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Green Paper: Schools that work for everyone

1 Jan

I        Preamble

On 12 September, the Government published the Green Paper, Schools that work for everyone, which the Department for Education (DfE) has taken off the websiteThe deadline for responses was 12 December 2016.   We now have to wait on the Secretary of State, Justine Greening, to give the nation a steer on where she wishes to go from here.

The Green Paper proposed a number of recommendations which, if implemented, will affect four discrete institutions:

  • Independent Schools
  • Universities
  • Selective Schools
  • Free Schools which are faith orientated

The proposals were issued against the background of increasing pressure on school places – especially good ones.  Primary numbers grew by 11% between 2010 and 2016. This will feed into the secondary sector for the rest of the life of this Parliament.   The most recent projections are that the primary school population is estimated to increase by a further 174,000 (3.9%) from the current year to 2020.  The secondary school population will rise by 284,000 (10.3%) over the same period.

While the Green Paper made it abundantly clear that the government would continue to support schools with the Pupil Premium Grant to promote the education of the most socially deprived children in our system – i.e. those entitled to free school meals (FSM) and in care – it expressed government concerns that those children whose families just fail to qualify – i.e. the just about managing (JAM) – were being short-changed.

Children entitled to FSM come from families in one of these classifications. Those in receipt of

  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

This effectively means that if either parent/carer is earning more than £16,190 annually, the child does not qualify for FSM.  In January 2016, the national average for those entitled to FSM was 14.3%. The government is, however, worried about children in families on modest incomes who do not qualify for such benefits but are, nevertheless struggling financially.

Information on the educational achievements of such children is opaque as it melds with data on those who come from well-heeled backgrounds.  Accordingly, the first two questions that the Green Paper posed for us were as follows.

  • How can we identify such children?
  • How can we better understand the impact of policy on a wider cohort of pupils whose life chances are profoundly affected by school but who may not qualify or apply for free school meals?

So what plans does the government has for the four groups set out above?

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Ofsted Annual Report 2015/16

1 Jan


Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI), published his fifth and final Ofsted annual report on the education system in England on Thursday, 1 December 2016.  He retired 30 days later.  In presenting the report, Sir Michael said “a world class education system is within our grasp – but only if serious capacity challenges are urgently addressed”.

Sir Michael stressed that a north/south ‘geographical divide’ meant the ablest pupils in the North and Midlands were less likely to reach A/A* at GCSE. He said: “Standards can only truly be considered high if they are high in every part of the country and for all pupils regardless of background or ability.”

However, his report is, in the main, positive.    The country’s schools/academies, he avers, had made progress over the last five years. Educators could be justly proud.  “Young people are getting a better deal than ever before,” he said.  School/academy leaders responded well to the changes in the system.  The decision to replace the “satisfactory” judgement with “requires improvement” led to schools/academies upping their game, making a greater effort ensuring that pupils are offered the very best possible education.     Of the former 4,800 satisfactory primary schools/academies, 79% were now good or outstanding and, of the previous satisfactory secondary ones, 56% were good or better.

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The Education and Adoption Bill

5 Jan

The Education and Adoption Bill aims to empower the Secretary of State for Education to intervene and convert schools that are not providing suitable education into academies. She will also be authorised to make joint arrangements for carrying out local authority adoption functions in England.

So what are the categories of schools judged to be unsatisfactory which will come under the Secretary of State’s scrutiny? Continue reading

Research reveals that Free Schools cherry-pick pupils

25 Aug

According to recent research carried out by the Institute of Education (IOE) University of London, free schools are not well serving the neediest children in their areas. It shows that schools in this flagship-Government programme are opening in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, but are taking fewer poor children (those receiving free meals) than the other local schools.

Only 17.5% of secondary pupils were entitled to free school meals and 13.5% of primary pupils – compared to averages of 22% and 18% in the neighbourhoods in which they have been established. Continue reading

Academies – Where and What Next?

2 Jan

I           The general picture

Schools continue to apply to become academies.  The Department for Education provides useful guidance on how this can be achieved.  However, the pace of conversion appears to be slackening.   In October 2013, 36 applications were in the pipeline.  Over that month, 22 were approved and 35 new academies opened.   In the country as a whole, there are now 2,481 sponsored and converter academies from a total of 3,254 applications received.   At the time of writing, 441 applications for academy status have been approved but the schools still need to convert.

The thrust for conversion continues to be dominated by the secondary schools, which, because of their larger sizes, have a greater capacity to manage their financial and business affairs than smaller primary schools.  However, fewer than one in eight schools in the country is now an academy. Continue reading

Parents take back-seat in Free School Initiative

27 Aug

The number of Free Schools being established by parents has fallen to 5% of the most recent cohort of state-funded, independent schools.   In May 2013, the government announced that 102 new Free Schools had been approved to open in September 2014 – the fourth wave of free schools, which would bring the total up to 292.  But only 5% of the latest tranche is being spearheaded by parents.  In 2011, when Free Schools were first established, a third were started by parents, the most high-profile of which was the West London Free School of whom Toby Young, a journalist, was one of the founders.  Continue reading