The beginning of the end for maintained schools as all will be academies by 2022

The government will be announcing as part of the Chancellors Budget Statement that all schools in England will be academies by 2022. I have to say this is not new news, as the Government has been very clear with its direction of travel for schools for sometime.

However, until today’s announcement, whilst the government may have wished for all schools to become academies, it did not have the legislative powers to do this. Until now schools either converted by their own choice, or were forced to because of poor Ofsted inspections.

For Cornwall, there has not been this mass-conversation seen in other areas of England. The percentages of all pupils in academy schools going back to February 2014 (using the Jan 2013 school census headcount) was 42%, or in actual numbers 29,377. In March 2016 (using the Jan 2014 school census headcount) this had risen to 55% or 39,041 pupils. Not a massive rise in conversations really.

If you look at it in more detail – using the same dates as in the previous paragraph – in 2014, 74 schools were academies. In March 2016, there are now 124. Not even half of our schools (273 schools in total) are academies.

For secondary schools, which there are 32 in total, 16 were academy schools in 2014, and now it is 18. (17,423 pupils in 2014, 18,335 in 2016. A rise of 8% in total numbers).

For primary schools, again using the same periods, in 2014 there were 57 schools that were academies. Now there are 105. An almost doubling of conversions. Breaking this down further, in 2014 11,843 pupils or 31% were in academies, by 2016, it was 20,602, or 51%.

Now the government wants to force those who saw no merit in converting to become an academy school. Though as always with the Government, the devil will be in the detail on how this will be managed. And as normal, the government makes the grand announcement and then sometime later, we get the detail.

We in the LEA (Local Education Authority – basically the Council) know our powers over schools have been slowly removed since the 1990’s. These powers are set to be reduced further to maybe one or two responsibilities. Again, the government has announced this, but gave no further details on which powers will remain with the LEA. My educated guess the areas will be left will be school transport, school admissions and SEN provision.

It might seem strange, but at present the LEA remains responsible for educational standards in all schools, but has no powers over improvements on the academy schools. We think tomorrow’s expected ‘white paper’ will spell out the changes to the LA’s responsibilities.

I am also worried one government department will have direct responsiblity for so many schools. They will now be responsible for so many functions for all the schools in England. I know the government have created the Regional Schools Commissioners, but still, all this responsibility rests with the DfE. Which I feel is a rather remote government department to the rest of the world.

Previously, the government said all schools to convert by 2020, but now they are saying 2022. Two reasons for this is because there is insufficient capacity for the DfE to handle this mass-conversion, and secondly, because the government wants schools to be in academy chains, at present there are not enough, and many of those chains are not what I would politely say, in a fit state.

Furthermore, if you read between the lines and look at the announcement a few weeks ago on school funding, this review of the funding formula has slipped right from 2017 to 2020. I can bet any school who will now be forced to convert will have a conversation about funding.

However, for me, we should be really concentrating on what actually happens in a school with the most important issue is the young people’s educational journey and how they can achieve their full potential. It should not be how a school is administratively governed.

Today starts the final days of the LEA’s involvement in schools. Ironically, it was a Tory government in 1902, which started the LA’s involvement in schools. Now it will be this government that will virtually end the LEA’s role in education by 2022.

79% of Cornwall’s Primary School Children working at expected levels in 2015

Today, the Department of Education (DfE) released the Primary School league tables for 2015. Cornwall is just one percent under the national average of 80% with 79% of children reaching target of level 4 or above in all of reading, writing and mathematics. compared to 78 per cent in 2014.

It is good to see an increase in the number of pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths which shows that schools in Cornwall, due to the hard work and commitment of Head-teachers, staff and governors, and parents and carers. are heading in the right direction.

Since 2010 there has been a steady increase in the performance in reading, with 90% of pupils now working at the expected level. There has been a similar improvement in the performance in writing and maths over the same period, with 86% of pupils now working at the expected level in both these subjects.

The performance tables published today show that there are just 11 primary schools in Cornwall that did not meet the key floor standard, with a number of these schools having much smaller than average size cohorts.

If you look at the Ofsted judgements, 88% of primary schools in Cornwall are judged as “good or outstanding” (compared to 85% nationally), with the percentage of pupils attending good or outstanding primary schools rising to 89.1% (compared to 84.7% nationally).

One thing is for sure, the Council and Head-teachers are committed to becoming one of the highest performing authorities in the country and, through the Cornwall Raising Aspirations and Achievement Strategy.

We are doing this by working with schools, parents and businesses to raise standards even further and ensure that all children in Cornwall have access to the highest quality education opportunities.

More information can be found HERE

Let’s celebrate the Ofsted ‘Good’ news for a change

Today, the chef inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, released Ofsted’s annual education report. In that report Sir Michael says secondary schools have “stalled delivering.” The media is concentrating on the negative aspects of the report, however, we should also focus on the educational establishments successes. This is often missed.

Whilst I do not think there is a head teacher, teacher, TA or school governor who does not say we can always look to improve, the majority of schools do deliver a very good level of education. This should be recognised, and we must celebrate success too. As it is unfair just to highlight (and rightly so) on those educational settings which are not delivering.

Cornwall is above the national average for the number of schools which are either good or outstanding. For primary and nursery school settings, this is 85% of 238 settings currently judged as “good or outstanding” by Ofsted ( with only 2 of the 238 primary schools judged to be inadequate ).

Of the 32 secondary schools in Cornwall 77% are currently judged as “good or outstanding” by Ofsted. The other schools are classified as Requires Improvement. It is important to note there are no secondary schools judged to be inadequate in Cornwall.

Furthermore, the percentage of pupils attending good or outstanding secondary schools has risen to 84%. Again this should be celebrated.

Special school performance is also positive overall, with three of the four special schools being judged as good or better.

The Council works closely with headteachers and governors at all schools to ensure that children in Cornwall are provided with the best possible quality of education. It is good to see that more than 80% of children in Cornwall are attending good or outstanding schools and I would like to thank governors, headteachers, staff, parents and carers for their hard work and commitment. Parents and carers play a very important part in a child’s education. As without this parental support, many children will not reach their full potential.

There is no room for complacency and we must always strive to do better. This is why at the end of 2013 Cornwall Council formally launched the Raising Aspirations and Achievement Strategy (RAAS). This strategy is which is aimed at ensuring all children and young people in Cornwall are given the best possible start in life. This means providing access to the highest quality education opportunities and raising the aspirations of both the young people and their families to encourage them to achieve beyond their expected potential.

This new Strategy is already helping to raise standards and we are continuing to work with schools to ensure that we build on this improvement over the coming months.

So let’s celebrate the good work that is being currently delivered by the educational settings in Cornwall. However, we should not be complacent and always look at how we can improve.

Let’s just remind people that out of 272 schools in Cornwall, two are judged inadequate. (Though for me, two is still too many). However, the majority of those 272 settings are good or outstanding. Well done.

Unauthorised absence during the school term – debunking the myths

You can tell we are heading to the school summer holidays, as the issue of taking children out of school during term time is currently de-rigueur. From listening to parents on this issue, I think there are many misunderstanding and popular myths that surround this issue. I hope this blog will clarify the Council’s position, the role of the school Headteacher, and the law.

Let’s start with the law. Prior to September 2013, when the Government made amendments to The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006; a Headteacher was able to grant leave of absence for the purpose of a family holiday during term time in “special circumstances” of up to ten school days leave per year. This changed in Sept 2013 when the Government made amendments to the 2006 regulations and removed references to family holiday and extended leave as well as the statutory threshold of ten school days.

A Headteacher can still grant absence in exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, it is also up to the Headteacher to determine the number of school days a child can be away from school if the leave is granted.

One popular myth is on The Penalty Notice. The notice is not intended or treated as a ‘on the spot’ fine. In fact criteria has to be met before a notice can be issue. One of the criterion is: the level of absence that is necessary before a Penalty Notice can be issued in any circumstance is 20 or more half-day sessions i.e. the equivalent of 10 school days, of unauthorised absence during any 10 school week period. As laid out in point 3.1 of the Code of Conduct for issuing penalty notices in respect of unauthorised absence from schools. This criterion of issuing the notices has not changed, and is the same as pre-September 2013 when the amendments came into force.

So who can issue the Penalty Notice? The agreement between the schools and the LA is the LA will issue the notice. This is of course once the Headteacher reports this to the LA and the issuing criteria has been met.

A Penalty Notice can be issued as per section 5 of the Code of Conduct:

  • when a pupil has had 20 or more half-day sessions i.e. the equivalent of 10 school days ,of unauthorised absence during any 10 school week period. This includes term time holidays where the parent has been informed in advance that a Penalty Notice may result from such unauthorised absences.
  • when the circumstances of the pupil’s absence meets all the requirements and criteria in the Code of Conduct; and
  • when the issuing of a Penalty Notice does not conflict with other intervention strategies in place or other sanctions already being processed

It should also be noted that when an Authorised Person is considering issuing a Penalty Notice they should bear in mind that the response to a first offence should be a formal warning rather than a Penalty Notice – as laid out in section 5.3 of the code.

Cornwall has been compared to Devon and questions ask why Cornwall has not issued any Penalty Notices (yes zero) when Devon has issued over 800. The answer to that is each LA sets its own Code of Conduct. Other LA’s might take a more draconian stance, and fine quicker, but in Cornwall’s case, we like to take a more balance approach to the issue by working with head teacher’s, governors and parents.

Whist there is still an unacceptable level of unauthorised absence in Cornwall’s schools; absence sessions in primary schools have reduced from 36,100 in 2012 to 23,100 in 2013. A similar pattern happened in secondary schools over the same period with overall absence has reduced from 14,100 to 10,300. These figures are for half-days and not full day’s absence. If you want to compare Cornwall nationally, then Cornwall is below the national average for unauthorised absence for in both primary and secondary schools.

So we must be doing something right in Cornwall and the data shows that more children are now attending school in Cornwall without the need to unduly prosecute parents.

Policy and more information can be found HERE

Allocation for September school places in Cornwall released

Today, parents and carers of reception age children across Cornwall will received details of which school their child is due to attend in September. The good news is the majority of children being allocated a place in their first preference school.  It is an understandably a fraught time until parents and carers know which school they have been allocated.

Cornwall Council  has received 5225 applications for new reception school places to start school in September 2014.  Of those 4910 (94 %) have been offered a place at their first preference school, with 315 pupils being allocated a place at either their second (169 pupils), third (40 pupils) preference school.  This means that 97.9% of children were allocated one of their three preferences.

I would  like to credit the School Admission Team for their hard work in processing the applications and getting the information out to parents and carers.

This is a similar picture to 2013 when 93.1% of children were allocated a place in their first preference school, with 97.5% being allocated one of their three preferences.  317 children did not get a place in their first preference school. In 2012 93.1% of pupils were allocated a place at their first preference school, with 97.4% being allocated a place in their second or third preference.  406 failed to get a place at their first preference school.

However there might be disappointment for the 106 pupils (2.1%), who were not allocated a place at either their first, second or third preference school, but at the nearest school to their home address with room for the 2014 intake.  All reception age pupils who applied for a school place in Cornwall have been allocated a place.

Based on the figures to date, there are 47 oversubscribed primary schools for new reception September 2014 admissions in Cornwall.  This is a similar number to the figure for the past two years, with 45 oversubscribed schools in 2013, and 49 oversubscribed schools in 2012.  There has, however, been an increase in the number of schools which are full for new reception admissions in September 2014; with 71 out of Cornwall’s 236 primary schools are full, compared with 60 schools in 2013.

The Council is actively working on addressing the issue of oversubscribed schools in Cornwall with two funding streams. These are the Target Basic Need which eight schools have been identified and expansion plans are currently being progressed. The other fund is Basic Needs, which the Council has been awarded £32m for the 2015-17 periods.

Despite much publicity, the Council’s admissions team have received 247 late applications for new reception places so far this year, with further late admissions expected in the next few weeks. The deadline for the second round of applications is 2 May. So those who have not applied might find it difficulty of getting their first three choices if their school is one of those 71. This compares with 447 late applications by the second round May deadline in 2013, and a total figure of 804 late applications by 31 August. There were 494 late applications by the second round May deadline in 2012, with a total of 767 late applications by 31 August. If the application was received after 16 January 2014 it will be a late application – these will be processed and letters will be sent out by 02 June.

Of course not all parents and carers will send their child to school and may opt to home educate. In Cornwall we have roughly 400 children who are home educated.

In the next few days, parents and carers who have applied will receive a letter on their allocation. For those who applied online, they would already have received an email confirming their allocation. These were sent out at 00:01 Wednesday 16th.  . If they have applied on-line they can log back onto their application using their password and it will show them the result. Everyone will receive a letter.

For those parents and carers who did not did not get their 1st/2nd/3rd preference school, then they will need to wait for their letter which will explain how the process works i.e. for appealing the decision/going on the waiting list. If parents wish to appeal the letter will specify whether they need to get the appropriate forms and details from the admissions team or from the school (Academies do their own appeals). 

If parents and carers wish their child to go on the waiting list for any school they have been refused they must return the waiting list form listing which schools they wish to go on, they can only go on the waiting list for a school that they have been refused and cannot add a new school to that waiting list. The waiting lists will become active after 02 May as all late applications have to go onto the waiting lists with the on-time refusals.  If any places have been given up at oversubscribed school the places will be allocated after that date. If school place is no longer required they need to inform us in writing (letter or email) with full details, full name, DOB, address and reason. That way those places can be reallocated.

Fairer Funding for Cornwall’s Schools

Cornwall’s schools have for a long time been underfunded compared to the national average. It makes no sense, and it is simply unfair on our schools and young people. This per-pupil shortfall is £154 less than the national average.

The current school funding system is unfair, and out-of-date. These proposals will address some of the imbalances Cornwall faces in its funding.

However, I welcome the news that the Government has announced £350m worth of extra (national) funding. This extra funding is to try and address the imbalances to the per-pupil funding. This is only currently a proposal and is currently being consulted upon. If the proposals do become reality, this extra funding will be for the 2015/16 period.

For schools in Cornwall, and if these proposals come into force, we will see a rise to the per-pupil funding of £54. This equates to an extra £3.5m. An increase of 1.2% on previous years. However it is still £100 short of the national average.

Currently Cornwall receives £4,397 per-pupil. Hopefully from 2015/16 this will rise to 4,451. Plymouth and Devon also see a rise. For Plymouth the amount goes from £4,364 to £4,380 – an extra 500k (0.5% rise). Devon will see a rise from £4,156 to £4,345 – an extra £16.2m (4.5% rise).

It is just a pity the proposed changes do not include Early Years and Special Needs funding. Which the funding formula also needs to be addressed

Though let’s celebrate the positives, and say at least it’s increased funding, that will benefit our schools in Cornwall. As only 62 out of the 153 LA’s got this extra funding.

Though just how far ‘fair funding’ goes is apparent when you look at the per-pupil funding for Westminster. They will see a uplift of £199 per-pupil, considering they are already £1,112 about the national average!

State-funded (Academy and LA) Schools in Cornwall

I thought it would be interesting for people to know the types and numbers of state-funded schools in Cornwall. This includes the pupil population taught under the different state-funded set-ups in Cornwall. I have the portfolio which education comes under, and for me there is no difference in school type; as long as those young people who attend these schools are getting the very best education.

In total there are 272 schools in Cornwall. This is made up of 32 secondary which includes one Free School; 236 primary schools; and four special schools.

From this 272 schools 73* (27%) of them are academies. Out of this 73 schools, 16 (50%) are secondary including one Free School, 57 (24%) are primary and one (25%) special school. These figure do not include those who are in the process of academy conversion.

The total pupil population that are currently being taught under the academy system is 29,377 (42%); or if you like 58% are in LA maintained schools. This is broken down further with the number of pupils being taught under the academy system in for the following: 

  • Primary 11,843 (31% of total pupils);
  • Secondary 17,423 (56% of total pupils);
  • Special Schools 111 (30% of total pupils)

You might not know this, but all academy conversions are carried out on the first of each month.

*(Figures are correct as of 1st Jan 2014 – and I have rounded the percentages)

Have you registered your child for a school place in September?

Welcome to 2014 and my first blog of the year. This first blog is going to start off with a plea; this plea is if you have children born between 01 September 2009 and 31 August 2010 you have to register your child for a school place (that is of course unless you want to home educate) for September 2014? If  you have not, you need to apply for a place BEFORE the 15th January 2014 – that leaves you 12 days.

It is simple to do, as you can apply using the  online application system; which can be found HERE.

Sadly, too many people leave this to the last-minute, or  just a month or two before the school term starts. This results in a lot of extra work for the schools admission team. But worse, and in areas where school places are at a premium, parents often find they do not get their first choice of school. I have seen too many school appeals take place when the parents have not applied in time for a school place.

More worrying, with just a few weeks to go until January 15th, there are roughly 1000 (at time of blogging) children who have not been registered for a school place! That is 25% of eligible children who have not applied for a school place. That my friends is leaving it a little too late.

If you need help, Cornwall Council’s Family Information Service is a useful resource; they can help with choosing a school, completing the application, understanding the process or other aspects of starting school, or help parent and carers whose first language isn’t English. They can be contacted on 0800 587 8191.

Please, please make sure you have registered your children for a school place! As failing to, can result in disappointment and extra hassle for both you and the Council.

 

Cornwall Council to be given £32 million to provide more school places

Cornwall Council has been awarded £32,299m as part of the national Basic Need Capital allocations to provide new school places between 2015 and 2017.  The amount allocated for 2015-17 is significantly higher than the amount we have received in previous years (£1.2M per year in 2013 and 2014).

This is very good news for Cornwall, as this funding means that we can now plan effectively to provide much-needed school places to meet the increasing number of children requiring school places in Cornwall.

Cornwall Council will now be formulating plans for expansion of some schools and consider potential creation of news schools where evidence indicates that are needed most, with Cornwall Council working with schools and partners to identify how these places can be created.

This is just one of today’s three good news story for children and young people in Cornwall.

Ofsted’s Annual Report is good news for Cornwall’s Schools

Today, Ofsted published its annual report into school standards. This includes a league table of the performance of local authorities. It is very good news for Cornwall, as the report shows that 82% of children in Cornwall are attending either good or outstanding secondary schools and 80% attending good or outstanding primary schools. This puts Cornwall among the top half of local authorities in the country.

The full report is available on the Ofsted website – HERE

I welcome this report and I would like to thank governors, headteachers and staff for their hard work and commitment. Cornwall Council can take a share of the credit, as without the Council’s help, working with Cornwall’s educational establishments, we might have found ourselves further down the Ofsted list. Parents must take credit for this success too. As their is vital to this success.

However, while I obviously welcome this positive report, there is no room for complacency. Last week the Council formally launched the new Cornwall Raising Aspirations and Achievement Strategy (RAAS) which is aimed at ensuring all children and young people in Cornwall are given the best possible start in life. This means providing access to the highest quality education opportunities and raising the aspirations of both the young people and their families to encourage them to achieve beyond their expected potential.

This will only be a success if we as a Council continues to work with schools to ensure that we see continued improvements in standards and increased rates of progress made by children in Cornwall”.

This comes on top of our better than the national average GCSE results.

Well done to all.

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