Today’s news review covers a report from the Women and Equalities Committee about dress codes for women at work, comments from the Grammar School Heads Association (GSHA) about the impact of our proposed funding changes, and calls from the Cultural Learning Alliance for more arts investment in schools.
Dress codes for women
Today, Wednesday 25 January, the Women and Equalities Committee and Petitions Committee released a new report - High heels and workplace dress codes - revealing the experiences of employees, particularly women, affected by discriminatory dress codes.
It follows a petition started by Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work last year for refusing to wear high heels.
The report concludes that the Equality Act 2010 is not yet fully effective in protecting workers from discrimination in the workplace. It also calls for a change in the law governing what employees wear in the office.
It is against the law for employers to treat workers differently in the workplace because of their gender. Employers that set dress codes for their workforce must ensure they are proportionate, justifiable and not discriminatory.
A Government spokesperson said:
No employer should discriminate against workers on grounds of gender – it is unacceptable and is against the law. Dress codes must be reasonable and include equivalent requirements for both men and women. The Government Equalities Office will carefully consider this report and will work with its partners to make sure employers comply with the law.
Grammar School Heads Association
Today, 25 January, the Grammar School Heads Association (GSHA) spoke out in opposition to our proposed national funding formula (NFF). The association claims that 60 grammar schools will gain under the changes but 103 will lose money, which it says could have a knock-on effect on class sizes and teaching standards.
The story was covered on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, as well as PA and BBC Online.
It is critical to note when talking about the NFF that this about creating a fairer system in the way school funding is allocated. It is not about the overall funding pot, which is at its highest level on record.
In the past, funding has been allocated according to opaque and outdated methods, meaning schools with the same needs in different parts of the country would receive completely different levels of funding. We want to correct this so that schools are funded according to the needs of their pupils, rather than where they happen to live.
It is also not about discriminating between different types of school. Grammar schools, academies, free schools and maintained school are all funded according to the same formula.
We are consulting on how funding should be weighted and we know that it is important we get the system right. Our consultation on school funding will run until 22 March 2017, and we are keen to hear from as many schools, governors, local authorities and parents as possible.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Over the last six years we have seen the number of children being taught in schools that are rated good or outstanding rise by more than 1.8m. School funding is at its highest level on record, at more than £40bn in 2016-17. We are protecting per pupil funding so where pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will increase.
The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, but the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. It is based on patchy and inconsistent decisions that have built up over many years and on data that is over a decade old. We are going to end the historic post code lottery in school funding. Under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost in 2018-19. This will help to create a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode.
We are consulting on how we propose to weight funding and we know that it is important that we get the formulae and system right so that every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact. The consultation will run until 22 March 2017, and we are keen to hear from as many schools, governors, local authorities and parents as possible.
Funding every child fairly and according to their specific needs sits at the heart of delivering the government’s pledge to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide advice and support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services, so they get the best possible value for their pupils.
Today, 25 January, the Cultural Learning Alliance issued a new report calling for greater investment in arts education. Lord Puttnam, Chairman of the Cultural Learning Alliance, has commented on the need to expand the curriculum and boost the number of arts teachers in schools.
We firmly believe that music and the arts can bring huge benefits to young people. That’s why over the next four years we will be providing £300 million to a network of 121 music education hubs to work with schools, local authorities and community organisations to give more children the best possible music and cultural education.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
We want all pupils to have access to an excellent, well-rounded education. We know that music and the arts can transform lives and introduce young people to a huge range of opportunities. There is no evidence that since the introduction of the EBAcc arts entries have decreased.
We have also recently announced that we’re investing more than £300m over the next four years to get more young people involved in music and the arts, ensuring opportunities are open to all, not just the privileged few.