DfE school governance update – July 2022
This update sets out the DfE’s long-term vision for the English school system. This vision is an ambition that by 2030 every child will receive ‘the right support, in the right place, and at the right time’ in order to fulfil their potential, founded on achieving world class literacy and numeracy.
Schools White Paper – Opportunity for all
The White Paper was published in March 2022. The White Paper comprises four chapters, which set out specific goals and explain how the government intends to achieve these objectives by expanding existing policies and proposing a range of new ones.
- Chapter 1 An excellent teacher for every child – includes a range of programmes for teacher recruitment, development and retention.
- Chapter 2 Delivering high standards of curriculum, behaviour and attendance – proposes additional support for schools to teach a broad and ambitious curriculum in a school with high expectations and strong standards of behaviour.
- Chapter 3 Targeted support for every child who needs it – lists a range of interventions including continuing with extensive tutoring of children who have fallen behind and radical reform of the SEND system.
- Chapter 4 A stronger and fairer school system – introduces the concept of a fully trust-led system with a singular regulatory body, with the aim of every school being part of a MAT or planning to join one by 2030.The possibility of local authorities setting up academies is also featured (see below).
There is an undertaking in the White Paper to launch a number of consultations to seek views about some of the intended reforms over the coming months.
The Schools Bill
The Schools Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech on 10 May contained proposals to provide the legislation required by the DfE to progress their vision in law. It includes new laws, such as one making compulsory the registration of home-schooled children and new rules for pupil attendance (see below).
Some sections of the Bill include substantial new centralised powers over the organisation of academy schools and these have proved the subject of much controversy. In theory, the Education Secretary would have a veto over appointments of school trustees, could rescind funding agreements, amend academy admissions criteria and even change course content. These parts of the Bill, giving the Education Secretary powers to ‘set standards’ for academies, have met considerable opposition from leading educationalists, as well as in initial House of Lords debates of the Bill (which has now passed to the report stage).
In response to criticism, the Education Secretary has reportedly now scrapped clauses 1–4 of the Bill and has ‘temporarily withdrawn’ clauses 5–18, so the eventual legislation may look rather different from the original proposals.
On 25 May, the DfE published a document entitled ‘Implementing school system reform in 2022 to 2023’. According to the DfE, it is designed to ‘help schools, trusts, local authorities and, where applicable, dioceses or other faith bodies, think about what they should do next’. The views of trustees, governors and governance professionals on the publication are welcomed. Leaders, governors and trustees are asked to think about how they can add value to schools in their area and continue to improve their own schools by joining an existing trust, expanding a trust or establishing a new one.
Local authority established MATs
As anticipated in the White Paper, the government has now published a Registration of Interest document for local authorities who are interested in setting up a multi-academy trust. The DfE says it expects to initially support a small number of projects as part of a test-and-learn exercise in 2022 to 2023.
Another undertaking in the White Paper is a reform of SEND and alternative provision. The government has published a Green Paper, again under the mantra ‘Right support, right place, right time’. The intention is to set up a system that offers children and young people access to what they need to fulfil their potential and lead happy, healthy and productive adult lives. The government is currently consulting on its proposals, and views are invited by 22 July 2022.
In April 2022, the government updated its guidance for governors and trustees about the programmes and activities that the DfE is funding to support education recovery and children and young people’s wellbeing. The document lists programmes and activities for children and young people of all ages, prioritising those who need help most, including disadvantaged pupils and those with SEND. It includes:
- New training and CPD for early years staff.
- Curriculum guidance for teaching early years and reception-aged children both in school and at home.
- The catch-up and recovery premiums for pupils who have fallen behind.
- The accelerator fund delivered by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and by mathematics and English hubs.
- The National Tutoring Programme.
- CPD and curriculum guidance and resources for teachers and leaders.
- The early career framework.
- The new NPQs becoming available.
- Additional teaching and learning hours for 16–19 students and the possibility of a repeat year 13.
- The 16–19 tuition fund.
- Support for pupil wellbeing and socialisation, including school holiday clubs and food programmes.
- Education staff wellbeing, including the reduction of workload.
- Provision for children with SEND and for other vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
Keeping children safe in education
A new version of this statutory guidance comes into effect on 1 September 2022. Schools and colleges must have regard to this when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Among the changes is more detail about governor and trustee training.
As highlighted in chapter 2 of the White Paper, the government is focusing on the importance of pupil attendance and punctuality. The DfE published non-statutory guidance on 6 May 2022 entitled ‘Working together to improve school attendance’ which is designed to help schools, trusts, governing boards and local authorities maintain high levels of school attendance. This guidance applies from September 2022. It is likely to become statutory from September 2023. It emphasises:
- The importance of school attendance.
- Government expectations of schools concerning attendance.
- Expectations of trust boards and governing boards.
- Expectations of local authorities.
- Dealing with persistent and severe absence.
- Attendance legal intervention.
- Contents of the admissions and attendance registers.
This current governance update contains details of webinars for schools on attendance best practice.
Flexible working training for school leaders
The DfE is funding online training, offered by Timewise Flexible Working Consultancy, on implementing flexible working practices tailored to the needs of governors and trustees. Leaders can access a recording of the governor and trustee webinar.
External reviews of governance (ERG) guidance
The ESFA has recently updated its guidance on holding external reviews of governance. It has emphasised its support for ERGs in the academy trust handbook. Governing boards are encouraged to undertake these reviews regularly as part of a positive drive to improve governance. The new guidance is designed to support boards to understand:
- How to get the best out of a review.
- How external views can be beneficial.
- What to consider when commissioning a review to ensure the best value for money.
View my financial insights (VMFI)
A series of training webinars will be provided for governors and trustees by the DfE’s VMFI team. These offer information on the financial position and performance of schools, providing data for governors and trustees to enable them fully to support school finance teams.
Early years foundation stage profile (EYFSP) assessment
This is the first statutory assessment following the 2021 reforms to the EYFS profile and includes the following resources which are designed to be helpful to governors and trustees of nursery and reception schools and departments.
- A vodcast explaining changes to the profile.
- Early years curriculum guidance and publications.
- A handbook which sets out the statutory requirements for this academic year.
There is now a network of 34 computer hubs across England. Their mission is to improve the quality of computer science teaching by increasing the subject knowledge of teachers of computing at all levels. Each hub offers tailored support to all schools and colleges in its area to improve the teaching of and increase participation in computer science.
National leaders of governance (NLGs)
The role of an NLG is to work to improve the effectiveness of governance in schools and trusts that need it most, thereby giving experienced governors, trustees and others associated with school governance an opportunity for development. The National Governance Association (NGA) is now recruiting for additional NLGs in the north and south-west of England. Applications from ethnic minority candidates and those with experience in schools and academies with a religious character will be particularly welcomed. Information on how to apply is on the NGA website.
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