Devon Association of GovernanceDevon Association of Governance

Autumn 2021 Update

EFFECTIVE CHAIRS – Autumn 2021

 A new academic year against a continuing backdrop of COVID-19. 

The news and updates around education have fortunately slowed over the summer holidays but COVID-19 continues to be a significant factor in planning education for this academic year and beyond. The good news for our members is that DAG will continue to sort through Department for Education (DfE) notifications to produce regular COVID-19 updates for as long as our members need it, see our most recent COVID-19 Update.

As we welcome new members to boards and key positions this term, it is worth considering the question: Does your board encourage all governors or trustees to register with DAG and remain up to date?

1.Education as cases of COVID-19 remain high

With the recent high number of COVID-19 cases Devon moved to Enhanced Response Area (ERA) status.  This designation will be in place for 5 weeks initially but reviewed after 4 weeks. This move enables the area to receive additional national support for testing and vaccination and to put in place additional measures to try to reduce transmission locally.  Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon has written to schools to confirm the arrangements for the start of term.  See our article: Education in an Enhanced Response Area.  Whilst these particular measures do not trigger another lockdown, there is still a risk of small numbers of individual pupils being unable to attend school. Where a class, group or small number of pupils need to self-isolate, or there are further local or national restrictions requiring pupils to remain at home, the DfE expect schools to have the capacity to offer immediate remote education. For details of the remote education expectations schools are required to meet, see the schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance Updated 27th August 2021.

Schools and boards will be engaged in updating their risk assessments for the start of this term and the latest DCC updated risk assessment template has been sent to schools. Whilst the RA100 Risk Assessment Template (version 2.7) has been updated to comply with Department for Education and Public Health England guidance, schools and settings have been asked to note that any change in advice and measures as a result of the county of Devon being designated as an Enhanced Response Area (ERA) will be communicated separately direct to schools and will not be found within the RA100 document.  Schools should add any additional control measures linked to the ERA status in the appropriate section.

As this term gets underway, boards will need to be reassured that all the necessary measures are in place to ensure good hygiene such as hand washing for everyone, appropriate cleaning regimes and enhanced cleaning measures are available when required.  Occupied spaces will need to be well ventilated and ways to improve ventilation indoors considered.  The DfE have announced that they are providing carbon dioxide monitors to schools during the autumn term to help staff identify where ventilation needs to be improved.

Boards to consider: Have school leaders been asked to provide assurance that risk assessments and relevant policies are up to date, effective and working as planned?

From a governance point of view, continuity of education is a key area of focus for the work of the board. During COVID-19 schools still have a responsibility to ensure that they deliver a rich and engaging learning experience for all and this approach to the curriculum applies to education delivered in school and remotely.  Remote Education Good Practice guidance is updated regularly and Ofsted guidance is clear that there should be a named senior leader with responsibility for the quality and delivery of remote education provision.

A well-sequenced curriculum enabling knowledge and skills to be built incrementally is essential, with a good level of clarity about what is intended to be taught and practised in each subject.  Ofsted are back and although they say they will make allowances for the disruption to education that COVID-19 brings, here in Devon we are hearing from governors and trustees that the inspection process is as focused on the curriculum as it was prior to the pandemic.

Boards to consider: Can members of the board talk about their school curriculum in terms of ‘intent’, ‘implementation’ and ‘impact’?

2.Assessment and educational recovery

Boards will have been engaging with the assessment of pupils within their schools following lockdowns and noting which groups were adversely impacted and using this knowledge to support pupils to catch up. School based assessment and external assessment may well look different at the moment, but assessment is essential to support school improvement and discussions with school leaders will need to focus on and plan for educational recovery.

The DfE have updated Understanding your data: a guide for school governors and academy trustees. This resource brings together a range of data to help boards analyse, discuss and challenge the educational and financial performance of their school or academy trust. There is a new sub sections on cyber security and additional support for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities and links to additional sources of information, such as the ‘view my financial insights’ tool.

Decisions relating to exams in 2022 will be taken over the next few weeks. Ofqual and the DfE will consult on a ‘plan B’ in the event of exams not going ahead for a third year in a row.

Boards to consider: How are teachers working to understand the different effects of missed education for each pupil including disadvantaged pupils or those with SEND?

3.Catch up Premium and Recovery Premium

Catch-up premium was for the 2020/2021 academic year only, a one-off universal £650 million catch-up premium to ensure that schools had the support they needed to help all pupils make up for missed learning. As we start the 2021/2022 academic year the additional funding for schools will be the Recovery Premium.  The £302m Recovery Premium, which includes a fund to scale up proven approaches, is new one-off funding for state–funded schools in the 2021/22 academic year. Unlike the catch-up premium which was for all pupils, the new funding builds on the pupil premium eligibility. The recovery funding is designed to help schools deliver evidence-based approaches for supporting the most disadvantaged pupils. Guidance on the recovery premium, including per pupil rates, use of the funding and accountability requirements, has now been published.

Schools must show how they are using their recovery premium effectively by reporting on their use of recovery premium as part of their pupil premium strategy statement and through inspections by Ofsted – as part of these inspections, inspectors may discuss plans schools have to spend their recovery premium funding.

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) is a government funded, initiative designed to support schools to address the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on pupils’ progress and attainment. The DfE is increasing the scale of support provided to 5-16 year olds as part of the tuition package announced in June 2021. This includes £218m of new funding which will be directed to the Tuition Partner and Academic Mentor pillars of the NTP. This is in addition to the £215m already announced to be invested in the academic year 2021/22. Details of the expanded programme will follow soon.

 Boards to consider: Does our school have a clear and detailed approach to assessment, self-evaluation and catch up/recovery during COVID-19?

 4.Safeguarding – new for September 2021

Following Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges, the review recommendations were published in June 2021 and the DfE has now published updated guidance for schools and colleges in England on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children. The updated guidance comes into force from 1 September 2021. This is linked to Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education Statutory guidance. The subjects became compulsory from 1 September 2020. However, schools have had flexibility to decide how they discharged their duties effectively and some didn’t begin teaching until summer term 2021. These schools will need to have decided how much of the content they were able to cover and demonstrate how they will cover the entirety of the curriculum in the future. Alongside the update to this guidance, the DfE has also issued revised statutory guidance Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) which also came into force from 1 September 2021. Boards will need to ensure that any safeguarding policies reference this latest version of KCSIE.

Boards to consider: Is safeguarding an item on all agendas, is the safeguarding/child protection policy and all safeguarding training current and up to date within the school and the board?

 5.Finance:

Whilst we continue to wait to hear the government’s proposals about exactly when all schools move to a ‘hard’ National Funding Formula, it is worth noting that more and more accounts of schools having to make difficult decisions to balance their books are being reported. Tes (Times Educational Supplement) is reporting that some heads are saying that they have already had to sacrifice funding for teaching assistants, special needs support and school trips to stay out of the red, according to new polling conducted by the NAHT school leaders’ union.

It found that nearly a third (31 per cent) of school leaders had made cuts to balance their budgets in the past academic year.

As finance roles within the board are decided for this academic year, boards will need to ensure that the governors and trustees responsible for budget monitoring are up to date and have undertaken finance training.  This term Devon County Council will launch the annual Devon School Funding Consultation.  This consultation asks schools to have their say about the areas of school finance that our local authority can influence and provides an opportunity for school leaders and governors to attend a consultation event (virtually) and hear the latest thinking on school finance for the coming year. The Local Authority has put together recovery plans for the significant deficit in SEND High Needs funding within the county and schools will need to hear how this will be managed.  The consultation is run by Devon Schools Leadership Service (DSLS), formerly Devon Association of Primary Heads and Secondary Heads and dates will be advised soon.

Boards to consider: Are those with responsibility for school finance within the board trained and up to date?

6.Every school an academy?

Whilst we wait for the educational white paper that might provide some clarity around the government’s plans for education, the messages that came out of the DfE during last term were remarkably consistent around their intention that all schools should become part of an academy trust by 2025.  Our local authority is also making their views known on this subject as are the Diocese.  As the strategic body responsible for planning the future of their school, maintained school boards do need to consider the options available.  Last term the Diocese provided a really useful discussion paper –  ‘Exeter Diocesan Board of Education – June 2021 Multi-school Grouping Policy and Guidance for Schools’ to provide clarity of the diocesan viewpoint for all church school leaders in relation to partnerships. This guidance makes informative reading for all maintained school chairs too.

The next maintained schools Chair of Governors Meeting to discuss partnership working with Dawn Stabb, Head of Education and Learning for Devon will take place via Teams on Thursday 23rd September at 5.00 pm.  Invitations have already been sent to schools, so please make sure you check with your administrator or clerk if you are a maintained school chair and you have yet to receive yours.

Boards to consider: Have we discussed the future of partnership working and the implications for our school(s)?

7.Wellbeing: The emphasis on wellbeing for pupils and staff continues with schools expected to take a co-ordinated and evidence-informed approach to mental health and wellbeing. The whole school or college approach, published by Public Health England (PHE), defines the behaviours that go with good mental health and wellbeing practice. These behaviours have been summarised in the document Promoting and supporting mental health and wellbeing in schools and colleges, published in June 2021, with links to support and resources which are available to help schools to develop or introduce a whole school approach, including identifying a senior mental health lead to receive training to oversee a whole school approach. Actions school and college leaders are being encouraged to take now whilst considering applying for a senior mental health lead training grant include reflecting on the school’s existing approach to mental health and wellbeing and making use of:

Boards to consider: Has your school identified a senior mental health lead to oversee your school’s approach to mental health?

 8.Succession Planning: All new and existing chairs should be considering succession, it is never too early to consider who will take on your chairing duty when you step down. Try to ensure that the way your board works encourages all governors to take on additional roles including leadership ones, having a pool of governors or trustees with leadership experience will help when a new chair of the board is needed.

Boards to consider: How do we ensure governors and trustees feel supported to carry out their role and is there a plan for development of the board from skills audit, through to training and appraisal?

9.Also remember this term…

  • New board members and appointments: The majority of boards elect governors and trustees to key positions at the beginning of this term. Once this is done, boards should ensure that relevant information is up to date on the GIAS (Get Information About Schools) site.
  • New NGA Skills Audit: The NGA have published a new version of their Skills Audit for boards to use see nga.org.uk
  • New NGA Code of Conduct: The NGA have updated this important document, for this term. nga.org.uk
  • Admissions code: A new Admissions Code applies from 1 September 2021. Admissions can be a complicated business, especially if you are your own admissions authority.  Not sure?  Have a look at our DAG Busy Clerks’ Guide to Admissions, produced by DAG last term in conjunction with the Diocese and our Local Authority at the request of local clerks to provide some clarity around the board’s responsibilities.
  • School suspensions and permanent exclusion guidance: This guidance has been updated for the start of this term. It returns the number of days which must be allowed to raise an application for an independent review to 15 days but leaves the option to continue the use of remote access technology.
  • Pupil Premium: Note that additional information is required on school websites, as schools are now required to demonstrate how their spending decisions are informed by research evidence, making reference to a range of sources including the Education Endowment Foundation’s toolkit. All schools must use the templates available on GOV.UK to publish their 2021 to 2022 pupil premium strategy, by the end of December 2021. Apparently, the DfE will undertake monitoring checks on a sample of schools’ published reports.
  • Academy Trust Handbook: The latest version of this important handbook was published on 1st September 2021.
  • Name changes: ‘Governance professional’ is now the preferred title for the clerk to the board in academies as detailed in the Academy Trust Handbook. Also the Df|E have advised that the new ‘Early career framework reforms’ mean that new teachers will no longer be referred to as newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and instead will be known as early career teachers (ECTs).  Boards should remember that in advance of 1 September 2021, schools should have read the updated early career framework reforms statutory guidance, chosen a delivery approach in order to meet the new requirements and set up their programme through DfE’s online service if they want to use an approved funded provider, or deliver the accredited materials themselves

 10.Supporting you and your clerk…

DAG Community Networks: DAG launched the community network for chairs last academic year. Over 40 chairs from across the Devon local authority have now come together via interactive sessions to discuss the latest issues affecting governance. Those who attended were chairs of governing boards, chairs of academy trusts and chairs of local academy bodies. It is the aim to provide a forum each half term. If you haven’t yet attended one of these sessions, then please see below for information on when the next forum will be.

Last academic year we also launched the community network for clerks. DAG recognises that clerks have a key role in delivering effective governance so we provided a forum to discuss the latest issues affecting how clerks support effective governance. If your clerk would like to join the next interactive hour-long session, the dates for this term are:

Community network forum for clerks: Tuesday 5th October at 5.00pm

Community network forum for chairs: Monday 18th October at 6.00pm

Each forum will be facilitated by DAG board members or associate members with considerable governance experience. Members are asked to register in advance via [email protected]

Questions for you to consider: Are you taking advantage of opportunities to share experiences and concerns to support you and the clerk to develop effective governance within your board?

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