Your Weekly Sector News 24/06/22

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Teachers’ Union Threatens Strike Action

With railway worker strikes under way, the largest teachers union in the country, the National Education Union (NEU), has written to the education secretary saying that they will campaign for industrial action if the government does not agree to an inflation-plus pay rise for teachers.

The Department for Education has pledged to raise the starting salary for teachers in England to £30,000. For newly qualified teachers, this would mean an increase of 16 percent over the next two years. However, most teachers would receive a pay rise of only 3 percent, whilst the pay progression structure would flatten for teachers moving between pay points.

In a letter to the education secretary, joint general secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, explain that teacher pay has fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010, even before this latest bout of inflation as figures hit 11.7 percent (RPI). They argue this means that current plans for a 3 percent increase in teachers’ salaries would amount to a huge pay cut.

The NEU says that the government’s failure to protect teachers’ living standards has created a serious retention and recruitment crisis, with one in eight newly qualified teachers leaving the profession in their first year of teaching. One in four teachers leave by the end of three years, and one in three by the end of five. ‘We can no longer stand by while you run both education and educators into the ground,’ the letter concludes.

Similar sentiments have been expressed by the NASUWT teachers’ union. General secretary, Dr Patrick Roach, writes ‘we will not allow cuts to our members’ pay and attacks on their pensions. If a pay rise is not awarded, it will be won by our members in workplaces through industrial action.’

Schools are waiting for the annual recommendation on teacher pay to be published by the independent School Teachers Review Body, which can make different recommendations to those proposed by the government. However, ministers will have the final sign-off.

School and College Performance Tables to be Rebranded

Earlier this year, a survey found that eighty percent of school and college leaders were against the move to publish Key Stage 4 and post-16 performance data this year. Following the backlash, the Department for Education has announced that it will rebrand its school performance website. Currently known as the Compare School and College Performance website, the government will give the site a new name in order to ‘reduce the emphasis on comparison between institutions.’

As well as changing the name of the website, ministers are looking to change the way it presents school data. For example, comparison tables for schools and local authorities will be removed, as will coloured-bandings, which currently show “well below average” figures highlighted in red. Data from 2018/19 and earlier will no longer be displayed, but users will be able to access the archived information via a link.

Geoff Barton, general secretary for the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), says that measures to mitigate the potentially damaging impact of performance tables on schools and colleges are a ‘step in the right direction.’ However, he adds that it is ‘hugely disappointing that [the education secretary] is still intent on publishing this information despite recognising that the data is problematic.’

The government maintains that it is important to be transparent so that both parents and pupils have the information they need to be able to choose schools and colleges. But ministers also say they ‘recognise the uneven impact on schools and colleges of the pandemic, and will ensure clear messages are placed on the performance measures website to advise caution when considering the 2021/22 data.’

Reforms to Improve School Attendance

The government has launched a consultation on school registers and new thresholds for absence fines, introducing reforms which will ‘improve the consistency of support [that] pupils and families receive.’

Under new plans, all schools will be expected to hold electronic attendance and admissions registers, using ‘21st century national data collection to better understand patterns of attendance in a timelier way.’ This will facilitate better data collection at no cost to schools and without requiring any manual input of information, ultimately replacing the current school census and other methods of data collection.

Schools and councils will be also be expected to consider fines for unauthorised absences, using new national thresholds:

  • 10 sessions of unauthorised absence including lateness in a term (where support has not been successful, has not been engaged with, or is not appropriate)
  • Any incidence of unauthorised holiday in term time
  • Any sessions of unauthorised absence immediately following a leave of absence in term time
  • Any incidence of an excluded pupil being in a public place without reasonable justification during the first 5 school days of an exclusion

The government says that these measures will ‘ensure no child falls through the cracks.’

Researchers analysed data from the spring term 2022 to find out how many pupils would have met the proposed new criteria for intervention due to absence. They discovered that ‘somewhere between 260,000 and 550,000 pupils’ would have met one or more of the new thresholds. By way of comparison, there were only 330,000 penalty notices issued in 2018/19 for the whole academic year.

Furthermore, analysis showed that pupils with SEND and those on free school meals were also more likely to trigger fixed penalty notices than their peers. This leads researchers to question what support schools can give, as they conclude that ‘some of the support that may be needed may be beyond a school’s gift.’

As ministers and union leaders clash heads, it is easy to become demotivated and feel anxious about the future. However, whilst it is important for school leaders and teachers to stay informed on the changes happening across the sector, it is also important to reflect on your personal priorities and those of your school community.

By staying faithful to our own values, we can sustain our passion and commitment to children’s education, and find the solutions that work best for our pupils. Explore our services to find out how One Education can support you to keep moving forward

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