Your Weekly Sector News 26/05/23

Find out what’s been hitting the headlines in education with Your Weekly Sector News. This week, we shed light on teachers’ pay, the problem of staff mental health, and the numbers of looked-after children missing from education.
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School Teachers’ Review Body recommends 6.5% pay award for teachers

Last weekend, the Sunday Times reported that the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) has recommended a 6.5% pay rise for teachers, a higher increase than the original 4.5% that was offered by the government in March and ultimately rejected by all four education unions. Following the leak, unions have now written a joint letter to the Education secretary, requesting that she re-starts negotiations.

They have called on the government to publish the full STRB report and confirm whether it accepts the recommended pay award. Furthermore, they ask if it will be fully funded and implemented from September. When the initial 4.5% salary increase was offered, extra funding was provided for only 0.5% of the figure. Many schools said this was not enough.

Union leaders also ‘wish to revisit the discussions we had on workload and inspection.’ They clarify that progress on non-pay matters is vital to resolving the recruitment and retention crisis, which continues to compromise the quality of education that schools are able to provide.

Currently, unions are re-balloting members over strike action as the pay dispute continues. The National Education Union (NEU) and NAHT school leaders’ union opened their ballots last week, with the NASUWT ballot set to launch on 5 June. Similarly, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) will ballot their members for the first time in history later in the summer term. If members vote yes to industrial action, leaders plan to coordinate strikes in the autumn term this year.

Experts call on Health and Safety Executive to investigate teacher suicide

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published an article calling for an urgent inquiry into work-related stress in the education sector. This follows the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, whose school was downgraded from Outstanding to Inadequate in its most recent Ofsted inspection. Her family alleges that the associated stress led her to take her own life.

An inquest into Ruth Perry’s death was launched earlier this year. However, work-related suicides are not investigated, recorded or subject to enforcement action by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Authors of the article say that this system must change in order to prevent further deaths, pointing out that there may be many more teachers who have died by suicide in circumstances linked to Ofsted, but so far only eight have been identified.

Additionally, experts say there must be an immediate inquiry into work-related stress in education, pointing to a growing body of data which shows the prevalence of mental health problems amongst school staff. For example, the Teacher Wellbeing Index surveyed more than 3,000 education professionals and found that 78% experienced mental health symptoms due to their work.

In particular, authors note that ‘although the high level of mental health problems has many causes, concerns about Ofsted clearly play a significant part.’ With this in mind, they say Ofsted must publicly accept a duty of care to teachers. This echoes calls from education unions, who have argued for Ofsted to be reformed, or even replaced with a more ‘supportive framework.’

Almost 1,500 looked-after children are missing from school

According to a new report released by Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner (CCo), 1,368 school-age children in care for at least four weeks were found to be missing from school, out of a total of 50,846. Of these, 541 children were not enrolled in any school at all, whilst 673 were linked with unregistered settings such as home education or private tuition. Nearly 150 children were enrolled at school, but had not attended a single session.

As ‘corporate parents,’ the CCo explains that local authorities have the statutory duty to ensure that looked-after children in their care are attending the best schools. However, some professionals

explained that it could often be difficult to find appropriate placements. They found there was a shortage of capacity and expertise in mainstream schools to support pupils with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), and some were reluctant to take on pupils ‘with complex trauma histories and additional needs.’

To address this problem, the CCo supports plans to expand Pupil Premium plus funding to support looked-after children beyond the age of 16. Furthermore, the report says the government should introduce a compulsory child-not-in-school register, whilst giving local authorities the power to direct academy trusts to admit looked-after children. Both policies were set out in the Schools White Paper, but no action has been taken since the bill was scrapped.

Other recommendations include the extension of corporate parenting responsibilities to schools, which would see every school governor and trustee undertaking mandatory training on how to support looked-after children in education. In de Souza’s view, corporate parenting responsibilities should be seen in ‘the spirit, values and culture that everyone working with and for children adopts. It cannot solely by the purview of the local authority.’ Read the full report to find more policy recommendations.

At One Education, we recognise that pupil welfare is paramount to the learning experience.

If you would like support with improving attendance, explore our Education Welfare & Safeguarding services. From staff training and policy development through to safe and well visits, we can help you put the right support in place to promote the welfare of all children.

Get in touch to find out more.

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