THE NEW academic year has already been dubbed "the year of meltdown". A whole raft of changes is about to be heaped into headteachers' in-baskets.
The new Department for Children, Schools and Families aimed at closer co operation between education, health and social services is bound to make its demands on schools.
And the role and impact of Gordon Brown's National Council for Educational Excellence, which gives a strong voice to business, will also become clearer.
Meanwhile, new laws in Tony Blair's Education and Inspections Act come into play.
But, first, the more immediate issues facing schools in 2007-08.
The change that will affect most secondaries is the revised key stage 3 curriculum. The content of individual subjects is being stripped back to make way for more cross-curricular work. Extra lessons in English and maths for children who are falling behind are being phased in. The changes will start in Year 7 in 2008 and will be introduced to Years 8 and 9 in the following years.
New A-levels reduced from six modules to four in most subjects and with a new A* grade are also scheduled for first teaching in 2008, meaning months of preparation for teachers this year.
The new diplomas mark another important set of reforms. This term, pupils in selected areas of England will get the chance to opt for the first of these new courses, which will be offered in five subjects from September 2008.
A two-year trial of a possible replacement for conventional Sats testing has been launched this autumn. Schools in 10 local authorities are piloting tests in English and maths which pupils take when teachers feel they are ready: they will be held twice a year instead of at the end of a key stage. The first of the new tests will be taken in December.
New functional skills tests in English, maths and ICT are also being trialled from this month.
GCSE league tables, to be published in January, are changing. They will feature for the first time a separate column setting out what proportion of pupils achieved a C or better in science subjects.
An entitlement for every pupil to study at least two science GCSEs is expected to give schools problems with recruitment.
It adds up to a hectic year for schools. Many teachers will welcome changes such as the new KS3. But many will question whether the Government is wise to attempt so much reform all at once.
PAY AND CONDITIONS
From this week, teachers will be judged on their performance from the very start of their careers, allowing them to leapfrog senior colleagues up the pay scale.
Headteachers and heads of department will discuss what measures, such as pupils' test results, will determine whether or not they get a pay rise. In extreme cases, teachers may be refused their annual pay increment.
The debate over teachers' current 2.5 per cent a year pay deal and the proposed 2 per cent a year from 2008 to 2011 is set to heat up in the autumn term. The National Union of Teachers has promised to ballot members over strike action, and the NASUWT has agreed to ask their members about industrial action if inflation remains high.
The School Teachers' Review Body will make its recommendations for the 200811 pay round in October and will report on school leadership in January.
Meanwhile, a working party of unions, local government employers and the Department for Children, Schools and Families will draw up recommendations for a national pay structure for support staff.
The first schools built under government plans to refurbish all secondaries in England will open their doors this academic year.
Bristol Brunel Academy was opened yesterday by Ed Balls, and 11 more are expected by the end of March, significantly fewer than the 100 anticipated. Guidelines on making schools greener are expected this term.
There will be 36 new academies, including the first two independent schools that have made the switch to the state sector.
Academy sponsors finalising their plans with the Government this year will be subject to new rules requiring them to follow the national curriculum in core subjects. The first deals with universities backing academies are expected, with the higher education institutions being exempt from the pound;2 million sponsorship fee.
The first 30 trust schools have opened this week, with another 180 in the pipeline. The Government announced that pound;300,000 will be made available to high performing schools that merge into federations with a weaker ones.
Ten new faith schools will open, including two Muslim secondaries and one primary.
Independent schools will be waiting for the publication of the Charity Commission guidance on public benefit tests next month. Schools failing to prove that they benefit all sections of society could lose their charitable status.
This will be the final chance for the Government to hit its (self-imposed) targets of 85 per cent of 11-year-olds reaching level 4 in English and maths. Or is it?
Heads say the targets will not be met. But the Department for Children, Schools and Families is adamant that more KS2 targets will be set for 2009 and beyond this term. New literacy and maths frameworks, published last year, are being introduced. Teachers are already voicing concerns about them. There will be the National Year of Reading in 2008 and a review of the best way to improve primary maths.
Synthetic phonics will feature large. Training in Letters and Sounds, the Government's synthetic phonics guidance, begins this autumn.
Education authorities have now set their first targets for the percentage of five-year-olds they want to reach emotional, social and language milestones. It is the reception teacher's job to ensure Katherine and Courtney form good relationships and respect each other.
This was the year that themes returned and that welcome trend is due to continue.
New exclusion rules come into force this term. Heads predict they will prompt an unintended rise in permanent expulsions.
It is now a school's responsibility to ensure that their pupils receive a suitable full-time education from the sixth day onwards of any temporary exclusion. But they are forbidden from using their own sites to provide this education unless it is in facilities shared with at least one other school. Heads say this could lead to them handing out permanent exclusions or pupils receiving sets of five-day exclusions.
The Government says all secondaries should have formed local behaviour partnerships with each other to plan what to do
Schools will have new powers to apply for parenting orders that compel parents to attend parenting classes and can lead to a pound;1,000 fine if broken. The scope of voluntary contracts between schools and parents will also be broadened to cover misbehaviour as well as truancy.
Headteachers' leaders welcomed the new powers but said they should be a last resort. "Where it is used, the relationship between headteacher and parent will already be strained," said Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.
As part of the Government's strategy for preventing bad behaviour, Ed Balls announced a pound;13.7 million fund to expand the Seal programme into secondary schools in July. He said it would teach "hard-edged social and emotional skills, such as how to resolve conflict effectively". Two-thirds of primaries already use the scheme.
Leadership, pages 22-23