Here is a quick overview of some of the recent consultations and publications in the education field. There’s a fair amount happening, even though it’s the summer, partly because the new SEN regime starts in fewer than five weeks.
On the SEN front, the 282 page Code was approved by Parliament on 29 July 2014 and comes into effect on 1 September 2014. The updated transitional guidance is available here. The Department also has updated its implementation guidance documents. Alongside this, there is new statutory guidance specifying performance attainment targets (P scales) and performance descriptors for pupils aged 5 to 16 with SEN who cannot access the national curriculum.
There are also changes afoot for admissions law. The Department has published a consultation paper on Changes to the School Admissions Code, with a closing date of 29 September 2014. The executive summary describes the proposed changes as follows:
“two main changes which would allow:
- all state-funded schools to give priority in their admission arrangements to children eligible for pupil premium or service premium funding;
- admission authorities of primary schools to give priority in their admission arrangements to children eligible for the early years pupil premium, pupil premium or service premium who attend a nursery which is part of the school.”
“minor changes which would:
- revise the timetable for admission arrangements to: bring forward dates for admission authorities to consult locally on their arrangements (and reduce the length of the consultation from 8 to 6 weeks); and
- require admission authorities to amend their admission arrangements to comply with the Code within two months of a decision of the Schools Adjudicator, where the Adjudicator rules the arrangements are unlawful.
- clarify the provisions relating to the admission of summer born children to aid decision-making;
- make clear that the highest priority for admission applies to all children who have been adopted from local authority care.”
Turning to funding issues, there are a number of documents about schools funding arrangements for 2015 to 2016, including how the Department for Education (DfE) will allocate an additional £390 million to increase the per-pupil funding of the least fairly funded local authority (LA) areas in England. Fairer schools funding: arrangements for 2015 to 2016 “describes how funding will be allocated by setting minimum funding levels that every LA will attract for their pupils and schools. It also sets out arrangements for simplifying the administration of academies funding and minor changes to high needs funding and the way schools contribute to the carbon reduction commitment“. Local authority schools block units of funding 2015 to 2016 confirms each LA’s schools block unit of funding for 2015 to 2016 and there is an accompanying technical note and operational guide. The Government also announced additional funding for music education and funding to stretch the brightest children (by protecting formula protection funding for providers delivering successful large programmes).
In other news, there is new statutory guidance for local authorities on Home to school travel and transport guidance. The main points are described as follows:
- There has been no change to school transport legislation and the associated duties continue to rest with local authorities.
- With the widening of the academies programme, the introduction of the free schools programme, and all schools now having the power to decide their session times, there will be an increasing need for local stakeholders to work together in partnership to agree and deliver transport policies that meet the particular needs of their area.
- The guidance on appeals has changed and is intended to ensure greater consistency in approach and to be clearer and more transparent for both parents and local authorities.
- The policy for post 16 transport is different from that for compulsory school aged children (5-16). See the separate Departmental guidance for post-16 transport.
- Local authorities should review travel policies, arrangements and contracts regularly to ensure best value for money is achieved.”
Finally, there is new Departmental guidance giving advice for handling strike action in schools. In summary:
- It provides advice on keeping schools open on strike days, and explains the law on trade disputes and picketing.
- In the event of strike action at a school, the Department for Education expects the headteacher to take all reasonable steps to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible.
- The decision to open, partially open, or close a maintained school is for the headteacher. The decision for academies rests with the academy trust, but is usually delegated to the principal.
- It is best practice for headteachers to consult governors, parents and the Local Authority, academy trust or diocesan representative (where appropriate) before deciding whether to close. Headteachers are entitled to ask staff whether they intend to strike.
Hopefully that’s enough to keep everyone out of mischief over the summer months…
Rachel Kamm, 11KBW