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Open Letter from DfE to Families with SEND
March 25, 2020
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@VickyFord MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families has written to the #SEND sector and all families and carers of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities to update them on the announcements and guidance issued by the Department over the past week as well as reassure them of the Department’s support at this time.

Dear colleagues,

This is an open letter distributed through as many of our partner organisations as possible. I would be grateful if you could circulate it as widely as possible to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), their parents/carers and families, and all others who support them.

This is an unprecedented, uncertain and testing time for all of us due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is particularly challenging for children and young people with SEND, their families, and those who work tirelessly to support and care for them.

This is why, over the past week, we have made announcements and issued guidance about how we will meet the needs of children and young people with SEND during this challenging time. As the Minister responsible for SEND, I wanted to write to let you know that we are committed to doing everything possible to support you during this difficult time.

We are working in partnership with many organisations, including the National Network for Parent Carer Forums and the Council for Disabled Children, to make sure we are focusing our efforts in the right places. In all our decisions, the needs of SEND children and young people and their families and carers, and safeguarding these vulnerable groups, are at the forefront of our minds.

The Government published guidance about supporting vulnerable children on 22 March. It includes a number of frequently asked questions and is available here.

We have also published new guidance that provides household isolation advice for children and young people who live in residential settings, and the staff that support them. This guidance is available here.

The guidance on supporting vulnerable children states that local authorities, nurseries, schools, special schools, colleges and other training providers should undertake a risk assessment to establish the individual needs of each child or young person with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

This assessment should incorporate the views of the child or young person and their parents. This will inform the decision about whether they should continue in school or college, or whether their needs can be met at home safely.

If needs are best met at schools or colleges, we will support their school or college to meet their needs, wherever possible. For those on SEN support, schools, colleges and local authorities have discretion to use the same risk judgement to decide whether home or school is the safest setting for these children.

It is, however, important that as many children as possible remain at home during this time in order to help reduce transmission rates.

On 19 March, the Government introduced new legislation into Parliament, in the form of the Coronavirus Bill (‘the Bill’), in response to the outbreak. Our overwhelming aim for SEND, through the Bill and the proposed changes to regulations that are to follow, is to balance the needs of this vulnerable group to receive the support they need with managing the demands on local authorities and health bodies to respond to this outbreak.

As a result, we have included in the Bill temporary emergency powers to enable us, where necessary, to modify the legal requirements on local authorities in fulfilling their duties in relation to EHC plans. In practice, this will mean that where a local authority is, because of the outbreak, unable, for example, to put in place stated provision, they will need to use their reasonable endeavours to do this, but won’t be penalised for failing to meet the existing duty as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014.

These emergency powers will only be exercised for the shortest period and where necessary, and will be regularly reviewed. We will also be seeking to amend regulations on the timescales for EHC plan processes where this is appropriate because of COVID19.

I want to reiterate that these decisions are not taken lightly but I believe strike the right balance in these difficult times. I encourage you to keep up to date by regularly checking the gov.uk webpages, and raise awareness of the DfE Coronavirus helpline we have established for local authorities, providers and parents to get information on the latest Government advice. The number is 0800 046 8687, and lines are open 8am-6pm (Monday – Friday), and 10am – 4pm (Saturday and Sunday).

I realise that the impact of these extraordinary circumstances on this group of children and young people can be particularly acute. This is why I have asked the Council for Disabled Children, in partnership with Contact, to ensure that their websites and forums regularly update both families and services on information, which is available to support them.

I have also asked them to collate any questions and queries from stakeholders so that we can maintain as many routes of contact as possible into Government to ensure our actions continue to be focused on prioritising where help is most needed.

The challenges we are now facing serve to further highlight the importance of ensuring the system of support for children and young people with SEND is as effective as possible in the future. Rest assured that completing our review of the SEND system remains a priority for me and for the Government.

In light of the current situation, we will think carefully about the right way and timescale to do this. Right now my focus, like yours, is on managing the current situation and keeping vulnerable children safe and supported. I know that by working together, we can ensure that children and young people with SEND receive the support they need during this difficult time.

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Ford MP

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families

DfE Launch New £14m Package of Support to Strengthen Leadership and Governance in Colleges – Sector Response
February 28, 2020
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Gavin Williamson launches Multi-million-pound fund to boost standards across the FE sector.

  • Almost £14 million package to strengthen leadership and governance in colleges across the country so more people can access high quality education and training.
  • FE leaders and governors to receive bespoke support and training to help them drive up standards.
  • Builds on government’s ambition to transform the FE sector and level up skills and opportunities up and down the country.

A multi-million pound fund to help boost standards of further education across the country has been launched by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson today (Thursday 27th February).

Almost £14 million will be invested to help improve leadership and governance across the further education sector so more people receive the best education and training possible. This latest move forms part of the government’s commitment to build the skilled workforce that businesses and the country needs to thrive by unlocking talent and levelling up skills and opportunities.

The investment announced today includes:

  • Up to £4.5 million will be invested in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes to support improved leadership and governance –  developed by The Education and Training Foundation in partnership with the Oxford Said Business School, The Chartered Institute of Accountants in England and Wales and The Association of Colleges. The programme will provide FE leaders and governors with tailored support in a range of areas including strategic planning, finance and working with employers to address local and national skills needs.
  • £200,000 for two Governance pilots – to test new and innovative approaches to boost the skills and improve the governance of college boards to make sure they achieve the best outcomes for students.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:  “Good leadership and governance are vital if we want the further education sector to continue to thrive and grow.

“The FE sector is already doing amazing work to unlock talent and opportunity up and down the country.

“This multi-million pound investment will empower even more FE leaders and governors to drive up standards so more students receive the high quality education and training they deserve.”

Sector Response

Richard Atkins, FE Commissioner said:

“I welcome the launch of this support offer to the governors and leaders of our FE Colleges. In order to be successful, colleges require excellent governance and leadership provided by well trained and well supported Chairs, governors, Principals, Clerks and leaders, so that learners can benefit from enrolling at great colleges. I am delighted that this offer will enable governors and leaders at all levels to access and share high quality training, development and support. 

“The College Collaboration Fund will be key to helping colleges to work together to develop and improve further. This expanded development programme will build upon what we already know works well in the sector. The governance review and recruitment pilots will help college governing bodies to operate, challenge and support as effectively as possible. My team and I see examples of excellent practice during our visits across the country, but we also see examples of where support is needed if standards of governance and leadership are to improve. I am pleased that we will now have this expanded range of development opportunities to offer to colleges where we see this as necessary.”

David Russell, Chief Executive of the Education and Training Foundation said:

“Investing in the leadership of the Further Education and training sector is a vital aspect of the professional development support that helps it thrive. The announcement of these new programmes recognises that leadership comes from a number of places within institutions, from senior leaders to middle managers and from the governors to governance professionals. In doing so, it builds on the successful programmes already developed by the ETF with Department for Education funding in recent years, strengthening leadership capacity across the sector and, ultimately, delivering improved outcomes for learners.”

Department for Education Ministerial Portfolios Confirmed
February 19, 2020
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The Department for Education has announced its ministerial team’s portfolios.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will continue to have overall responsibility for the Department for Education.

Nick Gibb will continue as Minister of State for School Standards.

Michelle Donelan takes on a new portfolio and has been appointed as Minister of State for Universities.

Vicky Ford has been appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families.

Gillian Keegan has been appointed as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills.

Baroness Berridge has been appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System.

Cabinet Reshuffle
February 13, 2020
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Cabinet Reshuffle Should Reinstate Minister of State for Skills, Apprenticeships and Further Education

The FAB Chair, Paul Eeles, has written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, calling on him to use his next Cabinet reshuffle to reinstate a Minister of State for Skills, Apprenticeships and Further Education:

Paul Eeles, Chair od The Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB)

I wanted to underline the Federation of Awarding Bodies support for your ambition of the United Kingdom becoming a world leader in education and science, particularly as we leave the European Union.

Our members – awarding bodies and examination boards – already provide millions of learners in the UK and overseas with the qualifications and skills to succeed. Ultimately, the work of our members is about growing the human capital potential of the whole country – north, south, east and west.

A significant number of our members also successfully help to export the British brand of education and well respected qualifications overseas. In many ways, we are world-leaders already.

As you contemplate a government reshuffle and potentially make some machinery of government changes, there are some matters I wanted to raise with you directly.

The first thing I wanted to highlight is how impressed we have been with the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, and the fact he has been one of the most engaged cabinet ministers, particularly in relation to improving technical and further education.

That said, one of the casualties of your last reshuffle was to remove the Minister of State post for Skills and Apprenticeships from the Department for Education. In practice, however, this has meant the further education sector has lost a daily champion and reformer with whom we could effectively engage. This is in stark contrast to schools and universities who do have dedicated ministers.

Given your renewed focus, as a Government, in ensuring that the economic and social opportunities of the nation are developed more evenly across the country, can I encourage you to appoint a dedicated minister with a laser like brief, who is ruthlessly focussed on improving productivity, apprenticeships, skills and FE? 

As you are aware, the UK has a major productivity gap with other G7 countries. Social mobility has stalled in recent years. And in England, we are facing a real challenge to ensure programmes like the Apprenticeship Levy are meeting the needs of employers and young people. 

The resumption of a dedicated FE minister would really help to take your ambitious agenda forward.

Paul Eeles, Chair od The Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB)

Young People NEET or Activity Unknown: Comparative Data scorecard
October 21, 2019
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Data about young people’s education, employment or training status in each local authority in England.

This scorecard provides information about young people’s participation and attainment in education, employment or training in a single publication.

The scorecard:

  • allows local authorities and their partners to monitor their own performance and compare it with that of others
  • puts into context local authorities’ figures on the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training (‘NEET’) and those with unknown education, employment or training status
Documents

NEET scorecard

NEET scorecard – metadata

Neet scorecard – underlying data

NEET scorecard – underlying data

Published October 2019

£5.75 million #CareerTech Challenge Launches
October 17, 2019
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Get Help to Retrain service continues its phased rollout and is now available in six major cities and regions across England. The pioneering service – which forms part of the National Retraining Scheme – aims to support adults whose jobs are at risk of changing to kick start a new career

From 16 October, the Government’s Get Help to Retrain service will be offered to adults across the Leeds City Region, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, and the Heart of the South West to support even more people to get on the path to a new job.

The pioneering online service is the first of a series of products that will make up the Government’s National Retraining Scheme, which is being developed to support eligible adults – particularly those whose jobs could be at risk of changing because of new technologies such as AI and automation – to kick start a new career.

The service helps adults to identify their existing skills, explore different types of job opportunities and find training courses to gain the skills they need to progress in the workplace. Dedicated support is also on hand from qualified careers advisers to guide people through the process and provide expert advice.

Get Help to Retrain is now available in six major cities and regions across England after being successfully trialled in the West Midlands, North East and the Liverpool City Region.

Eligible adults – those aged 24 and over, qualified below degree level and who are working below a certain wage threshold – living in one of the six regions can now try the service out for themselves and help to test and improve it further by visiting 

Education Minister, Michelle Donelan, said:

“The world of work is changing fast, which is why we are developing the National Retraining Scheme to help prepare adults whose jobs may change as a result of new technologies to thrive in the roles of the future.

“The Get Help to Retrain digital service is just the first step. We are rolling the service out gradually, testing and learning as we go.  The good news is that eligible adults in all six areas can now try out the new service and help us make sure we get it right for those who need it.”

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, said:

“All workers should have the chance to retrain and improve their skills. And this will be key as the labour market undergoes the transformation of new technology and automation in the coming years. 

“The launch of this new phase of the National Retraining Scheme and its collaborative approach is good news. It will help to open up retraining to many more working people – preparing them for the jobs of the future.

“Union learning reps will play a crucial role in supporting workers to access advice and retraining opportunities available through the scheme.

“The challenge for the National Retraining Partnership is to develop a national programme that invests in the potential of all workers, delivering the skills we need for the growth sectors of the future.”

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:

“Seeing the Get Help to Retrain digital service rolled out to more locations across the country is promising news. Ensuring people’s skills are fit for the future is an essential part of improving productivity growth, wages and living standards up and down the country.

“As the world of work changes rapidly, the best way to help people access the high-quality training they need to succeed is by Government and employers working together.  And once the National Retraining Scheme is well underway, it should kick start wider cross-government efforts to embrace technology in the workplace.”

Following extensive user testing, adults accessing the service will benefit from new and improved features such as a more advanced skills matching tool to help them identify potential new job roles, and the ability to save their progress and return to their results.

Get Help to Retrain is being rolled out in stages so that it can be fully tested and developed further, before being made available nationwide in 2020. A series of additional products that will make up the full service are being developed and tested in parallel, before being released at different times.

The National Retraining Scheme – backed by £100 million of Government investment – is led and overseen by the National Retraining Partnership – a unique partnership between Government, the CBI and the TUC – to ensure the collective voices of businesses and employees are heard.

The National Careers Service is supporting the testing of the scheme in the six areas by providing qualified careers advisers to give expert information, advice and guidance to users of Get Help to Retrain.

The Government has also announced that, technology companies and innovators can bid for a share of the CareerTech Challenge fund – which is backed by £5.75 million of funding from the Government and innovation foundation Nesta – to develop cutting-edge solutions to improve the quality and efficiency of online training and guidance for adults looking for a change in career.

The CareerTech Challenge, previously known as the Adult Learning Technology Innovation Fund (ALTIF), will create innovative and engaging online solutions that help adults to upskill and move into exciting new roles.

Minister Donelan added:

“The CareerTech Challenge is a fantastic opportunity for innovators looking to put their ideas into action on a national scale.

“Everyone deserves access to high-quality teaching and, thanks to new technologies such as automation and Artificial Intelligence, there is potential to drastically improve the quality of online learning for adult students.

“Investing in cutting edge technologies demonstrates our ongoing commitment to adult education and we hope it will encourage more adults to retrain and upskill in future.”

The ground-breaking CareerTech Challenge fund initiative is being developed in partnership with Nesta. Through the fund, innovators will be supported to test and apply the latest technology to develop bespoke, flexible, inclusive, and engaging online solutions that support more people into skilled employment.

Vicki Sellick, Nesta’s Executive Director of Programmes, said:

“As the world of work transforms, it is crucial that people feel confident in understanding what jobs will be available in the future in their local area and how to learn the skills to secure them.

“Technology offers a variety of exciting ways to equip people with the knowledge and tools to plan for secure and rewarding careers and improve working lives for people across England.”

Education and Training Staff in Independent Training Providers – DfE Wants to Hear From You!

The Department for Education (DfE) recognises the vital role the workforce plays and has commissioned the Education and Training Professionals (ETP) survey to help build their understanding of the workforce and the issues it faces.

  • The further education sector is exceptionally important in developing a skilled workforce and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential.
  • In this survey, DfE wants to hear from sixth form colleges, independent training providers and adult and community learning providers.
  • This work is being carried out on behalf of the DfE by IFF Research, an independent research company. IFF Research has developed the survey with support from the Sixth Form College Association (SFCA), the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and HOLEX.
  • The first phase of research is running throughout summer and autumn 2019, with reporting in early 2020.

Find out more about the survey here: http://ow.ly/PNHy50w6Cgf

Lord Agnew now Responsible for FE Providers and Careers Strategy
September 13, 2019
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The government yesterday (11 Sept) confirmed Michelle Donelan as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, as Chris Skidmore returns as joint Minister of State for the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Minister for the School System, Lord Agnew, will take on responsibility for the further education provider market, including quality and improvement.

He will also lead on EU exit preparation, delivery of the Careers Strategy, the Opportunity Areas programme, school food and safeguarding in schools and post-16 settings, in addition to his existing brief.

Minister Donelan began the role on Tuesday 10 September, following the start of her predecessor Kemi Badenoch’s maternity leave.

She takes on responsibility for children’s social care, special educational needs and disabilities – including high needs funding – disadvantage and social mobility and support for the home learning environment.

She will also continue to support the Secretary of State in his role as skills lead, including on the delivery of T-Levels, apprenticeships and adult education, in recognition of the important role technical education plays as the country prepares to leave the European Union.

Minister for Children and Families Michelle Donelan said:

“I truly believe that a good education is the key to creating a fair society where everyone, no matter where they come from or their circumstances, has opportunities to succeed.

“From the earliest years of children’s lives to the point at which they make decisions about their further education or training, I am proud to be joining a department that is focusing its efforts on the most disadvantaged in society.”

Minister Donelan remains as a Government Whip, taking on the role at the Department for Education on an unpaid basis for the duration of Kemi Badenoch’s maternity leave. She was previously a member of the Education Select Committee between July 2015 and October 2018.

Minister Skidmore returns as Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, following the resignation of Jo Johnson on Thursday 5 September.

Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb will take on policy for early education and childcare including funding, support for the early years workforce, curriculum, quality and the early education entitlements.

He will also add responsibility for PE and school sport and the Pupil Premium to his existing portfolio.

National Retraining Scheme Gathers Pace
August 27, 2019
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New digital service Get Help to Retrain is rolled out to the West Midlands and North East

Part of the Government’s drive to future proof the workforce and help boost the economy, The National Retraining Scheme – backed by the CBI and TUC – will support adults to retrain and kick start a new career.

Education Minister Kemi Badenoch has announced the further rollout of the Get Help to Retrain digital service to the West Midlands and North East following a successful launch across the Liverpool City region last month.

The Get Help to Retrain digital service is the first of a series of products that will make up the Governments’ landmark National Retraining Scheme, which is being developed to support adults whose jobs may change due to new technologies – such as automation and AI – to retrain and get on the path to a new career.

Get Help to Retrain is designed to help adults to identify their existing skills, explore the different types of jobs and find training courses to gain the skills they need to progress. Dedicated support is also on hand from qualified careers advisers to guide people through the process and provide expert information and advice.

This scheme was trialled across the Liverpool City Region where users provided valuable feedback so it can be developed further.  From today, the service will be available to more adults to test across the West Midlands and the North East, as well as continuing in the Liverpool City Region.

As the next phase of the rollout ramps up, adults will benefit from new and improved features including being able to explore a wider range of training options online and being matched to different types of jobs that they may not have considered they could do with their existing skills.

Education Minister Kemi Badenoch said:

“Following the successful release of the Get Help to Retrain digital service in the Liverpool City Region, I am pleased to announce that from today, we are rolling it out to two additional areas – the North East and West Midlands.

“Get Help to Retrain is just the start of the National Retraining Scheme, which will play a vital role helping adults whose jobs are at risk of changing or evolving due to new technologies to learn new skills and get on the path to a new, more rewarding career.