700,000 pupils attend schools in need of major repairs
A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that 700,000 children are being taught in school buildings in need of major repairs. As of March 2023, the Department for Education (DfE) was not aware of any injuries to staff or pupils in school due to structural issues, however there are concerns that the poor condition of school buildings may have a negative impact on teacher recruitment and pupil attainment.
Over a third of school buildings, 24,000 in total, are currently beyond their estimated design lifespan. The DfE estimates that it would need £5.3 billion in annual funding to maintain the safety and structural integrity of schools, mitigating the most serious risks of building failure. However, the Treasury has only allocated the department an average of £3.1 billion per year, creating a £2 billion shortfall in funding. As a result, funding is often used for the most urgent repairs rather than planned maintenance, which leads to poor longer-term value for money.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, says the government must improve its understanding of the extent and severity of potential safety issues across the school estate. This will help ministers to address ‘the most urgent risks while investing enough in maintenance, reducing carbon emissions, and climate change adaptation measures.’
Research reveals the ‘wasted potential’ of disadvantaged learners
A new report from the Sutton Trust shows that between 2017 and 2021, more than 28,000 young people who were expected to achieve top grades at GCSE based on the potential they showed in primary school, did not do so due to the disadvantage they faced.
The study followed 2,500 disadvantaged pupils who showed high potential on leaving primary school, tracking their progress throughout secondary education. Despite their high potential, they had fallen behind their peers by three-quarters of a grade at GCSE, and by a full grade in comparison to their most affluent classmates.
Those most likely to fall behind included white boys and black Caribbean pupils, those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and pupils in the North East and North West of England. More than a fifth of disadvantaged pupils felt that people like them ‘don’t have much of a chance in life,’ more than double the proportion of other high-attainers. Researchers suggest that the government urgently reviews the funding given to schools, particularly those in the most deprived areas, in order to close the attainment gap.
Educational Psychologists lack confidence in ability to meet rising demand
Educational psychologists play a key role in helping pupils achieve their full potential, supporting their mental health and wellbeing to overcome barriers to learning. However, only about 10% of leading educational psychologists express confidence in their ability to meet the growing demand for their services due to concerns regarding funding, training, and delivery. This comes as new data shows the number of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) in England has risen above half a million for the first time.
Researchers gathered evidence from a series of surveys, interviews and focus groups with educational psychologists (EPs), trainee and assistant EPs, and principal educational psychologists (PEPs). Respondents explained that increased demand for EHCPs had created ‘a vicious cycle […] in which EPs lacked capacity to engage in early intervention and advisory work, because statutory assessment took up so much of their time.’ As a result, the problems experienced by children and young people escalated, meaning they could no longer be resolved through early interventions and led to them seeking more EHCPs.
Almost 70% of PEPs, who are responsible for overseeing services in their areas, lack confidence in their ability to fulfil requests for their services. Whilst capacity issues were primarily driven by the rise in EHCPs, PEPs also reported challenges in recruitment and retention. The Association for Educational Psychologists (AEP) announced a formal ballot for strike action last month. Cath Lowther, general secretary of the AEP, says ‘poor pay and conditions have resulted in an unprecedented recruitment and retention crisis, as workloads spiral and our wellbeing and the quality of services suffers.’
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