Your Weekly Sector News 11/11/22

As the sector reacts to the pressures and challenges of a new academic year, it is important for school leaders to stay informed and ready to adapt, so you can continue to meet the changing needs of your pupils. Stay ahead of the curve with Your Weekly Sector News.
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School leaders body to consult on possibility of strike action

Last month, NASUWT and the National Education Union (NEU) began to ballot members on strike action over teachers’ pay and funding. NAHT, the school leaders’ union, announced they would also launch a formal ballot on striking over pay.

Now, the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) has confirmed that they will hold a consultative ballot to see where their members stand on the prospect of taking industrial action. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, released a briefing video in which he clarified this would be an informal, internal process, in which members will be asked, ‘around funding, pay and conditions, what would you be prepared to do?’

Barton says ‘this is an unprecedented step for ASCL and we have never before in our 150-year history consulted on industrial action on this scale.’ However, faced with a situation that is deeply damaging and unsustainable, the union is ready to move to the next stage of potential strike action.

In the same video, Barton also highlighted the possibility of industrial action from other trade unions. The ASCL will share a comprehensive guide to support leadership, ensuring any actions they take are ‘legally appropriate […] and more importantly, keeping a harmonious sense of us working together within our schools and colleges.’

School leaders across the sector now wait for the Chancellor’s Budget to be unveiled on 17th November, to see where the government will commit to investing in the education of children and young people, although deep spending cuts are expected.

Investigating the rise in Alternative Provision referrals for primary-age children

In the last five years, the number of primary-age children in alternative provision (AP) has risen by more than a quarter. Currently, around 7,000 primary-age pupils are in AP, and the majority of those are between the ages of 8 and 10. To understand why there has been such a significant increase, Ofsted has carried out research to discover why primary-aged children are referred to AP in the first place.

The study found that most pupils were referred to AP due to violent behaviour, which posed a risk to other students and staff. When asked, professionals working in schools, AP and Local Authorities (LA) believed that violent behaviour often stemmed from difficult home lives or previously undiagnosed special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Staff felt that referring children to AP at a young age would have long-term benefits by meeting their academic as well as their social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs. However, Ofsted highlights that ‘these high expectations are not borne out by previous research, which found that the younger pupils are when they first attend AP, the worse their later attainment.’

Although primary-age pupils’ stay in AP is usually short, those with complex needs can stay for years whilst waiting for a place in a special school. Ofsted recognises that demand for specialist SEMH provision exceeds the number of places, so pupils have been kept in AP as a last resort. Whilst some primary school staff think that AP serves effectively as a ‘stopgap,’ AP staff feel that they can not fully meet the needs of these children.

Alongside the lack of places in special schools, staff have struggled to gain access to specialist support, such as speech and language therapy and educational psychology services. LAs report that services are stretched to capacity as the rate of anxiety, attachment issues, and other mental health problems amongst children has risen, especially since the pandemic.

Staff also expressed financial concerns. Without the funds to offer pupils the interventions and support they need, referrals to AP can become the only remaining option for mainstream schools. At the same time, APs report that their own funding is limited, which prevents them from doing outreach work and identifying children’s needs at an early stage.

To find out more about the barriers to supporting primary-age pupils with additional needs, you can read the full report here.

Ofsted to review the quality of careers education in schools

Ofsted has launched a review of careers guidance in both mainstream and specialist schools, as well as further education and skills providers. Over the next year, Ofsted will look to identify strengths and weaknesses, before publishing a report that makes recommendations to improve practice.

Inspectors will visit a sample of schools to carry out their research, investigating how school leaders fulfil their statutory duties to provide high-quality, independent careers guidance. They will also look at the role of the curriculum in helping pupils make informed choices about their futures. Importantly, inspectors will consider how schools engage with employers and career networks, ensuring that pupils have the skills to meet the needs of local and national industries.

Last year, a report by the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) showed that disadvantaged young people face more barriers to using career support to achieve positive career destinations. Researchers found that these pupils struggled with competing pressures, limited social networks, as well as a lack of effective school-mediated career support. In some schools, staff were said to have too low expectations, creating a culture in which pupils only consider a narrow range of options. Students also expressed concerns that ‘career support often comes too late, and that disadvantaged young people have already ruled out many options.’ Similarly, personalised guidance was generally offered on a one-off basis, rather than sustained.

The Education Select Committee is also holding an inquiry on the quality of careers education. This week, both the CEC and the National Careers Service (NCS) have been questioned on the role they play in supporting schools and what more can be done to help disadvantaged pupils and those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

With high aspirations for all children, teachers work hard to give their pupils the drive and ambition to be the best they can be. But when our provision does not effectively meet their needs, it can be easy for pupils to lose self-confidence and motivation.

From Educational Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy, through to SEND support, we can help pupils with across the breadth of challenges they face. Working together, we know we can give your pupils the foundations to flourish.

Please get in touch to find out more about our services.

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