Your Weekly Sector News 08/07/22

There is never a dull moment in education, nor in politics - especially when the two overlap. As this week draws to a close, we hope to see more stability and cohesion in the weeks that lie ahead. But whatever the future holds, you can always rely on One Education to keep you up to date with the latest news, trends and developments.
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James Cleverly Becomes the New Education Secretary

Earlier this week, Nadhim Zahawi was promoted to the post of Chancellor, replaced in his role as Education secretary by Michelle Donelan. However, Donelan resigned just two days after her appointment, explaining that ‘without a formal mechanism to remove [the Prime Minister], it seems that the only way this is […] possible is for those of us who remain in Cabinet is to force [the Prime Minister’s] hand.’ She was joined in her resignation by Schools minister, Robin Walker; Children’s minister, Will Quince; and Skills minister, Alex Burghart, leaving only one minister left in the Department for Education, Baroness Barran.

Yesterday, as the Prime Minister announced his resignation, James Cleverly was appointed to the role, becoming the third Education secretary in three days and the eighth in ten years. Sector leaders have expressed frustration at the fact that ‘important government roles currently seem akin to political musical chairs,’ but nevertheless ‘welcome James Cleverly to the post and wish him well.’

Cleverly emphasised his commitment to supporting the sector, acknowledging that ‘we have a lot of work to do and I am looking forward to getting on with the job.’ Cleverly was privately educated at Colfe’s School in London, where he has since sent his own children, saying that Colfe’s is ‘my “family” school, it means a huge amount to me that my sons will go to the school that I went to and that my uncles went to.’ However, he also clarified, ‘I still want to improve the quality of education for those who cannot afford what I can afford.’

In the past, he has also written about his support for selective education, ‘whether it is an expansion of the Grammar School system or a modern replacement it matters not, but there must always be an educational vehicle for bright children from poor families to learn and be pushed academically.’

Read our blog by Rachel Foster to find out more about our view of the situation in government.

1,000 Primary School Libraries to be Transformed

This week, the Duchess of Cambridge visited Millbrook Primary School in Newport, Wales, joining children’s author Cressida Cowell and children’s laureate for Wales, Connor Allen, where together they unveiled the school’s new library. Moving from its old corner inside a classroom, the library now occupies a prime spot in the school hall, where the bright and airy space gives the perfect light for reading in. The library is all the more inviting with its beanbags, new books, and the friendly school dog Taliesin.

The school library is one of the first to be revamped by the Primary School Library Alliance, a campaign launched by the National Literacy Trust in partnership with Penguin Random House UK to transform 1,000 primary school libraries by 2025, providing schools with books, training and support. The alliance was launched in November last year, after a recent report found that a quarter of disadvantaged primary schools do not have a library, and a further forty percent of primary schools do not have a dedicated school library budget.

Research shows that reading for pleasure can improve children’s life chances, but without school libraries, many children lack access to books both at home and in school. By bringing together private, public and third sector organisations, the alliance hopes to address the lack of investment in school libraries and broaden children’s reading horizons. Over three-hundred primary schools have already benefited from the scheme, making a huge difference to thousands of children, boosting literacy skills and wellbeing.

2022 SATs Results: “Disappointing but not unexpected”

This year, SATs went ahead for the first time since 2019, following two years of disruption to children’s education, including school closures, remote learning, and in-school restrictions. Now, as SATs results are published, the full consequences of the pandemic are made clear, with just fifty-nine percent of children reaching expected standards in Literacy, Writing and Maths, the lowest rate in over five years.

Since 2019, when SATs were taken for the last time prior to the pandemic, standards have fallen in almost all disciplines:

  • In Maths, the proportion of pupils meeting expected standards fell from seventy-nine to seventy-one percent.
  • In Science, numbers fell from eighty-three to seventy-nine percent.
  • In Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling, figures dropped from seventy-eight to seventy-two percent.
  • In Writing, the proportion reaching expected standards fell from seventy-eight to sixty-nine percent.

Only in Reading did standards rise, albeit marginally, from seventy-three to seventy-four percent this year. Former Schools Minister, Robin Walker, remarked that the rise in Reading attainment was a ‘tribute to the hard work and dedication of our teachers, pupils and parents,’ whilst the results in Maths and Writing were ‘disappointing but not unexpected.’

The government now stands even further from achieving its ambition for ninety-percent of children leaving primary school to reach the expected standards in Reading, Writing and Maths by 2030, a goal set out in plans to level-up education.

Analysis of KS1 assessment data shows similar drops in attainment.

  • In Maths, pupils achieving expected standards fell from seventy-seven to seventy percent.
  • In Writing, standards fell from seventy to fifty-nine percent.
  • In Reading, numbers dropped from seventy-six to sixty-eight percent.

Whilst these results are unsettling, leaders across the sector, such as Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, remind people that ‘the support schools have put in place has not only been focused on academic progress, but also on social and emotional recovery too. They should be congratulated on their ongoing efforts to ensure every pupil is able to achieve and thrive in school.’

During these turbulent times, it can be difficult to keep pace with rapid shifts as they unfold throughout the sector. But with expert advice and guidance, One Education can help you navigate the education landscape and keep your school on track.

If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch and we will help you find the answers.

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