The Department for Education spent almost £15,000 defending its divisive pupil nationality and country of birth data collection in court just months before it was scrapped, and it didn’t receive a penny of help from the Home Office.
Two attempts by campaigners to challenge the collection at judicial review landed the DfE with legal bills totalling £14,817.48, of which £5,000 was recouped from the claimant when their request was turned down by the High Court.
They have spent money defending a position they should never have taken in the first place
However, the actual spend on legal advice is likely to be much higher, as the DfE said it could not say how much it spent on its own lawyers during the challenges.
Ministers U-turned last April on the controversial collection, part of the attempt to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants by Theresa May while she was home secretary.
The policy was ditched less than two years after it was launched, and just two months after proceedings for a second judicial review were launched. Campaigners opposed the collection on data privacy and human rights grounds.
The DfE had already been forced to abandon plans to share nationality and country of birth data with the Home Office for immigration control following a backlash from parents and campaigners, and a highly successful boycott of the collection left officials without data on a quarter of pupils.
Despite the Home Office’s well-documented involvement in the collection, the DfE told Schools Week, in a response to a freedom of information act, that the Home Office had not been involved in the decision to collect the data, and did not contribute to the DfE’s efforts to protect the collection in the courts.
“No other government departments, including the Home Office, were involved in, or contributed to, the decision to collect this data, the design and implementation of the collection or the cost of any associated legal challenges. The Home Office contribution was therefore £0.”
But Jen Persson, whose organisation Defend Digital Me was responsible for the second legal challenge last February, said: “They have spent money defending a position they should never have taken in the first place.”
Deborah Netolicky unpicks her own battles in finding balance as a woman, including focusing on self-care and learning how to say no to reduce the feeling of “busyness”. As co-editor of Flip the System: Australia she reflects on the lack of female voices in some educational spaces and how the state of politics is also a concern. Her blog finishes with practical tips for organisations and events on how to develop their diversity strategy.
Lena Stewart’s blogs always make me think. Sharing her experience of listening to two female speakers from the US criminal justice system, she reflects on the kindness needed to maintain the dignity of the individual. As the head of a virtual school for looked-after children in Scotland, she links the talks to their national agenda on ensuring schools are trauma-informed and educated about adverse childhood experiences. Her authentic voice joins up the dots between different approaches that are human-centred, such as restorative justice.
Lisa Hannay reflects on the birth of @WomenEdCanada’s daughter and @WomenEd’s granddaughter with the arrival of @WomenEdAlberta holding its first networking event for #IWD19. Shared stories, affirmations, celebrations, tears and solidarity punctuate her journey as she passes the baton on to another group of women connecting over a shared vision.
Liz Free, who wrote the international chapter in the #womened book, has collated a series of stories about global journeys. She shares trends on the number of female teachers in international schools and identifies the impact of an increased representation of women leaders on the global economy. Her blog reminds us that the issues we face in the UK are mirrored globally, for example, there is a 23 per cent pay gap for women and men in leadership internationally.
Madeleine Rose explores the “futile” quest for “perfection”. Addressing the fear of failure, the paranoia and constant niggly feeling of disappointing people, she articulates how such behaviours can quickly become “normalised”, reminding us that anxiety is a form of mental health and not a personal characteristic flaw.
Penny Rabiger reflects on the act of finding someone to be mentored by and matching with someone who needs mentoring. Her candour invites us to consider how our context frames our perspective, as we each have a lens shaped by our identity that defines our relationships and thus our conversations.
This stark blog is an uncomfortable read as Emma Catt shares the shame of receiving multiple explicit images via DMs from male connections on Twitter. She says that she does not want to be seen as a victim, that others have experienced physical assaults, but virtual assaults can also be damaging.
Julie Stewart captures the spirit of a #womened event perfectly. She shares her surprise that each and every voice spoke to her, that each story resonated in some way with her own journey. This weaving of stories is the beauty of a grassroots event. The connections, conversations and relationships that evolve are really special and the essence of the “unconference” format.
Church schools will not need to seek prior approval to buy services from their diocese, the Education and Skills Funding Agency has revealed.
From April 1, academy trusts will have to seek government leave to pay out more than £20,000 to any company or organisation with links to their management.
The rule change, announced last year in response to concerns over unchecked spending by trusts with linked firms, prompted concerns about the potential impact it would have on church schools.
Schools Week revealed earlier this month that government officials were still at loggerheads with academy bosses over a quirk that could hit hundreds of church schools, just weeks away from the date of the change.
Diocesan boards of education must be a member of any trust in their patch that has a Church of England school. It means that all trusts with CofE schools in the same diocese will be classed as related parties.
But today the government confirmed that services that can only be delivered by the diocese, which “provide essential functions fundamental to the religious character and ethos of the school”, are deemed as meeting the “at-cost” requirements, and will therefore not need prior approval.
Church trusts will still have to declare services bought from their dioceses though. The ESFA said that for transactions of over £20,000 with a linked diocese, a “single upload of evidence relating to the payment or levy for these services” is required.
Today’s guidance from the ESFA also reveals that the government is considering requiring all trusts to declare income from related parties.
Trusts will not need to declare income transactions with related parties, including donations to the academy trust from related parties, between April and September 2019 this year, but the ESFA “will review our approach for reporting these transactions before September 2019”.
The guidance also clarifies that prior approval will be needed both for single transactions valued at over £20,000, or any transaction which means transactions with the same firm add up to more than £20,000 over a financial year.
You can find the ESFA guidance on how to seek approval and declare RPTs here.
Serendipity: I had just come home from an afternoon talking to a group of NPQH trainees and had been struck by the diverse group of would-be headteachers in the room. One of the senior teachers had approached me and said, “I like what you said, but I could never be you!”. “Thank goodness for that,” I responded.
There are, no right or wrongs of leadership. All leaders are different and that is what makes leadership exciting, challenging, daunting and often scary. That evening I started to read The Unexpected Leader and the parts of my day collided in a significant way.
I am not really a reader of teaching handbooks. I have dipped in and out of recommended reading lists and found some to be quite thought-provoking, but maybe through lack of time, or more honestly through an egotistical view that I could only really do things my way, theoretical educational literature has not been my bag. Far better a novel with a gripping storyline for me!
I was not grabbed by this book’s opening section, which spoke of a “journey”‘. I loathe clichés but I ploughed on. By midnight I had finished the entire thing and was engrossed in the true stories of different leaders and how they challenge the view of stereotypical school leaders.
The style is simple and the narrative so incredibly easy to read, that it gave me a strong sense of having a dialogue with the leaders chosen to tell their tale. I was particularly struck with Tait’s story (each leader is identified by their first name only), which explores the dilemma we all find ourselves in when we speak out about things that are important – while protecting the integrity of our school. Tait spoke out about Teach First, the Prevent agenda in schools and other very real, but potentially volatile issues, insisting that as leaders we have to speak up for what we believe in, “because no one else is going to”.
The feeling of having a conversation with fellow professionals is priceless
Over the past year my boss, Paul Luxmoore, and I have spoken out about local authorities sending looked-after children from out of the area to Thanet, the beautiful, but massively deprived area that we work in. It has been hard – and sometimes brutal and bloody – to have the moral courage to speak out about such a controversial issue. We have both been criticised as not giving vulnerable youngsters a chance, which makes me angry as the opposite is true.
Difficult parents, challenging budgets, Ofsted and DfE pressures have never put me off my wonderful job. Being told by others that I am immoral for standing up for young people has, however, and last year I considered walking away. In such circumstances one can often feel isolated but reading Tait’s story and wise words: “If you are informed about your decision and you’re informed about your ideas you have to stick with them,” made me feel strong and determined again.
Different sections of the book will resonate with different leaders, obviously, but the accessible way in which it is written means you can dip in and out and feel the privilege of having a conversation with fellow professionals: priceless. It is a book all leaders should have on their shelves.
It does not have answers and that makes it all the better. It is not preachy or academic, it is frank and open and thoughtful and, above all, it makes one feel uplifted and part of the wider community of school leaders across the country.
I enjoyed it and am grateful for the experience. Maybe I should dip into educational books more often – it made me feel I am not alone. And that is more powerful than anything.
Schools are shedding staff, relying on parent donations and eyeing curriculum savings to meet capital funding cuts – as a new survey shows two in five schools have buckets to catch the drips from leaking roofs.
But they are also struggling with crumbling buildings as capital funding is squeezed, our investigation has found.
John Tomsett said the capital grant given to Huntington School in York was slashed 82 per cent in 2011, falling from £160,000 a year to £28,000.
Since 2010 the school has cut ten full-time teachers to save money without any decrease in pupil numbers, resulting in “significantly larger class sizes”.
Tomsett, who had to put a bucket to catch water from a leak in the school’s main office earlier this month, said: “Our roofs leak, our corridor floor tiles are cracking, our boilers are on their last legs.
“Our buildings are in such disrepair that the local authority has had to find a huge amount of funds in recent weeks to spend on our school this summer, for things such as reroofing, relighting classrooms and resurfacing car park areas that are, quite frankly, dangerous.”
A survey from Teacher Tapp this week revealed that 46 per cent of teachers in maintained-schools said they had buckets set up to catch drips, compared with just over a quarter in the independent sector.
Of the 3,500 teachers surveyed, 28 per cent did not agree their school buildings were in a “generally good” state of repair, with 8 per cent of those strongly disagreeing.
Building repairs are also forcing schools to consider cutting their offer for pupils.
In July, a school block of ten classrooms at Ludlow Church of England School was condemned after a structural inspection discovered a “major fault” with its concrete floor slabs.
This was estimated to cost nearly £500,000 to fix, with ongoing annual costs of £250,000 until work to build new mobile classrooms was finished.
The school’s trust, Bishop Anthony Educational Trust, believed government funding wasn’t forthcoming after talks with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
Trust accounts, published last month, said the cost would “reduce the amount of revenue funding available for educational improvement” and meant the trust was “reviewing its curriculum provision and seeking to make additional savings”.
However, Andrew Teale, the chief executive of the trust, told Schools Week that although it had to fund the installation of temporary classrooms during the summer, it had now received a “significant grant offer from the ESFA, which will allow us to replace the building”, hopefully before September.
Meanwhile Dominic Burke, the head of Balcarras School in Gloucestershire, said it was using donations for refurbishments and renovations.
Although he said Balcarras had “decent reserves” and spent an annual £20,000 on redecorating, it was no longer able to invest in maintaining school buildings as it once did.
“We’re in a fortunate position because we came into this crisis with our capital infrastructure and our buildings in good shape. Ten years down the line, we might see the effect of not being able to invest.
“Last man standing is the strategy that we’ve got. Just survive as long as you can and pray to God there’s a change in course.”
The Association of School and College Leaders said teachers and pupils were working in buildings with “faulty heating systems, poor ventilation, electrical problems, damp and leaks. This is not conducive to learning and it is not acceptable that the inadequacy of government funding is eroding the national asset of the school estate.”
The Labour party has calculated that government spending on school buildings dropped 40 per cent between 2010-11 and 2018-19.
Forecasts show the DfE’s capital budget will decrease from £5.6 billion in 2018-19, to £4.5 billion in 2020-21.
A spokesperson for the DfE said £6 billion had been allocated in capital funding since 2015 to “maintain and improve” school buildings.
More than 500 schools are being rebuilt or refurbished under the priority school building programme, she added, with further information sought on the schools most in need to move funding their way.
The school’s website says the stream “provides an ethos of high challenge” with pupils studying computer science and Latin. The grammar stream also “benefits other pupils” by helping to retain teachers, said a spokesperson.
The most able pupils join the “grammar” stream and the next most able enter the “grammar-plus” stream, with other pupils able to join up to year 9, he said.
We realise ability doesn’t necessarily materialise in the 11-plus and this gives pupils time to prove they can be promoted into the grammar streams
“We realise ability doesn’t necessarily materialise in the 11-plus and this gives pupils time to prove they can be promoted into the grammar streams.”
A grammar stream also opened at Goodwin academy in Deal, Kent, this year after joining the Thinking Schools Trust, according to the Hawkinge Gazette.
Similarly, Herne Bay high school in Kent introduced a grammar stream last year “in response to requests from parents”, says its website.
Meanwhile St Augustine academy in Maidstone, Kent, said grammar stream pupils were expected to “complete their A-levels at a local grammar school”.
Other schools with grammar streams include Bishop of Winchester academy in Bournemouth, the Towers School in Kent, whose stream offers film-making and debating, the King Edward VI academy in Lincolnshire and the Malling School in Kent.
Researchers have previously called for more evidence over the effects of streaming.
Tim Dracup, an education blogger, asked in 2017 why schools were developing the practice given the “dearth” of recent research. “The perceived wisdom is that streaming has a more negative effect on lower attainers and a less positive effect on higher attainers because it is more inflexible, less well targeted and so more inequitable.”
Universities and their postgraduate courses for teachers tend to outlive the whims of ministers and secretaries of state, says Rachel Lofthouse – all the time adapting and modifying their provision.
Last week Schools Week reported on the launch of Ambition Institute, a new charity formed from the merger between the Institute for Teaching (IfT) and Ambition School Leadership and which has adopted the label of “graduate school”. My Twitter feed has been deluged by promoted tweets advertising its provision, perhaps yours has too? It certainly has been working hard to grab your attention.
But while I remain genuinely curious about many aspects, this is not about the new organisation. This is a short personal reflection based on my own experiences of working in teacher education for almost two decades, directly in two universities in the north of England and in partnership with many UK colleagues in similar roles. Between us we have created and sustained the real graduate schools, otherwise known as university schools of education, which for decades have offered diverse and productive routes for postgraduate professional development for teachers and school leaders.
At the start of the coalition government our rich history was interrupted when Michael Gove, then education secretary, branded university teacher educators and researchers as “the Blob”. In this simple utterance he seeded division and doubt; proposing to teachers that they had no need for the generative relationships possible through school and university CPD or research partnerships, or the professional learning opportunities offered through masters degrees in education.
A policy-led cull of provision followed. The relatively new masters in teaching and learning, developed between universities, schools, subject associations and the other specialist groups such as the National College of School Leadership, and targeted at new teachers and middle leaders, was abruptly unfunded and the national provision effectively closed.
In this simple utterance he seeded division and doubt
Teachers studying on part-subsidised masters’ courses found their subsidy scaled back each year and then fully withdrawn. The numbers studying on postgraduate part-time courses nosedived. The ability of universities to attract new students was further undermined as teachers reported bigger workloads, as salaries and school budgets were impacted by austerity, and as universities had to increase fees.
For some of us, myself included, it felt like the significant contribution we had been making to developing teaching as an evidence-informed and well-qualified body was being rapidly eroded. More importantly, it made a highly valued and valuable route to career development less accessible to teachers.
Thankfully universities are resilient, and while we may not appear as agile or (as one tweeter suggested) as “cool” as the new players, we are still here. We tend to outlive the whims of ministers and secretaries of state – and while doing so we adapt and modify our provision.
As the real graduate schools, we offer teachers face-to-face and distance learning courses that create a diversity of professional learning opportunities through connecting scholarship with the development of practice. In my current university, teachers and school leaders can study masters’ level courses in inclusive practice, coaching and mentoring, leading mental health in schools, childhood studies and early years, creative writing and drama in education, SEND and race and education. Across the sector the choices become even wider with, for example, courses in curriculum, assessment, practitioner enquiry, leadership and subject specialisms.
Our courses are relevant, evidence-informed, taught by academics embedded in local, national and international research communities, and our cohorts are diverse. We rarely have the luxury of huge marketing budgets, so you might have forgotten we are here, but for many teachers who have studied with us, and still do study with us, we are pivotal in their development.
Last week I met someone who started as a history teacher, but is now a senior leader in a special school. As he talked about his professional journey and his ambitions for his colleagues and students, he smiled broadly while recalling how his masters had transformed his professional practice and understanding, giving him insights and motivations that he carried with him every day that he stepped through the school gate. You can’t argue with that legacy of learning.
School governors and trustees should “regularly communicate” with parents and make sure schools listen to their communities before making decisions, according to new guidance from the government.
The Department for Education has today updated its governance handbook for academies and maintained schools. The updated document states that boards should be able to show how the views of parents and the local community have shaped their “strategic decision-making”.
A revised section on workload also states that boards should review their practices in line with the DfE’s new workload reduction toolkit, published last summer.
It follows criticism that the views of parents and communities have been ignored by some schools and academy trusts, especially those large chains with centralised decision-making processes.
In the updated guidance published today, boards are reminded they must be “connected with, and answerable to, the communities they serve, particularly parents and carers”.
Boards should aim to build productive relationships […] with the local community to create a sense of trust and shared ownership
They also need to build relationships in the community to “create a sense of trust and shared ownership” of the trust or school’s strategy.
Boards should also ensure their schools are “regularly communicating with parents and carers, and that parental engagement is used by the board to inform their strategic decision-making”.
Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association, said she was “pleased” the handbook had been updated but warned it was a “missed opportunity” because a “more fundamental review of governance roles” was needed.
She said this was particularly the case for “academy trusts where there can be a lack of understanding” around roles.
The DfE has told the NGA that another edition of the handbook later this year will clarify these roles, Knights added.
New guidance also says governors should be able to “demonstrate the methods used to seek the views of parents, carers and the local community” and “show how those views have influenced their decision-making”.
Mechanisms should also be in place for parents to be able to put forward their views at “key points in their child’s education”, the guidance states, and decisions should be made in line with the principles and recommendations of the government’s Making data work guidance and the workload reduction toolkit.
“Boards and their organisations are encouraged to use these materials to review current policies and practices,” the DfE said.
An academy trust in Yorkshire is facing a backlash over “unprecedented” plans to shake up teachers’ pay and conditions that unions say could see teachers go unpaid during summer holidays.
The Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust claims “modest changes” to staff contracts are needed to prevent the risk of redundancies, and blames government funding cuts for its situation.
We know of no other employer acting in this arbitrary way
But union officials have accused the chain of proposing “arbitrary and harsh” changes to sick pay and notice periods for staff, claiming some workers could be left without pay over the summer holidays.
Government rules allow academy trusts to depart from national terms and conditions, a big bone of contention for unions and anti-academies campaigners. But in fact few chains have moved to wholesale abandon the core pay structures.
BDAT, which runs 13 schools in Bradford, launched a consultation on changes to terms and conditions last autumn, prompting warnings from six unions that staff should not sign new contracts.
In imposing a three-month notice period for its staff, the trust insists it is increasing the minimum notice it will have to give them when they are dismissed, from the original two months.
But unions claim the change will remove a protection currently afforded to its members which only allows notice to be issued on three dates throughout the year.
Under the current system, if a teacher is given notice on May 31, they don’t leave their employment until August 31. Unions say the new proposals will give the trust the power to give staff notice in mid-April, forcing them to leave at the end of the summer term.
This would be a problem for most education professionals, who generally start new jobs in schools each September. However, the rule will not apply to those made redundant.
“I don’t know how I’d pay my mortgage over the summer,” said one teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“It’s starting to keep me awake at night because there’s nothing to guarantee they won’t do that.”
Under the proposals, staff at the trust who are involved in a capability or disciplinary process will have their sick pay restricted to three months.
Although the trust claims that it would “reasonably hope to resolve all capability and disciplinary processes within a three-month window”, unions have warned that such processes often drag on much longer, and could leave teachers out of pocket when they have done nothing wrong.
Ian Murch, who is leading negotiations with the trust on behalf of the National Education Union, told Schools Week the changes were “unprecedented”.
“I’ve negotiated with a lot of different academy trusts, and all the other ones I deal with are sticking with national terms and conditions,” he said.
In a letter to members, the NEU, NASUWT, NAHT, GMB and Unite said: “We know of no other employer acting in this arbitrary way.”
The threat of changes to pay and conditions is often used by unions as an attack line in campaigns against academisation. However, Jon Coles, CEO of academy trust United Learning, recently hit back at criticism of the conversion of John Roan School in Greenwich, south London.
We believe that such an approach is truly in accordance with our Christian ethos
In a letter, Coles insisted the right of academies to ignore national pay and conditions has actually allowed his trust to pay teachers more than they would receive in maintained schools, and to provide extra non-contact planning days among other staff benefits.
A spokesperson for BDAT said its proposed changes were “brought about by the need to address the reducing contribution in real terms to the money contributed by the government”, but insisted there was no plan for a “wholesale move away from national terms and conditions”.
“We believe that such an approach is truly in accordance with our Christian ethos,” the spokesperson said, adding that the changes to notice periods and sick pay “will affect less than 1 per cent of our staff but could save the Trust around £500,000 per annum – the equivalent of up to 20 jobs”.
In a 2016 blog post, Bethan Jones, a senior associate at law firm Michelmores, warned that “although the vast majority of academies have continued to abide by the school teachers’ pay and conditions document, there may be times when changes are appropriate”.
“However, an academy cannot simply change teachers’ terms and conditions as and when they want, and it will therefore be more difficult to introduce change for any existing member of staff. The general rule is that an employer cannot unilaterally change an employee’s contract.”
The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed that they will be making only minor amends to the previously released draft regulations for Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). This marks a further development in what has been hailed as a historic shake up to RSE as previous guidance has remained untouched for 19 years.
Since 1999, it has been compulsory in state-funded secondary schools to deliver the relationship and sex education (RSE) aspect of PSHE. However, without a standardised framework, schools have been left to plan lessons, source resources and remain informed about RSE subject matter, to adequately inform learners about sensitive but crucial life lessons.
We live in a drastically different world to that of nearly 20 years ago for both positive and negative reasons. The changes may feel like a long time coming for some, but it is a huge step in the right direction for adequate provision for RSE.
Further to the new regulations for RSE, the Health Education (HE) element of PSHE is also to become compulsory in secondary schools (with the exception of independent schools who are already required to deliver this as part of their framework). The guidance released this week draws heavily on young people who conduct lives both on and offline, the pitfalls of which should certainly be included in the content of RSE. It also discusses relationships of all kinds, respect, wellbeing, mental health, resilience, and the integration of LGBT discussions and much more.
The regulations are great in length but when read, are far from heavy-handed. They are real, valuable life lessons, many of which are necessary because of threats which have gathered pace in the last 19 years such as extremism, body image and online presence and knowledge of mental health concerns. When apportioned, many are somewhat common sense, but in their entirety, the regulations could appear to be daunting.
CACHE is supporting schools to meet these regulations by developing a new suite of RSHE qualifications, suitable for learners in years 7-11. These qualifications will launch on 1 September 2019 to allow schools to adopt the new regulations and begin to embed them into their curriculum ahead of the compulsory deadline. These qualifications will be supported by high-quality learning resources from Jigsaw PSHE and schools and teachers will have access to CPD to ensure that they are comfortable to deliver the qualifications.
Jan Lever, Director of Jigsaw PSHE Ltd said: “At Jigsaw PSHE, we are excited to see statutory status being afforded to RSE and Health Education as well as to see the new Ofsted inspection framework emphasising Personal Development. In these exciting times for these subjects, we are delighted to be working with NCFE and CACHE to bring recognition to students and schools through this new suite of qualifications and our Jigsaw teaching programmes.”
The DfE stipulate in their regulations that “Schools should have the same high expectations of the quality of pupils’ work in these subjects as for other curriculum areas… with regular feedback provided on pupil progress.”
The benefits of schools adding a suite of qualifications to their curriculum will allow teachers to have the peace of mind that they are able to capture and feedback on the progress of learners throughout delivery through a series of internally assessed workbooks.
We understand that many schools prefer to use the framework and guidance offered by using qualifications to help them meet the needs of the learner and deliver a structured programme of learning.
Zoe Pasquet, a PSHE teacher from Harmonize Academy who has been teaching the Level 1 Award in Sexual Health Awareness from CACHE, said: “Young people are becoming sexually active at a younger age and it is important that they have the knowledge to keep themselves safe from harm. With social media and online dating apps, students are more vulnerable than ever when it comes to exploitation and it is therefore essential from a safeguarding perspective to inform them of what to look out for and what to do should they find themselves in these situations. The sessions allow students to develop confidence in talking about sexual health issues and give them the opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment with a trusted adult.”
We have continued to refine our PSHE offer, including high-quality teaching resources and a suite of qualifications to structure PSHE lessons and we are delighted that we will be able to help schools further prepare learners for life with our upcoming RSHE qualifications.
To find out more about our current PSHE offer or to register for updates about our suite of RSHE qualification, visit our website.