From catch-up progress, and Ofsted’s view on inspections, through to funding reviews, and SEND concerns – make use of our monthly news digest to choose which headlines to explore further
Schools saved money due to Covid, says DfE
- Schools have saved money because of Covid, according to recent DfE figures. Site closures and cancelled exams helped to offset extra staffing, cleaning and other Covid costs. Energy bills were also reduced as a result. But costs rose in other areas, such as ICT needed to provide remote learning. But overall schools are in a better financial condition than pre-pandemic, said the DfE report. This year saw a combined £104 million increase in schools’ surplus funds to £379 in total.
DfE workers to become supply teachers
- In a bid to tackle expected school staffing shortages due to Covid absences, the DfE said it would release some of its eligible civil servants to work as supply teachers. It also set up an online portal to match ex-teachers to supply agencies.
Catch-up progress examined
- Schools are making mixed progress with catch-up, as reported by inspectors on this year’s Ofsted visits. Covid-related absences continued to disrupt learning. New Year 7 pupils ‘arrived with lower starting points than previous years’. Most schools had responded well by adapting their curriculum for learning recovery. Many focused their catch-up on reading and English. Some used the funding for one-to-one or group interventions, but many used their own staff to deliver this. Meanwhile, data from the National Reference Tests (NRTs) showed maths has declined, while English performance has remained stable. Three years’ of progress in maths made since the tests were introduced in 2016 has been reversed, found the analysis by Ofqual. Meanwhile, funding for catch-up ‘may be insufficient’ to help pupils recover learning lost during the pandemic, revealed the DfE’s annual report.
Extra cash for disadvantaged
- Schools in three areas of disadvantage are to be given £10m extra catch-up cash to help them overcome learning loss in maths and literacy. The target areas are the north of England, East Midlands and Humber and the West Midlands.
Ofsted ‘cherry-picked’ results from inspection survey
- Nine out of 10 schools inspected since September said it was a positive visit – according to Ofsted. But school leaders accused the inspectorate of cherry-picking findings from their survey results, and refusing to release all the data to give a more accurate picture. Meanwhile, one-quarter of schools requesting that their inspection be deferred were turned down by Ofsted.
‘Keep it simple’, says Ofsted
Keep it simple when preparing for an Ofsted inspection – seeking advice from expensive consultants will likely only overcomplicate matters and ‘divert your energy’ from the core ways to prepare. This was the advice of two inspectors from Ofsted’s curriculum team. They went on to give advice to schools on how to be ready for their inspection visit.
Few changes to TAG grades
- Just 195 of 5.7 million GCSE and A-level teacher assessed grades (TAGS) were changed following quality assurance by exam boards, according to Ofqual’s summer report.
Mental health teams roll-out plan
- To help maintain progress on providing mental health support to school, MPs called for urgent funding to provide support teams to all schools by 2027/28.
Review of SEND ‘taking too long’
- Review of SEND provision has ‘taken too long’ and communications with parents has been ‘regrettable’ – these were some of the remarks made by Children’s Minister Will Quince to the Parliamentary education committee‘s recent accountability hearing. Committee Chair Sir Robert Halfon told the MP that many SEND pupils’ education experiences were ‘nothing short of appalling’.
Academy accounts cause concern
- Academies have increased the amount of cash they are keeping in reserves, more trusts are facing investigation over high pay rates, while an increasing number have been found to have breached spending rules. The delayed report from the DfE on academies’ accounts makes for grim reading. The number of trusts paying at least one employee more than £150k/year has increased by almost 40%. COVID was blamed in a number of cases for the flouting of spending rules.
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