greater value of those working in early years and an emphasis on maintaining quality and standards.

“However, currently nurseries are heavily subsidising the ‘free’ childcare that is offered by the government, and this must stop if the current trend of nursery closure is to be halted.  Any funding for providers must be realistic for them and affordable for the government.”

Read more on these plans in the Independent.

Call to ban Trustees guilty of MAT mismanagement

Trustees who are found responsible for mismanagement in multi-academy trusts should be banned from working again in the sector, according to the head of a network of academies.

Michael Pain, the Chief Executive of Forum Strategy, will warn today that a minority of academy trust boards and leaders have risked bringing the sector into disrepute.

He is urging the Department for Education to “take a harder line on trustees that are ultimately found to have been complicit in the mismanagement of multi-academy trusts.”

Forum Strategy runs four regional networks of academy leaders in the North and Midlands.

Mr Pain will raise concerns at the group’s annual conference today that there are individuals from failed multi-academy trusts who are still operating trusts and schools.

He said: “There needs to be a strong message here. Those people who have been found to be responsible or complicit in the mismanagement of MATs should not be allowed to govern trusts or schools again.

Read the full article here.

SCHOOLS NorthEast hosts Ofsted update event

Delegates at Monday’s regional Ofsted update event, organised by SCHOOLS NorthEast, heard from the Inspectorate’s Regional Director, Cathy Kirby, and senior HMIs on the new 2019 inspection framework and other matters.

2019 framework: The Senior HMIs emphasised the focus on the curriculum in the new framework, strongly discouraging “teaching to the test”. They said the 2019 framework would be based on the best possible evidence, whether that’s curriculum, on teacher evaluation (what you can or can’t evaluate from a lesson observation), or anything else. The new framework would be more focused, removing any measures that don’t focus on the quality of education.

Exclusions: Cathy Kirby discussed the letter she sent to Secondary heads in parts of the North East in February, where she raised concerns about rising levels of exclusions. She said the intention was to shine a light on the issue and promote a dialogue. In response to questions fielded in the Q&A segment she warned that inspection would be used to hold schools to account, where Ofsted hasserious concerns about this.

Workforce: Cathy Kirby said she was proud of recruiting more HMI from Head Teachers: ” there has never been a time when we have had more Head Teachers helping inspections”.  She said this gives inspections greater credibility

Outstanding schools: More routine inspection of ‘outstanding’ schools was flagged up as something Amanda Spielman wants Ofsted to do and the HMCI is currently “working on” this. However, as the law preventing such routine inspections was passed by Parliament it would have to be reversed by MPs and not Ofsted.

It has also been announced today that Ofsted are signally changes to academy trust inspections.