EA November 2015 Update

The committee has met twice since Council of Reference last met in September.

At the meeting on Friday 25 September in Manchester the committee welcomed three representatives from the Rotherham Steering Group to discuss the plans they are in the process of drawing up to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE). Prevention sits at the heart of their plans and the group feel it is vitally important that this issue is discussed in schools to help children and young people to understand what healthy relationships look like along with the signs and symptoms of grooming and abuse. The committee asked the Group to stay in touch.

The committee then discussed the impact of regional school commissioners (RSCs) one year on from introduction and the broader powers outlined in the government’s new Education and Adoption Bill, including the ability to intervene in ‘coasting’ maintained schools. The group expressed concern about the large geographical areas RSCs are expected to oversee and some discomfort about the narrow membership of the head teacher boards that assist the RSCs in monitoring and challenging the performance of multi-academy trusts and individual academy schools.

Members then reviewed a draft report produced by a small sub-group of the committee which outlines a series of proposals for measuring the educational progress and attainment of children in care differently. The proposals build on new research by the Rees Centre and the University of Bristol which shows that care is a protective factor in education terms. The committee was supportive of the greater weight being given to the measurement of progress over all key stages rather than attainment at the end of Key Stage 4 (which is the DfE’s key focus at present) and saw great potential in the formation of a national performance monitoring system which will benefit learners and enable all of the key players in the system to be held to account. This paper will be shared with the DfE once the Rees Centre research has been published at the end of November.

The final substantive item on the agenda was a wide ranging discussion about governance which touched on the ongoing issues surrounding the recruitment of governors for multi-academy trusts (MATs). There was also a detailed discussion about the government’s changing stance on the make-up of governing bodies and the ongoing drive to see greater representation from the business sector on these boards. Some members of the committee expressed concern that the value of parent and representative governors was not well understood.

The committee met again on Friday 13 November in Islington. Following on from discussions in the previous meeting the group was joined by the RSC for North East London and the Eastern region and discussed how we can collectively address consistently under-performing schools or groups of schools. A growing number of local areas are developing new ways of working between LAs and RSCs and it was felt it would be beneficial if this was replicated across the country with a national document outlining a set of core principles. The group also touched on the limited links between headteacher boards and the local education community, transparency of decision making, accountability to local communities and place planning.

The group then considered the DfE’s consultation on the proposed updates to the Schools Causing Concern guidance which describes significant changes to the current arrangements. The underlying assumption seems to be that improvement in ‘coasting’ or failing schools is best secured through their becoming sponsored academies. The committee will lead on the Association’s response to this consultation in the coming weeks.

The final substantive item on the agenda was further education and skills. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ review of post-16 provision featured heavily in these discussions. Around half a dozen or so areas have been, or are currently being, reviewed in a bid to stabilise provision and encourage the development of centres of expertise. This exercise brings together local FE colleges, the Local Enterprise Partnership, the LA, RSC and the Skills Funding Agency with a view to assessing the current offer and recommending sustainable mergers and strategic alliances. Feedback to date seems quite positive.

The Educational Achievement Policy Committee will be joining up with the Resources and Sustainability Policy Committee, Standards, Performance and Inspection Policy Committee and the Workforce Development Policy Committee in 2016 to discuss areas of shared interest.

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