Archived News - 2015


Application for Character Education Funding opened for 2015

Schools and other educational institutions across the country have been offered the opportunity by the Department for Education to submit proposals to a £3.5 million grant on projects aimed at character education. The rationale of the project is to help schools to build and develop acceptable sets of character traits, behaviours and attributes in children that will stand the test of time and prepare them well for a solid foundation for education and work. Studies have shown that countries with high achieving pupils and excellent academic results exhibits the following behaviours and attributes in pupils right from nursery through to tertiary institutions:

- Self motivation, drive and ambition.

- Respect and tolerance.

- Community spirit and great neighbourliness.

- Honesty, dignity and integrity.

- Confidence and optimism

- Conscientiousness, curiosity and focus.

Many initiatives and programmes have been instituted to help pupils achieve the above stated attributes; however, there is more room for improvement in ensuring that teachers and pupils have a congenial environment for teaching and learning in our schools. The £3.5 million grant is therefore a step in the right direction to help schools instil discipline and encourage pupils to aim higher in their studies.

Activities to consider for a proposal

  • Provision of extra-curricular activities for kids to engage in after school, including outdoor activities or survival weekends, music, debating and competitive sports.
  • Community volunteering activities linked with local charities to gain work experience.
  • Provision of peer-to-peer mentoring and support for pupils; offering, dialogue, counselling and role modelling with successful professionals in the community.
  • Effective ways to track the progress of pupils throughout their educational journey through to employment.
  • Effective and innovative ways of building character in special educational needs (SEN) pupils and children from disadvantaged background.
  • Plans to develop teachers and other educational instructors on character building, imbedding in them the need to challenge pupils to aim higher and instil confidence in pupils in their care.

Looking Ahead.....

The £3.5 million grant designated for character building in pupils is an excellent opportunity to help develop talents and skills at a very tender age preparing young minds for life in modern Britain. The scheme also offers a strong foundation to the educational system, cementing the country’s position as a leading provider of quality education for its citizens, as well as sending a clear signal to the rest of the world that Britain is ready and able to compete with the best in the world.


The Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) Launched.

The government has introduced a new funding to support the most disadvantaged children in society. The aim is to provide a high quality education to all children irrespective of their background. The scheme has been launched in 7 local authorities (Northamptonshire, Hackney, Cambridge, North Yorkshire, Bristol, Stoke–On–Trent and Blackpool) with the view of rolling it out throughout the country from April, 2015. An amount of £1 million has been given to the above mentioned local authorities who will intend distribute to early years providers. Disadvantaged pupils that meet the eligibility criteria will receive up to £300 per year.

The intention of the government is to commit £50 million pounds towards the scheme when it is fully lunched throughout the country from April, 2015. Local authorities for the pilot scheme will be required to provide feedback prior to the countrywide rollout of the scheme. Creating a level playing field for all children to receive quality basic education cannot be overemphasised, and according to the department for Education, this initiative is part of the grand aim of reforming qualifications and the curriculum to better prepare pupils for life after school. A recent survey published indicated that pupils from disadvantaged background are up to 7% less likely to participate in early education.

Eligibility Criteria

Children will be eligible if they are aged between 3-4 years old and are receiving government funded early education from any provider, the parents must also be in receipt of the benefits listed below:

- Universal Credit

- Income Based job seekers allowance.

- Income support.

- Child Tax Credit (provided you are not also entitled to working Tax Credit and have annual gross income of no more than £16,000).

- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

- Working Tax Credit.

- Children adopted from care

- Looked after children by local authority for at least on e day.

- Children subject to court order arrangement.

A look at benefits of EYPP

- Creating a fairer society for every child to fulfil his/ her potential in life.

- Funding will allow schools and nurseries to give extra help to pupils from disadvantaged background.

- Life changing scheme that will help pupils grow into responsible adults.


Teachers receive a helping hand towards the new computing curriculum.

Technology experts from firms including Google and 02 are to go into primary schools across the country to offer a helping hand and to equip teachers on how to handle the newly introduced computing syllabus. This initiative was announced by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan during a speech delivered at the annual BETT conference in London on 21 January 2015. The aim of the programme is to offer the best standard for computing education in schools across the country. This will also provide the needed boost to teachers as they gain firsthand experience from the expert in the subject that they teach. The programme will see an injection of £3.6 million into the provision of top expert advice that will help fine tune the skills of teachers to help prepare pupils to face the computing challenges that the modern world will throw at them.

Five new projects announced by the Education Secretary will see experts from participating firms liaising with top Universities such as Oxford, UCL and Queen Mary University of London to provide the latest training. Some of the services to be provided via the five projects announced by the Secretary will include booklets for teachers, video examples of teaching approaches, online seminars and national conferences. As part of the preparation for the inception of the new curriculum, Microsoft and IBM among other notable high tech companies offered to train more than 43,000 teachers throughout the country in June 2014. This gesture from the said companies helped immensely towards the smooth take off of the syllabus last year.

The future of Computing for primary schools....

The future looks bright for computing in this country because there is greater collaboration between the government and companies willing to commit resources and expert advice on training computing teachers, as a result the standard that is required by the new curriculum will be met. The following initiatives instituted by the government and detailed below will also go a long way in ensuring that pupils are offered the best possible start in their journey towards the technology future:

- The government has provided £2 million funding to set up a network of 400 ‘master teachers’ to train teachers in other schools with the view of providing materials for classrooms.

- £1.1 million provided to help train primary school teachers.

- Bursaries increased for anyone wanting to pursue computing education as a teacher.

- Computing Teacher Training scholarships of £25,000 provided to trainee teachers supported by IBM, Face book, Microsoft and Google.


Government announces funding of £1.6 billion to provide school places for every child in England.

£1.6 billion funding allocation has been announced by the government with the view of ensuring that every child has a school place in England. The funding is to provide support for the creation of thousands new school places needed across the country. This initiative was announced by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Schools Minister David Laws as part of the programme called ‘making the construction and maintenance of school buildings more cost effective’. Over £5 billion has been invested by the government in schools infrastructure since 2010, contributing to the creation of more than 445,000 new school places with an additional £2.05 billion allocated for the same purpose in 2015 – 2017. The rationale behind the infrastructure boost by the government is to ensure that every child in England is not left out of school and more importantly, children could have access to a good local school place to fulfil their potential.

Prior to the announcement for the construction of new schools, the government has already provided £6 billion solely aimed at improving the conditions of schools in England. Under the Priority Building Initiative, £2 billion has been allocated for rebuilding or refurbishing buildings at 277 schools and over £4 billion to schools, councils, trusts and others for local government improvement. The funding will be channelled through local authorities throughout the country. Announcing the 2017 to 2018 allocations in 2015 means councils across England will have certainty to plan ahead, making good investment decisions in ensuring that every child is guaranteed a school place in the coming years. In addition to this sustained investment, over 250 free schools opened throughout England through funding from the government have created more than 100,000 mainstream school places.

Other matters...

  • £1.3 billion will be provided in 2017 – 2018 to ensure that local authorities have places ready for 2018.
  • Additional £300 million allocated for 2015 – 2017 to provide places in areas experiencing unexpected surge in pupil numbers.
  • Government has more than doubled the funding for new school places to £5 billion in this Parliament.


£109 million funding announced for children’s arts and music education.

The government has announced its desire to boost the learning and teaching of children’s cultural education programmes throughout the country. The initiative is to be financed by £109 million going to projects that support children’s music, dance and local-heritage activities. The programme is aimed at helping pupils to develop their confidence and nurture their unique talents in arts disciplines such as music, local-heritage, dance and filmmaking. The funding was jointly announced by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Culture Secretary Sajid Javid. Arts and music plays a pivotal role in the developmental process of children and it is the intention of the government to ensure that it will be made more accessible to all children irrespective of their background.

£4 million of the funding will go to organisations such as BFI film Academy, National Youth Dance Group and the Sorrell Foundation to support and make cultural education programme more accessible to children across the country. The establishment of 123 ‘Music education Hubs’ in 2012 that support schools in teaching music has already laid a solid foundation for the programme. The hubs are to receive an amount of £75 million in funding in the 2015 to 2016 financial year. Other organisations slated for support to help propel this initiative include 6 In Harmony Programmes and the National Youth Music Organisation. The two organisations will receive an amount of £1.1 million.

Pupils that are exceptionally talented in music will be encouraged to pursue their dreams with a funding of £29 million through the Music and Dance Scheme. The government has spent more than £400 million on music education since 2012. Music is a statutory subject taught in all local authority maintained schools. The new national curriculum for music introduced in 2014 ensures that all pupils learn to sing, create and compose music on their own accord, and more importantly have the opportunity to learn musical instruments. The importance of music and arts to the development of pupils cannot be overemphasised. The dedication needed to master the rudiments of music will stand our children in good stead and give them an appreciation of the country’s cultural heritage and prepare them for life in modern Britain.


£450 million premium funding to improve physical education and sports in schools announced.

The advent of computer games and other electronic gadgets have led to a huge competing challenge on children’s free time for physical activities. It is therefore encouraging that the government has voted an amount of $450 million of premium funding to improve PE and sport for children in schools across the country. Programmes such as ‘change 4 life’ have offered a unique opportunity for pupils to actively participate in sports clubs to improve their health in general. Physical activities in any shape or form help pupils reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Children by nature enjoy the outdoors and the physical activities that go with it, however, they need a push and encouragement from parents and teachers to succeed in their quest to remain fit and sound for life.

Sedentary life styles have led to many pupils to be obese affecting their health and school life. The appeal of ‘minecraft’ and ‘skylanders’ to mention but a few have occupied the minds and time of many school children leaving no room for any physical activities. The government as a matter of urgency in arresting the situation has promised to fund the primary PE and Sports Premium into 2020, providing an additional £750 million to ensure that physical education is sustained to keep school children fit and active. Head teachers have been given the power to determine how to spend the money allocated to maximise its impact. The importance of physical activities to the well being of children cannot be over emphasised, obesity has become a major concern to health practitioners across the country and it is becoming alarming according to a recent King’s college report highlighting a third of middle-school children in the obese bracket.

Looking ahead........

  • Government to encourage head teachers through training so that they will intend offer the needed support in encouraging and leading school children to actively participate in physical exercise on regular basis.
  • Increase greater participation through sustained funding to ensure that all pupils irrespective of background will have access to sports and to see the real value in a physically active life.
  • The ‘Project Ability Programme’ is to be extended for another year with a budget of £300,000, this support is to help the project to reach more children across the country.


£5 million work scheme funding for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) announced.

The children and Families Minister Edward Timpson has announced that young people with the most severe form of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will be assisted to make a smooth transition from school to the professional world. The assistance will be channelled through local authorities who will in turn create the needed relationships with employers. Employment services will also be created to offer career guidance to SEND pupils as well as helping schools to offer high quality preparation of pupils for future employment. The funding will offer a needed life line to thousands of young people with SEND who go through many struggles before gaining employment, giving them confidence and the support that will help in deciding their career path.

It is a known fact that peoples with SEND find it extremely difficult to enter the job market. The barriers are numerous; notable among them are lack of work experience, negative attitudes of some employers and lack of accessible information to help in looking for job openings. The scheme will see talented young people with SEND enrolling in internships and work placement with the sole aim of helping them make the necessary progression from school to the world of work. Giving the right support and the needed assistance will help in alleviating the frustration that people with SEND go through before they can climb the career ladder. The £5 million funding will go a long way in increasing the number of education providers that will offer supported career programmes leading to paid employment.

Job prospects for people with SEND in numbers....

  • 80% of people with learning disability can work, however, only 7% are in a paid job.
  • People with learning disability have the lowest rate of employment amongst disabled people.
  • All local authorities to benefit from the allotted fund with £135,000 each going to the 9 regional support leads.
  • Mott MacDonald who has been serving as a delivery partner to the DfE will support local authorities with their delivery plans for 2015.


A look at capital funding for school buildings and equipments

It is imperative for every child of school going age in the country to have access to a school place that is in a secure place and well maintained. The government has announced changes to the distribution of capital funding and how it is used to help fund school buildings and equipments that will provide the needed conducive environment for teaching and learning across the country. The rationale behind the changes to the fund structure, is to ensure that school places are provided where they are needed, avoiding the unfortunate situation where pupils are placed on a long waiting list in some parts of the country. The changes will also ensure efficient and effective use of resources in maintaining school buildings and equipment.

The government is to invest over £3.6 billion of the Basic Need Fund between 2015 and 2018 via local authorities across the country to create new school places that will be needed by 2018. Through the Targeted Basic Need Programme, funding will be made available for 70,000 additional school places to help ease pressure on school admissions. The department for education has managed to identify areas that are in need of more school places through the ‘school capacity survey’ which is conducted annually. To ensure that funds released for school projects are used according to requirements, schools and local authorities are required to submit data to the department on all capital spending with the view of making sure that there is always value for money when it comes to school projects.

Value for money

  • The property data survey programme (PDSP) has offered a unique platform for data collection that has helped in channelling capital funding to areas that have need for more school places.
  • The collection and publishing of data on bodies in charge of school maintenance (eg local authorities or multi academy trust) will ensure accountability.
  • The independent ‘Review of education capital’ published in 2011 by Sebastian James gave a solid foundation on how future spending on school buildings and equipment could provide good value for money.
  • Simplified regulations on how school premises for all types of schools should be built and maintained has led to a clearer set of rules and standards for all concerned to follow when it comes to school projects.


A helping hand for school games

The Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson has signalled the desire of the government to recruit extra 1,500 coaches and volunteers throughout the country to help organise and supervise school games. The volunteer leaders and coaches grant according to the Minister is to be extended for a fourth year at £392,000. The main rationale for the grant and increased numbers in volunteers is to get more people playing sports in schools throughout the country. It will also go a long way in enhancing the quality and quantity of volunteers needed for the smooth organisation and supervision of school games. School games were lunched across the country 4 years ago by Sainsbury’s and it has grown from strength to strength with more than three – quarters of schools in the country participating. However, the advent of computer games and other electronic gadgets have competed fiercely with the time needed for physical activities by school children.

The grant is to be distributed through Sport England who will in turn share it among the 44 County Sports Partnerships throughout the country. Each County will receive £8,000 to help train volunteers that will organise the programme. Increasing number of youth are joining the volunteering squad and that gives hope of continuity to the scheme. The enthusiasm exhibited by last years’ volunteers gives a clear indication of drawing more school children to school games. The provision of over £150 million a year towards physical education (PE) to primary schools across the country by the government in no small measure contribute a huge incentive to involve more pupils as well as teachers in physical activities. Engaging all pupils in regular physical activities will impact positively on the well being of children and also help in enhancing healthy active lifestyles, increased confidence as well as improved academic concentration.


A closer look at phonics

The effective teaching of reading in schools is important and it helps in laying down a solid foundation for subsequent growth in reading accuracy, fluency, writing, spelling, and comprehension. The importance of phonics teaching in our schools was considered by the School Reform Minister Nick Gibb during an address to the Reading Reform Foundation Conference in March, 2015. The minister reiterated the need for pupils to be taught phonics at an early age in their development to stem the poor level of literacy in the country. Statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicate that the UK is ranked 47th out of 65 OECD countries during a survey for children who read for pleasure. Countries like China, Albania, Thailand and Kazakhstan all performed better compared to the UK.

The new national curriculum introduced in September 2014, saw the re-introduction of systematic synthetic phonics in schools after many years of not being considered seriously. The government has also announced other initiatives such as the Phonics Partnership Grant Programme to partner schools that are lagging behind in the teaching of phonics. The programme is run by schools that have excelled at the teaching of phonics. The phonics screening check was also introduced in 2012 for pupils at the end of year one. The aim of the test is to identify pupils that need help in decoding words and non-words. Figures indicate that in 2012, 58% of pupils who took the test met the national standard, the level improved with 69% obtained by pupils for the same test in 2013. There has been a tremendous improvement as figures for 2014 showed 74% of 6 year olds on track to read more effectively.

Other matters!

The government provided £23.7 million between 2011 and 2013 to schools for phonics training and resources. Over 14,000 schools have gained from the funding. ‘Catch up Premium’ worth £500 per pupil is also in place to support secondary school pupils that need help in attaining level 4 or above in reading at the end of key stage 2. It is paramount for all stakeholders in education to ensure the success of this programme and to encourage reading for enjoyment. Reading for half hour a day according to the experts is equivalent to a whole year of schooling at age 15.


Buying for your school the way forward

Schools have control over their budgets and it behoves on school heads and governors to spend their allocated funds prudently with the intent of making savings for other areas that could benefit for extra cash. Schools are also subject to public standard accountability including audits. Sound financial management will ensure that systems are in place to help protect public funds through proper spending, recording and accounting for income and expenditure. Greater percentage of school budgets is spent on staff wages; however, about £9.2 billion is spent annually on areas such as catering, energy and back office staff. The benefits of effective procurement practices cannot be overemphasised. Measures should be in place to ensure that goods purchased to be used are fit for purpose. Legal and financial regulations must be adhered to at all times. Suppliers must deliver goods and services that they have agreed to supply. Savings made through prudent purchasing regime should be re-invested in priority areas to drive standards forward.

Schools can compare their purchasing activities through benchmarking with other schools thereby improving areas that are lagging behind in efficiency savings. For example through comparisons, schools can learn from spending patterns of service and ways of improving efficiency from other schools. Purchasing should involve shopping around to determine the best possible offer on the market with quality at the back of the mind of the purchaser. The buying process can be described in three stages, namely planning, purchasing and managing. Each stage needs careful consideration as getting value for money will help in securing the needed savings that will go a long way in helping fund other areas. School budget is always tight and making the right move in consideration to all laid down procedures by the department for education on purchasing will also help in delivering the best for your school.

Frameworks can also be used to get the best deals for schools. Framework is a tried and tested contract deals used by local authorities and central government departments to obtain the best possible outcome. To buy from a framework, the main thing a school will need to do is to carry out a ‘mini-competition’ among the relevant suppliers on the framework. This is usually a much quicker and simpler process than setting up a new contract yourself.


£4 million Copyright deal boost for Schools negotiated.

The government has agreed a copyright deal for the rights to use music in schools and local authorities. The said deal will save schools and local authorities around £4 million and also streamline the acquisition of the rights to music to be used for schools. Licences for the use of music in the past involved each school purchasing the rights individually, and this brought in its trail high cost and time consuming negotiations. The centralisation of the copy rights acquisition will free teachers’ time and save them from unnecessary workloads and bureaucracy giving them ample time to concentrate on teaching. The new licensing agreement started April, 2015 and has been made possible as a result of collaboration with the Performing Rights Society (PRS), Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) and CCLI.

The deal will cover uses of music including pupil’s performances on CD and DVD, radios in staff rooms and holding music for telephone usage. A previous deal (the Central Licences) negotiated two years ago has seen huge savings made in the payment for TV shows, films and newspapers in schools. The Copyright licensing Agency oversees the right to photocopy books, journals and magazines; digital scanning, re-typing for distribution to pupils and websites. The licences will benefit all state schools including academies and all local authority maintained schools. The Department for Education has indicated that centralising music rights purchase will save schools around £16.5 million per year. According to the Schools Minister David Laws, schools will be in better position to raise attainment levels as a result of easing the burden of unnecessary tasks.

The benefit of the Copyright deal!

  • Simplification of how intellectual property could be used to benefit schools in training pupils. The deal will eliminate countless pages of guidance on how to use other peoples work during school lessons.
  • The new deal will save millions of pounds that could be channelled to other areas that need funding.
  • The deal will help extend the school day, allowing more time for extra-curricular activities and supervised study.

MONDAY 25th MAY 2015

Persistent absentee numbers fall to the lowest level in schools!

The number of pupils regularly missing school attendance has falling to the lowest level according to new school attendance statistics recently released. The report indicated that fewer pupils are persistently missing school than ever before. The reason for this vast improvement has been attributed to the fact that teachers have been given new powers to tackle absenteeism. Research has shown that regular attendance to lessons by pupils can improve their chances of getting good qualifications. The threshold that defines persistent absenteeism was reduced from 20% to 15% in 2011, setting a higher standard for schools to be assessed for performance tables. The threshold is to be reduced to 10% from September 2015. Pupils that are classified as persistently missing school in 2013 to 2014 according to the figures released is down nearly 200,000 over the last 5 years since the inception of comparing school attendance records nationwide came into force.

A pupil is classified as persistently absent if they miss around 15% of school – which is equivalent to 18 months of lesson time over their whole school career. The Department for Education has been encouraging schools to track the issue of persistent absence earlier with the view of nipping it in the bud before it became a chronic issue. To strengthen the resolve of schools in the fight against the issue, the government has made a range of reforms to encourage good attendance from their pupils. Some of the measures introduced include: Head teachers have been asked to authorise leave of absence only in exceptional circumstances but not as a matter of routine. Teachers are also allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to maintain discipline and to create an enabling environment for teaching and learning during school sessions, extending their searching powers and the application of ‘same day detentions.

School absence in numbers......

Newham recorded one of the lowest absence rates in the country with an absence rate of 4%, as well as persistent absence rate of just 2.6%

All local authorities in the report saw a fall in their overall absence rates since the previous year.

The number of days missed as a result of family holidays fell by 1.4 million last year and was down by 2.3 million days since 2009 to 2010.

The number of days missed due to absence has fallen by a quarter since 2009 – 2010.

44% of pupils with no absence at key stage 4 achieved the English Baccalaureate – English, maths, science, history or geography and a language

MONDAY 25th MAY 2015

£67 million incentives to help train more maths and science teachers announced.

As a major push to transform and encourage more teachers into the teaching of maths and physics, the government has announced an incentive package of £67 million with the overriding aim of getting former teachers and top graduates specialising in the aforementioned subjects into classrooms. The programme is to ensure that the UK is in a better position in supplying science and engineering graduates to man the ever increasing job created by the science based industries in the country and also to compete internationally. It has been estimated that over 7 million jobs will be expected to be created in the science based industries in the country by 2030, currently, the engineering enterprises employ more than 5.4 million people nationwide. There is therefore the need to increase greater participation and the quality in the teaching of key subjects such as maths and physics that will help pupils to prepare adequately for the challenges and opportunities offered by these industries without relying heavily on skilled migrants from abroad.

The government is to set up three new institutions of higher learning specialising in mathematics and engineering in collaboration with leading industry experts to help train the next generation of problem solvers and tech specialists. Two of the newly established universities, will focus on cyber security skills with special emphasis on coding and programming. Bursaries will be offered to graduates with maths or physics degree who are willing to commit to teaching as a profession after graduation to be trained. The computer age has brought in its wake the desire for Nations to race against time to come out with latest innovations in science and technology. It is therefore imperative for the basic ingredients in this race – maths and science to be promoted and sustained at an early age to children in our schools so that Britain can compete to get the best jobs globally. The best start in life is to deliver a great education system to children in ensuring that families will be rest assured that the future generation can realise their full potential.

The way forward......

  • Maths and physics specialists will be encouraged to go into classrooms to teach. £15,000 bursaries for top maths students willing to commit 3 years after graduation.
  • New fast track programmes to attract career changers into the teaching profession.
  • The drive to get former teachers back into the classroom.
  • 15,000 existing non specialists’ teachers to be trained.

MONDAY 25th MAY 2015

£25 million funding to help children’s services

The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced a funding of £25 million to help deliver life changing services to vulnerable children across the country. The fund will be administered through the Department for Education’s Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS). After careful consideration and serious bidding, 94 projects have been selected to run programmes that will offer vulnerable children and young people greater access to voluntary organisations that allow them to develop self confidence, employability skills and other life changing skills. Mental health has been identified for the first time as a theme to be considered by the VCS and organisations specialising in that field will receive funding totalling £4.9 million. Other areas benefiting from the allocated fund will include: special educational needs and disabilities £5.9 million; early education and childcare £5.3 million; safeguarding £3.3 million; family advice and support £1.8 million; children in care £1.4 million.

The Secretary reiterated the importance of supporting the voluntary sector in delivering alternative after school activities to help school children develop their inner talents and be useful citizens to the country. Organisations that were successful in the bidding process to deliver the scheme are Barnado’s, the Diana Award and Mind. Barnado’s will address issues associated with child sexual exploitation (CSE). They will increase awareness on CSE with the view of protecting children at risk. An amount of £750,000 will be given to the organisation to help stem the tide in CSE. The Diana Award will receive an amount of £450,000 with the sole aim of training anti bullying ambassadors – the aim is to train 2,500 ambassadors as well as 600 teachers and youth professionals on issues relating to bullying with particular emphasis on cyber bullying. Mind will be tasked to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in schools. With an amount of £400,000, the charity will ensure early intervention in mental illness and organise workshop to create the awareness as well as offering one-to-one support to children who needed help.

The importance of caring for the vulnerable in society cannot be overemphasised. Creating a safe environment in which young people feel able to talk about their feelings and seek help when they need it is a step in the right direction. The fund will also help families and local authorities to support school children with conditions that needed help and attention.


A Look at the statutory guidance on keeping children safe in education

The importance of keeping children safe in schools is paramount to the success of every educational programme, and in ensuring that schools maintain a safe environment for all pupils throughout the country, a guidance on safety is issued annually to ensure that all educational practitioners know what to do and expect when it comes to the subject of safety for children in our schools. The guidance is a statutory document issued by the Department for Education under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, and it sets out detailed information on what schools should do and the legal duties with which schools must comply. It is the responsibility of governing bodies of maintained and non maintained schools, proprietors of independent schools (academies and free schools) and management committees of pupil referral units (PRU’s) in ensuring that all staff in schools and colleges read at least the part one of the guidance.

The role of school and staff

Everyone who comes into contact with children and their families has a role to play in safeguarding children. Each school according to the guidance should have a ‘lead’ that will assist and provide support to staff members in the discharge of their safeguarding duties and also liaise closely with other services that look after the welfare of children such as children’s social care. Teachers and headteachers are required by the teachers standard 2002, to safeguard children’s wellbeing and maintain public trust in the teaching profession as part of their professional duties. School staffs have a responsibility to identify children who may be in need of extra help or who are suffering. Appropriate child protection training should be provided for staff at all times. Schools should also have their own policy on child protection policy which must form part of the induction process for all staff recruited by the school.

What to do when concerns have been identified....

  • Staff members to raise concern with school’s designated safeguarding lead for the appropriate action to be taken – referral to children’s social care if necessary.
  • A child missing from school is a potential indicator of child abuse or neglect, a follow up with parents and a report to the appropriate agencies may help save a child.
  • If a staff member has a concern about another colleague, this should be reported to the headteacher immediately for the necessary action to be taken. A concern about a headteacher should be referred to the school governors.
  • Anybody can make a referral when the life of a school child is in danger.


500 new free schools to be opened throughout the country

The government has declared its intention of allowing 500 new free schools to be set up across the country. This was announced by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan when the current window for applications for free schools was officially declared in May 2015. The Secretary indicated during her speech to teachers, education experts and parents that the main rationale for the government’s desire for more free schools was to correct what she termed the ‘cycle of disadvantage’ in the educational system. The 500 schools when opened will provide over 500,000 school places for school children throughout the country and it will come as a welcome relief for areas that are in bad need of school places for anxious parents that have been waiting for their children to be admitted to have a place to learn. According to the department, 254 free schools have so far been opened since the scheme was introduced and it has helped in shaping the potentials of our children. Majority of the free schools that have been already set up are in the most deprived areas of the country and they have been offering a quality of schooling never seen before in those areas.

One key element that set free schools apart is the community involvement and participation of key stakeholders in its set up and administration. The idea is to allow teachers, parents and educational experts the free hand to run schools without the control that traditional schools have. Some observers, however, may have their own misgivings about the whole idea; however, it could be argued that the programme has offered many the chance and opportunity to be educated especially in most disadvantaged areas of the country. During the announcement for the new batch of schools, the secretary called on sponsors, charities, high performing schools, community groups and parents to come forward with ideas and proposals to be considered by the department so that new schools could be opened as planned by the government. According to the department for education, the inception of free schools and the new educational reforms are helping young people regardless of their background to realise their potential and reach their high aspirations. The performance for primary and secondary schools across the country in the last two years has seen vast improvement with encouraging signs showing that the gap between disadvantaged schools and their peers being bridged.


Plans to improve mental health education in schools announced.

Schools are to be given new guidance on how to improve teaching on mental health issues. The plan is to help school children who may be suffering in silence to be identified or come forward to receive the needed support and knowledge to keep them healthy and safe. The advice will also help teachers as well as school children to understand the problems that children with mental health face. An amount of £4.9 million will be injected into the voluntary sector with the view of boosting the capacity of charities that look after children’s mental health issues. Counselling services to schools will be intensified and increased offering a top quality school based counselling services that meet the needs of those it intends to support. A new guidance has also been produced by the Department for Education in conjunction with the PSHE Association to offer an age appropriate teaching on mental health problems – anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Young people are under intense pressure than ever before from competing demands and mental health comes up time and time again when asked about issues affecting them. The rationale of the guidance is to ensure that every school in the country becomes a place where greater attention is paid to mental health issues matched by detailed lesson plans to be published and taught. According to the Education Secretary, ‘there must be no trade-off between learning about mental health and academic success’; the two go hand in hand as improving teaching on mental health will help young people make sense of the subject and teach them how to make themselves and others healthy. Children’s lives can be disrupted by mental health and if it goes unchecked could bring untold hardships on themselves and society at large.

Moving forward.....

  • A mental health charity called Mind, will be given an amount of £400,000 to provide help and support to children with mental health problems by offering a confidential route that will enable children to learn more about the subject and to seek assistance when needed.
  • £440,000 to help provide specialist intervention that will help tackle mental health in children before it escalates.
  • £564,000 to be given to the Royal College of Paediatrics to increase the services it provide on its online services that help parents to understand mental health issues.


Education Secretary announces new measures to improve school standards.

New reforms aimed at raising standards and improving pupil behaviour in schools has been announced by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. The reforms will ensure that every child studies core academic subjects with the pass mark or bar raised so that GCSE results can compete favourably with top-performing countries. At the heart of these measures is the desire to improve pupils’ behaviour during school lessons. Behaviour experts will develop new training materials that will help deal with low-level disruption in classrooms. According to the Secretary of state, the reforms will ensure that every child leaves school with an excellent qualification in crucial academic subjects that will give greater assurance to parents that their children are getting the very best education and opportunity. The plan signals the final stages of reforming the GCSE examinations.

The way forward!

From September pupils starting secondary schools must study the key English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects comprising maths, science, English, history or geography and a language at GCSE. The new scheme will ensure that pupils can prepare for further education as well as employment.

There will be opportunity for every pupil in the country to have access to the best possible education that the country can offer, especially for pupils coming from disadvantaged background.

Level 5 of the new 1 to 9 grading system for GCSE’s will be regarded as the new ‘good pass’ for pupils.

Teachers will be given the needed training to tackle low level bad behaviour that will seek to disrupt learning.

The government has acknowledged that there is still more to be done in ensuring that the crucial subjects (English, maths, science, history or geography and a language) are studied throughout the country. The plan is for pupils starting secondary school this September (year 7) to start with the EBacc when they reach their GCSE’s, with examinations for the said subjects taking place in 2020. The idea of contracting a school behaviour expert in the person of Tom Bennett will go a long way in helping teachers deal with disruption in classrooms, helping teachers to concentrate teaching. A study conducted by Ofsted has concluded that children are losing up to an hour of learning a day due to pupil disrupting school sessions.


A helping hand for ‘coasting’ schools.

The Education Secretary has unveiled new measures that will see schools that are failing pupils to reach their potential in the country to be helped. Education experts will be detailed to offer the needed assistance to the needed schools to help improve their results. Appointed regional school commissioners comprising 8 education experts will be supported by local head teacher boards to access whether the identified schools have plans in place in ensuring that all children make the required progress. The plan forms part of a new bill to be introduced in parliament called the ‘Education and Adoption’ bill that will set out the real meaning of what a coasting school is. The set standards for determining a school needing intervention for the academic year 2014 to 2015 has been pegged at 60% of pupils achieving 5 good GCSEs or an above average proportion of pupils making acceptable progress. For 2016, the level of acceptance will be determined based on ‘progress 8’ – the new accountability measure that shows the progress by pupils in a particular school between the end of primary school and their GCSEs.

Schools that will require intervention at the primary level will be defined by having fewer than 85% of pupils achieving an acceptable secondary – ready standard in maths, reading and writing over the course of three years with no sufficient amount of pupils showing progress. The government has instituted a number of funding like the pupil premium with the aim of helping disadvantaged pupils fulfil their potential; this has helped improve performance of many disadvantaged pupils. According to the National Audit Office, about 94% of school leaders now target support to pupils from poor background compared to around 57% before pupil premium funding was introduced. The new measures according to the experts, will help schools that previously fell beneath the radar to be spotted early with the necessary remedy in place to help pupils attain the required standard that is needed to progress in primary and secondary education. The government recently announced that all failing schools rated as inadequate by Ofsted will be transferred into academies, this move will help more than 1000 schools between now and 2020 improve their performance.


A look at School Governance

School governors play an important role in ensuring the smooth running of schools across the country; the 300,000 strong member body freely give up their time to help make children’s life better. The supervising role played by governors throughout the country help children regardless of their background to reach their full potential. The success of every school depends on how effective the school governors are able to coordinate the activities of the school. The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in delivering the key note address at this year’s governors summer conference acknowledged the importance of school governors and the crucial role that they have played in helping deliver the largest increase in the number of younger people leaving primary school able to read and write and add up properly. The policy of moving increasingly towards ‘school led’ profession driven system throughout the country in running of our schools has made the role of governors even more crucial in tapping into their expert knowledge and liaising with the community and the outside world for all the support needed for the running of schools.

School governors are responsible for ensuring that their respective schools remain financially healthy with robust management systems in place. From drawing up a school budget to how the allocated funds for running of the school is to be disbursed, governors are required to have the right systems of oversight and scrutiny in place and strictly adhere to it at all times for the effective and efficient running of the school. The education reforms according the secretary has delivered over 100,000 six year old pupils who are on track to becoming confident readers over the past five years all to the credit of hard working school governors across the country. With over a million more pupils in good or ‘outstanding’ schools point to the fact that governors are helping the education sector to achieve its set goals in ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity of realising his or her full potential in life. The skills, expertise and enthusiasm that governors throughout the country bring to their roles cannot be overemphasised.


The drive to eliminate illiteracy continues.

The government has announced a new grant that will encourage high performing primary schools spread their reading expertise to schools that are struggling in reading. The fund of £10,000 will go to schools that excel at teaching pupils to read. Reading at the basic level of education has become a major issue for the department of education and many programmes have been initiated with the view of helping pupils to become proficient readers. The introduction of Phonics Screening checks in 2012 has seen over 100,000 six year – olds improve their reading skills. However, there still remains a lot to be done as many pupils across the country are still not confident in phonics at the end of year one of basic education. The grant will therefore serve as an incentive of encouraging more schools to actively engage their pupils in developing a strong grasp of reading from their early development.

The schools Minister Nick Gibb who announced the funding indicated that the government is serious about eliminating illiteracy in the country and that the ideal position will be for every primary school to be teaching reading using phonics. The grant will go to selected group of schools to develop models to improve phonics teaching that will be led by a high performing school with a track record in leading in improvement activity. The 8 schools selected for taking leading role in the phonics partnerships are: St. Georges Church of England Primary (Wandsworth), Hawksmoor Primary (Greenwich), Trenance Learning Academy (Cornwall), St. Augustine’s Catholic Primary School (Solihull), Golden Valley Primary School (Nailsea), Mangotsfield Church of England (Bristol), Bishopton Redmarshall Church of England Primary School (Stockton – on Tees) and Witham St. Hughes Academy (Lincolnshire).

There has been a lot of improvement in the number of pupils in year 1 and 2 regarding the expected standard in the screening check – up for reading via phonics. For example, in 2014, 74% of the year 1 pupils met the required standard in the screening check up from 58% in 2012. To support the progress made so far in encouraging more pupils to read, the government has since September 2011 provided match – funding to the tune of £23.7 million to enable schools with key stage 1 and 2 pupils to buy effective systematic synthetic phonics products and training materials.


Review into assessment of pupils with lower attainment announced.

The schools Minister Nick Gibb has announced an appointment of a special needs expert to oversee a new review into assessment of pupils with lower attainment. The Department for Education estimates that there are over 50,000 pupils in the country whose ability falls below the standard required to take the national curriculum test. The overriding aim of the new review is to monitor and assess the attainment levels of pupils that fall below the required standard so that parents will be able to know how their children are doing. It will also offer a unique opportunity for schools to receive the needed help that will go a long way in getting the best out of pupils that are struggling with their peers. Diane Rochford, the Executive headteacher of John F. Kennedy School has been appointed to head the review and will be assisted by a group of experts with experience in assessing and working with SEND disadvantaged children.

The review will offer parents of pupils with lower attainment the opportunity to have accurate information about how their children are doing at school. It will also offer a level platform to all pupils irrespective of their abilities to be considered for the new arrangements for statutory assessments and benefit from assessment without levels. The minister for schools in announcing the new review re-emphasised the importance for schools to have accurate information that will help in holding schools accountable for the performance of their pupils.

Importance of the review

It will give credit to hard working teachers who have high expectations for their pupils.

Parents will be in a better position to know the performance of their children.

Pupils with lower academic attainment will be identified at an early stage and the appropriate steps taken to offer the needed help.

The review will offer pupils from disadvantaged background that constitute a greater percentage of pupils that do not sit the national curriculum test a helping hand.

Pupils with lower attainment will be assessed accurately and helped to progress in life by obtaining the required grades that will see them progress in life.


A look at Pupil Premium funding and accountability

Pupil Premium offers an additional funding for disadvantaged pupils in publicly funded schools in England. The main aim of the fund has been to raise the attainment level of pupils from poor background and also to raise the gap between them and their peers. It is available to local authority maintained schools, voluntary sector schools with local authority agreement, special schools not maintained by the local authority and academies and free schools. During the inception of the programme, an amount of £625 million was released in April 2011 to give schools £400 per year for children who have registered for free school meals as well those who have been looked after for 6 months or more. The coverage for looked after children in 2012 was extended to cover children eligible for free school meals at any point in the past six years.

Funding for the 2015 to 2016 financial year has been increased to £2.545 billion. Pupils of primary school age will receive an amount of £1,320 each. £935 will be given to pupils in secondary schools that qualify for the premium. Schools will also receive £1,900 for each pupil who has left local-authority care because of adoption, residence order, special guardianship order and child arrangements order. Pupil premium is paid directly to local authorities and the dates stipulated for the financial year under review are:

30 June 2015

30 September 2015

29 December 2015

31 March 2016

A toolkit developed by the Education Foundation offers guidance to schools and teachers on how to access and effectively use the pupil premium to support disadvantaged pupils to achieve their full potential in life. There is a compilation of ‘Families of Schools Toolkit’ that helps teachers learn about effective practice from similar schools.


School inspectors through Ofsted report on the performance and progress of disadvantaged pupils who benefit from the pupil premium. Schools are also required to publish online how they spend their pupil premium and the effect that it has on the attainment of pupils who attract the fund. Schools performance table also shows the performance of disadvantaged children with their peers from other schools. Another yardstick used by the authorities for accountability on pupil premium by schools, is to commission a pupil premium review if there is an issue with its provision in a particular school. Institutions that can order a review include Ofsted, local authority, academy trust and Department for Education.


More new free schools announced

The government has indicated its intent of allowing 18 new free schools to be established, providing 9,000 school places during the current parliament. The Prime Minister has vowed that he will make sure free schools does not become a nine day wonder, but to ensure that two waves of new free schools are created every year until 2020. The total number of places created during the inception of the programme is 236,000 and it has been touted as one of the most successful new school programmes in the country.The latest application window to set up a free school opens on 28 September and runs until 7 October. It is anticipated that 500 new free schools will be opened in the 5 years creating 270,000 new school places. The aim of the programme is to give parents more choice while challenging existing schools to improve upon their performance. The free schools programme has empowered parents not to settle for anything less than the best for their children. The greater participation by communities has also rekindled cultural harmony and excellence in education delivery in the country.

To encourage more individuals and organisations to partake in free schools, the government has promised to streamline the process of application especially for existing high performing schools as well as charities, businesses and sporting bodies. The rationale behind the introduction of the free school programme is to ensure that families will have access to a great local school and the very best of education irrespective of a child’s background. Parents’ having a firm knowledge that their children will obtain a quality education without the hassle of moving to new areas to acquire them is a great assurance that every parent in the country would like to enjoy. It is estimated that 74% of free schools are located in areas that had an urgent need for school places, more importantly, the programme has come to the aid of deprived communities and the results from Ofsted for schools in those areas have been mostly rated as outstanding since the inception of the programme. The free schools programme is also transforming the lives of many of society’s most disadvantaged and disaffected children. 17% of all free schools are dedicated to special needs or alternative provision, giving more help to those most in need.


More pupils leaving primary school with maths and literacy

The recently published results of school pupils at key stage 2 show a significant increase in the number of children that secured the grades and skills needed for secondary school compared to 2010. The results indicate that 90,000 more pupils achieved the expected standards in maths, reading and writing than in 2010. The results is more pleasing to schools, local authorities and parents as new higher floor standards aimed at raising the bar for assessments and contents was recently introduced. The said standards saw calculators for maths test banned, introduction of grammar test, spelling and punctuation. Many sponsored academies across the country also posted marked improved results than those run by local authorities. The results bears testament to the fact that pupils from all background are obtaining the needed foundation required to go through secondary education for onward transition to universities and colleges across the country.

Results of key stage 2 assessments at a glance.....

The tests were taken by 579,000 year six pupils in May 2015.

The floor standard was raised in 2014 to 65%

4 out of 5 pupils achieved the expected level in spelling, grammar and punctuation test.

The highest ever percentage of pupils obtaining the expected level in maths at 87%

Standards achieved for reading at an all time high at 89% compared to 83% from previous year.

The results released has been welcomed in many quarters as an encouragement and a good basis to build on, however, there is more room for improvement regarding performance from many other schools in the country. The schools minister Nick Gibb has indicated that he will be writing to Directors of Education of councils located at the bottom of the league tables for explanation and how they intend improving schools under their care. The minister also reiterated his desire to crack down on local authorities with poor results, demanding improvement and plans to achieve better standards and results. The main rationale behind the drive towards greater excellence from the basic level of education is to encourage pupils to attain higher standards in reading, writing and maths so that they can compete effectively with the best from the rest of the world. The government introduced a higher benchmark for teaching and assessing pupils in September 2014, with a higher standard assessment based fully on the new curriculum taking place in summer 2016.


Educational inequalities and Pupil Premium.

The recently published report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission on ‘non educational barriers to the elite professions’ concluded that bright pupils from disadvantaged background are still finding it difficult to enter the so called elite professions. The report further indicated that despite the best effort from government and some of the firms concerned, the said professions are still dominated by people from more privileged socioeconomic background. There is more to this assertion by the said report, however, the government on its part has indicated that making quality education a priority for all is one right step in ensuring that every child has a chance of succeeding in life and more importantly being able to join any institution irrespective of social background.

The Pupil Premium was introduced by the government to pupils from disadvantaged background as a means of bridging the gap between them and their peers. Educational inequalities has been in the system for a long period of time and the best intended effort from the institutions charged to eliminate it has unfortunately not been able to eradicate it completely. According to the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, over £6.25 billion has been spent through the Pupil Premium since its inception in April 2011 and it has helped in offering the needed assistance to pupils from poorer background that hitherto had no hope of achieving their dreams of gaining a quality education. However, more needs to be done as indicated by the Secretary in ensuring that the highest positions in public life such as parliamentarians, Judges, senior ranks of the armed forces etc can be accessed by talented persons from all spheres of life.

Progress so far made on bridging the gap of attainment for poor pupils

The government has putting in place targets for schools to follow aimed at helping pupils from poor backgrounds to catch up on their peers. The introduction of the fund has seen vast improvement in the performance of pupils from disadvantaged background as the achievements enumerated below indicates.

  • The gap between disadvantaged pupils and others in writing, reading and maths has decreased by 2% at age 11.
  • The new attainment gap measure for GCSEs shows that the achievement gap has narrowed by almost four percent since 2012 at age 16.
  • Last year’s Ofsted report indicated that schools are using the Pupil Premium more effectively than ever before.


£30,000 grant to attract top graduates to train to teach core subjects

The government has announced an increase in tax-free bursaries and scholarships for graduate teacher training for 2016 to 2017 academic year. Top graduates will receive up to £30,000 to train in core subjects such as maths and physics. It has been a top priority of the Department for Education to attract top notch graduates to the teaching profession ensuring that every pupil studies the academic qualifications at GCSE irrespective of background with the view of helping many pupils to go on in securing places at Universities, apprenticeships and placing a first step on the career ladder. The introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBAcc) will see pupils who started secondary school in September studying key EBAcc subjects such as maths, English, science, history or geography and a language at GCSE. The published grant is a sure way of announcing the government’s intention of attracting the best and brightest graduates to teach the core subjects to help cement the new programme.

Graduates that have obtained a first class degree and are prepared to train and teach in physics will receive a tax free bursary of £30,000, an increase from £25,000 in 2015 to 2016. Trainee in physics with a second class upper (2:1) degree will continue to receive £25,000 bursary and trainees with second class lower (2:2) degrees having their bursary increased from £15,000 to £25,000. Other bursaries for EBAcc subjects such as chemistry, computing, maths, languages and geography has been increased to £25,000. The following professional bodies -The Institute of Physics, The Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, The Royal Society of Chemistry and The Chartered Institute for IT, in partnership with the government have also come up with 700 tax free scholarships worth up to £30,000 for top graduates willing to train and teach in those subjects. Over 16,500 graduates do receive a training bursary every year. The introduction of the scheme has seen many talented graduates willing and eager to join the teaching profession with the ambition of becoming outstanding teachers in a range of key subjects.


In praise of the priority school building programme (PSBP)

The government through the priority school building programme (PSBP) has offered a new lease of life to the Edith Borthwick School in Essex. The PSBP was established in 2011 with the main aim of building and repairing school properties in most need of urgent repairs. Since its inception, over £4.4 billion has been allocated and has transformed some of the most run-down schools in the country. The latest institution to benefit from the fund, is the Edith Borthwick School in Essex, a special needs school that caters for 3-19 year olds with complex and severe learning difficulties. The school has been totally transformed with the construction of 2-storey facility as well as the renovation of other facilities. The Schools Minister Lord Nash was enthused with the renovation carried out and did not hide his joy when he remarked during the re-opening of the school that, investment in schools such as Edith Borthwich indicate government’s commitment in ensuring that all young children have access to good schools as well as achieving their potentials in life regardless of their background.

The non availability of school places resulting in long waiting lists for pupils in some local authorities is a well known fact; however, the priority school building programme has offered many parents some hope of finding a safe and conducive environment for their children to learn. The programme has also brought a sense of urgency into school building projects. Schools are now being rebuilt faster and cheaper than those built under previous school building initiative. For example, under the ‘building schools for the future’ (BSF), it took around 3 years for construction work to begin. This has reduced considerably to 1 year after the introduction of PSBP. A total of 537 schools have been earmarked to benefit from construction through the 2 phases of the programme. In September, 22 buildings were re-opened through the PSBP after undergoing £160 million worth of construction work. The second phase of the programme was launched in May 2014, injecting an amount of £2 billion to ensure that many schools benefit from the programme.


‘Phonics to the rescue’

The government’s effort on paying particular attention to phonics in schools has started to bear fruits. Phonics check was introduced in 2012, and results for 2015 show that the proportion of 6 year olds achieving the expected standards has risen by 19 percent since the inception of the programme to 77 percent, benefiting nearly 490,000 pupils. The latest phonics check results indicate that more than 120,000 children are on track of becoming excellent readers. The main aim for introducing phonics in schools was to encourage pupils to become inquisitive, confident and fluent readers. The programme has transformed not only how lessons are taught in schools, but has also changed the way young people learn to read. Training children on how to decode words at an early age goes a long way in ensuring that children are giving the needed building blocks in education.

The Schools Minister Nick Gibb has reiterated the importance attached to the phonics programme by informing local authorities with the poorest results in the latest phonics check to come up with the best possible solution that will remedy the situation. The government has also made available an amount of £20 million for schools to purchase and develop resources for phonics teaching. To ensure that every pupil is giving a chance of succeeding in grasping the basic tenets of reading, those who do not reach the threshold in the light-touch check are to be given extra reading help by their teachers so that they will be able to catch up with their peers. The success chalked by schools in the 2015 results according to the Minister, has demonstrated the effectiveness of the government’s continued focus on phonics as the primary way of helping more pupils to be fluent readers at an early stage in their primary education.

Figures for 2015 phonics test...

  • Nine out of 10 children fulfilling their potential in key stage 1 reading tests
  • The number of pupils achieving the expected level of (level 2) or above has increased from 85% to 90%.
  • The proportion of pupils achieving level 3 or above has also increased from 26% in 2010 to 32%.
  • The highest score of 86.5% was obtained by Richmond-Upon-Thames Local Authority, with Nottingham obtaining the lowest score of 69.5%.


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.


Consultation on helping failing schools lunched.

The department for Education has set in motion the process of gathering views on how failing schools throughout the country can be helped to improve. A government consultation process on the subject was launched on 21st of October, 2015. The aim of the consultation which was addressed to schools, local authorities, teachers/headteachers and parents is to seek views on proposals for tackling maintained schools that are causing concern in their performance. Recipient of the proposals are to submit their responses by 18th December 2015. As part of the government’s commitment in ensuring that every child in the country is accorded the same opportunity, every stone is being left unturned in ensuring that struggling schools throughout the country are giving all the needed attention that they need, believing that every child deserves an excellent education. A bill was recently introduced in parliament which seeks to introduce new measures to improve school standards across the country. The rationale behind the bill is to speed up the process of helping failing schools become sponsored academies to avoid delays in giving children the education that they deserve.

Three types of schools will be eligible for intervention: Schools that have been adjudged inadequate by Ofsted, for those schools an order will be issued requiring them to become sponsored academies. Schools that are coasting and not having sufficient plan and the necessary capacity to bring about improvement will be referred to the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) who will use the powers of the Secretary of State invested in him/ her to intervene. Schools that have failed to comply with warning notice, will be dealt with by local authorities and RSCs according to the vested authorities assigned by the Secretary of State making sure that such schools receive further warning notices to comply with the directives that will make them improve. Participants to the consultation process are to consider the definition of ‘coasting’ for main stream institutions as well as special schools and referral units. The ‘revised schools causing concern guidance’ which set out how RSCs will be using their new powers to oversee and turn around failing schools will also be considered by recipient of the consultation.


Chinese Maths teachers on teaching exchange programme in England

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.


Spending review 2015 and the Department for education

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 500,000 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.


Consultation on funding for school admission appeals lunched

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.

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