From academisation plans to school performance issues through to new SEN review and calls to transform curriculum matters – use our monthly digest to keep abreast of all the key news
Academisation ‘flawed policy’
- Making all schools become academies is a ‘flawed’ policy according to the unions, as they accused the DfE of providing ‘misleading’ data to make these types of schools appear more successful than they actually are. NEU Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney said his union’s analysis of the data showed that ‘there is no compelling reason for a school to join a Trust’. Government ministers themselves called on DfE to ensure they make very clear their ‘overall timetable, milestones and measures of success for academisation’. The report of the Public Accounts Committee also accused the DfE of not being clear on the variation of performance among academies. As a result, it does not know how to ‘best protect the education for pupils taught in financially struggling academies’. A DfE proposal out for consultation will mean coasting schools – those with successive less-than-‘good’ Ofsted inspections – will be forced to become an academy. A 32-hour week for all schools, a new literacy and numeracy random test for Year 9 pupils, and a national behaviour survey are other key ways the White Paper Opportunity for all: Strong schools with great teachers for your child intends to drive up curriculum and teaching standards.
Schools ‘judged unfairly’
- Ofsted will use GCSE results from 2022 to judge the performance of a school’s curriculum. ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton said this was an unfair marker, as due to the pandemic, ‘there cannot possibly be a level playing field in results from tests and exams’. Earlier in the month, the union’s president Pepe Di’Iasio said schools were being ‘thrown to the wolves’ by the government publishing league tables as a performance measure – taking no account of the disruption caused by the pandemic. Ofsted said it would ‘ensure clear messages are placed on performance tables to advise caution when considering the 2021/22 data’. New DfE figures out this month revealed that in 2020-21 pupils missed 269 million days learning in school due to absences because of Covid.
‘End SEN postcode lottery’
- Schools must be more inclusive of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEN). The government’s SEND review wants there to be a better standard of provision across the board – to end the current postcode lottery. Earlier intervention, more accountability, an ‘inclusion dashboard’ for parents are among the measures proposed by the Green Paper.
Budget ‘ignores school funding crisis’
- Not addressing the school funding crisis in the Spring budget is a grave error, unions told Chancellor Rishi Sunak. ‘The refusal to increase education funding in the face of this inflation surge signals a return to the austerity of the 2010s,’ said NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted. ‘Soaring inflation’ is going to put schools under even more pressure than they are experiencing already, said ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton.
‘Create a curriculum for childhood’
- Our national curriculum needs to be slimmed down to create more space for schools to create the best approach for their students, and shape a ‘curriculum for childhood’. This was the rallying call made by ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton at his union’s annual conference this month. ‘We need instead a curriculum for childhood, a sense of what our young people at various ages need to know, need to be able to do, need to have experienced, especially in such uncharted times,’ he told delegates.
Tutoring funds to go straight to schools
- From next year all funding for the National Tutoring Programme will go straight to schools – according to an interview with the Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
Photo credit: Shutterstock/Anna Baburkina