EA and SPI April 2016 Update

Update for the April meeting of the ADCS Council of Reference

The Association’s Educational Achievement and the Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committees met jointly on Friday 18 March in London.

Sean Hartford and Lisa Pascoe from Ofsted joined the group to discuss the regulation of education settings and providers as well as safeguarding concerns e.g. children missing from education and illegal schools. Given the enactment of the Education and Adoption Bill and the recent publication of a new education white paper, Sean reported that reviews of multi-academy trusts (MATs) will be a growing priority for the inspectorate. While the reviews undertaken to date have largely been triggered by concerns, in the future Ofsted will look to take an equitable approach to this activity in order to highlight good practice and drive improvement in MATs. Forming a fully rounded picture of progress and success given the size and geographical spread of schools in some of the larger trusts is likely to be a challenge – the largest trust operates across 18 LA areas.

Discussions then turned to the Ministry of Justice’s ongoing review of the youth justice system. Charlie Taylor is leading this activity and he published an interim report in February which advocated replacing YOIs and STCs with a network of secure schools. The group agreed that enhancing young people’s access to education is key to rehabilitation and felt that the broader principles outlined in the paper were sound. However, it is less clear how this vision could be achieved in times of ongoing austerity.

The EA committee has previously touched on elective home education (EHE). There is no national data collection in this area, so no clear picture of this cohort of learners exists at this time. A small working group has devised a voluntary dataset in this area which was recently shared with all LAs along with an information request about the range of services on offer for local EHE learners and their families. Bedford Borough Council, for example, commissions Biddenham International Sports College to deliver a comprehensive support service for EHE learners. The Chair of Governors at Biddenham joined the group to discuss this further - around 90 EHE families are actively engaged with ‘The Place,’ at this time. In return for access to help and a resource base, parents agree that their children will sit at least five GCSEs, including English and maths. The group was very interested in this provision and felt it was a positive example of collaborative working to support local children and families to achieve success.

The final substantive item was the government’s new white paper on education (which was published the day before this meeting).

Whilst the direction of travel is perhaps unsurprising, the group felt that the speed at which the government expects to achieve full academisation – by 2022 - certainly was. The ‘do-ability’ of the plans was called into question given over 80% of primary schools are still in the maintained sector, the high cost of conversion, the availability of suitable sponsors and the fact that some schools simply do not want to become academies.

Other areas of concern included plans to remove parents from governing bodies, new powers for the Secretary of State to seize land from local communities and pass it to trusts and the government’s expectation that LA staff will leave the public sector and set up new trusts. Hundreds of millions of pounds has been earmarked by the government to support the conversion process yet there is no conclusive evidence that becoming an academy improves educational outcomes for learners in a systematic and sustainable way. The Association will be responding to the white paper in due course.

The Educational Achievement Policy Committee will meet again on Friday 17 June in Manchester.

The Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committee will meet on Thursday 26 May in London.

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