2nd January: strategic round-up

Happy New Year.

This week’s briefing includes an overview of key points from the Secretary of State’s appearance at the select committee, data on FSM pupils, and research from the Sutton Trust on ‘Parent Power’.


Secretary of State at Education Select Committee

The Secretary of State attended the education Select Committee on 18th December. A range of issues were covered including:

  • Educational underperformance in particular areas of the country.

This was highlighted as a key finding from the OFSTED annual report and the SoS recognised that there are too many parts of the country where standards aren’t high enough. The pupil premium, changes to the accountability system, and the academies programme were all cited as key strategies for addressing this issue.

The SoS also recognised that many of these areas lacked NLEs and LLEs. Some Local Authorities had not “done the right thing” in building capacity and brokering school to school support. The SoS said that Nick Clegg’s incentives for good leaders to work in underperforming schools would also help to address the issue.

  • Careers guidance

The Committee cited a recent OFSTED report that new arrangements for careers guidance are not working well in three quarters of schools.

The SoS recognised the challenges in this area saying that the nature of the labour market has changed and that there is a lack of evidence on careers guidance.

The SoS was of the view that improving links between business and schools was important stating that “nothing is more inspiring or helpful than to hear from individuals in a particular area to hear about the opportunities they have to offer.” He also stated that: “we do not need a cadre of careers advisors to operate between these two (schools and business)”

Matthew Hancock MP has produced statutory guidance to “make things improve” and also an action plan – which will be published shortly.

He also stated that training for the provision of careers guidance should not become an aspect of ITT but agreed that professional development could support schools’ role in engaging with business.

  • Regional Commissioners

The SoS stated that “these will be Civil Servants operating under the Schools Commissioner (Frank Green)”. They will work with head teacher boards of outstanding heads, find sponsors, and broker relationships between underperforming schools and sponsors who can help them to improve.

  • Free School Meals

The use of FSM as a determinate of funding and accountability is clearly being looked at, with the SoS stating: “Free School Meals is only ever a proxy for poverty overall. A debate is taking place now (in the DfE) as to 1) should we revisit the mechanism for allocating the Pupil Premium, and, 2) should we think again about, in that context, the accountability measures to ensure the most disadvantaged children are supported.”

In terms of identifying disadvantaged pupils in the context of universal FSM for infant pupils, the SoS said: “it is certainly the case that you can provide universal free school meals and correctly identify families who would have been eligible for free school meals” (citing LAs that had already done so successfully.)

  • Curriculum

The SoS reiterated that the new curriculum is less prescriptive overall. He was asked about training for schools as they prepare for the roll out of the curriculum in September, responding that additional support for schools “will be announced in the New Year.”

  • Academy sponsors

On the issue of sponsor capacity, the SoS stated that “We (the DfE) have been concentrating, over the last 18 months, on being tougher on existing sponsors (ensuring they aren’t expanding too fast) and on energetic pursuit of more sponsors…..Some of the best sponsors are existing head teachers of high performing schools who have taken the opportunity to set up academy chains”.

The committee also considered issues such as Free School funding and applications, school places, the recent allocation funding announcement and gender stereotyping.

The full committee hearing can be found here: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=14503


1 in 10 eligible pupils failing to claim Free School Meals

A DfE paper shows that more than one in ten pupils eligible for free school meals are still failing to claim them. Overall 21% of pupils are eligible for free school meals (1.4 million) but only 18% (1.25 million) are taking them up. Some Local Authorities saw up to a third of eligible pupils failing to take up FSM. Failure to register not only prevents children from claiming a free lunch, but also prevents schools from accessing funding they would otherwise be eligible to receive (such as pupil premium allocations for unregistered but eligible children).

More information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/266339/DFE-RR319.pdf


Further research & reading:


  • Parent Power: Sutton Trust Report

The Sutton Trust has published a paper into the strategies employed by some parents – particularly the middle classes – to ensure that their children are successfully enrolled in the school of their choice. These include moving home or buying a second home, using a relative’s address, or attending church services when they previously didn’t.

The research also found that all parents rely more on school visits or open days (70%) and talking to other parents (62%) in choosing schools than Ofsted reports (57%) and school prospectuses (53%). It showed that whilst some parents (mostly those in professional jobs) used up to five or more sources to determine their choice of school, others (mainly from working class backgrounds) were accessing only one or no sources at all.

The report made a number or recommendations to ‘level the playing’ field, including:

* Government should introduce means-tested vouchers for working class parents to spend on extra tuition, books and cultural activities for their children

* Better information about schools and about the right for poorer pupils to free transport to a choice of schools should be made available to parents

* Schools should be expected to publish socio-economic data on applications and admissions

* Government should encourage ballots (random allocation) and banding for fairer admissions

The full report can be found here: http://www.suttontrust.com/news/news/almost-a-third-of-professional-parents-have-moved-home-for-a/


  • Prince’s Trust ‘Youth Index 2014’

The Prince’s Trust has published its ‘Youth Index’ showing the serious impact of youth unemployment of young people’s mental health. The Index Youth Index gauges young people’s wellbeing across a range of areas from family life to physical health. The full report can be found here:http://www.princes-trust.org.uk/about_the_trust/what_we_do/research/youth_index_2014/download_the_youth_index_2014.aspx?utm_source=yi_microsite&utm_medium=yi_download&utm_campaign=youth_index_2014


  • SoS Evidence to STRB

The Secretary of State has provided evidence to the STRB as they consider their recommendation on how to apply the 2014 pay award:   https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/268206/DFE-00289-2013.pdf


Please Note: Forum Education Limited updates are intended to help colleagues keep up to date with national developments. Information is correct at time of writing and is offered in good faith. No liability is accepted for decisions made on the basis of the information given. Briefings are not intended to be exhaustive and some developments will not be included. Whilst we take due care to ensure weblinks are to reputable sites, we cannot be responsible for the content of external websites.


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