Devon Association of GovernanceDevon Association of Governance

Summer 2023 Update

Welcome to the final term of this academic year, let’s start with some hot topics:

1.Teachers’ Strikes

The disruption looks set to continue. Following the ‘period of calm’ during the last two weeks of March when all parties agreed not to make any public statements on the talks the NASUWT union will re-ballot teachers for industrial action. The National Education Union and leaders’ unions ASCL and the NAHT have also voted to reject the offer by large margins. The NEU has announced further strikes on April 27 and May 2 and its conference voted to timetable a further three dates in late June to early July. The guidance Handling strike action in schools has now been updated. If strike action affects your schools consideration will need to be given to remote education, disruption to exams, stakeholder communication, agency staff, combining classes/groups, free school meals and general lunch services.

Boards to consider: Has Emergency planning and response guidance been applied and places temporarily prioritised for vulnerable children and children of key workers?

2.Review of Sex Education

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced a review of sex education in schools following growing concerns around contested relationships, sex and health education content. Relationships and health education (RHE) for primary aged pupils and relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) for secondary aged pupils became compulsory from September 2020 and schools were expected to start teaching by at least the start of the summer term 2021. The review of this statutory guidance due at the end of this year has now been brought forward. It is likely that the review will focus on what an age-appropriate ‘ceiling’ looks like and how parents are listened to. It will also be important to consider how Ofsted will use the review to inform inspection and how parents can raise concerns in ways that will be taken into account.

3.DfE transgender guidance to be published

The government is planning to publish transgender guidance to support schools to deal with sensitive issues later in the spring. The DfE had been due to publish draft guidance before the end of this year to help schools that are struggling with questions over practical solutions to transgender issues, but has recognised the need for this guidance to be available to schools as soon as possible. The DfE acknowledged the need to “get the guidance right” on a sensitive and complex topic.

4.Funding

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.

Covid recovery funding still exists, the key schemes available for this year are:

Recovery Premium. Recovery Premium will be in place until 2024 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: NTP is a government funded initiative designed to support schools to address the impact of COVID-19 on pupils’ progress and attainment with a ring-fenced school led tutoring grant, State-funded schools will receive NTP funding over the course of the 2022 to 2023 academic year to deliver tuition to their pupils. This funding is paid in termly instalments via local authorities and academy trusts. It is intended to cover 60% of the unit cost of tuition, 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 2023 to 2024 academic year and any unspent funding will need to be returned by schools at the end of the 2022 to 2023 academic year, accompanied by the year-end statement. Details relating to academic year 2023 to 2024 indicate that the scheme will continue but the funding level will drop to 25%.

£2.3 billion increase to educational spend. This increase announced at the start of this academic year will 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 in each of the next two years, with staff pay rises likely to account for £1.3 billion of the total £2.3 billion increase.

£1.8billion of capital funding. Money for this academic year to improve the condition of school buildings. In addition, seven schools in Devon will benefit from the ten year Schools Rebuilding Programme.

Energy usage. Some schools will continue to get energy support, but only those paying the highest rates will benefit. Financial support has been vastly scaled back and fewer schools are eligible under the new Energy Bills Discount Scheme, which runs for 12 months from April 1 2023. Under the new scheme, only those paying above £107 per megawatt hour for gas or £302/MWh for electricity will receive help, automatically applied to bills. The DfE have published guidance for schools and colleges to help them reduce energy usage and maximise energy efficiency. They also provide guidance for schools and those responsible for school buildings on managing energy and water use, undertaking capital projects and strategic estate management in good estate management for schools (GEMS).

Wraparound. The government has 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. The indications are that funding would be provided to local authorities and schools and would taper until 2026. From 2026, it is expected that most schools would be able to deliver provision self-sufficiently, funded by charging parents.

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?

5.Academisation. 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, just without the firm deadline. Currently over 55% of pupils in state-funded education study in academies, which includes 80% of secondary schools, 40% of primary schools and 45% of special schools and alternative provision. The aim is to have a trust landscape with coherent geographical clusters, with high-quality trusts operating in each local area to provided effective capacity for support and improvement nationwide. There is no one size fits all model and a diversity of models and scales of trust, including those with faith schools, special schools and alternative provision looks likely.  The academies review has further information for schools and in June 2023, the DfE will publish the results of stakeholder engagement in consolidated guidance on the commissioning process for use by the end of the year.

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

6.Attendance

Attendance continues to be one of the key issues schools face. Working together to improve school attendance came into effect September 2022. It has a useful summary table of responsibilities to clearly inform governors and trustees what their responsibilities are. All trusts and governing bodies should provide support and challenge to their schools around current trends on attendance in the school community 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.

Board to consider: Does your board regularly review attendance data and help school leaders focus support on the pupils who need it?

7.SEND

The SEND green paper proposes new national SEND standards for the provision that children and young people should expect to receive and the SEND and AP Improvement Plan has now also been published. Devon Local Authority is running with a very significant overspend of the SEND High Needs Block, over £40 million and over £130 million total overspend.  An Ofsted visit last year reported that the local authority had not made sufficient progress in tackling the issues around SEND provision in Devon, so decisions are 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.

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?

8.Safeguarding: Statutory safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education(KCSIE), came into effect on 1 September 2022. Paragraphs 260 and 315 refer to section 128 checks for governors and trustees. Devon schools undergoing recent Ofsted inspections have been asked if their board members have had section 128 checks.

Section 128 checks whether a person is banned from being involved in the management and therefore also the governance of schools and in the main will be a check undertaken in addition to an enhanced DBS check. The rules are slightly different for maintained schools and academies, but details of these checks would be required to be included in the single central record. Further information is set out in Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2022.

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?

7.Your Board

How are we doing? The summer term is often a time when boards undertake self-evaluation and consider how well the board and individual governors have done over the current academic year. Some boards have a formal appraisal process, others feel that this may seem a little too formal for a volunteer body.  However at its simplest, a chair could take 15 minutes to talk to each governor this term to ask from their board perspective how they feel the board is doing, what is done well, what could be better and what support does the individual governor need to be the best governor they can. This could also have the ‘360 degree’ element by asking them how they think the chair is doing. This type of appraisal could provide a better idea as the next academic year approaches as to what the board will look like and the support it may need to deliver good governance.  It is worth checking if your headteacher’s appraisal governors are planning to continue into the new academic year.  It is always easier to arrange head’s appraisal training for governors and trustees at this stage of the year rather than trying to do it at the start of the next term.

Boards to consider: Do we have an understanding of continuity of responsibilities within the board to ensure governance is effective going into the next academic year?

Diverse Governance. It is worthwhile having a look at a series of webinars, the free ‘Diverse Governance Series’ available as a series of YouTube videos, six sessions in total. The latest ‘What maintained schools should publish online’ guidance has included a section for boards on collecting and publishing governing board diversity data. See also what academies should publish online. They encourage schools to collect and publish governing board members’ diversity data. Information must be widely accessible to members of the school community and the public. Board members can opt out of sharing their information, including protected characteristics, at any given time including after publication. Schools must ensure that individuals cannot be identified through the publication of data, particularly when board member levels are low. Read more about this in the data protection toolkit for schools and Equality Act 2010: advice for schools. There is no prescriptive way to collect diversity data from volunteers; this needs to be done on a voluntary basis. Schools may prefer to adopt a similar approach to how they collate the diversity data of pupils.

Boards to consider: Do we support a school culture which celebrates diversity and champions equality and inclusion and where is the evidence?

Vision. Many boards revisit their vision in the summer term.  This is one of the core functions for governors/trustees: ‘Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction’. What does your board see when it looks into the future, what will your pupils leave your school with and what will your school be like in five years’ time?  Can you answer that in a few sentences and demonstrate ambition for those pupils, if you can, how is that vision tied to the performance of the school and your board? Do you have a plan to get to your school vision, to actually achieve it, to make it tangible, a strategic plan?  Does your school vision contain measurable aims?  If it does, it will be much easier to check whether your strategic plan is on track to deliver your vision in five years’ time, if it doesn’t contain measurables, how will you know that your school is making progress towards achieving your vision?

Boards to consider: Are we making progress towards achieving our vision, do we have a strategic plan and how do we monitor our progress?

Supporting Governance in Devon. DAG is in to its 30th year of supporting governance in Devon.  DAG publishes over 150 articles each year to deliver 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 an interactive session each term 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. The next forum will be held on Monday 26th June 2023 at 6pm.

DAG Community Networks – Clerks: DAG also supports clerks each term to come together regularly in an interactive hour-long session that recognises the key role clerks have in delivering effective governance. The next forum will be held on Wednesday 7th June 2023 at 5pm.

Each forum will have a theme and will be facilitated by DAG board members or associate members with considerable governance experience. Members are asked to register in advance via [email protected] and the dates for this term will be published in our newsletter shortly.

DAG Seminars: This series of free online seminars for all those involved in governance continues this term with our popular Ofsted Seminar on 14th June 2023, save the date, details to follow.  The spring term seminar, on disadvantage in Devon, by Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope was very well received and can be accessed on the events page on www.dagdevon.uk .

DAG Conference: Our annual conference returns Saturday 4th November 2023 to celebrate 30 years of DAG with an exciting line of up speakers, further information to follow, make sure it’s in your calendar!

Questions for the board to consider: Are all opportunities being taken to share experiences and concerns to support board members and the clerk?

 

Upcoming Events

  • Summer Term Forums 2024

    04-06-2024