Devon Association of GovernanceDevon Association of Governance

Summer 2024 Update

EFFECTIVE CHAIRS – Summer 2024

Summer is coming and an election is looming, some other things to consider:

How are you doing? The summer term is a time when boards consider undertaking some form of self-evaluation. It could be a formal appraisal process, 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 they can. 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 certainly worth checking if your headteacher’s appraisal governors are planning to continue into the new academic year in order to ensure training can be arranged as soon as possible if necessary.

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?

1.Transgender Guidance

The Department for Education (DfE) draft guidance for teachers was published last term and the consultation that accompanied it closed mid-March, so we will need to await the new government’s view on what happens next.

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

2.Funding

The headlines generated by school funding continue at pace. The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) report offers insights into how the increased cost of living is contributing to pressures on schools and looks at how staff are responding to these challenges​. It found that around a third of primary school children were showing up to class hungry, without adequate clothing and as a result nearly 80 per cent of primary school teachers (and 62 per cent of secondary school) said they were spending their own money purchasing items for pupils. It also notes that nearly half of primary and a third of secondary schools report making cuts to planned spending on building improvements and new buildings in response to current cost pressures. It has made recommendations, we will have to wait and see if any of the political parties respond.

Teachers Pay. The summer term is when the decisions are made following response to the STRB  from the government. At the moment the DfE have provided schools with an additional £525 million this 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.

Recovery Premium. Recovery Premium ends this term but schools must show how they have used it effectively by reporting on its use as part of their pupil premium strategy statement.

The National Tutoring Programme. This was designed to support schools to address the impact of COVID-19 on pupils’ progress and attainment with a ring-fenced school led tutoring grant. It was intended to cover 50% 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 next  academic year and DfE are planning to use the unspent £134m (40%) to help fund teachers’ pay.

Increase to educational spend. The increase will provide extra money for schools in 2023-24 and 2024-25, £4.6 billion in total so that core schools budget will rise by four per cent this year and next.

Nursery. The government increased the funding rates to local authorities for both three- and four-year-olds and two year olds. The additional £204 million of funding provided 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 were expected to increase again later this year.

Pupil Premium. This funding was increased by 1.9 per cent in April 2024. Schools and councils receive pupil premium funding for every pupil who has been eligible for free school meals at some point in the last six years and also receive a higher amount for looked-after and previously looked-after children. The basic rate for primary schools is currently £1,480, and the rate for secondary schools is £1,050. The rate paid to schools for looked-after and previously looked-after children at both phases is £2,570. Service children rate is £340.

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?

3.Attendance

This continues to be one of the key issues schools face. Many parents no longer believe it is their responsibility to ensure their children are in school every day. The estimated absence rate for 2023/24 is 7.2% for all pupils and the persistent absence rate is 20%. The figures for academic year 2022/23 were 7.9% and persistent absence rate was 22.3%, this compares to pre-pandemic 2018/19 when the overall absence rate was 4.7% and the persistent absence rate was 19.1%.

Attendance Guidance has been published that will become mandatory from September 2024, with some new advice included for schools. From September, fines for absence from school will increase from £60 to £80 and that will increase to £160 if not paid within 21 days. A parent/carer can only be fined twice within three years before subsequent fines will automatically be charged at £160. Schools will be required to share daily attendance data with the DfE through an electronic management system and schools will be required to be particularly mindful of pupils absent due to mental or physical ill heath, special education needs and or disabilities and provide them with additional support. The summary table of responsibilities for school attendance has also been updated. The only additional governance responsibility this latest guidance adds, is that for all pupils “Academy trustees and governing bodies are expected to use data to understand patterns of attendance, compare with other local schools, identify areas of progress and where greater focus is needed”. For all trusts and governing bodies 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 as a useful resource for boards.

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

4.SEND

As we wait to see if the new national SEND standards for the provision that children and young people should expect to receive survive the election, Devon Local Authority has now received help with its very significant overspend of the SEND High Needs Block. Devon Local Authority is now part of the ‘safety valve’ scheme to reduce the deficit driven by SEND demand. The Authority undertakes to reach a positive in-year balance on its Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) account by the end of 2026-27 and in each subsequent year. The Department for Education agreed to pay the authority an additional £38.00 million of DSG before the end of the financial year 2023-24. In subsequent financial years, subject to compliance with the conditions set, the Department will pay further reducing DSG sums bringing the total grant to just under £95.00 million. This funding will be provided in instalments and subject to continued satisfactory progress. Subject to full compliance, Devon County Council should therefore eliminate their cumulative deficit no later than 2031-32. So far 38 local authorities have received a ‘safety valve’ grant, with the grant to Devon Local Authority being the third biggest.

Devon schools should expect SEND provision to continue to be in the spotlight  and DAG has produced a 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?

5.Safeguarding

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2024 has been published and picks up many of the points that

Working together to safeguard children, made back in December. It makes it clear that schools are a central part of multi-agency safeguarding and that better information sharing between education settings and other safeguarding professionals in other agencies is needed.  A lot of safeguarding policy and practice treats children as people to whom safeguarding is “done” and it is likely that schools will need to be looking to do more to give children information and explanation about safeguarding, both in general as part of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and also in specific cases of safeguarding concerns, so that children feel that they fully understand what is happening.

6.Ofsted

The Department for Education (DfE) rejected calls from the Parliamentary education committee for the four overall effectiveness judgments to be scrapped. The DfE felt that the priority was to look for ways to improve the current system rather than developing an alternative to it and caution against the risks of a system without an overall effectiveness grade. The government was of the view that it is preferable to have those views, decisions and consequences linked directly to the independent inspectorate’s overall findings rather than interpretations by civil servants, politicians and the media looking through the narrative of reports and drawing their own conclusions.

7.Industrial Action

Whilst industrial action is likely to be on hold in schools until after the election, it is likely to swing in behind whatever pay settlement is forthcoming for teachers by the end of this term. The NEU has voted to wait until the pay offer for teachers is published, usually at the end of the summer term, before moving to a formal strike ballot in the autumn term. The NASUWT teaching union have rejected moving to a formal ballot for strike action at this time, but this does not rule out considering a further national ballot for industrial action on pay at a later date. The NAHT has called for an increase of at least 7.3 per cent. ASCL, the NAHT’s sister union which mostly represents secondary leaders, called for a fully-funded, above inflation pay increase next year and a plan to fully restore the erosion of pay since 2010.

8.Sustainability

This term the future may well be an agenda item and it is worth considering if Environmental Sustainability is now one of your school’s strategic priorities. The Department for Education’s (DfE) require that by 2025, all education settings will have nominated a sustainability lead and put in place a climate action plan, irrespective of whether they are maintained schools or academies. However the National Governance Association (NGA) has estimated that around a third of schools have yet to engage with environmental sustainability. The Department for Education (DfE) is clear that senior decision makers, SLT and governors should support and drive school sustainable activity. The Devon Association of Governance (DAG) understands that this is a huge topic and is supporting all those involved in governance to consider what they can do.  A DAG Community Network for Governors and Trustees online seminar on Environmental Sustainability will take place on Monday 24th June at 6.00pm to bring together leaders in sustainability in education across Devon to assist the school governance community to understand requirements arising from the DfE initiative. The seminar will also help governors and trustees to navigate the existing initiatives and resources available to enable progress with developing climate action plans.

9.Admissions

As boards plan their work for the next academic year, it is important that all boards consider if they are compliant when it comes to their role in the admissions process. All schools are requested to review their entry in the Local Authority Admissions Directory and advise on any amendments that are required – headteacher names, contact details, establishment status, oversubscription criteria, Published Admission Numbers (PAN) and Numbers on Roll (NOR). School admissions is a complex subject and requires an understanding of how the category of school determines the work of the board. DAG listened to clerks and governance professionals who told us that they would welcome some support around the governance role in school admissions.  As a result DAG developed the ‘DAG Busy Clerks Guide to Admissions’.  The guide, also suitable for all board members was created in conjunction with the Local Authority and the Diocese and provides information about the role the board plays in this important and complicated aspect of education.

Supporting Governance

DAG is in to its 30th year of supporting governance in Devon and 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. Our Community Network sessions have been really popular this academic year and we will continue these termly sessions in the next academic year.

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. Our last chairs forum for this term was held on Tuesday May 7th at 6pm on Zoom. The theme was ‘Managing the impact of financial pressures and falling rolls’. Vice-chairs can attend if the Chair is unable to.

DAG Community Networks – Clerks and Governance Professionals: DAG also supports clerks and governance professionals each term to come together in a free interactive hour-long session recognising the key role clerks have in delivering effective governance. Our last forum was held on Tuesday 4th June at 5pm on Zoom, the theme was Policy management and compliance.

DAG Community Networks – Governance: DAG will be supporting all governors and trustees to come together in a free interactive session to consider Environmental Sustainability on Monday 24th June at 6pm. The online session will include contributions from experts from Devon County Council and the Diocese of Exeter and will include a question and answer session. The seminar is open to all involved in school governance across Devon and Cornwall. Please reserve your place by contacting  [email protected].

Make a note!  The next DAG Conference will be held on Saturday 16th November 2024 at Exeter Racecourse with the theme ‘Empowering Governance’ we hope you can join us.

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?

More change on the horizon:

Changes at the Regional Director’s Office (South West).  Lucy Livings has recently been appointed as DfE Regional Director South West having acted in an interim capacity since Hannah Woodhouse’s departure in January 2024. Ms Livings joined the civil service in 2003 and has worked as a deputy director at the DfE since 2017.

ABS. Over the next decade, The Department for Education was seeking to introduce the Advanced British Standard (ABS), a new Baccalaureate-style qualification framework for 16 to 19 year-olds. The consultation closed in March, but we will have to see if this initiative survives the election.

Excess primary school places. The number of surplus primary school places is set to soar in some areas of England as the population bulge created by the early 2000s baby boom moves into secondaries. The number of excess places in primary schools has doubled over 10 years to its highest level since records began.  Many of the highest rises in excess primary places are in cities, but this problem is affecting schools in Devon too. Falling primary pupil rolls lead to falling primary budgets and comes at a time when school budgets are already under pressure.

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. Guidance has been issued on how schools should respond to requests for wraparound childcare. The national wraparound childcare programme is part of the childcare reforms announced at the 2023 Spring Budget with the programme launch due September 2024. The government’s ambition was that by 2026, all parents and carers of primary school-aged children who need it will be able to access term time childcare in their local area from 8am-6pm, so that parents can access employment and improve labour market participation.

Governance Handbooks. The Department of Education (DfE) has published the latest governance handbook in two versions, one for maintained school governors and one for academy trustees. These new non statutory guides do not include any new governance expectations, but replace the 2019 governance handbook. The role descriptors and competency frameworks that accompanied the former handbook have been archived. Both guides are shorter and more concise compared to the previous handbook and now incorporate a list of statutory DfE policies, rather than procedures and remind boards to delegate policy approval where possible, see the maintained schools’ governance guide and the academy trust governance guide for further information.

Flexible Working. New flexible working guidance has been issued and reflects new measures that took effect at the beginning of April. Employees in England, Scotland, and Wales now have the right to request flexible work from the day they start a new job, instead of waiting 26 weeks as per previous legislation. Boards will need to ensure that policies and procedures reflect this change.

Mobile Phones. New mobile phones in schools guidance  backs headteachers in prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day, including at break times. By the age of 12, 97% of children have their own mobile phone, according to Ofcom. Using mobile phones in schools can lead to online bullying, distraction and classroom disruption which, in turn, can lead to lost learning time.  The guidance ensures there is a consistent approach across all schools, although non-statutory, it should be considered alongside the behaviour in schools guidance which supports schools in establishing calm, safe and supportive environments conducive to teaching, and keeping children safe in education. Schools will be supported to prohibit mobile phone use with examples of different approaches including banning phones from the school premises, handing in phones on arrival at school and keeping phones securely locked away at school.

Boards to consider:

How do we ensure that we stay up to date and aware of what is happening within the education sector both locally and nationally that will have a direct impact on our school?

Upcoming Events

  • DAG Conference 2024

    16-11-2024