Brexit: Threat to exams and school meals (THAT wasn’t on the bus!)

“Schools may have to close, exams could be disrupted and fresh food for pupils’ meals could run short because of panic buying with prices soaring by up to 20%, according to a secret Department for Education analysis of the risks of a no-deal Brexit obtained by the Observer.

The five-page document – marked “Official Sensitive” and with the instruction “Do Not Circulate” – also raises the possibility of teacher absences caused by travel disruption, citing schools in Kent as particularly at risk.

On the dangers of food shortages to schools, it suggests that informing the public of the risks could make matters even worse.

In a section entitled School Food, it talks of the “risk that communications in this area could spark undue alarm or panic food buying among the general public”.

And it adds: “Warehousing and stockpiling capacity will be more limited in the pre-Xmas period. The department has limited levers to address these risks. We are heavily dependent on the actions of major suppliers and other government departments to ensure continued provision.”

Listing the actions the department would take in the event of food shortages affecting schools, the document says: “In light of any food shortages or price increases we will communicate how schools can interpret the food menu standards flexibly. DfE may make exceptional payments – or submit a prepared bid to HM Treasury for additional funding. Worst case scenario estimate of the increased costs – £40 to £85m a year for schools in relation to free school meal provision based on price increases of 10-20%,p. ….”

“The [privatised] market” in higher education crumbles, 3,500 students and 247 staff lose out

“GSM London, one of the biggest private higher education providers in England, has gone into administration – and will stop teaching students in September.

The college says it has not been able to “recruit and retain sufficient numbers of students to generate enough revenue to be sustainable”.

It teaches about 3,500 students – with degree courses validated by the University of Plymouth.

The college, based in Greenwich and Greenford, says 247 jobs are at risk. …

It was not a university – and not regulated by the higher education watchdog, the Office for Students (OFS).

But a spokesman for the OFS said its “overarching priority is to ensure that students are able to complete their studies”.

“We understand that some students who are nearing the end of their studies will be able to stay at GSM but it is likely that most will need to transfer to another higher education provider.”

The OFS says in 2017-18 the college had 5,440 students, with the latest figures showing 3,500.

A statement from GSM London says that “discussions are under way with other higher education providers to identify alternative courses for our students and we will be supporting them in the application process”.

The college, owned by a private equity firm, says it could not remain financially viable and had been unable to find a buyer to ensure its “longer-term future”.

It says it will teach until September – which for some courses will be the end of term – ahead of an “orderly wind-down and closure of the college”.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We want a broad, sustainable market in higher education, which offers students flexibility and a wide range of high-quality choices for where and what they study.

“Whilst the vast majority of institutions are in good financial health, the Department for Education and the Office for Students have been clear that neither will bail out failing providers.”

“Tally of £150,000 school academy bosses jumps by 20%”

“New concerns have been raised over the pay handed to academy school bosses after it emerged that almost 1,000 academy trusts paid a six-figure salary to at least one staff member last year.

A total of 988 trusts, the not-for-profit charities that oversee academy schools, had at least one person on £100,000 or more in 2017-18, with 146 paying £150,000 or more to at least one employee.

The proportion of trusts paying £150,000-plus salaries has risen by 20% in a year, with a 7.6% rise among those with at least one person above £100,000. The rise came despite an increase in the number of academy trusts in deficit, from 5.9 to 6.4%.

The official figures, released last week, will fuel criticisms of the government’s academies programme. There have already been rows over schools using their independence to pay big sums to senior management. It comes amid huge concern over the financial pressures on classrooms.

Academies are not part of nationally set pay structures so trusts are left free to set remuneration as they see fit. Most of the best-paid leaders in English schools are now trust chief executives, running groups of academies. Since last year ministers have written to 213 trusts with at least one person on £100,000 or more asking for justification. However, only 50 trusts had reduced remuneration.

Outside the academies system, it is relatively rare for a school leader to reach six figures. The top of the national pay range for headteachers, which applies to non-academy schools, was £116,738. This would be paid to a very small minority of leaders running large local authority secondary schools in London. …”

“State schools choose ‘posh’ uniforms to exclude poor pupils, says MP”

“Some schools are deliberately pricing school uniforms beyond the means of poorer families so “only posh kids go there”, MPs have been told.

Emma Hardy, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, has written to the education secretary, Damian Hinds, asking him to tell schools to stop forcing parents to buy branded school uniforms.

She said that academies in particular were “emulating grammar schools and private schools” in prescribing prohibitively expensive uniforms – including branded blazers and even socks.

She had also been told that some academies deliberately chose expensive suppliers in order to put off parents of lesser means, and that some schools received a cut from suppliers given the exclusive contract for their uniforms.

“People have told me confidentially that schools get money from suppliers,” said Hardy. …

A survey from the Children’s Society last year found families were shelling out more on school uniforms with an average of £340 per year for each child at secondary school – an increase of 7% or £24 since 2015. Parents of primary school children spent on average £255, an increase of 2% since 2015.

The research found nearly one in six families said school uniform costs were to blame for them having to cut back on food and other basic essentials compared to one in seven in 2015.

In England, local authorities and academy trusts may choose to provide school clothing grants or to help with the cost of school clothing in cases of financial hardship.

In Wales, a Pupil Development Grant can provide £125 to buy school uniform, equipment, sports kit and kit for activities outside of school. In Scotland, parents may be able to get financial help with their child’s school clothing and shoes through a school clothing grant, available from local councils.”

How has Devon fared under Theresa May?

Badly – crime, education, homelessness and health and social care have all got much worse, only unemployment has improved with the gig econony and zero hours contracts:

“Head of Ofsted calls for greater scrutiny of multi-academy trusts”

Owl says: there are many multi-academy trusts in Devon – unaccountable and unscrutinised by both parents and local authority and nothing either can do about it. Scandalous.

“The chief inspector of schools has called for increased powers to scrutinise multi-academy trusts (Mats), warning that parents and policymakers currently have only a partial view of what is happening in England’s schools.

Amanda Spielman, the head of the schools regulator Ofsted, said trusts were not being held to account properly as her inspectors were not allowed to inspect them.

Ofsted’s inspections are limited to a “summary evaluation” based on a sample of schools belonging to a trust, rather than on the trust itself, resulting in a lack of accountability, according to Spielman.

A growing number of schools in England are being taken out of local authority control and turned into academies, which critics have long claimed lack transparency and local accountability.

About three-quarters of secondary schools and a third of primaries are now academies and three-quarters of those belong to a Mat, some of which control as many as 50 schools or more. “Given the power and influence of Mats, it’s important that they are properly accountable to parents,” said Spielman.

“The fact that Ofsted is unable to inspect trusts directly means parents and policymakers are only given a partial view of what is happening in our schools. This presents some very real risks, which we have seen highlighted by the recent failures of some academy trusts.”

The system of summary evaluations of Mats was introduced this year and allows Ofsted to carry out inspections of a number of schools and publish individual reports. Overall findings are discussed with trust leaders before a summary evaluation report on the work of the Mat is published, though an inspection grade, which would be normal with schools, is not given.

Six Mats have been the subject of summary evaluations, among them the Outwood Grange academies trust, which has in the past been criticised for its discipline policy and high levels of exclusions. Ofsted’s report was positive overall but recommended that the trust should reduce exclusions by continuing to improve pupil behaviour.

Ofted published a report on Monday based on an investigation into Mats, which found that schools in larger trusts benefited from economies of scale, back-office support, training, career progression and recruitment. However, it said some Mats had taken on a large number of struggling schools too quickly, without always having the capacity or leadership necessary to improve them.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the academies programme and the freedom it gave school leaders has been at the heart of the government’s education reforms. “Ofsted have already published a number of summary evaluations reports, which are among a wide range of tools we use to hold academy trusts to account. This includes published information about trust performance, annual accounts and letters to trusts where there are issues of under-performance or weaknesses in governance or financial management.”