Strategy and Intelligence Briefing 23 July 2021

Dear Member,

Please see the briefing below, including Alice Gregson considers the value of coaching to staff development and organisational success, Michael Pain discusses three things we have learned about the academy trust system this year,  the NFER publishes its analysis of initial teacher training placement capacity in English schools, the DfE publishes the government’s national strategy for improving the lives of autistic people, 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

Please note: these briefings are for the individual CEO or COO member only as part of your ‘individual membership’ and strictly not for further copying, forwarding or distribution. Organisational level subscriptions are available on request. Please see our terms and conditions.

Resource of the Week

Executive coaching: distinguishing acceptable from exceptional

This week’s resource of the week is from Forum’s Chief Operating Officer, Alice Gregson, who considers the value of coaching to staff development and organisational success. The article comments that coaching has become a growth industry, but in order to secure its benefits, individuals and organisations must be able to differentiate between coaching that is merely acceptable and that which is exceptional.

As the person leading and quality assuring Forum Strategy’s executive coaching provision – and as an ILM qualified and experienced coach herself – Alice offers some key takeaways to guide CEOs accessing (or thinking about accessing) coaching and / or supporting their staff to do so too:

  • Checking the quality of the coaching you invest in is vital – there are ways to do this before committing to coaching contracts. Beware of those who over promise and under deliver!
  • The balance between quality and cost needs careful consideration – for the elements of exceptional coaching to be incorporated, it requires a resource investment; therefore, a procurement exercise based on monetary value alone, may not get you what you need longer term
  • Set clear goals and objectives for the coaching – be really clear on what you (and/or your team) and your Board expect to achieve
  • Make sure a quality assurance approach is built in throughout the coaching process from start to finish – this will be the only way you will spot whether the coach/coachee relationship is working effectively and your only opportunity to address any issues should any arise
  • Opt for excellence, not acceptable – with coaching it makes a huge difference to the outcomes you will see, and it ensures we retain integrity across the profession

Further details can be found:

If you would like to find out more about coaching through Forum Strategy and/or arrange some sessions for the new academic year, please contact us at Spaces for coaching are in high demand but with nine very high quality, experienced coaches available, we have the capacity to fulfil most requests


Autumn Term 2021 events

We hope colleagues have enjoyed all the various Forum Strategy events over the past school year and have found them helpful as an opportunity to reflect, network, share ideas and learn from colleagues from other sectors. A list of planned events for next term will be circulated separately next week, and can also be found here:

Strategic thinking

Michael Pain’s Summer Blog 2021

In this year’s summer blog, Forum’s CEO Michael Pain discusses three things we have learned about the academy trust system this year:

1. The trust model has demonstrated its potential – but there is more to do – In many trusts (but still not all), the proximity of a central team of experts who can provide professional advice in areas such as HR, health and safety, and technological advice (amongst other things) has been a huge benefit for many over the past year. For teachers, the ability to share new and ever evolving resources across schools rapidly and confidentially, has not only saved time and effort, but has also enabled collaborative refinement. And headteachers in trusts have been able to link with other leaders for advice and support. However, Michael comments that we have got to do more to capture the learning and experiences of those leaders in school trusts that felt supported during the pandemic, why that was, and then disseminate it more widely across the trust system.

2. There is still an obsession with numbers of schools as a success metric for trusts; let’s be more thoughtful and sophisticated than that! – Most CEOs and boards still describe their trusts first and foremost by the number of schools within them. This is the ‘what’ – it is neither the ‘why’ or the ‘how’ of trust leadership. What we (at Forum) are advocating is that leaders across the education sector use this current time to shape something that rebalances the important but very narrow measures of success, to something more sophisticated, for which trusts are accountable at a local level: a ‘purer accountability’ as we have described it. Michael asks how can trusts define what they mean by quality and ‘success’ going into a new era, for which they can be held to account by their local communities, not least parents and pupils themselves?

3. Trusts have some complex and profound challenges ahead, which will require a new level of strategic leadership – The next phase of trust and school leadership is going to be defining. We have seen trusts thrive in crisis management and in dealing with the complexity that this pandemic has presented. Yet, some complex and profound challenges present themselves, and only some trusts and leaders have managed to get them onto the agenda. The digital divide is about to be exposed further, the world is experiencing the dawning of a fourth industrial revolution, and there are other huge challenges such as the lack of diversity in our system, the determination of this generation of children and young people to tackle climate change, and the health and wellbeing crisis. Michael suggests that Trusts must respond to an increasingly complex and strategically challenging landscape at a time when they are still dealing with crisis management. Young people and parents value the support through the pandemic, but expectations are growing in these other areas that will define young people’s lives in the new era. Trusts must seriously consider and be responsive to the evolving context, and invest in the expertise, partnerships, and initiatives necessary to prepare children and young people for it.

Further details can be found:

Economic, social and environmental developments

National pupil projections

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (22 July) national projections for the number of pupils in schools by type of school and age group, the main points from which are summarised below (source: DfE):

  • The actual population in state-funded schools in 2020 was 7,778,000. This is projected to decrease by 398,000 (to 7,380,000) over the next ten years to 2030.
  • The original 2020 projection model estimated a population of 7,370,000 in 2030, so the updated model shows an increase of 10,000 on the total at the end of the projection period.
  • The difference is primarily because of the participation rates (the proportion of the overall population being in school) being very slightly higher in the updated model, due to the ONS population estimates for 2019 being slightly smaller than the figures previously forecast for that year.
  • The FTE population of under 5-year-olds in state funded education is projected to be 783,000 in 2026. This is 8% lower than the actual figure for 2020 (852,000). This population decrease is due to the lower number of births, which directly feed into the model.
  • The overall population in state-funded primary and nursery schools is projected to be 4,345,000 in 2026. This is 302,000 lower than the actual figure in 2020 (4,647,000). The figure for 2026 is 3,000 higher than was forecast in the original 2020 model, a difference of 0.1%.
  • The secondary school population is projected to be 3,216,000 in 2026. This is 213,000 higher than the total in 2020 (3,003,000). The figure for 2026 is 6,000 higher than was forecast in the original 2020 model, a difference of 0.2%. The pattern of change in the secondary school population (peaking in 2024 then very slowly starting to drop) is unchanged.

Further details can be found:

Labour market July 2021

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published (15 July) its latest overview of the state of the labour market in the UK, which sets out the following key points (source: ONS):

  • The number of payroll employees showed another monthly increase, up 356,000 in June 2021 to 28.9 million. However, it remains 206,000 below pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels.
  • For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, some regions are now above pre-pandemic (February 2020) levels. These include North East, North West, East Midlands and Northern Ireland.
  • Following a period of employment growth and low unemployment, since the start of the pandemic, the employment rate has generally decreased, and the unemployment rate increased.
  • However, since the end of 2020 both have shown signs of recovery. In the latest period (March to May 2021), there was an increase in the employment rate of 0.1 percentage points, to 74.8%, and a decrease in the unemployment rate of 0.2 percentage points, to 4.8%. The economic inactivity rate is up 0.1 percentage points on the previous quarter, to 21.3%.
  • With the relaxation of many coronavirus restrictions, total hours worked increased on the quarter, however it is still below pre-pandemic levels.
  • There were 862,000 job vacancies in April to June 2021 – 77,500 above its pre-pandemic level in January to March 2020.
  • All but one industry saw quarterly increases in their number of vacancies.

Further information can be found:

Policy, research and strategic developments

ITT placement capacity in English schools

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has published (22 July) its analysis of initial teacher training (ITT) placement capacity in English schools. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 caused unprecedented challenges for society, the economy and also for education systems. The initial teacher training system was affected in a number of ways, including an increase in applications as well as schools reducing their offers of training placements to ITT providers. NFER was commissioned by MillionPlus to conduct an independent analysis of data from a survey of school senior leaders, providing fresh insight on the questions about placement capacity in the school system. The key findings from this analysis are summarised below (source: NFER):

  • There are significant geographical differences in ITT placement capacity.
  • Primary schools in large cities outside London and small coastal areas offer more placements per school than schools in other areas.
  • Secondary schools in large cities outside London offer more placements per school than schools in other areas, while secondaries in London and those in small coastal and non-coastal areas offer fewer placements per school.
  • Local authority maintained secondary schools have a lower average number of placements compared to secondaries that are single-academy trusts or in multi-academy trusts.
  • Secondary schools with less deprived pupil demographics tend to offer more placements, compared to schools with higher pupil deprivation levels.
  • The most-cited strategies that would support senior leaders’ schools to offer more placements were increased financial support from Government, incentives/ recognition for providing trainee placements and increased support from ITT providers.

Further details can be found:

Education programme for Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller children

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced (22 July) new education programmes to help support Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller pupils. The new programmes will focus on boosting educational attainment, tackling exclusion and drop-out rates, and improving pathways to employment for Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller children, backed by £1 million government funding. The pilot programmes will reach 150 schools and involve a range of targeted work, including (source: DfE):

  • reducing drop-out rates by engaging families with pre-school children and those transitioning from primary to secondary school,
  • targeting young people not in education, employment, or training,
  • fostering better cooperation between councils, schools, and families and
  • tutoring for catch-up lessons to support pupils whose education has been disrupted by the pandemic.

Bradford, Central Bedfordshire, Essex, Hillingdon, and Surrey have been chosen as the pilot areas, with the programmes informing future government work.

Further details can be found:

School Teachers’ Review Body 31st report

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (21 July) recommendations from the School Teachers’ Review Body on teachers’ pay, which are summarised below (source: DfE):

  • STRB’s recommendations on the pay of teachers earning less than £24,000:
    • A consolidated award of £250 to all teachers whose full-time equivalent basic earnings are less than:
      • £24,000 in the Rest of England
      • £25,194 in the Fringe
      • £27,419 in Outer London
      • £28,681 in Inner London
    • Any part-time teacher whose full-time equivalent basic earnings meet the eligibility criteria receive the award on a pro-rata basis according to their working hours.
    • The award be paid to all eligible teachers, whether located on a published pay point or not.
    • This award be independent of any progression considerations.
    • The treatment of teachers between existing published pay points, including the management of possible leapfrogging, be at the discretion of employers who should ensure no teachers located just above the pay thresholds for eligibility are significantly disadvantaged relative to other teachers
    • That employers ensure that implementation of the pay award complies with the National Living Wage policy.
  • Looking ahead:
    • The STRB are pleased that the Department is planning a study covering issues of equality and diversity. As this will take some time to deliver its findings, STRB encourage the Department, in parallel, to make use of the detailed census data it collects annually on the teaching workforce.
    • Teachers’ wellbeing is an important issue and is likely to remain a significant concern, even after the additional pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic recede. It is important that teacher wellbeing is both recognised and addressed, not least because this will positively affect recruitment and retention. STRB encourage the Department to continue to work with the sector in reducing workload and promoting more flexible working arrangements for teachers.
    • STRB continue to seek an opportunity to review aspects of the pay framework for classroom teachers to ensure it recognises high performance and increases in teaching excellence and capability, while also rewarding teachers for taking on management and leadership responsibilities.
    • STRB would also support a review of the existing leadership pay framework, including the factors determining pay for school leaders, the issue of pay differentials between the teacher and leadership pay ranges, and the leadership roles covered by the pay structure.

Further details can be found:

School rebuilding programme

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced (19 July) the outcome of the second round of the Prime Minister’s school rebuilding programme. The 50 projects announced include rebuilds and refurbishments that will create modern education environments, providing new facilities, from classrooms and science labs to sports halls and dining rooms. The new school buildings will also be net-zero carbon in operation, helping meet the Government’s net zero target.

Further details can be found:; and in the associated press release:

The DfE has also launched (19 July) a consultation seeking views on the approach to prioritising schools for future places in the School Rebuilding Programme:

Department for Education Outcome Delivery Plan

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (15 July) its Outcome Delivery Plan for 2021 to 2022, which sets out its priority outcomes and strategic enablers and how it will achieve them. The main points from the plan are summarised below (source: DfE):

  • Vision and mission:
    • The DfE’s Plan states “At our heart, we are the department for realising potential. We enable children and learners to thrive, by protecting the vulnerable and ensuring the delivery of excellent standards of education, training, and care. This helps realise everyone’s potential – and that powers our economy, strengthens society and increases fairness.”
    • It also states “The Department for Education (DfE) is responsible for children’s services and education, including early years, schools, higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills in England. We work to provide children’s services, education and skills training that ensures opportunity is equal for all, no matter background, family circumstances, or need.”
  • DfE’s priority outcomes:
    • Drive economic growth through improving the skills pipeline, levelling up productivity and supporting people to work (cross-cutting outcome). The supporting departments are Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
    • Level up education standards so that children and young people in every part of the country are prepared with the knowledge, skills, and qualifications they need.
    • Support the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people through high-quality local services so that no one is left behind (cross-cutting outcome). The supporting departments are DCMS, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), DWP, Home Office (HO), MHCLG and Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
    • Provide the best start in life through high-quality early education and childcare to raise standards and help parents to work (cross-cutting outcome). The supporting departments are DWP and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
  • Strategic enablers – to deliver its priority outcomes – and reinforce the ambitions of the Declaration on Government Reform – DfE will focus on 4 key enablers:
    • Workforce, skills, and location
    • Innovation, technology, and data
    • Delivery, evaluation, and collaboration
    • Sustainability

Further details can be found:


Partner resources

The items in the ‘Partners Resources’ section are provided by Forum Strategy’s commercial partners. Our small number of paid partnerships are also based on our partners’ expertise, credibility and ethos.

Schools Partnership Programme

With the world climate having tested all systems and structures across all sectors, one characteristic in particular has proven to be of immense value – resilience.

Schools Partnership Programme Lead Associate Maggie Farrar articulates the true nature of resilience this way:

Too often, ‘resilience’ is interpreted as needing to be tough and thick-skinned – that the tougher we are, the more resilient we’ll be,” says Maggie, “but the organisations that fared best during the pandemic were those that reached out to each other and understood that sharing – and addressing – their vulnerabilities together made them stronger. The most resilient organisations acknowledged it would be difficult and that there would be setbacks. They didn’t attempt to hunker down and simply try to endure what was happening around them; they found solidarity and strength in working together.

In this latest research brief from the Schools Partnership Programme, schools involved in SPP show how they have drawn on relationships within their peer review groups during the period of the pandemic, and what they have learned about organisational resilience as a result:

Schools Advisory Service

SAS Personal Trainers Ed & Valusska have put together some facts, tips, and information to support colleagues to stay safe in the heat this summer while taking part in exercise:

SAS Gym is included complimentary with SAS staff absence insurance. All staff at schools insured by SAS have access to the SAS Gym app, which you can learn more about and download by clicking here. Staff named on SAS policies also have access to one-to-one personal trainer support.

SAS have also launched their ‘Summer of Wellbeing’, reminding members that SAS are available throughout the summer to ensure that staff have access to the physical and mental health support they might need as they take stock of how they are feeling physically and emotionally:

The Key – a thank you

As the summer term comes to a close, we want to thank you for all your hard work and incredible resilience in another year leading your trusts in the most challenging of circumstances. We hope you feel incredibly proud of all you have achieved for your trust, schools and their communities and can get some well-deserved rest this summer. With all the best from everyone at The Key.”


Multiplication tables check

The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) has published (19 July) updated information on the multiplication tables check, which is statutory for primary schools in the 2021/22 academic year. Guidance is scheduled to be updated in March 2022.

Further details can be found:

Academies Accounts Direction

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has published (16 July) updated guidance on preparing and auditing academy trusts’ annual financial statements, to include a supplementary bulletin covering matters arising from the COVID-19 pandemic which may impact on the 2020 to 2021 academy accounts. The bulletin covers (source: ESFA):

  • a summary of the main sources of DfE/ESFA COVID-19 funding
  • regularity and audit implications
  • annual report disclosures
  • requirements for disclosure of financial support received

Further details can be found:

Careers guidance

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (15 July) updated statutory guidance for schools and colleges on providing careers guidance. The main points to note from the updated statutory guidance are summarised below (source: DfE):

  • The Department asks all maintained schools and academies to pay particular attention to their legal requirements under the provider access duty, commonly known as the ‘Baker Clause’, and make sure they have put in place arrangements to comply fully with this law.
  • Schools must provide opportunities for a range of education and training providers to access all year 8 to 13 pupils to inform them about approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships.
  • Ofsted’s school inspection handbook has been updated to highlight the importance of schools understanding and meeting the requirements of this legislation, as careers information, education, advice, and guidance is one of the key areas that informs inspectors’ overall judgements on Personal Development.
  • With the government’s reforms to technical education and skills and the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, there will be an increasing need for schools and colleges to work in partnership with employers, careers advisers, local authorities and other education and training providers to support students to prepare for the workplace and to make informed choices about the next step in their education or training.
  • Specific changes to the guidance are summarised below:
    • Bringing together the statutory guidance for schools and the guidance for colleges on careers guidance into a single document
    • New section to bring the key points for governors and senior leaders into one place
    • Text added to describe the range of support made available by the department, particularly through The Careers & Enterprise Company and the National Careers Service, to help schools and colleges achieve the Gatsby Benchmarks
    • New paragraphs explaining the importance of the skills and technical education reforms set out in the department’s white paper, ‘Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth’ and how schools and colleges should highlight the opportunities these reforms will create for students
    • Text added to make it clear that schools and colleges should not promote HE as a better or more favourable route than FE and apprenticeships; and should inform students when evidence suggests that courses, they are considering lead to poor career outcomes
    • Changes to reflect the coverage of careers guidance in Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework, published in 2019 and Ofsted’s school inspection handbook, updated in June 2020
    • References to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how schools and colleges can adapt their careers provision

Further details can be found:

Early Years

Ofsted EIF inspections and the EYFS

Ofsted has published (22 July) guidance for schools and registered early years providers on what they need to know, both now and from 1 September 2021, about delivering the current and revised early years foundation stage (EYFS).

Further details can be found:

Development Matters

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (20 July) updated non-statutory curriculum guidance for the early years foundation stage.

Further details can be found:–2

Actions for early years providers during the coronavirus outbreak

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (19 July) updated guidance for early years providers regarding actions to be taken during the current pandemic. The actions have been updated to reflect that we moved to Step 4 on 19 July and includes removing the section on ‘contact tracing until Step 4’ as well as providing updated sections on clinically extremely vulnerable staff and children.

Further details can be found:

Special educational needs and Alternative Provision

National strategy for autistic children, young people, and adults: 2021 to 2026

The Department for Education (DfE) has published (21 July) the government’s national strategy for improving the lives of autistic people and their families and carers in England, and the implementation plan for 2021 to 2022.

The strategy takes into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on autistic people and their families’ lives, as this has been very challenging for many. In summer 2020, the DfE commissioned the Policy Innovation and Evaluation Research Unit (London School of Economics) to undertake rapid research to improve understanding of autistic people’s experiences during this time, and the ability to respond appropriately.

The research showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges many autistic people already faced, such as loneliness and social isolation, and anxiety. While reasons for this vary, the research found that many autistic people have struggled with understanding restrictions and practicing infection control measures. In addition, the pandemic has created new issues for autistic people, for example in being able to shop at supermarkets due to new social distancing measures.

At the same time, the research also showed the benefits of lockdowns for some autistic people, who have been better able to engage in virtual spaces, have felt less societal pressure and have been able to avoid anxiety-inducing activities like using public transport. This has also provided learning about what works for autistic people as we move out of the pandemic.

The new national strategy covers the following key areas:

  • roadmap for the next 5 years
  • improving understanding and acceptance of autism within society
  • improving autistic children and young people’s access to education, and supporting positive transitions into adulthood
  • supporting more autistic people into employment
  • tackling health and care inequalities for autistic people
  • building the right support in the community and supporting people in inpatient care
  • improving support within the criminal and youth justice systems
  • enablers for the strategy

Further details can be found:; and in the associated ‘Think Autism’ consultation outcome documents:

The engagement model

The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) has published (19 July) and updated engagement model for teachers to use as an assessment tool for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests. The engagement model is statutory for use from 2021/22 academic year. Schools can no longer assess pupils against P scales 1 to 4. Further information will be available in the 2022 assessment and reporting arrangements scheduled to be published in the autumn term (2021).

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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