Researchers highlight the benefits of flexible working in education
A new report from the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) shows that flexible working is on the rise in education. In schools, flexible working typically involves part-time hours, remote working for non-teaching tasks, staggered hours, and a small amount of personal days during term time. Whilst flexible working arrangements can be difficult to organise in the school environment, research from the NFER suggests that it promotes job satisfaction, productivity and motivation.
Through literature review, case study and interview evidence, researchers concluded that flexible working helps to promote teachers’ sense of wellbeing and reduce burnout. As a result, access to flexible working was identified as a prominent factor in teachers’ decision to leave teaching or remain in the profession. Likewise, flexible working arrangements were found to attract a wider pool of applicants to job vacancies, helping school leaders address the crisis in teacher recruitment. Research shows that 27% of schools are already capitalising on this and promoting flexibility in job adverts.
School leaders also raised concerns that flexible working can lead to increased costs and inconsistency for pupils. The research found that flexible working approaches could be successfully implemented in schools with a supportive leadership and culture, where staff wellbeing was considered a key priority. In particular, these schools utilised clear and accessible policies, effective communication, and creative timetabling to support flexible working.
The impact of reforms to the Early Years Framework
In September 2021, the Department for Education (DfE) rolled out reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. Now, researchers have published a report that reveals how the reforms have been embedded into EYFS practice, following surveys and qualitative research amongst early years providers, staff, and local authorities.
In response to the reforms, the vast majority of early years settings reviewed their curriculum and development approach, making changes in line with the new guidance. The most common way that leaders changed the curriculum was by lessening the focus on observation and tracking. Similarly, leaders reduced the time spent on assessment paperwork. Together, these actions resulted in more time spent with children and better-quality interactions. Following these changes, 80% of reception settings and 79% of school-based settings reported that early years teaching had improved.
However, participants raised concerns that the reforms did not cater sufficiently to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), or other additional needs such as English as an additional language.
Notably, there were mixed views concerning the removal of local authority statutory moderation from the EYFS profile. Leaders in early years settings were generally positive or ambivalent about the change. Conversely, half of local authorities believed that this had had a negative impact on the quality of EYFS education. They said it had reduced opportunities for shared practice (43%), lowered standards (39%) and created a lack of consistency (35%).
Persistently absent pupils less likely to achieve GCSEs
Research published by the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, confirms the strong link between pupil attendance and attainment, as data shows that pupils who are absent in Years 10 and 11 are less likely to achieve five GCSEs, including maths and English, than their peers.
Since the pandemic, the number of children regularly absent from school has more than doubled. Over 120,000 children are missing at least half their time in school. The Children’s Commissioner, along with other industry leaders, has made it her mission to implement reforms that will help to improve attendance and enshrine every child’s right to education.
Drawing on data from the Department for Education (DfE), the latest report shows that only 36% of children who were persistently absent in Years 10 and 11 passed at least five GCSEs, compared to 78% of those who were rarely absent. The figure was even lower for pupils who were severely absent, of whom only 5% reached the same standard.
However, the report also shows that children whose attendance improved between Year 10 and Year 11 were much more likely to achieve five GCSEs at 54%. With this in mind, the Children’s Commissioner says that taking action to promote attendance for current Year 11s can make a huge difference.
De Souza explains there may be additional factors influencing a child’s attendance and attainment. For example, pupils without a supportive home environment will be less supported with homework and travelling to school. She says, ‘this is why 100% attendance is so important […] it’s about the whole system working together to tackle those difficulties which exist in children’s lives.’
To improve outcomes for children, the report makes a series of recommendations that involve setting a culture of regular school attendance; tackling persistent and severe absenteeism; developing a multi-agency approach to attendance; and putting the right support in place to sustain attendance.
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