Catch up: Advice for the current times

An on-demand event jointly hosted by the NAHT and Discovery Education.

Andrew Hammond and Guy Dudley discussed the issues currently facing school leaders and those teaching and working in schools.

In this session, we covered:

  • Ofsted: We’ll look at the implications of Ofsted’s recent announcement that it will be ‘accelerating’ its inspection timetable, as well as discussing Ofsted’s overall approach to inspections in the coming months.
  • Primary statutory assessment: We’ll look at the government’s approach to primary assessment and performance data this academic year, and consider the concerns that are being raised by school leaders.
  • Secondary qualifications: We’ll consider the decisions around exams and the contingency arrangements for 2022, as well as the issues around performance data.
  • School Funding: We’ll examine the government’s latest school funding announcements and consider what this will mean for schools in the coming years.

Many of these topics have been supported by wider advice pieces that can be found in NAHT Discovery Education Pathway’s Advice Hub where you will have access to an on-line library of information, advice and guidance to support you in your professional role and your continuing professional and personal development and empowerment.

If you’re a Pathway subscriber, you can access these advice pieces in the Pathway Advice Hub.

OFSTED

The current pressure caused by Ofsted

  • NAHT’s clear view is that routine inspections should not be going ahead at this time.
  • We need a new conversation about how inspections can return in a fair and proportionate manner – properly taking account of the ongoing impact of Covid.
  • NAHT remain of the view that there are fundamental problems with the Ofsted framework that need addressing e.g. the approach to subject ‘deep-dives’ in primary schools.

 

Ofsted deferrals

  • In light of the pressure brought by NAHT and others, Ofsted has revised and updated its deferral guidance.
  • We’re expecting Ofsted to look more sympathetically at requests for deferrals due to Covid in light of latest developments.
  • If you’re expecting an inspection imminently, we’d recommend that you read the detailed advice on the Pathway Advice Hub or NAHT’s detailed advice on the subject.
  • In order that we can hold Ofsted to account, we’re also asking NAHT members to let us know if they request a deferral and whether or not it’s accepted. You can let us know by emailing: specialistadvice@naht.org.uk
  • If you decide to request a deferral, it’s important that you explain how the pandemic is affecting the day to day running of your school i.e. how are current levels of staff absence having an impact on the operation of the school.

 

Beyond deferrals

  • NAHT is acutely aware that the issues currently being caused by Ofsted will not be solved by short-term deferrals alone.
  • NAHT continues to have serious concerns about aspects of the inspection framework such as ‘deep dives’ in primary schools and will continue to campaign for significant inspection reform.

 

Changes to Ofsted’s timetable

  • Ofsted recently announced that, as a result of receiving additional funding, it would be accelerating its inspection timetable.
  • It’s important to point out that this is about ‘catching up’ with some of the delays to inspection caused by Covid, not additional inspections. Even with this announcement, most schools can still expect to receive an inspection later than they would have done if it were not for Covid.

Important to note that these changes are only likely to affect the timing of inspection for schools previously rated ‘good’ by Ofsted. Whilst most can currently expect a 5-6 term delay compared with the pre-Covid timetable, over time, this delay is likely to decrease to around 3-4 terms. Most good schools should still expect to receive a section 8 (ungraded) inspection.

 

 

PRIMARY ASSESSMENT AND PERFORMANCE DATA

 

  • Throughout the last academic year, NAHT was raising concerns about 2022 and pressing the government to take a proportionate approach to statutory assessment this academic year.
  • Through formal letters, meetings, conversations with ministers, the STA and civil servants, NAHT has consistently raised school leaders’ questions and concerns.
  • Despite this, the government announced their intention that all primary statutory assessment would go ahead this academic year.
  • They did, following continued pressure from NAHT, make the decision not to publish any school level performance data from the 2022 tests and assessments on the performance tables website, but have said that this data will be shared in ASP and with Ofsted, Regional Schools Commissioners and local authorities.
  • NAHT has pressed hard against that decision, and at our policy conference in October, members passed a resolution to that effect and called for all statutory assessment in 2022 to be cancelled.

We continue to make the case to government, particularly in light of the changing circumstances of the pandemic, both for cancelling the assessments and, if they persist with their intention to continue to go ahead, then only sharing the data with schools themselves and not more widely.

 

SECONDARY QUALIFICATIONS AND PERFORMANCE DATA

  • Our engagement on secondary qualifications has been extensive over the past two years – there have been numerous consultations, requests for comments and feedback on guidance and hundreds of meetings with ministers, the qualifications team at the DfE, Ofqual, JCQ and the main exam boards.
  • In 2021, the government was adamant exams would be going ahead and despite our persistent calls, refused to develop a plan B.
  • We constantly pushed for a contingency plan for 2022 to be in place and we do at least now have a plan A and a plan B in place from DfE and Ofqual, even though we might not fully agree with what those plans are.

 

Plan A – exams and assessments go ahead

  • In July, there was a consultation on potential adaptations to exams and assessments in 2022.
  • DfE and Ofqual said that the consultation decisions ‘are designed to mitigate the impacts of the disruption that students have faced during the pandemic without undermining the value of their qualifications and their ability to progress successfully to further study’.

Those decisions are:

  • Subject specific adaptations [also known as ‘optionality’ in the choice of topics or the choice of content]
  • Changes to the arrangements for practical activities in sciences and assessment in art and design
  • Advance information – JCQ has published guidance for teachers on Advance Information
  • Support materials
  • Non-exam assessment and fieldwork arrangements were confirmed in the July 2021 publication of consultation outcomes
  • Although these adaptations are welcome, NAHT has been clear that they may not go far enough to address the differential impact that the pandemic has had on teaching and learning – for schools and for individual students.
  • In particular we have been critical of the decision about the publication of advance notice information:
  • NAHT members believe that centres should have been provided with advance notice information much sooner than February; we have been pressing and continue to press government to release this sooner
  • NAHT has argued that it is needed so that that teachers can effectively plan the use of the remaining teaching and learning time and react quickly to any further disruption in the next academic year
  • JCQ has published guidance on advance information but we are expecting that further information will be shared imminently to explain how it might apply for different subjects.

 

Performance data 2022

  • NAHT has consistently argued that no performance data should be published at KS4 or KS5 in 2022.
  • However, the government made a decision to publish normal performance measures at KS4 and KS5 as far as was possible – it will not be possible to publish all measures.
  • DfE committed that results using TAGs from 2020 and 2021 would not be used in performance measures.
  • This means there are gaps in all measures but these are particularly acute in post-16 measures for 2022 and 2023.

 

Plan B – contingency arrangements

  • In November decisions on the contingency arrangements for 2022 were published by DfE confirming that the arrangements implemented would be a Teacher Assessed Grade process similar to 2021.
  • Last year, schools and colleges had little more than half a term to implement the TAG process from end to end. That included identifying assessments to use as evidence and setting and marking assessments.
  • JCQ has also developed a document of frequently asked questions about those contingency plans and the collection of evidence to inform TAGs, should exams not go ahead as planned.
  • NAHT continues its significant engagement in discussions around contingency plans, processes developed, additional guidance etc.
  • We have raised, and will continue to raise, members’ concerns and questions, pressing for these to be addressed.

 

These concerns include:

  • Ongoing significant concerns about the language of teacher assessed grades which does not reflect the processes which take place before a grade is submitted
  • Should exams be cancelled, the DfE must immediately announce a decision not to calculate or publish any performance data for 2022
  • That the circumstances for cancelling exams and implementing the contingency arrangements are made clear and how the government will know when those criteria have been met
  • That guidance should be absolutely clear that it is not the expectation that additional assessments should be taken by students only for the purpose of providing evidence for TAGs should exams be cancelled, but that centres make use of the existing planned assessment opportunities
  • The key element of support which was provided in 2021 but received most criticism were the grade descriptors; exam boards must consider how they could improve and extend their support to centres when they are reviewing the range of evidence and making judgements on grades being awarded.

Schools and colleges developed quality assurance processes for TAGs in 2021. NAHT has urged against requiring centres to change those processes as such changes would increase workload and undermine the benefits of the familiarity centre staff have with them.

 

FUNDING

  • In the autumn 2021 budget / Comprehensive Spending Review, it was confirmed that there would be an additional £1billion for ‘educational recovery’ next year. Most of the additional money will be targeted at secondary schools, but it will also mean a continuation of recovery funding for primary schools.
  • The Chancellor also confirmed an additional £4.8billion for core schools funding over the next three years.
  • £1.7billion of that will arrive next year and should be delivered to schools in a separate grant, not as part of the National Funding Formula.
  • £300m of that is to cover the additional National Insurance costs schools will face.
  • Clearly, there is also the question of increasing costs, most significantly the unknown cost of lifting the public sector pay freeze. To put this in perspective, the aggregate cost of a 1% teacher pay increase is approximately £250m.
  • Schools are also facing the ongoing costs of Covid, most notably additional supply costs. The government has recently reintroduced its School Workforce Fund and we recommend school leaders check to see if they might be eligible for this support.

The government had also now confirmed that supplementary Maintained Nursery Funding will be extended for the next three years and will receive an inflationary uplift for the first time since it was first introduced.