Digest of the schools white paper

Schools-white-paper-blog

The government released their white paper on schools, "Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child". The white paper is Nadhim Zahawi's first as education secretary. We've read the report and here are the key things that you need to know.  

Multi Academy Trusts 

Perhaps the most controversial aim laid out in white paper was the DfE's plan to make sure that every school is part of a trust by 2030. The hope is that by having a 'fully trust led system with a single regulatory approach' will improve educational standards throughout the country by allowing strong trusts to take on more schools. In the accompanying paper "the case for a fully trust-led system," the government lays out why they have chosen this path for the nation's schools. The government states that they "know our strongest trusts achieve consistently strong outcomes for their children and have been able to support teachers and schools where the challenge is greatest."

According to their statistics, 87% of children in the top 10% of Single Academy Trusts (SATs) reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 2, compared 79% in the top 10% of MATs and 73% in the top 10% of LA schools. The government has explained the disconnect between the data which shows that SAT have higher attainment than MATs by suggesting that Single Academy Trusts are more likely to have been a school which was already rated as Good or Outstanding, whereas MATs are likely to contain a mix of schools. According to data from Ofsted in 2019, 70% of underperforming sponsored academies who joined a MAT improved to become Good or Outstanding compared to 10% of underperforming schools that stayed with their LA improving to become Good or Outstanding.

£86 million has been put aside to invest in trust capacity funding until 2025. This will fund the government's plan to move schools which have "received two consecutive below 'Good' judgements from Ofsted" into good trusts for improvement. This will begin in the 55 Education Investment Areas and expand across England. An additional £40 million of funding has been set aside for Priority Education Investment Areas with the country's worst disadvantage.

The government has also laid out an expectation that MATs should run at least 10 schools or have 7,500 students to improve the economy of scales, financial stability, and ability to turn poor schools around.

Senior staff and head teachers in MATS will also be able benefit from a new development plan which will nurture them into CEO roles. 

Attendance  

Following on from Children's Commissioner Dame de Souza's statement on how improving attendance must be a priority, particularly after the pandemic, the government has included measures in the white paper. These include a national register for children who are not currently in school, a new "national data solution" and new legislation to reform how attendance is recorded and tracked. These changes will also make it easier for schools to "access and emulate best practice around attendance". This will include a range of "off the shelf" attendance interventions and new standards for attendance professionals to sign up to.  

Teaching

To achieve their aims, the government will use "Initial Teacher Training, the Early Career Framework and National Professional Qualifications" to provide half a million teacher training and PD opportunities over the next two years. To ensure that all schools can benefit from "high-quality, evidence-based training and development", the government will be offering 150,000 funded scholarships for the National Professional Qualifications. On top of this, the government is also promising to look at new ways to attract teachers in subject where there are shortages. This includes a new scholarship to attract "the most talented language graduates" and a new "digital service" to recognise global "high-quality teaching qualifications".

The DfE will be creating an Institute of Teaching, alongside the Education Endowment Foundation. This new institute will provide "cutting-edge training", particularly focused on improving teaching in disadvantaged areas, and will give teachers the ability to "study academic programmes".

This will be combined with a reform to Initial Teacher Training which will use £36 million in training provider partnerships to meet the new "Quality Requirements".

New teachers will now be given a starting salary of £30,000, to improve retention rates by making teaching a more attractive choice. The government will also offer £3,000 tax-free for new maths, physics, chemistry, and computing teachers who choose to teach in disadvantaged areas. They will also make it easier for good-quality trainee teachers to come to the UK from overseas, with a new "new relocation premium to help with visas and other expenses".

The School Week  

Although most schools already deliver 32.5 hours of teaching time per week, the white paper has introduced that as a minimum for all mainstream schools. They must work towards this by September 2023 at the latest, however the paper leaves the door open for possible increases to the school week. This will not apply to SEND schools.

Attainment

The white paper has set out the government's ambition to improve attainment across the country, but particularly amongst disadvantaged pupils. Although the government does concede that Covid has "exacerbated" the push to close the attainment gap, they do praise the "extraordinary efforts of parents, teachers, and many others working with children".

The government has now said that by 2030:

  • 90% of primary pupils will reach the recommended standard in reading, maths, and writing
  • The percentage of children meeting the expected standard disadvantaged areas will have increased by a third
  • In secondary schools, the national GCSE average grade in both English language and in maths will increase from 4.5 to 5

The government has unveiled the Parent Pledge which will provide any child that falls behind in English or maths with "timely and evidence-based support". One-to-one and group tutoring will become a "permanent fixture" of British schools with up to 6 million courses being offered by 2024. This support will be available to any child, regardless of if they have been identified as disadvantaged or SEND. 

Conclusion

The white paper lays out some ambitious targets for schools, especially against the backdrop of lost learning brought on by the pandemic. We are looking forward to learning more about how exactly the government plans to put these plans into reality, especially as budgets are squeezed by inflation and rising energy costs.

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