This week’s update includes an overview of the autumn statement, news on funding to support preparations for the new computing curriculum and an overview of the new Regional Commissioner role.
Announcements & developments
The Chancellor of the Exchequer made his Autumn Statement on 5th December.
In it he confirmed the government’s decision to make funding available to offer every pupil attending a state-funded school in reception, year 1 and year 2 free school lunches from September 2014.
The government will also provide capital funding to increase capacity in school kitchens and eating areas.
Reductions to the DfE’s ‘resource’ budget were also confirmed. These reductions will amount to £167m in 2014/15 and £156m in 2015/16.
The full statement can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/autumn-statement-2013
Some Teaching Schools to lead ‘maths hubs’
The government has announced £11million to support efforts to ‘drive up the quality of maths teachers’.
Thirty ‘mathematics education strategic hubs’ (MESH) will be led by a teaching school and will be responsible for providing support relating to maths education to all schools in their area.
This support will include:
– Recruitment of maths specialists into teaching;
– ITT for future maths teachers and converting existing teachers into maths;
– Co-ordinating and delivering a wide range of maths CPD and school to school support;
– Ensuring maths leadership is developed e.g. running a programme for aspiring heads of maths departments.
National co-ordination will be provided by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics. More information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-maths-hubs-to-raise-standards
Funding announced for computing teaching
The Education Minister has announced that, in order to support preparations for the new computing curriculum (to be introduced in Sept 2014) the British Computer Society will develop a computing readiness programme aimed specifically at primary school teachers with no previous experience of computer science.
The project is due to start immediately and will provide online resources, in-school workshops, outreach activities and local support groups (hosted by primary schools and supported by the Network of Teaching Excellence).
Funding is also being provided to create a network of 400 ‘master teachers’ by 2015 who will lead CPD in their local areas and pass on their knowledge to 40 schools in order to support colleagues to deliver the new curriculum.
More information is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/teaching-the-new-computing-curriculum
Regional Commissioners roles
The Department has published a role description for the new Regional Commissioners. The Commissioners will be responsible for:
- “Monitoring performance and intervening to secure improvement in underperforming academies, including directing them to commission school improvement services and using formal interventions in the most severe cases.
- Taking decisions on the creation of new academies in their area by approving applications from maintained schools wishing to convert to academy status.
- Supporting the national schools commissioner to ensure that the sponsor market meets local need – including by authorising applications to become an academy sponsor, monitoring the performance of existing sponsors and de-authorising them where necessary, recommending suitable sponsors to ministers for maintained schools that have been selected to become academies and encouraging new sponsors.”
Commissioner will draw on the support and expertise of a head teacher board – consisting of five to six “local education leaders”.
They will have a close relationship with the Education Funding Agency in order to ensure financial propriety. The EFA will continue to investigate complaints about academies and free schools that do not relate to educational underperformance.
Each Commissioner will have the support of a small office.
The article states that the Commissioners will: “ have no remit to intervene in successful academies and free schools, but will be responsible for requiring academies to address underperformance where it exists.”
More information is available here: http://www.regionalschoolscommissioner.com/sections/about_the_org/the_role_of_the_regional_schools_commissioner
NAHT publish ‘OFSTED news’ document
NAHT have published a helpful document providing an overview of the key actions and changes made by OFSTED to its organisation and framework during 2013.
It outlines the increased emphasis on the progress of pupils (including the most able and the most disadvantaged); careers advice and guidance; and primary school sport funding. It also outlines the new complaints procedure and developments in the early years sector.
The full document can be found here: http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/key-topics/inspections-and-accountability/ofsted-update-november-2013/
Research & thinking
The OECD have released the results of international PISA tests and rankings. The UK remains placed with the middle-ranking countries. Its ranking for maths (26th) and for reading (23rd) are similar to the 2009 results however, there has been a significant fall in its ranking for science (slipping from 16th to 21st place). The tests saw Asian countries and provinces such as Shanghai, Taiwan and Singapore continue to surge ahead, whilst Scandinavian countries such as Finland saw their countries fall down the rankings.
The UK ranked 4th in the PISA tests of 2000. Its fall in the rankings is largely due to the improvements of other country’s scores as the UK’s test scores demonstrate very little change.
The Secretary of State blamed the performance of the previous government, saying that it would be a decade before current reforms had an impact on PISA scores. In his statement to the House of Commons of the results, he said: “When people ask why—if teachers are better than ever— we need to press ahead with further reform to the system, today’s results make the case more eloquently than any number of speeches. Since the 1990s, our performance in these league tables has been, at best, stagnant, and, at worst, declining…..For all the well-intentioned efforts of past Governments, we are still falling further behind the best-performing school systems in the world.”
The full report for the UK can be found at: http://www.nfer.ac.uk/nfer/publications/PQUK01/PQUK01_home.cfm?publicationID=1044&title=Achievement%20of%2015-year-olds%20in%20England
The Secretary of State’s statement and the Shadow Education Secretary’s response can be read here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131203/debtext/131203-0001.htm#13120350000001
School Vouchers for England report
This paper has been co-published by CMRE and the Adam Smith Institute.
It states that “the Coalition government’s reforms, while well-intended, have failed to introduce significantly greater school choice and competition, and this cannot be expected to improve overall levels of attainment in education.”
The paper states that this is “largely due to the restrictive requirements of setting up a free school”. It emphasises the fact that the number of free schools stands at ‘only’ 174 – representing less than 1% of schools.
It concludes that restrictions on school premises, interference from local authorities and a political authorisation process have “hampered the opening of more schools”.
The report makes a number of recommendations, which can be found here: http://www.cmre.org.uk/vouchers
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