Another busy year for governors. This was the year in which we saw, amongst other things, the publication of the Competency framework and the change in legislation which now allows governing bodies to remove elected governors.
The notable events of the year as they happened:
2017 started with some good news about governors receiving gongs in the New Year’s Honours list. As we are the largest volunteer force in the country it is good to see governance getting recognition.
Amanda Spielman took up her post as HMCI.
Ofsted inspectors starting leading short inspections.
Governors and trustees of 40 schools in West Sussex wrote to MPs to warn them that they would refuse to sign off budgets and carry out their supervisory work because of their concerns about funding.
Education Datalab warned that a minority of “pupils are being ‘managed out’ of mainstream schools… with the effect of boosting the league table performance of the school which the pupil leaves”.
The Teacher Development Trust analysed schools’ spending on CPD and found that, across the whole sector, on average this accounts for just 0.7% of their income. Schools rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted were spending less on average than others and over 20,000 teachers work in schools where there is no CPD budget.
NGA produced some questions that governing boards could use as a basis for discussing staff CPD: Questions for governing boards to ask: Staffing
Vicky Beer, RSC for Lancashire and West Yorkshire, who had announced that she would be stepping down in May to lead the newly formed Greater Manchester Learning Trust reversed her decision to resign and decided to stay on as RSC for the area.
NGA and the school leaders’ union NAHT published an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, calling for more money to be allocated to the education budget.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Education Governance and Leadership discussed school funding. Contributions were made by MPs, governors, trustees, headteachers, teachers, school business managers and parents. The minutes of the meeting are available to download here.
The government announced that the “sugar tax” would raise a total of £415 million. For local authority (LA) schools, a proportion of the money will be paid directly to the LA. Larger MATs will also receive a direct allocation. Smaller Mats and single academy trusts will need to bid for the money through a “healthy pupil’s capital fund”. The funding will not become available until April 2018.
The Social Mobility Commission has published new researchnto “the barriers to progress that low income pupils face at secondary school”, emphasising that “decisions and actions taken by schools can have a profound impact on outcomes”
NGA published a new version of its skills audit tool
Justine Greening,announced her intention to put Relationships and Sex Education (SRE) on a statutory footing, “so every child has access to age appropriate provision”.
The Education Select Committee released a report detailing the findings of its inquiry into the performance of multi-academy trusts, outlining “significant concerns” about the performance, accountability and expansion of MATs and noted there was no evidence to support “large scale expansion”.
The Department for Education released reports and recommendations from a number of 16-19 education area reviews across England. Beginning in 2015, these reviews were designed to “ensure that colleges are financially stable into the longer-term” and “well-positioned to meet the present and future needs of individual students and the demands of employers”.
DfE published advice to help schools understand their obligations and duties in relation to asbestos management in schools.
Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman announced “a major investigation into how well schools are using the curriculum to ensure children receive a broad education”.
Ofsted published a study of the reliability of Ofsted’s new short inspections. It found that In 22 of the 24 inspections (of primary schools), both inspectors agreed on the outcome of the short inspection.
The 9th School Inspection update had some useful clarifications around “short-inspections”, safeguarding, new GCSE’s, technical qualifications and how inspectors will liaise with executive leaders and the board of trustees in multi-academy trusts (MATs). The update also made it clear that in MATs the trust board and senior executive leader will be both informed about an inspection of one of their schools and invited to the feedback sessions and the lead inspector will also offer to meet with the MAT’s executive leader and the chair of the board.
John Edwards’ appointment as RSC for or East Midlands and the Humber was announced.
Schools Week published an article looking at CEO pay in MATs.
DfE started a consultation on its proposed revisions to the statutory guidance on the exclusion of pupils.
Health and Education committees started a joint inquiry into the role of education in the mental health of children and young people.
BBC published the results of a survey of 4,000 governors where the funding issue was one of the issues raised by governors.
Ofsted released official statistics about the outcomes of school inspections in autumn 2016/17:
- 70% of schools inspected were judged “good” or “outstanding”
- 61% of schools previously judged “requires improvement” improved to “good” or better
- across England, 89% of schools are currently “good” or “outstanding” overall
Members of the National Union of Teacher (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lectures voted to amalgamate to form the National Education Union (NEU).
The National Governors’ Association officially became the National Governance Association to reflect changes in the way schools are governed.
DfE launched a public consultation on the future of the primary assessment system in England.
Inspiring Governance service published a new recruitment guide, ‘The right people around the table.’ This is designed to help school governors and trustees plan and carry out recruitment and induction.
The Education Secretary wrote to the Education Select Committee Chair confirming that a grade 4 in the newly reformed GSCE system (with grading set between 1-9, with 9 being the highest level of achievement) would now be considered a “standard pass” and a grade 5 a “strong pass”.
The Education Funding Agency (EFA) merged with the Skills Funding Agency to form the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)
An independent review on behaviour management in schools entitled ‘Creating a culture: How schools can optimise behaviour’ by behaviour expert Tom Bennett was published.
DfE published statistics on pupil absence in primary and secondary schools for the 2015 to 2016 academic year.
School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 published giving maintained school governing bodies the power (from 1st September 2017) to remove elected parent and staff governors by majority decision of the governing body. From 1 May 2017, any person who has held office as an elected parent or staff governor and removed from the governing body during their term of office, will be disqualified from serving or continuing to serve as a school governor for five years from the date of their removal.
Dr Tim Coulson, (RSC for the East of England and north-east London) announced that he will be stepping down and moving on to become the chief executive of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust.
DfE published a Competency Framework for clerks.
On the final day of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference members discussed a motion about governance which received considerable twitter reaction. The motion was “Conference calls on the National Executive, working with the National Governors’ Association and other relevant organisations, to campaign for a reduced emphasis on governance within the judgement for leadership in Ofsted and reduce the expectations, workload and ever-increasing accountability of the volunteers who put themselves forward as governors of our schools.” The retention of governors was also listed as a concern, with this being linked to headteachers’ careers which were “being put on the line by bewildered governors”. Emma Knights and Russell Hobby discussed this in the NGA’s blog.
The House of Commons Education and Health Committees published a joint report into the role of education in supporting the mental health of children and young people
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Education published its report on its inquiry on how well schools prepare children for their future.
Alison Critchley, Chief Executive of RSA Academies wrote a guest blog for NGA about the role of members in academy trusts.
BBC and Schools Week reported that over 20 school governing boards in West Sussex planned to hold a symbolic strike today (Friday 19 May) in response to fears over school funding and the projected £3bn in real-term budget cuts by 2020.
The general election resulted in a hung parliament. Justine Greening, Nick Gibb and Robert Halfon were re-elected. Edward Timpson, lost his seat in Crewe and Nantwich. Neil Carmichael, previously chair of the Education Select Committee and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Governance and Leadership, was defeated in Stroud. Former Conservative Education Secretaries Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan retained their seats, as did Labour Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and her predecessor Lucy Powell. Sarah Olney, previously the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, was not re-elected. Former teachers Emma Hardy (Hull West and Hessle) and Laura Smith (Crewe and Nantwich) were newly elected MPs.
DfE confirmed that Rebecca Clark, the RSC for the south west of England would be stepping down. Both the TES and Schools Week reported that she will be joining Ark as regional director for secondary schools in London and Portsmouth.
NGA wrote to Justine Greening asking for greater focus on stakeholder engagement, and highlight the fundamental change in school governance brought about by the growth of multi academy trusts.
Ofsted launched a consultation on proposed changes to the process for short inspections of ‘good’ schools. The consultation proposed extending the period in which a converted inspection will be completed from 48 hours to 15 working days and that schools “in complex circumstances” (identified through Ofsted’s standard risk assessment) will automatically receive a full inspection.
Ofsted amended its guidance about raising concerns and making a complaint about Ofsted.
The Queen’s Speech set out the government’s legislative programme for the next two years. There was no mention of removing the ban on new selective schools and ending universal infant free school meals. The government will continue to convert “failing” schools to academies.
The NGA, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Local Government Association (LGA) produced a new edition of “What governing boards should expect from school leaders and what school leaders should expect from governing boards”.
Governors were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to education.
Secretary of state for education Justine Greening reaffirmed the government’s commitment that no school will lose funding under the national funding formula proposals.
DfE appointed Sue Baldwin as the new regional schools commissioner for the East of England and North East London, replacing Tim Coulson who resigned.
DfE announced ministerial portfolios.
- Justine Greening Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
- Nick Gibb Minister of State for School Standards with an expanded brief that includes Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and Minister for Equalities
- Robert Goodwill Minister of State for Children and Families
- Jo Johnson Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation
- Anne Milton Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills and Minister for Women
- Lord Nash Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System with responsibility for school governance.
Nick Gibb confirmed the government would drop plans for removing infant free school meals and that no school would see a cut in funding as a result of the move to the new national funding formula.
University of Coventry published a research report on What the Prevent Duty means for School and Colleges in England.
DfE published its response to the consultation on the Implementation of the English Baccalaureate. The consultation received a total of 2,755 responses, 69 of which were submitted by school governors or trustees.
The Secretary of State announced that the Department for Education’s Schools financial benchmarking site had been updated and improved.
DfE published updated guidance on school exclusion to clarify rules that apply to exclusions and process of review.
DfE published findings of a survey of academy trusts covering topics such as reasons for conversion and how they are using their academy status.
The Social Market Foundation published “Commission on Inequality in Education”, an independent, cross-party initiative which examined the causes and effects of inequality in education.
DfE launched an updated and improved version of Analyse School Performance (ASP), the replacement service to RAISEonline.
DfE) released the latest version of the STPCD, giving a 2% uplift to the statutory minima and maxima of the main pay range and a 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of all other pay ranges in the national framework (including headteacher groups) and all allowances across pay ranges.
Eileen Milner appointed as CEO of Education and Skills Funding Agency.
DfE released an updated version of the Statutory Guidancesetting out the arrangements for the constitution of governing bodies of all local-authority-maintained schools.
The new edition of Ofsted’s School Inspection Update provided details of how inspectors are instructed to approach school performance data.
The membership of the House of Commons Education Select Committee announced.
- Robert Halfon (Chair) Conservative
- Lucy Allan Conservative
- Michelle Donelan Conservative
- Marion Fellows Scottish National Party
- James Frith Labour
- Emma Hardy Labour
- Trudy Harrison Conservative
- Ian Mearns Labour
- Lucy Powell Labour
- Thelma Walker Labour
- Mr William Wragg Conservative
Lord Theodore Agnew was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, taking over from Lord Nash
The scoping report ‘Who Governs Our Schools? Trends, Tensions and Opportunities’ by Dr. Tony Breslin FRSA published by the RSA launced at APPG on Education Governance and Leadership.
A new consultation on changes to short inspections announced.
Justine Greening announced new measures at the Conservative Party conference
- 12 million funding for a network of new English hubs starting in the North of England to improve literacy
- Extra £6 million for Maths hubs
- New focus for the £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) to boost literacy and numeracy at Reception
- £30 million in “tailored support” to get teachers into schools struggling with the recruitment and retention of teachers
- Student loan “forgiveness” pilot in regions that struggle to recruit high quality teachers, initially targeted to attract 800 modern foreign language and 1700 science teachers
- New style bursaries for trainee maths teachers with £20000 upfront and further increments in years 3 and 5 of teaching
Ofsted published its 5 year strategy of being “a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation”.
NGA published results of the NGA/TES survey of governors.
Chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, published a commentary on preliminary research findings into the primary and secondary curriculum.
NGA wroteto the Chancellor of the Exchequer outlining the difficulties with school budgets and seeking additional funding for schools.
Results of the headteacher board elections announced. 32 academy leaders were elected to the eight headteacher boards.
DfE introduced a new fund (open to existing trusts that plan to take on and improve at least two additional schools and to those planning on forming a new MAT which takes on and improves two schools or more).
DfE updated its guidance on strategies schools can employ to spend the year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium effectively. This money is given to schools “to support year 7 pupils who did not achieve the expected standard in reading or maths at the end of key stage 2”.
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, and Chair of Ofsted, Julius Weinberg, gave evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee. She
- Said she had “some level of discomfort” about Ofsted outstanding
- Said she wanted Ofsted to have the power to inspect multi academy trusts (MATs) on a “whole level basis”
- Raised some concerns around the quality of early years’ providers
House of Commons Education Select Committee held a scrutiny session with Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. She talked about DfE Opportunity areas, review of exclusions. She confirmed that the additional £1.3billion moved into the core schools budget protects per-pupil funding in real terms to the end of the spending review period. She also informed the committee that she had asked Sir Theodore Agnew, the new under-secretary of state for education, to look at how MAT boards can be improved.
Research produced by the Education Policy Institute for Ambition School Leadership looked into the characteristics and performance of MATs. It found
- There is no clear relationship between pupil progress at Key Stage 2 or 4 and isolation
- Trusts with more sponsored academies exhibit slightly better improvements over time
- Trusts with more converter academies exhibit higher overall pupil premium attainment
- There is mixed evidence about the connection between growth and performance
- There is some evidence that trusts with a mix of phases are more likely to show improvements in performance at Key Stage 2 and 4
DfE updated its guidance on primary and secondary school accountability to include the ‘coasting’ schools definition for 2017. A school will be below floor standards if
- Primary school : Less than “65% of pupils meet the expected standard in English reading, English writing and mathematics” or the school does not make the required amount of progress, which is “at least -5 in English reading, -5 in mathematics and -7 in English writing”
- Secondary school: “it’s Progress 8 score is below -0.5, and the upper band of the 95% confidence interval is below zero”.
A school will be considered to be coasting if
- Secondary school: In 2015, fewer than 60% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C at GCSE” and, in 2016 and 2017, if “the school’s progress 8 score was below -0.25”.
- Primary school: “in 2015, fewer than 85% of pupils achieved level 4 in English reading, English writing and mathematics and below the national median percentage of pupils achieved expected progress in all of English reading, English writing and mathematics” and, in 2016 and 2017 “fewer than 85% of pupils achieved the expected standard at the end of primary schools and average progress made by pupils was less than -2.5 in English reading, -2.5 in mathematics or -3.5 in English writing”.
Education Policy Institute published a report on free schools. It found
- Two thirds of areas in England are not within a reasonable distance of either a primary or secondary free school
- Free schools are helping to meet the need for new school places
- The programme has been ineffective in targeting areas of low school quality
- Free schools are more likely to be located in areas of disadvantage, but disadvantaged pupils in these areas are less likely to be admitted than would be expected
Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, gave evidence to the Education Select Committee on a range of issues including mental health, behaviour policies and exclusions.
The autumn Budget included extra funding to boost maths and computer science but no extra core funding for mainstream, high needs and post-16 education budgets.
Professor David Berridge (University of Bristol), Kiran Gill (Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Founder of The Difference), and Philip Nye (Education Datalab) gave evidence before the Education Select Committee covering PRUs, AP academies and AP free schools as well as non-maintained alternative provision provided in Independent Schools, Unregistered Schools and Illegal Schools.
ASCL published a guidance paper on setting executive pay.
Peter Lauener, chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) wrote his last letter to academy trust accounting officers before his retirement this term. He highlighted three key areas.
- The need for accounting officers to be mindful of their responsibilities and ensure that the finances are managed in accordance with the Academies Financial Handbook
- The need for those governing to be clear about their responsibilities, have the skills to undertake their role and avoid concentrations of power, the need to maintain vigilance over related party transactions
- Reflections from the ESFA’s assurance work over the last year.
The think-tank LKMCo has published a new report entitled ‘Testing the Water: How assessment can underpin, not undermine great teaching’. One of the recommendations is to ensure governors have appropriate training in understanding the assessment process and the information it produces.
Ofsted announced that it will go ahead with reform of the short inspections system following a recent consultation.
Lord Agnew, Sir David Carter, Vicky Beer and John Edwards (Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) appeared in front of the Education Select Committee. The session focused on the effectiveness of oversight and intervention in the academy system. The collapse of the Wakefield City Academies Trust and the lessons learned from this and similar cases were discussed. Concerns were raised about transparency around the intervention taking place and how this is communicated to parents. Schools Week covered the session here
The Education and Skills Funding Agency published a letter written by new Chief Executive, Eileen Milner, addressing excessive executive salaries in trusts with only one academy.
DfE in partnership with NGA published a guide to help governors and trustees make effective decisions when recruiting and selecting headteachers and other school leaders.
DfE released its plan to improve social mobility through education.
DfE launched a call for evidence to better understand what changes are required to the existing guidance on SRE to reflect changes in technology and society since it was last updated 17 years ago.
Schools Week asked me to review 2017 from a governance perspective. This can be read here.