UK Gov Unveils Package to Boost Opportunities for Disadvantaged Pupils

Children in disadvantaged areas will benefit from stronger schools and increased local investment, as the Government steps up delivery of the commitments made in last year's Schools White Paper.

Up to £42m will be allocated to Priority Education Investment Areas (PEIAs) - 24 areas of the country with high levels of disadvantaged pupils and low educational attainment, including Nottingham, Liverpool and Portsmouth. The Local Needs Fund will be used to fund schools to access evidenced based programmes that will help boost pupils' literacy, numeracy, and attendance.

The Priority Education Investment Areas boosts education in cold spots round the country through a package of measures including retaining good teachers in the areas, tackling attendance and moving struggling schools into strong multi-academy trusts.

Today's announcement builds on the successes of the last decade with 88% of schools now good or outstanding compared to 68% in 2010. Academies are at the heart of these reforms and the best academy trusts transform outcomes for pupils, particularly in disadvantaged areas, where poor performance has become entrenched.

The Government is also publishing the Academies Regulatory and Commissioning Review, which sets out a framework for growing the impact of the academies system, so parents and carers can be confident that their child will receive a high-quality education wherever they live.

The Review proposes cutting down on administrative bureaucracy, enabling trusts to focus on quality, greater public transparency around the process by which schools are placed with academy trusts, and support for the sector to spread expertise and increase overall capacity to keep improving schools.

A year ago, the Government set out its ambitions in the White Paper to drive up educational standards by ensuring all schools can benefit from the support of a high-quality multi academy trust (MAT).

Schools Systems Minister Baroness Barran is due to be in Nottingham today (28 March), one of the PEIAs which is set to benefit from additional funding and support.

Minister Baroness Barran said:

We know the best multi academy trusts deliver a great education and results for pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged and those with Special Education Needs or Disabilities.

They help teachers manage workload and create career opportunities by working as a family of schools. They spread their impact beyond their schools to the wider education system through initiatives like teaching school hubs, sharing a curriculum, and optimising the use of resources so that they can reinvest in their pupils.

We are delighted with this package which will scale up the impact of high-quality multi academy trusts and support the most disadvantaged pupils in the country, levelling up opportunities for all.

We are grateful for the vital engagement of our External Advisory Group (EAG) and wider stakeholder network for helping to shape this report. We hope to work with them closely on implementation.

To all the pupils I have met in the past 18 months, who have shared with me their hopes and aspirations for the future - we have written this, and will deliver it, with you in mind.

Leora Cruddas CBE, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts and member of the regulatory and commissioning review external advisory group said:

We welcome the focus in the Regulatory and Commissioning Review report on simple, proportionate risk-based regulation, making better and more transparent commissioning decisions, and support which spreads sector expertise and increases overall capacity to keep improving schools. It is right that the report focuses on near-. term and medium-term actions to improve regulation and commissioning activity.

It is important that the government recognises there is no one size fits all model, and that there is a stated commitment to foster a diversity of models and scales of trust, including those with faith schools, special schools and alternative provision. We believe it is essential that the government protects the freedoms that have enabled the success of our trust system, avoiding changes that would prescribe specific, rigid behaviour and inhibit effective leadership. System diversity and freedoms must be protected through these reforms.

The Review rightly recognises that implementing these changes well is not straightforward, particularly as many trusts and their communities face ongoing challenges from cost-of-living pressures and the lasting impacts of the Covid pandemic.

We are particularly pleased to see the report welcome the Confederation of School Trust's inquiry into effective improvement practice.

In relation to inspection, it is important that we work together to consider the impacts of the accountability system and move towards a system that if focused on building relational trust - one which can respond to context and navigate uncertainty. We will continue to work with Ofsted and government to build intelligent systems of accountability.

Sir Martyn Oliver, Chief Executive of Outwood Grange Academies Trust and EAG member, said:

This is a timely and welcome Review of the maturing trust-led system. The DfE has listened and responded to challenges every step of the way providing much-needed clarity to trust regulation and commissioning.

Steve Bell, Chief Executive of The Painsley Catholic Academy and EAG member, said:

As a multi academy leader, I feel confident that the Review will result in a simpler, more proportionate regulatory system; a more transparent commissioning process and clarity over trust strength whilst retaining and celebrating the freedoms that academies enjoy.

Mark Vickers MBE, Chief Executive of Olive Academies and EAG member, said:

I fully support the Review's commitment to maximising the difference that academy trusts are able to make and agree that a focus on even better support for all children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), is necessary for individuals to achieve their potential.

A series of Trust Development Statements (TDS) have also been published for the first time. These statements set out the priorities in each Education Investment Area for developing a trust landscape led by high-quality trusts to transform standards locally and turn around underperforming schools.

This is backed by Trust Capacity Funding, a multi-year fund worth £86 million in 2022-2025 announced in the Schools White Paper that supports trusts to increase their capacity. The next round of funding will be open to new applications from 3 April. It is also supported by Trust Establishment and Growth Fund (TEG), which provides start-up funding for projects in their initial stages.

To develop the pipeline of outstanding leaders and increase the capacity of MAT leaders capable of leading sustainable growth at scale, the Government has also published the content that will underpin a MAT CEO development programme [.

The content framework sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to lead a large trust effectively, to ensure that every pupil is receiving an excellent education.

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