Archived News - 2016


Funding for Music education announced

The government is to provide an amount of £300 million towards the provision of music and arts education in primary schools. The multimillion pound investment in music and arts for children was announced by the Schools Minister Nick Gibb. The aim of the funding according to the minister, is to enable children from all backgrounds to enjoy ‘potential life changing cultural activities’. The funding will see the creation of 121 music education hubs that will liaise and work with schools throughout the country in encouraging children to participate fully in music and arts. Music hubs have been a great success over the years and has helped school children to learn how to play many music instruments and to join singing groups or bands. The funding will go a long way in unearthing great talents and help children from disadvantaged backgrounds to have access to good music schools and to join great choirs and bands. There is also the potential for children to enrol with great institutions like the Royal Ballet school, benefiting from funding provided by the Music and Dance Scheme.

The government has also indicated that a greater percentage of the funding will be used in areas that have been identified as ‘most challenged when it comes to social mobility’, ensuring that children in those deprived areas can also have access to good quality education in music and arts. An amount of £4.1 million has also been earmarked for cultural education programmes such as film, heritage, design, museums, dance and art. The cultural education programmes have been conducted alongside the music provision with the view of given an all-round arts education to children throughout the country. There are other funding that have been made available to pupils to access towards their development. For example, the government has agreed to fund In Harmony (an Orchestral training programme) to help train pupils from poorer backgrounds to develop positive character traits through music education. Furthermore, £600,000 has been devoted to small music programmes across the country. Research has shown that music play a pivotal role in the developmental process of children. It is therefore vital for the government to create an enabling environment that will encourage all children irrespective of their social background to learn and enjoy the benefits of music and arts.

Reforming the Post code lottery school funding.

The government is considering abandoning the postcode lottery funding regime which has been in use in allocating financial resources to schools. The Education Secretary has announced that reforms are to be instituted with the view of reforming the system of funding schools throughout the country. Responding to the specific needs of children should be the focus of any funding regime, giving opportunities to those in deprived areas, not just the privileged few. School budget has been ringed fenced overtime since 2010 making sure that the education of our future leaders is not jeopardised whatever the economic situation. However, critics have raised concerns over the distribution of funds meant for educating our children as unfair and outdated, failing to consider the current realities on the ground. The current funding system has been described as hanging on ‘patchy and inconsistence’ decisions that have built up over many years. Under the current system, schools with the same number of pupils located in different areas of the country do receive the same funding, without any consideration for the needs for other factors that may call for extra funding for areas that may need it. The proposals put forward by the Education Secretary will ensure fair funding, making sure that children with similar needs and characteristics receive similar level of funding irrespective of their parents social standing.

The new system has also been hailed as a sure way of funding schools according to their needs rather than their postcode. The main rationale for the funding reforms, is to ensure that there is a level playing field for all children creating equal opportunities for every child to reach their full potential.

The proposed funding formula at a glance:

  • §No school will face a reduction of more than 1.5% per pupil per year or 3% per pupil overall.
  • §No reduction for pupils with high-level special educational needs (high needs).

Because of the new funding proposals, over 10,000 schools will gain funding, including more than 3,000 receiving an increase of more than 5% - up to 3% in per pupil funding in 2018 to 2019 and a further 2.5% in 2019 to 2020.


Funding for new school places announced

The education Secretary has announced new funding for the provision of good quality school places aimed at reducing underperformance and guaranteeing places for all children of school going age. Latest figures released on school places showed that the number of good or outstanding places has increased by 420,000 over last year’s figures. The good news regarding improvements in more quality school places has come as a boost for the government’s desire to provide more funding for quality primary education for all. The ambition of the government according to the education secretary, is for all schools to become an academy, where schools will be able to drive their own improvements. Apart from the funding for school places, other initiatives to help provide quality education have also been mooted for discussions. For example, a £41 million maths mastery programme will provide high quality maths teaching across all primary schools in the country, making it possible for many children to master the basics of the subject which will intend become a good foundation for their academic journey. Teachers and school leaders have also been allocated an amount of £75 million to help with developing their skills in dealing with challenging areas of their work.

The new fund will provide the following:

  • £50 million a year fund for local authorities starting from September 2017. The fund will be used to monitor and improve low performing maintained schools, making sure that their performance is at par with high performing schools.
  • £20 million education endowment fund aimed at helping schools deliver the best possible outcome through evidence based programmes and approaches.
  • A Strategic School Improvement Fund of £140 million for targeted academies and maintained schools in deprived areas making sure that resources allocated are used effectively to provide good places and quality education

Provision of good or outstanding school places to all school children has been a top priority of many governments over the years, however, achieving it is another issue. The desire and commitments of the department has seen almost 1.8 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools since 2010. The education secretary has re-iterated the government’s determination in ensuring that all children of school going age are able to access good or outstanding schools wherever they may be located in the country. The latest funding will go a long way in helping some children and their parents to realise this fundamental basic right.


PE and Sport Premium for Schools

Schools are encouraged by the government to have active sporting schedules to help the fitness levels of their pupils. In support of helping schools to achieve this noble aim, the government instituted the Sport Premium to help fund sporting activities in schools throughout the country. Majority of schools with primary aged pupils are eligible to receive their funding for the 2016/17 academic year. Schools are paid the premium per the number of pupils in years 1 - 6. However, some special schools that does not follow year groups do receive payment for pupils aged 5 - 10. The main data used for paying the Premium is the school census. According to the department for education, schools with 16 or fewer eligible pupils receive £500 per pupil, with schools having 17 or more eligible pupils receiving £8,000 and an additional payment of £5 per pupil. Payments are made through local authorities for maintained schools. Two instalments are made through local authorities for the PE and sport premium. The following dates have been fixed for the 2016/ 17 academic year.

  • 7/12 of the funding allocation paid on 29 October 2016
  • 5/12 of the funding allocation to be paid on 27 April 2017

New maintained schools that are eligible for the funding will however receive their grants on different dates. Their monies will be paid to local authorities on the following dates:

  • 7/12 of funding allocation to be paid on 31 January 2017
  • 5/12 of funding allocation to be paid on 27 April 2017

The main aim of the premium is to provide schools with additional funding to help make sustainable improvements to the quality of PE and sports provision across the country. The funds cannot be used for any other purposes other than what it is meant to be used for. Schools in effect are encouraged to introduce new sporting activities to encourage more pupils to actively engage in daily physical exercises; organise sporting activities with other schools; hire qualified sports coaches and provide training for existing staff to teach and coach pupils during physical education lessons. To ensure proper accountability about the disbursement of the fund, Ofsted assess how schools spend their PE and sport premium. Schools are also required by the department, to publish how they use their funding on their websites.


Schools Financial Health Check.

Managing financial resources effectively and efficiently is a hall mark of a good school. There are measures in place to ensure that resources allocated to schools are put to good use to make learning and development of children more comfortable. Schools have competing priorities and making right choices depend on proper planning and careful consideration of the overall goal of the school. Education must be the primary focus of a school; however, this cannot be achieved if resources at a school’s disposal are mismanaged. Schools need to use scarce resources at their disposal in an efficient way to reflect the needs of a school’s development plan. Well written resources abound on how to structure and maintain good financial health in schools by the department for education, however, those charged with the responsibilities of looking after the finances of schools need to recognise when to seek expert advice. Trying to do it all may not be the best option when specific skills and expert advice that may help in certain situations could be considered. For example, building projects, major repairs and buying a lease may require expert advice from an expert on how well to execute them properly.

Budget is a key financial tool that can help in achieving the goals of a school. Key areas that has higher spending streams should be monitored to avoid overspending. Budget could be built up from the scratch rather than building it on the previous years. Purchasing is one of the areas that could derail a school’s budget, bidding process could be used to ensure that fair prices and quality products and services are sourced always. A directory of suppliers has been compiled by the department, and schools are encouraged to use them for their bidding for purchases. One other area that needs careful consideration is teaching costs, about 50 percent of a school’s budget expenses will be on this. A careful audit should consider the pupil teacher ratio, good management of supply teachers and contact time for all teachers. Many schools manage their budgets very well, using their resources expertly to deliver high standards for pupils, however, there are many others that have been flagged as needing extra measures to put them on the right track.


Data Protection and the ‘Cloud’ Software Solutions.

The department for education has issued guidelines for schools on their key obligations and duties in relation to the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Cloud Software Solutions. Protecting school children across the country is a top priority for the department, it has therefore become imperative to offer guidelines to schools in ensuring that the collation, retention and storage of data is handled with the utmost care. This becomes particularly tricky with new inventions in technology. Some schools have already moved to the Cloud storage system, whilst others are considering moving some all or of their software services to internet based Cloud service provision. The guidelines according to the department, is non-statutory, however, it offers all the needed protection and safe guards to schools. The advice also offers protection to schools regarding supplier self-certification, as providers are required to confirm their compliance with the key principles and requirements of the DPA; making sure that suppliers provide additional advice and to detail how Cloud Software can best be configured by schools. Schools are also encouraged to device their own data retention policy in accordance with the DPA. All staffs should be trained to understand or follow such policy when handling personal data.

The advice is specifically designed for school leaders, school staff, governing bodies in all maintained schools, academies, free schools and local authorities. The DPA is responsible for setting out the legal framework for processing of all personal data. However, the compliance with the DPA is enforced by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). The DPA has eight key principles which must be complied with by anyone who processes personal data. The 8 principles ensure that information kept about an individual is:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed.
  • Processed for specific purposes
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • accurate and up to date
  • not kept for longer than is necessary
  • processed in line with individuals’ rights
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection
  • Secure

Schools have a duty of care towards the children in their care regarding their safety, wellbeing and general progress. Suppliers may be contracted to store and control data of children in the Cloud, however, the responsibility of safeguarding and complying with the necessary rules and regulations on data storage rest with school authorities. They should make sure that measures are in place to protect pupils’ data.


Proposals for schools that works for everyone

The Education Secretary Justine Greening has unveiled new proposals that will see the creation of a modern school system that works for everyone. The aim of the proposals, is to offer more good school places for all school going children, offering excellent education and the opportunity to fulfil their potential. The plan will augment the gains made in enrolling over 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools over the last six years. The consultation will run until 12 December 2016. Data available to the Department of education show that there have been significant improvements in the number of pupils able to access a good school over the last six years. According to OFSTED report, at the end of March 2016, 86% of schools were rated good or outstanding, an increase of 17 percentage points since 2010. Gains have been made over the years, however, significant challenges remain and this calls for sustained capacity building and maintenance to make sure that existing schools that are struggling are turned around. The pressure on school places needs careful attention, places for primary school pupils grew by 11% between 20101 and 2016.

The consultation is located on the Department of Education’s website and all stakeholders are invited to have their say so that a consensus could be reached on a system that will work for all and especially the wellbeing of our future leaders. The proposals for consultation include the following key considerations

  • Universities will be required to open or sponsor schools in exchange for the right to increase their tuition fees.

allowing new faith free schools to select up to 100% of pupils based on their faith, and introducing new requirements to make sure that faith schools include pupils from different backgrounds.

Allowing new selective schools to open, existing ones to expand, or non-selective schools to convert where there is demand; in addition, these schools must meet certain conditions such as guaranteeing places for children from disadvantaged backgrounds or helping to establish non-selective free schools.

stronger, more demanding requirements for independent schools to retain the benefits associated with charitable status; this could include offering bursaries to those less able to afford them or sponsoring schools in the state sector.


The anti-bullying app for school children

A 24-hour online support platform has been lunched by the government to help children who are victims of bullying and online abuse. £4.4 million has been set aside to support the project which will also include an app called tootoot app that will help children use screenshots of online abuse to report bullying. The internet has been a huge benefit to children, however, cyber bullies have used the cover of anonymity to harass vulnerable children across the country. The advantage of the app is that; it gives children the freedom of mind to report bullying acts without being found out by the perpetrators of such heinous crime. Children can snap bullies in action and send them to staff of their schools. Over 120,000 pupils across the country will be able use the platform to report bullying incidents in the form of homophobic, cyber bullying, transphobic, bullying and biphobic abuse. The programme is run by ‘Internet Matters’, and it is anticipated that 4,500 teachers will be trained across the country to help in facilitating the programme. About 60,000 parents will also be educated on how to prevent and protect their children from internet abuse.

Bullying can happen to all children and young people and it can affect their social, mental and emotional health. The computer age has taken bullying to a new dimension, bringing untold hardships to children and their parents. It is imperative for school staff to support pupils that have been victims of online bullying. This means being alert to the effect of any form of bullying stress, recognising early symptoms and making sure that children are appropriately directed to where they can obtain the needed support. Children with special educational needs or disabilities are particularly vulnerable to bullying, care should therefore be taken to ensure that they are not falling prey to cyber bulling. The Education Secretary Justine Greening has re-echoed the need for schools to be a safe place where children can go to grow and learn. The apps therefore come as a welcome relief for children, staff and parents in their fight against bullying in schools and homes. The aim of the government is to roll out this innovative tool of reporting cyber bullying to all schools, making it easier and convenient for pupils to report any abuse that they may face whether in school or at home.


More pupils on course to be excellent readers

Recently released official figures on Phonics Screening Check indicate that an increasing number of pupils are on track of becoming excellent readers. According to the published results, over 147,000 6-year olds have had vast improvement in their reading skills since the check was introduced in 2012. There has been a steady progress in reading by school pupils from previously published data. The number of pupils reaching the expected requirement in phonics has also improved tremendously, and according to the department of education, the results over the years have been encouraging. When the check was introduced in 2012, the proportion of pupils that attained the expected standard in phonics was 81%, the following year saw 91% attainment levels. Ensuring that children leave primary school with the requisite reading skills will help in their progression through the educational system. The government has been placing emphasis on making sure every child in the country is fluent in reading by working with schools and local authorities, making sure that young people have the knowledge and skills that can see them through life. Teachers have embraced the idea of encouraging children to have reading as a hobby and also adapt to the techniques of helping pupils to sound out and blend the sounds of the alphabet into words.

Even though progress has been made over the years, there are still number of local areas throughout the country that are finding it difficult to meet the set standards of literacy for their pupils. The government’s main aim is to make sure that every child is in a position to achieve a good level of literacy. To overcome this weaknesses in the areas that have been identified, the government has published a consultation paper dubbed ‘schools that work for everyone’ to solicit for ideas on how the struggling local areas could be helped to catch up with their peers, and also to cover a range of proposals aimed at ensuring that every child has access to a good school place that caters to their individual talents. As an additional measure to help identify pupils with problems, all children are to be given a phonics-based progress check in year 1 so that teachers can identify those in need of extra support. It is refreshing to note that the government is determined to raise the standard of reading in the first years of primary school so that children can master the basic decoding skills of reading early so that they can spend the rest of primary school reading to learn.


Record number of children attends schools rated as good and outstanding.

The number of children attending good or outstanding schools throughout the country has reached impressive record levels according to figures released recently by OFSTED, with over 1.4 million more children now attending the best schools than in 2010. It has been reported by the department for education that, eighty –six percent of schools are now rated good or outstanding – up from 84% at the end of August 2015. The figures further indicate that in this academic year alone, over 100,000 pupils are now benefitting from attending schools classified as good or outstanding. The aim of the government is to spread educational excellence everywhere making sure that every child and young person can access high quality provision, achieving to the best of his or her ability regardless of location, prior attainment and background. It is also imperative for all stakeholders to feel that children and young people, along with their families are satisfied with the quality of education and children’s services. The government has putting measures in place with the view of achieving educational excellence for all.

Some of the measures include setting stretching and well measured outcomes and empowering professionals to determine how to achieve them, through innovative local solutions. Allocate funding directly to schools on a fair, transparent basis and leave institutions to decide how to achieve greatest value with as few ring fences and conditions as possible. Support schools to develop pupils into well rounded confident, happy and resilient individuals to boost their academic attainment, employability and ability to engage in society as active citizens. To help improve struggling schools, the department will intervene promptly in underperforming schools to ensure that struggling schools are run by the best leaders, especially those that have had chronic underperformance for a long period of time. The government has also re-iterated its desire to protect all children and young people from harm and vulnerable children will be supported to succeed with opportunities as good as those for any other child. Above all else, resources will flow to where they’re most needed. The government’s desire to provide world class education and care with the view of allowing every child and young person to fulfil his or her potential marches on.


Checking schools financial health and efficiency

The success of every organisation depends on how efficient its resources are used to fulfil the mission that it sets out to achieve. Schools are given budget to run their day to day affairs and are required by law to report on how the funds provided are utilised. It is therefore imperative for school leaders to ensure that their budgets deliver the best possible value for money and the best possible outcomes for children and young people. Good financial health is essential to delivering educational excellence. Many schools manage their budgets very well, however, other schools struggle to record and report their finances according to laid down procedures for schools. The department for education has indicated that, ‘having access to good financial advice and support is an important part of running a good school’. There are many ways that schools can access external face to face support on financial planning and health. Schools can turn to other local schools, consultants, accountancy companies, finance directors and network of school business managers for help with managing their financial health.

The department for education in supporting schools to becoming more efficient and financially healthy has come up with the following guidelines to help schools in selecting the option that best suit their needs:

  • ‘A financial health checks structure that aims to help schools identify if they would benefit from external financial review’.
  • ‘Published directory of suppliers that can provide health checks for schools at a low cost’.
  • ‘A published guidance for schools on how to choose a supplier from the directory’.

The financial health checks supplier directory does not contain all organisations that provide financial services to schools and it has not been endorsed by the government neither the DfE nor EFA. The department is also looking for more suppliers who are willing to offer financial checks to schools to be added to the directory.


Buying for schools..

Procurement plays a vital role in school management, getting it right goes a long way in ensuring that scarce resources are put to good use. To ensure that schools are using their resources efficiently and effectively, the Department for education has issued guidelines on how to plan and run an efficient procurement process to buy goods, works or services for schools. The guidelines seeks to ensure that schools are getting value for money and also following laid down processes for procurement for educational institutions. Planning is important in getting the best out of procurement. Those in charge of buying goods and services will have to first consider why it is necessary to go for a good or service and the quality required thereof. The advice issued by the department stresses the importance of planning with the following key consideration.

Specify what you need, why and by when.

Request approval to go ahead with the procurement process.

Record your decision-making process.

Check to be sure that there is availability of budget to support your purchases.

Local authority maintained schools should check and follow the laid down rules on procurement by their authorities.

The next important step to consider after planning what you want to buy is specification. A specification should allow suppliers to understand exactly what you need to buy, including the quality and delivery date. The basic requirement of the goods or service needed will include a precise description of what you want to purchase and if appropriate, an explanation of what the goods, works or services should do to meet your needs. Consideration should also be given to the quantity to buy. And above all else, consultation with other schools and stakeholders could help in getting the best for your school. After specifying what is required, you will need to find a supplier by looking for a suitable frame work agreements. The following may be of great help, your local authority, Central Buying Consortium (CBC), the Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC), Crown Commercial Services (CCS) and ESPO. Once you’ve chosen a framework, read the framework’s process guidelines carefully to make sure you can make a direct selection of a supplier and to understand what the rules are for doing so. Procurement process and supplier performance should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that schools are getting the best out of their budget. According to the guidelines, the easiest and quickest option is to buy goods, works or services through a framework agreement. However, the department recommend using this process only for low-value purchases.

MONDAY 27th JUNE 2016

Data protection guidance for schools on cloud software services introduced.

The department for education has designed step by step guidance on the use of Cloud software services with the aim of protecting data held by institutions who would like to use it. The introduction of cloud software services will help educational institutions to store data effectively and efficiently. However, every system has its own weaknesses; it is therefore a welcome relief to institutions willing to use the software to be given the needed directions that will help protect the records that will be stored on the cloud; it outlines how schools need to consider data security when moving services and information onto the cloud. The guidance is intended for governing bodies, school staff, school leaders and local authorities. The guidance applies to all local-authority maintained schools, academies and free schools. The Data Protection Act (DPA) stipulates that all schools as independent public bodies are directly responsible for the collation, retention, storage and security of all information they produce and hold. This information may include educational records, headteachers reports and any other personal information of individuals – pupils, staff and parents. Schools are encouraged to develop their own data retention policy in accordance with the DPA. It is also imperative for schools to make sure that staff understand or follow policy when handling personal data. General data protection advice for schools can be found on the ICO website.

Some of the key areas that schools should address with regards to the DPA are addressed below:

Legal requirements: It is a must that all personal data processed in schools should comply with the DPA.

Data Processing: Schools have to ensure that the processing done via cloud service provider complies with the DPA. A data processing agreement should be in place to ensure consistency.

Service availability: Reliability in use should be the watch word for all schools, making sure that there is timely and reliable access to personal data at all times. Data controllers should check whether they have adopted reasonable measures to cope with the risk of disruptions such as backup internet network links.

Confidentiality: There should be sufficient guarantees about the technical and organisational security measures governing the processing to be carried out, taking all reasonable steps to ensure that those measures are complied with.

Advertising: Schools store very sensitive information as greater percentage of the data stored relates children; care should be taking to ensure that the cloud service provider is asked to confirm whether they will be involved in serving advertisement or engaging in advertisement-related data mining or advertisement-related profiling activities. Schools should always remember that ‘individuals have a right to prevent their personal data being used for the purpose of marketing

MONDAY 27th JUNE 2016

Character Education Grant 2016-17 announced.

An amount of £6 million has been earmarked to help build pupils character in schools. The sole aim of the grant is to promote traits such as resilience and respect in schools. Schools that are already using range of activities to broaden the learning experience of children and boost their character can apply for help from the grant. The grant was introduced in 2015 and has helped schools to instil positive character traits through activities such as debating, music, sports and camping. Funding is only available for projects working within or in partnership with school(s) and/or college(s) in England. This year’s grant was announced by the Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson, he reiterated the importance of character building in children and the likely impact that it can have on their future development. Last year’s character grant winners included Premiership Rugby, which received £500,000 to use the expertise of leading rugby coaches and players to instil character and resilience in disaffected children. This year’s grants will also involve projects with military ethos, employing the rich experience of ex- service men.

Applications are open to schools, colleges, universities, local authorities and voluntary organisations. The fund is to be used to increase the number of children aged 5 to 16, to participate in activities that support academic attainment, valued by employers and enable children to make a positive contribution towards British society. In effect, all projects that participate in the programme should be able to demonstrate a high quality range of activities that will stimulate the learning experience of children. Organisations have until 23 June to submit a proposal for grant funding. Selected organisations will be receiving funding by the end of September 2016. A full specification, application form and further guidance can be found on Contracts Finder. Organisations wishing to provide projects should have a clear plan and evidence base for how the main aims of the programme will be achieved. Schools submitting final applications should include application form, invitation to bid letter declaration form, all financial documents as specified in the application form; and finally, documents are to be submitted via email and not the submit button.

MONDAY 27th JUNE 2016

Spreading ‘educational excellence everywhere’ announced.

The government’s intention of making sure that all children in the country receive the best possible education has been announced in a white paper published in May 2016 dubbed “Educational Excellence everywhere”. The white paper is a great addition to the educational reforms that has been in place over the last 6 years. The said reforms according to data from the department for education, has seen over 1.4 million more children being taught in good and outstanding schools across the country. The government has attributed the success achieved so far to the additions of the academy system; however, many critics will disagree with that assertion. All stakeholders in education were giving the opportunity to express their views on the way forward for education in the country. In effect, the government listened to feedback from parents, teachers, school leaders and MPs. The government’s decision to turn every school into an academy received harsh criticisms and condemnation, leading to a back down on allowing those in the helms of affairs to decide the best way in giving the best possible education to children wherever they may find themselves in the country. However, the government issued 104 directive academy orders to underperforming schools in April alone. Underperforming schools are still required to convert to academy status where they are claimed to benefit from the support of a strong sponsor.

An excellent education unlocks opportunity, helping children from all backgrounds to shape their own destiny. Wherever they live and whatever their background, ability or needs, every child and young person in this country deserves a world class education that allows them to reach their full potential and prepares them to succeed in adult life in modern Britain. The main goal of the white paper is to set out detail plans to deliver educational excellence everywhere, so that every child and young person can access world class provision, achieving to the best of his or her ability regardless of location, prior attainment and background. According to the government white paper, this goal is made up of two distinct parts namely ‘Excellence” and “Everywhere”.

Excellence: The government will continue to set unapologetically high expectations for all children, with the view of helping them to compete effectively with the best from the rest of the world. According to the government’s philosophy, ‘when the bar is raised, everyone benefits’. The country’s best schools and highest performing areas already indicate how relentlessly ambitious that children from all background can and should aim for.

Everywhere: Areas in the country that are lagging behind in performance are to be given all the needed attention to bring them at par to other high performing schools level. To sum this noble idea up, the white paper aptly describe how this could be achieved - ‘wherever they live, whatever their background, prior attainment or needs, every child deserves a high quality education’.

FRIDAY 27th MAY 2016

Finalists of Pupil Premium Awards Announced.

The department for education announced the final shortlist of schools which have most effectively used the pupil premium to improve the life chances of disadvantaged pupils on April 22, 2016. The award ceremony will take place in London this month to celebrate their achievements. All finalists have exhibited innovative way of using the award to better the lives of disadvantaged children. Consistent levels of attainment or significant rates of improvement have been shown across board for all pupils that have received the awards. The government has allotted £2.5 billion towards the pupil premium for this academic year, and this huge amount will go a long way in providing a life line to some of the most vulnerable children in the country. It has been reported by the department for education that, the introduction of Pupil Premium has seen the attainment gap that existed between disadvantaged children and their peers narrowed since the scheme was introduced in 2011. The main aim of the award is to encourage more schools to be innovative in the use of their pupil premium in helping the most vulnerable children in society to compete effectively with their peers. The judging panel for this year’s award was made up of headteachers, former award winners, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD, renowned contemporary artist Tracey Emin and was chaired by Andreas Schleicher (education expert).

Qualified pupils can receive up to £1,900.00 a year and can be used however a school see fit to close the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. Since its introduction, the government has spent around £6.23 billion to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. AS indicated above, there has been a significant improvement in the attainment of disadvantaged children, for example the attainment gap was narrowed during the fund’s inception in 2011 by 7.1% at key stage 2 and 6.6% at key stage 4. The awards which seeks to enforce the basic tenets of the fund, is divided into four categories – key stage 2, key stage 4, special schools and alternative provision and key stage 1 and 3. The importance of the awards cannot be emphasised, and this has seen many notable organisations wanting to associate their brands and names with the annual event. For the first time, the awards have been sponsored by a wide range of highly regarded organisations from the arts, culture, science and technology sectors, which will provide award winning schools with exciting and culturally enriching opportunities to both their pupils and teachers.

FRIDAY 27th MAY 2016

Academy for all......?

The government’s plan to turn every school in England to an academy has received widespread criticism from all corners of the country. Some have argued that it will be difficult for local authorities to fulfil their statutory obligation to find places for all children in their catchment area when they are no longer in charge of school planning and expansion. Academies are state funded schools that receive their funding directly from the central government with the day to day running of the school firmly in the hands of headteachers. The overall supervision of academies lies in the hands of charitable bodies called academy trusts. There are currently 2,440 out of 16,766 primary schools that have academy status. 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools also have academy status in England. The initial idea for academies was introduced under the Tony Blair’s government; however the scheme saw a great expansion during the coalition government of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The main rationale behind the idea of turning local authority run schools into academies was to improve underperforming schools and to raise standards, giving greater autonomy to those running them to have more interaction with experts and to use best practices from well performing schools.

The education secretary Nicky Morgan in addressing some of these concerns during a speech delivered to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference reiterated the government’s determination of making sure that concerns expressed about the programme of turning every school in the country into an academy is addressed objectively. She argued that, the autonomy enjoyed by academies will bring power into the hands of headteachers and also ensure that decision making for standards and performance is made locally by those in charge of the day to day running of schools across the country. The secretary indicated that it is not the aim of the government to create an atmosphere of ‘survival of the fittest’ for schools, however, it is the government’s intention to make sure that struggling schools could be easily identified and the necessary remedial action taking to help schools in every corner of the country to compete effectively with their peers worldwide. The government is projecting that a third of primary schools in England will convert to an academy status by 2020, with around three–quarters of secondary schools also converting. Local authorities will continue to provide special educational needs services and acting as champions for SEND young people. This according to the secretary will ensure that every child has a school place with excellent local services. The government has also promised spending over £500 million to build capacity in the system to ensure no school is left out.

FRIDAY 27th MAY 2016

‘Taking ownership of your curriculum’

The introduction of the new examinations regime has brought into sharp focus the need for schools to develop a well thought through systems that will help teachers and pupils to prepare adequately for the challenging curriculum that will address the educational needs of their pupils and prepare them adequately for future development. The first test for assessing primary pupils on the new national curriculum starts this month. Schools have already started teaching the new curriculum for maths and English, and will be examined for the first time next year. Twenty new GCSE subjects will be introduced in schools for the first time in September 2016. The importance of the new curriculum to the government was emphasised by a speech delivered by the Minister for Education Nick Gibb at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) on the theme, ‘Taking ownership of your curriculum: a national summit’. The government’s curriculum reforms started in 2010 and has gone through many challenges, however, the good ground work that has gone into the process by all stakeholders are now beginning to bear fruits.

About £6 billion pounds of tax payers’ money is spent on education every year, it is therefore understandable that there is strong public interest on how pupils are taught in this country. Some concerns have been expressed over the years by stakeholders on the direction of basic education in the country especially when performances from other countries have been consistently better than that of this country. In 2010, 64% of pupils achieved a level 4 in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of primary school; however, even pupils with top grades were seen struggling in secondary schools with some head teachers complaining that pupils were not sufficiently prepared for the task ahead of them. Some pupils judged as having met the expected standard aged 11 were unable to perform basic procedures in mathematics or write cogently. There was therefore the need for some action to be taken to address the grading system as well as the general overhaul of the curriculum. Employers over the years have expressed deep concern over lack of basic literacy and numeracy from some applicants that they attempt to recruit to fill vacant positions across the country. One of the basic fundamental principles of good education system is that all children are able to write fluent, cogent and grammatically correct English as well as having a good grasp of basic mathematical procedures irrespective of their background.


Funding reforms for schools

The recently published spending review re-affirmed the government’s commitment of protecting core schools funding in real terms for the duration of the current Parliament. The budget allocation for schools funding was projected to be over £40 billion and this amount signifies the largest budget spending on primary and secondary schools ever in the country. The additional contribution made towards the funding of Pupil Premium over the last parliament has been a major contributory factor to the record level of funding for schools. The overriding aim of the huge sums of money earmarked for education of children in the country is to ensure that parents know that funding is being used in the best way possible to further their child’s life chances. It is therefore encouraging that the government has launched a consultation with the view of soliciting ideas from sector groups on how best to fund schools. It is the government’s intention of developing a system of funding that would be fair and transparent with resources marched to the needs of pupils and schools across the country.

Consultation on funding

The key principles identified for the funding reforms are:

  • fairness
  • based on pupil needs and characteristics
  • transparent

Finding a better way of funding schools in the country has always been a major headache for governments, and involving major stakeholders in deciding how best to go about it is a sure way of coming out with an acceptable policy of funding that will appeal to all concerned in the welfare of our future leaders. The government announced the first phase of consultation on fair funding on March 7, and that consultation is scheduled to close on April 17, 2016. The aim of the said consultation is to seek views on the principles that could be used in designing the formula, the building blocks that will be used to construct the formula and the factors that could be included in the formula for the funding. The intention of creating a level playing field for every child in the country to fulfil their potential in education calls for a system of funding that will cater for the needs of those children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, offering the needed support that will help deliver education excellence to every pupil in the country.


Educational Excellence for all

Achieving educational excellence for all is a vision that has been envisaged by many governments over the years. When education for children is well structured to take the needs of all stakeholders into consideration, it unlocks opportunity helping children from all backgrounds to shape their own destiny. It needs emphasising that where children live, their background, ability or needs should never be a stumbling block in reaching their full potential in life. Education has always been the engine of social justice and economic growth ensuring that it inculcates a good foundation for cultural values and as the best investment that a society can give to its future leaders. However, the English education system has faced significant challenges in the last five years. For example, one in three children left primary school without the requisite skills to succeed at secondary school. Furthermore, many schools were underperforming – especially those in the poorest communities. There was therefore the need for radical reforms to stem the decline in the standards.

The introduction of changes to educational delivery announced during the last parliament has brought about a considerable improvement in schools across the country. According to statistics from the department for education, ‘record numbers of children are now taught in good and outstanding schools, with 1.4 million more pupils than in 2010. The introduction of phonics reading in 2012 has also seen a marked improvement with over 120,000 more children on track to become excellent readers. The number of pupils taking core academic subjects at GCSE has risen by 78%. It is also encouraging to note that four out of five pupils are able to achieve the expected standard in maths, reading and writing at the end of primary school. The progress made so far has been remarkable; however, it isn’t felt all around the country, with some parts of the country still recording poor performance. And this is mostly felt in deprived areas of the country. About 17% of UK students fail to reach modern functional literacy compared to 11% in Canada. A government white paper setting out plans to achieve educational excellence everywhere was launched in March building on and extending educational reforms to deliver the best possible outcome for children throughout the country. The intention of the government is to ensure supported autonomy, aligning funding, control responsibility and accountability for all schools; and ensuring that institutions can collaborate and access the support they need to set them up for success.

The Education and Child care Minister Sam Gyimah has lunched the 2016 Pupil Premium awards with prizes ranging from the chance to see Shakespeare productions and a visit to museums including the world-renowned Science Museum in London. The award ceremony is scheduled to take place in May, and will be presented by Tracey Emin and chaired by Andreas Schleicher. Applications for the awards opened on February 5, 2016. The rationale behind the awards is to recognise schools that have used the Pupil Premium funding to combat disadvantage and raise the aspirations of their pupils. In an effort to encourage other schools to emulate the shining example of the schools that are going the extra mile in applying the tenants of the fund to the full, the Minister has written to over 550 primary and secondary schools across the country to congratulate them on their shining example and the chance of winning one of the prizes for the Pupil Premium Awards. The government has earmarked an amount of £2.5 billion this year for the fund with the aim of helping and providing the needed support for the most vulnerable children across the country.

The national awards have been divided into four categories, namely:The government is to set up a new peer support network for children across the country with the aim of helping young people talk about mental health. A process has been set in motion that will encourage school children and parents to discuss freely the menace of mental health issues online and mobile phone apps. It is a common knowledge that children are often the first to observe when things are not the way that it should be. Offering training to children will therefore give them the confidence and the willingness to look out for signs that will help early detection and treatment for mental illness. In an effort to tackle physical mental health issue nationally, the government has also promised spending £1 billion by 2020 providing mental health care to 70,000 more children and young people. The Department for Education in consultation with the National Health Service England is to spend an additional £3 million to help provide counselling for schools, and to show the commitment of government towards mental health, the Child Care Minister Sam Gyimah has been assigned an additional responsibility for mental health.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 children suffer from mental illness and the worrying fact is that most of these cases are not known by the health authorities for early diagnoses and treatment. It is therefore important to spot signs early and offer the needed support as more than half of all adults who face mental health problems later on in life were diagnosed with these issues during their childhood. The Education Secretary has re-echoed the need to tackle mental health issues in children as it can have a devastating effect on their future lives. Training and encouraging children to report signs of mental illness among their peers will in no small measure reduce the high unreported cases to the health authorities for diagnoses and treatment and also help young people show solidarity with their classmates and friends. This will also reduce isolation and insecurity that is often associated with mental illness.Counselling guidance which plays a pivotal role in shaping the lives of children has also been updated to provide practical evidence based –advice in schools.WEDNESDAY 27th APRIL 2016

The Education Services Grant for 2015 -16

The introduction of the Education Services Grant (ESG) to replace the Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant (LACSEG) in 2013 was aimed at providing cover for cost of services provided by local authorities to centrally maintained schools and academies. The ESG has been streamlined to remove the bottlenecks that were associated with the LACSEG. The main rationale for the change in direction was to make funding of education services more appropriate to the increasing number of academies and the increasingly autonomous school system. Furthermore, the new system with a national per pupil rate for ESG has made the system for funding education services simpler, fairer and more transparent. ESG is paid to local authorities and academies on a per pupil basis as an un-ringfenced grant. Local authorities receive additional funding for the obligations that that they have to both maintained schools and academies. The government spending cut has seen the ESG budget reduced by £200 million in 2015 – 16.

ESG for 2015 – 16 in brief

  • £15 per pupil to be paid as retained duties rate for the year under review.
  • The general funding rate will be £87 per pupil for 2015 -16.
  • There will be no top up for academies in the academic year 2015 – 16; however, provision will be made to ensure a continuing against large budget reductions.
  • The multipliers for alternative provision and special schools will remain at 3.75 and 4.25 respectively.

The general funding rate is paid to local authorities for every pupil in a maintained school and to academies for every pupil on roll.

Local authorities to be given retained duties rate on a per pupil basis for all pupils, regardless of whether they attend a maintained school or academy.

The government lunched a consultation in March 2014 regarding the impact that the reduction in ESG amount paid to local authorities might have on the services rendered in respective councils. The consultation also looked at how to offer efficient services by local authorities to schools located in their jurisdictions, with particular emphasis on whether there could be any further clarification or guidance that government could provide in order to help local authorities and academies deliver these savings, as well as whether there were any functions that local authorities or academies should stop doing completely. The responses received from the said consultation have helped in shaping the rates announced for the current academic year. For example, responses received indicated that, there is little scope to reduce the retained duties rate below £15 per pupil.

SUNDAY 27th MARCH 2016

£1.5 million to help detect early signs of mental health illness in school children

The government is to set up a new peer support network for children across the country with the aim of helping young people talk about mental health. A process has been set in motion that will encourage school children and parents to discuss freely the menace of mental health issues online and mobile phone apps. It is a common knowledge that children are often the first to observe when things are not the way that it should be. Offering training to children will therefore give them the confidence and the willingness to look out for signs that will help early detection and treatment for mental illness. In an effort to tackle physical mental health issue nationally, the government has also promised spending £1 billion by 2020 providing mental health care to 70,000 more children and young people. The Department for Education in consultation with the National Health Service England is to spend an additional £3 million to help provide counselling for schools, and to show the commitment of government towards mental health, the Child Care Minister Sam Gyimah has been assigned an additional responsibility for mental health.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 children suffer from mental illness and the worrying fact is that most of these cases are not known by the health authorities for early diagnoses and treatment. It is therefore important to spot signs early and offer the needed support as more than half of all adults who face mental health problems later on in life were diagnosed with these issues during their childhood. The Education Secretary has re-echoed the need to tackle mental health issues in children as it can have a devastating effect on their future lives. Training and encouraging children to report signs of mental illness among their peers will in no small measure reduce the high unreported cases to the health authorities for diagnoses and treatment and also help young people show solidarity with their classmates and friends. This will also reduce isolation and insecurity that is often associated with mental illness.Counselling guidance which plays a pivotal role in shaping the lives of children has also been updated to provide practical evidence based –advice in schools.

SUNDAY 27th MARCH 2016

2016 Pupil Premium Awards Lunched.

The Education and Child care Minister Sam Gyimah has lunched the 2016 Pupil Premium awards with prizes ranging from the chance to see Shakespeare productions and a visit to museums including the world-renowned Science Museum in London. The award ceremony is scheduled to take place in May, and will be presented by Tracey Emin and chaired by Andreas Schleicher. Applications for the awards opened on February 5, 2016. The rationale behind the awards is to recognise schools that have used the Pupil Premium funding to combat disadvantage and raise the aspirations of their pupils. In an effort to encourage other schools to emulate the shining example of the schools that are going the extra mile in applying the tenants of the fund to the full, the Minister has written to over 550 primary and secondary schools across the country to congratulate them on their shining example and the chance of winning one of the prizes for the Pupil Premium Awards. The government has earmarked an amount of £2.5 billion this year for the fund with the aim of helping and providing the needed support for the most vulnerable children across the country.

The national awards have been divided into four categories, namely:

  • vKey stage 1 (KS1) and key stage 3 (KS3).
  • vKey stage 2 (KS2)
  • vKey stage 4 (KS4)
  • vSpecial and alternative provision (AP schools)

7 additional regional winners will be announced in the KS2 and KS4 categories, bringing the total number of schools to receive awards to 22. Pupil Premium has been a huge success in bridging the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates. The government has since the fund’s inception committed over £6 billion in making sure that no child is left behind in realising their potential in life through education. Pupils that qualify for the premium can receive up to £1,900.00. Research has shown that schools that have embraced the funds tend to have a consistent improvement in attainment levels among their disadvantaged pupils. The said schools are able to use their funds in offering support in the form of one-to-one tuition in maths and English. There are many ways that opportunities could be extended to pupils from disadvantaged background; however education remains a potent tool in boosting aspiration and providing a stronger future for children. Pupil Premium has come to stay and the fund does not only support pupils in classrooms but it also gives a broader life experience to build character.

SUNDAY 27th MARCH 2016

Penguin to the rescue

Penguin Classics in conjunction with the Department for Education have come up with an initiative that will see schools across the country have access to the former’s popular Black Classics series. As part of the programme, 100 popular titles will be made available to schools allowing pupils to read along with their teachers and classmates. Schools have been given a limited offer period from March to June 2016 at a cost of £1 per copy for the books to be delivered in time for the new school term in September 2016. The advent of computers and its associated gadgets and games have seen a marked reduction in reading amongst pupils and even adults. It is therefore a good idea to promote reading in schools. The government introduced phonics screening check as part of its educational reforms and this has seen over 120,000 children improving their reading skills as well as becoming excellent readers.The Department for Education announced recently that it is its desire to see children in the United Kingdom become the best in Europe for reading. This is an ambitious target, however, the initiative from Penguin will go a long way in promoting the good old skills of reading and placing our future leaders on a good platform for advancement in their learning.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has indicated that he wants to encourage a ‘debate and discussion’ among students and the general public regarding the type of classic literature that should be read in our schools. The Minister has also reiterated the importance of teaching pupils in secondary schools how to read and motivate them to enjoy ‘challenging books from amongst the world’s greatest literature’. In addition to the above mentioned scheme, funding for the Reading Agency has seen 200 new book clubs opened in primary schools across the country since September last year. The popular Chatterbooks has aroused the interest of reading in many children and it is the ambition of the government to build on that by encouraging more year 3 pupils to enrol in their local library. Over £20 million has been made available by the government for schools to buy and develop study materials for teaching phonics which is considered the pillar of reading. Pupils that fail to reach the required threshold in the light touch check are to be given extra help to catch up with their peers.


School admission process under spotlight

Parents are to be given greater say in the school admission process according the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. The government has promised to do away with the bureaucracy associated with pupils getting admitted to schools across the country. The schools admissions code has been simplified for parents to understand and to navigate their way of ensuring that children can gain access to good school places. The intention of the government is to encourage more children to have opportunity to go to a good local school by making it easier for parents to have a say in their local school’s admission process. The new plan will help stop complaints against faith schools by secularist campaign group as well as stopping objections from parents outside the school or the local authority areaputting a stop to unnecessary complaints by restricting who can object to schooladmissions arrangements to local parents and the local authority. Parents and communities have been given greater mandate by requiring admissions authorities to consult them on their admission arrangements every four years instead of the 7 years that is in operation now.

Despite all the doom and gloom about admissions in the country, about 95% of parents’ received an offer at one of their preferred schools in 2015. The current guidelines require admissions authorities to set admission arrangements annually. Changes are to be communicated in advance to parents to avoid confusion. It is the responsibility of local authorities throughout the country to ensure that there are sufficient school places in their area for all children at school going age to have classroom education. To ensure that all school children are given the opportunity of having a quality basic education, the government has doubled basic funding to local authorities for new places in new schools spending £5 billion between 2011 and 2015. The result has seen over 500,000 school places created in maintained schools and academies since May 2010. The government has also promised in committing £7 billion on new school places in the current parliament. In effect, the government’s commitment to create 500 new free schools will significantly increase the choice available to local parents and improve the supply of good quality places.


Funding for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) boosted with £80 million package.

The government has announced an additional funding of £80 million towards the extension of opportunities for children and families with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). According to the Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson, the funding will go a long way in ensuring that children can achieve their desired goals in life without any hindrance. The package will see funding for councils as well as charities that cater for vulnerable young person increase, and it is the aim of the government to continue with transition funding in 2017 to 2018 with the reforms initiated in 2004 in mind. The funding for SEND children has gone through many changes over the years, and the current government reforms has for the first time placed all needs of children with complex SEND under one umbrella dubbed ‘Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. The government in streamlining the SEND funding is to make it easy for parents and carers to access funding and to concentrate their time on providing the needed care for their children; in effect, the law has been changed so that the needs of families is placed at the heart of everything that concerns the welfare of SEND children.

Funding in summary…..

§ Local authorities to receive £35.8 million in implementation funding towards the additional responsibilities bestowed on them as a result of the EHC plans.

§ Low income families to be supported with an amount of £27.3 million in ‘Family Fund Trust’ for 2016 to 2017. This funding could be accessed for specific purchases and short respite breaks.

§ The Independent supporters programme will receive £15 million grant to help families and young people navigate the system.

§ Parent Carer Forums that support parents and children with guidance and counselling has been allocated an amount of £2.3 million to continue offering invaluable assistance to parents in seeking the best for their children.

The government has re-iterated its preparedness to partner with all relevant agencies to offer the needed support to all children irrespective of their personal circumstances or background. It is estimated that, over 54,225 families accessed SEND funding in 2015. According to an independent evaluation of the programme by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTI), independent supporters of the programme are offering a real change and support to parents and families accessing the programme.


Getting ready for the Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016.

Pupils in England are set to partake in the Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS), aimed at measuring the reading ability of 10 year olds with the intention of comparing the results with what pertains in other countries. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) is in charge of the programme and the next round of study will be delivered by the Pearson Education and the Oxford University. 170 schools have been selected across the country by the PIRLS recruitment team to participate in the test. Pupils selected do not need to prepare for the test. Studies have shown that pupils with strong reading skills are more likely to succeed at school as well as achieving good qualifications and securing more rewarding career in life. The Secretary for Education Nicky Morgan recently launched a programme aimed at helping pupils across the country improve upon their reading skills and for them to be the best in Europe at reading. It has been estimated that 99% of pupils who met the expected standard in the phonics check in 2014 went on to achieve or exceeded the expected level in reading at the end of key stage 1. This impressive statistics has seen over 33,000 pupils improving their standard of reading in the last five years.

Teachers and pupils throughout the country have devoted time and effort in making sure that reading is accorded the needed attention that it requires in schools. The results of PIRLS 2016 will give the department of education the yardstick to measure the performance of pupils across the country with the view of knowing whether the target set of making England the best place for reading in Europe is on track or it has become a mirage. The department for education will also use the result to help shape improve policies on teacher training, the national curriculum and techniques for teaching reading. Results of the test will also be used to gain better understanding of reading habits of children in the country and how to improve it. Over 4,000 pupils will take the PIRLS test in May and June 2016 with results coming out in 2017. More information about the test is found on the website of the IEA ( or the OUCEA ( Some of the participating countries are Argentina (Buenos Aires), Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada (with Ontario and Quebec as benchmarking systems), Chile, Chinese Taipei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lithuania, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain (with Andalusia as a benchmarking system), Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates (with Abu Dhabi and Dubai as benchmarking systems), and United States.


2016 Funding arrangements for schools announced

The childcare and Education Minister Sam Gyimah has announced the 2016 to 2017 schools revenue settlement detailing how schools across the country will be funded. The minister introduced the funding on the floor of Parliament and it included the dedicated schools grant (DSG), the pupil premium and the education services grant. Local authorities will continue to be in charge of the DSG and will follow the format of 3 spending blocks for each authority – early years block, schools block and high needs block. The statement indicated that schools block will be allocated on the basis of the schools block units of funding announced on 16 July 2015. The government is to protect schools budget through the minimum funding guarantee that ensures no school sees more than a 1.5% per pupil reduction in the 2015 to 2016 budget (excluding sixth form funding and ESG). An additional amount of £92.5 million has already been provided for the DSG high needs block. The high needs block supports provision for pupils and students with SEN and disabilities.

DSG early years block will be maintained at their 2015 level and it include funding for 15 hour entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds; participation funding 2 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds; and the early years pupil premium. Rates for ESG are pegged at £15 per pupil. The government has applied an efficiency savings to the ESG general funding rate for 2016 to 2017, with the rate reducing from £87 per pupil to £77 per pupil. The pupil premium rates for the year under review is to be protected and the rate per pupil in primary school stands at £1,320, with looked after children on pupil premium plus receiving £1,900. The government will publish the Pupil Premium allocations for the current year in June following the receipts of data from schools. The Chancellor indicated in his spending review statement that a national funding formula will be introduced in 2017 to streamline school funding in the country. Proposals for the said funding regime will be introduced this year for ideas on how best to fund schools in the country.


New online safety measures for schools announced

The Education Secretary has unveiled new plans aimed at protecting school children from harm online. The measures announced will include online protection offered to school pupils to help filter inappropriate and more importantly teach children how to stay safe online. The programme will protect children from cyber bullying, risk of radicalisation and pornography. The increase in radicalisation in schools – leading to school children travelling to Syria to join Daesh via school computers has become a major headache for government. The measures instituted by the department for education requiring schools to put in place strengthened measures to protect children from online harm will not achieve the desired goals if parents are excluded from its process. The benefits that computers bring to the development of children in schools cannot be overemphasised, however, the risks and havoc that the same facility is having on children are there for all to see. There is therefore the need for a concerted effort aimed at making sure that children are offered all the needed assistance to protect them from online harm.

The proposed consultation will require schools and other major stakeholders to address the following concerns:

  • Teaching pupils about safeguarding, and more importantly online safety.
  • Schools to consider having appropriate filters and monitoring systems, making sure that no child can access harmful materials through the schools computer systems.
  • Systems in place to monitor pupils’ online activities as well as spotting breaches of security measures for the necessary redress.

During the lunch of the consultation, the Education Secretary reiterated the importance of ensuring that young people know how to use the internet responsibly with an overriding aim of having the right measures in place to keep children safe from exploitation and radicalisation. The Secretary also promised on delivering the government’s commitment of keeping children safe from harm. As part of this commitment, the government will provide helpful support and information for teachers and parents to help protect children in this digital age. The new measures have been welcomed by experts in the computer industry with the ‘UK Safer Internet Centre’ pledging its support for the successful implementation of the programme.


Guidance on Religious education freedom issued by the government.

Guidance note for subject content, aims and learning objectives required for GCSE religious studies has been issued to schools and awarding organisations to explain their legal requirements when teaching and examining the subject in the country. This guidance explains further therecent Judicial Review of the religious studies GCSE ruled on a narrow, technical point, the meaning of which the Department for Education has now clarified, meaning there is no need to seek permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal. There is therefore no need for schools to change their religious education curriculum to accommodate non religious world views and to give it equal parity with religious world views in education. Immediately after the ruling by the Court of Appeal, some campaign groups argued that non religious beliefs such as humanism must be taught on a par with study of religion. The guidance is therefore a welcome relief for schools as it offers clear unambiguous guidelines on how to teach religion in schools without the fear of any legal concerns.

There was confusion about the implication of the High Court Judgement on the teaching of religious education in the country. The guidance has for now calmed the nerves of teachers, parents and pupils. Faith groups across the country have welcomed the decision to protect religious education freedom in schools – allowing schools to set their own religious studies curriculum in accordance with statutory guidance as well as the wishes of parents. The guidance makes it clear that non faith schools must take account of the fact that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christian; however consideration should be given to the teaching and practices of other principal religions represented in the country.

Governments take on the ruling:

  • Government is keen on protecting schools’ freedom allowing them to set their own religious studies curriculum in consultation with parents and the local community.
  • The guidance according to the Education Secretary makes it abundantly clear that the recent judicial review will have no impact on what is currently being taught in schools.
  • Government to allow faith and non-faith schools to prioritise the teaching of religion and faith over non-religious world views if they wish.
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