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Free article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Published: Monday, 16 January 2017

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Grammar schools

With the change of Prime Minister and Education Secretary, some might have expected tweaks to education policy in the UK. However, it is unlikely that many predicted the move to open and expand grammar schools. The grammar school movement has always been there but has largely slumbered until now. 

In Theresa May’s speech, ‘Britain, the great meritocracy’, she made four proposals:

  1. Universities should do more to help strengthen state school attainment by sponsoring a state school or setting up a new free school and eventually sponsoring school chains. In exchange they could charge higher fees.
  2. Allow for growth of faith schools, with new faith free schools able to select up to 100% of pupils based on their faith.
  3. Require independent schools to sponsor a local state school or set up a new government-funded school in the state sector or provide some form of help.
  4. Relax the restrictions that stop selective schools from expanding, making up to £50 million a year available to support the expansion of good or outstanding existing grammars. These will in turn be expected to help support the rest of the system. 

These proposals were up for consultation until 12 December 2016 and the feedback is currently being analysed.

In the meantime, previous policies have not yet settled. The debate still continues about the success or not of academies, as explaining the structure of the English school system becomes even more difficult.

Further information


Since schools were given a statutory duty to stop children and young people being drawn into terrorism, the number referred has almost doubled according to a Freedom of Information request (The Independent, 12 September 2016):

The Home Office is due to award £1.5 million to prevent young people from being radicalised. Schools as well as out-of-school settings, community and voluntary groups are eligible to apply to fund initiatives designed to improve young people’s understanding. All projects will be required to pass a British values test:

What role do parents have to play in the radicalisation of their children? There have been some well-publicised cases of young people who would appear to have been groomed without the knowledge of their parents. The NSPCC has produced its own advice to parents and has a special phone line for parents if they are worried about their child being radicalised:

Decline in PSHE

While the duty to report children for radical views has increased, the opportunity to address the issues behind extremism are reducing. This is according to Department of Education data as published in the Time Educational Supplement (TES), 21 August 2016. It suggests that since 2011, the amount of time secondary schools devote to personal, social and health education has dropped by 32%:

Reported by the PSHE Association, according to an online poll 91% of parents believe that all pupils should receive PSHE lessons. However, this continues to be a subject that the DfE has refused to legislate for.

New Ofsted handbook

Ofsted published a new School inspection handbook in 2016. It is keen to point out that there are relatively few changes and those that there are, are simply to bring the handbook in line with recent education policy.

Schools should note that the changes include:

  • The need to publish online information about the rationales and evaluation of the pupil premium strategy and information about the Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium.
  • The role of the virtual headteacher in managing money for looked after children.
  • Increased emphasis on the role of governors in overseeing Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium and special educational needs funding.
  • Increased emphasis in the grade descriptors of the use of the Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up funding.
  • Increased emphasis on progress being judged taking account of different starting points – this is evident in the grade descriptors for outcomes for pupils.
  • Inspectors will listen to the most able read as well as those who are lower attaining.

Although there are only a few changes, it is important to update your paperwork to reflect the new wording and emphases.

Further information

  • School inspection handbook: Handbook for inspecting schools in England under section 5 of the Education Act 2005, Ofsted, August 2016:

Local authority SEND inspection letters

Results are coming in from the joint inspections of local authorities (LAs) and their effectiveness in implementing SEN reforms. The results are in the form of a letter and do not come with a grade but with strengths and areas for development. Local authorities already inspected include: Bolton, Brighton and Hove, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Enfield and Stoke. 

There are some emerging trends that can be seen from the individual letters. The Local Offer continues to be problematic, with the majority of LAs having at least one area for development linked to this.

In several authorities it was noted that education had significantly more weight than health or social care in EHC plans. From comments made in the letters it might also be concluded that there is a growth in the number of children being diagnosed with ADHD and on the autistic spectrum.

New safeguarding guidance

There has been some confusion about whether new safeguarding advice has been issued or not. Keeping children safe in education published in July 2015 was replaced in May 2016 by a new document for implementation in September 2016. However, this wasn’t the final version and now a new document has been issued that only carries the date September 2016 on its cover. This is the latest document: Keeping children safe in education, DfE, September 2016:

It is this document that should now be used to advise staff. However, if you have made changes to policy or prepared training according to the May 2016 document then you needn’t panic. May 2016 and September 2016 are almost identical, with most changes being punctuation and layout rather than content.

You should take note of a couple of minor changes. There is new information on children missing from education in Annex A and reference to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety Education Group:

Children missing education

The final guidance for LAs Children missing education has now been published. It reminds schools that they must notify their LA when they are about to remove a pupil’s name from the school attendance register. This notification must include:

  • the pupil’s full name
  • the full name and address of the parent
  • at least one telephone number
  • the pupil’s future address and destination school, if applicable
  • the reason for removing the pupil from the admission register.

Schools must make reasonable enquiries, along with the LA, to establish where the child is before deleting his or her name. They must also inform the LA within five days when they add a pupil’s name to the admission register at times other than the standard transition point.

Further information

Children missing education: statutory guidance for local authorities, DfE, September 2016:

Pay guidance available

The DfE has now published the document Implementing your school’s approach to pay: Advice for maintained schools and local authorities The advice is non-statutory and should be read alongside the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document STPCD).

Schools are reminded that with the new STPCD and guidance available they should review their pay and appraisal policies as soon as possible.

About the author

Dr Suzanne O’Connell was headteacher of a junior school in Warwickshire for eleven years. During her teaching career she has worked in primary and middle schools in Coventry, Bradford and Leeds. She now works as a freelance education writer and editor. Suzanne can be contacted on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..