Updates, News & Resources

Welcome to Spring Term 2022

Welcome to Spring Term 2022

Dear Governor and Trustee

I wanted to begin by wishing you, our governors, trustees and leaders a Happy New Year. I hope you managed to have a good break over the festive period.

As we move from the autumn into the spring term, the country remains in ‘Plan B’ of the Governments COVID measures. We are aware that transmission rates in the north-west continue to rise and that schools are experiencing significant pressures in terms of staff absence and the implementation of additional COVID strategies. Again, we highlight the importance of well-being and ‘checking in’ on your leaders and governance colleagues to provide support or sometimes just a listening ear. As always, your Clerk is available for support and advice, as is myself and other members of the Governance Services Team.

The Local Authority encourages Boards to continue meeting virtually until further Government guidance is issued and transmission rates in the area decrease. All governance training and development sessions scheduled before spring half term will continue to be held virtually.

On behalf of the Team and the wider Children’s Services Department, I wish to thank you for your continued support to our schools and academies and we look forward to working with you throughout the year ahead.

John Ashworth, Governance Services Manager

DfE Press Release – New Measures to Reduce Pupil Absence

As part of the Education Secretary’s commitment to make school attendance his top priority, new expert attendance advisers with decades of first-hand experience are to begin work to reduce pupil absence.

They will work with local authorities and multi-academy trusts who have been identified as having potential to benefit from the support and who want to use the expertise of the advisers to help re-engage persistently absent pupils.

The Department has also identified schools with some of the greatest decreases in absence rates over a five-year period prior to the pandemic, and that have maintained their excellent approach. They will be sharing their approach with other schools in a variety of ways over the coming weeks and months, to help reduce high absence rates.

The full press release can be found directly from the website by following this LINK

DfE Statutory Guidance – Cost of school uniforms

The Department for Education has produced statutory guidance, the purpose of which is to ensure the cost of school uniforms is reasonable and secures the best value for money.

This means that schools and their governing boards must have regard to it when developing and implementing their school and trust uniform policies. It should be read alongside the non-statutory guidance on school uniforms.

The guidance outlines the cost considerations which schools should consider when developing and implementing their uniform policies and managing their uniform supplier arrangements

The statutory guidance may be downloaded directly from the website by following this LINK

A Guide to Engaging with Parents and Carers

The NGA has announced the publication of their joint guidance with Parentkind this week. Engaging with parents & carers, a guide for governing boards informs boards about the importance of engaging with parents as a feature of effective governance and methods that can be put in place to maintain those relationships.

This guidance is helpful for boards to take a practical approach to listen to parents’ views and take these into account during strategic decision making.

A copy of the guide may be downloaded directly from the NGA website by following this LINK

DfE Governance Update – November 2021

The DfE (Department for Education), as part of their regular governance update, have provided additional guidance to assist governors, trustees and school leaders in their governance roles. You may have already received this update if you are subscribed to the DfE GIAS (Get Information About Your Schools) system. The November briefing includes the following updates:

  • Understanding your data: a guide for school governors and academy trustees updated
  • National Leaders of Governance: eligibility for funded support and new designations
  • Free services for finding skilled volunteers to become school governors and academy trustees
  • Webinar for governors and trustees on implementing flexible working
  • The View my financial insights (VMFI) tool has been updated with your latest data (academy trusts only)
  • Update your information: Get Information about Schools (GIAS)

The guidance can be gained directly from the website by following this LINK

Using Pupil Premium: DfE Guidance for School Leaders

The Department for Education has published advice for school leaders in managing the use of pupil premium (and recovery premium in the 2021 to 2022 academic year) in schools. The guidance may also be useful for governing boards, parents and local authorities who want to know how schools can use their pupil premium effectively and the reporting requirements. The Department has separate published guidance which gives a brief overview of the pupil premium. As in previous years, schools should continue to use the pupil premium to improve the attainment of   disadvantaged pupils. For 2021 to 2022, schools are required to:

  • use the recovery premium alongside pupil premium funding and report on the use of them as a single sum in the strategy statement
  • use the DfE template to publish the strategy statement
  • publish the strategy statement by 31 December 2021
  • demonstrate how spending decisions are informed by a range of evidence

The guidance can be gained directly from the website by following this LINK

Schools Financial Value Standard (SFVS) and Assurance Statement

The SFVS assists schools and local authorities to meet basic standards for good financial health and resource management. Local authority (LA) maintained schools must submit the schools financial value standard (SFVS) to the LA annually. Local authorities use this information to inform their programme of financial assessment and audit. For the financial year 2021 to 2022:

  • schools should submit their SFVS to their local authority no later than 31 March 2022
  • local authorities should submit their assurance statement to DfE within 6 weeks, no later than 31 May 202

This year the template has been updated for recording related party transactions. The ‘Dashboard guidance’ has been removed and there has been the addition of the ‘Template for recording related party transactions’. There is also updated ‘Checklist guidance’ with information for the new 2021 to 2022 financial year.

The guidance can be gained directly from the website by following this LINK

Governance Services Update – Autumn 2021

Dear Governor and Trustee

Whilst reflecting on my introduction to the previous autumn term, it was apparent how optimistic I was about the year ahead. Little did I know that the challenges felt in summer 2020 would continue through the autumn term and move into spring and summer 2021. Schools and Academies once again felt a fresh wave of challenges with the pandemic, ensuring the safety of children and staff, whilst continuing teaching and learning via remote learning and in-school provision for vulnerable and key worker children.

The pressures for school leaders, teaching and non-teaching staff was palpable and at times relentless. Nevertheless, most schools remained open to our children, providing as much normality as possible. Governors and trustees supported their leaders and staff teams by conducting their strategic roles virtually but more importantly, I was heartened to receive positive feedback about how our strategic leaders were ‘checking in’ with genuine concern for staff well-being. The end of summer term could not come soon enough for many, and I hope all those involved in each school community had some much-needed respite from what had proved to be a difficult year.

Governance Services continued to provide support via virtual means throughout 2020/21, again with governors and trustees adapting well to the ‘new way of working’. The Team and I experienced many examples of exceptional governance in difficult times, with good virtual meeting conduct, continued training and development engagement and strong remote monitoring practice. Feedback has remained positive and the message from our governance volunteers is that a blended approach to services would be valued moving forward. With this in mind, and in line with the Government’s roadmap to recovery, we aim to continue to support both virtual and physical board meetings and provide a blend of face-to-face, live virtual and pre-recorded training and development events. We feel this will allow greater flexible and wider reaching support to our leaders, governors and trustees. The Chairs’ Briefing, Partnership Forum and Training & Development Lead Briefings will be a blend of face-to-face and virtual or pre-recorded events moving forward and feedback on this will continue to be sought.

So, from myself and the Team, I want to thank you for your support in 2020/21 and I wish you and your school and governance teams well for the year ahead.

John Ashworth, Governance Services Manager

DfE Governance Update – July 2021

The DfE (Department for Education), as part of their regular governance update, have provided additional guidance to assist governors, trustees and school leaders in their governance roles. You may have already received this update if you are subscribed to the DfE GIAS (Get Information About Your Schools) system. The July briefing includes the following updates:

  • National Leaders of Governance (NLG) reform applications
  • Academy Trust Handbook 2021
  • Updated models of articles of association
  • Keeping children safe in education guidance
  • Consultation on proposed arrangement for exams 2022
  • Guidance for trust partnerships
  • Early career framework reforms

The guidance can be gained directly from the website by following this LINK

DfE Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021

The Department for Education (DfE) have released the updated Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) statutory guidance for schools and colleges on safeguarding children and safer recruitment.

The DfE have also updated their advice on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges.

Both documents come into force from 1 September 2021 and can be gained by selecting the following links:

Keeping Children Safe in Education 

Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between Children in Schools and Colleges

School Admissions Code 2021

The Department of Education (DfE) have published changes to the School Admissions Code which will come into effect from 1 September 2021.

The changes aim to improve the in-year admission process, particularly for vulnerable children. Admission authorities should familiarise themselves with the new provisions to ensure compliance.

The DfE have also published new guidance to help local authorities and other admission authorities process admission applications for children adopted from state care outside of England, and has updated guidance around the effective operation of Fair Access Protocols.

Further guidance may be downloaded via the following links:

Schools Admission Code 2021

Admissions Priority for Children from State Care Outside of England

DfE New Model Articles of Association for Academy Trusts

The Department for Education (DfE) have published new model articles of association for academy trusts on 30 June 2021. The articles of association stipulate the trust’s charitable purpose and governance arrangements, including how members and trustees are appointed or elected, and the rules around meetings and voting.

Trust Boards are encouraged to update their articles of association, when possible, as the articles reflect current best practice and meet requirements set out in the Academy Trust Handbook.

The new articles of association may be found be visiting the website via this LINK

Ofsted Inspection Handbook 2021 (June Update)

Ofsted have updated the School Inspection Handbook 2021 which comes into force in 1 September 2021.

Details of the updates can be found in the summary of changes which include general updates, clarifications and new sections detailing Ofsted’s position on harmful sexual behaviour (para. 306 to 310) and Careers information, education, advice and guidance (para. 256-259).

A copy of the revised framework and summary of changes may be downloaded via the website using this LINK

Academy Trust Handbook 2021

The ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) has recently published the 2021 edition of the Handbook, previously know as the Academies Financial Handbook. The revised handbook comes into effect on 1 September 2021. The changes in the edition includes new information about:

  • Trusts’ existing obligations in relation to safeguarding, health and safety, and estates management
  • Cybercrime
  • External reviews of governance
  • Renaming the financial notice to improve (FNtI) to notice to improve (NtI)

Copies of the Academy Trust Handbook 2021 may be downloaded via the website by following this LINK

Ofsted Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools & Colleges

Ofsted has published its review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges. Inspectors spoke to more than 900 children and young people about the prevalence of sexual harassment in their lives and the lives of their peers. The findings include worrying statistics in regard to harmful sexual behaviours. The report advises school and college leaders to create a zero tolerance culture of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse and strategies for early intervention.

Governing boards will play a key role in making this happen from setting the right culture to ensuring appropriate trianing and policies are implemented effectively.

The full report may be accessed via the website by following this LINK

DfE Mental Health & Wellbeing Support

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the DfE outlined plans for £17.4 million funding on mental health initiatives in education settings. The funding will cover:

  • A Wellbeing for Education Recovery program providing free training and resources for staff to support pupils experiencing additional pressures from the last year.
  • Funding to the ‘Link’ programme run by the Anna Freud Centre which promotes joint working between schools and mental health services.
  • Grants for training of senior mental health leads in up to 7,800 schools and colleges from September. Information on applying for funding and a list of approved training providers is expected to be announced before September.

In addition, the DfE and Ofsted made 12 commitments to support staff wellbeing including to review the impact of the Oftsed framework on staff wellbeing. The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter is intended to be a shared commitment across the sector to support staff, with schools and colleges invited to sign the charter in the autumn.

Guidance can be downloaded by selecting the highlighted links above.

The Role of Members in Academy Trusts – NGA Guidance

The National Governance Association (NGA) have updated their guidance on the ‘Role of Members in Academy Trusts’.

The NGA note that Members are the “guardians of governance” within an academy trust, performing a limited and distinct role which is often misunderstood.

This third edition of the guidance includes new sections on keeping members informed and addressing trust board under performance. Existing content has also been updated to reflect the evolving rules and guidance around members and their role.

This guidance is available via the NGA website and is a free resource open to all NGA members and non-members via the following LINK

EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) Reforms

The EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) framework sets the standards for all Early Years providers to make sure that children aged from birth to 5 learn and develop well, are healthy and kept safe. The changes to the EYFS statutory framework are being made to:

  • Improve outcomes age 5,  particularly in early language and especially for disadvantaged children, emphasis on self regulation and executive function
  • Reduce workload- cutting the amount of time spent gathering unnecessary evidence; spending less time on tracking and data collection to enable more time with children
  • To promote good oral health as a statutory expectation

Some schools are already using a new early adopter framework as part of the EYFS reforms early adopter year from September 2020 to August 2021.The new early years foundation stage (EYFS) framework was published on the 31 March 2021 and should be used by all Ofsted registered early years providers in England from September 2021.

The DfE (Department for Education) have produced a vodcast, a useful viewing for headteachers, senior leadership and governors in schools, and gives essential messages from the DfE and Ofsted. The vodcast can be viewed via the following LINK

Laura Wright, Bolton Early Years and Childcare Adviser, will be delivering a presentation on the EYFS Reforms at the Bolton Governance Partnership Forum to be held on 24 May 2021, with bookings available via the following LINK

Ofsted Inspection Handbook – 2021 Revision

Ofsted have released updates to their inspection handbooks following their plans to resume full inspections in September. The updates include a section that sets out how inspections will take account of COVID-19 in schools. This includes:

  • longer preparation calls before inspections to understand the impact of COVID-19 on that school
  • considering externally published data, paying particular attention to the age of the data
  • teacher assessed grades from 2020-21 will not be used
  • inspections will mainly be carried out on site but some aspects such as discussions with governors may be conducted through video or telephone calls

Inspectors will also want to know how schools have prioritised the curriculum, implemented attendance strategies and provided improvised personal development opportunities for pupils through out this period.

Section 137 of the handbook states that “The role that governors and trustees play in the school’s performance is evaluated as part of the judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management, and each report will contain a separate paragraph that addresses the governance of the school.

The inclusion of this paragraph had previously been removed following the introduction of the revised succinct reports, to which Governance Services had raised concerns through our work with the National Co-ordinators of Governance Services. We had felt it paramount that the involvement of the Board in effective leadership and management be recognised to both celebrate strong governance practice or highlight potential areas for improvement. This also helps to raise the profile of the Board with stakeholders.

The latest updates and a copy of the revised handbook can be gained directly from the website by following this LINK

DfE Governance Update – April 2021

The DfE (Department for Education), as part of their regular governance update, have provided additional guidance to assist governors, trustees and school leaders in their governance roles. You may have already received this update if you are subscribed to the DfE GIAS (Get Information About Your Schools) system. The April briefing includes the following updates:

  • Governing and Trust Board meeting and visits into school
  • National Tutoring Programme: subsidised tutoring available
  • Early Education Framework (ECF) statutory induction guidance change
  • Honours nominations for those who work or volunteer in school or trust governance
  • Governor and Trustee Recruitment – Inspiring Governance & Academy Ambassadors
  • How to complete and update your governance contact on GIAS (for academies only)

The guidance can be gained directly from the website by following this LINK

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