DfE launch teacher and school leader workload reduction taskforce
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Welcome to the new academic year, let’s start with some hot topics:
Following the strikes of the last academic year, the government’s announcement on public sector pay confirmed that teachers and school leaders will receive a 6.5% uplift across all pay scales, with the exception of those at the bottom of the pay scale who will receive a larger rise to bring starting salaries to £30,000. The pay award for teachers will be from 1 September 2023, but it will be backdated. It does not apply in further education or early years settings.
The offer has the backing of the education unions, however, the NASUWT announced that it will be taking action, up to and including industrial action, to tackle excessive workload and working hours. The industrial action is expected to include action short of strikes during the autumn, as previously announced. Strike action hasn’t been ruled out, but no decision has yet been taken.
Boards to consider: Does the board have all the processes in place to ensure that their organisation’s Pay Policy is agreed and implemented early this term?
Guidance for schools over transexual issues has been pushed back further to allow more time to speak to teachers, parents and lawyers to ensure it meets the high expectations that these groups rightly have for it. The guidance will set out schools’ legal duties and provide clear information to support their consideration of how to respond to transgender issues. The DfE notes however, that it is a difficult and sensitive area and more information is needed about the long-term implications of a child to act as though they are the opposite sex. The DfE is anxious to take care to understand how such actions affect other children in the school or college and believe that these decisions must not be taken lightly or in haste and schools are advised to proceed with extreme caution when dealing with such issues. They should always involve parents in decisions relating to their child and should not agree to any changes that they are not absolutely confident are in the best interests of that child and their peers. They should prioritise safeguarding by meeting their existing legal duties to protect single sex spaces and maintain safety and fairness in single sex sport.
Boards to consider: Do we support a school culture which celebrates diversity and champions equality and inclusion and where is the evidence?
As the cost of living crisis continues and school funding remains in the headlines it is worth just keeping up to date with what will have an impact on our budgets. A new guide has just been published Buying for schools, with resources to help buy goods and services for schools, get better value and be compliant with procurement regulations.
Teachers Pay: The DfE will provide schools with an additional £525 million in the 2023-24 financial year and £900 million in the 2024-25 financial year, with the expectation that all schools will use these additional funds for teacher pay. The grant will be allocated on the basis of the number of pupils in a school, with different per-pupil rates depending on age and other characteristics. Schools will be expected to fund 3.5 per cent from their own budgets, with the remaining 3 per cent provided as a DfE grant generated by non ‘frontline’ cuts to the DfE’s budget.
The government has also announced it is setting up a £40 million ‘hardship fund’ to help schools that cannot afford the pay increase.
Recovery Premium. Recovery Premium will be in place until the end of this academic year and unlike its predecessor the catch-up premium which was for all pupils, is funding that builds on the pupil premium eligibility. The recovery funding is designed to help schools deliver evidence-based approaches for supporting the most disadvantaged pupils. 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.
The National Tutoring Programme: This is designed to support schools to address the impact of COVID-19 on pupils’ progress and attainment with a ring-fenced school led tutoring grant. This funding is paid in termly instalments via local authorities and academy trusts. It is intended to cover 50% of the unit cost of tuition (was 60% in the last academic year), with schools targeting the tutoring offer towards their pupil premium cohort and making up the remainder of the cost using pupil premium or from other core school budgets. Funds cannot be rolled over to use in the next academic year and any unspent funding will need to be returned by schools at the end of the academic year, accompanied by the year-end statement.
£2.3 billion increase to educational spend. This increase was announced at the start of last academic year to provide extra money for schools in 2023-24 and 2024-25, £4.6 billion in total. The announcement means that core schools budget will rise by four per cent this year and next.
Energy usage. A few schools will continue to get energy support, but only those paying the highest rates. Financial support has been vastly scaled back and fewer schools are eligible under the new Energy Bills Discount Scheme, which runs until April 1 2024. Under the latest scheme, only those paying above £107 per megawatt hour for gas or £302/MWh for electricity will receive help, automatically applied to bills.
Wraparound. The government set out an ambition that the parents of all primary-age children will be provided with ‘wraparound’ childcare in school by September 2026 to ensure all parents of school-age children can drop their children off between 8am and 6pm. The government will provide £289 million of start-up funding to councils and schools for this ambition to be achieved through a ‘national rollout’ over 2024-25 and 2025-26 with a view that most schools would be able to deliver provision self-sufficiently, funded by charging parents.
Nursery. The government has increased the funding rates to local authorities for both three- and four-year-olds and two year olds. The additional £204 million of funding is providing an uplift for local authorities to increase hourly rates paid to early years providers for delivering the government funded hours to parents. Funding rates per child paid are increasing from an average of £5.29 to £5.62 for three and four-year-olds, and from an average of £6.00 to £7.95 for two-year-olds. There will be a further increase in funding to come next year.
Chess. The government has provided funding for chess sets, tutorials and training to provide more young people access to this productive, enriching activity. The £2000 DfE grant will only be available to schools with higher proportions of pupils on free school meals, however the government has not yet said what the threshold will be, nor how the application process will work.
Boards to consider: Does our school have well trained finance governors/trustees and does the board provide full accountability for the funding it receives as evidenced by up to date statements on the school website?
Although the White paper was shelved, including its aim that all schools would be in or working towards being in a MAT by 2030, the aim does still exists within the DfE. There is no one size fits all trust model and a diversity of models and scales of trust, including those with faith schools, special schools and alternative provision looks likely. Recognising the importance of this topic DAG arranged for Hannah Woodhouse, Regional Director South West (formerly Regional Schools Commissioner South West) to talk to chairs and answer questions at the DAG Community Network for Chairs session back in June, a recording of the event is available on the DAG website. If you are considering partnership working have a look at the DAG Busy Governor Guide to Partnerships and Due Diligence.
Boards to consider: Have we discussed the future of partnership working and the implications for our school(s)?
Attendance continues to be one of the key issues schools face. The figures for academic year 2022/23 had an absence rate for all pupils of 7.9% and a persistent absence rate of 22.3%, this compares to 2018/19 when the overall absence rate was 4.7% and the persistent absence rate was 19.1%. Working together to improve school attendance has a useful summary table for governors and trustees on what their responsibilities are. All trusts and governing bodies should provide support and challenge to their schools around current trends on attendance by regularly reviewing attendance data at board meetings. This should include thorough examination of recent and historic trends at a school level, benchmarking to comparator schools within the trust, local authority area, region and nationwide and paying particular attention to attendance of pupil cohorts within their school(s) that have historically had poor attendance or that face entrenched barriers to attendance. See the DfE School Attendance Guidance Training Webinar, Effective governance that supports stronger attendance. Note the difference between children absent from education (registered at a school) and children missing education (not registered at a school and not receiving suitable education otherwise.) This latter category was the subject of a consultation that closed in July and likely to result in guidance later this academic year.
Board to consider: Does your board regularly review attendance data and help school leaders focus support on the pupils who need it?
As we await new national SEND standards for the provision that children and young people should expect to receive, Devon Local Authority is still running with a very significant overspend of the SEND High Needs Block. The government intends to increase core school funding by £3.5 billion in 2023-24 compared to the year before, of which almost £1 billion of that increase will go towards high needs. A recent Ofsted visit reported that Devon had not made sufficient progress in tackling issues around SEND provision in Devon, decisions are still awaited from central government as to the next steps. Devon schools should expect SEND provision to continue to be in the spotlight this academic year. DAG has produced a new DAG Busy Governor Guide to SEND to bring together all the key information boards need in one document.
Boards to consider: How does the number of SEND children in my school compare with the National average and the Devon average? (noting that Devon has higher rates than National) and are all SEND children within my school supported by a plan for additional provision and do we use the Devon Graduated Response Tool or other appropriate plan throughout our organisation?
Statutory guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education(KCSIE), has been updated and came into effect on 1 September 2023. The duty that schools have to understand the filtering and monitoring systems for IT within their school is clearly stated, this applies to staff, governors, trustees and school policies. The latest guidance clarifies the difference between children missing education and children absent from school (see above). The guidance also refers to the new Forced marriage Unit that has been set up and guidance: The right to choose.
Boards to consider: Does every member of the board have up to date safeguarding training and support the board’s oversight of the school/trust record of pre-appointment checks within the single central record?
All change? Once your board has allocated key responsibilities to governors and trustees this term, consider referring them to the updated DAG Busy Governor Guides on:
And if you are a new chair consider the DAG Busy Governor Guide to Chairing.
Boards to consider: Do we have a commitment to training and development amongst all board members?
Supporting Governance. DAG is in to its 30th year of supporting governance in Devon. DAG publishes over 150 articles each year for more informed governance, all free to DAG members. Please ensure that your board is accessing all the support it can to deliver better governance leading to better outcomes for all Devon pupils. See more on the DAG website www.dagdevon.uk.
DAG Community Networks – Chairs: Support for chairs each term from across the Devon local authority to come together in a free interactive session to discuss the latest issues affecting governance. Those who attend are chairs of governing boards, chairs of academy trusts and chairs of local academy bodies.
DAG Community Networks – Governance Professionals and Clerks : DAG also supports clerks each term to come together in a free interactive hour-long session recognising the key role clerks have in delivering effective governance.
Each forum has a theme and is facilitated by DAG board members or associate members with considerable governance experience. Please register in advance via [email protected] Further information on sessions for this term will be published in our newsletter shortly.
DAG Conference: Our annual conference returns Saturday 4th November 2023 at Exeter Racecourse to celebrate 30 years of DAG. This free morning conference has an exciting line up of informative and inspirational speakers, the theme is ‘Making an impact through good governance’ further information in the Events section of the DAG website, make sure it’s in your diary and book early.
DAG Representation: Would you consider taking on a wider governance role for Devon’s children? Local Authority schools forums play a significant role in influencing and shaping local education funding. DAG is looking for new members to join DEF from maintained primary schools. DAG would be delighted to hear from governors and trustees who would consider taking on this additional voluntary role. Hybrid meetings are held four times a year on a Wednesday morning remotely and in person at County Hall in Exeter, training and support will be provided. If you or any of your board may be interested contact Amanda Blewett on [email protected] for more information. Full details of the DAG Devon Education Forum can be seen on the DAG website on the Devon Education Forum page under ‘What we do’.
Questions for the board to consider: Are all opportunities being taken to upskill the board, share experiences and concerns and support all board members and the clerk?
National Guidance updated with a new version for the start of this term:
Statutory Framework for the early years foundation stage – statutory minimum staff:child ratios in England for 2-year-olds has changed from 1:4 to 1:5