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Academy and News Update March 1-31 2014

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  • An “overwhelming proportion” of pupils in academies sponsored by E-Act are not receiving a good enough education, according to a damning judgement by Ofsted, which also cast doubts over the sponsor’s use of pupil premium funds. The support offered to the schools by the E-Act is “ineffective”, inspectors said. Ofsted said it had completed inspections of 16 academies in the chain over a two-week period in February: five of these were judged to be failing and put in special measures, and a further six were told they “require improvement”.
  • Some academy chains are failing because they are too “managerial” and do not focus on learning, experts have told MPs, as it emerged that ministers have banned 14 of the organisations from taking on new schools because of concerns about their performance. They include the AET with 77, the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT), with 16 schools; University of Chester Academies Trust (UCAT), with nine; Prospects Academies Trust, with six; the Barnfield Academies Trust and the Landau Foundation, with five each; and the Learning Schools Trust, with four. The other academy chains currently banned from expansion are the Djanogly Learning Trust and the Grace Foundation, with three schools each; and the City of Wolverhampton Academy Trust, the Lee Chapel Academy Trust, South Nottingham College Academy Trust, and the West Hertfordshire Teaching Schools Partnership, with two schools each. But the situation has improved, new government figures suggest. They say that in November 25 academy chains had been banned from expansion.
  • The trust in charge of the first free school run by a for-profit provider will not terminate the private company’s £21m contract, despite admitting the firm had made some “bad choices” and a “mistake”  IES Breckland was placed into special measures by Ofsted earlier this month. In its report, the watchdog condemned work by Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES) as “ineffective”, raising serious questions as to whether the Swedish firm would continue to run the school.
  • Nearly a quarter of primary schools do not have a teacher with more than a GCSE modern language qualification, and almost half have no support from specialist language teachers in local secondary schools, a new study has revealed. All primary schools are required to deliver the teaching of a modern foreign language from the start of the next academic year. Another area of concern is the transition of language teaching from primary to secondary level. The report finds that less than a third (27%) of state secondary schools are able to ensure that incoming year 7 pupils can continue the language study they learned in primary school

The study of foreign languages at A-level is in “deep crisis” with the number of pupils continuing with languages beyond GCSE “declining at an alarmingly fast rate” according to the report. Students are being put off by “harsh and unpredictable grading” by exam boards at A-level, at a time when they need to be confident of achieving high grades for university places.

  • The government has created an “Emperor’s New Clothes curriculum”, which is “so vague and nebulous as to be meaningless and impossible to implement, says Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, arguing that the proposed national curriculum is an “illusion”, which is too vague and “old-fashioned” to be relevant to students.
  • Two-thirds of school leaders are considering leaving the profession, with rising workload cited as the primary reason for plummeting morale among senior staff. A survey of secondary heads, deputies and assistant principals carried out by TES and ASCL raises the prospect of a school leadership recruitment crisis, with 69 per cent out of respondents saying that they were considering leaving the profession before the normal retirement age. Thirty per cent insisted they were actively planning to quit now, and 91 per cent said they did not feel that the government was supportive of the teaching profession. Just a quarter of deputy and assistant principals said they were considering applying for a headship. Two-thirds said they were less likely to apply than a year ago, with the majority citing workload (72 per cent) and lack of job security (41 per cent) as the main factors.

Headteachers in Kent, one of the biggest local education authorities, have seen a document, spelling out exactly what a school leader can expect if their school is found to be failing. Those who have been in post for two years or more will be given “gardening leave” and a replacement found. Or, as some heads interpret it, summarily dismissed, or “disappeared”.

  • Just one in six primary schools say they are planning to stop using national curriculum levels in future to assess children – despite the system being scrapped. The survey found that 32 per cent of primaries were not planning to stop using levels and a further 53 per cent were unsure. The government announced in June 2013 that the system of levels would be axed because it believed the system was “complicated and difficult to understand, especially for parents”. The survey of 405 primary school subject leaders found that while a third agree with the government that levels were not useful for parents, 92 per cent thought they were useful for teachers. The key concern for schools is having an assessment system which allows them to compare their pupils with others around the country – this was mentioned as important by 85 per cent of schools.

While using levels is not banned, the level descriptions are matched to the National Curriculum and they will not be updated to match the new curriculum which begins in September 2014. Instead schools are expected to come up with their own systems of assessment. Each school will need to continue with levels for the year to come because they will still be teaching some children under the old curriculum, so they can’t abandon them overnight” The NAHT’s commission on assessment reported last month and called on the government and Ofsted to make clear statements on what schools will be required to demonstrate to inspectors and to report to parents and the DfE. The  survey found that only about four per cent of schools currently plan to buy in a new system from a commercial provider – most said that they would update what they already used, and the most popular forms of support were other schools and local authorities.

  • All maths and physics teachers should be made to take annual sabbaticals to work in engineering and industry, a leading figure in the sector has said. The week-long visits would enable the teachers to “sell” careers in engineering to pupils, said Jenny Body, the first female president of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
  • The government has announced that £50 million will be given to nurseries and schools in the form of an early-years pupil premium for disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds.
  • The government has “no plans or any powers” to cut thousands of teaching assistants’ jobs, education minister Liz Truss has claimed. She said there was a “misconception” about the future of teaching assistants (TAs) following reports suggesting that jobs would be cut to save money and to allow more teachers to be hired. Media reports last year said that the Treasury was looking to cut the DfE’s budget by axing school support staff.
  • The introduction of a new performance-related pay system for teachers has created a “punitive” culture in schools, a union leader has warned. Deborah Lawson, general secretary of non-striking teachers’ union Voice, said that it has seen an increase in the number of capability proceedings started against its members by schools during the current academic year. Both older teachers at the top of the pay scale and NQTs have been increasingly targeted by schools looking to keep their salary costs down, she said.
  • Councils are being forced to borrow tens of millions of pounds and even open schools in former police stations in a bid to meet a shortfall in school places, a report has shown. Figures also reveal that a third of councils will not have enough secondary school places to meet demand over the next five years. Research published by the Local Government Association (LGA) reveals that more than 80,000 secondary school places will be needed in the next five years, and it is calling for councils to be handed a pot of money to try and meet demand. Until now the debate has been focused on meeting the need to provide enough primary school places due to a bulge in children going through the primary sector fuelled, in part, by a rise in birth rates. The government has committed £2.35 billion to provide places up to 2017, but the LGA has warned it is not enough to ensure there is enough capacity among secondary schools as the children move through the system.
  • The free school and academy programme has cost taxpayers nearly £80 million in private consultants’ fees, claims a new report. Research carried out by the TUC has found that the DfE has paid £77 million of public funds to lawyers, head-hunters, accountants, estate agents and management consultants. The TUC says that the money has been paid to 14 private firms which provide services to free schools and academies since the government took office. The report also raises a series of wider concerns around the “privatisation” of education. It criticises the £500 million spent on free school building projects since the 2010 general election, adding that free schools educate just 0.3 per cent of pupils in the state sector. The report also raises concerns about academies which have paid “millions of pounds into the private businesses of directors, trustees and their relatives”.
  • Schools could be hit by with an additional pensions bill of more than £235 million next year, it has emerged. The Treasury today warned that public sector pensions across the teachers’, civil service and NHS schemes face a £1 billion a year shortfall under current arrangements. The DfE has confirmed that school and college contributions to the teachers’ pension scheme will increase by 2.3 per cent in September 2015. ASCL has calculated that this will cost schools £236 million, and warned of “catastrophic” consequences for students. The ATL union has warned that local authorities could be forced to slash education services in order to meet their increased costs towards the pensions of teachers in maintained schools. And the pain for schools and colleges is likely to get even more severe in 2016, when changes to National Insurance contributions due to come into effect in 2016 are expected to see their pensions contributions increase by an additional 3.4 per cent.
  • The poorest funded schools in the country are to receive a cash boost after ministers announced that they will receive an extra £350 million from next year. David Laws unveiled the additional pot of money, which he said was the “first huge step” in correcting a historically “unfair” school funding system. Due to quirks in the current funding system, schools with the same characteristics and just miles from one another can receive wildly different sums of money as a result of which local authority they are in. The money, Mr Laws said, would come from the existing protected schools budget as well as from extra cash handed over by the Treasury, but he stopped short of stating when a reformed national funding formula would be introduced.The move means schools will receive a minimum funding level for the full basic amount, as well as deprived pupils, students with English as an additional language and even those with poor prior attainment.  The extra money will mean schools in local authorities such as Cambridgeshire will receive a boost of around £20m from 2015/16. In total around 60 local authorities, mainly in rural areas, will receive more cash, but some towns and cities will benefit
  • Pupils as young as 11 are to be given lessons in online security that will prepare them for careers fighting cyber-crime and online attacks, ministers revealed today. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills believes that improving education in “cyber-security” is key to the UK’s economic future and is calling for schools to teach it as part of the new computing curriculum. The department wants to reach pupils at a much earlier age as part of its latest plan to fill the growing skills shortage in the digital industries, of which cyber security is a growing area. Under the plans, teachers will also be given more training to help deliver the topic as part of the wider computing curriculum.
  • Maths teachers are to be flown over from China to give master-classes to their peers in England, Elizabeth Truss has announced.Up to 60 English-speaking maths teachers from China will be arriving in the autumn term for a month to work with a number of leading maths schools. Under the plans unveiled by the minister, 30 schools, called maths hubs, will be set up as centres of excellence, which will deliver training and support to other schools in their area.  The scheme will also see two leading maths teachers from each of the 30 hubs visit China for at least a month to learn about their teaching approaches.
  • A CBI report wants schools and colleges to set themselves boardroom style “gender diversity targets” to reduce the number of girls opting out of sixth-form science. It has also been pointed out that too few boys are choosing A-level English



  • Ofsted will carry out shorter, more frequent school inspections, with all inspectors to be directly employed by the watchdog. Sir Michael Wilshaw has said there was “little point” in sending inspectors to visit “good” schools every five years; rather, those schools would receive more frequent but shorter visits from Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMIs). The only schools to be subjected to full inspections would be those in the bottom two categories, “requires improvement” and “inadequate”, with those on the cusp on achieving “outstanding” also receiving longer inspection visits.

He is suggesting that that a good school receive an inspection of a one-day visit of a HMI once every two years. “That HMI will discuss the data with the headteacher and the governors of the school and the senior staff, engage in a professional dialogue with the school and engage in a judgment whether the school is still a good school.”

Lesson observations will not be scrapped under Ofsted’s overhaul of inspections, Sir Michael Wilshaw has insisted.

He added that Ofsted would move “incrementally” to directly employing all inspectors itself. He also admitted that the watchdog would have to hire a “substantial number” of new inspectors, as part of its move to phase out the 3,500 inspectors it currently hires from private companies, and replace them with Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMIs) contracted directly to Ofsted. The move, he told delegates in Birmingham, would help “eradicate inconsistencies” between inspection teams.

Sir Michael also said that it was “only fair” for the watchdog to inspect academy chains, which it does not currently have the power to do.

Addressing criticisms that inspectors only observe around 20 minutes of a lesson, Sir Michael added: “It doesn’t take that long to see whether the teacher is in charge or whether the children are. It doesn’t take that long to check whether youngsters are learning in a bright, stimulating and orderly environment. “It doesn’t take that long to check whether the children are arriving on time and that lessons start promptly. It doesn’t take that long to check whether the books are graffiti-free and well-marked, and that homework is routinely given.”

Sir Michael insisted that there was “little evidence” that the consistency of inspection teams had got worse, and said that there had been a drop in complaints in the last year.

He said the changes would “probably” come into effect in September 2015, unless they could be enacted sooner.

  • The announcement follows widespread debate about the future of the inspectorate. A report by think tank Policy Exchange  called for an end to lesson observations, as well as scrapping the use of privately-contracted inspectors. Currently, three private firms employ around 3,000 inspectors, compared to fewer than 400 who work directly for Ofsted. The Policy Exchange report argued that many of the additional inspectors “lack the necessary skills, especially the ability to analyse data, or the experience or specialist knowledge in primary or special needs teaching”. It also called for a two-stage inspection process, under which all schools would be given a short inspection. Those which failed to attain a good or outstanding rating would then be given a longer “tailored inspection”, which would last for twice as long as current inspections and “allow inspectors the time to really understand the school and its data”.

Another think tank, Civitas, had suggested that the government should take away the watchdog’s powers to inspect free schools and academies.

ASCL had suggested that Ofsted should scrap its “outstanding” grade, and instead simply conclude whether or not a school meets required standards of education

TES/ASCL survey of secondary school leaders  found that 65 per cent of respondents said that they did not have confidence in Ofsted to make “accurate and reliable” judgments. In addition, 56 per cent of school leaders said that they were less happy in the job than 12 months ago, which Mr Lightman partly attributed to the “climate of fear” caused by inspections.

  • Schools will be given separate Ofsted grades for their sixth forms and earlyyears’ provision, under plans unveiled by the watchdog. The inspectorate has launched a consultation on the proposals, which are due to come into effect in September. The new judgements would be given as part of the overall inspection, and contribute towards a school’s overall grade.
  • The proportion of schools judged “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted has risen to a record high, with 79 per cent of inspections resulting in the top two grades. Heads’ leaders described the inspection statistics – updated to include the period between October and December last year – as “remarkable”. They cover the latest Ofsted verdicts on all 21,944 state schools in England that were open at the end of 2013 and show a one percentage point rise in good or better schools since August 2013. The rate of improvement is slowing as there was a five percentage point rise during the same period in 2012. But the watchdog said this could be explained by the large number of previously “satisfactory” schools inspected during 2012/13, many of which improved. Of the 1,913 schools visited by Ofsted between October and December with previous inspection results, 27 per cent improved on the last judgement they received, lower than in the previous two years. Of the nursery schools inspected over the period 56 per cent were judged outstanding, compared to 36 per cent special schools, 23 per cent secondary and 17 per cent of primaries.
  • Ofsted school data dashboard –   For Key Stages 1 and 2, the School Data Dashboard was updated with 2013 results on Thursday 6th March 2014. For Key Stage 4, the School Data Dashboard will be updated in April 2014 when school performance data are final and not subject to change. The School Data Dashboards provide headline measures of school performance for governors and schools to use in their drive for improvement.
  • Sir Michael has pledged to root out inspectors who champion trendy teaching amid warnings that progressive methods had damaged generations of schoolchildren. He said so-called “child-centred” learning – a characteristic of many classrooms in the 60s and 70s – would form no part of the assessment process. He denied the watchdog was “full of lefty, hippy-types” and insisted it wanted to see structured, teacher-led activities. Any inspectors found advocating alternative methods “wouldn’t be working for me for very long”, he said.  “We want to see teacher-led activities, we want to see structured learning, we want to see teaching in more formal settings.”

Earlier this year, he wrote to inspectors telling them not to mark down teachers who create structured lessons, adding that they should “not criticise teacher talk for being overlong”

“Do not expect to see ‘’independent learning’’ in all lessons and do not make the assumption that this is always necessary or desirable,” he said.

“On occasions, too, pupils are rightly passive rather than active recipients of learning. Do not criticise ‘passivity’ as a matter of course and certainly not unless it is evidently stopping pupils from learning new knowledge or gaining skills and understanding.”

  • A drive to improve the standard of careers advice in schools is being planned by the education watchdog Ofsted.

The chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has said he wants to see schools providing “destination data” on their pupils, to help Ofsted judge the effectiveness of each school’s careers education.

Ofsted is consulting about the changes with a view to them being included in

inspections from the start of the new school year in September.

The move follows a report by inspectors which said three out of every four schools they had visited had not been delivering an adequate service.

The survey was carried out after the Government had devolved responsibility for providing advice from the careers service to individual schools.

In their report, the inspectors said there was too much focus on pursuing an academic future rather than giving advice about vocational options.

In a separate report, the charity Edge, set up to campaign for academic and vocational education to be put on an equal footing, revealed that nearly one in four students had been put off following a vocational route because they were told by teachers they were “too clever”.

Appearing before MPs recently, Sir Michael said good careers advice was “essential” for showing young people what job opportunities were on offer.


  • The government is considering whether courses in “mindfulness” should be introduced to help improve pupil well-being, a minister has revealed. Asked if the DfE planned to promote the idea, schools minister David Laws told MPs: “We are very interested in promoting this and we certainly think that it is an area that merits consideration based on the evidence we’ve seen to date. “My colleague [education minister] Liz Truss actually has been looking at this recently.” Increasing numbers of schools, particularly those in the private sector, are already looking at “mindfulness” classes, which usually focus on teaching students meditation and breathing techniques as well as how to pay attention to the present moment.
  • The majority of academies are ignoring the freedoms on offer to them, a survey has shown, despite ministers claiming schools were opting to convert to academy status to take up these additional powers. According to figures released today, less than a quarter of schools were planning to change the length of their school day or term times, and just a third had opted to change their curriculum. The study did show, however, that academies were more keen to introduce changes to teachers’ pay with nearly two-thirds opting to take up the freedom.
  • Using touchscreens, such as smartphones and tablets, could help poor pre-school children to learn to read, a report published today has shown. The research, released by the National Literacy Trust, reveals that children from lower-income homes who looked at books on screens as well as in print were more likely to meet the expected reading, writing and speaking levels at age five than those from the same background who looked at books only. However, the same report found that children from high- and middle-income groups who had access only to printed books did the same in reading but better in writing and speaking than their peers with screens.  And those from all income groups with tablets were less likely to be able to listen attentively and pay attention than their peers who stuck to print only. Overall, the study showed, children who only read stories in books were more likely to exceed expectations at age five than those who also read stories on screens. The report, called Children’s Use of Technology in the Early Years, found that 99.7 per cent of children have access to books and 72.9 per cent had access to a touchscreen device at home.
  • Dozens of school leaders have been hit with unexpected tax bills of up to £30,000 as a result of pay rises they were awarded several years earlier. The move to reduce the annual tax allowance for pension contributions has created a “timebomb” for some senior teachers, and many more could be affected. Teachers are being caught out by the government’s decision to reclassify the annual allowance and they then don’t realise that a large tax bill could be coming their way. As a result of the introduction of the new performance-related pay system in schools, Kingston Smith believes that even more teachers could be affected in future. The problems have been caused by the annual tax allowance for pension contributions being cut from £255,000 to £50,000 in 2011/12. As a result, anyone whose overall pension pot increased by more than £50,000 in value within a year would be liable for an unexpected tax bill. This would be deducted from their pension pot. The consequences are not always felt immediately, however: some teachers have been protected by unused allowances left over from previous years, meaning their tax bill only materialised several years later.
  • Concerns have been raised that the government’s own teacher training programme, School Direct, is not recruiting enough trainees from ethnic minorities.
  • major study of what children are reading has found that children start choosing less challenging books when they start secondary school. The survey of 426,000 children’s reading habits in the UK found that in primary school the difficulty level of the books chosen and the accuracy with which children read them is improved on last year. But when students make the move to secondary school at age 11, they tend to choose books that have a level of reading difficulty that is lower than their actual age.
  • A portion of schools’ funding would be made conditional on students remaining in some form of education or training after taking their GCSEs, under new reforms announced by Labour. The opposition party’s independent skills taskforce has today announced a series of reforms to the 14-19 education system, designed to reduce the number of 16- to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training (Neet), which currently stands at 844,000. Under the plans unveiled by Labour’s skills taskforce, an element of school funding made dependent on students remaining in education would be used to “transform careers guidance in those schools with a Neet problem” by creating a national careers advice system alongside employers. Labour would also create a National Baccalaureate for all school leavers, which would include “rigorous, stretching and labour-market responsive vocational qualifications for the ‘forgotten 50 per cent’ and skills, character building and workplace learning for all”. It would also be made compulsory for all young people to study English and maths up to the age of 18.
  • Attendance, five half terms- figures just issued

Persistent Absence

2011- 2012         2012-2013
Pr        Primary        3.1       3.00
           Secondary        7.4       6.4
           Total        5.2       4.6

Absence rates

       2011-2012         2012-2013
           Primary        4.4        4.7
           Secondary        5.9        5.8
           Total        5.1        5.2

Of pupils who miss between 10% and 20% of school, only 39% achieve at least 5 A* to C GCSEs including English and maths. This compares to 73% of pupils who miss less than 5% of school.

More than 10% of school term-time absences last year were caused by pupils given leave to take family holidays, official figures have revealed, showing the scale of the problem faced by head teachers as parents seek to dodge peak holiday prices. A ski company has attracted criticism after offering to pay any fine incurred by parents booking a holiday during term time.

There have been a record number of truancy fines issued in 2012 to 2013. The figures show:

  • 52,370 penalty notices were issued in 2012 to 2013, up from 41,224 the previous year
  • 30,746 penalty notices were paid within the given timeframe, up from 24,269 the previous year
  • The new Children and Families Act has been given royal assent

The act includes a number of new measures to protect the welfare of children, including:

  • changes to the law to give children in care the choice to stay with their foster families until they turn 21
  • a new legal duty on schools to support children at school with medical conditions better
  • making young carers’ and parent carers’ rights to support from councils much clearer
  • reforms to children’s residential care to make sure homes are safe and secure, and to improve the quality of care vulnerable children receive
  • a requirement on all state-funded schools – including academies – to provide free school lunches on request for all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2
  • amendments to the law to protect children in cars from the dangers of second-hand smoke
  • from April 2015, mothers, fathers and adopters can opt to share parental leave around their child’s birth or placement. This gives families more choice over taking leave in the first year – dads and mothers’ partners can take up to a year, or parents can take several months at the same time
  • from 1 October 2014, prospective fathers or a mother’s partner can take time off to attend up to 2 antenatal appointments
  • adoption leave and pay will reflect entitlements available to birth parents from April 2015 – no qualifying period for leave; enhanced pay to 90% of salary for the first 6 weeks; and time off to attend introductory appointments. Intended parents in surrogacy and ‘foster to adopt’ arrangements will also qualify for adoption leave and pay
  • extending the right to request flexible working to all employees from 30 June 2014
  • replacing the current statutory procedure, through which employers consider flexible working requests, with a duty on employers to consider with requests in a ‘reasonable’ manner

Over the coming months the measures made law will come into force. The government is currently consulting on a series of regulation changes on adoption and new guidance for social workers on how to navigate the new system, and will issue the final SEN code of practice shortly ahead of reforms coming into force in September. By the summer the majority of councils will have virtual schools heads in post – helping improve educational outcomes for children in care.

  • All infant children in state-funded schools in England will, for the first time, be entitled to a free school meal from September 2014 and the government has set out its plans on how it intends to support schools.

The Deputy Prime Minister last year announced £22.5 million to help small schools prepare. This announcement confirms that each small school will receive a minimum of £3,000 funding to extend or improve kitchen facilities, and address transitional costs, in addition to the £2.30 per child per day revenue funding.

This is a part of the £1 billion that government is providing so that every infant across the country sits down to a healthy meal during the day, as well as £150 million to help schools expand their kitchen and dining facilities, where needed.

Other measures include:

  • a support service, including a national helpline, run by the Children’s Food Trust, to help and support schools across the country – giving advice on the various issues that may arise including visits and one-to-one help where needed
  • support from Magic Breakfast to set up breakfast clubs in schools where children are coming to school hungry
  • support from charities to help increase school meal take-up in 2,000 junior and secondary schools that currently have low take-up

The DfE is also launching a consultation to simplify school food standards – cutting bureaucracy for schools.

From September, all eligible children will also have access to their free school meal entitlement regardless of whether they attend school, sixth form or college – creating a fair and consistent system across the country

  • The NUT will decide the next phase of industrial action at its annual conference in Brighton next month, and there was still a possibility that the NASUWT could be involved in future action. At the same time it seems that tensions between the NUT and NAS could threaten the union’s historic joint declaration made two years ago that they would work more closely together.
  • The DfE is putting pressure on academies not to overestimate their future student recruitment figures and thus receive too much money in the short term
  • The DfE is suggesting that primary schools appoint their own unofficial “observers” for the forthcoming Sats tests in May, seemingly to provide reassurance that they and their pupils are not cheating.
  •  Tristam Hunt is urging governors of secondary schools and academies to appoint more female headteachers. Figures for 2010 show 60% of heads were male and 40% female, with this imbalance widening two years later to 64% to 36%. In the figures there is little distinction between academies and maintained schools. The 2012 figures, published late last year, show 2,100 male school heads and only 1,200 female.
  • Councils across England and Wales are cutting back on free school buses in a blow to the freedom of parents to choose the right school for their child, irrespective of where they live. Only pupils who attend the school closest to them will be offered free transport under new policies being adopted – the minimum under the law. Currently many councils provide free travel for children to attend either the nearest school or schools more than two miles away in the case of children under eight years old,
  • A new US study, published this year, has indicated that there is no clear connection between parental involvement in homework and improved student performance.
  • Poor parenting is fuelling a rise in the number of young children who grow up with behaviour and educational problems, according to research. Figures show as many as four-in-10 infants fail to properly bond with their mothers and fathers by the age of three – storing up a series of social problems in later life.
  • Obese girls are a school grade behind their healthier classmates regardless of wealth, IQ or background, a study has found.The results showed that girls who were classed as obese did worse in English, maths and science at GCSE and were on average a grade below their schoolmates. They were also a grade behind in SATS tests at 11 and 13. However there was no link between obese boys and educational achievement.
  • The number of children missing out on their first choice secondary school has increased this year amid mounting competition for places. Councils across England reported that fewer 11-year-olds had gained places at preferred state secondaries following a sudden increase in the application rate.In some parts of London, at least four-in-10 children have been forced to make do with second, third or even sixth choice schools for this September because of the sheer demand for places. Outside the capital, 30 per cent of pupils missed out on their first choice school in Birmingham – up from 26 per cent a year earlier – while in nearby Sandwell numbers stood at just over 25 per cent, compared with 23 per cent in 2013.  Other cities reported a similar trend. Nationally, it is thought that more than one-in-seven children will have missed out on their first choice school, leading a flood of official appeals
  • Children who speak English as a second language are outperforming native speakers in GCSE exams, official figures show. Students who speak English as an additional language (EAL) scored better grades in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) than native speakers. The worst performing group was white British boys from working class families.
    • Schools across England will save money after the government struck deals with licensing companies for shared rights to use films, newspapers and television shows in classrooms. The licences previously had to be bought individually by schools and local authorities, often resulting in expensive and time-consuming negotiations Now the Department for Education has reached agreements so that from next month all state schools in England will be automatically covered for these licences, potentially saving more than £6.5 million.

The deals have been struck with:

  • the Educational Recording Agency (ERA), which allows schools to use programmes from BBC, ITV and other British television channels in lessons
  • Filmbank, which allows schools to show pupils top Hollywood, Bollywood and independent films
  • the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC), which gives schools access to movies and programmes created by more than 400 film and television producers and distributers
  • the Newspaper Licensing Agency, which allows schools to use newspaper and magazine cuttings in lessons
  • The 2013 Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4 transition matrices for 40 different GCSE subjects are now available online on the RAISEonline library
  • The DfE says that by 4 April 2014 maintained schools and academies must publish information on their website about how they have used the PE and Sport Grant allocation ,including how it has (or will be spent) and the impact it is having
  • The DfE has reviewed its decision that dance and drama should discount against each other in performance tables. From 2015, both qualifications will count in tables.
  • Pupils in England are “significantly better” at problem solving than the average for the industrialised world, the latest results from PISA show. The country finished 11th among the 44 different international territories. England’s pupils also did significantly better at the tests than their counterparts in other countries who had performed at similar levels in Pisa’s maths, science and reading tests.
  • Four free schools have now been places in special measures, but Dixon’s Academy in Bradford, West Yorkshire has become the first secondary free school to be handed an “outstanding” judgement by Ofsted.
  • Michael Gove has signed off a £45 million plan to open a new free school, backed by top fee-paying Westminster School, to set up a free sixth-form college, the Harris Westminster Academy, dedicated to providing places for talented students from disadvantaged areas.
  • A report has confirmed previous studies suggesting that pupils at state schools do better than privately educated students, when they hold the same A-level grades. It also seems that students with the same A-level grades are more likely to do well at university if they were “top of the class” in their school

The DfE’s new accountability system

The DfE has outlined its overall accountability system from the age of 4 to !9. The focus throughout will be on judging schools/academies in terms of the progress that students make

  • New tests for four-year-olds will be introduced in 2016 In an unexpected twist, the new baseline tests will not be compulsory, giving schools the option to be judged on attainment alone at Year 6. Proposals to rank pupils by decile — telling parents their child was in the top or bottom 10 per cent — have been dropped after widespread opposition. Ministers revealed that the baseline assessment will be taken at “the earliest possible point in school”, thought to be the first term of reception when most children are four. Schools will be able to choose from a number of approved assessments. The tests will then be used to assess how much progress students have made between age four and 11. However, schools can choose not to use any of the approved assessments and will instead be judged on the test scores of 11-year-olds alone from 2023 onwards. Under the reforms, 85 per cent of pupils will have to pass the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in Year 6. The existing floor target is 65 per cent.
  • Plans for tougher new tests for 11-year-olds, including a ban on calculators in maths from this summer, have been unveiled by the Government. In future, children will be expected to know their 11 and 12 times tables, rather than just as far as 10×10, and learn how to equate fractions, i.e. three-eighths, with figures – 0.375. Teachers marking the tests will also be told to stop the practice of giving pupils who get the wrong answers marks for showing their working, whatever methods they have used. In future, marks will only be awarded to those who can show they have used skills such as long division and multiplication. In English, there will be a new reading test with children being questioned on more challenging reading material – including fictional works outlining the UK’s literary heritage. They will also have to answer more probing questions such as: “how does the writer increase the tension throughout this paragraph? Explain fully referring to the text in your answer”. In addition, they will be asked to identify a range of figurative language such as metaphors, similes, analogy and imagery. The scope of a new grammar, punctuation and spelling test, introduced last year, will be increased so pupils can show proper use of semicolons, apostrophes and commas. The majority of the changes will be introduced in the May 2016 national curriculum tests – but the ban on the use of calculators will come in from this summer. In addition, the pass mark for the three tests, in English, maths and science, will be raised.
  • Primary schools will then show pupils’ progress from age 4 to 11 (compared to others with similar starting points in reception); what proportion reach the demanding new standard at age 11; how well pupils do on average at age 11; and what proportion of their pupils are rated ‘high achieving’. (see Documents added below for full details)
  • The new types of secondary accountability have already been announced already, ie, Secondary schools/academies will show pupils’ progress from age 11 to 16 (compared to others with the same results at age 11); what their pupils’ average grade is across 8 subjects; what proportion of their pupils achieve at least a C in English and maths; and what proportion of their pupils achieve the EBacc.
  • The DfE, following its consultation, has now announced the new accountability arrangements for post 16, which in essence involves Colleges and school sixth forms showing students’ progress from GCSE to age 18 (compared to others with the same GCSE results) in academic subjects or Tech Levels (the new technical qualifications that finally place vocational education on a par with A levels); what students’ average grade is in each category; the progress made by students who joined them without a C in English and/or maths; what proportion of their students drop out; and what proportion of their students go on to further study, a job or training at the end of their courses (when the data is robust enough), (see Documents added below for full details)


  • There are at least 850,000 children in the UK with a mental health issue and 75% of these don’t receive the support they need, according to a child psychiatrist. One of the main problems is that many of the people who come into contact with children do not know how to recognise a mental health condition or how to approach it. In particular, he focuses on the need to support schools more in identifying mental health concerns and taking appropriate action.  “When we polled the public on the issue, 37% said they would turn to a teacher for help and advice if they suspected a child had a mental health issue.” To help schools, an online tool has been launched called MindEd, which has a wealth of information on mental health issues for professionals working with children.
  • Dyslexic children may be hampered in learning to read by the Government’s insistence on the use of synthetic phonics to teach them, says a report to be published today. A poll of more than 500 literacy teachers reveals that more than half (52 per cent) believe that the Government’s approach is either “ineffective” or “not very effective” in helping dyslexic pupils. They believe that children with other disabilities and the most able pupils could also be held back. “Literacy support needs to be tailored to the learning pace, experience and needs of the individual child – delivered by teachers with the appropriate specialist training to identify those who might struggle” “Neither children who are fluent readers, nor those at risk of Special Learning Difficulties/dyslexia or other reading disabilities are likely to find a ‘one size fits all’ intensive synthetic phonics programme helpful.

Documents added this month to  Latest Documents


  • 16-19 accredited applied general qualifications for 2016
  • 16-19 accredited technical qualifications for 2016
  • 2016 Key Stage Four Performance Tables; inclusion of 14-16 qualifications-final
  • Progress 8 final DfE advice
  • Progress 8 DfE technical advice
  • Progress 8 ASCL advice


  • Reforming assessment and accountability for primary schools
  • Reforming the accountability system for 16-19 providers
  • Statutory framework for the EYFS as from September 2014


  • Pupil Absence figures 2012-2013
  • Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance
  • 16- 18 maths guidance
  • 2014-2015 16-19 funding guidance
  • DfE mandatory timeline for maintained schools
  • DfE mandatory timeline for academies
  • GCSE and equivalent results 2012-2013


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