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Academy and News Update December 1-31 2014

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  • Nicky Morgan has committed to publishing an “action plan” in January to detail how the government intends to lighten teachers’ workloads, despite having more than 40,000 submissions to wade through following the launch of her “Workload Challenge.”
  • England is to become a “global leader” in teaching character, resilience and grit to students, education secretary Nicky Morgan has announced.  Under the plans, the government will make £3.5 million available to schools and other organisations that are already offering activities promoting character in young people.  It is hoped the move will place character education on a par with academic learning and comes after shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt claimed research showed developing children’s resilience was more important than focusing “purely on good grades”.  As part of today’s announcement, a further £1m is being made available for research to find the most effective ways that character can be taught, bringing the total funding for character education to nearly £10m. The Education Endowment Foundation is to test the work of non-profit character education projects via school-based randomised control trials. According to the DfE, the evidence will be used to further develop approaches to character education and “secure England’s place as a global leader” in character education.

The government also recently announced awards worth up to £20,000 each for schools and organisations that are already doing excellent work in character education. Schools and organisations will be invited to apply from 5 January 2015.


  • Education will be cut by more than a quarter – or £13bn a year – by 2020 should the Conservatives form a majority government after the general election, the Liberal Democrats have claimed. According to an analysis by the party, school budgets will be cut by more than £9bn, the equivalent of scrapping the funding of more than two million pupils, while £640m will be slashed from the pupil premium. Lib Dems say the figures are based on the spending, tax and borrowing commitment made by David Cameron and George Osborne.  Around £775m will be cut from early years and over £1.6bn will be slashed from the 16 to 19 budget, an area of education that has already suffered significant cutbacks under the coalition, according to the party.


  • An early-warning system that predicts how schools will perform in GCSEs and compares their performance to similar institutions is to be launched next term. The Families of Schools interactive database, developed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), places schools into groups of 50 based on factors such as prior attainment, numbers of pupils receiving free school meals and the proportion of children in the highest and lowest deprivation bands. It is the first attempt at a national system to predict future performance and to partner schools with a similar intake so they can learn from each other. It is hoped that better-performing schools will pass on advice about ways to improve.
  • A learning revolution that will mean fewer teachers, an “explosion” of data and a departure from traditional schooling, according Sir Michael Barber  who believes that a combination of globalisation, new digital technology, and the failure of top performing schools systems to further improve is about to trigger the first major changes to formal education in 140 years. He argues that this country’s exam system remains a potential barrier to improvement. “We have got to get over – and the technology will allow us to do this – the view that only a formal written two or three exam is rigorous,” he said.


  • Hundreds of primaries still face the threat of being turned into academies, despite rising results in key stage 2 Sats. Figures out this month show that this year 768 primary schools in England fell below the government floor target – almost the same as last year, when 767 schools fell short, despite the bar being raised in the interim. If primaries had been judged against last year’s target, only 469 schools would have failed to reach it. Under the new target, 65 per cent of pupils must reach the expected level in reading, writing and maths, up from 60 per cent last year. Schools are also judged on whether pupils are making sufficient progress, in order to ensure those that have a large proportion of children with low starting points are not penalised. Around 15,000 schools are included in the tables. The DfE figures also show that 67 per cent of disadvantaged pupils reached the expected level 4 in reading, writing and maths compared with 83 per cent of other pupils. The 16 percentage point gap is one narrower than last year. Overall, 79 per cent of pupils achieved a level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths compared with 75 per cent in 2013. The targets for primary schools are due to be raised again in 2016. The system of levels, where level 4 is the expected standard, will be used for the last time in the 2015 tests. From 2016, pupils will still take tests in reading, maths and grammar, punctuation and spelling but the results will be reported to pupils and parents as a scaled score – where 100 will represent the standard expected. Writing will continue to be assessed by teachers against new performance indicators. The floor standard will rise to require 85 per cent of pupils to achieve the expected score in reading, writing and maths or make sufficient progress during primary school.

Primary school pupils whose first language isn’t English outperformed native speakers in central London for the first time ever in national primary school tests,

  • Assessment of pupils’ practical science work could be completely removed from new GCSEs, under plans unveiled by Ofqual for consultation. Controlled assessment of practical work – which currently makes up a quarter of pupils’ final science GCSE grades – would be scrapped. But, under Ofqual’s proposals, at least 15 per cent of marks from written exam questions in each science GCSE would “draw on students’ practical science experience”.  The watchdog is likely to encounter stiff resistance, however. Similar plans to stop practical science work counting towards overall A-level grades triggered a wave of opposition from leading scientists, universities and teachers when they were announced earlier this year.  But Ofqual says that practicals were “stultifying” for pupils and led to them practising only the narrow range of skills that were likely to be assessed, removing real experimentation from science. Ofqual has published analysis which shows that students typically get higher scores for GCSE controlled assessment of practical work, marked by their teachers, than they do in written exams. It notes that: “Controlled assessment marks also tend to be skewed towards the maximum mark.” Ofqual wants GCSE science specifications to set out the apparatus that pupils should use, the practical techniques that they should develop and a minimum of eight practical activities that they will be expected to complete during their course. Ofqual also wants schools and pupils to be required to keep a record of their practical work, to be made available to exam boards on request. The consultation runs until February 4.

A copy of the consultation document can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest documents

  • Employers will be drafted into classrooms to speak directly to pupils to better inform them about the career choices, the education secretary has announced.  Nicky Morgan told the Commons that a new company has been established that will act as a broker between schools, colleges and business to develop relationships and improve careers guidance for pupils across the country. As part of the plans, the government will also publish destination data on previous students from further education colleges, including their salaries after their course, to help young people make more informed decisions about their futures. Ms Morgan added that the costs for the new company and its operations would be met from the £20 million announced by George Osborne in the Autumn Statement. From that, a £5 million investment fund would be created, she said, to support innovation and stimulate good practice around the country.
  • About 170,000 students attend inadequate secondary schools, up by 70,000 from two years ago, Ofsted has claimed. The watchdog argues that although primaries are “continuing to forge ahead” in their performance, improvements in secondaries have “stalled”. At the launch of Ofsted’s annual report, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw revealed that the proportion of good and outstanding secondary schools has remained unchanged from last year. But the proportion of secondary schools rated as inadequate in their most recent inspection had doubled from 3 per cent in 2012 to 6 per cent this year. Primaries, Sir Michael said, had continued to improve as a result of higher-quality of teaching, good behaviour among pupils and strong professional development among teachers. Struggling schools, he said, are “failing because they haven’t got the essentials right: governance and oversight is weak, leadership is poor, misbehaviour goes unchallenged and teaching is indifferent. “If our education system is to continue to progress we need to concentrate on the basics of why schools and colleges fail and why they succeed.” Weak schools are often left “isolated”, Sir Michael said. “These schools are deprived of effective support when times are bad. They are left unchallenged when they flirt with complacency. In many cases they are totally insulated from effective governance. They are bereft of good leadership and teaching practice.” Low-level disruption among students is also highlighted as a major concern, with more than 400,000 pupils attending a secondary where behaviour is “poor”, and many schools plagued by a “hubbub of interference”; the proportion of school rated good or outstanding for behaviour has dropped by seven percentage points since last year. The situation was described by Sir Michael as “unacceptable”. “Inspectors found far too many instances of pupils gossiping, calling out without permission, using their mobiles, being slow to start work or follow instructions, or failing to bring the right books or equipment to class,” the report says.  A “worrying lack of scholarship permeates the culture of too many schools” which fail to stretch their most able students.” Overall, 9 per cent of the schools inspected in 2013/14 were rated outstanding and 54 per cent good, with 30 per cent RI and 7 per cent found to be inadequate.

Ofsted is also becoming “increasingly concerned” about the “declining” number of new teachers joining the profession. The annual report highlights the “pressing” problem of the drop in new recruits coming into the classroom, which Sir Michael Wilshaw warned could exacerbate the attainment gaps between the best and worst-performing schools The number of new entrants to the profession has fallen by 17 per cent since 2009/10, and recruitment for 2014/15 was 7 per cent below the target, with particularly acute shortages reported in maths and physics. “This is a pressing issue,” the report says. “More teachers will be needed to match the substantial increase in the number of school-age children – nearly 900,000 more children [are] expected over the next 10 years.” The risk of good and outstanding schools being able to “cherry pick the best trainees” could amplify the “stark differences in local and regional performance”, it adds .The criticism comes after it was revealed that School Direct – the government’s scheme that encourages schools rather than universities to recruit trainees – has struggled to fill its allocation of places. Concerns about a looming teacher shortage have also intensified after a new poll revealed two-thirds of secondary headteachers have struggled to find maths teachers in the past year. The survey, released by ASCL, also found that half of the 777 headteachers polled had experience difficulties in recruiting enough science or English teachers. A DfE spokesperson said there were now more teachers in England’s classrooms “than ever before” with record levels of top graduates. They added: “We always allocate more places than are needed to ensure a high quality supply of teachers across England’s classrooms, we never expect to fill to 100% per cent of allocated places, and we are confident we will be able to meet future demand for teachers.”

Thousands of teachers will be trained in maths, science and technology as part of a major drive led by David Cameron to boost attainment in the subjects. The prime minister announced that around 15,000 teachers will be retrained as specialists in the three disciplines, while a further 2,500 will be recruited on top of existing plans over the course of the next Parliament. School leavers will be offered a substantial amount of cash towards university costs in return for becoming a teacher once they graduate in maths or physics, as part of the £67m programme announced today. A national college for digital skills will also be set up in London next year with outposts then expected across the country. Under the plans, specialist training will be given to existing teachers to enhance the way they teach the maths and science, including contact with industry to ensure they are up to speed on the latest developments. Top A-level students will be offered a bursary to help pay for maths and physics degrees if they agree to a career in the classroom. Details of the scheme, which is expected to be ready for pupils applying to go to university next year, have yet to be finalised but could mean students receive around 75 per cent of their course fees, as well as some living costs, in return for a teaching commitment of between five and seven years. Around 5,000 students are expected to pass through the doors of the planned new specialist digital college, which has backing from a range of international companies including Deloitte, Henderson Global Investors and IBM.

A copy of the Ofsted 2013-2014 Annual Report can be found on the above website, Documents – Ofsted

  • An independent College of Teaching is to be established in England to improve the status of the profession and put in on an equal footing with medicine and law, ministers have announced.  Nicky Morgan and David Laws have said teachers should be at the forefront of setting their own professional standards and improving teachers’ skills. They added: “It is crucial that this body should be created and led by teachers, but government can help things along, and we will do all we can to ensure a new College of Teaching can open its doors within the next couple of years.” In addition to the College, the ministers also pledged funding to provide evidence-based continuing professional development for school staff. The plans for a College of Teaching were already being developed under the supervision of the Prince’s Teaching Institute.

The DFE is consulting on how this can best be established

A copy of the consultation document can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest documents

  • More than 90 per cent of teachers say that school inspections make no difference to pupils’ academic results, according to a new survey. Meanwhile, 93 per cent of teachers say that inspections contribute to stress, and 88 per cent have developed symptoms of anxiety in advance of the inspector’s visit. More than 800 teachers were questioned as part of a survey carried out on behalf of the Teacher Support Network. Only 8 per cent said they believed that inspections helped to improve pupils’ academic results. Similarly, just 10 per cent said that inspections made a positive difference to their own performance. In addition, the majority – 79 per cent – of teachers said that school inspections had a negative effect on their mental and emotional health. And according to 31 per cent of headteachers and 41 per cent of classroom teachers, the pressure of being inspected leads to depression. As alternatives, staff suggested shorter or less-frequent inspections. Some said that they would like more notice before the inspector called. Others recommended abolishing inspections altogether, in favour of peer assessment. Almost three-quarters – 72 per cent – said that inspections should include an assessment of staff well-being. And 53 per cent said they would benefit from more detailed feedback from inspectors. An Ofsted spokesman said that the inspectorate had conducted its own survey of 850 schools earlier this year. Almost 85 per cent said that the inspection process had helped them to improve.

Ofsted inspections should place as much importance on students’ personal development as they do on exam results, according to the CBI. The business lobby organisation has called for greater focus on the “holistic” development of pupils and for schools and colleges to be given a separate grade for “personal development”. In particular, the CBI wants greater focus on developing “determination, confidence and responsibility” among primary pupils.

Ofsted could be broken up under radical Tory plans to rein in the education watchdog. The Conservatives are considering a range of options designed to “refocus” the regulator amid fears it is piling too much pressure on teachers and preventing innovation. Proposals being discussed include significantly cutting the number of inspectors to move to a system in which oversight of schools is largely data-driven. The watchdog may also be stripped of many of its responsibilities to inspect areas such as social services because of concerns it has become too unwieldy.

  • A company that enlists former military personnel to help inspire and motivate pupils is in line for a £1 million government grant to extend its work. The DfE has announced the funding of Commando Joe’s as part of a package of support for projects working with schools. Commando Joe’s won a £600,000 grant from the DfE in 2012 and a further £1 million last year. Such projects are not the only attempt to inject military values into education. The government’s Troops to Teachers programme provides a fast-track route into education for former army personnel. The £2 million scheme had aimed to attract 180 service leavers into teaching over two years, but earlier this year it emerged that just 102 had joined the first two cohorts, the majority non-graduates. Originally based in north-west England, Commando Joe’s has now expanded to work with more than 200 schools across the country, providing both military-style fitness training and activities and one-to-one coaching and mentoring to improve pupils’ resilience, self-discipline and self-confidence. A study by Swansea University academics found that 56 per cent of pupils taking part in the scheme improved their maths grades, 46 per cent improved their reading grades and 70 per cent showed improvement in writing. Commando Joe’s is one of a series of projects run by former armed forces personnel that have received funding from the DfE in recent years. Others include Challenger Troop and SkillForce, which were awarded £1 million and £967,000 respectively last year.
  • New maths qualifications designed to encourage students to continue studying the subject beyond GCSE have been unveiled. The six core maths qualifications, which will count towards school and college league tables and the TechBacc performance measure, have been drawn up as alternatives to A-levels and are intended to prepare young people for the world of work. The qualifications – developed with advice from employers, universities and professional bodies – teach pupils how to “apply maths to analyse situations”, such as mortgages, house prices changes and investments. School reform minister Nick Gibb said the level 3 courses developed by the OCR, City & Guilds, AQA, Pearson and WJEC exam boards would address the sixth-form “maths gap”. In summary:
    • Six qualifications submitted by awarding organisations have been accredited by independent exam regulator Ofqual and will be counted as core maths qualifications in a level 3 maths measure in 16 to 19 performance tables from 2017.
    • The following qualifications will be counted as core maths qualifications:
      • City & Guilds – level 3 certificate in using and applying mathematics
      • OCR – level 3 certificates in quantitative problem solving and quantitative reasoning
      • Pearson Edexcel – level 3 certificate in mathematics in context
      • AQA – level 3 certificate in mathematical studies
      • WJEC Eduqas – level 3 certificate in mathematics for work and life
      • Students successfully completing core maths along with at least one tech level qualification and the extended project will be recognised as having achieved the TechBacc measure from 2016. It was introduced for courses starting in September 2014, and will first be reported in the 16 to 19 performance tables from 2016.
  • An influential Conservative pressure group today launched a campaign for a commitment to allow the creation of more grammar schools to be included in the party’s general election manifesto. Grass-roots organisation Conservative Voice wants to overturn legislation preventing the opening of new grammars, which select pupils at 11 on the basis of exam performance.

Britain’s first new grammar school for 50 years is likely to be given the go ahead in a move which will help quell a Conservative rebellion. Nicky Morgan is expected to approve the new school in Kent in January following a submission of updated principles by a local Conservative council. The new school will open in the town of Sevenoaks, officially as an “annexe” of the existing Weald of Kent school nine miles away. The new school – which already has planning permission and a £16 million building fund – will admit 90 pupils a year from 2016.

  • Teachers face at least four more years of restraint when it comes to their pay packets after George Osborne announced yet more restriction in public sector salaries in his Autumn Statement. The chancellor gave no assurances to protect the DfE’s spending and spelt out plans to limit public sector pay rises.
  • Schools will have to sack teachers, increase class sizes and drop subjects from the curriculum in the new year because of a squeeze on budgets, head teachers are warning. They predict a “perfect storm”, not of their making. The causes of the schools’ financial problems include pay rises, raised national insurance and pension contributions, mounting heating and lighting bills, as well as increased examination costs. Other expenses hitting classrooms hard include Public Finance Initiative (PFI) repayments on deals signed years ago and increased responsibility for pupils with special needs. Schools are also suffering from cuts to sixth-form budgets, as post-16 education is not covered by the Government’s pledge to maintain education spending. A dossier drawn up by headteachers in Wirral, Merseyside, reveals that almost all of its 22 secondary schools will go into the red within the next two years. Steven Peach, chairman of The Wirral secondary heads’ group and headteacher of Oldershaw Academy, said that the financial situation would lead to schools reducing teaching staff and increasing class sizes in 2015.
  • Adopted children are falling behind their classmates at school because their needs are not fully understood by teachers, a charity claims. Eighty per cent of adoptive parents say that their children need more – or different – support at school, because of their early, pre-adoptive experiences, according to a new survey of charity Adoption UK’s 10,000 members. The findings were released today to coincide with the launch of an appeal to provide training and resources for schools to ensure adopted children are supported properly. The educational attainment of adopted children is significantly lower than average, with only 49 per cent of adopted children reaching their expected levels at key stage 2 last year. Around 5,050 children were adopted last year, of whom 70 per cent were removed from their birth families because of abuse or neglect. These early childhood experiences often lead to behavioural, physical and emotional difficulties.
  • Ministers have agreed to delay the introduction of new maths A-levels by a further year after concerns were raised by the exams regulator, universities and headteachers. The decision to put back first teaching of the courses until September 2017 follows worries that the previous 2016 date would have left the first batch of pupils under-prepared for the new qualifications. They would have taken the existing maths GCSE, which is scheduled to be replaced by a new tougher version coming into schools next September.

A level design and technology has been put back a year so first teaching of the new A-level will be in 2017. It is possible that first teaching of the new religious studies A- level will be delayed until 2017, although the DfE has said it is currently hopeful that it will still be 2016. A decision is expected shortly.

Ofqual has said it will be scrapping AS and A-levels in applied art and design, applied business, human biology, and economics and business, thus reducing curriculum breadth that schools can offer. GCSE digital communication is also to be withdrawn.

New A-levels due to be taught from 2015 should have been accredited by September to give schools at least a year to get to grips with teaching the new course. The AQA A-level English Literature syllabus – the market leader – is yet to be approved by Ofqual. One of the examining boards, OCR, confirmed that none of the awarding bodies had yet had their new chemistry A-level accredited.

  • Teenagers should be “more ambitious” when making university applications, the official admissions body said today amid mounting evidence that institutions are lowering their entry requirements. UCAS said students could afford to pitch for tougher courses than previously thought because a “buyers’ market for applicants” had been created in recent years. In a major report, it was claimed that students now had much more choice over courses, with school leavers up to 80 per cent more likely to be given five offers of university places than in 2009  This indicates “scope for applicants to recalibrate their initial applications to include one or two courses with tougher entry requirements”, UCAS said.
  • Ofqual found thousands of pupils in England were affected by errors in GCSEs, A-levels and other qualifications in 2014. In a major report, the regulator insisted blunders were “managed appropriately” by examiners but insisted the overall quality of marking was “not yet good enough” The report found examples of 20 errors in question papers, 20 security breaches and 814 cases in which pupils’ grades were changed as a result of marking mistakes. In total, schools lodged more than 450,000 appeals against GCSE and A-level results – an unprecedented 48 per cent rise in just 12 months. 77,400 grades were changed from the 2014 summer across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – up from 42% compared with last year.

Ofqual also found that the number of requests for “special consideration” in exams – extra marks for illnesses and injury – had increased by a fifth in the last year. It was revealed that demands for “access arrangements”, such as 25 per cent additional time at the end of the test, had also soared by 10 per cent this summer. In a further disclosure, the number of teachers – or entire schools and colleges – caught attempting to cheat the exams system increased by 40 per cent in 2014. Most penalties related to staff giving “inappropriate assistance” given to pupils during exams but others concerned the early opening of test papers, breaches of security and allowing teenagers to take exams at the wrong time. Ofqual said the rising numbers of requests for legitimate special help was “difficult to explain”, but suggested it could be “a sign of the rising pressure on schools” caused by recent reforms to the exams system. The regulator added that increases in penalties for cheating “also concern us” and announced it would be launching a fresh investigation into alleged malpractice.

Figures from the government’s Standards and Testing Agency showed 37 state primaries had exams for an entire year group annulled last year – up from just six the year before. In all, the total number of cases of cheating or breaches of administration rules increased by more than a third to just over 500 in 2013.

  • Schools are struggling to find the finances and resources to educate Gypsy and Roma children because fear of discrimination means many of their parents are not revealing their true ethnicity, hampering efforts to provide extra funding, inspectors have said. The finding comes as official figures show the number of Gypsy and Roma pupils in UK schools have increased from 16,735 to 19,030 in the past year, after work restrictions were lifted for Romanians within the EU. A new Ofsted report concludes: “The Roma parents spoken to by inspectors consistently said that they were reluctant to state their children’s ethnicity for fear of discrimination. This leads to under-reporting of Roma pupil numbers that, in turn, makes it difficult to target resources effectively.” It added that school leaders “had experienced problems accessing available funding such as the pupil premium

A copy of the report can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest documents

  • Parents who have children with special educational needs (SEN) believe that mainstream schools are failing to help them reach their full potential, according to a report published today. A survey of 1,000 parents by the charity Mencap, which supports people with learning difficulties, found that parents think mainstream schools are failing children with learning disabilities – with 81 per cent of parents saying they are not confident their child’s school is helping them do their best Nearly two-thirds of parents (65 per cent) are convinced their children are receiving a poorer education than those without special needs. A similar number (64 per cent) say their child has been taken out of class or activities because of their disability. “Parents feel the education service is woefully ill prepared to properly support children and young people with a learning disability to reach their full potential,” said Jan Tregelles, Mencap’s chief executive.
  • Nearly one in three free schools are failing to deliver a good standard of education, according to official figures. Ofsted said that of 76 free schools inspected up to the end of August, 19 were told they must improve and four were declared inadequate. In addition, 18 were rated outstanding. The 30 per cent rate of free schools failing to meet a good standard compares to an overall rate of 19 per cent among all schools in the state sector.
  • Ofqual has confirmed the assessment arrangements for AS and A level subjects modern foreign languages, ancient languages, maths, further maths and geography. The decisions follow a consultation on assessment arrangements for reformed qualifications which will be taught for the first time in 2016, (although maths and further maths now start in 2017).

Ofqual has produced a short document explaining the decisions it has taken on the assessment arrangements for these qualifications. The key decisions are summarised below.

The consultation also included proposals for GCSEs, AS and A- levels in the subjects listed below:

  • GCSE: Art and design, computer science, dance, music and physical education
  • AS and A level: dance, music and physical education

Ofqual will announce its decisions on the assessment arrangements for these subjects in early 2015.

Summary of decisions

  1. Some minor changes have been made to the assessment objectives for the subjects listed above, and the final assessment objectives issued.
  2. The balance of exam and non-exam assessment for new qualifications in these subjects is detailed in the table below.
Subject AS weighting of non-exam assessment A level weighting of non-exam assessment
ancient languages None None
further mathematics None None
geography None 20%
mathematics None None
modern foreign languages 30% 30%

The DFE has also published the final content requirements for these five subjects.

The documents as mentioned in italics above can all be found on the above website, Documents – Subject related documents – New A and AS levels

  • The DfE has announced it will invest a further £31.7 million in 2015 to 2016 to help local authorities in England continue to meet the costs of implementing the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) reforms.  Ofsted has also been asked to formally inspect local areas on their effectiveness in fulfilling their new duties. They will do this along with the Care Quality Commission and a local authority officer. Councils are required to publish a ‘local offer’ showing the support available to all disabled children and young people and their families in the area. Since the reforms went live in September, all local authorities have published local offers and 94% of parent carer forums say they feel engaged with the reforms.
  • The DfE has published:

o   2017 key stage 4 performance tables: qualifications in the technical award category

o   2017 16 to 19 performance tables: qualifications in the technical certificate category

o   2017 16 to 19 performance tables: qualifications in the tech level category

o   2017 16 to 19 performance tables: qualifications in the applied general qualifications category

These documents thus cover:

  • 2 new qualification categories:
    • technical awards, for reporting in the 2017 key stage 4 performance tables
    • technical certificates, for reporting in the 2017 16 to 19 performance tables
  • the second annual list of qualifications in the tech level category, for reporting in the 2017 16 to 19 performance tables
  • the second annual list of qualifications in the applied general qualifications category, for reporting in the 2017 16 to 19 performance tables

Each qualification includes a link to a ‘purpose statement’ to help students decide whether the qualification meets their needs. Each qualification for 16- to 19-year olds also includes a link to letters of support from employers and universities.

All the above documents can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest documents



o   National curriculum in England: complete framework for key stages 1 to 4 – for teaching 1 September 2014 to 31 August 2015

All the above documents can be found on the above website, Documents – Subject related documents – National Curriculum

This is the statutory national curriculum framework. It is issued by law; you must follow it unless there’s a good reason not to. The framework includes the programmes of study for all subjects at all key stages 1 to 4.

All local-authority maintained schools in England must be teaching the programmes of study from September 2014, with the following exceptions:

  • in the 2014 to 2015 academic year, all maintained schools in England must teach pupils in years 2 and 6 the pre-2014 programmes of study in English, mathematics and science – these pupils will sit the current key stage 1 and 2 tests respectively – new tests will be available from 2016
  • all maintained schools in England must teach key stage 4 programmes of study for English and maths to pupils in year 10 from September 2015, and pupils in year 11 from September 2016
  • all local authority-maintained schools in England must teach the new key stage 4 programme of study for science to pupils in year 10 from September 2016, and to all key stage 4 pupils from September 2017

Separate versions containing just the primary (key stages 1 to 2) and secondary (key stages 3 to 4) curriculums are also available.

Separate individual programmes of study are available for:


All the above documents as in italics can be found on the above website, Documents – Subject related documents –   either National Curriculum, secondary or National Curriculum, primary




  • The DfE has slightly amended the 16-19 interim minimum standard, based on 2014 outcomes, that applies to school sixth forms and sixth form colleges. The minimum average point score remains at 172 points and 194 points for academic and vocational courses respectively, but the percentage of students required to meet these levels will be raised to 45 per cent from the current level of 40 per cent. The DfE will publish details of all schools and colleges against these standards in February/March.

This document can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest Documents

This relates to the EFA document, 16-19 Accountability, issued by the EFA which outlines when post 16 provision can be seen as failing

This document can be found on the above website, Documents – Misc   documents relating to achievement – Post 16

  • Details of which qualifications will discount each other for first teaching from 2015, and that will appear in performance tables from 2017, have also just been published which you need to consider when deciding which courses to offer to students. Discount codes for qualifications counting for the first time in 2017 are open to a period of review. This means you can get in touch with the department with evidence to suggest how the proposed allocated discount code should be amended. This list will then be finalised in February 2015Read the list on RAISEonline, ( Once on the webpage you need to click on ‘Further details of the revised performance tables qualifications, discount rules and early entry guidance from 2014’. Qualifications counting for the first time in 2017 are flagged, and there is also information about the review process in the document.
  • Schools should be aware that if any students take English GCSE and English literature GCSE, as there is overlapping content and the literature exam is sat first, the literature grade will be the only one that counts in the performance tables. Students should either take the English GCSE, or the English literature GCSE and English language GCSE. Note that, both English language and literature iGCSEs will count fully in the performance tables for the next two years only – that is summer 2015 and summer 2016 results. This includes AQA and WJEC iGCSE English literature which the DfE counted as a vocational qualification in 2014. Other iGCSEs will count for one further year. If you are unsure whether an iGCSE will count in the tables, the rule is that if there is a reformed ‘new’ GCSE in that subject available for a cohort, then iGCSE will not count for that cohort.
  • School pupils in the UK – and the parents who have to help them – get more homework than many other European countries, according to the OECD international think tank. It suggests teenagers in the UK put in more hours than in countries such as Finland, Germany, Sweden and Austria. But they are far behind pupils in Singapore and Shanghai in China. The most distinctive feature of the UK’s homework hours is the social gap. The OECD study suggests an international pattern for the urban middle classes to have the highest amounts of time spent on homework. But this is particularly accentuated in the UK, which has one of the widest gaps in homework hours between wealthy and disadvantaged pupils.
  • The DfE consultation on the idea of performance descriptors for use in KS1 and KS2 tests has now ended. When the government decided to scrap national curriculum levels in primary education, it said the system had become too complicated and difficult to understand. Its planned system of “performance descriptors” is supposed to be a more accurate way of determining pupils’ abilities at the ages of 7 and 11. But the proposals have received a mixed reaction, with many primary experts concerned that the new system would lead to greater confusion for parents and more work for teachers. Instead of children having to advance from an expected level 2 at age 7 to level 4 at age 11, they will now be assessed in reading, writing, maths and science according to five different standards. From highest to lowest, these are: mastery; above national standard; national standard; working towards national standard; and below national standard. However, not all the standards will apply to all subjects at all age groups, which has prompted claims that the system is inconsistent. Each of these performance standards is accompanied by a long checklist; some of the checklists include more than 40 criteria. The NAHT has criticised the descriptors for being too long. “Teachers are expected to come up with the single judgement of ‘mastery’ based on a whole page of description”. “The question is whether these will produce judgements that are any more accurate than levels.” The proposals also state that a child should be assigned to a given standard if they meet the majority of points, which the ATL sees as another cause for concern. “When it says pupils must meet the majority of elements, what does that mean?”. “Does it mean 51 per cent? What if a pupil can count in multiples of 2 and 10 but not 5 – are they at the national standard or not? “It is levels all over again. It is trying to make something specific and quantifiable out of something that isn’t particularly specific.”
  • The government has slashed school travel funding by £6 million, forcing local authorities to consider making cuts elsewhere. The DfE has set out funding allocations for extended rights to free school travel for the financial years 2014/15 and 2015/16. Part of the Local Services Support Grant (LSSG), the funding is paid by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to each local authority to provide additional transport funding to support children from low-income families to help them attend schools further than two miles walking distance for children aged 8 and under, or three miles for those between 8 and16. The £25.1 million allocation for 2014/15 is to be cut to £19.7 million for 2015/16.
  • Schools performing much better than expected – a grade or more above predictions judged by progress 8 – will be exempt from Ofsted inspections for a year, according to the DfE
  • Schools minister Nick Gibb has ruled out making personal, social and health education (PSHE) and sex and relationships education (SRE) compulsory, saying instead that schools should be “autonomous” on such decisions
  • In his Autumn Statement, Mr Osborne said the “very best” academy chains in the north would benefit from an extra £10 million to improve standards in schools where too few pupils achieved five A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths. There are no details as yet to whom this applies. £20 million was also allocated nationally to careers, but again there are no details
  • The DfE has released a list of 17 LAs in which it wants to drive up academy numbers: Barking and Dagenham; Cumbria; Derbyshire; Essex; Hampshire; Hertfordshire; Isle of Wight; Kent; Middlesbrough; Redcar and Cleveland; Darlington; Hartlepool; Stockton on Tees; Nottinghamshire; Sandwell; Sheffield; Staffordshire
  • Ofsted has made changes to the School inspection handbook for January 2015
    • The reference to ‘cultures and lifestyles’ in paragraphs 152, 165 and in the ‘inadequate’ grade descriptor for leadership and management (page 51) now reads: ‘race, gender, age, disability and sexual orientation (and other groups with protected characteristics).’10
    • The handbook has been amended to provide greater clarity on how inspectors inspect and report on religious education in schools with a religious character. Paragraph 15 states: ‘In schools with a religious character, section 5 inspectors may not comment on the content of religious worship or denominational religious education. However, inspectors may comment on the contribution of assemblies and teaching (in any subject) to pupils’ personal and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, and their behaviour and safety
    • There is additional information about PIP and school warning notices (footnotes 6, 7), More detailed information on inspecting the teaching of mathematics (para 55) to reflect DfE guidance. Additional information on using GCSE data in light of changes to GCSE examination structure and early entry (para 57).
  • There is also a change to the Ofsted Inspecting safeguarding documents to reflect the new DfE guidance on disqualification by association in schools with early years and childcare provision. This advice explains that a person is automatically disqualified if they live in the same household as another person who is disqualified or in a household where a disqualified person is employed

These revised documents can be found on the above website, Documents – Ofsted

  • The DfE has published the results of its consultation on how performance measures should be recorded on school websites

This documents can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest documents


  • The DfE has published guidance to free schools on admissions

This documents can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest documents

  • The DfE has issued a revised version of the Schools’ Admissions Code

This document can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest documents

  • The DfE has issued a revised guide for schools re exclusions of students from 05.01.15

This documents can be found on the above website, Documents – Latest documents

  • GCSEs should be abolished and education reformed to help young people to fulfil their potential, according to the CBI.  “We need to get the basics right first time in primary school and then provide a personal menu of tailored learning plans for all 14- to 18-year-olds offering high-quality academic and vocational A-levels, and encouraging young people to mix and match, depending on what’s right for them,” he said.

·       There are 363 open and approved free schools as of November 2014 and 4344 open academies as of December 2014

  • More than 400,000 schoolchildren are being taught by unqualified teachers, according to research revealed by the shadow education secretary, Tristam Hunt. He said there were 17,100 unqualified teachers in state-funded schools – a rise of 16% in the past year. The number in academies and free schools rose by 50%. In November 2012 there were 5,300 unqualified teachers in academies, technology colleges and free schools, according to DfE figures, but the number has since risen to 7,900. Also a freedom of information request was submitted by Labour to the 79 free schools that opened last year. Of the 69 that responded, just 12 were full while the remainder – 83% – had 2,564 unfilled places among them.
  • Work has started only one in four of schools identified for a multi-billion pound school building programme first unveiled by the Government more than three years ago. Official figures show that work has started in just 63 of the 261 schools identified in the Government’s £10billion Prority School Building Programme in 2011.

Tony Stephens


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