Keeping up with the news can be difficult amidst busy schedules. To make it easier for you, we have put together a brief summary of 5 important education news stories from the past week. Here's a quick recap of the key developments in the sector to help you stay informed and empowered.

1. CST outlines 4 reforms for ‘fairer’ school funding

Academy body calls for SEND cash through the national funding formula, a policy premium and new private finance building scheme, writes Jack Dyson.

CST has released a new report calling for reforms to the national funding formula (NFF).

Leora Curdas, CST's CEO, said: "If the English state school system is going to be the best system in the world at getting better, it needs funding that enables it to flourish, and that is what our proposals are aimed at delivering.” 

Here are the four key recommendations from the academy trust body:

1. Merge pupil premium and other long-standing additional funding channels into NFF;

2.  Roll core funding for SEND and AP into the NFF. This should be a “protected, minimum level of funding”;

3. Develop a “national maintenance and rebuilding programme” to repair school buildings across England.

4. Any other, time-limited funding should come through a new ‘policy premium’.

Source: CST outlines 4 reforms for ‘fairer’ school funding (schoolsweek.co.uk)

2. MAT chiefs warning over ‘unaffordable’ teacher pay rise

The DfE must issue extra funding to help some schools fund any teacher pay rise for 2024-25 or risk redundancies and reduced provision, writes Jasmine Norden & Matilda Martin.

After learning the funding levels for next year MAT leaders warn that any pay rise above 2-3% will be impossible to afford for many schools.

This comes after trusts recently received their general annual grant (GAG) statements for 2024-25. Leaders say the grant is not nearly enough to fund a satisfactory pay award for teachers.

Some trusts say that even a 1% pay award will leave some schools "in the red" and facing staff cuts.

Trust leaders have also warned that insufficient pay rises will likely lead to strike action later in the year.

Source: MAT chiefs warning over ‘unaffordable’ teacher pay rise (Tes.com)

3. New NFER report highlights 6 ways MATs can tackle SEND challenges

The new report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) highlights six key ways trusts can better support staff and deliver SEND provision, writes John Roberts.

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has produced a report based on interviews with MAT chiefs, trust SEND leaders and SENDCOs working in academies.

The report is based on interviews with 49 SENDCOs, SEND leaders and MAT CEOs. It outlines how trusts can better support and deliver SEND provision.

Here are the key takeaways:

1. Appoint MAT-wide SEND leaders;

2. Help SENDCOs feel less ‘isolated’;

3. Avoid conflicts with local authorities;

4. ‘Blend’ SEND and mainstream;

5. Standardise SEND vision for schools;

Source: 6 ways MATs can tackle SEND challenges (TES.com)

4. Absence rates up despite attendance drive

DfE data shows a rise in overall absence and pupils persistently absent last term compared with spring 2022-23, writes Matilda Martin & John Roberts.

Figures published by the DfE show the overall absence rate for the last term was slightly up on the 7% recorded last year.

The proportion of persistently absent pupils has also increased, with 21.9% of pupils missing 10% or more half days in school in the current year’s spring term, compared with 20.6% in 2022-23.

The government speculated that the rise is likely due to higher levels of illness absence.

Earlier this year, schools minister Damian Hinds announced the government's objective to cut pupil absence levels to below 5% by persuading parents that children with mild illnesses or anxiety should go to school.

It's important to note that the DfE has taken additional measures to tackle the absence issue. Along with a communications campaign aimed at getting parents to send children to school, the government also invested £15 million in the expansion of its mentor programme for persistently absent pupils earlier this year.

However, data has shown that, despite the efforts, pupil absence remained far above pre-pandemic levels last year.

Source: Absence rates up despite attendance drive (TES.com)

5. Schools now ‘biggest source of food aid’ for families

One in five schools is now running a food bank, says new report warning that policymakers are unaware of the scale of child hunger, writes TES.

Schools have now become the biggest source of charitable food and household aid for families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, a new report suggests.

In fact, research shows that there are more than 4,000 school-based food banks in primary and secondary schools across England, which means that 1 in 5 schools runs one.

The lead author of the research, Dr William Baker, said: “Our research shows there are now, quite shockingly, more food banks inside schools than outside of schools in England. In recent years, inflation has sent the cost of essentials spiralling, while other forms of state support have withered due to swingeing cutbacks."

The report urges greater awareness of the issue from policymakers to ensure that schools no longer have to "be on the frontline in responding to food poverty".

Source: Schools now ‘biggest source of food aid’ for families (TES.com)