Various pressure groups continue to pursue the question of exclusions, with Lord Baker, no less, declaring that heads’ capacity to expel children had “now grown out of all proportion”. Some recent developments as we publish include the suggestion that gangs are deliberately encouraging children to take knives to school so that they can be permanently excluded and then be ‘groomed’ to be useful gang auxiliaries. There has also been a focus on ‘exclusion rooms’ in schools. A survey appeared to show widely different practice was encompassed by this term, from ‘silent cells’ to working away from other pupils. The one thing that appears to be held in common is that these systems are designed to prevent exclusion from school.
Perhaps the whole debate is missing other facts: that according to a study of 5,000 15- to 18-year-olds by the charity Action for Children, 33 per cent felt depressed; had problems sleeping; struggled to shake of negative feelings; and found it hard to focus on a regular basis; and that other surveys have noted that there has been a 50% rise in suicides in at-risk children since 2014-15; and that 5000 additional children in the last year were referred to social services. Schools may reasonably argue that they are not the only influence on children’s behaviour and mental health.
Violence Against Teachers
As the exclusion issue continued to engage discussion and the suggestion was made that schools should stagger the end of the school day to cut knife crime, an MP asked the Prime Minister about violence against teachers. Her concern had been raised by her discovering that every one of a group of primary heads in her apparently pleasant constituency had been attacked either by parents or children. The Prime Minister said that she was “certainly happy to look at the issue”.
Consultation on School Security Guidance
On 26th November the DfE launched a consultation on a draft document of updated guidance on school security. The draft guidance is available here and the consultation document is available here. The document is intended to be a practical guide and would no doubt benefit from responses from practical people in schools. We will go into detail on the subject when the final version of the guide is published.
Consultation on Mandatory Reporting of Forced Marriage
Following up the mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation, the Home Office has launched a consultation (15 November 2018, closing on 23 January 2019) on whether there should be mandatory reporting of forced marriage. It seems a short period for so controversial an issue. The consultation paper, however, is open-minded and discusses which groups should be reported: known cases; suspected cases; or those just at risk. It lays out fairly the risks of mandatory reporting when failure to report involves a penalty: that communities would feel targeted and lose touch; that an increase in referrals would swamp services; and/or that this would lead to a disproportionate emphasis on forced marriage at the expense of other child protection issues. It asks whether it should apply to under-16s only; to other vulnerable persons; or to other age bands of young people. It touches on whether there should be the victim’s consent to report and whether the sanction for a failure to report should be criminal proceedings or proceedings before a professional regulator. Forced marriage is a crime. It is important that all those concerned make their voices heard so as to bring the best possible outcome without deleterious unintended consequences.
Curriculum Slides from Ofsted
Ofsted has now published 24 slides within which summarise its assumptions on the curriculum and its management. These will drive the consultation document on the new framework for inspection which will come out in the New Year. Ofsted has developed by observation ‘common curriculum factors’ to use as ‘quality indicators’ which can stand as evaluation criteria. These factors are:
- Focus on subject disciplines
- Depth and breadth of content
- Seeing the curriculum as the progression model
- Clear purpose for assessment
- Reviewing and evaluating curriculum design
- Clear (though possibly distributed) curriculum leadership
- Considering local context and filling gaps from pupils’ backgrounds
It was reported that Ofsted are looking at 8 more suspected illegal schools.
How safe are your notice boards? No sooner have schools realised the danger from asbestos notice boards, than an MP points out that some alternative materials used for notice boards are also sold as firelighters. Something else for the school’s risk management executive to check.
The ‘Little Extra’ Money
It has been made clear in post-budget papers that the Chancellor’s ‘little extra’ money will be paid to trusts who can then decide which schools get the money. It will be possible for a trust to aggregate the money and give it all, or a substantial part of it, to a single school in the MAT which has a particularly pressing need for a larger amount.
The NSPCC raised a concern that a quarter of all 7-16 year olds had live-streamed a video of themselves (29% of secondary pupils). Google, meanwhile, claimed it was ‘unfair’ that it should be expected to reduce on-line pornography.
In an attempt to reduce workload, the DfE has committed to telling trusts and local authorities that they should not ask for additional school-generated data on targets and predictions to hold schools to account. The government has also updated its guidance on the reliability of data, pointing out that teacher appraisals should not be solely based on data for single groups of pupils, or on teacher-generated data.
This could have a major impact as almost two-thirds of teachers (60 per cent) in a survey of more than 2,000 teachers on Teacher Tapp, a teacher survey app, said their appraisal discussions involved teacher-generated data and predictions. Academy leaders claimed that using only government figures and not predictions from school-generated data would mean that they did not have the real-time data to offer support when it was needed.
Recommended Christmas reading: ‘The Tyranny of Metrics’ by Jerry Z. Muller
The Department for Education has also confirmed plans to simplify the school accountability system that were first announced back in May by the Secretary of State.
Floor and coasting standards will only be used as a means to alert the Government to which schools need extra support, rather than as a trigger for conversion into an academy. In future, where a school is judged by Ofsted as ‘Requires Improvement’ in two inspections, it will receive support from a high-performing school leader, as well as access to up to £16,000.
The ‘coasting’ measure will no longer be used as the starting point of a formal intervention. Regional Schools Commissioners will no longer issue warning notices to schools on educational grounds unless they have been rated inadequate by Ofsted. This seems to be a move to use judgement alongside metrics and as such chimes with HMCI’s statements on future inspection approaches.
Key performance Indicators for RSCs
It is interesting to note that Regional Schools Commissioners have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) just like everyone else in education. They are:
KPI 1i) Time taken for academies, free schools, UTCs and studio schools to move out from below the floor category
KPI 1ii) Number and percentage of academies, free schools, UTCs and studio schools in Ofsted inadequate category for more than 18 months
KPI 1iii) Number and percentage of academies rated Ofsted inadequate within the first three years
KPI 1iv) Number and percentage of academies at key stage 2 and 4 below the floor standard within the first three years
KPI 1v) Number and percentage of free schools, academies and sponsored academies that are good or outstanding
KPI 3) Number and percentage of LA-maintained schools opened as new sponsored academies within nine months of an inadequate rating, broken down by:
1: Inadequate schools that opened as sponsored academies between August 1, 2016, and July 31, 2017
2: Schools rated inadequate after April 18, 2016 that opened as a sponsored academy between August 1, 2016, to July 31, 2017
KPI 4i) Number and percentage of schools in a multi-academy trust, as at September 21, 2017
KPI 4ii) Number and percentage of MATs open for three years and over, that have three or fewer schools, as at September 21, 2017
The variation on performance between highest and lowest Commissioners in some categories can be as high as 20%.
Ahead of Anti-Bullying Week, the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) presented the findings of a poll on bullying.
45 per cent of the young people who were questioned claimed to have been bullied face-to-face at least once in the last six months, and 34 per cent claimed to have been bullied online in the same period.
87 per cent reported seeing children bullying each other,
76 per cent saw it at school; 34 per cent witnessed it online; 27 per cent in their communities.
Meanwhile, an un-named local authority has paid a five-figure sum in an out-of-court settlement of a claim against it for the sexual assault on a six-year-old child by other pupils at her primary school. Peer on peer sexual assault was belatedly added to the bullying guidance from the DfE and regrettably, with the spread of online pornography, has become normalised in some areas. Schools need to be as aware of this threat to children in their care as they are to the threat of sexual abuse from adults. Perhaps it takes legal action against the responsible authority to persuade schools to take the matter seriously; or perhaps, like other bullying, it is hard for schools to identify, spot and work against. Whatever the cause, schools clearly have more to do; fifteen police forces told BBC News they had recorded a total of 593 allegations of sex offences on school premises last year involving under-18-year-olds as both perpetrator and victim.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, has pressed for the removal of VAT on school uniforms above a certain size (at present prevented by EU law) and also for suppliers and schools to reduce the cost. He was quoted as saying, “When the schools went back a few weeks ago, all too many parents were struggling to put food on the table because they’d had to fork out hundreds of pounds for their children’s new school uniforms and PE kits.” With reported costs for some school uniforms of branded blazers at more than £90, socks at £15 a pair, skirts at £57, hats at nearly £28 and jumpers at more than £20 each, it may be that he has a point.
Vicarious Liability - Staff Parties
It is to be hoped that school staff parties do not involve participants then going on to another venue where a senior member of staff harangues the others when they complain of a new member’s pay, and then, words being insufficient, attacks someone. Recently the Appeal Court gave its judgement in a long-running case with these facts and ruled that the employer was vicariously liable for the assault as the manager had a wide responsibility and the discussion was work-related. You have been warned. And it might be worth warning others too.
He's making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Or perhaps he’s in breach of the General Data Protection Regulation? Let alone the Elf on the Shelf. In which case...
Thoughts for the Christmas Quiz
Which contemporary-seeming thinker said:
‘Our present system (of education) is a deplorable failure....the larger number leave school...altogether content with their own astonishing and consummate ignorance.’
‘There’s modern education for you. Even when he was a child he was allowed to do as he liked.’
‘The People consists of idiots.’
‘In all bureaucracies there are three infallible spirits -
self-perpetuation, expansion, and an incessant demand for more power.’
‘...such a one as loves God with all his soul, but hates his neighbour with all his heart.’
‘There are three things against which the human mind struggles in vain: bureaucracy, stupidity and catch words.’
‘A lot of clever people have got everything except judgement.’
‘The only class for which...technical education is never proposed is the class for which it is most necessary - I mean our rulers.’
‘The future ain’t what it used to be.’
‘He was one of those men, more common in Victorian times...who sought personal power through buffoonery.’
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