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EFFECTIVE CHAIRS – Summer 2021
The start of a new term against a continuing background of COVID-19.
The news and updates around education continue apace. The good news for our members is that DAG sorts through these notifications and produces a regular weekly COVID-19 update featuring the most up to date versions of DfE guidance, see our most recent COVID-19 Update.
A question for you to consider: Do you encourage all your governors or trustees to register with DAG?
1.Education as lockdown lifts
Most pupils returned to school full time on 8 March 2021. Despite this, there is still a risk of localised outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19) or 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 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.
The DfE are aware that the period since 23 March 2020 has been one of great innovation in remote education. A wide range of approaches has been developed, tested and refined. Despite the challenges, remote education has made a significant contribution to enabling students to continue to learn and progress during the pandemic and remote education is not going away.
From a governance point of view, we need to ensure that 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. 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. Remote Education Good Practice guidance is updated regularly. Ofsted will inspect schools – of any grade – where it has serious concerns about the quality of remote education being provided. Boards will need to be able to understand and explain their school’s approach to remote education and the guidance is clear that there should be a named senior leader with responsibility for the quality and delivery of remote education provision.
Access to the internet varies from school to school and a recent report on digital exclusion for the University of Cambridge’s Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research provides some stark statistics in terms of access to the internet, it notes that only 51% of households earning between £6,000 and £10,000 had home internet access, whilst 99% of households with an income of over £40,000 had home internet access.
Boards to consider: Does their school provision meet the remote education guidance issued around content, duration and access and are pupils and staff well supported to ensure remote education is effective?
Behaviour management in schools: Behaviour has come back into the spotlight. As pupils re-engage with school. Boards need to consider if your school is able to identify pupils who are at risk of disengagement (including absence or poor behaviour), and provide specific support? Last term we heard about the Department for Education’s new £10 million behaviour hub programme launched to partner high-performing schools and multi-academy trusts with those struggling with poor discipline through peer mentoring, training and support. The DfE has said the programme is being launched at a time when “a minority of pupils may need extra support from their schools to re-engage with education following the pandemic“.
An independent review from Tom Bennett follows on from a group that was commissioned in 2015 by Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, then Secretary of State for Education, to review and advise the Department for Education (DfE) on ways to improve the core provision for training teachers in the initial phase of their careers. As that review progressed, it became increasingly clear that while a highly skilled workforce of teachers trained in a variety of reactive and proactive strategies was desirable, strong leadership could offer even greater possibilities for driving better behaviour in schools.
The report notes that how a school was run was an even greater determinant of school behaviour than any one of a number of well-trained staff working in isolation.
Board to consider: Does your board track attendance, behaviour data and intelligence to intervene early and review policies and processes regularly?
Boards will have been engaging with the assessment of pupils within their schools following lockdowns and noting which groups were adversely impacted. Boards will be 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.
Whilst exams will go ahead in secondary schools this summer, the guidance explains that exam boards will ask exam centres to generate, for each subject, teacher assessed grades for their students. These grades should be based on a range of evidence completed as part of the course, including evidence produced in the coming months, which demonstrates the student’s performance on the subject content they have been taught. See the DAG Article GCSEs and A levels 2021: Final Ofqual guidance on grading published on 31st March for a quick summary.
In primary schools the DfE has once again cancelled all statutory assessments in EYFS, KS1 and KS2. There will be no data collections by the DfE, or accountability measures used for 2021 that we are aware of at the moment. However, there is still a need and an expectation that schools will continue to make end of year teacher assessments at all stages. The Local Authority is offering to support schools to enable them to effectively self-evaluate and identify the impact of lockdown in order to plan for future catch up and school improvement. The support aims to:
As the third tranche of funding will come into schools this term, school leaders must be able to show they are using the funding to resume teaching a normal curriculum as quickly as possible following partial or full school closure
Governors and trustees should scrutinise schools’ approaches to catch-up from September 2020, including their plans for and use of catch-up funding. This should include consideration of whether schools are spending this funding in line with their catch-up priorities and ensuring appropriate transparency for parents. When routine inspections restart, Ofsted will make judgements about the quality of education being provided and how school leaders are using their funding and catch-up funding to ensure the curriculum has a positive impact on all pupils.
Boards to consider: Does your school have a clear and detailed approach to assessment, self-evaluation and catch up during COVID-19?
Inspections: Ofsted have confirmed that inspections will resume next academic year. Last year on 17 March 2020, Ofsted suspended all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care providers. Urgent inspections where specific concerns had been raised are still taking place allowing Ofsted to prioritise the immediate safety of children where necessary. Remote monitoring inspections of schools graded ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ began on 25 January 2021, with a particular focus on how well children and learners were being educated remotely, noting that these inspections were not graded.
For the rest of this term, Ofsted will continue to carry out their monitoring inspections remotely by default. However, they will carry out on-site inspections if they have any immediate concerns – for example, about safeguarding or the leadership of a school. Also, where the evidence strongly suggests that a school’s current grade is no longer a fair reflection of its work – for example where the school is graded ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ but has clearly improved – inspectors will be able to convert to a full, graded inspection either immediately or later in the term. As always, Ofsted will do the same if a visit to a higher-graded school highlights a significant cause for concern.
For the latest information see the DAG article: Ofsted Update Inspection Guidance.
Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges: Ofsted will seek to find out whether schools and colleges have appropriate safeguarding processes in place. It will also consider whether current guidance is understood by schools and colleges, and whether it is sufficient to help them respond effectively to allegations. Ofsted will visit a sample of schools and colleges where cases have been highlighted. As well as talking to school and college leaders, pupils and students, they will look at how well systems of support and response are working, and they will discuss the wider issues raised by the evidence. The review will look at whether schools and colleges need further support in teaching about sex and relationships and whether current inspection regimes in state and private schools are robust enough around the issue of sexual abuse. It will also consider how well schools and colleges are working with local multi-agency safeguarding partners. Ofsted will work with representatives from social care, police and victim support groups, as well as school and college leaders. The review is aimed to conclude by the end of May 2021.
Boards to consider: Is safeguarding an item on all agendas and is all safeguarding training current and up to date within the school and the board?
5: Data Control testing and exams
In this term widespread testing and key exams proceeding with teacher assessment, could both add extra pressure on school data handling within the rules of GDPR. In particular:
Board to consider: Is the governor with GDPR responsibility working with the DPO to reassure the board that all the necessary measures are in place?
Whilst we wait to hear the government’s proposals about exactly when we move to a ‘hard’ National Funding Formula, it is worth just checking where we all are with the eye watering amounts that have been discussed by government linked to COVID-19 during the last year. The 2021 budget provided no additional funding for schools or financial support towards additional costs incurred due to COVID-19 beyond planned increases and catch-up schemes already announced.
The government had previously confirmed the commitment it made in 2019, to increase overall school spending by £2.2 billion in 2021-22 and £2.3 billion in 2022-23. This follows a £2.6 billion increase last year. A further £1.7 billion is being spent on initiatives to help pupils catch up following partial school closures. Of the £1.7 billion catch up funding, £1 billion was announced last year and £700 million was announced this year. So, in theory, lots of money swirling about, but whatever does come the way of individual schools, the government will expect boards to be able to account for how it is being spent.
Published accountability: School leaders must be able to account for how the latest Coronavirus Catch-up Premium grant is being used to help schools get back on track and teach a normal curriculum as quickly as possible.
This is added to the accountability information that also needs to be on our school websites on ‘Pupil premium’, ‘Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium’ and ‘PE and sport premium for primary schools’.
The DfE say that they understand that evaluating the pupil premium’s impact in the 2019 to 2020 academic year will present difficulties as a result of reduced numbers of pupils having attended between March and July 2020.
Instead, schools may wish to monitor and report on the grant’s impact at the end of the current financial year, bearing in mind their duty to update this information at least annually, covering the whole period since September 2019.
Note however, that additional information will be required on school websites, as part of the pupil premium allocations and conditions of grant for 2021 to 2022, schools will now be 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. In line with the EEF’s pupil premium guide, activities should include those that:
To comply with school Information regulations, maintained schools are required to publish an updated pupil premium strategy annually and the DfE has published templates to help schools present their pupil premium strategy statements.
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. The Department for Education will undertake monitoring checks on a sample of schools’ published reports.
Boards to consider: Are you providing up to date information on your website around how you are spending ‘Coronavirus Catch-up Premium’, ‘Pupil Premium’ and ‘PE and sport premium’ or ‘Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium’ if they apply to your setting?
Sparsity Funding: The DfE has just completed a consultation on sparsity funding. The DfE recognises the challenges faced by small schools in rural areas due to limited opportunities to attract more pupils or to achieve efficiencies and that such schools often play a significant role in the rural communities they serve and makes two significant proposals:
This will have an impact on funding for schools in Devon, so once we have confirmation of the outcome of the consultation, we will let you know.
7.Summer Term Stuff…
Review Board vision and Strategic Plan: Summer term is the time when most boards review their vision and their strategic plan. As one of the core functions for governors/trustees: ‘Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction’ it should be supported by your three or five year strategic plan that plots your path to achieving your vision. Does your school vision contain measurable aims? If it does, your board will find it infinitely easier to check whether your strategic plan is on track to deliver your vision in three to five years’ time.
Board to consider: Has your board vision changed during COVID-19 and does your strategic plan still enable you to reach your vision in 3-5 years’ time?
Succession Planning: Succession is always something for chairs to consider, but it is worth considering it in detail at this time of year. Next term most boards will be electing their chair and vice chair. Are you considering continuing in your role as chair or are you stepping down? It is important that leadership of the board and committees is discussed and planned to support effective governance for the next academic year.
Chair to consider: Is there a plan for the leadership of the board and other key roles from the next academic year and are all board members aware of what that plan might be?
Appraisal: Some boards have a basic appraisal system in place for their governors or trustees, this is helpful for board members to talk about what they feel is working and what they feel could be improved. If your board doesn’t have an appraisal process it might be worth setting aside some time as chair (or delegating this to your vice chair) to talk to each governor or trustee individually to find out how they are doing. This has been a hard year on everybody and finding out how each board member is coping is important. This type of conversation also addresses what each governor or trustee might need or find helpful to better support them in their role. It is also an opportunity to find out which board members are considering stepping down and why and which board members would like to step up. These conversations will help avoid any nasty shocks at the start of the next academic year.
Boards to consider: How do we ensure governors and trustees feel supported to carry out their role?
8.Supporting you and your clerk…
DAG Community Networks: DAG launched the community network for chairs last term. Over 40 chairs from across the Devon local authority have now come together in two 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 with the subject for discussion agreed by the forum members in advance. If you haven’t yet attended one of these sessions, then please see below for information on when the next forum will be.
Last term we also launched the community network for clerks, recognising that clerks have a key role in delivering effective governance 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: Monday 26th April at 5.00pm
Community network forum for chairs: Monday 10th May at 6.00pm
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]
Questions for you to consider: Are you doing everything you can to take advantage of opportunities to share experiences and concerns to support you, the clerk and other board members to do the same?