Your Weekly Sector News 20/01/23

Keep up with the latest policy and sector developments with Your Weekly Sector News. Read ahead to discover more about the teachers strikes, threats to cybersecurity, and how many children are missing school due to safety concerns.
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Teachers vote to take strike action over pay

In the campaign for a fully-funded, above inflation pay rise, teacher members of the NEU have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action. With a turnout of 53.3 percent, a majority of 90.4 percent of teachers in England voted to strike. Support staff in schools also voted in favour of strikes, but failed to meet the legal threshold with a turnout of 46.5 percent. The union has planned for seven days of industrial action in February and March, however, any individual school will only be affected by four of them. Strikes are set to begin on 1 February 2023.

Headteachers and senior leaders balloted by the NAHT also failed to meet the legal threshold with a turnout of just 42 percent. Overall, 64 percent voted in favour of strikes, whilst 87 percent voted in favour of action short of strike – amounting to a total of 10,000 school leaders. However, the union will consider re-running the ballot after a survey found that 73 percent of members who requested a ballot paper did not receive one. This was likely due to disruptions to the postal service, according to Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT. But he reassures members that ‘it is my first priority that we conduct ourselves as a truly democratic union […] if our members feel that they have not had the chance to be heard during this ballot, it may be that we have no option but to start again.’

Similarly, turnout for the NASUWT was also below the legal threshold at 42 percent, although 90 percent of members who voted said they were ready to take strike action and action short of strike. The union has confirmed that they remain in dispute over teachers’ pay and will announce plans for further balloting of members.

This week, unions met with the Education secretary for a second time to discuss teachers’ pay awards, the recruitment and retention crisis, and the prospect of industrial action. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), says that ‘while it is good that these talks are continuing […] we have to report that no progress was made at this meeting and we are no nearer a solution.’ The ASCL is also planning its next steps after a consultative ballot, in which a majority voted in favour of proceeding to a formal ballot on industrial action.

Schools at risk from cyber attacks

This week, the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warned that schools remain at high risk from cyber-criminal attacks, after finding that 78 percent of schools in the UK experienced at least one type of cyber incident last year, with 7 percent reporting significant disruption as a result.

The NCSC report shows that schools were most often targeted by phishing attacks, where fraudulent emails are sent to deceive staff into revealing sensitive information. A quarter of schools experienced email impersonation, also known as spoofing, whilst a fifth were attacked with malicious software. Furthermore, six schools reported that parents had lost money due to a cyber incident, whereas there had been zero cases of this in 2019.

Although 100 percent of schools now have Firewall, 99 percent have anti-virus protection, and more than half feel prepared for a cyber incident, the NCSC warns that schools must continue making security improvements. For example, they highlight that a quarter of schools still do not implement multi-factor authentication or limit staff access to USBs. Although more schools are training non-IT staff in cybersecurity, rising from 35 percent in 2019 to 55 percent in 2022, the NCSC says that ultimately ‘all staff must know the fundamentals of cybersecurity.’

One in ten pupils miss school due to feeling unsafe

A report carried out by Edurio and The Key Education has found that one in ten pupils have missed school over the last six months because they felt unsafe. Researchers polled 70,000 children between the ages of 7 and 18 to investigate the safety of pupils in English schools. They found that whilst 75 percent of pupils felt safe in school, a slightly larger number felt safe outside of school at 78 percent. Meanwhile, most children felt safe online at 88 percent.

A quarter of children only felt fairly safe, not very safe, or not very safe at all in school. These pupils also felt unsafe more frequently in school than those who said they felt unsafe outside of school or online. Researchers suggest that ‘this is largely about pupils dealing with an ongoing, unresolved issue, rather than multiple unconnected incidents.’ Indeed, when asked if their safety concerns had been resolved, a quarter of children said no, and a further 27 percent said they did not know.

At school, learners were most likely to feel unsafe in the corridors or on the playground. Largely, pupils felt unsafe due to other children, and 16 percent reported that it was a friend. Responding to the report, a spokesperson from Diverse Academies said that leaders need to manage pupil behaviour by being explicit about what is acceptable ‘in terms of respectful relationships, anti-bullying, online conduct in the context of child-on-child abuse, sexual violence and harassment, and crucially, bullying.’

Furthermore, pupils who are gay or identify as something other than male or female were more than twice as likely to miss school due to feeling unsafe. Diverse Academies encourages schools to consider the quality of their personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education to ensure ‘schools move forward in creating a truly inclusive, respectful culture.’

If you have any concerns with safeguarding, cybersecurity, or people management, please get in touch. With highly skilled and experienced staff, One Education can help schools to achieve the best possible outcomes for their pupils, ensuring any challenges are collaboratively resolved.

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