Education News from NGA
1. Changes to Ofsted inspections to be introduced from September 2012
On 30 May Ofsted released its response to the consultation on school inspections. The National Governors’ Association welcomes Ofsted’s announcement, and agrees that the acceptable standard of education should be ‘good’. The NGA is pleased to note that many of the concerns we expressed in our consultation response have been taken on board in Ofsted’s response. We look forward to discussing with Ofsted how the fine detail will work in practice.
Summary of the changes:
- ‘Outstanding’ schools will have to have ‘outstanding’ teaching, though not every lesson must be ‘outstanding’ for this grade
‘Notice will be given the afternoon of the working day before the inspection
- ‘Notice to improve’ will be replaced by ‘serious weaknesses.’ This will be applied to schools that are inadequate, but have the leadership capacity to improve.
- The ‘satisfactory’ category will become ‘require improvement’; schools which ‘require improvement’ will have earlier re-inspections, now within 2 years, but with continued monitoring and support
- Normally, schools ‘requiring improvement’ after two subsequent consecutive inspections (i.e. usually within four years) will be placed in special measures. Ofsted have made exception to those that are making good progress, but not yet good
- Schools will have to provide anonymised performance management information to inspectors.
2. Governors’ Guide to the Law
After much lobbying from the NGA, we are pleased to inform you that a new edition of Governors’ Guide to the Law is out! The Department for Education (DfE) has informed us that it will be updated again to take into account changes from September (including constitution regulations), but will be in a new slim-line format.
3. Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
On 15 May, the DfE finally published its response to last year’s consultation on the SEND Green Paper - Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability - Progress and Next Steps. Although much of the press coverage centred on ‘personal budgets for parents,’ there were other important issues covered in the announcement. Sarah Teather (Minister of State for Children) confirmed that statements would be replaced with Education, Health and Care Plans, and that these would retain the statutory protection currently provided by statements but would extend to cover young people from age 0-25. Personal budgets are being tested by the SEND pathfinders and this does include some educational provision.
It is important that the DfE makes available clear guidance to schools to ensure children are appropriately designated and no child slips through the net.
The NGA will be providing a detailed brief on the DfE paper to members and the DfE will be presenting its plans to NGA’s conference on 16 June
4. Changes to free nursery places
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced his plans to extend free early childcare to include two-year olds from September 2012, earlier than the 2013 start indicated in previous plans. There are currently 800,000 three to four year olds taking up to 15 hours a week free early education. The scheme will be trialled in ten areas, reaching around 1,000 two-year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
Clegg also wants to make the scheme more flexible; currently, parents must split their 15 hours a week over 3 days between 08.00 and 18.00. The changes will allow the hours to be split over just 2 days, and between 07.00 and 19.00 to make it more flexible for parents working part-time. ‘There will be more free childcare, it will be higher quality, and it will be more flexible for parents.’ Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said ‘high quality education is the key to making a difference early on in a child’s life.’ The challenge will be to make sure all eligible families get access to the free childcare.
The statutory guidance will be revised and made clearer so parents know that they do not have to pay anything to get the free place. Councils and the Local Government Association (LGA) are worried about the funding for nurseries, though the LGA were otherwise pleased by the plans. Shadow Minister of State for Children and Families Sharon Hodgson also voiced concerns about the funding, particularly with the closure of many children’s centres, and whether there will be enough high quality trained staff to cope with the increase.
5. Children and Families Bill
The Queen’s speech announced that in early 2013 a Children and Families Bill would be introduced into Parliament. The Bill will cover family law, shared parenting, and strengthen the role of the Children’s Commissioner and will also put into effect some of the proposals from the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Green Paper published last year (see above).
replace SEN statements with a single assessment process (the Education, Health and Care Plan), which will protect children and young people up to the age of 25, instead of the current age of 16
give local authorities a requirement to publish a local offer setting out r the support on offer to children and young people with SEND
give the right to a personal budget for their support to young people with an Education Health and Care Plan
Finally, the bill will strengthen the remit of the Children’s Commissioner giving an new overall function to ‘promote and protect children’s rights,’ including the functions of the Children’s Rights Director at Ofsted. The term of office will be limited to a single six-year term
6. Exclusions Guidance
The DfE has released the new exclusions guidance for local authority (LA) maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units. The guidance and new regulations will take effect from 1 September 2012. NGA will be producing a briefing on exclusions shortly.