I do believe I have sensed a slight change in the political education messaging over the last ten days, which provides a chink of optimism-maybe!
In a recent interview in The House Magazine, Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, hinted that, ‘School Leaders should see the benefits of an end to austerity when the details of the next spending round is announced this autumn’. The phrase ‘the darkest hour before dawn’ was perhaps a hint as well as a meaningful message, although it was then countered by the note that schools had £4billion in surpluses. Clearly, this was a significant acknowledgement that the system is under huge financial strain which in Camden, is being compounded, by the reduction in pupil places.
Other news this week was that Damian Hinds has called for a fresh look at funding for children with SEN, the DfE will call launch a call for evidence on the funding arrangements that will run until the end of July-not before time I hear you say! Figures reveal that there are nearly 120,00 children with Education, Health Care Plans (EHCP) in mainstream schools, and 112,00 in special schools, a 24% rise in the past five years. Our Camden schools I know, have been challenged by the increase in complexity and need that is presented. Particularly for some schools who take a proportionally larger number, but also for other schools challenged by the reducing role numbers and finances in school. The majority of the country will be looking on with interest at the findings of the call for evidence and subsequent actions.
Finally, the Timpson Review on pupil exclusion has been published with ministers agreeing to implement its 30 recommendations ‘in principle’. I have always been impressed with Edward Timpson’s passion and advocacy for vulnerable young people. The recommendations have been widely speculated and reported on before the report was published, with the primary recommendation focussing on schools being accountable for the results of pupils that they exclude. The other interesting recommendation is that of giving councils a clear role in systematically tracking pupils moved out of schools and allowing them to take action if needed. This recommendation most certainly goes against the recent messaging around responsibility of councils, and whether there are potential unintended consequences. The other one is that schools are responsible for the pupils that they exclude. The notion that schools should be responsible for the children they educate as long as they educate them has been challenged, but does this mean those schools that are not as inclusive as Camden schools, exclude earlier? The debate around accountability or proportionate accountability will no doubt play out as part of the accountability debate, potentially making the system measurements even more complicated than they are already. Work still to be done.
Managing Director, Camden Learning