Antony Power
Posted on 13 Oct 2014

What's New for Schools?

With the start of the academic year schools once again face a raft of changes across a range of areas. Set out below are some key changes that schools should be aware of.

SEN Reform

As we have previously highlighted, the special educational needs (SEN) reforms contained in the Children and Families Act 2014 came into force on 1st September. The changes of particular note include:

  • Statements have been replaced with education, health and care (EHC) plans;
  • EHC plans will continue until the young person is 25 rather than 19 under the old statements/learning disability assessments regime;
  • ‘School Action’ and ‘School Action Plus’ are being replaced with a single designation of SEN;
  • personal budgets are introduced for students with an EHC plan although in a relatively limited set of circumstances;
  • there is to be a single assessment process;
  • local authorities are required to publish a ‘local offer’ setting out details of SEN provision; and
  • Schools must also publish details of their SEN provision. 

The Department for Education also just about managed to get the new SEN Code of Practice published before the reforms became effective, although commentators are less than pleased with the clarity of this document. Watch out for a revised Code in the near future!

New National Curriculum

A(nother) new National Curriculum came into effect in September this year. Academies are of course not required to adopt this but maintained schools are. We wait to see how long this one lasts!

One significant change is the removal of levels as descriptors of progress. Schools are now free to select their descriptors, although how Ofsted will react to this remains to be seen.

Universal Free School Meals

There is probably not much need to highlight this change given the extensive media coverage but the requirement for all foundation and key stage 1 children to receive a free school meal at lunchtime (although not necessarily a hot meal) is now effective.

The meals must comply with the school food standards (for more about the food standards regulations see Jade Kent's recent article on vegetarian schools), where they apply (in all maintained schools and some academies). 

Whilst most agree that this is a beneficial change, many argue that there would have been more educationally effective ways of spending the money.

The Latest Ofsted Changes

Some more tinkering with the inspection process comes into force in September.  This includes:

  • the effectiveness of sixth form provision and early years provision will now be a separate judgement in addition to the existing categories;
  • Ofsted say that following the demise of levels, there will be increased scrutiny of starting points and schools’ own assessment systems; and
  • following the Trojan Horse investigation, Ofsted will be checking that school curriculums are broad and balanced enough to “help prepare young people for life in modern Britain”.

Administering Medicines Policy

As well as introducing a new SEN regime, the Children and Families Act also requires all schools to make reasonable adjustments to meet the medical needs of pupils. This includes the administering of medicines which means that there is now a statutory duty to have a policy dealing with this. If your school has not adopted this yet and you need a pro forma, please let us know.

Head Teacher's Pay

There are new rules on determining senior leaders’ pay in maintained schools. These changes apply to appointments made after 1 September 2014, or to those whose responsibilities have changed significantly. They include the following:

  • The leadership pay spine has been replaced by a pay range
  • The ‘head teacher group’ is calculated on the basis of pupil numbers, and a pay range is to be determined within that group
  • When determining the leadership pay range, the relevant body must take into account all of the permanent responsibilities of the role, any challenges specific to the role, and all other relevant considerations
  • A head teacher’s pay may exceed the maximum of the pay range by up to 25% if the relevant body considers that the specific circumstances warrant a higher payment

First Appraisals Under Performance-Related Pay

A year on from the introduction of performance related pay for teachers, we enter the first round of performance reviews linked to pay increases. We wait with baited breath to see whether there is a raft of appeals from disgruntled appraisees denied pay rises.

So, another hectic start to the new academic year as there is no let-up in the pace of change. As always, if you need some further guidance on the legal or governance aspects of the changes, please get in touch.

For further information please contact Antony Power, Partner and Head of the Education team at Michelmores, by telephone on 01392 687713 or by email at antony.power@michelmores.com.