From funding news, staffing concerns, and learning recovery through to inspection insights, curriculum matters and exam issues – make use of our news catch-up to choose which headlines to explore further


Staffing concerns

  • Female headteachers are £17k worse-off by the end of their careers, due to the gender pay gap, found new research by the ASCL and NAHT, with the National Governance Association (NGA) and WomenEd.
  • Two-thirds of school staff said the pandemic has affected their mental health – nearly double the previous year’s rate, according to the annual teacher wellbeing index study produced by the charity Education Support.


Funding news

  • To support schools with staff absences due to Covid, the DfE has reintroduced its workforce fund. It will run from 22 November until the end of term, and is in response to fears about increased classroom disruption from the Omicron variant of the virus.
  • Continued school spending cuts have severely affected the ‘levelling up’ agenda. Education funding has fallen dramatically, while health spending has soared, said a new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The report also said that 3% pay rises for teachers are ‘affordable’. NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman said the ‘report paints a bleak picture of the government’s priorities when it comes to investing in education or supporting our most vulnerable children’.
  • With regards to pay, the start of the month saw Schools Minister Robin Walker confirm that schools will have to fund teacher pay rises from their own budgets for at least the next three years.
  • Academy trusts harbouring ‘substantial reserves’ in their funding need to be investigated, found a new report by the National Audit Office. It also discovered that 90% of schools had cash left over in their 2019-20 accounts, showing how they had ‘held up well’ despite all the national funding cuts.


Inspection spotlight 

  • Ofsted inspections are to continue as normal despite the arrival of the new Omicron Covid variant. The DfE’s updated Covid operational guidance for schools also set out changes to its guidance on the wearing of face masks in schools – in communal areas but not in the classroom.
  • Earlier in the month, Ofsted received a £24m funding boost to accelerate its inspection schedule to cover all schools by 2025. The unions were not impressed. ‘Rather than thinking about how it can increase the number of inspections that take place, Ofsted should be concentrating on how best to support and inspect schools in a post-lockdown world,’ said NAHT Deputy General Secretary Nick Brook.


Examining exams

  • As curriculum leaders prepare for the potential use of teacher-assessed grades for next year’s exams, Ofqual warned schools not to over test students. A ‘sensible approach’ would be one test per term, said the qualifications regulator.
  • Autumn exam entries for students unhappy with their teacher-assessed grades were two-thirds fewer than last year.


Catch-up concerns accumulate

  • Government has ‘abdicated’ its responsibility to lead education recovery from the pandemic. This was the damning accusation made by former recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins, in his speech to the Schools and Academies Show. ‘We have to understand what’s happened, the deep educational trauma that’s happened, if we’re going to rediscover and rebuild in a way I think our children deserve,’ he told delegates.
  • At the start of the month the DfE published its review into the feasibility of extending the school day to help with learning recovery. It concluded that to do so would involve ‘significant’ barriers to rollout.
  • The month began with a survey from the DfE revealing that 40% of schools don’t intend using its National Tutoring Progamme, the key part of its recovery policy. It also revealed teachers were becoming increasingly concerned about pupil behaviour issues as a result of Covid.


Curriculum matters

  • Proposed reforms to modern foreign languages must be rethought now, as they will not increase take-up of the qualifications. This was the urgent advice unions, exam boards and subject associations have given to ministers involved in implementing the reforms. One of the government’s proposals was to make students learn 1,700 frequently-used words.
  • Cull of BTECs is to go at a slower pace, said Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi. Funding will now not be removed until 2024 at the earliest, a year later than the original cull deadline.
  • A £90m arts premium for schools has been ditched by government. One of the pledges made by the Tories in their 2019 general election manifesto has quietly fallen by the wayside, while a planned increase in alcohol was scrapped. This has led to accusations from the arts that the government was prioritising ‘cuts to beer and prosecco over opportunities for young people’.
  • Numbers of pupils entering the Ebacc qualifications have fallen again this year, with the disadvantaged gap widening further.


Photo credit: Pexels

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