Archive | April, 2019

Our responsibility for vulnerable pupils: landmark exclusion cases

18 Apr

I        Duty of care for vulnerable pupils

The ground on which bulls fight suffers the most. Bulls may damage each other, but it is the battleground that is smothered.   This is what happens when it comes to caring for and educating children, especially the vulnerable ones: the bulls are the adults, the ground the children.    We adults often forget that, we have a profound duty of care for our youngsters and sometimes fall well short of discharging our responsibilities towards them.

While battles rage about how schools and academies should be judged, and they are compared to one another by the Department for Education (DfE), Ofsted, the politicians, school and academy governors, education leaders, parents, academics and consultants (the bulls), the children (the ground) suffers.  The most vulnerable children – those with special educational needs and disabilities – suffer more than most.  In the academic year 2016/17, the latest year for which these statistics are available, SEND pupils constituted nearly 50% of permanent exclusions.  These children were six times more likely to be permanently excluded than those without special needs.  Often, the covert reasons for excluding them is so that the schools and academies can raise their positions in the test and examination league tables.

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Relationships and sex education guidance updated after nineteen years.

18 Apr

The updated draft guidance on sex and health education was published on 25 February 2019 following the first draft on which the government consulted over 2017 and 2018.  This includes minor changes. The public’s response to the government’s consultations elicited widespread opposition to some Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) elements in its guidance.

From 2020, relationships, sex and health education will be compulsory in all secondary schools and academies, while all primaries will have to teach relationships and health education.  Currently, academies are not compelled to teach this subject because they don’t follow the national curriculum.

Schools and academies “must have regard” to the guidance, and “where they depart from those parts of the guidance which state that they should (or should not) do something they will need to have good reasons for doing so”.

The document includes several aspects of the subject pupils should know by the end of certain stages. There are too many to go into here.

The rest of the article is based on the briefing that The Key, a governors’ services organisation, has given to its members, for which I am deeply grateful.

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Character education to be brought centre-stage

18 Apr

On 7 February 2019, secretary of state Damian Hinds pledged that the government would develop benchmarks for character education.  Schools and academies will be invited to assess themselves against these criteria.   The first step he will take is to appoint an advisory group to make proposals to grow “character and resilience” in pupils and propose benchmarks against which schools/academies will be rated in the area.

The benchmarks are to mirror the Gatsby ones for careers guidance. Gatsby benchmarks are statutory. (See Annex.)  Schools/academies must use them to rate their own work on careers.  However, no action – punitive or otherwise – will be taken by the government against institutions that fail to comply with them.

Addressing the Church of England’s Foundation for Educational Leadership conference, the education secretary said he expected the advisory group to report its recommendations in September, “with a view to implementing next year”.

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