Opportunity for all: Strong schools with great teachers for your child

Jan Renou

April 20 2023
The much-anticipated Education White Paper has been published. Seeking a “stronger and fairer school system”, a first impression might be that the thinking is honest and pragmatic: given the financial constraints under which schools and the DfE must presently operate, this is perhaps inevitable. Equally, some of the ambitions lack detail while others are self-evident or the continuation of existing initiatives.

But, as these highlights show, there is money and political will behind the ambition

  •  At least £100m will put the Education Endowment Foundation on a long-term footing so they can continue to evaluate and spread best practices in education across the country
  •  The Government will make £86 million available to grow and strengthen multi-academy trusts over the next three years, with a particular focus on Education Investment Areas
  •  Across a subset of 24 priority Education Investment Areas, there is a further £40 million in additional funding for interventions to address local needs, such as high absence rates
  •  £30,000 starting salaries to attract and retain the best teachers
  •  500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by 2024
  •  Payments to recruit and keep talented Physics, Chemistry, Computing and Maths teachers working in disadvantaged schools
  •  Targeted Support – Every child who falls behind in English or Maths will get the right support to get back on track. This includes assessing and monitoring pupils' progress in E&M and drawing on high-quality evidence-based interventions to help them catch up.
  •  Every school to have access to funded training for senior mental health lead to delivering a whole-school approach to health and wellbeing
  • Oak National Academy becoming a Government Body with the sole focus on supporting teachers to deliver the very best lesson content
  •  Up to 6 million tutoring courses by 2024 and action to cement tuition as a permanent feature of the school system
  •  £55 million for the Accelerator Fund to develop and scale up the best-evidence literacy and numeracy inventions
  •  A new “national data solution” to modernise rules on recording attendance

There is more, but this does not purport to give an overview of the whole document.

For fuller details, there are thorough summaries in Schools Week and the TES, which also carry well-informed think pieces from a range of perspectives. Rather we attempt to highlight areas of particular professional interest to EPM, where we can add value to partners in their development and strategy.

At EPM, therefore, we are positive, seeing great opportunities along with the challenges. Rightly, the pandemic and subsequent recovery feature strongly. There are ongoing commitments from the earlier “levelling up” paper, which include a pledge of increased funding for all children in the 55 disadvantaged Education Investment Areas.

With a focus on teaching – the heart of a school – there is recognition too that support for children’s mental health and wellbeing must stay high on the agenda, as will the worry of a million children being presently out of school. There is a much-needed priority for SEND, with welcome additional funding for intervention, resources and staff.

Finally, it is good to see a long overdue movement towards greater coherence in the education system as a whole, linking this not merely to structural and administrative convenience but the need to bring all schools up to a high standard.

“Over 400,000 pupils are currently attending a school that is not making necessary improvements with
around 150,000 primary and 250,000 secondary pupils attending these schools".

Of these, it is expected the 'vast majority' of maintained schools and stand-alone academies “will be transferred to a MAT which has the capacity to drive and sustain the necessary school improvement”.

The ambition by 2030 is to have all schools part of a family in a strong academy trust, such that all children will benefit from being taught in a school that is in, or in the process of joining, a strong multi-academy trust. This, it is believed, will help transform underperforming schools and deliver the best possible outcomes for our children.

This is welcome, as is greater clarity around the roles of Local Authorities who will now be permitted to establish trusts and gain the legal power to require their non-academy schools join a trust, where appropriate. Additionally, they will gain “backstop powers” to compel trusts to admit children, or object to schools’ published admission limits and will take responsibility for in-year admissions. A new framework will prioritise children’s needs and reform rules on over-subscription.

The Government plans to support schools that have received two consecutive Ofsted judgements of below ‘Good’ to join strong trusts – a significant step up from the current requirement for ‘Inadequate’ Local Authority-Maintained schools to do so. The initial focus will be on schools in the 55 Education Investment Areas, as these are the locations where the most support is required area-wide. RSCs will now become Regional Directors covering nine new regions, with a wider remit to include place planning, SEN and a charge to work more closely with LAs. ESFA will mirror this in a move to regional operation.

As part of a review to launch in the summer, looking at accountability and regulation of trusts, the Department will consider how best to hold trusts accountable against a new strong trust definition, focused on the quality and inclusivity of the education they provide, how they improve schools and maintain their local identity, how they protect value for money for the taxpayer and how they develop their workforce.

But, these things won’t just happen by diktat: they must be grown from ground level.

There are complexities to navigate: legal, contractual, safeguarding, HR, financial, and structural. EPM will be working with our partners in building trust capacity, supporting strategies for growth and development, nurturing the skill sets senior leaders need to operate at Trust rather than School level.

Interesting times – we look forward to working together with all our partners to develop this new educational landscape and support the sector in bringing clarity, collaboration and success for their children and communities.

If you’re looking for advice about our services to schools and trusts or would like to learn more about our policies, letters and training, please talk to us.


Combat absence management using your data

Accurately recording absences will allow you to identify trends and patterns for individuals and the school or trust as a whole – giving you the chance to explore the causes and consider plans to combat them.

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