https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2016/09/09/education-in-the-media-9-september-2016/

Education in the media: 9 September 2016

A teenage girl is standing in a gym wearing a volleyball uniform and is smiling and looking at the camera. Her teammates are behind her in a team huddle.

Today’s news review takes a look at coverage of grammar schools, academy finances, school uniform and school places.

Grammar schools

Today, 9 September, there was extensive coverage of the government’s plans to increase the number of good school places, in order to ensure that all children have the best possible start in life.

Ahead of a speech this morning by the Prime Minister, the Financial Times, Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Daily Mail all reported on the plans, suggesting that proposals for new  grammar schools will be the most radical education reform in a generation.

In addition, media also examined whether the reforms will involve grammar schools being required to take a proportion of pupils from lower income households and the process of selection.

As the Prime Minister set out in her speech, schools can be an engine of social mobility, and the government wants to give everyone the opportunity to go as far as their talents can take them, regardless of their background.

The proposals will be addressed in a consultation over the coming months.

Academy finances

On Friday, 9 September, the TES reported that four-fifths of Department for Education investigations into academy finances would not have happened without whistleblowers.

The report, based on the paper’s own investigation, incorrectly suggested that our intervention activity in academy finances isn’t working as it is reliant on whistleblowers.

While we use information from whistleblowers, this is part of a wide range of sources we use to guide our intervention activity. This includes financial information produced by academy trusts, which is externally audited and includes a review of regularity to confirm whether expenditure has been in line with parliament’s expectations.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Every Multi Academy Trust (MAT) must submit annual accounts which include a breakdown of the finances of each individual academy within the trust.

 

Regional Schools Commissioners can and do discuss financial matters with MATs if they deem necessary. This is over and above the official oversight of the annual accounts by the Education Funding Agency.

School uniform

Earlier this week, it was widely reported that students at Hartsdown Academy in Kent were sent home for not wearing the correct school uniform after returning from their summer holiday break.

We have been clear that it is for schools to decide on their own school uniform policies and we publish guidance on this.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

It is up to heads to set the right uniforms for their schools, taking into account parents’ wishes and pupil needs.

 

‎All children, regardless of background or ability, should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and we are absolutely clear that no family should be at a disadvantage because of the price of a school uniform. Our guidance is clear that when setting their uniform policies, schools should keep costs to a minimum and be affordable for everyone.

London Councils

Yesterday, 8 September, London Councils published their annual report titled 'Do the Maths’, which focuses on the number of school places it calculates that London will need by 2021 and the amount of funding required to deliver them.

The Evening Standard focussed on the demand for school places in the capital. The piece emphasises the criticisms within the report but fails to look at the investment this government has made and the number of schools places we will create to cope with a greater demand.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We are delivering high-quality school places so every child, regardless of background or ability, can go to a good local school. We have invested almost £2billion in London in the last parliament, creating 200,000 new places, and will spend a further £1.1billion between now and 2019 – which is just under a quarter of all school place funding for England.

 

Latest figures show the system is working - over 1.4 million more children are in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 meaning thousands more families have the choice of a good school place, there are fewer children being taught in large infant classes, and the vast majority of parents get places in their preferred schools.

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