DfE Questions Answers (from 24th October to 3 December 2012)

24th October 2012 at 18:42

Q: The Secretary of State said himself in his July speech to FASNA "We all know what good governance looks like.. They concentrate on the essentials such as leadership, standards, teaching and behaviour", the Terms of Reference Regulations say "The governing body shall exercise their functions with a view to fulfilling a largely strategic role in the running of the school" and that the headteacher is "responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school". And I agree.

So why on earth in August did the DfE put out "Induction for newly qualified teachers (England) - Statutory Guidance 2012" in which (paragraph 5.11) you dump a load of management responsibilities on us governors which under the Regulations should surely be the responsibility of the headteacher? Why, for example, should the governing body have to ensure that the headteacher has put an NQT in a suitable post? Or satisfy ourselves that the head's decision that we have the capacity to support NQTs is correct?

These are professional responsibilities.

(1) Why are we being asked to take them on?

(2) Does the DfE believe that they are compatible with The Education (School Government) (Terms of Reference) (England) Regulations 2000?

DfE answers: The roles and responsibilities of a governing body, as detailed in paragraph 5.11 of the Induction for newly qualified teachers (England) statutory guidance which came into force on 1 September 2012, have not been substantially changed from those in the previous statutory guidance issued in 2008.

Under Regulation 10 of the Education (Induction Arrangements for School Teachers) (England) Regulations 2012, the responsibility for the induction process is shared between the head teacher and the appropriate body. However, the governing body of a school is responsible for the actions of the head teacher as his or her employer. The governing body will want to oversee the quality of induction that new teachers receive as it could affect the quality of teaching that children receive.

The roles and responsibilities of the governing body are strategic. Therefore, given their responsibility in terms of the actions of the head, their applicability in terms of induction, as set out in the induction Regulations, is compatible with The Education (School Governance) (Terms of Reference) (England) Regulations 2000.

Q: News story on BBC website: "The literacy challenge facing Wales"

What percentage of pupils enter secondary schools in England with a reading age less than their chronological age?

Do you have a break down showing reading age in relation to free school meals?

Do you have a figure for percentage of pupils with reading age 2 years or more below their chronological age?

Are secondary schools obliged to test pupils reading ages? If so, how regularly or one off?

DfE answers: Teachers don't report to us on reading ages. They report on writing and reading together to find a child's overall level.

The percentage of pupils achieving the expected level, level 4 or above, in the 2012 Key Stage 2 reading tests in all schools increased by 3 percentage points from 84 per cent in 2011 to 87 per cent in 2012.

The full figures are available here

Yes, teachers test and report on literacy in KS3. Teacher Assessments at KS3 are made in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science and also in the non-core subjects, such as geography, art and music. They are not required to report to us the results of tests of pupils' reading ages separately.

In the latest figures (but these will be superseded on 13 December this year) 58 per cent of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals (FSM) achieved the expected level in both English and mathematics compared with 78 per cent of all other pupils (pupils known not to be eligible for FSM and pupils with unknown eligibility grouped together) at the end of KS2. More information here

Q: The figures just published in Ofsted annual report reference outstanding, good and satisfactory schools. These references refer to the period sept 2011 to Aug 2012.

Only from Sept 2012 has the satisfactory category been replaced.

The figures given in the latest report, I assume, refer to good and outstanding schools that do not necessarily have good or outstanding teaching?

If this is so, what percentage of teaching in secondary and primary schools (separately) is considered good and outstanding (separately)?

DfE answers: In February, Sir Michael Wilshaw said `"I don't see how you achieve outstanding status unless the quality of teaching is also outstanding."

Since the introduction of the new framework the profile of inspection judgements has shifted, with a lower proportion of schools being judged outstanding and a higher proportion being judged inadequate. When compared to the 201011 academic year, the proportion of schools judged outstanding has fallen by two percentage points, while the proportion of schools judged inadequate has increased by three percentage points. During this year a new inspection framework was introduced on 1 January 2012. Between 1 January 2012 and 31 August 2012 there were 3,903 maintained schools inspected. Of these, 9% (353) were found outstanding for their overall effectiveness, 51% (1,988) were judged good, 31% (1,193) were judged satisfactory and 9% (369) were found inadequate.

The full statistics are available here. Look at the PDF, table 3.

Here are some useful Ofsted publications on this.

Q: As a teacher trainer I have met many teach first teachers. The message I often receive is that they feel hindered by prescriptive approaches to teaching.

Could you send me more details re: the support offers to reach first teachers?

DfE answers: Teach First work closely with the school and key staff - such as mentors - to ensure that the placement is successful, and each participant has a Leadership Development Officer (a qualified teacher employed by Teach First to coach them in the development of their classroom leadership skills) in addition to their university tutors and their school mentors. This allows early and proactive intervention in the event that the placement encounters any challenges from either the participant or school perspective.

There are specific, formal processes in the event that participants experience challenges in meeting the required standards, which involve the school, Teach First and the university tutors agreeing a formal plan of improvement and support with the participant.

Q: I am a governor on my school's Pupil Exclusion Panel and I have a question about two aspects of how governors should make their decisions under The School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012 and the September 2012 statutory exclusions guidance. One aspect is about the test we should apply and the other is whether the DfE still expects us to uphold the head's decision in certain circumstances, as it did under the old statutory guidance.

I am hoping that the DfE can give more guidance on what you consider good practice than just saying that it is entirely a matter for governing bodies to decide!

The first issue is whether governors should be deciding whether the head's decision was reasonable or if we should be deciding whether it's what we would have done in the circumstances? They aren't the same thing. There is rarely only one "correct" sanction to be imposed on a pupil. Different heads considering the same circumstances would arrive at different decisions on what sanction to impose; some a permanent exclusion, others would decide on a fixed term exclusion, and others a sanction less than exclusion. Our governors' panel sometimes find ourselves concluding that while the head's decision was within the range of sanctions a reasonable head could impose we think he has been too harsh on this occasion. Then we are in a quandary. What test should we apply? If we apply the test "Is this in the range of reasonable sanctions?" we uphold the exclusion, but if we apply the test "Is this the sanction we consider most appropriate, that we would have imposed?" we would reinstate the pupil. We think the correct analogy is with Employment Tribunals deciding whether an employee has been unfairly dismissed. It well-established employment law that Tribunals must assess whether a dismissal fell within the "range of reasonable responses" available to the employer and must not substitute their own view on what was a reasonable response. Nothing in exclusion regulations or guidance tells us if this approach is the right way to arrive at exclusions decisions. The regulations say only "The governing body must decide whether or not the pupil should be reinstated" and the guidance that "The governing body must consider the reinstatement of an excluded pupil. In reaching a decision on whether or not to reinstate a pupil, the governing body should consider whether the decision to exclude the pupil was lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair, taking account of the head teacher's legal duties."

The second issue is whether the DfE any longer expect the governors to uphold the head's permanent exclusion decision in certain circumstances. The previous (2008) statutory guidance had a presumption for governors to uphold the head's decision in some cases. Paragraph 19 said, referring to permanent exclusions for serious offences, "where the basic facts of the case have been clearly established on the balance of probabilities, the Secretary of State would not normally expect the governing body to reinstate the pupil." This statement does not appear in the 2012 guidance, so does mean the Secretary of State no longer has this expectation, or that the presumption to uphold the head's decision is now implicit in the guidance as a whole?

My specific questions on the first issue are:

(1) Does the DfE consider that governors' should be deciding on the basis of whether the exclusion is within the range of reasonable sanctions a headteacher could impose, or on the basis of what sanction they would have imposed in these circumstances? What in the DfE's opinion is best practice?

(2) If DfE feels that it cannot say either test is better practice than the other, can DfE confirm that governors can properly use either approach in their decision-making?

My specific question on the second issue is:

(3) Does the Secretary of State still expect governors to uphold head's permanent exclusion decisions for serious offences?

DfE answers: An important principle underpinning the new school exclusion arrangements is that schools are best placed to make decisions about exclusion. The governing body has therefore been given a key role to play within the exclusion process. It is responsible for reviewing the head teacher's exclusion decision and deciding whether to uphold the exclusion or reinstate the pupil. It also has ultimate responsibility for deciding whether a permanently excluded pupil may return to the school following an independent review panel (IRP).

In light of this shift of responsibility to schools, the IRP has been given a very specific remit in considering exclusion decisions. For example, while the panel can direct a governing body to look again at its decision, it can only do so where it believes the decision to be illegal, irrational or procedurally flawed, and not simply because the panel might have made a different decision. However, no such restrictions have been applied to governing body reviews of exclusion decisions. In reviewing an exclusion the governing body should take account of the legality, rationality and procedural fairness of the decision, but it is not prevented from taking wider considerations into account, for example the school's particular ethos and approach to behaviour and discipline. The governing body's role is neither to `rubber stamp' an exclusion decision nor to undermine the professional authority of the head teacher. It needs to reach `the right balance' between these two extremes - a balance that is best determined through discussion and agreement within the school.

The new exclusion guidance seeks to avoid unnecessary central prescription and encourage local decision making. For this reason, it does not include specific examples of behaviour that either warrants or does not warrant exclusion, nor does it specify that exclusions relating to particular serious offences should be upheld by the governing body. The Government believes that schools are best placed to decide the right action to take in light of the particular circumstances and their own behaviour policies.

Q: I'm a mainscale teacher (M5) in an LA school, subject to STPCD and Burgundy Book conditions. I am a class teacher and I also have a TLR for being responsible for a curriculum area. Can I resign from just my TLR without resigning from my whole job? I can't find the answer in STPCD or the Burgundy Book. My TLR is "permanent", in the sense that it wasn't awarded to me for a fixed period. I realise I can discuss it with my headteacher and if we both agree I could give up my TLR but my question is specifically whether I have the right under STPCD?Burgundy Book to resign just my TLR but continue as a class teacher whether my headteacher agrees or not. Or is it all one single job so that I'd have to resign from the school altogether if I no longer want to continue with my TLR?

DfE answers: A Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) payment is assigned to a post in the school staffing structure. Therefore, if a teacher no longer wishes to continue with their work for which they are being paid a TLR it would involve resigning from that post, they cannot choose just to resign from a TLR responsibility. Although the head teacher may be able to redeploy the teacher or assign the TLR responsibility to another post within the staffing structure. If another arrangement is agreed within the school no salary safeguarding would be payable to the teacher as they would have given up the original post with the TLR payment voluntarily.


Hi, I still keep coming across references to "learning styles" as if they actually exist. The link above is from Daniel Willingham, recently very favourably cited by Michael Gove.

There is NO reliable, substantiated, verifiable evidence for "learning styles". There is NO evidence of teaching based upon "learning styles" having a positive impact upon pupil learning.

I have raised this issue before and been advised that the DFE has not studied the matter.

Dfe answers: Mr Gove said in his speech to the Independent Academies Association:
`One of the biggest influences on my thinking about education reform has been the American cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham who has published the definitive guide to weighing evidence, especially scientific evidence, in the debates around education reform.In his quite brilliant book "Why Don't Students Like School", he explains that students are more motivated to learn if they enjoy what he calls "the pleasurable rush that comes from successful thought". And that is what exam success provides.'

Later he said:
`As Daniel Willingham demonstrates brilliantly in his book, memorisation is a necessary pre-condition of understanding - only when facts and concepts are committed securely to the memory - so that it is no effort to recall them and no effort is required to work things out from first principles - do we really have a secure hold on knowledge. Memorising scales, or times tables, or verse, so that we can play, recall or recite automatically gives us this mental equipment to perform more advanced functions and display greater creativity.

And the best way to build memory, as Willingham explains, is by the investment of thought and effort - such as the thought and effort we require for exam preparation and testing.'

I can't find any reference to Daniel Willingham and learning styles (as opposed to examstesting) made by Mr Gove.

Q:Link to Daily Mail news story

Having, myself, trained as a teacher in a failing school with lamentably low expectations, a shockingly poor leadership team, staff with, almost uniformly low expectations and a culture where box ticking in a vain attempt to hopefully hoodwink the inspectorate reined supreme, I am genuinely concerned about young teachers, with massive potential, starting their careers in the country's most challenging schools.

I worry that challenging schools, unless they are led by the very very highest calibre of leader, are the worst possible place for any teacher to train.

DfE answers: In order to ensure that all participants have a positive start and are well established with their class we have also established a strong partnership support model between Teach First , the school and the university which includes extra input from all sides. The training has been designed to be as efficient as possible and to harness the ability of our participants to learn quickly and independently.

Q:http:meridianvale.wordpress.com This link says inspectors want lists of seating plans marked with:

Pupil NC levels
Any NEC details

There are so many myths out there re: what inspectors want (sir Michael has made some excellent and very clear statements I know) but teachers could do with a checklist of common myths.

DfE answers: This is the experiences of a teacher, who is giving some helpful pointers. It's not the Ofsted handbook, which states: `Inspectors must ensure that they talk to pupils who have a range of needs, including disabled pupils and those with special educational needs, and pupils who are receiving support.'

KS1 English guidance

Q: Is there guidance on Key Stage 1 English Writing - in particular the use of spelling tests for children in year 1.
DfE answers: Information about KS1 tests can be found
on our website. The current English programmes of study can be found here.


Q: An inspector comes into your classroom, the lesson objectives aren't on the board! What should the teacher do?

Q: Should every child in the room be able to tell the inspector:
Their current NC level, their sub level and their target level and what if the pupils can't? Does that mean I am automatically a bad teacher? What if I feel the levels aren't fit for purpose? That they hold kids back? That they lower aspirations? That they don't encourage kids to work according to their ability but rather to their chronology?

Q: Should teachers provide inspectors with pupil lists in lessons indicating which pupils:


Q: An inspector enters your lesson part way through. Would you advise a teacher to stop what she's doing and do a mini plenary so the inspector knows where the lesson is at and the progress made since the lesson start?

DfE answers: The Ofsted inspectors' handbook sets out what they need to look for in terms of levels and so on. No, there should be no lists and no re-starting of lessons. Inspectors must ensure that they talk to pupils who have a range of needs, including disabled pupils and those with special educational needs, and pupils who are receiving support.

Teaching assistant

My understanding us that lessons are judged by Ofsted according to:

1. Impact teaching has on progress
2. Attainment of pupils
3. Behaviour of pupils

Are teachers specifically judged on their use of learning supportteaching assistants?

Is this simply a case of: teacher must ensure child with one on one support has excellent teaching and is not marginalised and left with very little teacher input because the assistant largely occupies child?

DfE answers: Support staff can make a real difference to the achievement of pupils with SEN and disabilities. They are never a substitute for a qualified teacher - but we know that when used effectively, they are vital to giving the most vulnerable pupils the support they need to get the most out of school. School leaders are best placed to decide how to deploy their support staff with greatest effect and to ensure that the pupils with the greatest need experience the highest quality teaching. Support staff can be absolutely vital in supporting pupils to access education successfully, but for this to have the maximum impact their work should be well integrated with that of the classroom teacher and not a replacement for it.

Ofsted's new inspection framework puts a focus on the quality of teaching and the leadership of teaching - including whether a school sets high expectations and standards. As part of normal inspection arrangements, inspectors will consider how support staff are deployed in the classroom.


The Education (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators) (England) Regulations 2008 require the SENCO in an LA maintained school to have QTS. Do these regulations apply to Academies and Free Schools as well? If not are Academies and Free Schools:

(a) required to have a SENCO?

(b) Is their SENCO required to have QTS?

DfE answers: Academies are required by their funding agreement to follow the law and guidance on Special Education Needs as if they were maintained schools. Yes, since 1 September 2009 all SENCOs must have QTS.

SEN training is incorporated into every part of initial teacher training and providers set their own programmes but teachers are tested against their SEN knowledge before attaining QTS. We brought in the SEN support scholarship programme which will fund staff to take a wider range of degree-level equivalent qualifications.

In September 2009 it became law for every new SENCO in a mainstream school to gain the Masters-level National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordination within three years of taking up the post. The National Award is a mandatory qualification which all SENCos who are new in role must undertake. The law states that SENCos in all mainstream, state-funded English schools must either be "experienced", hold the award, or be working towards the award. Following this statute the former TDA developed proposals for a framework of nationally approved training for teachers new to the role of SENCO.Since September 2009 the former TDA has funded almost 9000 training places and the Department for Education is funding a further 1500 places for 2012-13.

Appointment of Instructors in schools

Q: Under the timeline on the DfE website for changes occurring during in 201213 there is this item:

1 September 2012 - Staffing
Maintained schools can recruit instructors without qualified teacher status (QTS) as a first choice and on a permanent basis, where specialist experience andor qualifications are required.

Please can you advise the source of this change, eg is there a new statutory regulation? The Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012, which came into force on April 1st 2012, appears to prohibit appointing aniInstructor in the way suggested in the timeline. Have these regulations been amended?

DfE answers: The regulations that set out who can undertake teaching in maintained schools (the Education (School Teachers) (Qualifications and Specified Work) (England) 2012) were amended on September 1st 2012 to remove some of the restrictions around the employment of unqualified instructors.

This means that schools are now allowed to employ instructors to teach subjects where specialist qualifications andor experience are required, as a first choice and on a permanent basis, whereas previously instructors could only be appointed where a qualified teacher was not available.

The amendment was implemented as a result of Professor Alison Wolf's recent review vocational education. Professor Wolf found that in some schools the quality of vocational education was suffering because it was often delivered in the absence of qualified professionals to teach it and recommended that the Department should clarify and evaluate the rules relating to the teaching of vocational content by qualified professionals who are not qualified teachers.

The changes to the regulations will make it easier for schools to decide who is best qualified to teach subjects where specialist knowledge and experience are required. This will increase the opportunity for young people, studying for vocational qualifications, to learn from properly qualified industry experts with the expertise to help them progress into the labour market and into higher education. This will in turn better meet the needs of employers and support our economic recovery.

Get more information from the DfE website

Teacher Training

Q: I meet many pgce students and nqts and, indeed, many experienced teachers, who have the impression that the following unproven theories are statements of fact.

I would contend that the dissemination of these unproven theories is actively suppressing teacher expectations and achievement.

Can the DfE confirm or deny that they endorse the following:

1. Teach according to Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory

2. Teach according to visual, auditory, kinaesthetic preference

3. Teach according to gender based brain difference

4. Teach according to Dale's Cone

5. "Effective teaching alone will eradicate Behaviour issues"

6. Collaborative pair and group work is an end in itself

7. Teachers should restrict their input in lessons and act essentially as a facilitator and allow pupils to be self directing. Restricting teacher input to between 10 and 20% of the lesson.

8. IWBs and ICT usage is an end in itself

9. Keep pupils in ignorance of their gradesmarks for fear of upsetting them

10. Only use green pens, and never red, when marking, for fear of psychologically damaging pupils

11. Are the PLTS concepts still advocated by this government?

12. Does the DfE advocate: wilf, Walt, tibs to introduce lesson objectives.

13. Does the DfE have any reliable evidence for coloured overlays to be used to aid reading?

14. Would the DfE agree with the statement "you're the boss" in that teachers have the right and responsibility to teach with authority, planning intelligently to maximize progress, adapting strategies to keep increasing their efficacy ?

15. Would the DfE agree that teachers and leaders should be critical and wary of educational theories offered in over simplistic, pseudo scientific terms that may in fact be based upon spurious "research"?

16. Are there any plans to offer guidance re: the plethora of educational theories that have developed over the last 2030 years that have now entered into common parlance in educational circles without a clear understanding if their roots, evidence or value?

DfE answers: The government does not set the content for initial teacher training and it is for providers of ITT - universities and schools - to decide how to prepare a trainee for assessment against the Teacher Standards (https:www.education.gov.ukpublicationseOrderingDownloadteachers%20
). We have introduced reforms to give schools much more control over initial teacher training so that it is as relevant as possible to the practical skills required to teach effectively in the classroom.

We are also freeing up heads and teachers to decide how best to teach, and therefore don't, in general, advocate particular approaches.

Regarding behaviour, we have created a legal framework that is enabling teachers to take control of the classroom. It is up to teachers to use these powers when it is necessary for them to do so - and for school
leaders to support them.

Read the Qamp;As from 21st September to 23rd October 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