Your Weekly Sector News 08/03/24

Never miss out on the latest updates in education with Your Weekly Sector News. This week, we discuss the rise in parental complaints, Ofsted’s report on English, and the Chancellor's Spring Budget statement.
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A significant rise in parental complaints

In a survey of over 1,100 school leaders, 94% report an increase in parental complaints over the last three years. Carried out by NAHT the school leaders’ union, the survey shows that more than 80% of respondents have seen an increase in vexatious complaints, which they believe is driven by the combined impact of social media, the disintegration of public services, and rising public discontent since the pandemic. 

The survey shows that the most common reason schools received a complaint was due to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision at 57%. This is followed by attendance and holidays (35%) and the conduct of other parents (34%). Whilst school leaders are often sympathetic to parents and their grievances, they say that the complaint workload has become a drain on resources. In response to a Teacher Tapp poll, almost a quarter of respondents said the number of complaints their school received was ‘unmanageable.’

Schools often have to deal with the same complaint on multiple occasions. This is because parents are able to submit their complaint to several agencies, including the Department for Education (DfE), the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), Ofsted and the Teaching Regulation Agency, as well as their local MP. School leaders are therefore calling for an overhaul of the complaints system, in order to streamline the ways that parents can raise their grievances against the school. James Bowen, assistant general secretary of NAHT, says the government could resolve the issues by making it ‘clear that a complaint can only be dealt with by one body at a time.’ The Workload Reduction Taskforce is set to examine parental expectations and complaints as part of its mission to reduce workload and cut five hours from teachers’ working week. It will release its final recommendations this spring. 

  • Our HR experts are highly experienced in helping schools manage parental issues and complaints from all sources. If you would like any more information about complaints policy and procedures, please reach out to our HR Team to find out how we can help.

Curriculum for writing and spoken language requires improvement

This week, Ofsted released its report evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of how English is taught in schools across the country. Evidence was gathered through research visits to 50 schools, equally distributed between primaries and secondaries. Further evidence on early reading was drawn from visits to 25 schools as part of routine inspection. 

Overall, the report concludes that the teaching of reading has markedly improved since the introduction of the phonics screening check. Both primaries and secondaries recognise the importance of building a reading culture. However, more could be done to build reading fluency and comprehension and close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils. 

Despite progress in reading, the report finds that the curriculum for writing and spoken language is less effective. In writing, it was discovered that teachers often introduce complex tasks too early, before pupils are equipped with the knowledge and skills that underpin these – including letter formation and pen grip. In secondaries, pupils are given many opportunities to write, but it was noted there is not enough explicit teaching of what pupils need to write effectively in a range of forms and style. Writing weaknesses are often masked by narrow approaches, such as extensive use of point, evidence, explanation (PEE) paragraphs. Similarly, the report found that most primary and secondary schools do not have an explicit curriculum for developing spoken language. As a result, the knowledge and skills that underpin effective language are not taught explicitly. 

The report makes a number of recommendations to schools to improve the teaching of English, such as planning a reading curriculum that builds pupils’ fluency, linguistic knowledge, and knowledge of the world, with many opportunities to read a wide range of books. Pupils who enter Key Stages 2 and 3 unable to read fluently should receive support to ensure they can catch up quickly. Further, leaders should ensure that the curriculum is not disproportionately influenced by statutory tests and exams, instead taking full account of the foundational reading, writing and spoken language skills that pupils need to carry out complex tasks. Additionally, leaders should ensure that teachers have access to high-quality English literature and language professional development with the time to develop subject knowledge beyond exam specifications. 

  • Our Literacy consultants can support your setting with the development and delivery of the Literacy curriculum, equipping your pupils with the skills they need for lifelong learning and future success. Contact us for more information.

Chancellor announces £105 million for 15 new special schools

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, presented his Spring Budget to Parliament this week, outlining a ‘public sector productivity plan’ aimed at making public services more efficient. As part of this, he announced £105 million will be used to open 15 new special free schools over the next four years. Hunt explained that special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision ‘can be excellent when outsourced to independent sector schools but also expensive.’ It is hoped the £105 million investment will create additional high-quality places and increase choice for parents.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, says that children and schools were largely ignored in the Spring Budget. He comments that while the investment in new special schools is welcome, ‘it does not begin to address the huge shortages of specialist staff, capacity and funding for pupils with SEND.’ In the lead up to the next election, expected to take place in January 2025, the union will call for further funding to repair the school estate, provide essential services for vulnerable children, and resolve the teacher recruitment and retention crisis. 

Separate to the budget, the Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed the locations of 20 new alternative provision (AP) schools, creating over 1,600 additional AP places across England. This forms part of the £2.6 billion capital investment in high-needs provision that was pledged in the Spending Review 2021. The government says this will ‘support early intervention, helping improve outcomes for children requiring alternative provision, and helping them to fulfil their potential.

One Education is proud to support world-class teaching in schools and trusts around the country, providing a wide range of consultancy services and creative solutions to meet the needs of each individual setting.  

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