Failure to find sponsors raises ‘serious’ questions of academisation law

Dozens of ‘inadequate’ schools have been left without a match 12 months after being ordered to convert into an academy

More than a quarter of schools ordered to become academies under new government rules were still waiting for a sponsor 12 months later.

Under last year’s Education and Adoption Act, all maintained schools that Ofsted judges “inadequate” must become a sponsored academy.

However, a freedom of information request by Tes reveals that of 155 schools where a directive academy order had been in place for at least a year, 42 had yet to be matched with a sponsor, leading to questions over the effectiveness of the law.

Read the full article in the Tes.

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1 in 4 Northern schools with academy order fail to find broker within a year

More than one in four schools in the North issued with a directive academy order couldn’t find a new broker within a year, DfE data has revealed.

Under the Education and Adoption Act (2016) every school judged “inadequate” by Ofsted has to become an academy. However, following an FOI request by Tes, it was shown that of 155 directive academy order in place for at least 12 months, 42 schools had still not been matched with an Academy Trust.

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‘Cut Pupil Premium if schools don’t promote apprenticeships’ says Halforn

Schools that fail to send pupils into apprenticeships should lose some of their pupil premium funding, the chair of the education select committee has said.

Robert Halfon, a former apprenticeships minister, told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference that the government should consider financial incentives to encourage schools to promote apprenticeships.

At the event, where he shared the stage with his successor as skills minister, Anne Milton, Halfon repeated a story of apprentices at Gateshead College, who were refused permission to go back to their old school and speak to pupils to promote their courses.

He said the government’s long-awaited careers strategy needs to be “completely focused on skills in every way”, and that schools needed a “carrot and stick”.

Read the full article on Schools Week.

Government delays land valuations which could see schools foot the bill

The government has pushed back a planned valuation of academy land and buildings until January, leaving some schools facing the prospect of spending “thousands” on their own surveys to meet accounting requirements.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency was due to issue valuations for new academies opened between September 2016 and August 2017 last month.

The original scheme provided schools with a free valuation to include in their annual accounts, which must be filed by December 31 at the latest.

But officials now say they won’t carry out the valuations until January, missing the accounts deadline and leaving many schools with a large bill.

Read the full article on Schools Week.

No schools turned into academies as a result of ‘coasting’ label

The Tory manifesto had pledged to turn every coasting secondary school into an academy.

No schools branded “coasting” by the government have been turned into an academy as a result, according to figures obtained by Tes.

The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto pledged to “turn every failing and coasting secondary school into an academy,” and the new category of “coasting school” was given legal force by last year’s Education and Adoption Act.

It aimed to pick out schools that fail to help pupils to “fulfil their potential”, and in 2015 the DfE said: “Those that cannot improve will be turned into academies under the leadership of our expert school sponsors.”

Read the full article in the Tes.

Ofqual: subject choices are guided by enjoyment over difficulty

Subject difficulty is “the lesser of three concerns” for pupils when choosing what to study, a report by the exams regulator Ofqual has found.

The research found that pupils focused more on enjoyment and usefulness of subjects, rather than difficulty, when choosing which subjects to take as exams.

However, some schools choose not to offer certain subjects seen as “too difficult” for pupils which limits uptake in certain areas.

Ofqual’s latest report looks at perceptions of subject difficulty and subject choices. It asks whether the two are linked, and if so, how.

Read the full article on Schools Week.

Greening announces new education policies at Conservative Conference

Education Secretary Justine Greening addressed the annual Conservative Party conference on Sunday 1st October[1]. The main policy announcements in her speech were:

  1. Overhaul of Alternative Provision

The Secretary of State said she would bring forward proposals, based on existing best practice, to lift the standard of alternative provision. She said: “In Alternative Provision there are some of the most dedicated, inspiring teachers and parents you will ever meet, but this is an area of education that has been set on one side for far too long.”

Parliament’s Education Select Committee has also launched an investigation into alternative provision this term. The deadline for written submissions is the 1st November.

  1. £30 million in “tailored support” for getting teachers into the schools that “struggle the most” with recruitment and retention

This will include investment in professional development training[4]. We have few details on this yet and no information as to how the beneficiary schools/areas will be selected.

  1. The second round of the £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) is to focus on reception numeracy and literacy

The SSIF is designed to help the most in need schools improve performance, use their resources more effectively and deliver more good school places. Successful bidders from the first round were announced in early September[5] and the Secretary of State announced that the second round will focus on numeracy and literacy in reception. In the first round of the SSIF there were a number of bids from the North East but unfortunately none were successful.

  1. New £12 million English hubs in the Northern Powerhouse areas

Again, there are few details as to how exactly these will work. However, they will likely to be similar to the current Maths hubs which bring together maths education professionals to share best practice.

5. Piloting a student loan forgiveness scheme for science and modern foreign language teachers

A press release from the Department for Education said the pilot would involve around 800 modern foreign language teachers and 1,700 science teachers a year who would gain around £540 a year under these proposals[2].

There was no mention of any geographical targeting in the DfE press release. However, in the Secretary of State’s conference speech she said the scheme would be aimed “at the subjects and areas of the country that need them most”[3]. The methodology for doing so is not yet clear.

[1] Conservatives, Justine Greening: Education and Skills will unlock our nation’s talent

[2] DfE, New education and skills measures announced, 1 Oct 2017

[3] Conservatives, Justine Greening: Education and Skills will unlock our nation’s talent

[4] DfE, New education and skills measures announced, 1 Oct 2017

[5] DfE, Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF): round 1 successful applicants

New cadet units in NE aim to boost social mobility 

New cadet units are being introduced in state schools in the North East to boost social mobility, it has been announced.

An independent report by the University of Northampton shows that cadet units increase social mobility and help disadvantaged children reach their full potential.

Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, has announced that the state schools featuring the cadet units will be:

Acklam Grange School, Lodore Grove, Middlesbrough

Manor Church of England Academy Trust, York

Scarborough UTC, Scarborough

The King’s Academy Middlesbrough

The government also plan on increasing the amount of cadet units, through their Cadet Expansion Programme, to 500 by 2020.

Situated in areas pinpointed as having high deprivation and with a high ethnic minority representation, the new units focus on schools in these areas as part of the government’s plan to ‘build a country that works for everyone’.

Speaking at the Albion Academy, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said “I want more young people from all backgrounds to have the opportunity to be cadets. Cadets help instil values of discipline and loyalty. They develop leadership skills and confidence. For too long cadet units have been the preserve of independent schools but thanks to this Conservative Government more children in state schools will reap the benefits.”

Compiled by the University of Northampton, the report undertook research across the entire cadet programme and found:

  • Cadet Forces contribute to increasing social mobility and decreasing social disadvantage
  • Children excluded from school who join the Cadets are more likely to have improved attendance and behaviour on their return to school.

Chancellor urged to give funding lifeline to sixth forms and colleges

Seven organisations representing sixth forms, colleges and students have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond calling for urgent action over the severe under funding of 16-19 education.

Their letter, written as part of the Support Our Sixth-formers campaign, says that without further investment, there will be more cuts to courses, class sizes will continue to increase, and school sixth forms in rural areas will simply disappear.

They urge the Chancellor in his Budget on 22 November to support an increase of £200 per student. This measure would cost an estimated £244 million per year to implement, more than half of which can be found from the under spend in the existing 16-19 budget.

The letter can be read here.

The seven organisations are: the National Union of Students (NUS); Freedom and Autonomy for Schools – National Association (FASNA); the National Governance Association (NGA), the Grammar School Heads’ Association (GSHA); the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA); the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL); and the Association of Colleges (AoC);

Emily Chapman, NUS Vice President (Further Education) said: “Sixth forms and colleges give young people opportunities to change their life. Yet this vital part of the education system is consistently ignored and chronically underfunded. It’s about time the Government recognised the transformative power of further education and adequately invested in our young people.”

GSHA Chief Executive Jim Skinner said: “There is an urgent need for further investment to ensure sixth form students have access to the full range of courses, including in STEM subjects and languages. The increase we are requesting is modest, but is essential if the needs of our students and the country are to be met.”

Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “This modest increase in funding is affordable and will help to ensure that every sixth form student in England receives the sort of high quality, rounded educational experience they deserve. It will also help to boost social mobility, improve the career choices that students make, and ensure that young people possess the skills required to flourish in the workplace.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The investment we are calling for is very small in terms of national spending. But it will make a huge difference to sixth forms, colleges and students. It is a lifeline for sixth forms at risk of closure and will save more courses from being scrapped. It is surely a small price to pay to protect this crucial phase of education.”

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Our young people are being short-changed compared with their counterparts in other countries and compared with previous generations. The hours of teaching and support, the choice they have and the enrichment they are offered have all reduced as funding cuts have bitten. This cannot continue if we are to secure the future of our nation.”

Two universities to receive government funding to develop a teacher ‘degree apprenticeship’

Government funding is to be given to two English universities to develop a teacher ‘degree apprenticeship’.

Leeds Trinity and the University of Hertfordshire will receive a portion of the £4.9 million funding available for the 27 projects.

In a statement released by Leeds Trinity, it announces that it expects to start the course in September 2018.

Sheffield Hallam was also listed as developing a ‘teaching’ apprenticeship and Middlesex University as creating a ‘learning and teaching’ apprenticeship.

Degree apprenticeships are structured by combining paid work with higher education, splitting the time between studying and working with an employer.

Speaking to Schools Week, Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education said that she felt a route into teaching which did not rely on a first undergraduate degree would give “parity of esteem” to more vocational routes.

The Department of Education later clarified to the Chartered College of teaching that ‘no teacher would receive ‘qualified status’ without a degree’.