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EFFECTIVE CHAIRS – Spring 2022
A new year against the continuing backdrop of COVID-19.
COVID-19 continues to be a significant factor in planning education for this term 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. So please encourage all governors or trustees on your board to register with DAG and remain up to date.
1.Education as cases of COVID-19 remain high
Whilst we have so far avoided another lockdown, there is still a risk of some 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 expectations schools are required to meet, see the schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance Updated 2nd January 2022.
Face-to-face education remains a top priority. To maximise the number of children in school and college for the maximum amount of time, the Government is temporarily recommending that face coverings are worn in classrooms and teaching spaces for students in year 7 or above, in light of the Omicron variant surge. The advice is short term only to support pupils and teachers as they return to schools and builds on the existing guidance that recommends face coverings for all adults in communal areas of all settings. The advice on face coverings in classrooms will be in place until 26 January, when ‘Plan B’ regulations are currently scheduled to expire, at which point it will be reviewed.
Schools will have updated their risk assessments for the start of this term and be closely monitoring the latest guidance from the DfE. Boards will need to continue to be reassured that all the necessary measures are in place to ensure good hygiene, 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.
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 attainment
School based assessment and external assessment continue to 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.
Ofsted inspectors are still asking governors and trustees how they know that their school is good or improving and will expect them to be able to answer the question even when national data is not up to date. What does assessment look like in your school? How are teachers assessing progress and how is this reported? In addition to internally produced data, advisers working with schools will also be producing reports on how well your school is doing, do any governors or trustees get to see these reports? If the answer is no then boards are missing out on vital external information on how well their school is doing.
The NGA recommends “that boards continue to take a pragmatic approach to their meetings in line with local circumstances” but most board’s familiarity with technology now enables governance to operate effectively whether face to face or virtually. Boards have a duty to ensure that high quality education is available for all their pupils. Boards will have to carefully balance their support for staff and their wellbeing in very difficult circumstances with their need to ensure their pupils’ entitlement to a high quality education is met.
The government intends that GCSE and A Level exams will go ahead in summer 2022, with some changes to exams and changes to non-exam assessments. When grading exams in 2022, they will aim for a grading standard that reflects a midway point between 2021 and 2019. Grade boundaries will be set so that more students will receive higher grades than was the case before the pandemic. This will provide a safety net for students who might otherwise just miss out on a higher grade in this transitionary year.
Boards to consider: How can you provide evidence that school improvement is happening in your school?
3.COVID-19 Recovery Funding
The additional COVID-19 funding for schools this academic year is the Recovery Premium. The £302m Recovery Premium is one-off funding for state–funded schools in the 2021/22 academic year and 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.
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. Apparently, the DfE will undertake monitoring checks on a sample of schools’ published reports. The deadline for the 2021-22 statement to be published on a school website was 31 December 2021, is your pupil premium strategy statement on your school website?
The ongoing disruption caused by COVID has led to the COVID-19 workforce fund being re-introduced to provide financial support to settings with the greatest staffing and funding challenges. The fund has been extended to help eligible schools cover the cost of workforce absences experienced from 22 November 2021 until the spring half-term 2022.
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 expanded the programme for 2021-22 and eligible state-funded schools and academy trusts will receive a ring-fenced school led tutoring grant to source their own tutoring provision for the 2021 to 2022 academic year.
Boards to consider: Does our school have a clear and detailed approach to assessment, self-evaluation and recovery during COVID-19?
Attendance will be one of the key issues schools will face this year. The Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has unveiled a new 17-member “attendance alliance” to work to reduce absence from schools. Whilst the attendance rates in schools in Devon tend to be better than the national average there is increasing worry around persistent absence. Nationally, persistent absence increased to 16.3% in secondary schools in autumn 2020, compared with 15.0% in 2019, not including non-attendance in COVID-19 circumstances. Persistent absence figures are showing a worrying increase especially amongst children in Devon linked to social workers.
Boards to consider: How does your board regularly monitor attendance figures and persistent absence figures?
Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education Statutory guidance 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. This prolonged introduction against the COVID-19 backdrop could result in boards being unclear about the requirements.
Most schools use their PSHE education programme to meet the legal requirement to teach Relationships Education and Health Education (at key stages 1 and 2) and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education (at key stages 3 and 4). Whilst a PSHE education policy is not a statutory requirement, schools must have a Relationships Education/Relationships and Sex Education policy in place.
Boards to consider: Do we have a written policy in place for the new relationships education and relationships and sex education curriculum and how will we keep it under review?
6.Scanning the horizon…
By Easter schools may see the long-awaited SEND review. This review will have implications for all schools. There are now almost twice as many pupils on education, health and care plans (EHCPs) as there were on Statements in 2014. This rate of growth is not financially sustainable and the Devon Local Authority along with many other local authorities is running a significant deficit within its high needs budget.
In the summer it is likely that we will see the first schools’ White Paper since 2016. These tend to form the basis of new legislation and are supposed to set a broad direction for the education system. Whilst there will undoubtedly be a focus on standards and school improvement, perhaps the most important question will be how ministers choose to tackle the issues surrounding academisation and structural reform in line with their ambition to have all schools in a MAT eventually.
Hopefully further news on the government’s proposals about exactly when all schools move to a ‘hard’ National Funding Formula. The guidance at present is that local authorities will continue to set a local formula to distribute funding to schools in their area for 2022-23.
In Devon the total increase in schools and high needs funding from 2021-22 to 2022-23 will be £44m for the Devon Local Authority area, this represents a percentage increase of 8%. This increase includes the 2022-23 school supplementary grant indicative allocation of £14m. Whilst this supplementary grant is included in the £44m it will be paid separately for the 2022-23 financial year. This additional funding provides support for the costs of the Health and Social Care Levy and wider costs.
Boards to consider: Have we discussed the future of partnership working and the implications for our school(s)?
7.Formal Proceedings, Committees and Panels:
Governors and trustees will most likely be asked to take part in formal proceedings committees and panels at some point. Formal proceedings can relate to exclusion, complaints, admissions or staff procedures. In all of these instances those involved in governance will have a role directly underpinned by their school policies. Each appeal committee will need to elect a chair to oversee the process and the chair will need to work closely with the clerk of the committee to ensure that the process is fair and effective and that all policies and up to date guidance is followed. There is advice already available to support clerks around the practicalities of these meetings, see DAG Busy Clerks Guide to Formal Committees, however there is very little advice for governors on how to chair a formal committee or panel. DAG has put together the DAG Busy Governors Guide to Formal Proceedings, Committees and Panels to support governors to effectively chair these meetings, manage expectations and perhaps help to mitigate any stress or anxiety that might arise.
Boards to consider: Do we have effective procedures in place to deal with formal proceedings when they arise?
Remember this term…
Supporting you and your clerk…
DAG Community Networks: DAG launched the community network for chairs over a year ago. Over 40 chairs from across the Devon local authority regularly 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. If you haven’t yet attended one of these sessions, then please see below for information on when the next forum will be.
DAG also provides an online forum for clerks, recognising that clerks have a key role in delivering effective governance. These sessions 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 15th February at 5.00pm
Community network forum for chairs: Monday 31st January at 6.00pm
Topic: Governor Recruitment, Induction and Retention.
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?