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Queen’s Speech sets out plans for schools to become academies

The Government confirmed a target of 90% of pupils hitting expected literacy and numeracy targets on leaving primary school.

Catherine Lough
Tuesday 10 May 2022 14:11 BST
The Prince of Wales delivers the Queen’s Speech (Dan Kitwood/PA)
The Prince of Wales delivers the Queen’s Speech (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)

The Government has set out plans for schools to be supported in converting to academies by 2030.

The Schools Bill confirmed plans set out in the Schools White Paper to support all schools to be part of a “family of schools in a strong trust to level up school standards”.

“This will support the ambition that by 2030, 90% of primary school children will achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, and the percentage of children meeting the expectedstandard in the worst performing areas will have increased by a third,” the Prince of Wales announced.

Delivering the Queen’s Speech on behalf of the monarch, Charles said that more schools would be able to convert to academies in strong trusts by removing “barriers to conversion for faith schools and grammar schools”.

The Government has assured grammar schools that this will not mean they lose their ability to select pupils on academic potential.

The regulatory framework for academy trusts will be strengthened to create more “clarity” over expectations for academies. The Government has said it expects all schools to have joined or be joining a multi-academy trust by 2030.

All schools will be required to publish an attendance policy, and a register for children not currently in school will be introduced to improve safeguarding of vulnerable pupils.

“It is estimated that there were more than 115,000 children who were home-educated at some point during the 2020-21 academic year, which is an increase of 34% on the previous year,” Charles said.

“Local authorities need accurate data to identify children in their areas who are not receiving a safe or efficient full-time suitable education, and also to offer support to interested parents of homeeducated children.”

The speech also announced a funding formula for schools in England to end the “previous postcode lottery”, with an extra £4 billion for schools in England in 2022-23 compared to 2021-22.

And it confirmed that Ofsted’s investigative powers will be boosted to inspect illegal schools.

A direct National Funding Formula will be implemented so that each mainstream school anywhere in the country will be allocated funding on the same basis.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said that he welcomed the move to set up a register for pupils missing from school rolls.

“Without an officially maintained register, there is a potential risk of children becoming lost in the system,” he said.

“Our members have also raised concerns about children being moved across local authority boundaries, and it is vital that information can be shared to ensure that young people do not slip through the net.

“Having a national register should ensure that information-sharing can occur quickly and accurately, helping to better safeguard children and young people.”

Moves for all schools to be part of an academy trust are really about a Government which views academisation as unfinished business

Geoff Barton

He added that there had previously been no legal obligation for parents to notify councils when they decided to home-educate their child, and that this could put children at risk.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said that the Schools Bill lacked “aspiration and ambition”.

He added: “It is characteristic of the Bill’s piecemeal and patchwork approach to the crisis of our system that it singles out student attendance for attention, while overlooking problems of mental health and exam factory culture that contribute to poor attendance.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that the idea that further academisation would mean the 90% numeracy and literacy targets would be met was a “non-sequitur”.

“Moves for all schools to be part of an academy trust are really about a Government which views academisation as unfinished business,” he said.

“To say this will support the arbitrary target of 90% of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030 is a complete non-sequitur.

“What is needed to achieve that target is a massive injection of funding and resources to provide more individualised and specialist support for children with special educational needs and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is totally unrealistic to think this will happen within the current financial constraints.”

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