Plans for grammar school expansion and new maintained faith schools

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced that it will:

  • open a Selective Schools Expansion Fund of £50 million for existing selective (grammar) schools to expand their premises to create new places. To access the money, which is available in 2018-19, schools will have to submit a Fair Access and Partnership Plan setting out actions to increase admissions of disadvantaged pupils;
  • develop a scheme to help create new voluntary-aided schools to meet local demand. Schools that open under this route can open with up to 100% faith based admissions and providers will have to contribute 10% to capital costs. The DfE intend to work with local authorities to create schools in areas of need;
  • facilitate universities’ and independent schools’ partnerships with state schools. A dedicated unit has been established in the DfE for this purpose and a Joint Understanding with the Independent Schools Council has been made;
  • open the next wave of free school applications targeted at areas in which there is a demand for places and a need to raise standards.

These measures are a significantly watered down version of those put forward in the 2016 ‘Schools that work for everyone’ consultation. This proposed a change in legislation to allow new grammar schools to open and a change in the rules to allow new free schools to be selective on the basis of faith (currently there is a cap of 50% faith based admissions in the oversubscription criteria). The government’s response to the consultation has also been published.

Secretary of State for Education pledges clarity on accountability measures

On Friday 4 May, the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, addressed the National Association of Headteachers annual conference in Liverpool. Here, he discussed the role of Ofsted, the future of accountability measures, academisation and improving career support for teachers.

As part of his speech, Mr Hinds looked to clarify the role of Ofsted as the main body to “provide an independent, rounded judgement of a school’s performance”. Amidst confusion in the sector concerning decisions in relation to directing an academy order, Mr Hinds outlined that “school leaders need complete clarity on how the accountability system will operate … this means we will not be forcibly turning schools into academies unless Ofsted has judged it to be Inadequate”.

Speaking out about accountability measures, Mr Hinds will also look to scrap the dual system of both “floor-standards” and “coasting” triggers dictating whether a school is in need of statutory intervention. He outlined that “there will be a single, transparent data trigger for schools to be offered support … I intend this to replace the current confusing system of having both below the floor and coasting standards for performance”.

Finally, Mr Hinds also introduced a number of initiatives to “make sure teaching remains an attractive, fulfilling profession”. This includes increasing the induction period from one to two years for newly qualified teachers, new “early career development opportunities” for those beginning their career and, for more established teachers, introducing opportunities for more flexible working patterns (including a new sabbatical programme funded by the DfE).

Analysis of the teacher labour market

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published analysis of the pressures in the teacher labour market. It identifies the key challenges as being the expected 11% increase in the overall number of pupils between 2016 and 2026; and the government’s ambition for 90% of GCSE pupils taking the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) by 2025 which will inevitably require more teachers to teach the relevant subjects.

The analysis considers these challenges in light of exit and entrant rates of the profession and the impact this has had on schools and pupils. It suggests that the government should introduce more incentives for retaining good quality teachers - rather than just recruitment - such as ‘salary supplements’ for those teaching in subjects where there are shortages in specialists. Although, it does recognise the government’s pilot of a student loan reimbursement programme but brands the scheme as “complicated”.

New blog from Education Datalab explores the effect of anomalously high KS2 scores on Progress 8 scores

This week, Education Datalab has produced a blog showing the impact of “anonymously high” key stage 2 results on progress 8 outcomes.

The blog presents a real-world anonymised example of a secondary school which has eight “feeder” primary schools. In one of these “feeder” primaries, which is rated outstanding, pupils achieve high grades at key stage 2 but then underperform at key stage 4. Looking at this data in more detail, even when other factors are taken into account (such as socio-economic status or background) the pupils who came from that specific feeder primary make significantly less progress than their peers with little explanation as to why.

According to the Education Datalab, this should raise questions around the reliability of the key stage 2 results coming from that specific primary school and, potentially, whether any malpractice took place in the administration of the primary SATs. Overall, the blog concludes that “both DfE and Ofsted … [should] … consider making adjustments for pupils who attended primary schools with anomalously high KS2 results”.

New analysis reveals England’s need for 47,000 extra secondary teachers

Calculations carried out by TES has shown that England needs 47,000 more secondary school teachers by 2024 if it is to meet the challenge of rising pupil numbers and stay in line with average pupil-teacher ratios.

TES noted that the fact that a rise in the overall number of teachers has masked a significant impending shortage at secondary level.

In primary schools, the number of teachers has risen considerably from a low of 196,400 in 2010 to 222,300 in 2016, with this increase in numbers being in line with an increase in primary pupil numbers over this period.

The picture in secondary schools is very different, with the number of teachers falling from 222,400 in 2009 to 208,100 in 2016. However, despite a recruitment crisis already being felt, its effect has been softened by a decline in secondary pupil numbers, falling from 3.3 million in 2005 to 3.1 million in 2014. But now, the demographic tables are turning, as the bulge in primary numbers moves on, the number of secondary pupils is expected to climb steeply to 3.8 million by 2024.

To stay in line with the average secondary pupil-teacher ratio, TES has calculated that an additional 47,000 secondary teachers will be needed by 2024; this represents a 22.5% increase on the number of secondary teachers already in the system.

The number of applications to train as a secondary teacher has fallen 16% year on year, which is set to result in a smaller pool of potential new teachers from which to draw. There are significant challenges in meeting targets for teacher enrolment in some key subjects, such as modern foreign languages and maths, and the 47,000 calculation does not take into account of teachers already in the system leaving and needing to be replaced.

Schools release information on their gender pay-gap

All UK organisations with over 250 employees are required to publish details of their gender pay gap online by 4 April. With the deadline looming, the BBC has focused on the 181 gender pay gap reports released by schools and multi-academy trusts (MATs) so far.

Overall, data analysis conducted by the BBC shows that only 11 of these schools pay women a better median hourly rate than men. The BBC report focuses on one MAT with a pay gap of 59.8%, with men paid nearly 60% more than women.

This data, according to the BBC, “provides an insight into how many women get into senior, well paid positions”. According to data from the National Education Union, one reason why the gender pay gap is so high in some schools and MATs is that, despite “36% of teachers [being] men … 62% of headteachers are men”.

Chief inspector on Ofsted’s expectations of schools

Speaking to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference on Saturday 10 March, Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman covered a wide range of issues relating to inspection and Ofsted’s role in tackling unnecessary teacher workload. 

Since taking up the post early last year, the Chief Inspector has placed increased emphasis on the substance of what is taught in schools. In her speech, she acknowledged that Ofsted has not put enough emphasis on curriculum in the past and argued that “success in [accountability] measures should flow from a rich curriculum, rather than tests of all kinds and performance tables dictating the curriculum itself”.

Other key points raised in the speech included:

  • Ofsted do not expect schools to undertake any special preparation, such as “Ofsted-ready files” or “mocksteds”
  • based on initial feedback, Ofsted feel that recent changes to short inspection are working well
  • schools will no longer be automatically judged ‘inadequate’ if inspectors find that they ‘require improvement’ for the third inspection in a row
  • inspectors “have moved away from a compliance approach” to safeguarding, for example commenting on the height of fences, and towards emphasis on “a good safeguarding culture… throughout the school”
  • inspectors are no longer requesting anonymised reports on the number of teachers achieving pay progression
  • Ofsted have redesigned inspection data reports, trained inspectors and put in place a new support desk to ensure that data is not misused
  • a new question has been added to Ofsted’s staff questionnaire on whether school leaders take workload into account when setting policies
  • Ofsted are developing a new inspection framework for 2019 which, in order to tackle workload, will be “as sharply focused as possible on the things that matter most”

To read the speech in full, click here.

British parents amongst most positive in the world about quality of teaching, and other highlights from the global parent survey

Varkey Foundation’s Global Parent Survey – a comprehensive analysis of parents’ hopes, fears and aspirations around the world – offers a number of insights into the views of parents on education in the UK. Over 27,000 parents from 29 countries were surveyed, including 1,000 parents in the UK with children between the ages of 4 and 18. The survey revealed:

  • British parents are among the most positive about the quality of teaching at their child’s school – 87% rate it as very good or fairly good.
  • On average, British parents say they spend 3.6 hours a week helping their children with their education.
  • If there were more funds for schools, 70% of British parents would spend the money on more teachers or better pay for existing teachers.
  • Children’s happiness is a high priority for British parents – 49% chose the school being a happy environment for children as among their key criteria when choosing schools, compared to a global average of 30%.
  • A third of British parents say it’s very important for their child to attend university to achieve the most in life – the joint lowest globally.
  • Only 28% of UK parents think that standards of education have improved over the last 10 years.

Access the full report and the results by country, including the UK, here.

DfE survey on pupil and parent views

The Department for Education (DfE) has published the latest research report from its omnibus survey of parents and carers. 1,504 paired interviews of pupils in years 7-13 and their parents and carers were undertaken between July and August 2017 as part of the third wave of interviews.

  • the majority (71%) of pupils said that they know how to look after their mental health, with a higher proportion of boys saying so than girls
  • just over half (55%) of parents/carers said that they feel most teachers at their child’s school know how to support their child and around a quarter (26%) feel fully involved in decisions about the support given to their child
  • awareness of changes to GCSE grading had grown among both pupils in year 9 and above and their parents/carers since the first wave of the survey, but pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) and their parents were less likely to be aware than others
  • pupil opinion was mixed on the teaching of personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), with 69% saying it was taught ‘well’ or ‘very well’ and 26% saying it was taught ‘not well’ or ‘not at all well’

To read the report in full, click here.

Survey results: Teacher mental health impacting pupil progress

A survey of 775 teachers carried out by Teachwire and Leeds Beckett University, explores the relationship between teachers’ mental health and their ability to teach and maintain constructive interactions with students. A substantial number of teachers (77%) stated that poor mental health is having a negative impact on pupils’ progress.

Other key findings include:

  • 94% of teacher say that mental health can have a negative impact on their physical energy in the classroom
  • 81% said poor mental health has a detrimental impact on the quality of their relationship with learners
  • 73% believe mental health can have a negative impact on the quality of their explanations in lessons
  • 89% believe that their mental health can have a negative impact on creativity in their teaching

Teaching unions call for significant pay increase

Teaching unions including the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), National Education Union (NEU) and Voice have written to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) detailing “strongly held concerns about the longstanding erosion of pay across the teaching profession as a whole”.

The unions are calling for a restorative pay award and an annual cost of living increase distinct from pay progression based on performance. They argue that any recommendations must be fully funded by government and that the STRB should set out its view about what the appropriate levels of pay for teachers and school leaders would be without the constraints of the government’s pay policy and schools’ funding position. The unions believe that the available evidence “must lead the STRB to recommend a significant increase in pay for all teachers and school leaders, irrespective of their career stage, setting or geographical location”.

To read the letter in full, click here.

Figures put staff wellbeing in spotlight

Figures obtained through a freedom of information request show that 3,750 teachers were on sick-leave for a month or more during the 2016-17 school year as a result of stress and mental health issues: the equivalent of one in every 83 teachers. The total number of sick days taken for these reasons in 2016 was 312,000.

Ofsted’s annual report highlights persistent underperformance

Ofsted’s annual report for 2016/17 was published on Wednesday 13 December. This is the first annual report since Amanda Spielman took the helm as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) in February this year.

The report sets out the key themes that have arisen from inspections over the year. Key findings relating to schools include:

  • the majority of schools are performing well: 89% are currently rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’
  • there is a subsection of schools which have been persistently judged less than ‘good’, with over 700 judged ‘requires improvement’ or ‘satisfactory’ at their last two inspections
  • schools in deprived areas are more likely to be judged ‘requires improvement’ though there are examples of schools in challenging circumstances which have turned their performance around
  • weak governance was among common features of secondary schools which have persistently underperformed
  • too many schools are sacrificing breadth of curriculum in order to prepare pupils for statutory assessments in both primary and secondary phases

The report also highlighted that, despite the government issuing academy orders to every ‘inadequate’ school since April 2016, there are 113 maintained schools that have not converted at least nine months after receiving this judgement.

A summary of common problems in multi-academy trusts (MATs) which have had focused inspections was given. With respect to governance, Ofsted highlighted a lack of clear schemes of delegation, over-dependence on school leaders, a lack of understanding of data, and unclear strategies for use of pupil premium funding.

To read the report in full, click here.

Keys to improving retention? 

Research by NFER has looked at the destinations of teachers leaving the profession in order to shed light on how schools can improve retention. 

The analysis found that, while the majority remain in the education sector, average pay decreased after leaving teaching. However, most were working fewer hours and therefore hourly wages remained fairly constant. A rise in part-time working was entirely driven by those leaving the secondary sector. It also found that job satisfaction, which had been declining in the years before teachers left the profession, improved after leaving.

The authors recommend that in order to improve retention governing boards should monitor job satisfaction and engagement, look at ways of accommodating part-time working (particularly in secondary schools) and tackle teacher workload. 

To read the research in full, click here.

Social Mobility Commission publish State of the Nation report

The Social Mobility Commission published its annual State of the Nation report on Tuesday. It warned that Britain was divided economically, socially and geographically, and that social mobility was getting worse.

The report identified social mobility ‘hotspots’ and ‘coldspots’, with the highest and lowest opportunities for social mobility. ‘Coldspots’ were generally remote rural or coastal areas, or former industrial towns. One quarter of young people were not in education, employment or training in South Ribble, compared to just 1% in North Hertfordshire. 50% of disadvantaged youngsters from Kensington and Chelsea reached university, compared to just 10% of those from Barnsley and Eastbourne. The report therefore concluded that disadvantaged youngsters’ ability to get on in life was heavily dependent on where they grew up.

In schools specifically, the report identified a number of problems. Secondary school teachers were 70% more likely to leave their job in disadvantaged areas, meaning deprived locations had higher proportions of unqualified teachers. In remote rural and coastal areas, the average attainment eight score among disadvantaged children was just 31.2 compared to 49.4 in London. One explanation was the quality of schools, all free school meals children in Hackney attended a good or outstanding school, while those in Knowsley had “no chance” of attending a school of that standard (Knowsley Council set up the Knowsley Commission in October 2016 to address the underlying causes of education underachievement in Knowsley).

The report made several recommendations, including some focused on education. It called for a fund to be established which would allow schools in rural and coastal areas to partner with others to boost attainment. It also argued Regional School Commissioners should be given responsibility for managing and monitoring teacher supply across their region.

NAHT report on teacher recruitment and retention

NAHT have today released a report on teacher recruitment and retention which finds that for a fourth consecutive year, schools are facing difficulties in attracting and retaining staff across all roles. Based on a survey undertaken by 805 school leaders in October and November 2017, 95 per cent of responses were received from NAHT members in England (the majority from primary phase schools). Of those participants, 64 per cent were head teachers or principals.

The main findings of the survey include, on the issue of recruitment:

  • 81 per cent of all posts, from teachers to senior leaders, were “difficult to recruit for.”
  • Of this number, 63 per cent of posts “were a struggle to fill” and 18 per cent “were not recruited for.”

On the reasons why posts were difficult to recruit for:

  • The most commonly cited reason was “a lack of quality applicants in the area” which was reported by 64 per cent of respondents.
  • The proportion of respondents who said “budget pressures were affecting their ability to attract the right candidates for the roles they required” rose from nine per cent in 2014 to 33 per cent in 2017.

On retention:

  • 66 per cent said “they were aware of staff having left the profession for reasons other than retirement in the last year”.
  • The most commonly cited reason was workload pressures reported by 84 per cent of respondents, followed by “wanting a better work-life balance” as reported by 83 per cent.

The report cites a myriad of issues including: a confused teacher supply model, relatively low graduate salaries, stagnant wages, limited continuous professional development opportunities, excessive workload, high-stakes accountability and constant change to curriculum, as key challenges for schools. NAHT make several recommendations to the government to improve recruitment and retention. To read the full findings and recommendations of the report, click here.

2017 accountability measures: is your school “coasting” or below the “floor standard”?

The Department for Education (DfE) has updated its guidance on primary and secondary school accountability to include the ‘coasting’ schools definition for 2017. This is a data based accountability measure which sits alongside the floor standard as a way for the DfE to identify schools where pupil outcomes may be a concern.

The floor standard is the minimum standard that the DfE expects schools to meet; the 2017 floor standards are:

  • A primary school will be below the floor standard if less than “65% of pupils meet the expected standard in English reading, English writing and mathematics” or the school does not make the required amount of progress, which is “at least -5 in English reading, -5 in mathematics and -7 in English writing”.
  • A secondary school will be below the floor standard if: “it’s Progress 8 score is below -0.5, and the upper band of the 95% confidence interval is below zero”.

The category of ‘coasting’ school was introduced in 2016 as a way for the DfE to identify schools in which pupils “do not fulfil their potential”. Whether a school is ‘coasting’ is based on three years of data, although some schools with small cohorts/lack of pupil data will be excluded from this measure. The DfE confirmed that a school be considered to be ‘coasting’ if:

  • For secondary schools, in 2015, fewer than 60% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C at GCSE” and, in 2016 and 2017, if “the school’s progress 8 score was below -0.25”.
  • For primary schools, “in 2015, fewer than 85% of pupils achieved level 4 in English reading, English writing and mathematics and below the national median percentage of pupils achieved expected progress in all of English reading, English writing and mathematics” and, in 2016 and 2017 “fewer than 85% of pupils achieved the expected standard at the end of primary schools and average progress made by pupils was less than -2.5 in English reading, -2.5 in mathematics or -3.5 in English writing”.

If your school is ‘below the floor standard’ or ‘coasting’ it becomes eligible for intervention from the regional schools commissioner (RSC) or local authority.

MPs question ministers on education issues

On Monday, ministers in the Department for Education (DfE) answered questions from MPs on a range of education issues. Topics included school budget pressures and reforms to GCSEs and A levels, with assurances given from ministers that the new harder maths GCSEs had not had a negative impact on the take-up of A level maths.

On the topic of relationships and sex education, Justine Greening stated that the DfE would issue interim guidance on dealing with sexual assault in schools this term and is updating the relationship and sex education guidance.

Concerns were raised about the accessibility of parental engagement meetings when academies are being ‘rebrokered’. Yvette Cooper highlighted the case of parents in her constituency who had been asked to travel to another town to discuss the future of their children’s school following the collapse of Wakefield City Academies Trust.

Ofsted chiefs give evidence to the education select committee

This week, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, and Chair of Ofsted, Julius Weinberg, gave evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee.

Of particular interest, Ms Spielman outlined that she had “some level of discomfort” about Ofsted outstanding “because the noise in the sector is very clear”; a direct reference to those in favour of scrapping the grade. Yet she also conceded that “the noise from parents is in a very different place” and that Ofsted were “looking at how we reconcile” these different views.

On academies, Ms Spielman reasserted her wish for Ofsted to have the power to inspect multi academy trusts (MATs) on a “whole level basis”, noting that, “the view we can get by just looking at a subset of schools in a MAT is more limited” in comparison. Responding to questions of the tension between the relationship of Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioners (RSC), Ms Spielman outlined that Ofsted were absolutely clear on their role but suggested that there was some “fuzziness” around the RSC’s remit.

Ms Spielman also raised some concerns around the quality of early years’ providers, despite 93% being rated “good” or “outstanding”. She stated that “the looking after children side is pretty good, the education side is not very strong”. In relation to compliance with the early years’ foundation stage framework, she also suggested that “full compliance with the framework still doesn’t mean that children are well prepared for primary school”. Ofsted will be doing more work around how “improvement on the education side” can be made.

Inspector’s perspective on a short inspection

Those wondering what to expect from one of Ofsted’s short inspections of ‘good’ schools may be interested in recent blogs by the inspectorate (by Dan Owen and Ann Pritchard). These blogs provide an inspector’s perspective of how the days are conducted.

Schools ‘double enter’ pupils for maths GCSE

An investigation by Tes has revealed that “almost 500 students were entered for maths GCSE with more than one exam board this summer”, a practice it describes as ‘double entering’. 31 schools are believed to be involved. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) is already investigating 15 schools believed to have ‘double entered’ pupils in the 2016 maths GCSEs for potential malpractice.

Tes suggests that pressure from performance tables and accountability measures is leading schools to ‘double enter’ pupils in order to improve their pass rates. While entering pupils in two qualifications in the same subject is not malpractice in itself, altering the GCSE timetable so that pupils can sit more than one exam in the same subject is not permitted. GCSE maths exams are scheduled for the same time irrespective of the exam board, therefore schools would need to alter the timetable in order to ‘double enter’ students in maths.

‘A force for improvement’: Ofsted sets out strategy

Ofsted has set out a new five year strategy based around the principle of being “a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation”.

The key points for schools are that Ofsted will work to:

  • understand the consequences of inspection, its impact on workload, mitigate against perverse incentives and “not allow leaders to misrepresent Ofsted policy as a way to justify bad practice”
  • ensure that inspection feedback is constructive and create more opportunities for schools to provide feedback and challenge
  • survey and inspect more ‘outstanding’ schools in order to spread good practice (this may mean increasing the interval between inspection of good schools)
  • develop new approaches and expertise to inspect new structures such as multi-academy trusts

Further consultation on changes to short inspections

Following a consultation earlier this summer, Ofsted have revised their proposals for changes to short inspections. A number of changes will take place from October half term:

  • some ‘good’ schools will automatically receive a full, two-day inspection instead of a short inspection
  • where a short inspection converts to a full inspection, this will usually continue to be within 48 hours but may take up to 7 days in some cases
  • short inspections of secondary schools with more than 1,100 pupils will be carried out by three inspectors (rather than two as is standard)

The proposals set out in the new consultation are that:

  • where short inspections pick up serious concerns, they will continue to convert to full inspections within 48 hours
  • where, following a short inspection, inspectors are not confident that the school remains ‘good’ but “the standard of education remains acceptable, and there are no concerns about safeguarding or behaviour”, the inspection will not convert. The school will receive a letter setting out the inspection findings and a full inspection will take place within 1 to 2 years. It will remain a ‘good’ school
  • where, following a short inspection, inspectors believe the school may be ‘outstanding’, the inspection will not convert. As above, the inspection findings will be set out in a letter, the school will remain ‘good’, and a full inspection will take place within 1 to 2 years

New NAO report on the DfE’s attempts to improve teacher retention and quality

According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the Department of Education (DfE) cannot demonstrate that its efforts to improve teacher retention and quality are having a positive impact and are value for money.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report Retaining and developing the teaching workforce examines the DfE’s arrangements to develop and retain the existing teaching workforce.  The report recommends that the DfE:

  • should set out, and communicate to schools and other bodies in the sector, its approach to improving teacher retention, deployment and quality
  • should set out clear measures of success and plans for evaluating its various programmes, including impact and outcome indicators
  • should use the information it is developing on local teacher demand and supply to determine how best to support schools or to intervene in the market
  • should work with the schools sector to understand better why more teachers are leaving before retirement and how to attract more former teachers back to the profession
  • should work with, and support, the Chartered College of Teaching, teaching schools and others in the schools sector to develop clearer expectations for teachers’ continuing professional development
  • should, as a matter of routine, explicitly assess the workforce implications for schools of all key policy changes and guidance, in particular the impact on teachers’ workload
  • should undertake the work NAO and the Committee of Public Accounts recommended in 2016 to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of its spending on supporting the serving workforce, set against its investment in training new teachers

Also published this week, was the DfE’s own Analysis of school and teacher level factors relating to teacher supply.  This document is a compendium of teacher supply analysis which looked at entrants to the teaching profession, teacher retention and teacher mobility between jobs. The report aims to generate new insights and stimulate debate and generate ideas for further research.

How Ofsted inspectors will approach data

The new edition of Ofsted’s School Inspection Update provides details of how inspectors are being instructed to approach school performance data

Ofsted inspectors have access to a data analysts helpline during inspections and have been reminded:

  • not to compare results from last year to this for the new GCSEs
  • results for GCSEs and A levels have been stable overall and small fluctuations at school level should not be over-interpreted
  • to consider whether decisions made by school leaders are in the best interests of pupils
  • to use assessment data as a starting point for discussion rather than the only piece of evidence
  • not to focus on single measures with small cohorts
  • to treat data from key stage 2 teacher assessments with caution

Inspectors are also reminded to look out for evidence that schools may be trying to ‘game the system’, for example by entering pupils into qualifications with significant subject overlap or moving pupils to other settings.

Ofsted have reformed their inspection dashboard into a new style Inspection Dashboard Summary Report (IDSR) which focuses on trends in school performance over the previous three years.

Primary school test results released by DfE

National key stage 2 results released by the Department for Education (DfE) this week show that the percentage of children achieving the expected standard in primary school has risen. The results show that 61% of primary school children in England achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics, compared to 53% last year.

The results for individual subjects compared to last year were as follows:

  • 71% of pupils met the expected standard in reading, compared to 66% last year
  • 75% of pupils met the expected standard in mathematics, compared to 70% last year
  • 77% of pupils met the expected standard in grammar, punctuation and spelling, compared to 73% last year
  • 76% of pupils met the expected standard in writing, compared to 74% last year

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said that the “results show sustained progress in reading, writing and maths and are a testament to the hard work of teachers and pupils across England.” 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said that “comparisons with last year are inevitable but they are also unwise, as last year’s results were unexpectedly low and pupils were being assessed at a time when the curriculum and assessment methods had changed significantly…it is necessary to take these results with a pinch of salt”.

Amanda Spielman, HMCI, speaks of Ofsted’s future

Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector, outlined her vision for Ofsted at the Festival of Education on 23 June.

Firstly, she outlined that Ofsted will increase its “research function” in an effort to test the “validity and reliability” of the inspection process. As part of this, Ofsted will seek the views of stakeholders, including governors, “on how well [Ofsted] inform and advise” schools. The aim of this, Ms Spielman outlined, was to both inform practice as well as influence policy.

Ms Spielman also commented on the importance of the curriculum in schools, with Ofsted currently undertaking a project to look at curriculum practice in “hundreds of schools across the country”. She criticised the practice to “reduce education down” to labour market success and spoke out against preparing students for exams in year 4 and key stage 3. Ms Spielman went on to say that school leaders should ensure that teachers are “concentrating on the curriculum and the substance of education, not preparing … pupils to jump through a series of accountability hoops”. She said that rather than just focusing on accountability data, “Ofsted inspections must explore what is behind the data, asking how results have been achieved” and ensuring that “a good quality education – one that genuinely meets pupils’ needs – is not being compromised”. Commenting on the recent terror attacks across England, Ms Spielman also outlined how schools need to continue to fulfil their duty to teach students about British values through “a real civic education.”

Speaking on leadership challenges in “tough schools”, Ms Spielman recognised that pupil intake made a significant difference to accountability outcomes.  She outlined that Ofsted recognise “the [role played by] leadership and management teams in overcoming” significant challenge. She outlined that Requires Improvement schools in less affluent areas were two-and-a-half times more likely to achieve a “Good” for leadership than schools in affluent areas. Continuing on the theme of school leadership, Ms Spielman outlined how too much emphasis is placed on the headteacher in “transforming a school”. Instead, schools need “strong deputies and assistants … good department heads, [an] effective business and finance manager… and, of course, governors providing strong support and challenge”. Thus, in their “public pronouncements”, Ms Spielman outlined that Ofsted would put more emphasis on the importance of school management as a whole, rather than just focusing on the headteacher.

Ofsted launch consultation on short inspections

Ofsted has opened a consultation on proposed changes to the process for short inspections of ‘good’ schools. These one day inspections were introduced in September 2015 in part to reduce the burden of inspection for schools that are performing well.

A short inspection can convert to a full two day inspection if there is not enough evidence that the school remains ‘good’ or if inspectors think it might be ‘outstanding’. The consultation proposes extending the period in which a converted inspection will be completed from 48 hours to 15 working days. This is for ease of scheduling and to reduce the burden on schools.

The consultation also proposes that schools “in complex circumstances” will automatically receive a full inspection. These will be identified through Ofsted’s standard risk assessment process.

Full details of the proposals are available on Ofsted’s website.

NFER releases Research Update on Teacher retention by subject

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has released a Research Update on teacher retention rates. Teacher retention by subject is the first part of a research project funded by the Nuffield Foundation exploring the changing aspects of the teacher workforce in England.

The update emphasises the crucial importance of teacher retention in the face of increasing pupil numbers and the lack of new teacher trainees.  

The key findings of the update include:

  • Leaving rates being especially high “for early-career teachers in science, maths and languages”. The number of trainees for these subjects is “consistently below” government targets leading to concerns over the impact on future teacher supply.
  • Teaching time for technology subjects has seen a sharp decline since 2011; other non-EBacc such as arts subjects may also see “reductions in staff numbers over the next few years” unless protected.  
  • The cost effectiveness of bursaries for shortage subjects should be evaluated to ensure they encourage retention after training.  

Number of weapons seized by police in schools this year rises by 20%

According to police figures obtained by the Press Association, a total of 1,369 weapons have been seized by police so far in 2016/17. This represents a 20% rise compared to this time last year. The weapons seized include knives, imitation guns (such as BB guns), rocks and Tasers. The data was derived from 32 police forces across the country.

Punishments for bringing weapons into school will include permanent exclusion in many cases; the article emphasises that 2014/15 saw 2,100 permanent exclusions related to assault, verbal abuse and threatening behaviour.  Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that schools should “work closely with the police to protect and educate their pupils … Where appropriate, schools [can] conduct searches and use metal detectors, and they [are able to] implement robust disciplinary procedures against anyone found in possession of a weapon”. 

Getting into grammar school is like “rolling a loaded dice”

Education Datalab has described admission to Kent’s grammar schools as “akin to rolling a loaded dice” because there is a strong element of chance involved and the odds are not equal for all children.  It found that:

  • small changes to the rules would lead to significant changes in which pupils are considered to have passed
  • performance on the 11-plus is not a reliable predictor for performance on end of key stage 2 SATs
  • pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) score particularly poorly in the reasoning element of the Kent Test compared to other pupils
  • pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) tend to score more highly on the SATs than the 11-plus

The report also casts doubt on the effectiveness of methods used to decide on admission for pupils that did not pass the 11-plus, such as headteacher panels.

A number of strategies that could improve access to grammar schools for disadvantaged pupils are identified, including allowing primary schools to provide practice on reasoning questions, adjusting the marks of FSM eligible pupils, and increasing the number of FSM eligible pupils that are entered for headteacher panels.

Full report: The 11-plus is a loaded dice: Analysis of Kent 11-plus data

Proposals to allow new grammar schools to open in England were set out in a Department for Education consultation last autumn.

Public Accounts Committee criticises DfE’s capital strategy

“The system for funding new schools and new places in existing schools is increasingly incoherent and too often poor value for money” – so opens the House of Commons, Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) critical report into the way in which the Department for Education (DfE) distributes capital funding.   Published on 26 April 2017 the report looks at funding provided both for additional school places and improving existing buildings. It makes seven recommendations for DfE.

The PAC commented that it was not convinced the DfE was funding the right number of places in the right areas and could not explain to the Committee how it assesses whether an area had too much spare capacity. The PAC said it was equally unclear what the DfE meant