Catching up with the news every day can be difficult amidst busy schedules. Read our brief summary of 5 noteworthy education news stories from the previous week to stay informed about the key developments in the sector.

1. Trusts urge DfE to launch independent schools regulator

CST adds voice to calls for an independent body 'with same legal standing as Ofqual' and accountable to parliament, writes Jack Dyson.

In a recent report, the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) emphasized the necessity of an independent schools regulator to ensure impartiality, transparency, and autonomy in decision-making, advocating for its legal equivalence to Ofqual.

This proposal follows former Department for Education adviser Tom Richmond's suggestion for a regulator - which he named the Office for Capability and Oversight in Education (OFCOE) - to be handed intervention powers, finance and governance oversight, and the ability to close and open schools.

CST noted, “There are some in the sector who are proposing that regulation and commissioning could or should be exercised locally, and in particular by” councils, instead. However, the body argues against it, citing potential conflicts of interest and the impracticality of councils regulating entities beyond their jurisdiction, such as trusts and dioceses.

Source: Trusts urge DfE to launch independent schools regulator (schoolsweek.co.uk)

2. Multi-academy trusts: Expansion, consolidation, or stagnation?

Almost 9 in 10 large MATs expect to grow by 2025, writes Matilda Martin.

Analysis reveals that 31% of single-academy trusts (SATs) intend to expand, with figures rising to 81% for small MATs, 85 per cent for medium MATs, and 87 per cent for large MATs—defined as those with over 7,500 pupils.

However, leaders express concerns over the "lack of clarity" in the decision-making process of the DfE's regional teams on MAT growth.

While the number of schools under MATs has increased by 5.4 per cent in the past year, recent remarks by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan have cast doubt on the government's position, perceived by leaders as a "change of tone" on academisation.

Although small trusts—defined as those with fewer than 3,000 pupils—are less inclined to pursue growth, leaders still recognise the potential benefits.

One leader pointed out that if small trusts refrain from expansion, their options may become severely limited, potentially resulting in a merger.

Source: 9 in 10 large MATs expected to grow by 2025 (TES.com)

On March 20th, Edurio will launch an essential new resource for trust leaders - Leadership Strategies in School Trusts. The guide will explore leadership practices across trusts and draw insights from those achieving top leadership scores which are above national benchmarks in our data. If you'd like to learn more about building a trust with strong leadership and a cultural vision, sign up for the free resource and have it in your inbox by the 20th of March.

3. Ministers publish new attendance guidance

Ministers have published new guidance on school attendance that will become statutory in September. Read our attendance blog for further information.

Ministers have released new guidance on school attendance management, set to be mandatory in September.

The guidelines outline increased absence fine rates, specific thresholds triggering penalty considerations, requirements for daily data sharing with the government, and updates to absence codes.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  1. Parental absence fines will see a rise to £80, or £160 if unpaid within 21 days;
  2. Councils can now use any surplus on “attendance support;
  3. Schools must share daily attendance data with the government from September;
  4. The guidance states that “leave of absence should not be granted for a pupil to take part in protest activity during school hours;
  5. Schools cannot “retrospectively” delete a pupil’s name from the admission register or attendance register;
  6. Ministers have also shaken up attendance codes amid concerns they can be misused to send children home.

Source: The 10 new attendance rules schools need to know (schoolsweek.co.uk)

4. DfE urges lower teacher pay rise next year

The government has recommended teacher pay awards return to ‘a more sustainable level’ for 2024-25, writes TES.

However, the Department for Education has not provided a specific percentage increase for teacher salaries in the 2024-25 academic year, as opposed to previous years, according to evidence submitted to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).

The DfE emphasized the importance of the STRB's pay recommendation considering various factors, such as recruitment and retention, current teacher compensation, school funding, and broader economic conditions.

Experienced teachers received a 5% pay rise in the 2022-23 academic year.

Considering the economic outlook for 2024-2025 and the exceptional circumstances of the past two years, the DfE stated that it is appropriate for teacher salary adjustments to revert to a more sustainable level.

Source: DfE urges lower teacher pay next year (Tes.com)

5. ‘Increase’ in pupil suspensions and exclusions last term

New analysis shows a “large increase” in the number of pupil suspensions and exclusions in the last autumn term, writes Matilda Martin.

An analysis of attendance records conducted by FFT Education Datalab reveals a continued increase in suspensions and exclusions during the current academic year.

The numbers saw a notable increase in the autumn of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

FFT expressed concern over this significant rise, warning that heightened suspensions and exclusions lasting six days or more will put a further strain on alternative provision.

Last month, an investigation carried out by TES, discovered that the majority of alternative provision providers surveyed reported reaching full capacity by 6th December last year. Providers attributed this to escalating exclusions and challenges in reintegrating pupils into mainstream.

The Department for Education has yet to release its official figures for the autumn term of 2023-24.

Source: ‘Increase’ in pupil suspensions and exclusions last term (TES.com)

One of our latest reports - Behaviour and Safety: Key Trends and Challenges - helps uncover the patterns that lie beneath rising numbers of behaviour-related incidents. The report gathers the views of 400,000 pupils, staff, and parents, exploring perceptions of staff support, current school behaviour management strategies, and staff and pupil wellbeing.