F O R E W O R D S The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP The Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP S O U T H O F E N G L A N D R E P R E S E N T A T I V E S The Loddon School Marish Academy Trust Woodford County High School Master Brain Academy Ark Evelyn Grace Academy
St Dominic’s Sixth Form College The Sheiling Ringwood Cliff Park Ormiston Academy Evelina Hospital School
F E A T U R E S Review of the Year Review of Parliament
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Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19. In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy. We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions. With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4 per cent of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering
FOREWORD | our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe. And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world. As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us. writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us “ “ I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now
More than any other event in our time, Covid-19 has laid bare the inequalities in our education system. The pandemic has exposed how many children lack basic digital access – standard fare these days for a chance to climb the ladder of opportunity and secure high-quality jobs, as the world marches headlong into the fourth industrial revolution. As they spent more time cocooned at home, we learned about the other ills that damaged children’s learning. Plenty did their best to study in unsuitable work environments and, despite the remarkable efforts of teachers and support staff, some discarded their learning altogether. Others grappled with their mental wellbeing, increasingly eroded by the rigid tedium of the same recycled days. According to the NHS, one in six children aged 5-16 had a probable mental disorder as of July 2020. In 2017, that figure was one in nine. Looking forward, we all have a role to play - politicians, parents, teachers, employers, civil society - to ensure the life chances of ‘Generation Covid’ are not blighted for years to come. This starts with the efficient rollout of the Government’s academic catch-up plan over the course of this Parliament. First, assessing every pupil as to how much learning they have lost, and what extra tuition is needed, particularly for those disadvantaged pupils who have been left-behind furthest by school closures. Perhaps, it will require extending the school day - bringing charities and community organisations into schools to provide sports and mental health support. The Holiday Activities and Food programme will be an important opportunity to allow children (and their parents) to recuperate. They can socialise with friends, e Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee
improve their physical health through sports, and receive a nutritious free meal. In the longer-term, a real plan to address social injustice in education would recognise the need for early intervention and support for early-years providers. It should promote family hubs across the country - offering everything from childcare, healthcare and social services, skills training and careers advice for parents. The impact of Covid-19 on education has sparked a much-needed debate around whether our education system and assessment is currently fit for purpose. It is time the Government reevaluates the future of A Levels, possibly replacing them with a wider baccalaureate that blends vocational, technical and academic education, as more than 146 countries currently offer. In the past, the mantra has been: “education, education, education” and “university, university, university”. Now, our focus must be on: “catch-up, catch-up, catch-up” and “skills, skills, skills”. That way, we can ensure that the ‘Corona cohort’ will have the opportunities in life that they have every right to have. teachers, employers, civil society – to ensure the life chances of ‘Generation Covid’ are not blighted for years to come “ “ We all have a role to play – politicians, parents,
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EDUCATION Review of the Year
Covid restrictions and home schooling
The Guardian quoted Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union: “Courtney said: ‘The fact that secretary of state Gavin Williamson and the prime minister refuse to see sense and allow the professional judgment of headteachers and local authorities to take precedent is shameful and yet another grave error of judgment in a long line of such errors’.” The announcement of a further lockdown did not apply to vulnerable children and children of critical workers, but almost all other children were being home-schooled again. Many parents found this very stressful and gained an insight into parts of the curriculum that seemed archaic to them, for example “fronted adverbials”. But for many, home-schooling was not just stressful; it was virtually impossible. In January, Child Poverty Action Group Project Lead Kaye Anstey told the BBC: “We spoke to thousands of parents, carers and children and the thing we heard was that up to 40 per cent of them did not only not have access to a laptop or the internet, but also to other things like printers, even stationery and craft materials.” Mr Williamson, the education secretary, said: “It is this country’s priority to get all children and young people back into face-to-face education and apprenticeship training, but it is crucial we do this at the right time and I want to assure parents, teachers, children and young people that schools, colleges and universities will be the first to fully return as soon as the public health picture allows it.”
Schools in England opened on March 8 as part of the prime minister’s cautious four-part plan to lift lockdown measures
In January, Boris Johnson, the prime minister, confirmed schools and colleges would not return to full face- to-face learning until after the February half-term, at the earliest. This had followed a week of embarrassing U-turns from the government on when schools could return. On Sunday, Mr Johnson had appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show telling parents to send their children in the next day. The following evening, after a day’s schooling for the nation’s children, he gave a live press conference to announce schools would be shut from the following day. Two weeks earlier, the government had threatened legal action against two local councils who had wanted to end their school terms early amid concerns about the raised infection rates in their boroughs. Islington and Greenwich local authorities in London joined Waltham Forest in being forced to abandon their plans under pressure from the government.
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After the most disrupted year for education ever outside of wartime, the education system faced a mammoth effort to catch up. In February, headteachers’ leaders warned against “gimmicks” to try to make good the lost time. The BBC quoted Geoff Barton, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, saying speculation about shorter holidays and longer school days were a bad idea and would be end up “grind(ing) out more hours from tired children”. He said if extra classes were made compulsory, it was unrealistic to expect to fine the parents of children who did not attend. Nick Gibb, the schools minister, told the Commons education select committee he was “open to all ideas” on catching up and would “leave no stone unturned”. Earlier in February, Sir Kevan Collins had been appointed education recovery commissioner. His appointment came alongside an announcement of an extra £300 million to help with catching up, on top of the £1 billion Covid catch-up fund announced in June 2020. In January, Mr Williamson said in a speech to the Education Policy Institute: “Unprecedented problems require unprecedented solutions – and schools, teachers and leaders have all pulled together to bring about one of the biggest shifts the education sector has ever seen. Our increasing dependence on technology has changed our entire approach to teaching with a switch to remote education.” He said while some aspects of remote learning were challenging, others had Catching up
been “an unqualified success”. He praised teachers who had transferred the curriculum into remote lessons and staff in his department for the “massive logistical project” of buying and delivering hundreds of thousands of extra devices for children without one in “one of the world’s largest hardware shopping expeditions”. In February, charity Business2Schools, which distributes refurbished technology to children, said a “high volume of need” remained.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
Sir Kevan has worked in the education sector for more than three decades as a teacher, a children’s services director and as the chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation. Mr Williamson, the education secretary, said: “He will be a tremendous asset to those young people, their families, and everyone working in education who have my lasting gratitude for their efforts to support young people throughout the pandemic.” The June fund was announced before schools returned to full running in
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Schools have received approximately £650m in funding to catch up on learning lost
Trust, said: “Despite the heroic efforts of schools, many pupils’ learning has suffered as a result of school closures. These children are drawn disproportionately from disadvantaged communities and need extensive support.” “Extensive trials show that high- quality tuition is a cost-effective way to enable pupils to catch up. Through a collaboration of organisations across the country, our aim is to make this tuition available to tens of thousands of primary and secondary school pupils. Our hope is that it becomes a powerful tool for teachers in the years to come.” In December, a package of “exceptional measures” was announced to help students taking exams in the summer of 2021. The education department said in recognition of the challenges faced by young people this year “grades will be more generous, students will be given advance notice of some topic areas, and steps will be taken to ensure every student receives a grade, even if they miss a paper due to self-isolation or illness.”
September and saw £650 million shared between state primary and secondary schools over the 2020–21 academic year. The government said in its announcement: “Whilst head teachers will decide how the money is spent, the government expects this to be spent on small group tuition for whoever needs it. The fund covers the National Tutoring Programme that is already up and running. This was the other £350 million of the £1 billion pot. Mr Johnson, the prime minister, said: “I want to once again thank teachers, childcare workers and support staff for the brilliant work they have been doing throughout the pandemic. “This includes providing remote education for those not in school, as well as face-to-face education for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.” The Education Endowment Foundation welcomed the move.
Chair Sir Peter Lampl, who also founded and chairs the Sutton
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Testing and making classrooms Covid-secure
The focus on testing in schools was ramped up ahead of efforts to ensure educational facilities could reopen in the spring. On February 12, the education department said universities and primary and secondary schools had carried out more than three million rapid coronavirus tests on staff and students since January 4. It said 97 per cent of schools and colleges are now ready to deliver tests and the regular checks “will provide further reassurance to parents, students and staff that schools are safe, and where Covid cases do occur they can be identified quickly.” The lateral flow tests are to accompany other measures like mask-wearing in communal areas outside classrooms, social distancing between staff and students and keeping buildings well ventilated. Mr Williamson, the education secretary, said: “At any other time, it would have been unimaginable to suggest that a testing programme of this scale and impact could be delivered at the speed we have seen. “I am grateful and humbled by the actions that everyone working in education has taken to pull together and deliver this programme. Alongside the wider protective measures in place that we must all continue following, this asymptomatic testing helps break chains of transmission by taking people who are infectious but don’t know it out of circulation.” Staff at secondary schools are tested twice weekly and 1.7 million of the three million tests were carried out in these settings and colleges.
Covid-19 lateral flow testing kits have been used by schools to reduce transmission
A further 1.7 million were of the staff, twice-weekly since late January where they are working on site. The remaining 600,000 were at university, and was more of staff as most students are receiving tuition remotely. The government had initially promised a “staggered” roll-out of testing when students were due to return after Christmas. It had planned a daily testing for close contacts of those with confirmed cases of the virus so as to keep more pupils in school. Face-covering rules children in year seven or above were issued in August following a new statement on their efficacy from the World Health Organization. It advised: “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.”
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The National Education Union said a rise in cases after the first return was a “direct result of government negligence on school safety”. Joint General Secretary Dr Mary Bousted said in an article in FE Week : “Unions, school leaders, teachers and staff are tired of last-minute guidance and u-turns. “Government must now initiate structured talks with education unions, based upon all available evidence, about how a phased return is best
paying in tuition fees. In November, Manchester students were filmed tearing down a metal fence that had been put up around their halls of residence without warning. Protests have taken the form of rent strikes and calls for reductions in fees. The paper quoted a third-year student in Manchester saying, “If you’re selling a commodity, we have consumers’ rights. It should have been very apparent they were promising something they couldn’t deliver.” It said universities had been “put in an impossible position by a government that has promoted entrepreneurial expansion but has yet to show them the sort of crisis support it tried to extend, for example, to the hospitality industry.” Sky News said the past year had “marked the largest student rebellion in years. Left frustrated by their universities’ handling of the pandemic, thousands of young people nationwide have been striking and campaigning to have their voices heard.” In February, Imperial College London researchers said they had found a rise in cheating at universities since the start of the pandemic. managed. The NEU would enter such talks with a determination to make our recovery plan a reality, benefiting staff and pupils alike. “Simply declaring schools and colleges Covid-secure does not make them so.” The Daily Mail carried a piece saying the union had showed “breath- taking cynicism”, adding that “The unprecedented health crisis should be a moment for professionals of all stripes to show dedication and self-sacrifice.”
Many students feel they are not getting value for money from universities according to numerous national surveys
In January The Guardian posed the question: “Has Covid broken UK universities?” The paper said the pandemic had exposed the impact of the growing marketisation of the higher education sector over the past two decades, turning “students into increasingly dissatisfied customers”. Other news outlets carried footage of first-year students forced to stay in their halls of residence and attend lectures via their computers. They often complained that this experience was not worth the £9,250 a year they were
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The Guardian reported the findings showing that the number of requests to a large “homework help” website had tripled and a growth in online “essay mills”. It came as an ex-universities minister cautioned that essay buying risked “damage(ing) academic integrity beyond repair”. Chris Skidmore called for the practice to be outlawed and said: “As students have been forced to study remotely from home, away from on-campus welfare and support, taking their studies and exams online, they are increasingly becoming prey to essay mills, whose number has increased dramatically as they seek to take advantage of the desperate situation many students face.” Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, and the Russell Group backed the push for legislation pointing to the lead set by New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The same month the government pledged a further £50 million to help students hit by the effects of coronavirus. Universities minister Michelle Donelan’s announcement took the total to £70 million for the financial year, following an earlier pledge in December. The sum is intended to cover students facing extra outlays for alternative accommodation or extra costs to access teaching online. The minister said: “This continues to be an incredibly difficult and challenging time for our students, and I am hugely grateful to all the university staff working hard to prioritise their health, wellbeing and learning during this pandemic.” In a speech to Universities UK members, made remotely, at the start
Michelle Donelan was appointed Minister of State for Universities in February 2020
of the academic year in September she praised the innovation shown by the sector in working around restrictions. Ms Donelan cited St George’s medical school’s virtual ward round for junior doctors, Imperial College’s virtual field trip to the Pyrenees, using high-res photos, Google Earth and drone footage plus performing arts students at Northampton rehearsing Shakespeare plays on video conferencing programmes.
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minority backgrounds are not in a situation where they were unfairly downgraded.”
Instead it was announced that grades would be based on assessments from teachers rather than the algorithm produced by regulator Ofqual. Crowds of A-level students had staged demonstrations chanting “F*** the algorithm”. LSE research fellow Dr Daan Kolkman said: “This incident has shone the media spotlight on the question of Artificial Intelligence bias.” He said: “The algorithm looked at the historical grade distribution of a school and then decided a student’s grade on the basis of their ranking. For instance, if a student was halfway down the ranking list, then her grade would be roughly equal to what the person in the same ranking obtained in previous years.” Some of the public outrage was because if no one from your school had received the top grade in the past three years, it was virtually impossible to get that grade in 2020. Roger Taylor, who was chair of Ofqual at the time, gave an apology for the “uncertainty and anxiety” caused to teenagers and their parents. He added: “What changed was seeing the experience of young people receiving grades and being distressed at the need to then go and appeal grades where they felt they were wrong.”
The grading fiasco led to public outrage over algorithmic bias
In late January 2021, thought started to turn to avoiding another summer exams fiasco like the nation’s children faced in 2020. ITV reported that GCSE and A-level students in England would not be sitting exams, because of the disruption caused by the third coronavirus lockdown. Mr Williamson, the education secretary, said in a briefing: “The government position is that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A-levels.” In August, the education department admitted its planned moderation system for that September was unfair, having previously said students would simply be awarded their predicted grades. ITV reported Mr Williamson’s comments that he was “constantly asked for reassurance about the fairness of the system. “Fairness to make sure that children from the most disadvantaged
Legal action was also threatened.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said: “It’s right that the government has finally made this U-turn but you can’t mask the frustration and anger
backgrounds didn’t suffer, make sure that children from ethnic
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and distress that this has caused thousands of young people and their families.”
their teachers’ observations. Teachers will get guidance and training from exam boards. Mr Williamson said: “These proposals should give young people confidence that despite exams being cancelled, they will still receive a grade that reflects their ability. This is quite rightly an issue of great public interest and concern and it’s important that those working in education alongside students, parents and employers are able to have their say.”
In December, Roger Taylor announced he was standing down. He had been an Ofqual board member from 2012 and chair from December 2016. He was replaced by Ian Bauckham. In January, the government launched a consultation on proposals to give students who had been due to sit exams this summer grades based on
The past year saw footballer Marcus Rashford unexpectedly become a significant figure in educational policy. In January, the Manchester United player and top chefs called on the prime minister to fix the free school meal system that saw repeated controversies over whether the government should pay for free school meals while students were kept at home. Mr Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall said to Mr Johnson: “We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term.” They said a review should be debated in parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays, and the eligibility thresholds looked at (noting that some studies had shown 40 per cent of children below the poverty line were missing out on the current entitlement).
Footballer Marcus Rashford has helped drive education policy over school meals
After another public dispute about free school meals during the February half- term, the government said food will be provided to children by councils as part of the Covid Winter Grant Scheme. An earlier dispute in October saw one MP say paying for children whose parents could not afford to feed them in the holidays to eat could amount to “nationalising children”. Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith asked the House of Commons: “Where is the slick PR campaign encouraging absent parents to take some responsibility for their children?
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Children having lunch at Loreto High School in south Manchester
“I do not believe in nationalising children. Instead, we need to get back to the idea of taking responsibility, and this means less celebrity virtue-signalling on Twitter by proxy and more action to tackle the real causes of child poverty.” Anna Taylor, executive director of charity the Food Foundation, told the BBC recent months had seen “crisis after crisis with the provision of free school meals. The result of that is disadvantaged children have often paid the price.” essentials as part of the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme, as they did in the Christmas holidays, delivered through local authorities. Another £16 million will go to food distribution charities, the government announced. The January Rashford letter came after Mr Williamson told a committee of MPs he was “absolutely disgusted” after the meagre food parcel received by a disabled mother-of-two became widely known. Vulnerable families were due to continue to get meals and other
The Metro reported his pledge to “name and shame” companies which provide low-quality food parcels to families in need. Mr Williamson told the Commons education select committee: “As a dad myself, I thought ‘how could a family in receipt of that really be expected to deliver five nutritious meals as is required?’ It’s just not acceptable.” Chartwells, the government contractor responsible, said the image circulated on social media had been for five school days not ten and was not £30 of food but £10.50, but nevertheless it apologised. A spokesperson said: “However, in our efforts to provide thousands of food parcels a week at extremely short notice we are very sorry the quantity has fallen short in this instance. “Chartwells is committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure the best possible provision for children in schools.”
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In January 2021, one London borough reported a “mystery” glut of primary school places. The MyLondon local news website said primary schools in Kensington and Chelsea had seen an 11 per cent vacancy rate with 861 unapplied-for places at schools across the borough. The paper said each of the past three years had seen a fall of 0.5 per cent in the number of primary school places, particularly in the north of the borough. It quoted Jagdeep Birdi, executive headteacher at two borough primary schools, saying applications for the next school year “are markedly lower”. The same issue was reported in neighbouring Westminster borough, although Kensington & Chelsea reported an increase of around two per cent in secondary school pupils. The borough’s head of education said the demographic shift away from primary schools was “putting significant strain on primary school budgets”. The Local Government Association warned in September that a “surge” in primary school pupils moving through the system would soon cause a crisis for secondary schools. It said a third of local authority areas in England could be oversubscribed by 2025, leaving around 80,000 young people without a place. The LGA said because two thirds of secondary schools were now academies, local authorities now had less power than ever to direct the opening of more schools or make existing academies increase provision to meet demand. The analysis was based on official figures from the Department for Education.
Primary schools in Kensington and Chelsea are facing an 11 per cent vacancy rate
Councillor Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils have an excellent track record of fulfilling their legal duty to ensure every child has a school place available to them and want to work with the Government to meet the challenges currently facing the education system. “It continues to make no sense for councils to be given the responsibility to plan for school places but then not be allowed to be open schools themselves.” The pressure on primary school places has been building for some time in the capital. The Evening Standard reported in 2018 that catchment areas have shrunk dramatically and parents would need to live within a few streets of a school to get in. The paper said the smallest admissions boundary in London was down to 200 metres. In January this year, the Ilford Recorder reported that while there are currently more than 600 unused primary school spaces across the London borough of Redbridge, that position was fast changing. So while schools would receive less funding this year, “plans for a number
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It quoted Adam Jogee, the mayor of Haringey, calling her a “history maker”. The Department for Education said: “She remains an inspiration and leaves a lasting legacy.” In an interview last year, she described receiving such a volume of racist threats when she joined the school that she had to be accompanied by a bodyguard on her first day. She said her experiences led to her setting up the Caribbean Teachers Association.
of new housing developments mean this surplus is expected to become a shortage of almost 650 school spaces by 2030.” In January, tributes were paid after London’s first Black female head teacher died. The MyLondon website reported that Yvonne Conolly had passed away. As the head at Ring Cross Primary School in Holloway, north London, she had made history, having arrived in Britain in 1963.
London and southeast schools come out well with inspectors
reflected in the strong performance of this region on most attainment and progress measures.” The southeast was the second-highest performing region with 20 per cent of schools having the “outstanding” grade. This was equalled by the northwest region, but the south east had a higher proportion of “good” ratings, 71 per cent compared to the north west’s 67 per cent. However, schools in the south west were the worst performing in the country by Ofsted’s measures. The region’s 2,570 schools had the lowest proportion rated “outstanding”, 15 per cent compared to 19 per cent for England. Five per cent of its schools were rated “inadequate”, a figure it tied on with each of the Midlands regions, but it had a higher percentage of “requires improvement” ratings then them. The primary school sectors saw a small year-on-year decline from the last set of Ofsted results, which covered the year 2018–19. The percentage of schools rated “outstanding” fell from four per cent to two per cent. The number
In recent inspections 31 per cent of all schools were judged as “outstanding” in London
In December, schools inspector Ofsted published its latest annual review, in which it drew together its learning from inspections across the English education system. It noted regional variation with grades being “particularly high in London”, where 31 per cent of all schools were judged “outstanding” at their most recent inspection, and 62 per cent achieved a rating of “good”. It added: “Pupils in London schools achieve good outcomes, which is
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rated “inadequate” stayed the same, but primaries with a “requires improvement” badge grew from 14 per cent to 17 per cent. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector for schools, Amanda Spielman, said: “Our aim is to be a force for improvement across education and social care. As Chief Inspector, it is my priority to not only report on individual providers but to offer the national picture of education and care from Ofsted’s unique, independent view. “This is in order, unwaveringly, to support improvement and raise standards for all children and learners in England. It has been an extraordinary year, and we have seen teachers, leaders and social workers respond admirably to the challenges they have faced. In this report, I recognise the many successes we have seen both before and since the start of the pandemic, but also direct attention to areas in which more can be done for the benefit of children and learners.” In future, the exemption from inspection for “outstanding” schools will be removed. The inspectorate said subject knowledge could be a challenge at primary schools, where teachers had to teach “across the curriculum”. The report said: “In schools that scored highly on curriculum quality in our research, leaders made sure teachers received high-quality professional development to develop subject knowledge in their own subject.” “Outstanding” primary schools had an average reading, writing and mathematics score of 82, “good” schools 65, schools judged as “requires improvement” 54 and “inadequate” schools 48.
Gavin Williamson plans to send Ofsted inspectors into every
The report said: “Primary schools judged as ‘requires improvement’ sometimes focused extensively on teaching reading, writing and mathematics at the expense of other subjects in the curriculum, even for pupils who had the capability to tackle a wide range of subjects. This limits pupils’ ability to thrive in secondary school, where they will encounter a range of subjects. “This effect will be especially profound for disadvantaged pupils, who are less likely to be able to draw on resources at home to fill in gaps and broaden their knowledge.” The importance of phonics was also stressed in the report. It said: “The best primary special schools systematically build pupils’ knowledge of phonics and promote a love of reading.”
“outstanding” school in England within five years
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The Loddon School
Working with the artist in residence
Principal Dr Gill Barrett
T he Loddon School serves children with highly complex needs; all students have autism, severe learning difficulties, are non-verbal and have highly challenging behaviour. Taking students between the ages of eight and 19, the school provides year-round provision in a residential setting. With 175 members of staff, it educates and cares for 30 students, all of whom have been unable to remain within the main specialist education system. Principal Dr Gill Barrett explains how the school copes with the needs of its pupils and discusses the techniques that allow the children to get the most out of their education. We are a school without classrooms. This is the first thing I tell prospective parents or professionals who visit our school. All children at our school have been failed by the education systems offered in previous mainstream and special schools. Replicating these environments is likely to fail again, so we do things differently. Running a school using non-traditional methods means that we are not revolutionists: rather, we are resolutionists. Our ethos is that we provide each child with an enhanced quality of life through creative design, development and delivery of positive working methods by our multidisciplinary team. Being highly analytical and solution focused permeates all aspects of our residential school life and results in high engagement in learning and strong progression, and students who are well prepared for their adult life. When we are asked by a local authority to assess a prospective student, we frequently find them in isolation rooms, corridors or even the toilets, unable to access the classroom or the curriculum. The key to our success as a school is to focus on getting
REPORT CARD The Loddon School
» Principal: Dr Gill Barrett » Founded in 1988 » Location: Sherfield on Loddon, Hampshire » Type of school: Non- maintained residential special school, age range: 8-19 » No. of students: 30 » No. of staff: 175 teaching and support staff » 52-week provision » 80 per cent Section 20 Care Order, 7 per cent Section 31, and 13 per cent Section 43 » 100 per cent special needs – ASD, SLD, non-verbal and with challenging behaviour » Ofsted rating: “Outstanding” (both Care and Education inspections) » www.loddonschool.org
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice
three things right for each individual: the environment, the curriculum and the daily structure of learning opportunities.
deliver learning. Our students find generalising their learning extremely hard; educating beyond the classroom environment resolves this. On our school site we have a wide variety of learning spaces, including sensory learning areas such as a large sports hall for PE and bouncing castle, indoor swimming pool, tranquillity garden, sensory room, sensory adventure playground, sensory circuit courtyard, an art room and a music room, massage room, forest school area, nature trail and mud pit with mud kitchen. We also provide work-based learning, including a shop, post office, library and café for community learning skills, small farm with hens, donkeys, goats, pigs, Shetland pony for pony carting and a horse for riding, large polytunnel and outdoor classroom, and large outdoor planting beds for horticulture. Our home bases comprise houses with a kitchen, laundry, living rooms and bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, all designed as learning spaces. The school has a main kitchen and laundry for day-to-day provision. We are near completion of the building of two new bungalows, renewing old living spaces, and hope to continue building three further homes once phase one of our project is completed. Our waking day curriculum ensures that every aspect of our day is a learning opportunity. All aspects of daily activity are covered by schemes of learning in our Personalised Learning for Life Using Supportive Strategies (PLLUSS) curriculum, with levelled learning objectives. Whether the child is dressing in the morning, playing on the swing or exploring in a discovery club session, each has learning objectives, linked to individual targets from their educational health and care plan. The structure and implementation of our curriculum
The learning environment
The Loddon School educates through a home school-type model for 52 weeks a year. All children live in small family groups with their own staff, who are responsible for their care and education. The team is truly integrated, unlike a traditional care and education model. House-based staff are trained as living and learning support workers. Each house has a teacher and children’s service manager working as joint leaders, ensuring that day and night provision throughout the 52 weeks is consistent. Transitioning into a school building each day has been a key failure point for most of our students. Educating them in their home base resolves this. The creation of our school site as a mini village reduces transitions, while facilitating our ethos of learning and the practice of life skills in school within simulated environments before they are implemented in the local community and progress to the wider community. Therapists work with students in situ, at breakfast, while dressing or in the polytunnel. Wherever the need arises, the therapist works with the teacher to jointly plan and “
Running a school using non-traditional methods
means that we are not
revolutionists: rather, we are ‘resolutionists’
Exploring liquids in discovery club
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Fostering interactions through animal care
Our favourite learning space – outdoors!
Individual timetables and personalised support are standard for all students. Preferred learning activities are dispersed throughout their day. The occupational therapist provides a sensory diet for each child, which is incorporated into each session. Keeping the child calm, but also alert enough to learn, is essential for high engagement. If sensory provision is not correct, challenging behaviours can result as the child struggles to regulate themselves. Outdoor learning has grown rapidly; we have gained Forest School Association Provider status and have been granted Trailblazer status following outdoor learning around the three objectives of caring, discovery and exploring. Education beyond the school Since I joined the school as principal, learning beyond the sacred classroom has developed, ensuring that each child has full access to early reading, writing and mathematics, and is able to embrace opportunities for the enrichment through technology,
communication, giving the child a voice, then exposing them to reading, writing and maths. As a school we have fully embraced learning through play and everyday activities, and we never miss a chance to seize the moment for learning. Having drawn all aspects of our curriculum together and streamlined assessment and recording holistically under the EHC plan for each child, we now have a system that secures outstanding progress and which we share with other special needs schools. On a weekly basis, local schools visit us for work experience sessions, horticultural learning and music therapy. We also currently work with two schools in terms of in-class support and consultancy. The recruitment of the right staff for the school remains an ongoing concern. It is essential that staff are willing to train and upskill themselves. We offer Level 2, 3 and 5 qualifications. We train teachers with a local provider but are also very keen to run a social care apprenticeship- style degree-level qualification, to help combat the severe shortage of social workers nationally.
Fully embraced learning through play and everyday activities, and we never miss a chance to seize the moment for learning
science discovery and the arts. Key to our PLLUSS curriculum is
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice
Marish Academy Trust
Awe and wonder at Marish Academy Trust E stablished in June 2012, Marish Primary School was partnered with sponsored academy Willow Primary just eight months later to form Marish Academy Trust. Initially this came with its challenges, but eight years on and the two entities have developed a shared strategic vision, which has shaped an ethos that requires all stakeholders to do whatever it takes to serve their communities. Gill Denham, executive headteacher of both schools, offers more detail on what makes them a unique place to learn. “Strive for the Heights” is Marish Academy Trust’s motto. It encapsulates our journey from “special measures” to the brink of “outstanding” in two large primary schools serving a diverse community in Slough. Crucial to our ongoing success story has been the development of one truly trust-wide team – a team that sustains aspiration and resilience by building relationships and removing barriers to learning for our 1,300 pupils, their families and our staff team. Commitment to education When the Covid-19 threat struck, we mobilised immediately and met a range of needs. This is because Marish Academy Trust is more than just a school. Since March 2020, it has transformed into a haven that engenders hope and exceeds expectations. Our local authority context has many challenges: oversubscribed schools; inadequate social care provision; increased deprivation; overcrowded housing; and higher-than-average proportions of refugees, immigrants, and children with complex special educational needs and disabilities. Although the schools are two of
Executive Headteacher Gill Denham
REPORT CARD Marish Academy Trust » Executive Headteacher: Gill Denham » Founded in 2013 » Location: Slough, Berkshire » Type of school: Two community primary schools » No. of students: 1,286 » marishacademytrust.co.uk
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the most successful in Berkshire, more was still required if our communities were to be well supported through life in lockdown. School closures did not stop the trust team, but rather freed staff up to live out our ethos like never before. Teachers and caretakers became minibus drivers and delivered food parcels and collected children who were vulnerable or had key-worker parents. Turning one of our halls into a stockroom, and assisted by volunteers, senior leaders and catering staff masterminded the stocking and delivery of almost 400 food parcels in the first four weeks of lockdown. Facilities and administrative staff took on the design and redecoration of corridors in both schools. Governors, the executive headteacher and those few pupils who were in school turned a classroom into a greenhouse and created a flourishing garden outside. Other staff working from home posted lessons and timetables online, and every week they communicated with the families of each of our 1,300 pupils. Each day from March 2020 onwards, we provided care and education to between 25 and 60 children in school, including throughout the holidays. This provision complemented that available online for those staying at home. Relationships have been strengthened and our community nurtured. Lockdown has proved a dynamic catalyst for change, enabling Marish Academy Trust to achieve its dream of reaching into the homes and hearts of all its stakeholders. Team effort Becoming more than a school is not a one-person job. As executive headteacher, I have set the direction clearly, held my nerve and maintained equilibrium. I packed food into crates with governors, delivered food parcels
New skills in action during Judo club, prior to lockdown
with a deputy and got my hands dirty, literally, in the classroom and the garden. This was a change, because I haven’t needed to be so hands-on for a while. Recently, my job has been to set the parameters of the strategic vision and delegate autonomy via genuine distributed leadership to others who decide the operational steps to move forward. Suddenly, from cheering the team on from the wings or giving them a hearty push from behind, I found myself thrust back into leading from the front. The challenge has been both
Crucial to our ongoing success story has been the development of one truly trust- wide team
Team building and healthy competition between staff at Empower to Deliver training
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice
Lockdown turned teachers into greengrocers and delivery drivers and our hall into a storehouse
exhilarating and daunting. Without the support of the senior team, we would have floundered, but the strong relationships and trust developed over the last seven years have sustained the team. Indeed, creative solutions to problems have often come from others. For example, I decided we needed to feed children but had no idea how to set about it practically; that came from the deputy team. The impact of all this work during lockdown meant that June 1 passed largely unobserved. By then we had been in school for ten weeks, and our experience was that if you followed the guidelines and used common sense, it was safe. In mid-June there were still very few children back at school in England, and high numbers of staff were still reluctant to return to work. However, at Marish Academy Trust, this is how we operated. » We had over 200 children returning trust-wide in year 6, year 1 and EYFS every day from June 1, which increased to 256 children trust-wide in the week beginning June 8. » We opened for year 5 on June 21, and years 2, 3 and 4 returned before the end of the summer term. » Our schools are open to all children in the relevant year groups, full-time for their usual hours of entitlement, as well as breakfast and after-school- club provision.
» Although over a dozen staff members have displayed symptoms of the virus, over the 12-week period all their tests have proved negative, which means that the safety precautions we are taking are robust. » From June 15, all staff who were not shielding or are extremely vulnerable reported they were available for work. This amounted to 80 per cent of the total staff team and meant » Parents have reported via our online questionnaire that they could not have been better supported during this crisis. » Social care, the SEND team at the local authority and the virtual school have all commended Marish Academy Trust for going the extra mile. Today, just as every day before lockdown, rather than becoming frustrated with partner agencies, we meet needs instead. Our trust now provides food, that we were able to cover the smaller class or bubble sizes. This is visionary leadership at its best. The Marish Academy team builds partnerships, trust and bridges into our community. Covid-19 has only strengthened those bridges and enabled parents, staff and pupils to cross them. Our vision and capacity for sustained growth, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, assures us that the best is yet to come. clothing, transport, counselling, language support and childcare.
Lockdown has proved a dynamic catalyst for change, enabling Marish Academy Trust to achieve its dream of reaching into the homes and hearts of all its stakeholders