Friday Five: pupil neglect, Early Years funding, MAT growth, and mental health provision


21st April 2023

Hello! It’s been another eventful week in the world of education and youth policy. Catch-up on some of the key reports, analysis and commentary with this handy round-up, courtesy of our policy team.

This week’s edition covers pupil neglect, Early Years funding, MAT growth, and mental health provision.

New survey finds that a third of teachers see a rise in pupil neglect

A survey of 8,000 teachers reveals serious concerns surrounding the safeguarding of children and young people. More than half of teachers surveyed by the NSPCC and NASUWT reported seeing an increase in safeguarding concerns sent by their school.

In addition, when teachers were asked about the last year:

  • 36% reported an increase in referrals of neglect made to their safeguarding lead
  • 33% reported an increase in emotional abuse referrals
  • 24% reported an increase in physical abuse referrals
  • 16% reported an increase in sexual abuse referrals

As noted in TES coverage of the survey, the report comes in the context of record high school referrals to children’s social services.

Teachers inevitably play a vital safeguarding role given the number of hours of contact they have with their pupils and the relationships they build with them over time. However, DfE’s own research has found that education professionals often find it difficult to initiate Children’s Social Care involvement, with some reporting a lack of clarity surrounding formal escalation processes.

Read TES coverage of the survey here.

Read the DfE research cited above here.

Education Committee hears evidence on the childcare and early years policies announced in the Spring Budget.

On Tuesday, the Education Committee held its fourth session on its inquiry into support for childcare and early years, with a focus on the policies announced in the Spring Budget. In the second session, Tammy Campbell (Education Policy Institute) said that the budget is a first step that needs to be checked, honed and improved on, outlining several recommendations for taking the plans forward:

  1. Costings and assumptions for additional payment for the current entitlement and the expanded 30hrs entitlement need to be justified. This is particularly important given the Early Years Alliance’s FOI found the previous expansion was underfunded, which has had an impact on the sector. Here, funds need to be sufficient for high-quality provision, not just to meet floor standard.
  2. Funding should be weighted further towards children from low-income families and those with SEND. At the moment, there are some disincentives for taking on children who might need additional support and there are many gaps in access. One way to do this would be to increase the Early Years Pupil Premium so that it is aligned with the pupil premium in later school years. Another would be to ensure the Disability Access Fund is not just available for children accessing DLA (which is hard to secure). The amount for disabled children should be raised and eligibility criteria should be revised to give more children access.
  3. The budget needs to take a longer-term review. Currently, there is an emphasis on short-term growth and parental employment, rather than looking at quality of provision and access to early education. A lack of access to high-quality provision will likely have a long-term impact on children’s outcomes as they go through their schooling and into the world of work.

You can watch the full evidence session here.

New FFT Education Datalab research explores whether MATs are getting bigger

While its Schools White Paper may have faltered, the government have kept their ambition to have all schools in strong multi-academy trusts (MATs). As covered recently in Friday Five, local  Trust Development Statements, which set out how each Education Investment Area (EIA) should look to develop their trust landscapes (e.g. through encouraging LA-maintained schools to join MATs, encouraging trusts to move into an area, merging trusts).

New research from FFT Education Datalab used public data to look at the proportion of schools in MATs, before investigating the size of MATs and how they have changed over time. The latest data shows 46.4% of schools are academies, up from 44.7% a year ago, while 40.7% of schools are currently part of a MAT, up from 38.6% last year.

Interestingly, with this rise in schools in MATs, the number of MATs has fallen – meaning MATs are getting bigger. That said, just under ¾ of currently active MATs are the same size as they were at this point last year. Of those that had expanded, most had done so by just one school.

FFT Education Datalab reveals a range of other insights in their analysis, including:

  • Larger MATs were far more likely to expand than smaller ones
  • There are large regional differences: 23.4% of schools in the North West are part of a MAT, while this figure is 53.4% for schools in the South West.
  • Schools joining a MAT for the first time were more likely to join a MAT of fewer than 10 schools

Ofsted proposes changes to approach to inspection, but profession responds negatively

Ofsted has briefed the press this morning that it is exploring making some changes to its approach to inspection following the tragic suicide of Ruth Perry.

The primary tabled change is returning earlier to schools that fail inspections because of safeguarding issues, but are “otherwise performing well”, to ensure any improvement is reflected in their grades. Amanda Spielman, chief inspector, also said seminars would be run to “de-mystify” the inspection process for previously exempt schools, who would also get a heads-up of a visit.

The changes have already been rejected by the unions and many headteacher who are prominent in public life, noting that the response is ‘too little too late’ in response to the Ruth Perry tragedy. Moreover, the proposed changes are tinkering at the margins rather than solving the deep systemic issues with inspections.

As head of policy, Baz Ramaiah, argued on TalkTV, there are some substantive but modest changes Ofsted can make to improve the validity of its judgments and to gain some trust from the profession. However, the present ‘hardball’ approach of the inspectorate to any meaningful change is only further eroding the trust of teachers. And institutions simply can’t function when they have such low levels of trust from the profession they seek to oversee. Ofsted’s twilight might be closer than we think.

Read the full story here.

FOI investigation reveals the postcode lottery of child and adolescent mental health care

An investigation has uncovered that young people are waiting up to four years for critical mental health support as waiting lists spiral out of control. The research has found that spending per child is four times higher in some parts of the country than others, and average trust waits for a first appointment varying between 10 days and three years.

Children in England fare worse than their counterparts around the UK. The research found average community CAMHS waiting lists in February have rocketed by two-thirds in two years in England, meaning children are waiting on average 21 weeks for a first appointment. By contrast waiting lists are just three weeks in Wales.

In the midst of an ongoing rise in young people reporting mental health needs, the government has committed to a standardised target of four weeks for a first appointment. At present, only 12% of trusts in the research meet this target.

The government has also yet to explain how it will meet this ambitious improvement in lowering waiting list times. Previous analysis of policy efforts to reduce waiting list times also show that the approach can lead to perverse incentives in the health system (e.g. referral to services that see patients quicker but don’t match their needs) can lead to underinvestment and lack of improvement in other aspects of delivering healthcare. As such, the government needs to balance the need for reduced waiting lists against investment in improving quality of care and a reinvigorated approach to public mental health.

You can read the full story here.