Education Secretary Damian Hinds has today (2 October) announced a series of new education and skills measures to make sure every child has access to a world-class education at every stage of their lives, regardless of their background.

The announcements build on the hard work of teachers and the government’s reforms with 1.9 million more pupils now in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 – an increase from 66% of pupils to 86%.

Commenting on the Education Secretary’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference,

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“What this and any other successive government needs to understand is that unless our schools are properly funded there will be no world class education system and all other measures will be nothing more than sticking-plaster solutions to a real crisis.

“At a time when there is a shortfall in funding of £2 billion a year in real terms compared to three years ago, today’s announcement of additional money is a drop in the ocean. We have 66,000 more pupils in schools since last year yet there are 5,400 fewer teachers, 2,800 fewer teaching assistants, 1,400 fewer support staff and 1,200 fewer auxiliary staff. This is simply not good enough.

“The Government was told by heads last week that funding cuts have left some schools in the position where they are cutting subjects from the curriculum, increasing class sizes, cutting school trips and after-school clubs, and leaving buildings in disrepair. Nothing in Damian Hinds’ speech addresses this desperate situation. As the Conservative Party meets in Birmingham, 14 schools in the city have cancelled Friday afternoon lessons because they can no longer afford to staff classrooms properly. This is a disgrace.

“The Education Secretary must tell the Treasury and the Prime Minister to listen to the profession and address the crisis in school funding as well as the teacher recruitment and retention crisis. Failure to do so will ensure this Government is remembered for seriously eroding what was a world class education system. Children and young people deserve so much better. The NEU will continue to campaign for a fair education for all our students.”   

School sport action plan

A cross-government school sport and activity action plan will consider ways to ensure that all children have access to quality, protected PE and sport sessions during the school week and opportunities to be physically active throughout the school day.

The Department for Education, Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department of Health and Social Care, will review what further steps can be taken to support schools to train their teachers to deliver high quality provision in school and ensure that every child can participate in the sport and physical activity that is right for them.

Ministers will meet National Governing Bodies and sporting organisations including the Football Association, the Premier League, Rugby Football Union, England Hockey and England Netball to ensure that school sport platforms offer our young people the best opportunities to compete.

The action plan will be launched in spring 2019 and it will be informed by the first publication of data from the Active Lives Children Survey – the government’s new and world-leading approach to measuring how children and young people engage with sport and physical activity.

It will also link to the existing Sporting Future strategy, Childhood Obesity Plan and to plans to build a legacy from the Commonwealth Games, which will be taking place in Birmingham in 2022.

Basic maths skills

Centres for excellence in maths will be established across the country to improve the quality of maths teaching in post-16 institutions, focusing on improving basic maths knowledge and skills for those aged 16 and over.

Maths is one of the most in-demand skills in the labour market and it is already the most popular subject at A Level and GCSE. However, a third of young people do not achieve a standard GCSE pass in maths.

The government is determined, through its modern Industrial Strategy, to increase the number of people understanding and studying the subject, helping them to secure good jobs and boost the UK economy.

That is why 21 new centres for excellence will be established in post-16 institutions across the country – with at least one in every region of England. The programme will design new and improved teaching approaches, develop high quality teaching resources, build teachers’ skills, and spread best practice across the country through maths networks.

This announcement is part of the £40 million announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget to improve the quality of basic maths provision for low attaining young people over the age of 16 over the next five years.

English hubs

The government is announcing the names of 32 schools across England that will take a leading role in supporting schools that struggle to teach children to read by improving the teaching of early language and reading.

This network of some of the best performing primary schools will work to increase reading standards in schools across the country and improve education outcomes for the most disadvantaged children, particularly in underperforming schools.

Reading is key to opening up learning. While the government has made great progress through the introduction of phonics, it wants to continue to drive improvements in the standards of literacy.

Building on the success of phonics, which has contributed to 163,000 more six-year-olds on track being fluent readers than in 2012, the 32 schools will spread best practice and teaching techniques, backed by £26.3 million funding. This will include providing school workshops for teachers and more intensive school-to-school support.

The hub schools were chosen through a competitive process - all 32 have a background of excellent phonics teaching and are distributed to benefit the areas that need it most. Each hub will identify specialist literacy teachers who will get additional training to act as experts in teaching in early language and reading from reception year to Key Stage 1. The hubs will work with up to 170 local primary schools and will build a network of excellent phonics teaching in every region.

Capital funding for T Levels

£38 million is being made available to the first providers of T Levels to make sure pupils taking the new technical qualifications from 2020 have access to the equipment and facilities they need.

T Levels, which will be on a par with A Levels, will provide young people with a high quality choice between technical and academic education post-16. Courses in construction, digital and education & childcare will be taught for the first time from September 2020.

The new qualifications will help ensure that young people can get the skills and knowledge they need and the economy demands.

The funding will be available to the providers delivering the first three T Levels in time to make sure they can invest in equipment, facilities and refurbishment works via a bidding round.

Careers guidance

The government will expand the network of schools and colleges across the country that is sharing and developing the best careers advice so young people get the guidance and support they need.

The number of areas served by these networks, supported by the Careers & Enterprise Company, will double from 20 to 40.

The government will also expand the training places available to support new careers leaders in schools and colleges from 500 to 1300.

In addition, the National Careers Service website is being refreshed and improved to ensure that it better meets the needs of young people and adults.

Tackling poor behaviour

Schools must get the tools and support they need to tackle poor behaviour so no child’s education is undermined by disruption.

The government will reform training so every teacher is equipped to manage behaviour, backed by a £10 million investment to support schools to share best practice and back heads who choose to ban mobile phones.

The reforms to training will mean that all teachers will be shown how to effectively manage behaviour in their first two years in the profession.

Most schools already have a policy in place restricting pupils’ use of mobile phones in schools. The Government has made clear that it will back heads who take these decisions as this can reduce bullying and improve attainment.

Research from the London School of Economics in 2015, found that after schools banned unrestricted access to mobile phones, the test scores of students aged 16 improved on average by 6.4%, and time lost in classes that permitted free access to smartphones was equivalent to around five days of schooling per year.

Earlier this week the government announced a package of reforms and an extra £95 million of government funding to ensure the Apprenticeships Programme continues to help business train people with the skills they need for the new economy and the Chancellor pledged £100 million for the first phase of the National Retraining Scheme.

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