We know people who work in schools and trusts are busy supporting students, preparing materials, attending meetings and completing multitudes of ‘essential’ paperwork so it can be difficult to make time to sit down and read the latest education news.

As it’s our job to give schools and trusts insight into their most essential needs, we thought we’d help you out by compiling some of the education stories that hit headlines this week.

1. MAT inspections are inevitable

The roll-out of trust-level inspections will need to be carefully calibrated with the wider system’s shift towards more schools being part of MATs, writes Steve Rollett.

Amid plentiful commentary of late about inspection reform, one area that has received little attention is the inspection of multi-academy trusts.

This is surprising as the DfE’s recent regulatory and commissioning review was tasked with considering the role for trust-level inspection, but produced a final report that was pretty much silent on the issue.

While Ofsted can currently carry out Multi-Academy Trust Summary Evaluations (MATSE), these are effectively an aggregation of routine school-level inspections rather than an inspection of the trust as an entity. And they only do around 12 of these each year.

Source: MAT inspections are inevitable, so let’s start planning now (schoolsweek.co.uk)

CST and Edurio have been working together to gather reliable insights into where trusts are in their development and what their priorities and challenges are for the academic year 2022/23 and beyond. National CST School Trust Report - Edurio

Image credit: MAT inspections are inevitable, so let’s start planning now (schoolsweek.co.uk)

2. DfE fleshes out new academy trust quality descriptors

Academy trusts will be expected to support flexible working, operate collaboratively and “take action to promote equality and diversity”, under new quality descriptors drawn up by government.

Last year’s schools white paper proposed a formal definition of trust strength based around five “pillars”, which ministers said would help assess their “potential for growth”.

The Department for Education has now published more detail on these proposed descriptions.

The pillars are:

  • High-quality and inclusive leadership
  • School improvement
  • Workforce
  • Finance and operations
  • Governance and leadership

Ministers said they “represent a clear and ambitious vision for the academies sector”.

The DfE hopes the guidance will help to “inform trusts’ improvement and capacity-building priorities”.

However, the government has “avoided” stating how chains should achieve these goals as it has instead opted to place the onus on the “sector to identify the most effective approaches”.

Source: DfE fleshes out new academy trust quality descriptors (schoolsweek.co.uk)

Edurio carried out England’s largest review of staff Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in schools, with over 16,000 respondents. Staff EDI Experience in Schools and Multi-Academy Trusts

Image credit: DfE fleshes out new academy trust quality descriptors (schoolsweek.co.uk)

3. GCSEs: Only 1 set of mocks needed, schools told

Ofqual has warned against schools over-assessing their students to gather evidence in the event that exams do not go ahead in future. 

In draft guidance published today for consultation, the exams regulator said that a “small number” of schools and colleges had created a “large number of new and additional mock exams and assessments in 2023 for the purpose of gathering evidence”.

But Ofqual said that providing mock exams are completed in line with the guidance published today - and set to come into effect from 2024 - one full set of mocks “should be sufficient”.

The regulator warned that if schools did not follow the guidance over the collection of evidence and placed too much emphasis on assessing students, it could have an “adverse effect on some students’ mental well-being”.

Overall, if followed, Ofqual says it expects that the proposed arrangements “will be of some benefit to students’ mental health and well-being”, as they provide clarity

Source: GCSEs 2024: Only 1 set of mocks needed, schools told | Tes

Edurio data found the pupils taking GCSEs sleep poorly and feel overworked compared to other year groups. Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Review

4. Schools cut classroom hours to hold on to teachers 

Two schools are trialling a four-day teaching week to boost ailing recruitment and retention, with one head saying “yoga or free biscuits” just aren’t enough anymore.

Court Moor School, a secondary in Hampshire, will launch a £300,000 two-year trial from September for all teachers to teach four days, but continue to receive full-time pay 

St Philip Howard Catholic Primary in Hertfordshire launched a similar scheme earlier this week, allowing staff one day a week off timetable for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) and subject leader tasks. 

Paul Jenkins, head of Court Moor School, said it had tried everything from an extra paid day off a year to free yoga classes and health checks.

The schemes come as recruitment numbers plunge, with teachers left behind in the rise of flexible working since Covid.

Source: Schools cut teaching week in bid to boost recruitment (schoolsweek.co.uk)

The proportion of school staff considering resigning now is higher than before the pandemic. Edurio's staff retention report looks at over 75,000 school staff responses over the last four academic years. Staff Retention in Academies - Edurio

Image credit: Schools cut teaching week in bid to boost recruitment (schoolsweek.co.uk)

5. ‘Give RSE specialist subject status,’ MPs told

Relationships and sex education (RSE) in schools should be given the same status, training and funding as other specialist subjects, an expert has told MPs.

Giving evidence to the Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee this afternoon, Lucy Emmerson, chief executive of the Sex Education Forum, called for more investment and resources to give RSE the same status as other specialist subjects - and the same dedicated teaching time.

Today’s special hearing was organised by the committee after the prime minister ordered an acceleration of a review of RSE statutory guidance in March, in response to reports that inappropriate material was being taught in some schools.

Source: 'Give RSE specialist subject status,' MPs told | Tes Magazine

Edurio and The Key carried out England’s largest review of children’s own feelings of safety in school and beyond. The second report is centred around safeguarding in the curriculum and focuses on coverage of the RSE/PSHE curriculum. Pupil Safeguarding Review | EDURIO & THE KEY