The government will establish a new UK-wide online learning platform and pilot inspections against school food standards under plans set out in its levelling-up white paper.
The 332-page document has been published today by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is run by former education secretary Michael Gove.
The education “national mission” is to ensure 90 per cent of children leaving primary school in England are reaching the expected standard in reading, writing, and maths by 2030.
In 2019, just 65 per cent of pupils met all three standards.
The Department for Education announced some of the policies yesterday, though several of those set out are not new.
Importantly, there is also no new cash announced.
Here’s everything you need to know.
The new policies unveiled today …
1. ‘UK National Academy’ to ‘stretch’ kids
The white paper pledges the creation of a new “UK National Academy”, which will “support pupils from all backgrounds and areas to succeed at the very highest levels”.
The new academy will “harness cutting edge technology to ensure geography or income is no barrier to being academically stretched beyond the curriculum”
Developed with “schools and experts” and taught by a “diverse range” of expert teachers, the academy will be “made available online to support the work of schools”.
It will be entirely free and “used at the choice of headteachers, teachers and parents”.
Ministers will also work with the devolved administrations to “explore how the UK National Academy can support students in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.
It sounds a lot like the Oak National Academy, funded by government during the pandemic to aid with learning during lockdowns.
Plans are being finalised to nationalise Oak as an arms-length body. An Oak spokesperson said it was “in touch with government about their ambitions to support teachers in stretching pupils beyond the core curriculum”.
2. Schools to publish mandatory food ‘statements’
Last year’s national food strategy made a number of recommendations relating to education.
The government has pledged to firstly encourage schools to complete a statement on their websites setting out their “whole school approach to food” before making this mandatory “when schools can do this effectively”.
3. £5m for new cooking curriculum and training
Ministers will also invest “up to £5 million” to launch a “school cooking revolution”, including brand new content for the curriculum and providing bursaries for teacher training and leadership.
Up to £200,000 will also be spent on a pilot of new training for governors and academy trusts on a “whole school approach to food”.
The government will aim for every child leaving secondary school “to know at least six basic recipes that will support healthy living into adulthood”.
4. Pilot to inspect school food standards
There will also be a new joint project between the DfE and Food Standards Agency to “test a new approach for local authorities in assuring and supporting compliance with school food standards”.
Participating councils include Blackpool, Lincolnshire, Plymouth and Nottingham. Pilots will go live in September.
The policies already announced …
5. Fifty five ‘education investment areas’
Government has pledged targeted support at schools in new education investment areas – including teacher retention payments and attendance programmes – that “may be limiting school improvement”.
The areas are those with the lowest outcomes at the end of both key stage 2 and key stage 4, based on results between 2017 and 2019. See a full list of the areas here.
6. ‘Specialist’ 16 to 19 free schools, but no ‘elite’ requirement
The DfE will also encourage bids to run new 16 to 19 free schools – with EIAs prioritised for the new provision.
The government said they will be modelled on existing schools like Harris Westminster Academy and Sir Isaac Newton sixth form.
While a press release from the department described the new schools as “elite”, there’s no mention of them being super selective in the white paper. But they will be aimed at getting more local pupils into top universities.
7. Consultation on serial RI schools joining MATs
Government will consult on moving schools with “successive” ‘requires improvement’ ratings into academy trusts. This was first announced by former education secretary Gavin Williamson last year.
Williamson had announced plans for schools with three “requires improvement” ratings facing intervention, but the white paper says only “successive”.
Analysis by Education Datalab found that there were just 612 schools in education investment areas rated ‘requires improvement’ or worse at their last two inspections. Of those, only 135 aren’t already part of an academy trust.
8. Careers reform and DofE for all
On top of investment in youth services, the white paper commits to funding a “reformed” National Citizen Service for the next three years.
As previously announced, ministers will also ensure the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme is offered to every state secondary school. They also want to see the number of cadets in the 500 units in England’s schools increase to 60,000 by 2024.
Funding of units in private schools will also come with a “requirement to ensure support for the expansion of cadet forces in state schools and open access to nearby state school students”.
And a teaser of the schools white paper…
9. ‘Clear vision of schools in strong MATs’
Ministers are currently working on a schools white paper, which is expected to address the issue of schools structures.
Today’s document states the schools white paper will “set out a clear vision for a system in which schools are in strong MATs that are able to drive improvement for all their pupils”.
The DfE “will take a place-focused approach, working with local partners to build strong trusts and investing in diocesan trusts to ensure every type of school can benefit”.
It comes after Schools Week revealed that allowing councils to run multi-academy trusts is an option being considered by the government.