Education Bulletin Brief Alerts - September 2018

Face covering

In the coarsening debate on hair and face covering the Chief Inspector made it clear in a speech to the think tank Policy Exchange that Ofsted does not expect schools to allow themselves to be dictated to by minority groups on whether or not to allow the hijab for young pupils or to separate boys and girls or to be told what they may or may not teach.

Selective schools

Applications to the governments expansion scheme suggest an increase of more than 5000 selective school places in the next five years, mostly, but not only, from an increase in year 7 intakes working their way through schools.

Interestingly Toby Young, the promoter of free schools, has recently argued that studio schools and UTCs should be able to select their pupils. ‘Children should be selected for these schools because they have a particular gift for this type of education, not herded into them because they lack the ability to cope with academic subjects.’

Home Education

In their response to the government’s consultation on home education the Association of Directors of Children’s Services have raised a number of concerns. In particular they are concerned that ‘In terms of monitoring provision, there is no legal definition or national guidelines on what constitutes a ‘suitable', ‘effective' or ‘full-time' programme of education in the home to assist with this task, resulting in a degree of variation in approaches from place to place.’ They believe that the response to inadequate home education is not tighter and more extensive monitoring but a return to school and are concerned that obtaining a School Attendance Order through the courts is lengthy and difficult. They are also concerned about ‘off-rolling,’ as it has now become known, where schools encourage parents to home-school their difficult children. They suggest a ‘cooling off’ period when parents can have the implications of home school explained fully to them.

Careers Hubs

In July the government announced the roll-out of ‘careers hubs’ in twenty areas to enable schools to meet their legal obligations on careers information. Of England’s 38 local enterprise partnerships, 30 applied to join the initiative and 20 were successful.

Schools are required to give training companies access to their pupils. From September of this year they must have a named ‘careers leader’ in place and publish details of their careers programmes. By the end of 2020, schools will be obliged to offer every pupil at least seven “meaningful encounters” with employers over the course of their school career and meet all eight of the government-endorsed ‘Gatsby benchmarks’ of good careers education:

 ‘A stable careers programme; learning from career and labour-market information; addressing the needs of each pupil; linking curriculum to careers; encounters with employers and employees; experience of workplaces; encounters with further and higher education; and personal guidance.’

The careers hubs will be set up by existing local enterprise partnerships. They will offer bursaries to train careers leaders in schools. Each hub will employ a lead to coordinate activity and build networks and funding for schools to improve employer encounters. There will also be a “central hub fund” equivalent to £1,000 per school or college, although it is not yet clear how that money will be spent.

Education, Care and Health Plans

A confusion which arose when a senior Ofsted Inspector suggested that schools had a responsibility to challenge health and social care over Education, Care and Health Plans was clarified when Ofsted agreed that there was no legal responsibility for schools to do so. However, they did make it clear that without a challenge the integrated support that the plans were intended to provide might not happen and that schools should work with local authorities to make that challenge.

Work on Site

In a recent case the Health and Safety Executive obtained convictions of a contractor for building work and its director, but also the client. The client was sentenced to 200 hours of community service. It is a reminder that while it is unlikely that schools would negligently permit grossly unsafe work to be done on their sites, there can be a personal as well as a corporate responsibility where a client fails to check on the effectiveness of health and safety precautions.

Transfers

The number of academies being moved from trust to trust is increasing: 30% up in 2017-2018. It was 255 in 2017-18, By comparison in 2013-2014 only 21 academies were transferred. Since 2013-14 £22,892,700 has been spent in grant funding for transferring academies, according to data published by the Department for Education.

Exclusions and Violence

There was a good deal of talk over the holiday period, including from the Serious Violence Strategy group in the Home Office, about school exclusions contributing to the increase in stabbing and other violent crime. A guerrilla posting campaign on the London Underground made the same point. However, the exclusion figures published at the end of the Summer Term suggest the opposite: that schools are reacting to violence brought into schools. 26,695 pupils were given a fixed-term exclusion for assaulting adults in 2016-17, compared with 23,440 in the previous year, and permanent exclusions rose for the same offence from 730 to 745. Permanent exclusions resulting from assaults on pupils rose to 1,025 from 825, over the same period. Similarly, there were 64,355 fixed-term exclusions for attacks on pupils in 2016-17, up from 59,880 a year earlier.

Worryingly, 105 pupils were permanently excluded for sexual misconduct in 2016-17, compared with 70 a year earlier. The incidence of sexual assault in schools, up to and including rape, appears to be linked to the exposure of pupils to pornography.  Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project, told the Edinburgh Book Festival that a rape a day was being committed in British schools during term time. The rise in online pornography had warped the view of some teenage boys, leaving them to believe making girls cry was a 'part of foreplay'. 

Holding Schools to Account

A difference seemed to be appearing between Ofsted and the Department for Education over the role of examinations in holding schools to account. While Ofsted, according to leaks, is going to replace examination scores as an ‘outcome’ by ‘quality of education’ in an attempt to prevent schools from being ‘exam factories,’ the Department has responded by saying that English examinations are ‘on a par with the best in the world’ and that schools already had to provide a broad and balanced curriculum. What neither party appeared to be considering was the ‘comparable outcomes’ basis of grades: ‘one consequence of [the comparable outcomes] approach is that it is less likely that schools as a whole will be able to evidence improvement with better exam results, year after year’ (Head of Ofqual 2012).

Other Examination News

The summer was inevitably full of examination news. Ofqual reduced the pass grade for Upper Tier Science to prevent unsuitably entered candidates from ending up unclassified. The Department for Education proposed to reduce the emphasis on Progress 8 in the case of UTCs ‘to make much clearer the special considerations that apply in the case of these institutions, with respect to Progress 8.’ Sir John Dunford is to lead an investigation in to how to prevent cheating in examinations and has invited leading internet companies to take part. And it became general knowledge that examination boards were marketing GCSE-style exams for Year 7 pupils. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools was quoted as saying ‘It’s deeply worrying to see secondary schools being encouraged to teach children narrowly to tests right from age 11.’ We wait to see how that view is expressed in the new Ofsted framework and on the ground.

ESFA Developments

The ESFA is now tendering for organisations to supply, manage and accredit Schools Resource Management Advisers (SRMAs). The announcement states:

‘We are looking for:

  • multiple organisations to recruit and manage the supply of SRMAs
  • one organisation to develop and deliver induction and an accreditation process

It is also asking for volunteers to assist in work to improve the data collections service (the Hub) to

  • make it quicker and easier for providers
  • bring it into line with GOV.UK standards
  • future-proof the service’

The ESFA is promising to publish regular updates on progress over coming weeks and is inviting users who would like to take part in their beta research to complete a short survey.

Asbestos

A cautionary tale from Scotland is contained in a council report that describes how teachers, janitors, cleaners and other workers were wrongly allowed on premises for five days following an asbestos incident. A worker was using a hammer and chisel to remove plasterboard facing and infill panelling above fire doors. The infill panel kept snapping. Someone raised concern was raised about the nature of the material and it was decided it possibly contained asbestos. It was duly double-bagged and left beside a skip. So far, so good. But the site was ‘not safe’ as the area had ‘not been correctly decontaminated and isolated to prevent access by other users of the building’. It was five days before emergency procedures were initiated. The relevant line-manager ‘forgot about it.’ The Health and Safety Executive are investigating.

Admissions

The DfE has published the figures for admission appeals this year. They can be found here. It seems as if to be successful one should live in a shire county and on no account try to appeal in a London borough or Birmingham. The complexities of running admissions though, were shown by a recent decision against Nottinghamshire County Council. The Council decided to abandon sibling priority in admissions. When subsequently this was ruled unfair by the Schools Adjudicator, two families were awarded £500 a year for the difficulty that they would have in managing a situation where their primary age children were at different schools and £250 for distress. The reason for these awards was that between the admissions appeal and the ruling on the fairness of the admissions process the school had become an academy and no substitute appeal could be arranged by the Council.

And finally

In a landmark case the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that a German school needed permission from a photographer to post on its website a child’s project which included one of his photographs. The photographer had sued the school for €400. You have been warned!

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