Schools White Paper (England)

This guidance sets out the background to the Government’s Schools White Paper Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child and summarises its key provisions.

Much of the detail on how the objectives set out in the White Paper will be achieved has yet to be published and it is likely that further consultations and engagement with stakeholders on this detail will follow.

It is important to note at this stage that the most potentially consequential reforms described in the White Paper will require a significant period of time to allow for policy development prior to implementation.

The NASUWT will continue to keep members updated on matters related to the White Paper and will update this note as further information becomes available.

Background and context

The Government’s intention to produce a White Paper was first announced by the former Secretary of State for Education in June 2021. However, work on the White Paper was subject to considerable delay and it was not published until 28 March 2022.

The White Paper was preceded by a cross-Government White Paper, Levelling Up the United Kingdom, which contained additional education-related proposals, including the establishment of Education Investment Areas (EIAs), a target for 90% of primary children to achieve expected standards in reading and mathematics and for the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the ‘worst performing areas’ to increase by a third.

Levelling Up the United Kingdom also announced a consultation on a proposal on moving schools in EIAs with successive Requires Improvement Ofsted judgements ‘into strong multi-academy trusts, so that they can better access the support they need to improve’.

These proposals are reflected and developed further in the Schools White Paper.

The Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) published a Green Paper on special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision (AP), Right support, Right place, Right time, on 29 March 2022.

This Green Paper set out the findings and recommendations of the Government’s long-running and much-delayed SEND Review and many of its key proposals are linked to those set out in the White Paper. The SEND and AP Green Paper is currently the subject of a public consultation, the outcomes of which will inform the development of a Green Paper implementation plan to be published later in 2022.

Two annexes to the White Paper have also been published. The case for a fully trust-led system (pdf) claims to set out evidence underpinning the DfE’s case for a school system in which every school is in a ‘strong multi academy [trust]’. Economic benefits of meeting the ambitions set out in the Schools White Paper (pdf) seeks to predict the broader economic impacts of securing the pupil performance targets described in the White Paper.

Schools White Paper - vision, ambitions and pillars

The proposals set out in the Schools White Paper are based on the DfE’s vision for the education system:

‘A school system that helps every child to fulfil their potential by ensuring they receive the right support, in the right place at the right time - founded on world class literacy and numeracy as the cornerstone of an excellent education’.

The White Paper is centred on two key ambitions to be achieved by 2030:

  • Key Stage 2: 90% of pupils meeting the expected standard in mathematics and reading; and

  • Key Stage 4: the national GCSE average grade in both English language and mathematics to increase from 4.5 to 5.

The strategy set out in the White Paper to achieve these ambitions is based on four key pillars:

  • ‘an excellent teacher for every child’;

  • ‘delivering high standards of curriculum, behaviour and attendance’;

  • ‘targeted support for every child who needs it’; and

  • ‘a stronger and fairer school system’.

Specific proposals in respect of each pillar are summarised below.

‘An excellent teacher for every child’

The White Paper states that the quality of teaching ‘is the single most important in-school factor in improving outcomes for children’. To develop teaching quality, the DfE intends to ‘ensure access to world-class, evidence-based’ training and professional development at ‘every stage of [a teacher’s] career’.

The DfE commits itself to ensuring ‘high quality early years provision’ and to doing more to make ‘teaching an attractive, high-status profession’. It seeks to ‘recruit and retain the best teachers’ in ‘key subjects and areas’.

Key policies described in the White Paper include:

  • 500,000 ‘evidence-based’ teacher training and development opportunities across Initial Teacher Training (ITT), National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) and the Early Career Framework (ECF).

  • The roll-out of three new NPQs in literacy, early years leadership and the leadership of special educational needs.

  • Pressing ahead with the accreditation of all ITT providers through the introduction of a new quality threshold following the outcomes of the ITT Market Review.

  • Investing £180m in professional training and development for the early years sector.

  • Establishing a new Institute of Teaching as ‘England’s flagship teacher development provider’. The Institute will ‘become a world leader in teacher training’ and will be given degree-awarding powers.

  • Training a new cadre of National Leaders of Education tasked with ‘turning around under-performing schools’.

  • A restatement of the commitment to ‘raise teacher starting salaries to £30,000’.

  • Providing a ‘Levelling Up Premium worth up to £3,000 tax-free for eligible maths, physics, chemistry and computing teachers in years one to five of their careers who choose to work in disadvantaged schools, including in the new Education Investment Areas’.

‘Delivering high standards of curriculum, behaviour and attendance’

This element of the White Paper is focused on securing for every child a ‘broad, ambitious, knowledge-rich curriculum’ with access to ‘high-quality extra-curricular provision’. It seeks to ensure that all children are taught in ‘calm, orderly, safe and supportive’ schools with ‘high levels of attendance’.

The White Paper envisages that all children will have ‘fair access to high-quality time in school regardless of where they live’.

Proposals to further these ends include:

  • Developing the Oak Academy into a new ‘arms-length curriculum body’, working with teachers in England and across the UK to ‘co-create free, optional, adaptable digital curriculum resources to deliver a rigorous, high-quality curriculum’.

  • A national (but non-statutory) expectation for schools on the length of the school week. This expectation will be set at what the DfE has identified as the current average school week for all state-funded mainstream schools (32.5 hours).

  • A new test of literacy and numeracy to be taken by ‘a sample of children in year 9, to estimate performance at national level’.

  • Revisions to the behaviour and attendance guidance for schools, accompanied by the introduction of a ‘fully funded training scholarship’ to undertake a National Professional Qualification in Behaviour and Culture, accessible to all teachers and school leaders working in state-funded schools.

  • The introduction of a ‘national data solution’ to improve attendance, with new legislation to ‘modernise the rules on recording attendance’. Legislation will be introduced to establish a register for children not in school.

  • Introducing legislation to ‘increase Ofsted’s powers to inspect schools that are operating illegally without registration’.

‘Targeted support for every child who needs it’

The White Paper seeks to address the extent to which ‘too many children - especially those who are most vulnerable - [fall] behind and never [catch up] with their peers’ and that the situation in this respect has worsened as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to ‘great teaching’ and a ‘strong curriculum’, the White Paper sets out the DfE’s view that targeted support is required to ensure that ‘every child who falls behind in English or maths will get the right support to get back on track’.

The DfE states that ‘this requires a focus from every teacher, school and trust in the country to identify children at risk of missing out and deliver the right combination of academic, pastoral and specialist support they need to thrive, including wider children’s services where needed’.

To further these objectives, the White Paper describes plans to:

  • Introduce a ‘Parent Pledge’, the aim of which will be to ensure that schools provide ‘evidence-based support’ for children who ‘fall behind in English and maths and tell [parents] about their progress’.

  • Renewing the endowment of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), providing the EEF with ‘at least £100m’ of funding to act as an independent ‘what works’ centre and placing ‘the generation and mobilisation of evidence at the heart’ of the education system.

  • Providing over £55 million for the DfE’s Accelerator Fund to ‘develop and scale-up the best-evidenced literacy and numeracy interventions’.

  • Continuing to ‘financially incentivise’ schools to provide tutoring with an expectation that all schools will make tutoring available for all ‘pupils who need it’. Up to six million tutoring packages will be made available by 2024.

  • Amending the Pupil Premium to ‘make it easier for schools to use this money to support literacy and numeracy skills where needed’. Schools will be encouraged to select ways of spending Pupil Premium money from a ‘menu of recommended evidence-based’ approaches.

‘A stronger and fairer school system’

The White Paper identifies that the current education system is ‘messy and often confusing’ resulting in unclear expectations of academies and local authorities which have sometimes allowed ‘vulnerable children to fall through the gaps.’

In order to overcome the challenges in the school system, the intention of the DfE is to create a fully trust-led system with a single regulatory approach.

Trusts will be expected to ‘level up’ standards, particularly in EIAs and transform previously underperforming schools. In the proposed system, multi-academy trusts, Regional Schools Directors, local authorities and Ofsted will have defined roles within the system to support children and families.

The policies described in this chapter include:

Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs)/Schools

The key policy ambition of the White Paper is that by 2030 all schools will be part of a strong multi-academy trust or be planning to join or form one.

Policy intentions include:

  • Church and faith schools will receive statutory protections to retain their religious character when they join or form trusts.

  • Local authorities may establish a multi-academy trust where too few strong trusts exist; however, there will be limits to local authority involvement on the trust board.

  • The Secretary of State will have powers to bring maintained schools into the academy system where a local authority requests this as part of their strategic plans.

  • Selective schools will be secure in multi-academy trusts.

  • Academically focused 16-19 free schools may be opened in areas where they are needed, particularly in EIAs.

  • A good school may leave a multi-academy trust to join a stronger trust in exceptional circumstances.

  • As part of the SEND Review consultation, local authority maintained specialist providers may move into specialist only or mixed trusts based on local and individual circumstances.

  • A consultation will take place on moving schools with two consecutive below ‘good’ Ofsted judgements to strong trusts to tackle underperformance, starting in EIAs.

Regions

It is proposed that the roles of the local authority, trusts, and Regional Directors/Groups within the proposed regions will be clarified as below:

  • There will be a change from the system of eight Regional Schools Commissioners covering eight regions to nine Regional Directors covering nine regions.

  • Regional Directors will each lead a Regions Group bringing together the functions of the DfE and the Education and Skills Funding Agency by the end of 2022.

  • Regional Directors will promote and broker schools into multi-academy trusts and will have regulatory powers, including powers of intervention.

  • Regions Groups will drive improvement, expand strong trusts and proactively intervene when trusts are not providing an excellent education.

  • Local authorities will remain ‘at the heart of the system’ championing children. They will work across local services to improve outcomes.

  • Local authorities will focus on their key responsibilities in the areas of special needs, admissions, attendance, safeguarding and securing a sufficiency of school places, stepping back from directly maintaining schools.

  • All trusts should have local governance arrangements.

  • Fifty-five EIAs will be formed as described in Levelling Up the UK, including 24 priority areas which will be eligible for further support, including funding for retention payments for teachers in core subjects.

Accountability

The White Paper states that there will be accountability for ‘every part’ of the system. This will include:

  • A single regulatory approach based on multi-academy trust standards, including a collaborative standard.

  • New and existing requirements for academy trusts will be brought together into Academy Trust Standards, underpinned by new statutory intervention powers to provide a robust regulatory framework.

  • A regulatory review will be launched in May 2022 to look at accountability and regulation, including how a fully trust-led system would be held to account through inspection in the future.

  • A definition of trust strength, including high-quality and inclusive education, school improvement, strategic governance, financial management and the workforce.

  • Regional Directors will have statutory powers of intervention in areas such as school improvement and admissions.

  • Local authorities will have powers to object to the Schools’ Adjudicator about a school’s Published Admissions Number if an increase is required to provide sufficient places.

  • The DfE will consult on a new backstop power for local authorities to direct trusts to admit children.

  • Trusts will be accountable for school improvement, verified by Ofsted.

  • Ofsted will inspect all schools by the end of the summer term 2025 and will have an evolving role in the current system.

Next steps

Although the White Paper does not describe the detail of the DfE’s plans for reform in many key respects, it is clear that it addresses areas that are core NASUWT concerns and on which the Union has established policy positions.

The NASUWT will press for these plans to take full account of the legitimate rights and expectations of children and young people as well as those of teachers and school leaders.

Key tests the NASUWT will apply to each proposal emerging from the White Paper will include the extent to which it recognises and addresses the significant problems facing the education system and its workforce currently and secures children and young people’s ability to access the full range of their educational entitlements.

 

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