DfE Questions Answers (from 21st September 2012)

20th September 2012 at 17:14

Behaviour at 6th Form Level

Q: The DfE would encourage schools to, essentially, apply the same rewards and sanctions post 16 as ur would in ks 3 and 4?

Internal exclusion? Break, lunch, after school detention? Direct contact with patents?

Please confirm decision I read where a pupil presenting serious Behaviour problems in year 11 was then granted admission to 6th form, contrary to wishes of school's slt? This decision was backed by Dfe?

With obligation for pupil's to stay in Education until age 18 it is likely that schools and colleges will increasingly be faced with Disruptive and disengaged pupils post 16.

Is there any specific guidance for schools re: how best to preempt the potential Behaviour problems presented by post 16 pupils in schools and colleges?

DfE answers: Yes, we'd suggest that detention, contacting parents and reiterating the homeschool agreement that many schools use are all ways of managing behaviour. I have no information on a decision of a particular schoolLocal Authority on an admission.

In our literature searches we have found little research evidence on the standard of behaviour post-16 (whether sixth form or FE colleges) and very little on the effective strategies used to combat it. However, we published the behaviour topic note "Pupil behaviour in schools in England" in June and Chapters 2 (2.4) and 3 (3.1) refer to perceived standard of post-16 behaviour - https:www.education.gov.ukpublicationsRSGpublicationDetailPage1DFE-RR218

Five Good GCSEs

Q: What is the latest figure for percentage of pupils in England gaining 5 good GCCEs?

What is the figure if only state schools are considered?

What is the figure if state grammar schools are excluded from the headline figure?

What percentage of state school pupils, excluding state grammars and including state grammars, obtain Ebacc?

What percentage of pupils in independent sector achieve Ebacc?

DfE answers: October 2012's statistics from 2011-2012 show that 81.1 per cent achieved 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C or equivalent. For state schools only, that figure is 82.5. The full (complicated!) reasons are here. The figure for selective schools (we don't publish separate data for grammars) is 99.3 per cent achieved 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C or equivalent. For the EBACC, state schools' figure is 16.3 per cent. Selective schools achieved 68 per cent. For independent schools, the figure is 44.3 per cent. All figures are here in the excel spreadsheets.

Less Than Good Schools

Q: I appreciate that socio economic factors impact upon a schools performance. However, surely Sir Michael Wilshaw's stance, where there are "no excuses" because of social background, highlights that if a school is less than good, over several years, that this is a direct consequence of inadequate leadership? Please confirm. Of the 40% of schools rated as less than good, how long would they be allowed to remain as less than good before the SLT would be removed?

DfE answers: We can't speak for Sir Michael Wilshaw on this. We have various routes of support for failing or underperforming schools - such as becoming an academy. Research published by the Department shows that between 2010 and 2011, results for pupils in sponsored academies improved at a faster rate than in other state-funded schools and at a faster rate than in a group of similar schools. A school will be "eligible for intervention" under the 2006 Act if it has not complied with a warning notice and the local authority have also given the school written notice of their intention to exercise their intervention powers under Part 4 of the 2006 Act or where it has been judged by Ofsted to require significant improvement (a "serious weaknesses" judgment under the September 2012 Ofsted framework or "special measures"). Where schools are eligible for intervention, local authorities may exercise their powers to: require the governing body to enter into specified arrangements with a view to improving the performance of the school; appoint additional governors; suspend the delegated budget of the school; appoint an Interim Executive Board. Where schools are eligible for intervention the Secretary of State has the power to appoint additional governors; appoint an Interim Executive Board, or direct the local authority to close a school. The Secretary of State also has the power under the Academies Act 2010 to make an academy order, subject in certain cases to consultation (see further detail in section 4 of this guidance). It's difficult to put a time frame on this as it largely depends on the LA taking action. There are some fixed periods, for instance, the initial compliance period beginning with the day when the warning notice is given and ending 15 working days following that day, during which time the governing body are to address the concerns set out in the warning notice, or make representations to Ofsted against the warning notice.

Leadership less than good?

Q: Around 40% of schools are rated as less than good. Sir Michael Wilshaw clearly links underachieving schools with inadequate leadership. Would it be accurate to say that around 40% of school leaderships are not up to the job?

DfE answers: No, that doesn't take into account any other factors such as socio-economic that could affect how well a school is doing. There is a link between poor leadership and underachievement, but we also know there is widespread support for system leadership as the best method of school improvement.

Q: How would you advise teachers to cope with leadership that is less than good?

DfE answers: We want all good teachers to flourish, have their commitment recognised, and be allowed the scope to express their talent. All the evidence indicates that effective school leadership is key to getting the best out of good teachers. That is why we would encourage all schools to engage with the National College for School Leadership's wide range of leadership programmes and guidance and indeed take into consideration appropriate guidance issued by the department. The College's programmes are aimed particularly at supporting and developing all staff with a leadership role in schools. More information can be found at www.education.gov.uknationalcollege

Where teachers do have concerns they could look to bring them to the attention of their line manager in the first instance. Beyond this the governing body has a key role in ensuring that schools are well led.
Schools are also accountable to Ofsted for their performance.

Q: What is the average annual salary of a secondary head? Deputy head? Assistant head?

DfE answers: Here's this useful chart

Q: Are slt in less than good schools paid the same as slt in good or outstanding schools on average? Are they paid more even?

DfE answers: The individual school range (ISR) is a seven point pay scale determined by the school's group. The school's group is determined by the number and age of pupils in the school and, as such, gives a pay range which reflects the normal market rate for the headteacher post at a school of a particular size and pupil profile.

The ISR is set by the governing body (usually when a new headteacher is appointed). Where determined on or after 1 September 2011, the governing body MUST ensure that the ISR does not exceed the maximum of the headteacher group. If necessary, the governing body can change the ISR in order to accommodate the pay scale for a deputy or assistant headteacher post or when the headteacher group changes due to an increase in pupil numbers, e.g. as a result of a federation.

There should be an objective justification for increasing the ISR that relates to the leadership post at the school and not to the individual post holder. It is not enough to justify an increase, simply because a headteacher has requested it or has reached the top of the scale, even if the performance review governors have recommended an increase.

An example of an objective justification is if it would be difficult to attract applicants to apply to a particular school because of its location or circumstances.

If governors do decide to increase the ISR they will need to be able to justify this decision in line with best value principles and the long-term interests of the school.

Additional payments may be made to a headteacher as agreed by the governing body for specific activities, including: continuing professional development undertaken outside of the school day, initial teacher training, out-of-school-hours learning activities, services to additional schools, recruitment and retention incentives, and where the school is causing concern. However, the governing body can only make such payments provided it has not already taken account of such circumstancescriteria when changing the ISR previously.

In addition, the total amount of payments made in any one school year must not be in excess of 25 per cent of the headteacher's pay point on the leadership spine (the only exceptions are ex-officio residential duties and specific non-monetary personal relocation benefits). The governing body can only exceed this limit in wholly exceptional circumstances and after seeking external independent advice.

We are currently looking at how teachers and Heads are paid and rewarded.

Behaviour post 16

Q: I am often approached by teachers in the post 16 sector who are experiencing severe classroom management problems with their pupils. Does the dept offer any advice tailored specifically at this sector ?

DfE answers: The majority of pupils are well-behaved and want others to behave well too.

While our recent survey of teachers shows encouraging effects of the Government's reforms with teachers feeling more positive about behaviour, schools need to continue with their relentless focus on behaviour and this applies to VI form level, too.

For powers more appropriate perhaps to the upper age range, the new search powers came into effect on 1st April 2012 and no-notice detention came into effect on 15th January 2012. We've also amended regulations to enable heads and school staff to search pupils for pornography, tobacco, personal electronic devices (such as mobile phones amp; MP4 players) and fireworks in addition to their existing powers to search for knives, other weapons, drugs and alcohol. Guide to confiscation of inappropriate items

However, we don't have any research of the kind that you are looking for I'm afraid. I wonder if
this would be of any interest?

Gender and Culture

Q1: White boys on fsm and black boys on fsm perform less well than the average. True?

DfE answers: For White British boys eligible for FSM, 26.0 per cent achieved 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and mathematics GCSEs, compared with the overall national level of
58.2 per cent - an attainment gap of 32.2 percentage points. This gap is similar to that observed in 200910 but has widened by 1.2 percentage points since 200607. The attainment of White British boys eligible for FSM has improved over the last 5 years, but not as much as the overall national level.

For Black boys eligible for FSM, 39.5 per cent achieved 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and maths GCSE.

Q2: How do children from Chinese and Indian backgrounds do?

DfE answers: Pupils of Chinese and Indian origins had the highest proportions achieving 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and mathematics GCSEs. Chinese pupils are the highest attaining ethnic group, with 78.5 per cent achieving 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and mathematics GCSEs.

Q3: How do these groups compare to children from Pakstani and Bangladeshi backgrounds?

DfE answers: 56.8% of Pakistani children and 62.6% of Bangladeshi children achieved 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent including English and mathematics GCSEs.

Q4: What are the reasons for such differences between these groups in the uk state education system?

DfE answers: Here's the latest DfE research on this topic - free to download

Free school meals

Q1: Would it be accurate to say that girls on fsm underperform boys who are not on free school meals? In statistical terms

DfE answers: Yes. Girls eligible for FSM score 37.9 per cent achieving 5 or more A*-C grades including English and maths at GCSE. Boys in the same category score 31.4 per cent and boys not on FSM score 58.3 per cent.

Learning style

Q1: Is there any reliable evidence that teaching according to preferred learning style is beneficial ?

DfE answers: We don't have any evidence of this. We trust teachers to tailor lessons to challenge pupils of different abilities.

Q2: Is there evidence that teaching according to star sign is beneficial or according to birthstone?

DfE answers: Not that we've noticed.

Boys' achievement

Q1. Is there evidence of a boys' preferred learning style?

DfE answers: Providing `gender appropriate' reading (and other curriculum) materials can be useful to gain the interest of some pupils, but should be used sensitively. Such practices risk stereotyping boys and girls, and can limit the kinds of reading materials that boys are asked to tackle, in ways that will be disadvantageous to them over the long term. Research has found that boys read more in schools where pupils are not aware of any gender differences in reading. Positive support for a classroom reading culture that extends the range of reading that all children are prepared to undertake and offers them wide choices is a more significant characteristic of schools where boys do well. Single-sex classes have mixed results - single-sex classes have sometimes been implemented to raise boys' achievement, it has often been girls' achievement, rather than boys', that has benefited under these conditions. Boys have been found particularly unlikely to favour single-sex teaching.

Q2. Is there evidence that physically active lessons are required for boys?

DfE answers: We don't have any evidence of this.

Q3. Do brain differences between the genders require different teaching styles?

DfE answers: Gender is an important factor affecting educational performance, but it affects different sub-groups of boys and girls in different ways. Social class and ethnicity are stronger predictors of attainment than gender .

Q4. Do boys naturally have shorter attention spans?

DfE answers: We don't have any research on this.

Q5. Does the higher proportion of boys identified as sen suggest a cultural bias re: boys and their perceived ability?

DfE answers: In primary schools, the incidence of pupils with statements of SEN was much higher for boys (2.0 per cent) than for girls (0.8 per cent). Similarly, the incidence of pupils with SEN without statements was higher for boys (21.8 per cent) than for girls (12.2 per cent). Secondary schools show a similar picture regarding gender. The incidence of boys with statements (2.9 per cent) is nearly three times that for girls (1.0 per cent). The incidence of pupils with SEN without statements was 22.1 per cent for boys and 14.5 per cent for girls.

You may find this resource helpful:

Q6. Are low teacher expectations a significant part of boys' underachievement?

DfE answers: A gender gap in favour of girls is a near universal feature of developed education systems around the world, but we need to do more to close that gap in this country. The gap often begins in primary schools, with poor reading skills a barrier rather than low teacher expectations. We need to intervene early on to make sure that boys can read well, and all the evidence from around the world shows that the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics is the best way to teach basic literacy skills. That's why we are introducing a new phonics based reading check at the age of 6 to make sure teachers can help those pupils who are struggling.

Q7 Is looking at boys as a homogenous group limiting and in fact too blunt a descriptor?

DfE answers: Schools are encouraged to conduct a careful analysis of data to understand when and where pupils underachieve and how they might address it. This includes mapping the progress of boys and girls, particularly using value-added data and comparisons of National Curriculum points score between boys and girls.

Q8. Do boys from middle class backgrounds statistically outperform girls from working class backgrounds?

DfE answers: Existing data points particularly to boys doing less well than girls in reading and writing, and subjects that depend most heavily on those skills. But some particular groups of boys are attaining above national expectations in English for their age but some (eg White British on free school meals and Black Caribbean on FSM) are below. It is important that schools do not label all boys as underachieving but find out which groups are and are not and then review and tailor their strategies for teaching these groups accordingly. Closing the attainment gap between children from wealthier and poorer backgrounds is a key objective of the Government and the EBacc measure plays an important part in helping to deliver that objective.

Q9. Does the Dfe still stand by its myth buster publication on gender?

DfE answers: Yes we do.

Q10. What qualities do the countries non fee paying most successful boys' only schools have in common?

DfE answers: It is clear that schools need to have a positive learning ethos, high expectations of all of their pupils, high quality teaching and classroom management, close tracking of individual pupils' achievement, subsequent effective support for learning and to challenge gender stereotyping. Teachers need to know their boys well (eg their skills, attainment, strengths and weakness and interests) and plan their resources and teaching accordingly.

RAISEonline Summary Report

Q: Given that the government is committed to making as much information as possible about school performance available to the public why is the RAISEonline Summary Report for schools still kept confidential and only available on the heavily password protected RAISEonline site? The Summary Report contains only statistics, there are no data in it which could identify any pupil or staff member, so there should be no data protection issues.

As the RAISEonline Summary Report is published by Ofsted, and as the DfE School Performance Tables website already links to a school's Ofsted reports, there is presumably no major technical reason why the RAISEonline Summary Report could not be linked from the School Performance Tables page.

Will the DfE consider making RAISEonline Summary Reports publicly available?

DfE answers: It is true that the Government is committed to making available as much information as possible about school performance. The School Performance website has been making additional information available each year and this will continue.

With regard to the Summary Report in RAISEonline, this is not currently available to the general public, as it is produced for the sole purpose of supporting school inspection. Although the Summary Report is drafted with pupil anonymity in mind, it does contain a large number of detailed indicators containing very small numbers of pupils. Pupil identification can be possible through combining RAISEonline data with other datasets or information. The triangulation of data and information can then allow pupils to be identified.

As the RAISEonline system does not currently have the capability to suppress small numbers of pupils, this is something that we will be looking to rectify as part of a wider programme of activity within DfE.

Differentiation in practice

Q: Is differentiation by resource the only acceptable form of differentiation? Is it acceptable to teach in a way that supports and challenges pupils across the ability range and thus preempt common errors thus allowing more lesson time for challenging activities?

Would the Department agree that a key focus of differentiation should be high expectations for all with challenging work where pupils are encouraged to delay gratification and learn to focus at length?

DfE answers: Yes, we believe (as do Ofsted) that high expectations and challenging work for all pupils is key, whatever their level of knowledge and understanding. Read the research on the DfE website.

Q: Please confirm that what you mean is pupils should be aware of the habits and knowledge they need to acquire to improve current performance.

DfE answers: Yes, that's correct.

Q: Please also confirm that NC levels are not intended to be used with individual tasks.

DfE answers: The National Curriculum said when published: "The level descriptions are not designed to assess individual pieces of work. They list aspects of attainment, based on the programmes of study, which teachers need to assess to build up a picture of a pupil's performance over time in a range of contexts."

However some Heads and teachers do mark pieces of work individually using NC levels. We would say that we trust teachers to do what they do best, to teach, and have given them the flexibility and freedom to enable them to do their jobs. The Government announced in June that the current levels will not form part of the new National Curriculum from September 2014 and we are exploring a number of approaches to precisely how testing and assessment will differentiate pupils' attainment.


Q: Would the Department agree with Ofsted's conclusions that around 50% of pupils labelled as having special needs do not, in fact, have special needs? They simply require effective whole class teaching.

DfA answers: The Ofsted report from 2010 that I think you're referring to presented some challenging but familiar criticisms of the system supporting children with special educational needs and disability. We agree with some of the issues with the SEN system which is why we have been working with parents, charities, teachers and other organisations to find a consensus on the solutions.

The Government's SEN and disability bill focuses first and foremost on meeting families' needs. Children with SEN and disabilities should have the provision they need to succeed and parents should not feel they have to battle the system to get help. Improving diagnosis and assessment is central to our commitment to overhaul the system to ensure families get the appropriate support at the right time.

Governors question

Q: What is the DfE advice to governing bodies on whether they can legally appoint a part-time headteacher in an LA maintained school?

The Education Act 2002 [ss35(3)36(3)] requires a governing body to appoint a headteacher. Does this mean that someone must be in post as the headteacher full time? We understand that it doesn't have to be the same individual and that the governors could appoint two individuals to jobshare the post, eg, one for 0.6 FTE and one for 0.4FTE, but do governors have to appoint so that the headteacher post is filled 1.0 FTE, whether by a single individual or a jobshare?

Alternatively, could a governing body appoint a part-time headteacher only and require the deputy headteacher to carry out the headteacher's duties on the other days? STPCD 2012 para 58.4 however says that a deputy head must undertake the professional duties of the headteacher "if the head teacher is absent from the school" but it is not clear whether a headteacher appointed part-time for say 3 days a week can be said to be "absent from the school" on the other 2 days . If the governors only appoint a part-time headteacher for 0.6 FTE can the deputy head be required to carry out a headteacher's professional duties on the other 2 days? Or must the governing body appoint the deputy (or someone else) as substantive headteacher for the other 0.4 FTE?

DfE answers: It is important to stress that the appointment of a head teacher is entirely a matter for the governing body and we do not issue specific guidance on appointments. The Education Act 2002 sets out the requirement for all maintained schools to have a head teacher in post. This does not mean that someone must be in post as the head teacher full-time. Where a governing body is asked to consider whether a post can be filled on a part-time or job-share basis the governing body must be satisfied that another senior member of staff i.e. the deputy head teacher, assistant head teacher or a member of the senior leadership team can carry out the head teacher's professional duties in their absence.

Q: Please can the DfE clarify one point in the answer you gave to an earlier question (under the heading `Governors question') concerning the appointment of a part-time headteacher.

If the governing body appoints a part-time headteacher, say 3 days a week, then is the deputy headteacher contractually obliged to act as headteacher on the other 2 days, or is this something the governing body would have to negotiate and agree with the deputy headteacher?

STPCD 2012 para 58.4 says that "If the head teacher is absent from the school a deputy head teacher must undertake their professional duties to the extent required..." [my emphasis] so on the 3 days a week that the part-time headteacher works it is obligatory for the deputy to act as headteacher if the headteacher is temporarily absent on one of those 3 days. It is a contractual requirement; the deputy head cannot decline to act as headteacher during those 3 days.

However your answer to what happens on the other 2 days doesn't say it is obligatory for the deputy headteacher to act as headteacher, only that ".. the governing body must be satisfied that another senior member of staff i.e. the deputy head teacher, assistant head teacher or a member of the senior leadership team can carry out the head teacher's professional duties in their absence..". That suggests something less than a contractual obligation on the deputy head and implies that the governing body has to secure the deputy head's agreement to act as headteacher on the other 2 days (and therefore that the deputy head could decline to do this).

DfE answers: If the school appointed a part-time head teacher to work three days a week they would need to appoint a head teacher to work the other two days. On the days the head teacher is not contracted to work they are not classed as absent therefore the deputy head teacher could not be obliged to act as the head teacher. The deputy head teacher could only be obliged to act as the head teacher if the head teacher was absent on any of their working days that they were contracted to work. This would ensure compliance with paragraph 58.4 of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.

Read the Qamp;As from August to 20th September here


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today