29th September 2017

Department for Education

Sir Theodore Agnew appointed as minister, 29th September 2017: News Story

The Prime Minister announced the appointment of Sir Theodore Agnew as minister in the Lords at the Department for Education, following the retirement of Lord Nash.

Sir Theodore Agnew, appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, will be responsible for helping to realise the government’s ambition to create an education system that allows everyone to unlock their potential, regardless of their background.

National funding formula tables for schools and high needs, first published 14th September, republished 27th September with updates

Added the high needs, central school services block and schools block technical notes.


Children looked after in England including adoption: 2016 to 2017, 28th September 2017

Key findings show:

The number of looked after children continues to increase; it has increased steadily over the last nine years. At 31 March 2017 there were 72,670 looked after children, an increase of 3% on 2016.

The number of children starting to be looked after in 2016-17 has increased by 2% compared with the previous year. The number of children ceasing to be looked after in 2016-17 has fallen by 2% compared with the previous year.

Last year the number of adoptions fell for the first time since 2011, by 12% and in 2017 the number of looked after children adopted have fallen again, by 8% to 4,350.

For children who are looked after at 31 March 2017, the proportions of children with each recorded category of need is very similar to last year. 61% (44,600 children) were looked after due to an initial need of abuse of neglect, 15% (11,150) family dysfunction, 8% (6,030) family in acute stress and 7% (5,100) absent parenting.

Phonics screening check and key stage 1 assessments: England 2017 (published 28th September 2017, updated 2nd October 2017)

Key findings:

  • More than 4 in 5 pupils (81%) met the expected standard in the phonics screening check at the end of year 1 in 2017, a 1 percentage point increase from 2016 . By the end of year 2, more than 9 in 10 pupils (92%) met the standard, an 11 percentage point increase since the end of year 1.
  • More pupils reached the expected standard in all key stage 1 subjects - reading, writing, mathematics and science - in 2017 compared to 2016. The proportion of pupils who reached the standard rose by 3 percentage points in writing and mathematics, by 2 points in reading, and by 1 point in science compared to 2016.
  • Those who did not reach the standard in Year 1 took the Phonics Check again in Year 2, with 92% of seven-year-olds then reaching the standard.
  • The Phonics Screening Check, is taken by all Year 1 pupils across the country in June. As part of the check, pupils are asked to read as many of 40 simple words as they can to their teacher. Through phonics pupils are taught to read by breaking words down into their component sounds.

See also Thousands more children on track to become fluent readers, 28th September 2017, News Story.

Nick Gibb said in praise of teachers:

‘….Thanks to the hard work of teachers across the country, and this Government’s continued focus on raising standards and increased emphasis on phonics, 6 year olds are reading better than ever before. Today’s results show there are now an additional 155,000 six-year-olds on track to becoming fluent readers. This is a huge achievement, improving the lives and education of hundreds of thousands of children.

But there is more to do for the youngest children which is why, as we said in our manifesto, we will strengthen the teaching of literacy and numeracy in the early years. We are determined that all children, whatever their background, should have the rich vocabulary needed to fulfil their potential at school.

See also Blog- Phonics results – Now that’s good news for young readers, September 29, 2017 by Jane Nicholas: NfER

Jane Nicholas shows how the gap between low and high performing LAs in 2012 has closed.

She says:

‘This is very positive as it means there is less variation in phonics outcomes across the country, which suggests there are fewer cold spots where pupils are not getting the secure foundation in phonics to help them to learn to read.

…Another interesting observation is the bunching of the quintiles’ average outcome scores. It appears that as LA scores reach around the 80 per cent mark, their improvement slows as schools find it increasingly difficult to get the remaining pupils up to the required standard. As the amount of effort required to get more pupils to the expected standard increases, it is likely that growth will start to slow and some LAs’ PSC outcomes will plateau or even decrease depending on the ability of the cohort from one year to the next. Indeed, the 2017 results may be showing signs that this is already starting to happen as the rate of growth in the proportion of pupils achieving the expected standard in phonics has slowed between 2016 and 2017. Also 25 LAs have seen a fall in their PSC (Phonics Screening Check) outcome in the latest year, compared to only seven LAs in the four years up to 2016. All but two of these 25 LAs had PSC outcomes of 80 per cent or more in 2016. The challenge for schools and LAs going forward will therefore be to maintain and even try to further improve their current performance’.

Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2017. (republished, 28th September)

First published 29th June 2017, republished to add cross-border migration local authority level and underlying data tables (i.e. pupils attending school in a different LA to the one in which they live).

Other Government: Education Select Committee

Education Committee launches inquiry into Alternative Provision, 20th September 2017

Send responses by 1st November 2017

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, said:

"Some of the most disadvantaged young people in our society are educated through alternative provision and we want to establish whether they are receiving the best possible support.

Students in alternative provision are far less likely to achieve good exam results, find well-paid jobs or go on to further study. Only around 1% of young people in state alternative provision receive five good GCSEs.

As a Committee dedicated to promoting social justice, we are committed to examining these issues in our inquiry and pressing Government, local authorities, schools and others to do all they can to improve educational outcomes and life chances.

Every student, whatever their background, should be given the chance to climb the educational ladder of opportunity.

In addition to looking at the quality of their education and the outcomes of these students, the Committee will also look at safeguarding and resources within AP, provision of AP within schools and regulation of independent providers."

DfE statistics also show that:

  • Pupils known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals (FSM) were around four times more likely to receive a permanent or fixed period exclusion than those who are not eligible.

  • Pupils with identified special educational needs (SEN) accounted for almost half of all permanent exclusions and fixed period exclusions

  • Boys were over three times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion and almost three times more likely to receive a fixed period exclusion than girls.

Call for written submissions: The Education Committee invites written submissions by 1 November on the following issues:

  • Routes into alternative provision

  • The quality of teaching in alternative provision (including pupil referral units)

  • Educational outcomes and destinations of students

  • Safety, accommodation, and provision of resources for students

  • In-school alternatives to external alternative provision

  • Regulation of independent providers


Ofsted strategy: 2017 to 2022, 29th September 2017

Ofsted sets out its corporate strategy, with a summary of their core values, strategic approaches, areas of work and evaluation metrics.

Ofsted states that main principle behind the 2017 strategy is that it exists to be

“a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation.”

Ofsted continues, ‘our work should be:

  • Intelligent - our work will be evidence-led, with valid and reliable evaluation tools and frameworks

  • Responsible - we will try to reduce inspection burdens and make our expectations and findings clear

  • Focused - we will target our time and resources where they can lead directly to improvement’.

See also Ofsted: a force for improvement, 29th September: Press Release

Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted, said:

‘I am pleased to announce our new corporate strategy, which will set Ofsted’s direction during my tenure as Chief Inspector. I am determined that Ofsted will be a force for improvement.

By really drilling down on how, where and why we inspect and report, we can ensure that inspection and regulation are more than the sum of their parts. One of our greatest strengths is our bird’s eye view of the education, training and care systems. Over my time in office, we will do more to aggregate the insights from individual inspections, so that we can better encourage and support improvement across all the areas we inspect and regulate.

This high-reaching strategy commits us to inspection that is intelligent, responsible and focused. It will allow us to tackle emerging challenges and take advantage of new opportunities, ensuring that we can have maximum impact in improving young people’s lives’.


Closing Gaps Early, Stewart and Waldfogel, 28th September 2017: Sutton Trust

This report examines the current state of early years policy in light of the evidence about what works. The report covers three types of early years policy: parental leave and parenting; early education and childcare; and financial support to households with young children. The focus throughout is on narrowing gaps at school starting age between children from different backgrounds – essential to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and making progress on social mobility.

Key findings

  • Parenting is a major factor contributing to gaps in early child development, research has also highlighted the difficulties of designing and implementing policies to improve parenting or close gaps in parenting and the home environment between low- and high-socio-economic status families. Carefully designed programmes, drawing on the growing evidence base, can play a role in reducing disparities in early childhood, although delivering them effectively at scale remains challenging.

  • Early education and childcare has been a major focus of policy in this area. Of concern is that recent developments indicate a shift in funding and policy focus away from quality early education for child development towards childcare affordability for working families. Investments in affordability are welcome, but neither the tax-free childcare scheme nor the 30 hour entitlement for working families are well-designed to promote social mobility, meaning longer hours in state-funded early education for children who are already relatively advantaged, which may be expected to widen gaps in child development at school starting age. Particularly worrying, these investments are coming at the expense of the qualityof provision.

  • One third of staff working in group-based care still lack either English or Maths GCSE or both. A current proposal to remove the requirement for maintained nursery and reception classes to have a qualified teacher is particularly worrying and could affect children in disadvantaged areas most of all.

  • Targeted places for disadvantaged two-year-olds continue, but nearly one-third of eligible two-year-olds still do not take up their place, while many of the available places for two-year-olds are not in the highest quality settings.

  • Cash transfers can have a significant impact on household financial resources and therefore on children’s outcomes. From 1997 to 2010 cash transfers for children became much more generous, with children under five the greatest beneficiaries. Since 2010 aspects of this support have been unravelled: notably, additional benefits for babies have been scrapped; the tax credit system has been more narrowly targeted; and a freeze on working-age benefits means a steady erosion in the real value of support.

  • Changes to benefits and tax credits are projected to lead to sharp increases in child poverty in the next five years, undoing much of the progress of the early 2000s.

See also EEF blog: Lessons in early years policy, Conor Ryan, Director of Research, 28th September 2017

Among the report’s key conclusions are that current policies, such as extending free childcare, are likely to widen the attainment gap between rich and poor. In this blog, the Trust's Director of Research, Conor Ryan, explains why...

‘….A third of eligible children – those from the poorest 40% of society – don’t currently take up free provision at age two and one-tenth of poorer families don’t take up their entitlement at age three. The government has halted a commitment to improving the qualifications of those working with young children even though one-third of such key workers haven’t got decent GCSE passes in English and maths.

Sure Start and children’s centres are being closed or stripped of many of their functions. Some benefits are being reduced for children, particularly in larger families. And funding is being reduced for the higher quality, more expensive providers - maintained state nursery schools and reception classes – alongside the removal of a requirement that they should have a qualified teacher in the classroom.

The combination of these changes could see a reduction in quality and a widening of school readiness gaps just as there is some evidence that gaps have started to narrow.

In particular, the restriction of the 30 hours to working parents could make it even harder for the children of mothers not in work to gain the developmental skills that could help them escape a cycle of disadvantage…..’

Language as a child wellbeing indicator, Law et al., 27th September: Early Intervention Foundation

The UK prevalence rate for early language difficulties is between 5% and 8% of all children, and over 20% for those growing up in low-income households. The high prevalence among disadvantaged children is thought to contribute to the achievement gap that exists by the time children enter school and continues until they leave.

To ensure children with language development problems do not fall through the cracks, the report calls for early language development to be prioritised as a child wellbeing indicator, so that it must be treated as a public health issue, like vaccination, obesity and mental health. This change would make it clear that language development problems have serious consequences and require additional support, even when they are not the result of acute or clinical disorders.

Other recommendations in the report cover:

  • Improving monitoring of language development in the preschool years

  • Further research on the impact of children language development on an individual’s life course

  • More robust evaluation of interventions aimed at children’s language development

  • The adoption of a common criteria and terminology for measuring and identifying language difficulties

  • A better understanding of the relationship between oral language skills and literacy in the education context

  • Greater clarity from local authorities and schools regarding the offer they are making to parents of children with speech, language and communication needs.

Learning Away: The state of School Residentials in England 2017, Menzies et al., 29th September 2017: LKMco

The report highlights the benefits of residential school trips in terms of pupil personal development. 21% of the school population across England participate in these trips. However, as the report points out pupils at schools in disadvantaged areas are much less likely to take part in these trips.

See also Blog by Loic Menzies, one of the report authors who says:

‘Education should be a great leveller. Schools should enable disadvantaged pupils to access opportunities that they might never experience otherwise – and of course most do. However, our analysis shows that schools serving disadvantaged communities run far fewer residential trips for their pupils and that even when they do, only a third of teachers are confident that their pupils could all afford to participate. We also found that schools organise slightly different residentials depending on the deprivation of the communities they serve’.

Does academic self-concept predict further and higher education participation? Henderson et al., working paper no. 26, September 2017: Centre for Global Higher Education (ESRC/HEFCE supported)

The study of 9,575 students explores the extent to which young people’s belief in their own academic ability influences their educational trajectories. 
It examines whether young people with higher self-belief are more likely to study A-levels, participate in further and higher education, and attend high status universities or study high status subjects.
Taking into account prior attainment and other background characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity and social class, young people with higher self-belief are more likely to take A-levels than those with lower belief in their academic ability. Conversely, young people with lower self-belief are more likely to enter further education than their peers with greater self-belief.
The findings show that young people with higher self-belief are more likely to attend university, although this is not the case once A-level achievement is taken into account. This highlights the importance of the pathway to university, as those with higher self-belief are more likely to take A-levels which in turn influences their likelihood of attending university.
Higher self-belief also increases the odds of studying at a high-status university and there is some indication that academic self-belief is associated with the subjects studied at university, according to the study.
Self-belief is shown to vary by ethnic background, gender, special education needs and school type. The study also shows that prior attainment is an important predictor of self-belief. The study recommends that policymakers focus on ways of raising the self-belief of young people with lower belief in their academic ability. Programmes to instil confidence in young people could be incorporated into their learning, while teachers and parents could be encouraged to help in their educational interactions with young people.

International- Wales

New plan for national mission to raise standards – Kirsty Williams, 26th September

Developing a high-quality teaching profession and creating inspirational leaders to help raise standards are among the aims of the new national education plan launched by Kirsty Williams

The Education Secretary revealed details of a plan to continue to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

Objectives also include introducing a new accountability model and ensuring strong and inclusive schools committed to excellence and well-being.

The plan sets out the actions the Welsh Government will continue to take to keep improving the education system, including:

  • Reducing class sizes

  • Reforming teacher training

  • Strengthening support for learners with Additional Learning Needs

  • Establishing a national approach to long-term career development for teachers

  • Establishing a new National Academy for Educational Leadership

  • Reducing unnecessary bureaucracy for teachers

  • Investing £1.1 billion to upgrade the quality of school buildings.

The Education Secretary also set out a revised timeline for introducing the new Curriculum for Wales, with statutory roll out to schools now set to begin in 2022 to give the teaching profession and schools more time to help develop, and prepare for, the changes.

Education reform in Wales: A national mission, 27th September 2017, by Kirsty Williams AM: OECD

In this blog, Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education affirms the Welsh Government’s drive for educational improvement. She said:

‘This week, as Wales’s Education Secretary, I published our new action plan for the next four years. Entitled ‘Education in Wales: Our national mission’, it builds on the strong foundations already in place in our system. But we are setting the bar even higher, ambitious as we are in our expectations for our young people, for our teaching profession and for our nation….’ The plan focuses on 4 enabling key objectives:

Firstly, ensuring a high-quality education profession. We will support teachers in being lifelong professional learners through new standards, a national approach and reformed initial teacher education.

Secondly, identifying and inspiring leaders to raise standards. We need to address a previous lack of emphasis on leadership. Therefore we will establish a national leadership academy, reduce bureaucracy through business managers and improved communication and co-operation, and revise the qualification for school leaders.

Thirdly, ensure that our schools are inclusive, dedicated to excellence, equity and well-being. We will extend our targeted support for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, provide dedicated support for our ‘more able’ learners, and be innovative in identifying and measuring well-being alongside attainment.

And fourthly, improved assessment, evaluation and accountability within a self-improving system. We will be consistent and clear about the things we wish to value and measure through a new annual national education report and report card, formative assessments and a new assessment & evaluation framework that focuses on improvement all levels.

Professional teaching awards- nominate a teacher now


How do schools compensate for socio economic disadvantage? PISA In Focus #76

The report shows that What schools do, and the resources they have, matter for student performance. And effective practices and quality resources are more often found in advantaged schools.

Overall findings across OECD countries (based on those taking part in PISA) show that:

Students in socio-economically disadvantaged schools are less exposed than students in advantaged schools to the learning environments and educational resources that matter the most for science performance. If schools are to compensate for inequalities in family background, effective teaching practices, good disciplinary climates, greater exposure to high-quality science instruction, and qualified science teachers and materials should be available in all schools. Allocating resources more equitably across schools is a key first step to achieving this goal. School systems that already combine high performance and equity show that offering high-quality education opportunities to all students is possible.

See also Blog by Rose Bolognini, 26th September -Advocating for equality among schools? Resources matter.

In this blog the author says disadvantaged students don’t have as many resources at home as their advantaged peers so ideally schools would need to compensate by providing more support. However, often schools reinforce social disparities rather than moderate them.  She also points out the importance of extracurricular activities, which disadvantaged students are less likely to experience


IOE Director delivers keynote speech at London Mayor’s education event, 29th September 2017

Professor Becky Francis, Director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) joined the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan at an award ceremony to celebrate the Mayor's School for Success programme.

The Schools for Success programme identifies London schools that perform exceptionally well with low prior attaining pupils, with the view of establishing a network of excellence in teaching and leadership practice. Teachers then have the opportunity of drawing upon their expertise and knowledge through case studies, events and school visits.

Professor Francis said:

"I’m really pleased to be supporting the Schools for Success initiative. We need to raise the attainment of all pupils, especially low prior attainers. We need incentives within the system to drive that, and we need to celebrate it when it’s achieved. Schools for Success does both….Most gratifyingly for me, the scheme reflects a concern to start from what the evidence base has shown is important. Our schools work tirelessly to improve young people’s life chances, and it’s wonderful to be part of celebrating those efforts and spreading effective practice."

Achievement for All: possible areas for considerations

Does academic self-concept predict further and higher education participation? Henderson et al., working paper no. 26, September 2017: Centre for Global Higher Education (ESRC/HEFCE supported)

The report shows the importance of schools building children and young people’s self -belief in the context of their long term educational trajectories. Schools working with Achievement for All do this well.

Blog by Rose Bolognini, 26th September -Advocating for equality among schools? Resources matter.

In this blog the author says disadvantaged students don’t have as many resources at home as their advantaged peers so ideally schools would need to compensate by providing more support. Schools working with Achievement for All do this well.