Your Weekly Sector News 05/05/23

Discover what lies ahead in the world of education with Your Weekly Sector News. This week, we discuss the upcoming reform pilot for a more inclusive system, changes to exam grades, and the latest trends in retention and recruitment.
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Twenty councils set to pilot reforms to SEND and Alternative Provision

Earlier this year, the government published its special education needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision improvement plan, setting out the next steps to achieve a more inclusive system. These reforms include the creation of new National Standards, an inclusion dashboard, and digitised education, health and care plans (EHCPs). Now, twenty councils have been shortlisted to lead the £70 million reform pilot across their schools.

The pilot will be carried out through regional expert partnerships (REPs), which will consist of two or three local authorities working together based on their geographical proximity. Children’s Minister, Claire Coutinho, explains this will allow the government to ‘test in a wide range of local areas with differing performance, capacity and capability.

Councils were selected for their ‘potential to lead’ partnerships. These include three in the North West: Blackburn with Darwen, Manchester, and Trafford. They will be expected to work with local partners, including health, social care, multi academy trusts, mainstream, specialist and alternative provision schools, and parents, children and young people, to help them in testing and refining the reforms. Whilst the groups are set to begin trialling policies later this year, the majority of reforms will not be rolled out nationwide until 2026.

A rise in grade changes following GCSE and A Level appeals

Appeals against GCSE and A Level exams grades have fallen significantly below pre-Covid levels, Ofqual data shows. Last year, only 2,460 appeals were made, compared to 3,205 in 2019 when formal exams were last held. The most common reason for challenging a grade was due to marking error, followed by malpractice and reasonable adjustment.

However, despite the lower number of appeals, those that were successful have increased. Data shows there were 470 appeals that resulted in at least one GCSE grade change last year, a 71% increase since 2019. Changes to AS and A Level grades also increased by 17%, from 150 in 2019 to 175 in 2022.

Exams were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, and teacher-assessed grades were awarded instead. In 2022, exams returned for the first time with mitigations put in place, including advanced information topics and exam aids. Data suggests that more pupils were satisfied with their grades last year, than those before the pandemic. This year, there will be a return to pre-pandemic grading, with some adjustments to protect vulnerable learners from the impact of Covid disruption.

Education employers report a rise in skills shortages

In partnership with the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL), Hays have published a new report looking into 2023 Education Salary and Recruiting Trends, analysing the responses of more than 2,000 education professionals, working across teaching, support, school business and leadership roles. Researchers found that 85% of employers faced skills shortages over the last year, rising from 75% in 2022. The staffing areas most affected were classroom-based support staff, teachers and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) staff.

One in four employers said that this impacted their ability to deliver a full timetable, rising from 19 percent the previous year. They also reported a negative impact on employee morale and absenteeism due to stress.

According to the report, 30% of education professionals left their jobs last year, whilst a further 37% considered doing so. A lack of career development opportunities was one of the main reasons for leaving, alongside poor work-life balance and low salary. More than half of staff said their employer did not regularly discuss their career progression plans with them. Therefore, to tackle the skills shortages and retention rate, employers are encouraged to invest time into career progression and personal development. Paul Matthias, National Director for Education Hays, comments that ‘implementing regular catch ups with staff and working together towards progression plans is a crucial part of any talent retention strategy.’

Furthermore, there has been a significant increase in staff dissatisfied with their jobs due to a lack of flexible working, rising from 20% in 2022 to 32% in 2023. Whilst researchers acknowledge that hybrid and remote working is not always possible for many in the sector, they urge employers to consider where they can introduce elements of flexible working, such as undertaking planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time at home.

Working in education, we understand that there are often many competing priorities within a school. But as the recruitment and retention crisis continues to unfold, it is becoming increasingly more important to recognise the potential of your staff and invest in their growth.

One Education offers a wide range of training and professional development routes, ensuring staff are able to feel positive and confident in their role.

For more advice on supporting employees and improving staff retention at your school, get in touch with our HR team. We can help you with balancing workload, promoting wellbeing, and more.

Get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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