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The government has launched a consultation paper on section 6.2 of the ‘scheme for financing schools’ guidance, with the desire to include admission appeals as one of the services that a local authority can charge school budgets for agreed services. The proposal is aimed at seeking views on the proposed changes on how local authorities are able to include funding for admission appeals in their financial management schemes. The government requires local authorities to publish schemes for financing schools as well as setting out the financial relationship between the schools they finance. The aim of this consultation is to provide additional flexibility for funding admission appeals. The target group for the consultation are school Governors, chief finance officers and finance officers at local authorities, chairs and clerks of school forums, Diocesan representatives and other interested parties. The consultation was issued on November, 2015 and participants are required to respond with their views by December, 2015.

Local authorities are required by paragraph 1.14 of the School Admissions Appeals code to ‘allocate reasonable funds to governing bodies of maintained schools which are admission authorities to meet admission appeals costs’. This mandate was changed during the 2013 to 2014 funding reforms which removed the ability of local authorities to specifically allocate funding for own admissions authorities and also ended the separate grant paid to academies for admissions. The changes will therefore allow local authorities to offer appeals services to schools which local authorities are the admission authority, and also to use their powers under the Financial Management Scheme to charge those schools. All other schools would be required to handle their own admission appeals with funding for this service included in their delegated budget, with no support from local authorities. The theme of the proposed changes is based on ‘costs incurred by the authority in administering admissions appeals, where the local authority is the admissions authority and the funding for admission appeals has been delegated to all schools as part of their formula allocation’ – Section 6.2.20 of the Scheme for financing schools.

According to the Scheme, the following are some of the circumstances in which charges may apply:

  • Where a court or a tribunal has awarded cost against the local authority due to the action or inaction of a school that has failed to heed to an advice.
  • Where a local authority has carried out a health and safety check and the expenditure has been allocated for by the governors’ in the school budget.
  • Defects in buildings corrected by the local authority where provision has already been made in budget but the school has failed to deliver.
  • Compensation paid to a lender where a school enters into a contract for borrowing beyond its legal powers, and the contract is of no effect.

The recently published spending review and autumn statement 2015 by the Chancellor of the Exchequers looked at the government’s economic plans committing £4 trillion on its priorities over the next 4 years. The statement covered all spheres of economic activities in the country. The overriding aim of the review is to ‘set out a 4 year plan to fix the public finances, return the country to surplus and run a healthy economy that starts to reduce the government debts’. The debate prior to the announcement was the much anticipated cuts to public spending and where the axe was going to fall and by how much. The education sector was spared the chancellor’s cuts and the following summary for the sector attest to the importance of the department to the government and the country as a whole.

The education sector’s share....

  • £23 billion capital investment to open 500 free schools, create 600,000 school places, over 500 schools to be refurbished and ensure a sustained maintenance culture for all school properties throughout the country.
  • The school budget is to be protected in real terms ensuring that the pupil premium and the dedicated school grant that has rescued many pupils from poor background could continue.
  • Free childcare is to be increased from 15 to 30 hours a week for working families with kids aged 3 – 4. An amount of £5,000 will be paid per child per year starting from September 2017.
  • The government will invest an additional £1 billion more a year by 2019 to 2020 on free childcare places for 2 – 3 and 4 year olds.
  • It is anticipated that over £600 million will be saved from the education services grant and this will be invested in supporting schools to realise efficiencies in their finances.

The chancellor has argued that investing in education and skills will help deliver economic security’, however, the needs of teachers and facilitators at the forefront of ensuring the economic success of the policies announced in parliament will need to be addressed. It has always been the aim of the government that every child will have the opportunity to fulfil their potential irrespective of their socio economic background. It is believed by the government that the level of budget provided for this parliament will help ensure that every child in the country is given the said opportunity to achieve their talent.

Maths teachers from Shanghai – China, have been welcomed into the country by the Minister of State for Schools, for the England – China teaching exchange programme. School pupils from China have been performing exceedingly well in published International league tables in maths, it therefore came as no surprise that an alliance has been formed for the Chinese to exchange ideas with teachers as well as pupils on skills and teaching methods on the all important subject. The importance of China in the world economic order cannot be overemphasised. The government recently pledged an amount of £10 million for the teaching of Mandarin to 5,000 pupils across the country, with the view of helping children speak fluently in the language. Teaching methods and culture between the two countries differ and it is not going to be easy for pupils from England to master the rigorous and the strict rules in schools across China, however, it is worth a try in a different way to compete with the best in the world.

The Minister identified three core features that underpin the success of maths education and teaching in Shanghai. ‘High quality resources’ according to the minister was invaluable in making sure that teachers impart a detailed step by step guide path for pupils to understand the intricate of the subject. Pupils’ understanding however slow it may be is not left to chance; each lesson is a well planned, purposeful and precise making sure that pupils appreciate and live the subject. Teaching in China involves a clear whole class teaching instructions with minimal input from pupils. A study conducted by a researcher at the University of Southampton has concluded that, whole class teaching in China amounts to 72% as compared to 24% lesson time in England. The research involved testing 562 nine and ten year olds from England and China using the test from the International research project TIMSS. Pupils from China on average scored 83% as compared to 56% for pupils from England. There is a strong believe in China that maths is for all pupils and not a preserve of a selected few with special academic abilities. This principle permeates the thinking underlining the studying and teaching of the subject, thus there is a ‘can do’ attitude and confidence amongst pupils when it come to learning of maths in the country.
Drive to get more teachers into the classroom underway.

A new advertisement calling on more people to consider teaching as a profession has been lunched. The ad which features talented and successful teachers in the trade encourages experienced professionals as well as graduates to consider teaching as a career. This year’s campaign is under the theme, ‘Your Future: Their Future’. The department for education has indicated that around 35,000 trainee teachers are needed to be recruited annually around the country. The nationwide campaign will feature on channels such as ITV, channel 4, channel 5 as well as online slot and video on demand. The Education Secretary who supported the launching of the programme reiterated the importance of great teachers to the development of children in the country. She indicated that the new campaign will attract top graduates and talented persons who will help inspire young people, open doors to their future and fulfil their full potential in life. It is envisaged that the programme will help attract professionals from other fields who would like to join the teaching profession.

The government has already initiated a generous scheme of scholarships to top graduates trainees that agree to be trained in subjects that are in short supply. £30,000 tax free for graduates with first class degree training to teach physics, this amount was an increase from £25,000 during the last academic year. Graduates with a second class upper degree in physics will continue to receive £25,000. Trainees studying other EBacc subjects such as biology, maths, chemistry, computing, languages and geography will receive £25,000. The challenges that teachers face in classrooms across the country are well documented, however, more incentives to attract top graduates to augment the dedicated teachers across the country will be a step in the right direction for education in the country. It is important for the profession to attract not only brilliant minds, but dedicated and committed individuals who are prepared to sacrifice their time for the betterment and the well being of our future generation. A participant of the programme recently remarked that the joy of seeing a pupil develops their skills and knowledge in the profession is like a ‘light bulb experience’. It is anticipated that many great minds will heed to the call of the ad to help the young ones to achieve their full potentials in life.

The National Pupil Database at a glance

The National Pupil Database (NPD) is an evidence based data for the education sector, providing an invaluable contribution towards school improvement and accountability. According to the department for education, the ‘NPD is one of the richest education data sets in the world holding wide range of information about pupils and students which has provided evidence on performance to inform independent research’. Record from the database can be shared under strict terms and conditions with named bodies and third parties for research or analysis, producing statistics, advice or guidance, providing information and the general well being of children. The department for education has stressed the importance of allowing more parties to have access to the database for the above stated objectives. Interested parties can obtain extracts of the data from the NDP using an improved application process accessed via the department’s website. A user guide has been drawn up to help users and potential users of the data offering useful tips on how to access data observing the stricter terms and conditions of ensuring the confidentiality of all records found in the database.

The data for the NPD include record coming from local authorities, schools and awarding bodies. The information that is obtained from NPD consists of gender, special educational needs, pupils’ absence and exclusions, ethnicity and eligibility for free meals. Test and exams results, prior attainment and progression at different key stages for pupils in the state sector are also found on the database. There is also information on pupils in independent schools as well as attainment data for students in non-maintained special schools. The department will not disclose pupils’ and/ or children’s personal information without consent unless the law allows it to do so, and it is in compliance with the data protection. The law allows the department to share pupil data from the NPD with named bodies and third parties including schools, governments departments, local authorities and other educational agencies under the Education Regulations 2009. The main sources of information for the database come from school census conducted three times every year in the spring summer and autumn terms and provides the department with both pupil and school level data.

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