F O R E W O R D S The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP The Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP M I D L A N D S R E P R E S E N T A T I V E S The Trinity Federation Bantock Primary School Ramsden Primary School Eyres Monsell Primary School Edgewick Community Primary School Market Drayton Infant & Nursery School
Walford Nursery & Primary School
Aldercar High School Lincoln Minster School The Parkgate Academy Hodge Hill Girls’ 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 joint general secretary of the National Education Union Kevin Courtney saying: “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 of 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.” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson 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 the Prime Minister Boris Johnson 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 and make good the lost time. The BBC quoted Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton saying speculation about shorter holidays and longer school days were 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. 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 £300m to help with catching up, on top of the £1 billion Covid Catch Up Fund announced in June 2020. In January the secretary of state 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 Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the Commons Education Select 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. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson 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 September and saw £650m shared between state primary and secondary schools over the 2020-21 academic year.
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Schools have received approximately £650 million in funding to catch up on learning lost
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. Prime Minister Boris Johnson 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.
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 doing 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.”
Chair Sir Peter Lampl, who also founded and chairs the Sutton Trust, said: “Despite the heroic efforts of schools, many pupils’
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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 re-open in the spring.
On February 12 the education department said universities and primary and secondary schools had carried out more than 3m rapid coronavirus tests on staff and students since January 4th. It said 97 per cent of schools and colleges are now ready to deliver tests and the regulat 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 kepping buildings well ventilated. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson 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. A further 1.7 million were of the staff, twice-weekly since late January where
Covid-19 lateral flow testing kits have been used by schools to reduce transmission
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 Organisation. 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
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.” attend lectures via their computers. They often complained that this experience was not worth the £9,250 a year they were paying in tuition fees. In November Manchester students were filmed tearing down a metal fence that had been out 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.”
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
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In February Imperial College London researchers said they had found a rise in cheating at universities since the start of pandemic. 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
Michelle Donelan was appointed Minister of State for Universities in February 2020
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 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 rehearsed Shakespeare plays on video conferencing programmes.
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system for hat 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 backgrounds didn’t suffer, make sure that children from ethnic 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 students’ 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. Ofqual chair Roger Taylor gave an apology for the “uncertainty and anxiety” caused to teenagers and their parents. minority backgrounds are not in a situation where they were unfairly downgraded.”
An algorithm to predict exam grades caused chaos when predicted results came out lower than expected
In late January 2021, thought started to turn to avoiding another summer exams fiasco like the nations’ 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. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson 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
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In January the government launched a consultation on proposals to give students who had been due to sit exams this summer grades based on their teachers’ observations. Teachers will get guidance and training from exam boards. Gavin 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.”
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.”
Legal action was also threatened.
School meals Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer: “It’s right that the government has finally made this U-turn but you can’t mask the frustration and anger and distress that this has caused thousands of young people and their families.” 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. 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. Whittingstall said to Boris 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 look at the eligibility thresholds (noting that Mr Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-
Footballer Marcus Rashford has helped drive education policy over school meals
some studies had shown 40 per cent of children below the poverty line were missing out on the current entitlement). 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.
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Children having lunch at Loreto High School in south Manchester
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? “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.” Executive director of charity the Food Foundation Anna Taylor 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. Vulnerable families were due to continue to get meals and other
The January Rashford letter came after Gavin 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. 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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Learning Link Multi Academy Trust In October, the government issued a termination notice to an academy chain running four primary schools in the west Midlands.
The Learning Link Multi Academy Trust will now be stripped of responsibility for running the schools in Dudley, after the official notices were issued by the education department. The Express and Star reported in November that the local governing bodies of Kates Hill, Netherbrook, Dudley Wood and Sledmere primary schools had each four months earlier taken part in a vote of confidence in the trust and two had asked to leave. It said their move had “prompted the Regional Schools Commissioner for the West Midlands to issue the trust with a termination warning and criteria to improve.” Commissioner for the region Andrew Warren said the government would now use legislation to remove the trust’s funding and shift the schools to another trust, after Leaning Link “failed to take sufficient action”. Mr Warren’s reports noted: “The collapse of the senior leadership team due to ongoing concerns over governance and malpractice. This includes the resignation of the chair of trustees, the absence of the permanent chief executive officer for whom temporary cover has been provided but for which you have not provided a longer-term plan to resolve this.” It added senior leadership team stability “is key at any time but becomes increasingly important when a trust is facing the challenges currently faced by your trust for example, rebuilding the financial position of the trust from the cumulative deficit at the end of
The government issued a termination notice to several schools in Dudley
the 2018-19 year – which is not yet confirmed due to the outstanding financial statements – and improving the financial reporting, as the trust’s monthly management accounts do not meet the expected standard of the Financial Notice to Improve or the Academies Financial handbook.” In January 2020, the Education and Skills Funding Agency had written to the trust issuing a financial notice to improve. Mike Pettifer, ESFA academies and maintained schools directorate director, said: “The trust was in cumulative deficit for 2017-18 and is forecasting a further deficit for 2018-19. Setting a balanced budget is a formal requirement of the trust’s funding agreement as set out in the Academies Financial Handbook. I remain concerned about the weak financial position of the trust and its inability to balance the budget.” He added: “I am further concerned the trust cannot clearly and accurately identify members and trustees. Such an inability suggests a lack of proper financial oversight and controls, in part evidenced in the cumulative deficit position.”
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The Department for Education sent a Midlands private school a notice to improve
The letter stripped the trust of the ability to approve some payments without ESFA approval, including special staff severance payments, compensation payments, writing off debts and “disposals of fixed assets beyond any limit in the funding agreement”. The Learning Link Multi Academy Trust was founded in November 2017. It said its ethos was that: “Excellence can only be achieved through high accountability. Using the 4MAT framework all Academies within the multi academy trust are held to account across ten key competencies, thereby ensuring a new approach to Academy improvement support. “Our academies are seeking to be at the forefront of educational innovation, Mr Warren said there was a “significant” risk “public monies are not being used in a regular and proper way and we cannot be assured of value for money for the taxpayer or that the trust is operating in a way which is in the best interests of the children.” In his letter to the Gloucester-based trust, he added: “it is my opinion that improvement and continuing professional development.”
there has been a serious breakdown in the way the academy is being managed and governed. There has been a complete breakdown of trust and confidence between members and trustees. I received a letter from the members of the trust, stating that they have no confidence in the trustees and the acting chief executive in respect of their collective approach to the strategic direction of the organisation. I cannot be satisfied that the trust is capable of operating effectively.” The trust made no response to reporters from the Express and Star or BBC when they approached it for comment. The education department issued a notice to improve to a private school in Leicestershire in December. Clovelly House School was told it was not meeting standards around “welfare, health and safety of pupils”. It also referred to rules about making sure “The standard about the quality of leadership and management is met.” The school was reminded that the rules governing private schools require them to send a copy of inspection reports to parents.
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Covid and mental health In February, the Birmingham Mail reported on a letter written by a Great Barr headteacher to parents about the pressures they faced during school closures.
Mike Wingrove, headteacher of Calshot Primary School, told parents “they can’t do it all” and to give themselves a break as guardians faced another gruelling round of home-schooling. He said: “I have frequent conversations with parents on how difficult this lockdown is compared to last time, I am a father and have to face the daily struggle to manage home learning and work. “I know what it is like to try and make sure I’m doing my job and at the same time try to assist my son with his home learning. I know how difficult this is and the anguish it causes and that’s why I wanted to share my view on this.” He said he had spoken to other headteachers who were also having to deal with staff shortages caused by illness or shielding. NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group reported that its local mental health helpline had doubled in January, as parents struggled with the pressures of work and homeworking. The NHS set up the facility provided by the Birmingham branch of charity Mind plus Living Well UK. In January, the Birmingham Mail reported on a headteacher whose school had been left 300 laptops short. Deborah Fance said there was a “constant battle” to get the equipment and that the shortages had meant parents were forced to choose which
Covid has caused many parents to face the trials and tribulations of home schooling
child was prioritised, with the eldest normally favoured. The head of Heath Mount Primary School in Basall Heath told the paper: “In a way it’s like reading a book; every day you miss a lesson, you rip a page out. It doesn’t make any sense. “Education is a present, it’s a gift for any child, and them being denied that, even a day, from not having a device, is dreadful.” She added that the large number of families in some households also meant bandwidth could be an issue.
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not seen an increase in the number of pupils on site during this national lockdown. The figure has remained consistent and in line with the previous lockdowns.” In January, west Midlands title the Express and Star reported the comments of Lee Jeavons, Walsall education overview and scrutiny committee chair councillor, about how hard teachers had been working. He said: “I would like to thank on behalf of the committee all school and educational setting staff. “It is a very difficult time. I know a lot of people think they’ve got a free pass at the moment but they have not. They are at home preparing lessons, doing virtual lessons and some schools are still open, of course, to key worker and vulnerable children.
In October, Worcestershire County Council confirmed that a whole school year at one school had to self- isolate after two confirmed cases of the coronavirus. South Bromsgrove High School told parents the upper sixth bubble would stay at home for two weeks. The case was one of dozens to hit educational establishments across Worcestershire. In the most recent lockdown, one of Nottingham’s main academy trusts said school attendances had been around one in five in the third lockdown. Liz Anderson, chief executive of the Djanogly Learning Trust, which runs secondary and primary schools, said roughly 20 per cent of its pupils attended school this time.
NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical
She told the Nottingham Post : “At Djanogly Learning Trust, we have
Commissioning Group reported that its local mental health helpline had doubled in January
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“It’s a vocation, it’s not a job and they put their heart and soul into it.” A Wolverhampton headteacher asked for the government to give more guidance on how grades would be awarded following the cancellation of exams for 2021. Principal James Ludlow, at The King’s Church of England School, Tettenhall, said there was concern about some schools having better access to online lessons than others, and the same disparity within schools between richer and poorer students. Local member of parliament Jane Stevenson asked the education department to focus on the wellbeing of young people dealing with isolation and worry about falling behind, on top of all the usual stresses of being a teenager. She told the House of Commons: “I am increasingly concerned about the mental health of our young people while schools remain closed. Many young people are struggling with feelings of isolation and are worried about falling behind with school work. “They are anxious that that will impact their future exam success, their choice of university and their career path. What measures will the government take to really support these people with their mental health?” Nick Gibb, the schools minister, responded: “We are very aware and concerned about the impact that the pandemic has had on the mental wellbeing of so many children in our schools, or at home, trying to learn remotely.” In February, Dudley-born Sir Lenny Henry, chancellor of Birmingham City University, congratulated students who graduated during the lockdown.
Sir Lenny Henry, chancellor of Birmingham City
He said: “Let’s make one thing clear from the start, the circumstances do not change the magnitude of your achievement. “In fact, given everything you’ve had to contend with over the past year, it’s completely astounding. We are all in awe of you. “But whether you’re in your bedroom, your grandmother’s kitchen, or sitting in the garden with your family dog I want you to give yourself a great big cheer and raise the roof.”
University, congratulated students who graduated during the lockdown
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The Trinity Federation
Rich learning opportunities in EYFS through play T he Trinity Federation consists of three Church of England maintained primary schools based in Shropshire. Two of the three schools are within Hereford Diocese and the other is in Lichfield Diocese. While each school has its own identity and character, they share a governing body, an executive headteacher, a director of teaching and learning, and a federation Senco. Executive Headteacher Claire Gaskin explains how the union of the three schools came to be and discusses how it operates in the best interests of its students. Prior to our formal federation in September 2014, the governing body of Worfield Endowed CE Primary School had been proactively exploring various models of collaborative working. Worfield School was a “good” school, with an effective governing body, a strong leadership team and a balanced budget, but governors recognised the need to explore alternative ways of working to ensure the future sustainability of their school in a changing educational landscape. In March 2014, the local authority brokered discussions between the governing bodies of Worfield School and St Mary’s Bluecoat School. The latter was categorised as a school that “requires improvement” at its last two Ofsted inspections. At the time of being approached by the LA, the deputy headteacher was acting headteacher, governance was not yet effective and there were impending budget concerns due to falling pupil numbers. Both schools considered the importance of maintaining and improving their educational strengths Joining a federation
Executive Headteacher Claire Gaskin
REPORT CARD The Trinity Federation
» Executive Headteacher: Claire Gaskin
» Federation established: 2014 » Location: Bridgnorth, Shropshire » Schools: Church of England, local authority maintained, primary schools with nursery provision » No. of pupils: - Worfield Endowed CE Primary School (VA): 143 pupils - St. Mary’s Bluecoat CE Primary School (VA): 200 pupils - SEND Hub: 7 pupils - Beckbury CE Primary School (VC): 53 pupils » The Trinity Federation also provides the leadership for Morville CE Primary School (Academy) NOR: 58 » www.worfield.shropshire.sch.uk www.stmarysbc.co.uk www.beckbury.shropshire.sch.uk
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice
through effective leadership that has a relentless focus on delivering high-quality teaching and learning opportunities. We hoped to work together to maintain and further improve each school’s educational strengths through effective leadership. In September 2015, Beckbury CE Primary School joined the Trinity Federation. Beckbury School had previously been under threat of closure, as year-on-year funding had continued to decrease. The government’s agenda is to encourage schools to work together much more formally, and when the headteacher announced her intention to retire, the governors thought that joining the Trinity Federation would be a way to secure the future of a small village school. Clear vision Since federation, the executive headteacher and governors have identified a clear vision for each school’s overall future. In realising this vision, the leadership of the school have transferred established systems and processes from Worfield School, which has had immediate gains in terms of efficiency and effectiveness in raising standards in our other schools.
School improvement work has focused heavily on raising the quality of teaching and learning through cross- federation coaching and modelling of good practice. High-quality CPD opportunities are now available to all of our schools, regardless of their size and available budget, and over time we have developed an in-house team of experts in numerous fields. The director of teaching and learning is an accredited NCETM trainer. We work with EEF to develop expertise and raise pupil attainment at no cost to the school. Previous projects included working with Oxford University on mathematical reasoning and UCL and Birkbeck on the science-and- maths-based UnLocke project, and we currently work with Durham University and the University of York on Maths Champions. Despite realising efficiencies of spending over time, the schools in our federation are not immune to the national picture of school funding, which is being described as a school funding crisis by many headteachers, governing bodies and unions. Continuing low pupil numbers in our part of Shropshire, combined with increased staffing costs, increased pension contributions, increased costs of utilities and services, and reduced government funding in real terms, have put increased pressure on our budgets. In recent years we have made significant reductions to many areas of expenditure, including a significant reduction in support staff, and regrettably in the light of budget information for 2019 and 2020 we could not make further savings without looking further at staffing costs. However, we are not ones to be defeated and have been keen to avoid any staff redundancies. An entrepreneurial approach to generate additional income has been necessary Challenges and changes
An entrepreneurial approach to generate additional income has been necessary to be able to arrive at balanced budgets, but this has inevitably increased the workload of key staff
We provide opportunities for
extended writing in all areas of our curriculum
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to be able to arrive at balanced budgets, but this has inevitably increased the workload of key staff. The Trinity Federation now also provides the executive leadership for a neighbouring school which is part of a multi-academy trust. Through the creation of a service level agreement, I was able to extend all the benefits of the Trinity Federation to the academy in order to drive improvements while realising balanced budgets for the federation. I am immensely impressed by the way in which senior staff have embraced new challenges to ensure that we continue to offer our children the very best despite the lack of funding. Through service level agreements, the federation now offers a governor clerking service to other Shropshire schools, and we have a directly employed learning support advisory teacher who is available to other schools locally. The future of the federation The federation has an exciting future. We opened a SEND hub in September 2019 on the site of St. Mary’s Bluecoat School. The hub supports children who have social, emotional, mental health, including autistic spectrum conditions, identified as their primary need in their Education, Health and Care Plan. The hub embodies the inclusive ethos of our federation. We have recently created a behaviour regulation policy which builds on our work with a Rees Centre research project which aims to raise school staff understanding of the role of attachment and trauma in children’s education. We are already recognised for our inclusive practice and we have seen first-hand the benefits of a nurturing approach with our children. We want all staff to feel confident in addressing trauma and attachment needs.
Caring for our environment is an important feature of our curriculum
We will also ensure our curriculum provision continues to inspire and motivate pupils and broaden their aspirations. Through our partnership work, we continue to break down any locally perceived boundaries and help pupils to work harmoniously with schoolchildren from other localities. We maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of each school by capitalising on centralised services and sharing systems and procedures. In all that we do, and all that we plan to do, we have high expectations of all and for all. We are dedicated to inclusivity, nurture and care to make a positive difference to the daily lives of our pupils and their families. There is a palpable team spirit and ‘can do’ attitude among staff within our schools, despite the challenges Covid-19 has presented.
We maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of each school by capitalising on centralised services and sharing systems and procedures
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW Highlighting best practice
Bantock Primary School
Learning walls scaffolding, reflecting and extending learning
Headteacher Harvey Sarai
B antock Primary School is located in Penn Fields, Wolverhampton, in an area of high social deprivation which puts the school in the lowest six per cent nationally. The majority of its students face multiple barriers which impede learning, such as social economic deprivation, low prior attainment, social care involvement, a wide range of proficiency in English, and issues with mental health and wellbeing. Headteacher Harvey Sarai explains more. Assessment on entry to the Early Years Foundation Stage and throughout school in any year group shows many of our children have underdeveloped communication skills, little or no English, and poor personal, social and emotional development. Consequently, the attainment of many of our children on entry is well below developmental expectations, and the proportion of pupils who speak English as an additional language is more than double the national average. A proportion of these children are new to the country, with no English and little or no prior education. School mobility ranges between 48 per cent and 54 per cent year on year, putting us in the lowest quantile for stability nationally. We are significantly above the national average for disadvantaged pupils, while a proportion of families have no recourse to public funds and are supported financially and emotionally by the school. Our ethos aims to minimise the risk factors associated with these barriers to learning through early identification, prevention and intervention for all pupils, regardless of race, culture, gender or social status.
REPORT CARD Bantock Primary School » Headteacher: Harvey Sarai » Established in 20 00 » Based in Wolverhampton, West Midlands » Type of School: Primary » no. of pupils: 389 » Our core ethos is for all our children to SHInE » www.bantockprimaryschool. co.uk
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Fostering creativity and imagination, through the augmentation of a life-long love of reading
Enhancing physical and mental health, fitness and resilience through sport
Minimising barriers: pedagogy
with regulating emotional health and mental wellbeing barriers.
We aim to equip learners with knowledge, the capacity to apply their skills, an understanding of necessary values to thrive in a diverse society and a curiosity to become independent lifelong learners. Through research, professional development and a motivation to help all pupils reach their true potential, we began to develop a pedagogy that suited all the needs of our learners. Teaching at Bantock Primary School is learning centred, meaning that each element of teaching practice is researched and constructed with how children can learn best at its heart. We work to ensure our learning models engage our pupils and ultimately enhance academic language development. There is continuous provision for supporting and extending the learning with the child. Therefore, we use concrete and visual learning to develop academic language structures, narrow gaps and support pupils to self-regulate learning. This is a sustained focus for all learning and curriculum development, coupled
Minimising barriers: emotional regulation
Our ethos aims to minimise the risk factors associated with these barriers to learning through early identification, prevention and intervention for all pupils,
After evaluating social, emotional and mental health in 2018, we were awarded silver status from the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools, the School of Sanctuary Award and the Rights Respecting School Award, and we also have staff trained as mental health first aiders. As a scaffold to support pupils in discussing their feelings, and therefore to develop emotional regulation, we use visual representation including emojis. This allows children to identify and communicate a feeling that they may otherwise not be able to put into words. Through careful questioning, children are then supported to identify why they are feeling this way, to resolve any problems and to consider their consequences and choices. There are a broad range of extracurricular opportunities to develop the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff in order to decrease risk factors associated with mental health and increase potential for academic achievement.
regardless of race, culture, gender or social status