Department for Education

Government backs innovative projects for children and families, 24th January 2017

Three projects with plans to transform children’s services in their areas have been awarded part of the £7 million in government grant funding. These are:

Dorset county council- plans to use its funding to improve outcomes for children and families in the county, including through providing additional training and development for staff. The project has been funded for 2 years.

Coram -will use its share of the innovation programme funding to support local authorities in Northamptonshire, Manchester, Reading and Slough to make better use of data to understand the needs of the children in their care. They will also be carrying out work on fostering, including looking at post-18 support.

Bradford metropolitan district council -will deliver its Rethinking Social Care project over the next 2 years. The project aims to provide integrated care for children and young people with the most complex needs.

Nick Gibb: the evidence in favour of teacher-led instruction, speech to the Education World Forum, 24th Jan

School’s Minister Nick Gibb spoke about the importance of children having a strong knowledge base (first), which they can apply to problem solving etc. He said:

‘Children need to be taught the body of knowledge that we all take for granted. In too many countries - including Britain - educationalists have argued against knowledge and in favour of skills. I believe this has been deeply damaging to millions of children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds’.

He referred to the recent PISA 2015 results which showed that:

‘….teacher-led approaches such as explaining how a science idea can be applied to a number of different phenomena had a net positive impact on pupil scores. Whereas allowing pupils to design their own experiments; allowing pupils to investigate and test their ideas; holding class debates about investigations; and requiring pupils to argue about science questions and a number of other ‘child-centred’ teaching approaches resulted in a net negative impact on science outcomes.’

Department for Education- Post 16

Post-16 Maths participation in 2014/2015, Ad-hoc Notice, January 2017

This report includes new analysis of post -16 maths participation in 2014/15 based on prior attainment in the subject. The analysis was carried out to help inform the Industrial Strategy Green Paper and the forthcoming report of Sir Adrian Smith’s review of post-16 mathematics

findings show:

The higher the maths GCSE grade achieved at 15, the higher the level of maths participation at academic age 16.

That those with a grade C in GCSE maths are the most likely to stop studying the subject at 16.

Those with a D are most likely to retake the subject due to the maths and English condition of funding which requires those on a study programme of 150 hours or more without an A*-C to continue studying the subject.

That those with higher GCSE maths attainment at 15 are more likely to study academic level 3 qualifications at age 16 and those with lower attainment are more likely to study 4 level 2 qualifications or below

 Further Education and Skills in England, January 2017

Funded apprenticeships have increased (by 3.2%) in 2015/2016, whilst participation in government funded FE (19+) adult education has decreased (by 11.1%).

Apprenticeship funding: how it will work

government will introduce the apprenticeship levy on 6th April 2017. It will require all employers operating in the UK, with a wage bill over £3 million each year, to invest in apprenticeships. The ways apprenticeships are being reformed, can be found in the government’s vision for apprenticeships. The reforms include giving employers the opportunity to add to the new apprenticeship standards already available by developing standards that meet their precise needs.

Also see Government to create 200,000 new apprenticeships. Telegraph, 20th Jan

The article refers to the Government’s recent announcement of the creation of 200,000 new apprenticeships by 2020. There is much opposition to the levy, which many feel will financially stretch some organisations. The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is among the groups opposed to the levy.

See also Future of apprenticeships in England: guidance for trailblazers-Guidance for groups of employers (trailblazers) on proposing and developing a new apprenticeship standard.

And consultation on: Institute for Apprenticeships: draft operational plan: closes 27th February 2017, 5pm


Residential special schools and colleges: a call for evidence

Opened 23rd January; Closes 17 March 11.45pm

The Department for Education is seeking evidence on the experiences and outcomes of children and young people in residential special schools and colleges. This includes evidence about: the characteristics of children and young people in residential special schools and colleges; how and why they come to be placed in this provision; how they’re supported both pre- and post-placement and how we can improve experiences and outcomes for them and their families

See also Views sought ahead of review into residential special education, news story, 23rd January

Department for Education, Research

Alternative provision: effective practice and post-16 transition

The research commissioned by the Department for Education showed that there was a general lack of focus on pupil aspirations in supporting them to make successful transitions post 16.

The report recommended that from the outset, providers need to conduct their own assessment of pupils’ needs as part of a ‘fresh start’ approach and that assessment (and subsequent ones) should include understanding pupils’ aspirations for post -16 learning and employment to ensure that the academic and/or vocational offer supports their progression.

 Other findings showed that:

  • It was important to ensure that pupils are being taught at a level of challenge that is in line with their capabilities and that they being offered academic and vocational options that support post-16 transitions.

  • Pupils need to be made aware of the opportunities and pathways open to them and that their aspirations are reviewed on a regular basis.

  • It is necessary to develop bespoke transition pathways for progression into post-16 learning.

  • Young people also need support when they first move on to their post -16 options.

  • Providers should collect basic data on pupils following transition into post-16 learning (or employment).

Evaluation of the University of Kent’s Consortium Project to explore how technology can support young people in care, 24th January

The project, led by the University of Kent, brought together a consortium of technologists, designers and academics to understand how to leverage advances in technology for the benefit of some of the most vulnerable young people in society.

This evaluation showed that of the 7 concepts tested, 2 had the most traction with the young people and carers that took part:

  • ‘Real World’ – a virtual flat that teaches young people the skills they need to move into independence, and

  • an online platform– a place for information to be collated and shared between young people, carers and social workers.

 These concepts were most supported as (i) they responded to genuine issues and information gaps which young people identified, and (ii) young people could imagine themselves using them.

 Teacher voice omnibus: May to July 2016 survey - DfE questions

The survey covered the following topics, asking teachers and head teachers their views: mental health; flexible working and performance-related pay; the self-improving school system; curriculum and qualification reform; STEM subject teaching; careers education; developing character and resilience; behaviour and attendance; the pupil premium and special educational needs

In relation to teaching children and young people with SEN 79% of head teachers felt that know how to support those SEN Support; this compared to 67% of teachers. Less than half of all teachers felt there was appropriate training in place in relation to supporting those on SEN Support.

In relation to children’s mental health issues and if teachers knew how to help students with mental health issues access specialist support outside of school, only 32% of classroom teachers responded positively (27% of senior leaders gave the same response).

Step Change: evaluation, 24th January

(Social care)

Step Change was created as a partnership involving 3 Local Authorities (LAs) and the children’s charity, Action for Children (AfC). It intended to improve outcomes for young people (aged 11 -17 years) on the edge of care or custody and their families, by introducing evidence based programmes (EBPs).

Step Change aimed to improve long term outcomes for young people by decreasing risk taking behaviours including offending, increasing engagement in education, employment and training (EET), and improving relationships between young people and their families to avoid family breakdown, and to reduce the need for care or custody.

Findings amongst other things showed factors that appeared to make a difference included the consistency, frequency and accessibility of the therapy, the meaningful relationship formed with therapists and their perceived impartiality. Parents also described a sense of empowerment and confidence that came from developing new parenting skills and strategies. Though, in some cases, baseline difficulties persisted to some degree, parents reported being better able to manage ongoing and emerging problems.

Ealing Brighter Futures: evaluation

(Building the social care workforce)

Ealing’s Brighter Futures Intensive Engagement Model is a whole system intervention that was launched in June 2015. Its implementation was intended to support and enable the children’s social care workforce to build effective, consistent relationships with adolescents, families, communities and carers, and to use those successful relationships to bring about positive change.

Central to the Model has been the creation of 2 new multi-disciplinary edge of care teams (MAST East and MAST West) and a new in care team (CONNECT team). These teams were established in June 2015 and a range of professionals, including social workers, clinical psychologists, connexions workers, education specialists, youth justice workers, family support workers, fostering support social workers, youth workers, and youth mentors were recruited.

Key findings showed amongst other things that educational support workers, connexions workers and youth justice workers were an integral part of both the MAST and CONNECT teams. In relation to youth justice workers, consideration might be given to whether these professionals could provide support and advice to more than 1 team.

Department for Education: Early Years

Study of Early Education and Development (SEED): meeting the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities in the early years.This report presents the findings of a qualitative study exploring the experiences of children aged three to four with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) attending group early years settings, undertaken as part of the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED).

Key recommendations show that:

Early years provision for children with SEND: Parents and settings generally felt that there was sufficient provision for children with SEND in their own local area. However, there was also some indication that information about SEND provision could be made more accessible to parents.

Identification of SEND: All early years providers had processes in place for monitoring children’s progress and identifying SEND; these procedures appeared to work particularly well where settings could access support and advice from area Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) or other support services.

Settings highlighted the significance of building strong communication strategies with children’s parents, who were seen as playing an integral role in early identification of SEND.

Despite opportunities to engage, parents tended to show limited involvement when it came to steering or shaping provision. This was presented by parents as a trust in providers to know what was best for children. 

Experiences of the early years pupil premium- Report on the experiences of the early years pupil premium as part of the study of early education and development (SEED).

The study looked at the use of EYPP funding and its perceived effect on disadvantaged children; it involved interviews with 30 early years providers who had received EYPP funding.

EYPP was used in a number of different ways, but two key themes recurred: use of EYPP to directly support the speech, language and communication needs of children eligible for EYPP: and supporting children to play and learn outside;

 Perceived impacts included:  increased confidence and improved communication skills for EYPP children, where direct benefits included:

  • an increased focus for frontline staff to consider ways to better support and provide for eligible children, including those with additional needs;

  • an improved awareness and understanding of children’s family backgrounds and ways to provide wrap- around support; and

  • Financial savings for providers- where EYPP funding was used to purchase goods and services which would otherwise have come from other sources.

 Early Years Pupil Premium: providers survey

Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) was introduced in April 2015 to provide additional funding for 3 and 4 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds. This current research was carried out by Kantar Public (commissioned by the DfE) around a year after its introduction to provide an accurate picture of awareness and usage of this additional funding in early years settings. The sample included 542 quantitative interviews with group-based providers and 507 quantitative interviews with school-based providers. In addition,

27 qualitative depth interviews were conducted with childminders who provide early years care.

Findings showed that:

  • Funding had a positive impact on their setting, enabling them to pay for services for disadvantaged children.

  • Group-based and school-based providers most commonly reported spending EYPP funding on staff training, resources such as books and to enable existing staff to provide more targeted support for recipient children. Some providers also used the funding to pay for extra sessions and outings.

  • Settings across the board were going to apply for funding for the coming year

Good practice in early education-Research examining good practice in early education as part of the study of early education and development (SEED).

This study explores how good quality early years settings articulate, establish and sustain good practice that has the potential to improve children’s outcomes. It focuses on provision for

two to four -year -olds it examines good practice in relation to:

curriculum planning, assessment and monitoring, staffing, managing transitions and communication with parents and home learning.

 Key findings showed that:

  • Curriculum planning-Tailored to individual needs

  • Assessment, monitoring and tracking progress-were believed to be only valuable if used effectively to support learning and development, identify children requiring additional support, and feed into curriculum planning.

  • Views on what works in supporting children’s learning and development-setting staff placed the personal, social and emotional development of their children at the heart of their practice

  • Supporting transition-included carrying out home visits; gathering information from parents about the child; and working in partnership with other settings to gather relevant information and support the child with the transition.

  • Supporting home learning- settings took a proactive approach

  • Effective leadership was felt to be essential to good practice in early years- with good communication.

  • On-going CPD was considered important

 Study of Early Education and Development (SEED): Cost and Funding of Early Education

 The evidence has shown large variation in the resource cost of delivery which highlights that matching FEEE (Free Early Education entitlement) rates to costs is challenging.

  • The evidence suggests that a key influence on hourly delivery cost is provider type independent of any other setting or local characteristics (including quality), but the reasons why some types appear simply more efficient than others is not clear.

  • Children with SEND -The limited evidence suggests that adequate and efficient support for children with SEND requires a child-by-child assessment of the level of financial support required; the current system may not be achieving this (but more research is needed)

 Childminder views on funded early education

This small-scale qualitative study comprised 40 interviews of childminders based in 9 LAs (so should not be considered representative of England). It explored childminders views and experiences of delivering the current 15 hour offer and their views on delivering the 30-hour entitlement for working parents (still being consulted on at the time of the research).

 Findings suggested the following changes would be needed to support childminders offering funded provision:

  • policy-makers needed to: pay a fair market rate; pay regularly; acknowledge additional burdens on childminders, their time and resources, by minimising administrative requirements and allowing them to make additional charges.

  • ensure parents know what the 30 hours covers.

  • explain to childminders how they can optimise their earning potential

  • make it clear to parents that all providers of the early education entitlement are expected to operate at the same level and are inspected in the same way by Ofsted; make it simple-let them know what to expect. (it is expected that there will be a need for many working parents to use childminders for their extended hours entitlement.)

  • Provide support, information and advice in a range of formats to help and reassure childminders about their policy knowledge, childcare and education practices and business operation.

Parents views and demand for 30 hours free childcare

851 parents with children in pre-school were surveyed by Ipso Mori

The survey found that of those currently using the free hours 83% said they would be likely or would definitely take up the additional 15 hours of free childcare

Childcare and early years survey of parents: sampling frames

The Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents (CEYSP) is commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), and measures behaviours and attitudes relating to childcare and early years education in England. The report outlines the new sampling method to be used following the introduction of the High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC) in 2013, which means that some high income families no longer register their child for the Child Benefit as they no longer derive a financial gain from it.

Other Government

These are our children: a review by Dame Christine Lenehan

Dame Christine Lenehan was asked by the Department of Health to take a strategic overview and recommend what practical action can be taken to co-ordinate care, support and treatment for children and young people with complex needs (defined as those with behaviour that challenges involving mental health problems and learning disabilities and/or autism). The report finds that their needs are generally not being met. Many end up institutionalised (in hospitals) which should be the last resort because the required support (primarily medical and social care) is not available or inefficient; others may end up in Residential Special Schools or colleges outside of their area and away from their families.

11 Recommendations are made which also include the upskilling (skill gaps) of those working in education, health and social care to focus on mental health conditions, autism, challenging behaviour and/or a learning disability and how to take action to address them


Estyn Annual Report 2015-2016

The annual report on schools from Wales highlights teaching as the weakest aspect of the system across the country, with a lack of challenge for the more able pupils.


School funding Crisis- survey NAHT, 23rd Jan

A National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) survey shows that many schools are facing funding crisis (over 1000 schools took part).

The NAHT's Breaking Point survey for 2016-17 shows:

  • more than twice as many schools in deficit since 2015 - up from 8% to 18%

  • 71% of heads balance budgets by making cuts or using reserves

  • 72% fear budgets will be unsustainable by 2019

  • 85% save money by spending less on new equipment

The greatest cost pressures on schools, according to heads, are:

  • government changes which have passed the costs of employing staff on to schools

  • the decline in local authority services and the abolition of a central government grant which allows councils to support schools

  • supporting greater numbers of pupils with mental health issues.

See also North East schools first in country to address pupils' mental health issues Chronicle Live, 23rd Jan

Youngest children in class more likely to get ADHD medication, study says, 22nd Jan, The Guardian

A new study published in Western Australia is showing that the youngest children in class are more likely than their older classmates to receive medication for ADHD (attention deficit hpyeractivity disorder), a study has found.

The Western Australian study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, has raised concerns children are being misdiagnosed with the psychiatric disorder and medicated for what could simply be age-related immaturity.