EAPC Update September 2016
The Educational Achievement Policy Committee (EAPC) met on Friday 17 June in Manchester. The meeting opened with a further examination of the government’s white paper entitled ‘Education Excellence Everywhere.’ In particular:
• Review of local authority duties and the role of the DCS - The white paper signals the government’s intention to review the role of local authorities, particularly in relation to education standards, as well as the role of the DCS. It is difficult to see how this will work in practice when a key function of the DCS is to advocate on behalf of children and young people. When it comes to supporting those with SEND, safeguarding in schools, promoting inclusion and furthering the attainment of children in care, for example, education cannot easily be divorced from social care. The paper explores removing the school improvement duty from LAs, but improving schools is much more sophisticated than the provision of school improvement services.
• Building a self-improving system - While the group felt that the underpinning principles of this aim are sound, in reality the effectiveness of an entirely self-governing system is totally untested. Another difficulty with a school-led system is someone needs to lead, this has historically been LAs. In the future schools need to be prepared to escalate concerns directly to the government if a peer in their Teaching School Alliance (TSA) is in trouble, if indeed they are part of a TSA. The group raised concerns about whether there is sufficient capacity for a totally self-sustaining system.
• All schools to become academies by 2022 - Although the threat of compulsion at school level has been removed the messaging from officials suggests the government is still working towards full academisation in the medium term, albeit the driver will be forced at LA level not school level The group reflected that a significant proportion of the schools that have not yet converted are the ones that are less attractive to sponsors – small, rural schools, or those performing poorly. This is an issue that is not yet nationally being addressed.
Over the last year or so the group has been looking at the attainment of children in care. Representatives from the Fostering Network then joined the group to talk about the ‘London Fostering Achievement’ project. One of the workstreams involved the recruitment of several ‘education champions’ who are experienced foster carers and have a keen interest in promoting the value of learning. These champions were provided with training and support and asked to devise a local initiative to encourage learning in their borough, examples included 15-minute maths challenges, trips to museums and a community film project. The group was very interested to hear about this project and wondered if it could be applied in residential care settings too?
Discussions then moved on to UASCs in light of a national transfer scheme / protocol. Much of the focus and attention has been on the sufficiency of suitable care placements to date but there are pressing issues around the availability of school places and the sufficiency of additional language support services in local areas too. The group aired concerns about academy schools potentially refusing to admit young asylum seekers and suggested virtual school heads should have the power to instruct any and all schools to offer a place, where available, to UASCs. The group also raised concerns about the perceived lack of involvement of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in this process, over the last year or so the majority of young asylum seekers making it to the UK of their own volition are 15, 16 or 17 meaning they will soon need to attend a sixth form or FE college.
Outside of the meeting schedule the committee continued to be active, the EAPC ran two workshops at the ADCS annual conference in July and is progressing a workshop at the NCAS Conference in Manchester in November. EAPC met on Friday 23 September in conjunction with the WDPC in London.