Welcome back to Greensheets and the first issue of the new academic year. Here’s a briefing on some of what’s been happening in July and August.
The Department for Education (DfE) was busy making announcements as soon as schools closed for the summer break. In July it finally published the report of the School Teachers Pay Review body, and its response, after a delay of a couple of months. The Government rejected the review body’s recommendation of an across the board 3.5 per cent rise in pay ranges and allowances, substituting a 3.5 per cent increase to the main pay range and unqualified teacher pay range, a 2 per cent rise in the upper pay band for teachers, and a 1.5 per cent rise for school leaders. This does not mean that all teachers will automatically receive these increases as schools will continue to decide their own salary structure, but they will receive a grant to help them pay higher salaries.
The DfE also published a ‘workload reduction kit’ that had been promised for last spring. The toolkit is a series of online resources developed “with leading teachers, school leaders and technology experts” to help schools identify and address workload problems in what the DfE says are the most burdensome tasks, such as pupil feedback and marking, planning and resources, and data management.
It also announced it will spend £2.3 million on money-saving experts to help schools cut costs. A team of school resource management advisers has been working with trial schools since January, providing “impartial, expert business advice” on how to make best use of revenue and capital resources. A total of 160 advisers will now be recruited to “help schools and academy trusts identify opportunities to make better use of their resources … so they have the most impact on outcomes for children”. The advisers are likely to focus on staffing costs, which account for most school spending.
A ‘cost-saving toolkit’ was also launched to support schools in managing costs and improving value for money, again concentrating mainly on the workforce together with procurement.
On the recruitment front, Maths graduates will receive a payment of £20,000 when they become secondary school teachers. Under the fully funded government scheme those who stay on will then receive payments of £5,000 in the third and fifth years of their teaching careers, while a payment of up to £7,500 will be available “to encourage the best maths teachers to teach in more challenging schools”.
Trades union membership among school teachers and leaders in England has dropped to its lowest level for seven years. Analysis by the Schools Week website claimed that England’s teaching and leadership unions had 805,736 paying members in December 2017, down from 809,118 in 2016, and the lowest level since 2010, when the unions had 776,039 members in total.
In August the DfE lost a legal challenge in the Upper Tribunal, the court that deals with appeals against school exclusions. It is likely that schools will need to show it is ‘proportionate’ to exclude an autistic pupil on the grounds of challenging behaviour. Previously schools could exclude an autistic pupil for being aggressive without demonstrating that the decision was proportionate, or that they had made the right adjustments to support the pupil or reduce challenging behaviour, even if the behaviour was a result of the pupil’s autism. A spokesperson for the DfE said it would be “carefully considering the judgement and its implications before deciding the next steps”.