We’re dreaming of a white paper


1st December 2021

We’re a healthy lot here at the CfEY, even at this most gluttonous time of the year. So we're foregoing the usual chocolate advent calendar for a sugar-free, geek-heavy policy advent calendar. Share on X Over the next twenty-four days, we will take a well-earned break from our Friday Fives to tweet one proposal per day for the Schools White Paper. 

The paper is coming sometime in the Spring and is seen as part two of the 2010′ importance of teaching’ schools white paper. It feels surprising that this government has now held the DfE reins for almost as long as New Labour held the same department (with three different names). Perhaps 2023 will mark a timely moment to take stock of this government’s thirteen-year education reform record. 

Beyond the obvious focus on schools, it sounds like the paper will partly be an attempt to retain or regain the momentum on some existing policies (for instance, primary literacy and numeracy and academisation). The paper also provides an opportunity to signal changes in direction responding to the challenges of the pandemic and the opportunities that a recovery might bring. Alignment with the SEND review and the social care review will be crucial. And in all this, after more than thirty years of waiting, we may gain greater clarity on the role of the local authority. 

Our policy ideas will be anything but coherent. They may even be contradictory. But we can promise you that, like the best advent calendar chocolates, they will be small and perfectly formed. You’ll know what you are agreeing or disagreeing about. You won’t know how much each will cost. We currently have twelve ready to go, created from our amazing back catalogue of project reports and from our equally amazing hive minds. Some will be personal (I disagree with at least one of them), and others come from existing CfEY reports.

We’ve deliberately left space from 13 December for others to contribute ideas. So if you have a policy gem, email our head of policy Bart Shaw and we can do the rest, giving you as much or as little credit as you want. Your idea has to be schools and schools policy focussed, precise and tweetable. We know many policy changes are needed beyond schools, and there are many practical ideas that schools can just get on with rather than waiting for policy changes. However, these are for next year’s advent calendar. It also has to be realistic; the white paper isn’t going to say ‘pause OFSTED’, let alone abolish it, so probably not worth suggesting either, 

From my experience of working to support the 2007 Children’s Plan (does anyone remember Ed Balls and Andy Burnham on a swing?), writing white papers can be tense, bizarre, and torturous. Whilst the process might not get into Thick of It’ national spare rooms database’ territory, there is often space, even at the last minute, to input, albeit in often haphazard, evidence-light ways. So, to our friends with the much tougher job of writing the damn thing, we wish you a happy Advent and merry Christmas. We hope all of our ideas influence debate, that some of them even make it to the final tablet of policy stone. 

DAY ONE: Headline performance data for schools should be published as a three-year rolling average. Presenting a schools’ average performance over three years would be a more reliable measure in terms of attainment, reducing the impact of variation between year on year cohorts as well as reducing stress for school leaders and staff. We’ve blogged and consulted experts on this idea just prior to the pandemic. You can read more here.

DAY TWO: Create “transition units” in local authorities, whose role is coordinating support for pupils with SEND as they start school, move between primary and secondary, and leave school. These transition units should focus on supporting parents, signposting to specialists, enabling better communication and collaboration between schools, accessing tailored careers advice, and bridging gaps between services for young people and adults with SEND. We’re interested in your views about this idea. Would this help? What support should units offer? What else might help ease transitions for pupils with SEND?

DAY THREE: Target interventions in Maths at Years 3+4, with a focus on improving numeracy and reducing maths anxiety. Our work with Third Space Learning shows how underachievement in maths in early KS2 can negatively impact future achievement, and (looking longer-term) on earnings. Teaching and tutoring directed at Years 3 + 4 can address these concerns early. You can read more here: https://bit.ly/3IatWnp. We think that the Schools White Paper should outline efforts to target maths support for years 3+4. What do you think?

DAY FOUR: DfE should ringfence additional Early Years funding for schools in deprived neighbourhoods to enable better support for inclusion. Specifically, the funding should 1) improve access to SENDco training and 2) enable schools to employ additional staff where needed to reduce reception class sizes, lead liaison with health and care services and provide specialist support. Early identification and support for SEND is crucial (see @EduPolicyInst’s recent report https://bit.ly/3G9BxRq) –  schools often end up coordinating access to local services. Schools should be supported to fill gaps in provision without taking resources away from other areas.

DAY FIVE: Put in place a comprehensive package of support for enrichment activities for FSM eligible young people. The package should include: 1) a ringfenced enrichment top-up to Pupil Premium; 2) tech support for schools to find external providers and vice versa; and 3) an expansion of the Ofsted “personal development” framework and other regulatory measures such as frameworks or kitemarks to ensure that young people experience high-quality activities. You can read more about our work with on enrichment and non-formal learning with the National Citizen Service, including more detail on these proposals, here.

DAY SIX: Create an NPQ that focuses on primary/secondary transition. We know that the transition from primary to secondary school can be very tough for young people. New academic demands, social groups, buildings and routines can present challenges at a pivotal moment in young people’s education. A dedicated NPQ would help secondary school leaders create effective, evidence-informed strategies for supporting young people at the point of transition. Read more about our work on transitions here and here.

DAY SEVEN: Publish non-statutory guidance for how schools can embed the statutory spoken language requirements set out in the National Curriculum. The guidance will help improve literacy outcomes (a current key focus at DfE) and will improve oracy for its own sake. Gatsby Benchmarks and Model music curriculum provide examples of the kind of guidance that we think would support schools develop spoken language. Our report with the Oracy APPG adds more detail. Read more here.

DAY EIGHT: Behind the today’s door of our policy advent calendar is an idea from CfEY fellow, special school head and Whole School SEND national leader Simon Knight: Restructure DfE to bring SEND policy into the Education brief from Children and Families. SEND should sit at the strategic heart of schools policy. All future education policy should consider carefully how to improve outcomes for the entirety of the pupil community, no matter how complex their need. Pupils with SEND should be a forethought, not an afterthought. Follow Simon on Twitter @simonknight100 and also give Simon and our Head of Policy, Bart, discuss SEND policy in this podcast episode https://cfey.org/podcast/053-bart-shaw-and-simon-knight-send/. 

DAY NINE:  Include questions on the use of private tuition in Ofsted’s parent view survey. To help Ofsted give as fair an evaluation of school performance as possible, and add context to school performance data, inspectors should find out whether parents pay for private tuition in any subject, and unpick why parents feel the need for private tuition in those subjects. This would allow a proper assessment and comparison of school performance. @Suttontrust’s 2018 report on parental investment in education makes fascinating reading on this topic here.

DAY TEN:  Recruit and train a group of specialist primary arts and design teachers. Allocate them to primary schools with the greatest challenges in reaching expected KS2 literacy and numeracy standards. Similar to primary sports coaches, allocating arts teachers to these primary schools will give staff much-deserved additional time to plan improvements in numeracy and literacy, and also ensure that these pupils continue to receive a high quality broad and balanced curriculum. This policy could also partly address the reduction in arts education in primary schools since 2010, and gradual decline in children’s arts participation out of school (see DCMS #takingpart). Click here for more information.

DAY ELEVEN:  Encourage and guarantee a 20% space in all school curricula for ‘non-National Curriculum Learning’ and ensure that accountability systems protect, inspect and monitor this space. Every time a new National Curriculum is introduced, politicians ensure us that it should never encompass the whole curriculum. Unfortunately, the reality is that most schools have time for much else. This seems like mainly an accountability problem rather than a content problem. Current Ofsted curriculum inspections and deep dives offer insufficient encouragement for schools to show, tell and analyse what knowledge, skills and dispositions they value and teach that go beyond our national curriculum.

DAY TWELVE:  Bring Early Years Pupil Premium funding in line with primary school pupil premium funding. Currently, EY providers can access Pupil Premium funding of up to £302 per child, compared to £1345 for a child at primary school. Enabling extra support and intervention in the Early Years reduces the need for reactive and more drastic interventions further down the line. The EYPP increase requires guidance and CPD aimed at identifying and supporting individual needs as well as effective whole group strategies as per the EEF’s EY toolkit https://bit.ly/3rYHMn6.

DAY THIRTEEN: From our friends the Edge Foundation: Replace Progress 8 with Progress 5, to open up space in the curriculum and balance out the current emphasis on academic subjects. The Department for Education would only mandate 5 subjects (Eng, maths, sci, digital, and one other) then open up more space in the curriculum to choose broader humanities and other subjects. Schools could tailor this non-mandated element based on student interest and their local skills need. You can read more about this idea in the recent House of Lords Youth Unemployment Committee report here and EDSK’s report on the issues with P8 here

DAY FOURTEEN: courtesy of our brilliant board member @HardipBegol: Develop a single “school report card” that brings together a more balanced and wide-ranging view of school performance than is currently the case. The report card would combine existing measures of academic attainment and progress along with attendance and Ofsted rating, but also add measures, for example for pupil wellbeing and for parent and pupil perceptions of the school. The DfE came close to implementing a version of this report card in 2009 – you can read the proposals and sector responses here https://bit.ly/3pVKjf4. 

DAY FIFTEEN: DfE should explore options for extending post-GCSE education from two years to three. This could support a pandemic recovery that closes learning gaps whilst improving wellbeing and career readiness. Our CEO Joe’s blog has some early suggestions on how a three-year programme – including post-qualification university admissions – could carefully blend learning, working, mentoring and caring/service. It is clear that no school or college could achieve all of this alone. It needs the types of high-quality, long term civic partnerships with local employers, universities, voluntary and community organisations that many of our best 16-19 institutions already foster. if we believe that our COVID-19 education recovery is a mission that requires longer-term, radical solutions, a permanent addition of one more year of compulsory learning, caring, working and mentoring may well be worth considering.

DAY SIXTEEN: A doubleheader from our friends at Impetus and the Child Poverty Action Group: 1) gather data on the length of the school day nationally, to analyse its impact on pupil outcomes 2) ensure that the length of a school day allows all pupils to access enrichment. Impetus point out that schools across England have different lengths of day – but DfE doesn’t collect this data. We need a clearer idea of impact on outcomes at a national level, and what lessons we should be learning on how schools use their time. Impetus’ snapshot of English schools found no relationship between length of day and level of deprivation, and significant variation in outcomes for schools with the same length of day, confirming the need for better data. You can read the report here. CPAGUK research has shown an extended school day supports children’s development and learning, nurtures mental health and wellbeing, mitigates the effects of child poverty, and helps prevent poverty by supporting parents to work. CPAGUK think that the Schools White Paper should commit to the development of a strategy and adequate funding plan so schools can provide programmes, activities and services that go beyond the core function of classroom education. Read their extended schools research and blog here. These two recommendations complement each other: DfE should first understand the landscape, and impact on outcomes, before taking steps to ensure that all pupils have fair opportunities for enrichment. 

DAY SEVENTEEN: Similar to PE, ensure that everyone continues to learn about and make art/design in some form until they are sixteen, even if not taking an arts GCSEs. It’s what most of the rest of the world does.  The Cultural Learning Alliance show that ‘since 2010 GCSE arts entries have fallen -38%.’ Although many continue outside of school, too many children – maybe about 50% – give up on the arts by age 13/14, before they’ve even given them a chance. https://culturallearningalliance.org.uk/arts-gcse-and-a-level-entries-2021/. If PE is compulsory until 16, why not the arts? No need to assess (although Arts Award would be a good option), and could be done through partnerships with local arts organisations, rather than through expanding arts departments. UNESCO’s FuturesOfEducation rationale is a thing of beauty.

DAY EIGHTEEN from Skills Builder: Unify language of essential skills between DfE and DWP, so that essential skills are developed in education and the world of work. When it comes to making skills policy, there should be a common language and universally agreed-upon definitions, in order to effectively and collectively implement widespread skills teaching. A recent report by the House of Lords Youth Unemployment Committee endorsed Skills Builder’s definitions and differentiations between skillsets, providing a template for DfE and DWP.

DAY NINETEEN: comes from Lizzie Robinson at Big Education: The white paper should reassert that the leadership NPQs do not and should not cover every aspect of school leadership. Leaders need a broader range of attributes and opportunities to thrive. Leadership development has become too narrow. The NPQ review has placed bets on some important elements where the evidence is strongest. We need to evolve this approach to include other critical aspects of leadership, despite the complexity and messiness of the evidence base. Big Education are working with the NAHT to ensure prospective leaders also develop important universal skills/knowledge needed alongside the domain-specific and technical skills in NPQs. Both are needed for the complex task of school leadership.

DAY TWENTY courtesy of Chris Rossiter at the Driver Youth Trust: Adapt the Early Career Framework so that teachers in every subject and across all phases are secure in literacy approaches that include, but also go beyond phonics. Teaching literacy across all key stages should be broad, creative and inclusive. Early career teachers should be encouraged to include good quality texts and cultural experiences and able to deploy a range of approaches based on pupils’ starting points. Phonics is rightly the bedrock of approaches to literacy, yet teachers also need CPD and resources that help them make the most of talk, books, experiences, culture and local organisations.

DAY TWENTYONE: Build on the Early Career Framework to create a ‘Late Career Framework’. This should enable teachers in the latter stages of their career to nurture others and create ‘pedagogical legacies’. One for Teaching School Hubs to consider? A Late Career Framework could support older teachers (especially those not in formal leadership positions) to stay in the profession longer, possibly enabling flexible working, less contact time and offering opportunities to make the most of their professional wisdom. Perhaps this might help with DfE’s push for more teachers who are not currently teaching (but should not be called ‘ex-teachers’) to return or stay a while longer https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/urgent-call-for-qualified-teachers.

DAY TWENTY-TWO is another guest contribution from Impetus: DfE need to make achieving a Level 2 qualification in English and maths for all young people, no matter their background, a key priority. Less than half of disadvantaged students are achieving a pass grade in English and maths GCSEs – but these qualifications are linked to higher access to university and lower NEET rates. To ensure the best chances for disadvantaged students, we need to get it right at Level 2. To find out more, Impetus’s report on the impact of English and maths details the impact these qualifications have on later life outcomes: https://bit.ly/3ouPX8u

DAY TWENTY-THREE: establish secondments for teachers to spend two years placements in schools located in areas with difficulties recruiting and retaining teachers. As our former CEO Loic pointed out in this blog, DfE’s strategy of offering financial incentives to “level up” teacher supply is flawed. Alongside making more use of local labour markets, teachers need the opportunity to “try before they buy”. Taking the risk out of such moves, as well as celebrating the development such moves offer teachers, may help get teachers to where they are needed most, and end up with some staying in their placement area. 

We made it! DAY TWENTY-FOUR: DfE should consider slowly devolving its powers over academies; not to the regional schools commissioners (which are essentially outposts of a still-centralised system) but to local authorities. With full academisation the current system would still lead to 25,000 schools being run from Whitehall. Once every school in an LA is an academy (and let’s not allow confusion of LA-led Trusts), then that LA can take on all oversight, brokering, hiring and firing powers. This would give LAs clear role as ‘champion of children’ with genuine local democratic oversight. Overseeing MATs so all children attended great schools And enabling collaboration between schools, MATs, and other local services, especially to support most vulnerable learners. That’s a #cfeyadvent wrap! Thanks for all the great feedback so far – keep it coming to @BartShaw1 or email [email protected]. Plenty of scope for collaborating on these ideas in 2022! Shall we do it again next year, maybe focussing on everything apart from schools? Have a wonderful Christmas and new year’s break from all @TheCfEY.