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School leaders’ six steps towards improved life chances

School leaders today announced a series of recommendations to make sure that all children are given the support they need to succeed in life. Delegates to school leaders’ union NAHT’s Annual Conference 2016 in Birmingham combined decades of knowledge and expertise to highlight some of the most important work being done to improve life chances, and made the following calls:

  • Parity of funding for early years and early years Pupil Premium
  • Parity of status for early years professionals
  • Formal support for Primary Futures
  • Statutory curriculum time for PSHE
  • Clarity on how and where £1bn of government money on mental health will be spent
  • An end to schools picking up the tab for local authority cuts

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We must make more progress in narrowing the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children. There is still a significant and problematic difference in grades, higher education access and future earnings. The pressure is on schools to step in and help vulnerable children. NAHT research in 2015 showed that schools were providing £43.5m of additional welfare related support for children from deprived backgrounds. That figure will only have worsened during another year of austerity.”

Early Years

School leaders recognise that early years education is the critical point for intervention to improve the life chances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. But the quality of provision makes all the difference in whether that intervention is successful.

Mr Hobby said: “A child’s life chances are heavily influenced in the first five years of life. In recognition of the importance of this phase of education, the early years pupil premium should increase to reach parity with the £1300 for primary pupils.

“Funding for early years education in general is insufficient and our members report that it often fails to cover the full cost of delivering the provision. We need to see an increase in early years funding based on a clear, transparent and consistent national funding framework.

“There needs to be an emphasis on staff quality and qualifications – there should be a highly qualified graduate level manager or teacher in every nursery to oversee early years provision and guide learning. A grade C GCSE in English and Maths (or equivalent) must be a minimum requirement for Level 3 Early Years Educator qualifications.”

NAHT is pleased to announce our new president Kim Johnson’s chosen charity for 2016/17, the Family and Childcare Trust. The partnership will focus on the role schools play in enabling parents to make positive choices about early education.

Julia Margo, chief executive at the Family and Childcare Trust said: “This partnership comes at a crucial time for families and for schools. Over the next year, there will be some major changes to early years education, such as the extended free hours for three and four year olds of working parents and the introduction of the Tax Free Childcare scheme. Schools, which already understand the importance of parental involvement, will also play a central role in providing flexible early years education.

“We look forward to working with NAHT to help schools structure their parental engagement programmes in a way that will also satisfy Ofsted requirements, and to make sure that families get vital, quality information about the childcare support and other local services they are entitled to.”

Kim Johnson, NAHT’s new president, said: “We are delighted to partner with the Family and Childcare Trust this year to encourage NAHT schools to become more focused on the whole family. My role as a Principal at the Bradfields Academy has assured me of the importance of parental engagement. I firmly believe that supporting parents and schools to become more involved in the educational process as well as striving for excellence in information sharing will enhance children’s outcomes.”

Primary Futures

NAHT’s scheme to raise aspirations amongst primary age children, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country, Primary Futures helps children see the clear link and purpose between their learning in primary school and their futures.

Russell Hobby said: “The aim of Primary Futures is to help improve attainment and achievement, particularly in literacy and numeracy, and tackle the stereotyping many children feel about their futures – particularly those from disadvantaged communities, or who often lack the role models they need.

“Primary Futures has a strong network in place, with more than 26,500 people from the world of work – from apprentices to CEOs, archaeologists to zoologists – available to schools. And through the Inspiring the Future online match-making service which powers Primary Futures and the Inspiring Women Campaign, there has been more than one million interactions between young people and volunteers.

“We believe that we have proven that Primary Futures is an effective way to inspire children, raise their aspirations, broaden their horizons and improve attainment. The goal now is to take Primary Futures onto the next level.

“We want to focus our efforts in all schools but particularly those located in areas of high deprivation such as rural communities, coastal towns and some inner city estates, where young people’s life chances are often the most limited.”

Statutory PSHE

NAHT is renewing its call for curriculum time dedicated to the discussion of personal, sexual, health and economic issues.

Russell Hobby said: “Age appropriate PSHE education for all children is widely supported by parents and teachers alike. The government’s proposed move to make all schools academies potentially weakens this provision, as academies have the autonomy to choose what they teach. The government must ensure that a requirement to teach PSHE is included in all new academies’ charters.”

Joe Hayman, Chief Executive of the PSHE Association, said: “The safety of pupils – whether within the school gates or when they are online – is constantly on the front pages. This reflects widespread concern amongst parents around the country about the safety of their children in a fast-changing world where sharing sexual images and contact from strangers online increasingly feels like the norm. 91% of parents believe that all children should receive PSHE education, planned in consultation with families and tailored to the age and maturity of pupils, and we know the goal of high-quality PSHE education for all is shared by teachers across the country. The PSHE Association and NAHT believe that firm leadership on this issue is needed from government – current policy is out of step with the views of parents across the country.”

Mental Health

School leaders today passed a motion to promote mental wellbeing in school-aged children, recognising the intense pressures they are facing. NAHT welcome the government’s announcement of £1bn investment into mental health services across the UK, but seeks clarity as to how and where this money will be spent.

James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge, said: “Teachers and SENCos are in a key position to recognise mental health difficulties in the children they work with. They must be able to refer pupils to appropriate services for support. But all too often thresholds are set too high for referrals to be accepted, and waiting times for services are excessive, leaving schools trying to support and manage pupil mental health issues as best they can.

“School staff are not the qualified counsellors, psychologists and therapists that these children require, and school budgets cannot stretch to fund these services to the extent that they are needed. The lack of quick access to specialist support means that too many vulnerable children are not getting the help they need, when they need it, and schools are being left to pick up the pieces. Services provided by health and social care, including CAMHS, must be well funded and accessible so that pupils and parents receive help as soon as concerns are raised.”

As part of this renewed commitment to the good mental health of all children and school staff, NAHT is continuing to support Place2Be in their determination to ensure provision of mental health support in all schools. NAHT and Place2Be will be working together to develop practical advice that schools can follow to improve mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of children’s mental health charity Place2Be, said: “We are delighted to continue to work together with NAHT. We know from the survey we conducted with NAHT members earlier this year just how strongly committed Head Teachers are to supporting their pupils' mental health and the important role it plays in engagement with learning. Place2Be believes that good education is about developing the whole child, emotionally and academically. A whole-school approach to mental health benefits everyone - providing teachers with the professional development and support they need to manage their pupils' and their own wellbeing; supporting children with expert counselling without stigma at the point when children need it; and helping children develop the emotional skills and resilience to cope with life's challenges.”


NAHT is proud to be supporting the #iwill campaign. #iwill is a national campaign that aims to make social action part of life for 10 to 20 year-olds. #iwill have commissioned new research showing that 99% of teachers recognise the value of practical action in the service of others for their pupils, but the majority do not think their schools have a culture of social action.

Sarah Hannafin, NAHT Policy Advisor, said: “Youth social action provides the opportunity for young people to develop and demonstrate their character virtues while benefiting others and school leaders already recognise the value of this for young people.

“Through activities such as volunteering, mentoring and charity projects, children foster qualities such as empathy, cooperation, resilience, problem-solving, and a sense of community. NAHT will be working with #iwill to communicate advice and awareness to school leaders and teachers.”

Charlotte Hill, CEO of Step Up To Serve, the charity coordinating the #iwill campaign, said: “We know that great head teachers already make social action a central part of their school culture. This has the double benefit of ensuring all of their students have the chance to make a positive contribution to their communities whilst developing the character qualities and skills that will set them up for life. We are delighted that NAHT have joined the #iwill campaign, and look forward to working with them to encourage even more head teachers to transform the life chances of their students through youth social action.”

Page Published: 29/04/2016

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