Strategy and Intelligence Briefing 05 February 2021

Dear Member,

Please see the briefing below, including Michael Pain on reconceptualising what we mean by trust ‘growth’, the DfE announced the appointment of Sir Kevan Collins as Education Recovery Commissioner, a new NGA report on Ethical Leadership in Education, the IFS article setting out the huge implications of lost learning, new data from UCAS showing a big shift towards technology based degrees, as well as resources from our partners and much much more. 

We hope this is helpful and informative as you plan ahead. Have a great weekend.

Warm wishes 
Research Team
Forum Strategy

Resource of the Week

It’s time for CEOs and boards to reconceptualise what we mean by trust ‘growth’

In this latest article from Forum Strategy, our CEO, Michael Pain, discusses the need for academy trust CEOs to create a more meaningful, powerful, conceptualisation of what ‘success’ looks like for trusts in a post-pandemic world.
Michael argues that the old metric of growth being simply about increasing the number of schools in the trust fails to reflect the myriad ways in which trusts have made a difference over the past year in particular; and that bigger numbers should not constitute the definition of a successful education model.
Michael comments that it is clear the public expect local solutions and leadership and that they trust and expect more from local than from national leadership. They want their local leaders to be working together on the things that matter to them – mental and physical health, equipping for employability in a rapidly changing economy, environmental sustainability, and rebuilding in a post-pandemic world. This was emphasised in the recently published Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, which found that the public are looking to CEOs of organisations (across a wide range of sectors) to fill the void left by government, taking the lead on change, stepping in to address societal issues and holding themselves accountable to the public.
We are now increasingly seeing academy trust leaders step into this space, knowing what their pupils, parents and local communities want and resisting the drive to grow for growth’s sake; instead shifting their growth narrative from the ‘what’ (or how many!) to the ‘why’.
Forum Strategy’s narrative for academy trusts goes far beyond their size or structural composition. We believe that academy trusts that are positioned to give children and young people the best educational (and childhood) experience possible and prepare them to thrive in the modern world are those trusts that sit at the heart of their communities – connected through values, relationships and vision – always responsive and strategic through a strong sense of common endeavour that transcends into communities. This is an alternative, potentially much more sustainable, model that recognises that success is not simply about size, but even more so about shared vision, endeavour, participation and longevity of that participation. This narrative is reinforced by the concept of pure accountability, which ensures trusts are responding to and accountable for the hopes, aspirations and expectations of their public, not just civil servants and ministers.
Trust boards and CEOs have some profound questions to ask of themselves in the weeks and months ahead, in order to shape trusts and trust systems where they are constantly asking questions of and listening to those they serve.
Further details can be found:


Being The CEO Programme 2021

Forum Strategy are pleased to confirm that the Being The CEO programme returns in 2021, with the application window now open until 28th February 2021. The programme, which is for serving Chief Executive Officers, will be strictly limited to twelve places to ensure a high-quality professional development and learning experience.
We have continued to receive excellent feedback for this programme, which draws on the insights and contributions from experienced leaders and thinkers in the public, corporate, and charities sectors, as well as Forum Strategy’s extensive resources and thinking. Executive coaches contributing to the programme include Prof. Toby Salt and David Strudley CBE.
To find out more about the programme and to make an application, please visit:

Policy, research and strategic developments

New Commissioner appointed to oversee education catch-up

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced (3 February) the appointment of Sir Kevan Collins as Education Recovery Commissioner. Sir Kevan will oversee a comprehensive programme of catch-up aimed at young people who have lost out on learning due to the pandemic. The reopening of schools is a national priority. The Prime Minister recognises that school closures have had a huge impact on children’s learning and has pledged to work with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure pupils have the chance to make up their learning over the course of this Parliament. Sir Kevan will lead this work, which will include addressing factors such as curriculum content and quantity of teaching time in the coming months, to ensure the impact the pandemic has had on learning is addressed as quickly and comprehensively as possible.
Further details can be found:

Ethical leadership pathfinders

The National Governance Association (NGA) has published (29 January) a new report ‘Paving the way for Ethical Leadership in Education: the pathfinder schools and trusts’, which explores how some of the schools and trusts that signed up as pathfinders for the ethical leadership framework have adopted and embedded it into their working practices to navigate through ethical thinking and decision-making. In summary, the main findings from the report are (source: NGA):

  • The framework is adaptable to a school’s context without creating additional work.
  • The framework has established a common language to direct governance and leadership discussions and decision-making.
  • Using the values and virtues of the framework in practice shaped the culture and actions of the pathfinders and cultivated confidence in their leadership approach.
  • The framework is a strong pillar within recruitment processes when appointing chief executives, headteachers, senior leaders and teaching staff.
  • The framework has been influential when considering the school’s curriculum offer.
  • Discussions between school leaders, governors and trustees, teachers or other stakeholders have been guided by the framework, developing robust conversations and common understanding.
  • The framework supports multi academy trusts to provide consistency across multiple schools.
  • The principles and virtues of the framework could be used across the whole school community – pupils, parents and staff – as well as the leaders and the governing board.

The report includes a case study for each of the nine schools involved in the production of the report.
Further details can be found:

Impact of school closures on attainment and socio-emotional wellbeing

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has published (28 January) a report for the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) looking at the impact of school closures and subsequent support strategies on attainment and socio-emotional wellbeing. This study, conducted by statisticians and assessment researchers at NFER, estimates the impact on attainment of pupils in Key Stage 1 in England following disruption to schooling during the spring and summer terms of 2020. It also aims to determine the parts of the curriculum that children are struggling with. In addition, another strand of the work looks at the development of pupils’ social skills and wellbeing. The key findings from the report are summarised below (source: NFER):

  • Year 2 pupils’ attainment in reading was significantly lower in autumn 2020 compared to a standardised sample from 2017; representing a Covid-19 gap of around two months’ progress.
  • Year 2 pupils’ attainment in mathematics was significantly lower in autumn 2020 compared to a standardised sample from 2017; representing a Covid-19 gap of around two months’ progress.
  • The disadvantage gap in reading is around seven months’ progress, which represents a widening as compared to Key Stage 1 in 2019.
  • The disadvantage gap in mathematics is around seven months’ progress, which represents a widening as compared to Key Stage 1 in 2019.

Further details can be found:

Economic, social and environmental developments

Lost learning needs a big policy response

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published (1 February) an article setting out the huge implications of the fact that, by the time the pandemic is over, most children across the UK will have missed over half a year of normal, in person schooling – more than 5% of their entire time in school. The article sets out the scale of the problem, with widening inequalities, and evidence of negative effects on mental children and young people’s mental health. In addition, the long-term economic consequences could equate to £350bn in lost lifetime earnings across the 8.7 million school children in the UK; with the greatest impact most likely to be on those earning the least. The article argues there is an urgent need to prioritise a return to normal schooling; to ensure funding to support pupils to catch up properly; and to increase learning time.
It is perhaps no surprise then, that the DfE has recently announced the appointment of Sir Kevan Collins as Education Recovery Commissioner, overseeing a comprehensive catch-up programme aimed at young people who have lost out on learning due to the pandemic (see above article).
Further details can be found:
In addition, Forum Strategy will continue to support #TrustLeaders to support their schools to enable the fastest possible recovery for pupils and students due to the pandemic – in particular through our CEO Strategy Groups on pupil and staff wellbeingremote learning and working; and environmental sustainability.

Students turning to technology

UCAS has published (4 February) new subject data that shows a big shift towards technology-based degrees, with the last decade seeing impressive growth in engineering and computer science subjects, including a 400% jump in acceptances to artificial intelligence (AI) courses. The final release of university and college level application and acceptance figures for the 2020 cycle reveals the continued popularity of STEM subjects shows no sign of waning. Acceptances to computer science courses have risen by almost 50% (from 20,420 in 2011 to 30,090 in 2020); and acceptances to engineering courses are up 21% from 25,995 in 2011 to 31,545 in 2020. In addition, the analysis shows the following (source: UCAS):

  • Nursing demand remains strong: despite the removal of NHS bursaries in 2017, demand for nursing places is now almost at the same level seen in 2011 (62,920 applicants made a nursing choice in 2020 compared to 63,275 in 2011) and acceptances have grown by 57% – representing an additional 13,635 students.
  • With the expansion of medical places in the last few years, acceptances to medicine courses are at the highest level on record, growing 37% since 2017.
  • Law increased from 22,720 acceptances in 2011 to 29,105 acceptances in 2020, with substantial increases to both higher and medium tariff providers across this period.
  • Business increased from 61,100 acceptances in 2011 to 75,515 in 2020. Growth in acceptances across all provider tariff bands – with by far the largest increase to higher tariff providers.
  • Psychology acceptances increase from 16,685 in 2011 to 26,200 in 2020. Again, there were increases across all tariff bands, with medium and higher tariff providers experiencing the largest increases.
  • Humanities subjects have decreased in popularity over the last decade. English studies have seen a decrease from 10,020 acceptances in 2011 to 6,980 this year in 2020, and history and philosophical studies from 15,060 in 2011 to 12,870, though the data shows this decline seems to be confined to lower and medium tariff providers. 
  • Of concern is the significant decline in language subjects. For a post-Brexit Britain, the need for languages is likely to remain strong, yet acceptances to modern language degree courses have decreased by 36% – from 6,005 in 2011 to 3,830 in 2020 across all tariff groups. This drop in demand is seen alongside a decrease in language A level entrants over the same timeframe.

Further details can be found:

Partner resources

Schools Partnership Programme (SPP)

Always working collaboratively with school and system leaders, Education Development Trust offers the Schools Partnership Programme (SPP) to help co-create the conditions for rigorous peer review and trust-based accountability to thrive within and between groups of schools, and to lead to effective action and impact. One of their Strategic Partners is Forum Strategy member, Focus-Trust.
Since 2016, all Focus-Trust schools regularly conduct peer review based on the SPP model, with the latest cycle of triad reviews all using the virtual version developed in response to the pandemic. SPP has become part of the Trust’s DNA in terms of continuous improvement at both school and trust level, whilst as Strategic Partners, CEO Helen Rowland and her inspirational school leaders play a vital and significant role in helping develop the programme and approach.
To understand more about the ongoing relationship between Schools Partnership Programme and Focus-Trust, you can read more here:,-making-the-differen

Children’s Mental Health Week – update from Schools Advisory Service

To mark Children’s Mental Health Week, SAS Mindfulness & Wellbeing consultant June released a daily podcast to help reduce pupils’ anxieties through mindfulness and visualisation. June’s Relaxation Room podcast has had a phenomenal impact on school staff since its release, with so much positive feedback from listeners. In the first six months of the podcast, it had over 6,000 listens. These special editions of children’s podcasts are an addition to a library of podcasts made available on our website to schools with an SAS policy. Podcast themes this week included “Journey Into Space” and “Flight of the Eagle” and range in suitability from KS1 – KS3. SAS clients can access this by emailing their school details to
In 2019, SAS launched a range of pupil wellbeing services and have rapidly expanded this vital support, which has helped countless pupils access health and wellbeing support while they await their referral. Over £2,600 of pupil wellbeing services are available with SAS policies. SAS are also pleased to also offer schools access to Be A Champion – an 8-week health and wellbeing mentoring programme, innovative speech and language therapy, personalised app-based SEN support, and instructional yoga videos inclusive to our policies.
SAS also made a commitment at the start of the latest national lockdown to support all school staff and pupils by making over 21,000 spaces available for Jamie Peacock’s Live 30-Day Wellbeing Challenge. There are still two sessions available to book in February, including one evening session. Click here to learn more about these sessions, which are free to all schools.
Polls from participants before they started their 30-Day Wellbeing Challenge showed that:

  • 47% of participants struggle with their confidence and do not frequently believe in themselves
  • 42% of participants have problems sleeping
  • Most participants want to learn habits to improve their mindset, followed by learning how to be more physically active.

The challenge is designed to instil new habits in participants through daily commitment to making small changes to your routine to positively impact your health and wellbeing. We have had some amazing feedback from participant’s families and schools alike from those who have started and are coming to the end of their challenge.
“My 15 year old son attended a recent webinar and has not stopped talking about changes he is making to his exercise routine, food and sleep. He commented that he appreciated how Jamie related the lifestyle changes to himself and how they had made a positive impact on his fitness, performance and overall wellness. He also said that these messages would have less impact coming from a teacher. He is joining in with virtual gym sessions with SAS later today and looking forward to the next webinar. He’s spoken to me more in the last 24 hours than the previous week, I’ve got a shopping list and instructions to give him an alarm call every morning so he can exercise pre-school!  Plus he won’t make caffeinated drinks after 1pm.”


Providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (4 February) updated guidance on school meals arrangements during the current pandemic, to include information about supplier relief payments and adding Farmfoods to the list of supermarkets available. It also includes updated information on how to order vouchers as well as changes to the period the support covers. The main points are summarised below (source: DfE):

  • If appropriate to maintain delivery of critical services, schools may consider making payments as normal to suppliers they consider are at risk, even if service delivery is disrupted or suspended. Such payments should only cover the cost of free school meals and universal infant free school meals and not the costs of meals usually purchased by parents for pupils who are not eligible for free school meals.
  • Schools should work with suppliers to ensure that:
    • any relief payments are used by suppliers to help cover non-furloughed staff costs and other non-staff expenses only – relief payments must not be used to cover costs associated with staff furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
    • they do not make profits on elements of a contract that are undelivered during this period
  • Support should be provided each week for benefits-related free school meal pupils at home during the national lockdown and school opening restrictions, from the week beginning 4 January to the week beginning 8 February. It will restart again for the week beginning 22 February.
  • Support during the half-term holiday will be available through the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.
  • Schools must confirm the terms and conditions at the end of the ordering process, otherwise their vouchers will not be processed.

Further details can be found:

Supplier relief for schools

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (3 February) new guidance on how schools and academy trusts should support suppliers through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To ensure service continuity during and after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, schools are advised to support their at-risk suppliers in a range of ways to ensure business and service continuity and to protect jobs. This guidance only applies to contracted goods, services and works contracts, such as for building works, where there is a direct relationship between the contracting authority and its suppliers under a procured contract. It does not apply to other funding mechanisms such as grants. The guidance covers the following key areas (source: DfE):

  • Determining if you are a contracting authority.
  • Reviewing and responding to supplier requests.
  • The Department for Education’s 5-stage approach to evaluate suppliers who request relief.
  • Transition planning
  • School food contracts and supply teachers

Further details can be found:

Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (2 February) updated guidance on what all schools will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The guidance includes updates to the following key areas (source: DfE):

  • The introduction, in light of the announcement that most pupils will continue to be remotely educated after the February half-term.
  • System of controls – confirmation it is still the right set of measures for the current new variants of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • System of controls – reordering to make clear importance of ventilation.
  • System of Controls – changes to wording on isolation rules.
  • System of controls – confirmation of position on face coverings in primary schools.
  • System of controls – reminder of importance of parents understanding drop off and pick up processes.
  • System of controls – more information on use of lateral flow tests.
  • System of controls – update of definition of close contact.
  • System of Controls – Test and Trace Support Payments.
  • Attendance – additional guidance on Vulnerable Children and Young People.
  • Attendance – additional guidance on attendance coding.
  • Recruitment – recommendation that schools avoid face to face interviews.
  • Free schools meals – confirmation of latest position.
  • Estates – advice on maintaining any mechanical ventilation systems.
  • Wraparound care – use of school premises during February half term.
  • Physical activity in schools – additional guidance.
  • Remote education – guidance for independent schools.
  • Remote education – vulnerable children who have difficulty engaging in remote education.
  • Catch up – confirmation of additional funding to extend the programme.
  • Assessment and accountability – guidance for independent schools.
  • Exams – additional information on assessments.

Further details can be found:

Admission appeals for school places

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (1 February) updated guidance on school admission appeals, to reflect that the temporary amendments to the admission appeals regulations, which were introduced due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, have been extended until 30 September 2021.
Further details can be found:

Asymptomatic testing

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (29 January) updated guidance for primary schools and nurseries; and for secondary schools and colleges, regarding asymptomatic testing for coronavirus, to include information about reporting delivery and test issues using the form and contacting the helpline for the relevant link which has been shared.
Further information can be found:; and:

Early Years

Early years foundation stage profile

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (29 January) updated guidance on the early years foundation stage profile, to reflect the fact that in 2021, the early years profile is not mandatory. Practitioners should use their best endeavours to complete it and provide the information to year 1 teachers and parents, if this is possible. Schools that complete the EYFS profile will not be subject to statutory external moderation. There is no requirement to submit data to the local authority or to confirm whether you have completed it to the DfE.
Further information can be found:

Special educational needs

Rapid asymptomatic testing in specialist settings

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (3 February) updated guidance on rapid asymptomatic testing in specialist settings, to reflect the following (source: DfE):

  • changes to daily contact testing advice
  • the rollout of testing to primary school staff
  • further guidance on the different approaches to testing

Further details can be found:

Further Reading

Awarding grades in summer 2021

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published (29 January) its response to the Department for Education and Ofqual consultation on awarding GCSE and A level grades in summer 2021. The EPI has identified three principal risks (source: EPI):

  • A risk that real student learning losses in 2020/21 will be masked by the process of “centre assessed” (teacher) grading, leading students to progress into further study or work without the skills and knowledge they need.
  • A risk of inconsistency and unfairness of grading between different schools and colleges, and between students
  • A risk of further, significant, grade inflation in 2021, which might undermine the credibility of grading.

To mitigate these risks, EPI proposes five major changes to the government’s proposals:

  • The distribution of pupils’ exam grades within schools in 2019 should be used as the anchor point when schools apply teacher assessed grades in 2021.
  • Students in all schools and colleges should take a short, standardised assessment in the May/June period in most subjects.
  • Far clearer advice is needed for schools and colleges to inform grade setting this year, and to take Covid learning loss fairly and consistently into account.
  • There is a strong case for final grades to be released in August, rather than earlier, in July, to allow enough time to quality assure them.
  • The government must move quickly to address the huge problem of pupils’ underlying learning loss.

EPI is also proposing that students in Alternative Provision, who would usually have to leave these education settings at age 16, should be funded to stay on for one or two additional years, to ensure they have the skills they need to secure employment or take up further learning opportunities.
Further details can be found:

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 web links are to reputable sites, we cannot be responsible for the content of external websites. Our briefings are for the intended recipient only and should not be forwarded, reproduced or edited.


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