Archive | August, 2013

Assessment and Accountability

30 Aug

It is ironic that while the government proposes reducing red tape in one part of its operations, it increases it in another, i.e. assessment and accountability.  On 17 July 2013, the Department for Education launched a consultation on its proposals to changes it wishes to make to primary assessment and accountability with the objective of ensuring that pupils are “secondary ready” and to raise standards.  It intends to set a new floor standard target from 2016 to ensure that at least 85% of pupils at primary level are ready for secondary school.  It is silent about what will happen to the remaining 15%.

As the DfE is abolishing national curriculum levels, the present requirement for 85% of pupils to attain level 4 in reading, writing and mathematics will no longer apply.  The Standards and Testing Agency is being charged to develop new national curriculum tests and a school will have to ensure that at least 85% of pupils meet the expected level of attainment in these tests.  The tests will also have a value-added progress measure.   This will mean that a school will have to meet the floor target for both, pupil attainment and progress.

Each 11-year-old (except those with profound special needs) will be compared to her/his peers nationally and placed in 10% bands (deciles). This will be reported to the parents of the child.

Responses to the consultation document, which can be accessed here, are invited by 11 October 2013.

Deregulation Bill

30 Aug

On 1 July 2013, the De-regulation Bill was published. The aim of the government is to reduce red tape.   Nearly 2,000 regulations will be either reduced in intensity or removed.  Schools will be affected in the following ways.

(a)  Community and voluntary controlled schools will be given the power to set their own terms dates and holidays. Currently, the local authorities set the term dates and the schools have to comply.  However, powers to set term and holidays reside currently with academies and foundation, free and voluntary aided schools.

(b)  Governors and headteachers of local authority maintained schools in England and Wales will not be required to have regard to the Secretary of State’s statutory guidance in regard to the appointment, discipline, suspension and dismissal of staff members.  Instead, they will be advised about where they can receive expert help and guidance.

(c)  Every school in England will no longer have to produce behaviour principles which the headteacher must take into account when drafting the behaviour policy.  Rather, the governing body will have responsibility for ensuring that the headteacher determines a behaviour policy. The requirement for a governing body to have a home-school agreement will be abolished.

(d)  The governing body will no longer have to send hard copies of the Ofsted inspection report to the parents.  Instead, it will have to notify parents of the results of the inspection and where they may find the full report.   However, the governing body will have to provide hard copies of the inspection report where parents don’t have access to the internet.

(e)  Current legislation which enables the Secretary of State to require the governing body of a maintained school to set annual performance targets for pupils/students for public examination and National Curriculum tests will be repealed.

In the preamble to the Bill, Kenneth Clarke, the Minister without Portfolio, trumpeted that businesses will be freed of red tap when

i.            health and safety rules for the self-employed workers in low-risk occupations (estimated to be about 800,000 people) are scrapped saving £300,000 (circa) a year;

ii.             the system of apprenticeships will be made more flexible and responsive to the needs of employers and the economy as recommended by the Richard Review as a lot of prescriptive detail in current legislation  will be repealed;

For more information, see Deregulation Act 2014.

Changes to pupil attendance regulations

30 Aug

New regulations vis-à-vis the attendance of pupils came into force on 1 September 2013.  (See here.)

Previously, a headteacher could grant a pupil/student leave of absence for the purpose of a family holiday during term time in “special circumstances” of up to 10 school days per year.   The headteacher could also grant extended leave for more than 10 school days in exceptional circumstances.  The revised regulations make no reference to family holidays and make it patently clear that leave of absence may only be approved in exceptional circumstances.  Term-time holidays now become unauthorised absences.

Also, the new regulations allow a school to delete a pupil from the admissions register where she/he has ceased to be of compulsory school age and failed to meet the academic requirement for entry to the sixth form.  This provision brings the regulations into line with the School Admissions Code 2012 which permits a school to set academic requirement for entry to the sixth form.

School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances)(England) Regulations 2013 take effect from 1 September 2013

30 Aug

The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 took effect from 1 September 2013.   The regulations, which can be seen here, replace three existing sets: the Procedure Regulations, the Terms of Reference Regulations and the Allowance Regulations.

In the main, the regulations mirror what has been previous practice.  However, the following is worth noting.

(1)        The governing body is free to determine the date on which the terms of office of the chair and vice chair will end.   It is important to specify this in the minutes of the meeting at which they are appointed.  [See Regulation 7(2).]

(2)        A governor who is paid to work at the school or who is a pupil at the school is not eligible to be the chair or vice chair of the governing body at that school. [See Regulation 7(3).]

(3)        The governing body may approve alternative arrangements for governors to participate or vote at meetings of the governing body including but not limited to telephone or video conferencing.   [See Regulations 14(8).]  This is very welcome as there are often compelling reasons why governors may not be able to attend meetings albeit they are keen to participate in the discussions and decision-making process.  The regulation also recognises the value of new forms of communication – especially via cyberspace.

The National Governors’ Association (NGA) – see here – plans to produce guidance and a question-answer paper on the regulations which will be available to its members.

Daniel Pelka – another victim in child abuse saga

30 Aug

I           The child the agencies failed

While our agencies have generally improved their policies and practices in safeguarding children, it appears that it is impossible for us to stem the tide of casualties because children suffer abuse at the hand of relatives and those who know them well, people who are supposed to love them.    Some of the most famous are Jasmine Beckford in Brent (1984), Victoria Climbié in Haringey (1999), Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgshire (2002) and Baby Peter Connolly in Haringey (2009).

And now we have Daniel Pelka, the four-year-old of Polish origin.  He suffered extreme privations at the hands of his mother, Magdelena Luczak (27), and her partner, Mariusz Krezolek (33), who were convicted of murdering him and sentenced to life imprisonment on 2 August 2013 to serve a minimum term of 30 years.

Daniel was the subject of such severe cruelty just prior to his death that his sibling felt it necessary to squirrel food away for him while he was being starved by these two.    Luczak and Krezolek force-fed him with salt, held him under water in a bath until unconscious and regularly beat him.  Daniel was also imprisoned in a box-room and died alone in the dark from a head injury in March 2013.

Daniel appeared to be a happy child when he started at Little Heath Primary School in Coventry.  However, teachers noticed that he became “thinner and thinner in front of their eyes” and observed that his uniform was “hanging off him”.  His lunch box frequently contained only half-a-sandwich. So hungry was he that he scooped up food from the school bins.  Daniel weighed just over a stone and a half at the time of his death. Continue reading

Why and how should governors visit their school?

27 Aug

A central part of governors’ functions is to promote accountability – theirs to the parents and the senior management to them.  Governors who succeed know their school well.   They are able to give parents and account of how well the school is doing and hold senior managers to account.   They keep themselves informed by triangulating – i.e. garnering information from third-, second- and first-hand sources.

Governors generally receive well-balanced reports periodically on their school through Ofsted and the local authority in which the school is sited – third-hand sources.   The headteacher plays a lead and critical role in reporting on the school to governors at the meetings of the governing body and its committees – a second-hand source.   The chair is in a more privileged position to receive second-hand information though regular meetings that she/he has with the headteacher in between meetings to keep abreast of developments.   Occasionally, governors receive positive and (sometimes) negative and unsolicited reports on their schools from the parents of pupils – another source for second-hand information.

However, as important as the above mechanisms for learning about the school are, it could just be possible that the whole story is not being told to governors.  Hence they need to secure information on their school through first-hand sources.  This can best be done by directly visiting the school in a planned and orderly manner. Continue reading

School Governance grows in prominence and importance

27 Aug

(1)       Expectations of Governors

School governance in England can described as the Cinderella of leadership and management in education.   Much is expected of governors – particularly by the government and Ofsted inspectors – but there is little acknowledgement of the nature of governors’ voluntary work and their time commitment.   The list of responsibilities is bewildering and includes the following.

(i)         Carry out statutory duties associated with school education

(ii)        Understand the strengths and weaknesses of the school

(iii)       Ensure clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction

(iv)       Understand and take sufficient account of pupil data – especially in regard to the progress made

(v)        Be aware of the impact of teaching on learning and progress in different subjects and year-groups

(vi)       Challenge and supporting leadership in equal measure

(vii)      Provide support for an effective headteacher

(viii)     Understand how the school makes decisions about teachers’ salary progression

(ix)       Performance-managing the headteacher rigorously.

Governors are also expected to ensure that the school’s finances are properly managed including the use of the Pupil Premium.

If inspectors find evidence of weaknesses, they will follow it up assiduously. For example, if safeguarding arrangements do not meet required standards, they will take it into account when evaluating governance and judging leadership and management. Similarly, if pupils’ performance is in decline and the governors have not pursued this issue effectively with the headteacher, the inspectors will mark them down and the judgement of leadership and management will be poor. Continue reading