The case of the missing (academy schools) students just prior to exams … aka – cheating!

“Some of England’s most influential academy chains are facing fresh questions over the number of children disappearing from their classrooms in the run-up to GCSEs, following a new statistical analysis of official figures.

The same four academy chains have the highest numbers of 15- 16-year-olds leaving their schools in both of the last two academic years. In some cases, two pupils are disappearing from the rolls for every class of 30. Some local authorities are also approaching these figures for dropouts.

Fears have been increasing that some schools are “offrolling” – getting rid of students who could do badly in their exams – in an effort to boost their league table position.

The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, is among those voicing concern. The inspectorate has yet to find a way to differentiate offrolling from cases where schools have acted in the best interests of children, but it has started to gather its own data.

Education Guardian looked at England’s 50 largest academy trusts and 50 largest local education authorities, and compared the number of pupils in year 11 in 2017-18 – the students counted when GCSE results are published – to the number in year 10, a year earlier.

The findings reveal a consistent pattern in some chains of year groups shrinking substantially. The same four trusts fill the top four places in our table (below) on 2017-18 data and on data for 2016-17. The trend of disappearing pupils appears to be happening at a higher rate in the academies sector. …”

Seaton heritage building – no stay of execution

(photos: Midweek Herald)

Word reaches Owl that, despite a last-minute attempt by Seaton Town Council to delay the auction of the Seaton beach searchlight building until alternative ideas for its use can be explored, EDDC CEO Mark Williams has decided it will go ahead to public auction tomorrow.

Swire wants planning officers to be accredited yearly while a Tory aesthetic political philosoper tries to improve building design!

One should see this in context.

1. This government refused to support CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) and it was subsumed into the charitable “Design Council”. Design Council CABE, is intended to operate as a “self-sustaining” business ie no support from the government.

2. NOW the government is worried about all the developer-led atrocities of design and building and needs to be seen to be sort-of doing something (preferably something on the cheap).

3. The person Swire refers to effusively – Sir Roger Scruton – is described thus in Wikipedia:

“Sir Roger Vernon Scruton FBA FRSL is an English philosopher and writer who specialises in aesthetics and political philosophy, particularly in the furtherance of traditionalist conservative views.”

4. Swire is positioning himself for a general election – expect more of this sort of thing!

Question from Swire:

“I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on the establishment of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission and the inspired choice of Sir Roger Scruton as the chairman, but, first, does my right hon. Friend not agree that this will only have any teeth if we can get the volume house builders to buy into it? Secondly, I think that the commission should be extended to look at the quality and the variable advice often given by local planning officers and at a full accreditation scheme for those planning officers on an annual basis to refresh them.”

Response from James BrokenshireJames Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government:

I certainly want the new commission to drive quality in the built environment, which is at the heart of what my right hon. Friend said. If we do that, we can speed up this process and get greater support and consent from the public in building the homes that our country needs. I therefore think that the house builders should very much embrace this.”

Exmouth infrastructure will not support 120 new homes says town council

“Exmouth’s infrastructure cannot support new 120 home development, town council claims.

The town council’s planning committee has refused to support a full application made by Taylor Wimpey for land at Pankhurst Close, Littleham.

At the meeting, councillors raised concerns about the impact the development could have on ‘already busy’ roads surrounding the site.

Councillors voted to object to the proposal which includes the associated demolition of a disused industrial building.

They argued there was inadequate infrastructure to support it and that it would represent a loss of employment land.

Councillor Fred Caygill, who is the deputy chairman of the committee, said the developer would be ‘better served’ combining this project with its nearby Plumb Park site where more than 260 homes are currently being built.

He added: “If this development was to go ahead, I feel it would be better served if it joined up with Plumb Park so you had a continuous through-route so at least you’ve got access for emergency vehicles .

“You’ve got a traffic flow system rather than bottle necks.

“A lot of people who buy houses these days are both working with two cars and as we know a lot of employment is into Exeter and surrounding industrial estates.

“We’ve got lots of industry in terms of estates so there is a considerable amount of people moving into the area.

“The traffic system is going to get worse and also the parking within that estate.

“I feel a through-road will be better.”

Cllr Brian Toye said this development would only put more ‘stress’ on the area’s existing infrastructure.

“This does nothing to address the problem with traffic we have in Littleham Road,” he said.

“The problem is people are going to find rat-runs through the estates to get up to the new Dinan Way extension.”

Cllr Maddie Chapman also raised concerns about the impact of removing asbestos from the site.

She said it should be moved especially during the day.

“It should be at a quiet time, late evening, and take it off site,” she said.

A final decision on the application will be made at a later date, yet to be confirmed by the planning authority, East Devon District Council.”

Exmouth – road to nowhere?

“Work is set to begin on phase one of the Exmouth seafront regeneration scheme this month after East Devon District Council (EDDC) cabinet gave its approval despite not having ‘legal commitment’ from Grenadier Estates for ‘phase two’.

The developer, which is planning to begin construction on a new watersports centre in spring 2019, says it is ‘committed and on schedule’.

Councillors at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday (October 31) were told there were ‘verbal assurances’ from Grenadier but that waiting any longer for a written commitment would result in works on the road, which had originally been expected to begin in September, being put back until next summer. Members were told the council had sought independent commercial advice in case Grenadier decided to pull out.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Megan Armstrong warned that verbal assurances are not good enough, adding: “The council is incurring costs without Grenadier being legally committed and if the council is willing to spend all this money on possibly a road to nowhere then so be it but I actually despair of this council making this decision.”

However, councillor Jill Elson said: “We have already incurred costs of £63,000 and if we delay any more we will be adding another £63,000 and we need a better car park.

“I believe we should be saying to Grenadier we are pushing to get on and we want this done in the winter and don’t want it done in the summer.

“I think it would be horrendous in the summer, not only for the tourist industry but there will be a health and safety issue for members of the public.”

Councillor Ian Thomas, cabinet committee chairman and leader of EDDC, said: “It’s incredibly important that we keep the Exmouth regeneration programme moving than allowing it to stagnate.

“It’s important that building works aren’t scheduled in the middle of the summer season and the disruption it will cause on the seafront in Exmouth.”

“£600m underspend on tax-free childcare to return to Treasury”

“Labour has accused the government of failing to support hard-pressed families after it emerged that a £600m underspend on its tax-free childcare (TFC) scheme is to be returned to the Treasury.

The underspend on the troubled programme was uncovered by Labour analysis of data from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which showed that spending on TFC is projected to be £600m lower than expected over the next four years.

The TFC scheme has been struggling to improve levels of uptake among families. Earlier warnings from the OBR said the programme had helped less than 10% of the families originally predicted, and spending in the first year was just 5% of initial forecasts.

Instead of reallocating the £600m to support other childcare policies, however, the Conservatives said the leftover funds would go back to government, prompting fury from those working in the early years sector.

Childcare providers say they are struggling to try to deliver the Conservatives’ 30-hour free childcare promise to working parents. They say the Tories’ flagship policy is underfunded and poses a risk to the financial sustainability of early years providers.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, called on the government to re-invest the leftover funds.

“Given that childcare providers across the country have long been crying out for additional funding, the suggestion that government underspend on the tax-free childcare scheme is to be returned to the Treasury rather than used to support a sector in crisis beggars belief,” he said.

“Such a decision suggests that pre-schools, nurseries and childminders are being left to struggle not because the government simply doesn’t have the money for additional investment, but rather because it doesn’t believe that there is a true need for it in the childcare sector.”

The underspend confirms that uptake of tax-free childcare remains way below government projections, either because parents don’t understand their entitlement or they’re choosing not to take it up. …”

Another council in trouble: East Sussex

Owl says: it makes you wonder how many other councils are sailing close to the wind and fast apperoaching the rocks.

But didn’t the Chancellor tell us last week that austerity is over?

“A cash-strapped council has warned it will not be able to afford to provide basic services unless it receives more government money.

Conservative-led East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said it needed to save more than £45m by 2021-22.

In its Core Offer document the council sets out a list of services it could provide as a “bare minimum”.

However, the chief executive said it was “unlikely” that even this reduced level of services could be sustained.

In August, ESCC set out plans to strip back services to the “legal minimum”, following fellow Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council’s proposed “radical service reductions” to tackle its financial crisis.

The Core Offer would result in cuts to training for social workers and doing less preventative work, saving £854,000.

Another £1.3m could be saved by doing less monitoring of school performances, the document added.

The council also said more than £500,000 could be saved by cutting library services and £884,000 cut from the road maintenance budget.


By Ben Weisz, BBC Sussex

A “basic but decent” offer – that’s how the council leader Keith Glazier sees the Core Offer document, setting out East Sussex County Council’s view of the bare minimum it should provide to residents.

It combines those services the council must provide by law – like free bus passes, or adult social care – with other services the council feels it couldn’t do without.

And it sets out what the council would axe, too. So, no more funding for meals on wheels, more cuts to libraries and tips, and fewer families getting early help from social services.

This “bare minimum” would save the council £12m each year.

But unless there’s a big change to its financial situation, rising demand for its services and falling government grant means it needs to save £46m by 2022. Even the core offer isn’t affordable, as things stand.

Yes, it’s a way of asking residents what the council’s priorities should be. But it’s also a political statement, aimed squarely at the government.

The message is simple: “We won’t even be able to afford the bare minimum in a year or two. So either give us more money, or let us off some of our legal duties.”

Becky Shaw, the council’s chief executive, said: “The Core Offer will help us in our lobbying with government to set out the realistic level of funding we need to continue to serve local people adequately.

“The council is using its best endeavours to live within its means and is continuing to work to make sure it is making the best use of resources.

“It remains unlikely, however, that even the Core Offer will be sustainable by the end of the next three year planning period.”

The council said the document would form part of public consultation into the authority’s spending plans.

Council leader Keith Glazier said: “We’d all like to provide more than a core service because none of us came into politics to make cuts, but this proposal is presented as a realistic ambition in a time of austerity.

“We have a budget to deliver and we have to make best use of that. This is not about budget setting.”

The proposals are due to be discussed by the council’s full cabinet on 13 November and will be used to develop the budget for the next three years, a council spokesman said.”

“Headteacher acclaimed by Tories is banned from teaching”

“The headteacher of a high profile multi-academy trust, which won plaudits from former prime minister David Cameron and his then education secretary Michael Gove, has been banned from teaching indefinitely.

Liam Nolan, who was executive headteacher and chief executive of the now defunct Perry Beeches academy trust in Birmingham, was found guilty of “unacceptable professional conduct” after a hearing before the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA).

Acknowledging Nolan’s contribution to the teaching profession, the TRA report said he should be allowed to apply to have the prohibition order lifted after a minimum two-year period, which would give him time to “reflect on his failings”.

The prohibition order against Nolan is the latest chapter in the demise of the Perry Beeches academy chain, which was stripped of its five schools after an investigation revealed financial irregularities at the trust, including third-party payments to Nolan, on top of his £120,000 salary as executive headteacher.

The Education Funding Agency investigation found nearly £1.3m in payments without contracts to a third-party supplier, a private company called Nexus. That company also subcontracted to a company named Liam Nolan Ltd, paying Nolan a second salary for his role as chief executive officer of the trust.

At the time, critics of the government’s academies policy, which takes schools out of local authority control, said the case should ring alarm bells over the accountability and financial management of academy chains and the government’s ability to police the system.

The TRA hearing found that Nolan failed to comply with recognised procedures and principles in relation to management of public funds and was in breach of the academies’ financial handbook, which sets out the financial management, control and reporting requirements for all academy trusts.

“Mr Nolan stated in his evidence that he was under pressure in developing the Perry Beeches schools and that it was against this background that he made what he described as mistakes,” the TRA report said. “However, the panel was not convinced this justified his lack of integrity in managing public finances. Although Mr Nolan apologised for some of his failings as accounting officer, there did not appear to be sufficient insight into the seriousness of those failings or his responsibility in that post.”

Cameron opened one of Perry Beeches’ new free schools in 2013, when the then prime minister praised the “brilliant team” at the trust. In 2012, Nolan addressed the Conservative party conference and appeared on stage with the then education secretary Michael Gove, who described Nolan as “wonderful”.