The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

Sheffield is going to lose a specific grant – the school improvement monitoring and brokering grant – in full over the next two years (just like all local authorities). It will cost Sheffield £268,000 in lost funding from national funding each year.

It is currently spent on school improvement work delivered by a school company called ‘Learn Sheffield’ – it is owned jointly by schools and works to support schools. It provides training, information, standards monitoring, recruitment support, Headteacher performance management, assessment moderation, reporting and so on and so on. All these actions are essential, and without a direct grant to support the work schools will simply have to fund it themselves. We are being consulted this week on how much we ‘de-delegate’ and how.

Also this week national government has announced the ‘levelling up’ White Paper which, pleasingly, contains several education aims. DfE explain what they are doing to ‘improve schools, deliver high quality training and level the educational playing field’.

Every child will be given the best start in primary school and equipped with the skills that will help them flourish, says the DfE.

At the moment, 35% of pupils leave primary school not meeting the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. Or, stated positively, 65% met or exceeded the plucked-from-thin-air expected standard in all three areas. At Lydgate Junior School we had our best ever results in 2019, getting 88% of Year 6 pupils to attain the expected standard in all three areas. We don’t expect to match that in 2022.

By 2030 the DfE wants at least 90% of pupils to leave primary school meeting the expected standard. They will achieve this, they say, by ensuring we have excellent teachers, trained in the very best literacy and numeracy approaches in all areas of the country.

We are a high attaining school, doing well, with very able pupils, but 90% is more than we have ever achieved. We could do with some carrots or guidance on how to get there – school improvement support, in other words.

To quote further, ‘We will support our teachers to deliver high standards for all pupils in every classroom, including supporting behaviour and attendance, alongside targeted support for those furthest behind due the pandemic, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Underpinning this, we will ensure a stronger school system, with every school able to access the support they need to improve.’

Except Sheffield is not one of the 55 areas identified for support. So Sheffield and its schools will take a hit of £268,000 a year on school improvement work while at the very same time having a new, elevated target applied and no compensating ‘access to the support we need to improve’. Our challenge just got harder.

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