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President Comments on a Week of Education Developments

On Wednesday 30 November the Department for Education announced the creation of two new funding streams available to schools of all types, and local authorities, from September 2017 onwards to support improvement efforts.

These include a £50 million a year fund for local authorities to draw upon to commission support for low-performing maintained schools and a new £140 million ‘Strategic School Improvement Fund’ for academies and maintained schools. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) will also receive £20 million to scale up and disseminate evidence-based programmes to underpin improvement efforts.

ADCS has consistently raised concerns about the government’s plans to remove the £600 million Education Services Grant (ESG) from local authorities. These funds support school improvement efforts, amongst other things. Most recently the President of the Association wrote to the Secretary of State to reiterate these concerns.

Commenting on these new funds, Dave Hill, ADCS President, said:

“All schools, irrespective of their status, require access to sufficient resources and plentiful support in order to raise standards. We therefore welcome the additional funding being made available to all schools, and local authorities, to raise standards. Whilst these new funds will not fully offset the loss of the ESG at the end of the current academic year, we are pleased that the government has listened to, and more importantly, responded to our concerns that the outcomes of learners could be compromised in the rush to transition to new school-led improvement arrangements. This latest announcement also serves as a helpful reminder that local authorities have a key strategic role to play in supporting all schools, including academies, to thrive.”

On Thursday 1 December Ofsted published its latest ‘State of the nation report into the quality of schools, early years and the further education and skills sector,’ which highlighted the further improvement in the performance of schools - the proportion of good and outstanding primary schools in England has risen to 90% while 78% of secondary schools are now good or better.

However, Sir Michael Wilshaw, highlighted some particular concerns about the quality of vocational training available and the performance of secondary schools in Northern areas. He warned that the reducing pipeline of teaching staff was a threat to sustaining the significant progress made to date and driving forwards further improvement. Speaking at the launch of the report Sir Michael noted that the recorded rate of vacancies and temporary positions in schools has more than doubled in the last five years.

This echoes one of the key findings in the new Department for Education publication ‘A Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy,’ which aims to bring about further improvements in the performance of schools across the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber. The report suggests that academisation is one of the most important school improvement mechanisms yet goes on to note that teacher effectiveness is the most important determinant of pupil outcomes.

Commenting on these recent reports by Ofsted and the DfE, Dave Hill, said:

“ADCS and individual local authorities share the government’s ambition to improve school standards for the benefit of all children and young people, regardless of where they live. However, we are clear that changing structures alone cannot address deep seated challenges in the same way that outstanding teaching, strong leadership, good governance and effective school-to-school collaborations can. Experience, and a significant body of evidence, tells us that the key ingredient in the recipe for success is high-quality, dedicated teachers who inspire the children and young people they teach to strive further and achieve more. Without raising the profile and status of the teaching profession much of the progress we have made in improving standards in schools could be lost, that is where we would like to see further focus and investment in the future.”


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