Government reveals triggers for new school support programme

The government has officially revealed the triggers for offers of optional improvement “support” for struggling schools, after scaling back its intervention model earlier this year.

According to new Department for Education guidance, schools found to be meeting the new criteria, which are based on existing coasting and floor standards, will be offered up to three days of free advice from a designated national leader of education (NLE) or equivalent.

Those eligible schools judged as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted in their two previous inspections will also get up to £16,000 of funded support to address issues identified by their assigned NLE.

The guidance, published today, reveals that primary schools will be eligible for support if they are defined as being “below the floor standards or coasting based on KS2 revised data published in December 2018”.

Secondary schools defined as “below the floor standards or coasting based on KS4 revised data published in January 2019” will also be eligible.

Schools that are not below the floor or coasting standards, but that are rated ‘requires improvement’ will also be eligible.

The latest floor and coasting standards definitions for primary and secondary schools were set out earlier this year.

The update follows an announcement by education secretary Damian Hinds earlier this year that the government will no longer intervene in schools deemed to be coasting. It follows criticism that schools faced the “spectre” of multiple interventions and inspections from both Ofsted and the DfE.

Regional schools commissioners, who work for the department, have also been banned from carrying out their own inspections or issuing warning notices to those schools which aren’t rated ‘inadequate’.

However, Hinds acknowledged at the time of the announcement that some schools not rated ‘inadequate’ would still need support, and today’s guidance gives schools more information about when that might happen.

The measures set out today are only interim, however, because the government is reviewing both the coasting and floor standards with a view to establishing a single trigger for extra support.

A formal consultation on the matter will be held in the new year.

Lord Agnew, the academies minister, said today’s changes would “simplify the school accountability system so teachers and school leaders know where they stand and simplify a system that we know can be a concern amongst the profession”.

“Where a school is struggling, we will aim to take swift action, providing practical hands on support and, where necessary, more formal steps.

“The support that we are offering will be focused around delivering support that can be embedded into a school’s teaching programme for the long term.”