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Friday 15 March 2019: Association of School and College Leaders

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Damian Hinds, Funding, Further education, GCSE, Primary Schools, School spending

Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at the Association of School and College Leaders conference, as well as several new reports from the union.

ASCL Conference

Today, Friday 15 March, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is hosting its annual conference in Birmingham.

The Education Secretary Damian Hinds has been attending the event and delivered a speech to announce an expert task force which will examine how we can keep the teaching career path attractive and rewarding for all. The taskforce will also look at how we can better support teachers and school leaders to deal with the pressures of their jobs. There was media coverage on this announcement from BBC Online.

You can read the Education Secretary’s speech in full here.

Pupil Poverty

In advance of the conference, ASCL also put out a press release looking at pupil poverty. This was covered by the Guardian, the Times, the Independent, the Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Star and the Express. The press release looked at a survey of 407 headteachers in England and Wales, finding that 96% felt pupil poverty had increased in recent years.

We are supporting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds through the Pupil Premium, which has been backed by £2.4 billion in funding this year alone.

In addition to this, the £9 million 2019 Holiday Activities and Food scheme will fund co-ordinators who will oversee and pay for holiday meals and enrichment activities during school holidays, for children eligible for free school meals in a number of local authorities, to ensure that they are supported all year round.

Earlier this week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced   that we will be providing access to free sanitary products at secondary schools and colleges across the country in an attempt to tackle pupil poverty.

A Government spokesperson said:

Everyone should have the chance to fulfil that spark of potential which exists in all of us and it a fundamental part of the Department for Education’s purpose. We are pleased that the employment rate has never been higher and wages are growing. And we support schools to provide the next generation with a world class education so they can go on to get jobs and thrive, whilst providing for themselves and their families.

This Government is spending £90 billion a year on welfare to support those who need it most, we’ve introduced the National Living Wage and helped workers keep more of the money they earn by cutting taxes for 31 million people by an average of £1,000. Teachers shouldn’t have to step in to tackle the issues highlighted by this survey, and we’re already taking action to make sure that they don’t have to.

School Funding

Today, ASCL have also issued a report looking at school funding in England. The current funding allocated through the schools block is £34.5 billion, whilst the union’s analysis in this report finds that schools require £40.2 billion.

IFS figures show that real terms per pupil funding for five to 16 year olds in 2020 will be more than 50% higher than it was in 2000; more than 70% higher than in 1990. We are committed to maintaining funding for five to 16 year olds maintained in real terms per pupil across this year and next year.

We spend as much per pupil on primary and secondary state school education as any major economy in the world, apart from America.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

While there is more money going into our schools than ever before we know schools face budgeting challenges, which is why we have introduced a wide range of support to help schools reduce costs and get the best value from their resources – from a free-to-use vacancy service to cut the costs of recruiting teachers, to advisors who are providing expert help and support to individual schools that need it.

School funding in England is at its highest ever level and since 2017 the government has given every local authority in England more money for every pupil in every school – allocating the biggest increases to the schools that have been most underfunded – and in the last year we have also announced an extra £400m of capital funding for schools from the Treasury.

We are also aware of the funding pressures faced by local authorities on high needs – that’s why we recently provided the £350 million in revenue and capital funding, on top of increases we had already promised, to help deliver the best support for those in need.

As the Chancellor set out this week – to build on rising standards and the narrowing attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers since 2011 – school funding will be considered as part of a full three-year Spending Review before the summer recess. We will be working closely with the Treasury throughout that process, which will be concluded alongside an Autumn Budget.

English Language

The final ASCL report for today looks at the effectiveness of learning in the English Language GCSE. The report also says that 187,000 young people left school without a Math or English GCSE in 2018.

Both English and Maths GCSEs are part of a broad and balanced curriculum which is designed to give pupils the best chance of progressing into further and higher education, and embarking on rewarding and successful careers.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We have reformed GCSEs to equip pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to prepare for their future. These new, gold standard GCSEs are regulated by the independent qualifications regulator, Ofqual, to ensure their rigour and quality. As with the content of other new GCSEs, the English language GCSE was designed in consultation with a range of experts including subject specialists, teachers, representatives from Ofsted.

To support teachers and provide stability as these improved qualifications bed in, the Education Secretary has committed there would be no further changes to the national curriculum and no more reform of GCSEs beyond changes already announced for the rest of this parliament.

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