Policy/Research Briefing

6th April 2018 (2 weeks Easter)

Department for Education

New measures to support children with SEND, 29th March

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi announced sponsors for 14 new special free schools across the country. The new schools will create more than 1,100 high-quality school places for children with multiple learning needs, including children with autism and mental health needs. The schools will open under the government’s free schools programme.

The government has also launched a national trial to give the SEND Tribunal new powers, which give parents and young people new rights to appeal decisions on the social care and health parts of their plan. alongside their existing rights around education.

The SEND Tribunal hears appeals about EHC plans where there are disputes, but until now only had powers to look in to concerns on the education element of the plan, creating additional burdens for families or young people who had concerns about the health or social care elements.

The government has recently given £29m to support local authorities with ongoing implementation, and are providing an additional £200,000 for local authority regional SEND coordinators. The Department will also continue to provide specialist SEND advisers to work with local areas, a national SEND helpline for families, ongoing Ofsted/CQC local area inspections and are funding parent carer forums in 2018-19 and 2019-20 (at £2.3m per year).

A SEND review tool to help schools identify priorities and build school to school approaches to improvement is now available. This is supported by a number of tools to address any weaknesses identified by a review available at www.sendgateway.org.uk.

Also the findings of two related studies by IFF Research and University of Derby have been published, highlighting the factors that shape positive user experiences of the Education, Health and Care (EHC) planning process, and illustrate good practice in developing EHC plan content. These are as follows:

Experiences of Education, Health and Care plans: a multivariate analysis, Shepherd, Hanson and Dodd, University of Derby, 29th March

This multivariate analysis presents the links between thThis multivariate analysis detailed in this report presents the links between:

  • Three outcome measures of satisfaction with the EHC planning process: (1) whether survey respondents agreed that the outcomes set out in the plan were likely to be achieved; (2) whether survey respondents agreed that the EHC plan process was a positive experience for the child or young person receiving the plan and (3) overall satisfaction with the process of getting an EHC plan as reported by the survey respondent (young person with SEND or parent/carer of child or young person with SEND)

  • The characteristics of young people with an EHC plan put in place in 2015 (e.g. age of child/young person, gender, ethnicity, deprivation of respondent’s locale)

  • Aspects of the EHC plan service process (e.g. duration of process, who initiated the process, whether the respondent was included in the development of the EHC plan)


The following variables were found to have a significant relationship to the satisfaction variables of interest:

  • Age – where the child was aged under 5 years, or between 5 and 10 years, their parent or carer was more likely to agree that support set out in the EHC plan would achieve the stated outcomes. They were also more likely to be satisfied with the EHC process as a whole compared to other age categories.

  • Ethnicity – non-white respondents were more likely to be positive about the EHC plan process than white respondents.

  • Deprivation – respondents living in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods were less likely to give positive responses for all three outcome measures than respondents not in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods.

  • Duration of the EHC plan process –the shorter the process of receiving an EHC plan, the higher the likelihood of satisfaction.

  • Different services (such as health, care and education) working together – respondents who agreed that different services worked together during the EHC plan process were more likely to agree that their experience of the process was positive, that their EHC plan would achieve its outcomes and that, overall, they were satisfied with the EHC plan process.

  • Child/young person’s wishes and opinions were included - respondents who agreed that the child/young person’s wishes and opinions were included in the development of their EHC plan were more likely to report positive service components for both the ‘outcomes’ and ‘positive experience’ models, highlighting the importance of including the child or young person in the process.

  • Personal circumstances taken into account in the process - respondents who agreed that the child, young person or family’s personal needs and circumstances were taken into account in the process were more likely to agree that their experience of the EHC plan process was positive, that their EHC plan’s outcomes would be achieved and that, overall, they were satisfied with the EHC plan process.

  • Easy for the child or young person to understand – respondents who agreed that it was easy for the child or young person to understand their EHC plan were more likely to report that the child or young person found the process to be a positive experience and to report overall satisfaction with both the process and the plan itself.

  • EHC plan has led to the child/young person getting the support that they need – respondents who stated that the EHC plan has led to the child or young person getting the support that they need were more likely to report overall satisfaction with the EHC plan.

Education, Health and Care plans: A qualitative investigation into service user experiences of the planning process, Adams et al., 29th March

The following were identified as leading to positive experiences of the EHC Plan process in LAs.

  • One individual in a LA or setting taking an interest and taking ownership and support makes a big difference

  • Having dedicated specialist support

  • Having the EHC Plan ready before a transition

  • Working together with sustained face to face contact between the family and the professionals

  • Involving the child / young person in a meaningful manner

Statements of SEN transferring to EHC plans: 1 March 2018, published 29th March

Transferring children and young people from Statements to EHC plans has been phased from the introduction of the SEND reforms in September 2014 to end of March 2018. During the last year of this transition period, the Department has collected monthly information from local authorities on the number of transfers of Statements of SEN yet to be completed. This release sees data from this source published externally for the first time and is intended to give the most recent information available.

Findings show that:

221,920 Statements (94%) have either been: a) transferred to an EHC plan b) assessed and a decision made not to transfer to an EHC plan or c) discontinued because they have left school at the end of compulsory schooling or after. d) reviewed and discontinued as special needs being met without Statement or EHC plan or for other reasons.

Boost to support disadvantaged families during the holidays, 28th March

Organisations across the country are being invited to apply for a share of £2 million funding, the government is making available to research ways of supporting disadvantaged families during the school holidays. Organisations are encouraged to work across a number of regions, or in partnership with other experts.

Evidence suggests that attending out-of-school activities can have a positive impact on children’s educational, health and well-being outcomes.

The bid round opened on 28 March 2018 and will close on Wednesday 18 April 2018. There will be a separate bidding process for participation in planned 2019 Easter and Summer pilots. Organisations can bid for the funding on Contracts Finder

Skills Minister highlights new provider access law for schools, 26th March

The new careers guidance law introduced in January 2018 requires all maintained schools and academies to provide opportunities for a range of education and training providers to have access to pupils, to inform them about approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships.

Skills Minister Anne Milton has highlighted how the Government’s careers strategy sets out how it will ensure all young people can learn from employers and providers about the range of opportunities available to them.

The strategy includes new legislation that aims to give all young people the chance to talk regularly to local education and training providers. This means young people can learn more about different routes to higher-level skills and the workplace, including technical and professional qualifications, apprenticeships, traineeships and supported internships.

Top universities urged to open new maths schools, 26th March

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb has announced that top universities in England can apply to open specialist 16-19 maths schools to help more young people learn from the best mathematicians in the country,

Two maths schools – King’s College London and Exeter Mathematics School – are already achieving outstanding results. In 2017 98% of King’s mathematics students achieved an A or A* in A level mathematics, for Exeter this was 75%.

Ofsted has also singled out both schools for recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds who had not previously had the opportunity to fulfil their potential in mathematics.

The government is determined, through its Industrial Strategy, to increase the number of young people studying maths, helping them to secure good jobs and boosting the UK economy.

It is providing £350,000 dedicated funding each year to existing and future schools to support outreach work with local schools and colleges, sharing their specialist skills, helping to raise standards and get more children studying maths.

See also: Multi-million pound fund for adult learning announced, 29th March

The Flexible Learning Fund will support 32 innovative projects across England to encourage more people to take part in new training or courses that will help them progress in current employment or secure a new job. Projects are aimed at a range of skill levels – teaching beginners all the way through to those who already have a good understanding of a topic. Projects include supporting IT users to gain new skills in cyber security, training older workers and people whose jobs are affected by the need for greater digital skills, and increasing the maths skills and confidence of adults already in work. The list of organisations which have received funding is available on the website.

High needs strategic planning fund, 28th March

High needs funding is funding for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) who need extra support at school or college, or for those in alternative provision. Alternative provision is for children who can’t go to a mainstream school.

These documents provide local authorities with:

  • Details about high needs strategic planning fund allocations for 2016 to 2017, how to use it, and how the money has been paid

  • A benchmarking tool to help compare high needs provision and spending between local authorities

School workforce planning, 28th March

This applies to all schools and will help school leaders review their staff structures regularly, as part of annual school improvement, curriculum and financial planning.

Key stage 4 qualifications, discount codes and point scores, 29th March

This information is for schools, colleges and awarding organisations :approved key stage 4 qualifications, discount codes and point scores for reporting in the 2014 to 2020 school and college performance tables.

Equality and diversity school leadership projects, 29th March

Updated to include a new list of schools for 2018 to 2020, including second bullet point copy amended and page retagged to DfE. These schools have obtained a grant to help them increase the diversity of senior leadership teams in England’s schools. This information is for: teachers who’d like to improve their leadership skills through a leadership, equality and diversity project and schools who’d like to apply for funding from a regional hub lead school.

Induction for newly qualified teachers (NQTs), 1st April

Statutory guidance on NQT inductions for headteachers, school staff and governing bodies.

Subject knowledge enhancement (SKE): course providers, 6th April

An overview and directory of subject knowledge enhancement courses for lead schools and initial teacher training (ITT) providers. This guidance is for School Direct lead schools and ITT providers who are allocated training places in: biology, chemistry, computing, design and technology, geography, languages, maths and physics.

Department for Education- Further Education

Further Education Commissioner objective setting letter, 5th April

A letter from Anne Milton, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, to the FE Commissioner. The minister sets out key objectives for the academic year and highlights outcomes towards which the FE Commissioner’s work will contribute.

‘……..I expect you to work towards the following objectives:

  • To ensure colleges that trigger formal intervention improve as quickly as possible, and that improvement is sustained.

  • To ensure, through the diagnostic assessment process, that fewer colleges fall into formal intervention.

  • To help ensure that FE provision is financially sustainable, through facilitating appropriate and effective restructuring where necessary.

  • To provide leadership to the FE college sector and help bring together organisations that fund, monitor and seek to improve colleges, in order to accelerate quality improvement, and strengthen the capacity of the sector to improve itself. To ensure that Ministers and policy officials have a wide range of evidence and advice to inform policy development and implementation.

  • To lead a team of Deputies and Advisors.

  • Through all of your functions, to strengthen leadership and governance in FE colleges, and further develop peer support and the sharing of good practice amongst colleges’.

Skills Minister calls on employers to join new T level panels, 27th March

Skills Minister Anne Milton has called on industry experts from agriculture, environmental and animal care; business and administration; hair and beauty; creative and design; and catering and hospitality to join the influential T level employer panels and help develop the outline content for new qualifications.

Further education and skills: March 2018, 29th March

Key data

There were 194,100 apprenticeship starts reported so far for the first two quarters of the 2017/18 academic year, compared to 258,800 reported at this time in 2016/17, a decrease of 25.0 per cent.

There have been 103,300 levy-supported starts so far, of which, 82,200 were reported in the first two quarters of 2017/18. There were 1,313,700 apprenticeship starts reported to January 2018 since May 2015 and 3,691,200 starts reported to January 2018 since May 2010.

677,300 learners participated on an apprenticeship in the first two quarters of the 2017/18 academic year, based on provisional data, compared to 731,600 reported at this time in 2016/17, a decrease of 7.4 per cent.

(This release contains provisional figures for the first two quarters of the 2017/18 academic year (August 2017 to January 2018) for England. It provides data for all adult Further Education and skills and incorporates an update to the January Apprenticeships and Traineeships quarterly release which also includes 16-18 year olds on those programmes).

See also: FE Data Library Apprenticeships - updated with a number of data tools and tables for Q2 2017/18; including renaming corresponding files representing Q1 2017/18 to clarify the time periods they represent. Moved the 'Apprenticeships by age and planned length of stay: starts 2008/09 to 2016/17' file to the 'FE data library: other statistics and research' collection.

See also: Apprenticeship and levy statistics: March 2018 - Statistics covering latest monthly apprenticeship starts, apprenticeship service registrations and commitments, and apprenticeship levy information.

Apprenticeships: off-the-job training hours estimates, 29th March

Analysis by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) that estimates the overall volume of hours of off-the-job training for apprentices.

Apprenticeship starts in the first two quarters of 2017/18 have shown a fall and a significant shift to apprenticeships with higher expected training intensity relative to the previous year. It is estimated that the expected total off-the job training in the first two quarters of the 2017/18 academic year decreased by ~8 per cent relative to the same period in 2016/17 (from 140m off-the-job training hours to 130m off-the-job training hours respectively), compared to a decrease in starts in the same period of ~25 per cent (from 258,800 starts to 194,100 starts). The level of training in 2017/18 is likely to be greater than estimated, indicating that there is likely to have been little or no reduction in the level of training this year compared to last.

See also research report below Apprenticeship training in England – a cost-effective model for firms?


Outcomes for children looked after by LAs: 31 March 2017, 28th March

Key Stage 2


  • In 2017, 32% of looked after children reached the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics (61% for non-looked after children).

  • 59% of looked after children at the end of key stage 2 have a special educational need (SEN) identified, compared to 49% of children in need and 17% of non-looked after children; attainment rates for children with a SEN are much lower.

  • Looking at children with no identified SEN, the attainment difference between looked after children and non looked after children is less than for the overall total. For example, 57% of looked after children with no identified SEN achieved the expected standard or above in the headline measure reading, writing and mathematics, compared to 70% of non-looked after children, which reduces the attainment difference for this measure by 16 percentage points from the overall total attainment difference. 

  • Children in need attainment by SEN is published for the first time this year. There is a similar pattern for children in need when compared to non-looked after children. In addition, for pupils with an identified SEN, the difference in attainment for looked after children and children in need compared to non-looked after children is much smaller at 5 percentage points or less.

  • Within the looked after children group, girls outperform boys in all subjects. Generally, the gender attainment difference for looked after children is similar to previous years and similar to patterns seen for non-looked after children. 


  • Looked after children progress less well than non-looked after children in the overall total, with the largest difference being in mathematics, where looked after children have an average progress score of -1.1 compared to non-looked after children who make average progress (progress score of 0.0).

  • When SEN is considered- No identified SEN – looked after children progress better than non-looked after children in reading, writing and mathematics; SEN support – looked after children progress better than non-looked after children in reading and writing and equally in mathematics; SEN statement or EHC plan – non-looked after children progress better than looked after children

Key Stage 4


  • The average Attainment 8 score for looked after children is 19.3 compared to 44.5 for non-looked after children and 19.3 for children in need.

  • 56% of looked after children at the end of key stage 4 have a special educational need (SEN) identified, compared to 48% of children in need and 14% of non-looked after children; attainment rates for children with a SEN are much lower.

  • The attainment difference between looked after children and non-looked after children for this measure is reduced when the effects of the proportion of children with SEN in each group are removed, by looking at those with no identified SEN, those with SEN statements or EHC plans and those with SEN support separately. Children in need attainment by SEN is published for the first time this year. There is a similar pattern for children in need when compared to non-looked after children.


  • Looked after children and children in need progress less well then non-looked after children in all groups. However, for those with statements or EHC plans, children in need progress slightly better than looked after children. Looked after boys progress less well than looked after girls in all groups, a similar pattern is seen for non-looked after children.

  • Looked after children in free schools progress more than in other school types, however this is to be treated with caution as the number of looked after children in free schools is relatively small. Non-looked after children in free schools also progress better than other school types. 

  • For both looked after children and non-looked after children, children in alternative provision progress least well.

  • Looked after children in long term care have higher progress scores than pupils whose most recent period of care is much shorter.


  • Looked after children are almost four times more likely to have a special educational need (SEN) than all children and are almost 10 times more likely to have a statement of special educational need or education, health and care (EHC) plan than all children.

  • Social, emotional and mental health is the most common primary type of special educational need for looked after children, covering 37.6% of those with a statement or EHC plan and 45.6% of those with SEN support. This contrasts with the child population as a whole6 where 12.4% of those with a statement or EHC plan and 17.3% of those with SEN support have social, emotional and mental health as their primary type of special educational need.


  • Absence rates for looked after children have increased from last year – overall absence increased from 3.9% of sessions missed in 2016 to 4.3% in 2017. The percentage of looked after children classified as persistent absentees has remained steady over recent years from 10.1% in 2013 to 10.0% in 2017.


  • Looked after children are more than five times more likely to have a fixed period exclusion than all children, around one and a half times more likely than children in need.

Characteristics of children in need: 2016 to 2017 (published in Nov 2017, updated to include tables on outcomes of children in need).

Key Data

The number of children in need at 31st March has decreased this year, from 394,400 in 2016 to 389,430 in 2017, a decrease of 1.3%. The number of children in need at 31st March has remained relatively stable over the last seven years. At its lowest, it was 369,410 in 2012, and at its highest, it was 397,630 in 2014.

The number of child protection plans at 31st March has increased this year, from 50,310 in 2016 to 51,080 in 2017, an increase of 1.5%. The number of child protection plans starting and ending during the year both continue to increase.

Characteristics of children in need.

The gender split of children in need at 31st March 2017 remains similar to previous years – 53.0% are male, 45.1% are female and 2.0% are unborn or of unknown gender.

The age split of children in need at 31st March 2017 also remains broadly similar to previous years, with the largest age group being those aged 10-15 years accounting for 31.2% of children in need.

Children aged under 5 account for 23.1%.

The percentage of children in need at 31st March with a disability recorded has increased this year from 12.7% in 2016 to 12.9% in 2017. The percentage of children in need with a disability recorded has fluctuated over the last six years, however there has been an overall decrease, from 14.2% in 2011 to 12.9% in 2017.


Surveys on childcare and early years in England, 29th March

Closes: 11.45am 18th May

The government is seeking user perspectives on the childcare and early years survey of parents, which provides information on parents with children aged 0 to 14 in England. It covers parents’ and their children’s use of childcare and early years provision, and their views and experiences.

They are seeking views on the survey of childcare and early years providers, which collects information on the main characteristics of childcare and early years providers in England.

The consultation is focused on the following aspects of each survey:

  • Frequency

  • Sampling

  • Mode(s)

  • Topic coverage

  • Outputs and approaches to dissemination

Any changes to the surveys will be introduced from 2019 onwards.


Childcare providers and inspections as at 31 December 2017 (for the term), 27th March 2018

Key findings

There were 42,300 childminders registered with Ofsted on 31 December 2017. This was down by 500 (1%) since 31 August 2017, and by 15,100 (26%) since 31 August 2012.

There were 27,100 childcare providers on non-domestic premises on 31 December 2017. There were more non-domestic joiners than leavers between 31 August and 31 December 2017.

The proportion of childcare providers on the Early Years Register judged to be good or outstanding was 94%. This has been consistent since 31 August 2017, but represents an increase of 20 percentage points since 31 August 2012.

On 31 December 2017, 93% of childminders were judged good or outstanding compared with 95% of non-domestic providers. This gap has narrowed by one percentage point since 31 August 2017.

Commenting on the statistics, PACEY Chief Executive Liz Bayram said:
“Yet another fall in the number of registered childminders, bringing the total drop to 26% since 2012, continues to concern PACEY as it means less families can choose childminding if they want to. Whilst the number of childminding places hasn’t fallen as significantly is of little comfort. We have said before that childminding in England is at a crossroads. Nearly all (93%) childminding settings are now ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ at a time when there is unprecedented demand for childcare. Childminding therefore should be thriving. However, as the latest statistics show, it is likely to continue to decline unless action is taken from government and local authorities to make the funding sustainable for childminders to deliver the free entitlement; to actively encourage childminders to be part of local delivery plans and to improve parental awareness and understanding of childminding provision.”

Fostering in England: 2016-2017, year to March 31st 2017

As at 31 March 2017, there were 83,930 approved fostering places, representing a 1% increase on the previous year (83,175). The proportion that were filled increased from 61% to 62% but the proportion that were ‘not available’ also increased, from 16% (13,000) to 18% (15,520).

There were 43,710 approved fostering households as at 31 March 2017, a 1% decrease from last year (44,320). The overall number has decreased by 2% since March 2014 (44,780).

There was an 11% increase in the number of family and friends (including ‘connected person’) households from 5,985 on 31 March 2016 to 6,615 this year. This was the fourth consecutive year of increased numbers of this type of household.

There was an increase of 9% in applications considered during 2016-17 compared with last year, from 11,460 to 12,455, with a similar proportion completed. However, the conversion rate of completed applications to approvals decreased from 57% to 49%.

As at 31 March 2017, 24% of fostered children were from minority ethnic groups, compared with 14% of all foster carers.

The proportion of young people staying put with their foster family after turning 18 during the year decreased by eight percentage points in comparison with last year – 46% (1,570) stayed put in 2016–17 compared with 54% (2,190) in 2015–16. In LA foster families 52% of young people stayed put, in IFA foster families 38% stayed put.

Thirteen percent of children who experienced at least one unplanned ending had persistent school absence in comparison with 5% of children with no unplanned endings. The rate of persistent school absence increased to 19% for children who experienced at least one unplanned ending and at least one educational placement change.

Maintained schools and academies inspections and outcomes as at 31 August 2017, 3rd April, republished to include an updated sentence

'Conversion rates were higher for secondary schools than primary schools: 38% compared with 28%'. (Figures for primary and secondary schools were transposed in the versions published previously).

Local area SEND inspection outcome letters, 29th March

Bedford - All special schools, a high proportion of nursery provision, mainstream primary and secondary schools, and further education providers were judged by Ofsted as good or outstanding at their most recent inspection.

Wiltshire - Outcomes continue to improve for children at the end of the early years educational provision. Children who have SEN and/or disabilities make good progress by the end of the Reception Year. Pre-school children with identified SEN benefit from attending children’s centres in Wiltshire. Leaders plan transition arrangements carefully, involving parents. As a result, children transfer to schools successfully from these settings and settle quickly. They continue to make good progress in reading, writing and mathematics in key stages 1 and 2. In 2017, the proportion of children and young people at the end of key stage 2 reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics with a statement of special educational needs or EHC plan increased. Those children and young people reaching the expected standard with SEN support is also improving.

St Helen’s - There is a disconnect between the aspirations and ambitions for all children and young people across St Helens and those who have SEN and/or disabilities. Senior leaders and managers across health, social care and education have not agreed the key performance indicators for children and young people who have SEN and/or disabilities. Consequently, there is no consistent view of how the implementation of reforms is having an impact on outcomes for children and young people who have SEN and/or disabilities. n Parents, carers and young people are frustrated by the poor provision for young people who have SEN and/or disabilities aged 18 to 25 in St Helens. Parents and carers lament the limited choice for education, the dearth of supported internships and lack of suitable leisure opportunities. This hinders the ability of young people who have SEN and/or disabilities to realise their potential as they move into adulthood. 

Further education and skills inspection handbook, amended 4th April

Replaces support and challenge visits with monitoring visits for requires improvement providers and in other circumstances following the consultation: 

Inspecting learning and skills training for people in custody, Guidance

This has been republished since September 2017, to amend language (primarily) with the recent policy changes. Removed reference to support and challenge visits and replaced with monitoring visits post-consultation, removed references to the National Careers Service throughout, including the separate judgement relating to it, to take account of the changes to arrangements for careers guidance in prisons from April 2018, along with other minor edits.

How Ofsted supports further education and skills providers, 4th April

Changed to cover remaining support and challenge visits to providers that were judged to require improvement and were inspected before 10 November 2017 following the consultation: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/inspection-visits-to-further-education-and-skills-providers-judged-to-require-improvement

Inspecting registered early years providers: guidance for inspectors

Republished to make the following updates:

Paragraph 4 to reflect current inspection cycle. Paragraphs 37 & 59 amended for the removal of the Ofsted self-evaluation form (SEF) and confirming there is no requirement for self-evaluation to be written. Paragraph 109 clarification that it is an offence to fail to notify Ofsted of a significant event or fail to comply with a condition of registration, ‘without good reason’. Paragraph 113 deleted final sentence to remove duplication. Paragraph 107 provides guidance of when an inspector should contact ARC about an inadequate judgement. Paragraph 121 further clarification to confirm that we do not make the judgement on ‘outcomes for children’ for providers who provide care exclusively before or after school for younger than Reception aged children. Paragraph 134 inspection managers added to those who may undertake quality assurance of inspections. Paragraphs 148 & 170 references to ‘narrowing gaps’ amended to ‘reduce any differences’. Paragraph 153 minor amendment to the final bullet in good grade descriptors for effectiveness of leadership and management to more accurately reflect descriptors for overall effectiveness. Deleted ‘the setting meets the statutory safeguarding requirements’. And inspectors will continue to refer to guidance in paragraphs 100 to 104 of what they should do when they find a provider is not meeting a requirement.

Social care questionnaires 2017: what children and young people told Ofsted, 4th April

Each year, Ofsted uses online questionnaires to gather views about social care services- children’s homes and foster carers

Ofsted uses the responses, along with other information like previous inspection findings or concerns, to decide when to inspect and what to focus the inspection on.

Findings showed some minor changes since 2016.

Key findings:

  • Children need to understand why they came into care
  • Children can find moving into a new home a difficult experience
  • Children need to be able to build relationships with adults they can trust
  • Children rely on the adults caring for them to help keep them safe


Stop Start: Survival, decline or closure? Children’s Centres in England, 2018, Smith et al., April 2018: Sutton Trust/ Oxford University

The researchers used administrative data, a survey of local authorities and a series of case studies to paint a picture of what has happened to children’s centres across England. It shows decline, both in numbers and services, but also adaptation and a struggle to survive.

Key findings

  • The national database recorded a 14% drop in centre numbers between 2009 and October 2017. However, there is no clear definition of a ‘children’s centre’ and therefore many closures announced locally were not yet reflected in the database: this survey showed a 16% drop.

  • By 2017, sixteen authorities closing 50% or more of their centres accounted for 55% of the total number of closures nationally. Six authorities (West Berkshire, Camden, Stockport, Bromley, Oxfordshire and Staffordshire) had closed more than 70% of their centres. Despite this reduction, the proportion of centres in the 30% most disadvantaged areas remained constant from 2009 to 2017 at just over 50%. So, numbers dropped but the focus on disadvantaged areas remained.

  • More centres operate on a part-time basis only and the number of services has fallen. While most centres still offer open access services to families of all backgrounds, these have been reduced, restricted to fewer centres or to fewer sessions. Six out of ten local authorities reported most centres were open full-time; but few or none were open full-time in almost one in five authorities. Reduced services were reported by 55% of local authorities, with only 35% providing a range of ten or more services.

  • Financial pressures came top in 84% of local authorities as a principal driver of change in recent years.

  • ‘Change of focus’ came a close second (80%) as a driver of change. This was not just a move towards greater targeting of individual high need families and away from open access. It was also a way of integrating children’s centres into a wider package of ‘early help’ as part of local teams with a much wider age range (0-19), with more than 40% of authorities extending the age range to include school age children.

  • Changed national and local priorities have played a part. The suspension of Ofsted inspections and the lack of any national guidance since 2013 on the purpose of children’s centres were seen in our survey as reducing the importance of children’s centres. The effect was to reduce the strength of children’s centres in local authority priorities.

To What Extent and Under Which Circumstances Are Growth Mind-Sets Important to Academic Achievement? Two Meta-Analyses, March 2018, Sisk et al: Psychological Science

Mind-sets are beliefs about the nature of human attributes (e.g., intelligence). The theory holds that individuals with growth mind-sets (beliefs that attributes are malleable with effort) enjoy many positive outcomes—including higher academic achievement—while their peers who have fixed mind-sets experience negative outcomes. Given this relationship, interventions designed to increase students’ growth mind-sets—thereby increasing their academic achievement—have been implemented in schools around the world. In the first of two meta-analysis (k = 273, N = 365,915), the researchers examined the strength of the relationship between mind-set and academic achievement and potential moderating factors. In the second meta-analysis (k = 43, N = 57,155), researchers examined the effectiveness of mind-set interventions on academic achievement and potential moderating factors. Overall effects were weak for both meta-analyses. However, some results supported specific tenets of the theory, namely, that students with low socioeconomic status or who are academically at risk might benefit from mind-set interventions.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Interventions Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The authors have reviewed recent evidence on U.S.-based SEL interventions for K–12 students to better inform the use of SEL interventions under ESSA. This report discusses the opportunities for supporting SEL under ESSA, the standards of evidence under ESSA, and SEL interventions that meet the standards of evidence and might be eligible for federal funds through ESSA. Federal, state, and district education policymakers can use this report to identify relevant, evidence-based SEL interventions that meet their local needs. 60 SEL programmes met strong, moderate, or promising evidence standards in grades K-12 (Years 1 to 13). Most were evaluated at the primary school level in urban communities with minority populations. An accompanying report describes the interventions in more detail.

Practices to improve schools differ from other areas of the economy, UCL, IOE, 28th March

The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, analyses data from a survey conducted in 2004 and again in 2011, which asked nationally representative samples of managers responsible for human resource management (HRM) which of 48 HRM practices were in use at their workplace. Schools use an average of 27 HRM practices, compared to 24 in the for-profit non-schools sector and 26 in the non-schools public sector. 

The researchers from UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and NIESR found that schools benefit from increased use of rigorous hiring practices when selecting new recruits, employee participation mechanisms (such as team briefings) and careful record-keeping, none of which seem to improve workplace performance elsewhere in the economy. 

Science clubs can help socially disadvantaged pupils’ scientific aspirations, UCL, IOE, 28th March

The research indicates that extra-curricular activities in science, such as after school clubs, can help to increase scientific aspirations of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The study also found certain teaching approaches, including hands-on science teaching, helped increase future aspirations. Pupils’ scientific aspirations were associated with how useful they thought science was for their future and their intrinsic interest in science. Additionally, their confidence in their own abilities in science, encouragement from teachers and family to study science post-16, and family science capital (family encouragement towards, and shared family participation in, extra-curricular science activities) had smaller but significant associations. 

The analysis, led by Dr Tamjid Mujtaba, examined the survey responses of 4780 students in Year 7 (age 11-12 years) and in Year 8 (age 12-13) from schools in England with high proportions of those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Apprenticeship training in England-a cost effective model for firms? Walter and Joho, 6th April: Education Policy Institute (EPI) and Bertelsmann Stiftung with support from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation

Published on the first anniversary of the Apprenticeship Levy, the report examines the benefits of a Swiss-style apprenticeship model for English firms.The Swiss model for training apprentices includes longer training programmes, more ‘off-the-job’ training, and is recognised for creating an effective transition from school to the labour market. Switzerland outperforms many European countries in the area of skills.Different variations of the Swiss model were examined, with the cost-benefit analysis assessing ten occupations over a range of sectors in England.

Key findings

Cost-benefit analysis: employers and apprentices

Apprenticeships of longer duration are likely to bring higher returns for both employers and apprentices, due to productivity increases over the course of training. Shorter apprenticeships are common in England – yet companies could benefit significantly from three-year apprenticeship programmes. 

Employers and apprentices are likely to see more positive economic returns from training beginning at an earlier age. Combined with a longer apprenticeships programme, the chances of a firm breaking even, or making gains at the end an apprenticeship are highest for apprentices that are younger than 19 years old.

Large companies may be more likely to experience net benefits from hiring apprentices than small and medium-sized companies, due to economies of scale and different salary structures. For those sectors or areas in England with a high proportion of small and medium-sized companies, additional policy interventions may be therefore required to offset costs.

There is a wide variation across occupations, sectors and firms – with benefits highly dependent on factors such as the apprentice’s salary:

Providing apprentices are on the minimum wage (£3.50), by the end of their training period a benefit for firms is generated in virtually all occupations. If a higher wage apprentice model is applied (rising to £7.05 after the first year), about half of the ten occupations produce costs for firms of around one month’s wage of a skilled worker.

Some apprenticeship occupations in particular produce considerable benefits – such as bricklayers, electricians, and IT/software developers – with employers still able to see positive economic returns even after awarding higher pay to apprentices on these programmes. 

Despite this, other, higher wage scenarios are not financially sustainable when applied to certain occupations. There are significant costs for firms for car mechanics, commercial bank employees, cooks, retail cashiers and waiters. 

In order to ensure apprenticeships are profitable for all employers in the long-term, the retention of apprentices after training is complete is crucial. Regardless of whether a minimum wage or higher wage model is adopted, if firms keep apprentices on after their training is complete, any costs arising in the near term would eventually be compensated by saving on hiring new workers from outside the firm.

If they face net costs when initially hiring apprentices, employers should assess whether an apprenticeship could be regarded as an investment in future middle management positions.

See also Blog by Bart Shaw, LKMco - who highlights the three messages from the report- train longer, earlier and better.

He concludes that these three lessons show that we have some way to go in England before we can convince firms, and young people, that apprenticeships are worth investing in. Government is going to have to accept that it needs to continue to invest in apprenticeships. This means raising quality, re-thinking how apprenticeships interact with other academic pathways, and reducing drop- out rates. These are the prerequisites before apprenticeships are universally seen as a viable pathway for both employers and young people.

International -Wales

Education Secretary launches new Foundation Phase Excellence Network, 28th March: Welsh Government, Education and Skills

A new network which aims to improve the teaching and learning of the Foundation Phase across all schools and education settings in Wales is to be launched by Education Secretary Kirsty Williams today during a visit to Llanrhidian Primary School in Swansea.

The Foundation Phase Excellence Network brings together leading figures from across the education spectrum to ensure a more structured approach to develop Foundation Phase practitioner support for those working with children age three to seven.

With the aim of inspiring young minds together, and supported by £1millon Welsh Government funding, the network will include representation from local authority education services, schools and child care settings that deliver the Foundation Phase, regional consortia, Higher Education and third sector organisations which will work together to share expertise, experience, knowledge and best practice.

A new online community learning zone has also been established to facilitate the sharing of information, resources and research between practitioners. The zone will also host 20 new case studies including three short films which showcase effective practice in Foundation Phase.

They have been produced by working collaboratively with schools and settings from across Wales in five key areas of practice: child development, environment experiences, leadership, pedagogy and Welsh language. The case studies will be available on the new zone during March and April.

Managed moves: Effective use of managed moves by local authorities and schools, Estyn, 29th March

Estyn’s report, ‘Effective use of managed moves by local authorities and schools’, examines the transfer of pupils who may have emotional and behavioural difficulties and are at risk of permanent exclusion, pose a risk to the welfare of others, or refuse to attend school. Effective case studies are included in the report to encourage local authorities and schools to reflect on their current practices.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says,

Managing the move of a pupil to try out a new school for a fresh start can provide a realistic alternative to permanent exclusion and eliminate the use of unofficial exclusions as a way of managing challenging behaviour. In effective schools, a managed move is offered at an early stage of support to ensure pupils have the best opportunity to succeed and when appropriate can return to their home school.

Carefully managing these moves is a challenge for the majority of schools and one of the recommendations of today’s report is to strengthen the guidance to address inconsistencies in practice across Wales.

The report highlights Coedcae secondary school in Carmarthenshire which has strengthened its provision for vulnerable learners so that more pupils can maintain their place without the need to move to another school. Overcoming financial constraints, introducing new policies and training staff, the school ensures that any child who began to show signs of emotional or behavioural difficulty would have timely access to personal support. The school has seen a notable reduction in fixed-term exclusions and in managed move requests to the local authority.  Its inclusive ethos has also had a positive effect on pupil wellbeing and attendance. 

Current monitoring and tracking practices mean that there is no national data about the number of pupils undergoing a managed move.  Estyn inspectors recommend that the Welsh Government collects this data, as well as strengthening the guidance for schools and the legal rights for pupils who make a managed move to bring them in line with that for pupils who are permanently excluded. The 12 recommendations in the report also outline steps for local authorities and schools aimed at improving the experience and support for pupils moving schools and their families.

Teaching - a self-improving profession? Together we can do it. Here's how, 28th March, Professor Marilyn Leask: Education workforce Council, Wales

In this blog, Marilyn Leask talks about how an international network of educators has come together i to create and keep updated, an open online research informed knowledge base, using as far as possible, resources already in the education system e.g. the existing research activity by teachers and teacher educators. The initiative is called MESH - Mapping Educational Specialist knowHow.


Celebrating the transformative power of school libraries, blog by Victoria Dilly, manager of our Love our Libraries programme, 29th March, National Literacy Trust

The author discusses how school libraries are crucial for children’s social, emotional and academic development.

Achievement for All Areas for consideration

Outcomes for children looked after by LAs: 31 March 2017, 28th March

The statistics show that children looked after do not perform as well as other children at the end of primary and secondary education. They are also more likely to be absent from school and/or excluded.

Achievement for All works with schools o support and drive better outcomes for children