Education secretary Nicky Morgan had the honour of being the new education select committee’s first guest of the Parliament this morning. Here’s what we learned from her 90 minute evidence session…
1. We could get more regional schools commissioners (RSCs)
Ms Morgan spoke at length about the role of these “eight very proactive individuals”, but questions quickly arose about their workload.
The education secretary told the committee that members were “absolutely right” to say that if more schools were becoming academies “that will mean an increase potentially in the workload for the RSCs”.
She added: “We will keep the areas RSCs look after under review. We will keep the workload under review, and if necessary we will look to appoint further RSCs.”
2. Whistle-blowers, not Ofsted, will need to identify extremism and radicalisation in good and outstanding schools
The new “prevent duty” placed on schools on July 1 was much discussed this morning, with Ms Morgan suggesting it would play a key role in better-performing schools, which won’t get as much Ofsted exposure.
Ms Morgan told the committee the duty was “very important”, as Ofsted was “not going to be there all the time” and because good and outstanding-rated schools were going to be left alone “to run themselves unless we have concerns about safeguarding”.
These comments come shortly after former Park View Academy chair of governors Tahir Alam was banned for life from serving on a board for his connection to the Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham.
Park View, incidentally, was an outstanding school before the concerns arose…
3. We need more maths teachers
While it may seem like stating the obvious, Nicky Morgan has so far been coy about a teacher shortage.
She said we have “the right people, good people” teaching maths in England’s schools and that recruitment of maths, physics and chemistry teachers in secondary schools was “ahead of last year’s performance”, but has now admitted we needed more.
Claiming her party had placed a “huge emphasis on maths and stem subjects” in the last Parliament, she added: “We need more good maths teachers”.
4. The hourly rate given to providers of free childcare could rise in the government’s spending review
Ms Morgan’s appearance this morning comes in the wake of a report by the National Association of Headteachers that raised concerns about the resources available to schools to provide the government’s extra 15 hours of free childcare.
The education secretary told the committee her department had “made it clear” that it was “looking at the average hourly rate” and expressed her view that the rate “needs to increase”.
She added: “I can’t comment on what is a very early stage of the spending review but we are hearing, we are consulting, we are listening to what providers are telling us.”
Ms Morgan also said the DfE was “considering local-authority top-slicing” to ensure “as much money gets to the frontline as possible”.
5. There is still no clear plan for destination data
Destination data is supposed to be one of the new headline measures for key stage five pupils from January 2017, but you’d be forgiven for not identifying a sense of urgency in Ms Morgan’s responses on the subject this morning.
She told the committee: “I think there is a lot of data already out there. We’ve got a team of people in the department who are looking at how we can have really good destination data and how we best track people through.”
She said she didn’t want to put “more burdens” on schools in terms of “more spreadsheets and tracking”, but said there were “other ways” of getting robust information.