I hope that you had a good Christmas and managed to get a well-deserved break.
I know that some of you have not been able to return to your school because of the damage caused by the December floods. The impact of these floods has been devastating for the communities affected and some schools have been severely hit. As part of our flood recovery efforts, we are working with local authorities to support schools to reopen as quickly as possible and I am visiting affected schools this week. If we can be of any further help, please do get in touch.
The New Year is an opportune moment to reflect on 2015 and to look ahead to the future. Thanks to your hard work, there are now a record number of young people being taught in good or outstanding schools, a record number of young people mastering the basics in primary school, and a record low of 16- to 18-year-olds who are not in education, training or employment. That record of success gives us a firm foundation from which to build on over the next five years to make sure that every single child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. That’s why I’ve made it the Department for Education’s mission to make sure that we deliver educational excellence in every corner of our country.
I very much enjoyed visiting Goldbeaters Primary School in Edgware last term to see how they were enjoying a scheme, supported by the Character Grants, linking leadership, teamwork and rugby.
Priorities for 2016
As I said in my speech to Policy Exchange in November, I want to make sure that social justice isn’t just a buzzword used by politicians, but is something that lies at the heart of every single school.
That’s why the Chancellor announced in the Spending Review that we would be protecting the schools budget in real terms and the 16-19 base rate in cash terms, on top of announcing £23 billion in capital funding to build new schools and refurbish existing ones. All of which underlines our firm belief that there is no better investment in our country’s future than in education.
That funding will allow us to deliver on our priorities for 2016 which include:
Publishing our response to the EBacc consultation. This will set out how we will ensure that pupils receive a rigorous education in the core academic subjects. The consultation is open until 29 January, and I encourage you to respond.
Empowering professionals, by helping more schools enjoy the freedom that becoming an academy brings and continuing to tackle unnecessary teacher workload.
Working towards the introduction of a National Funding Formula for schools, which ensures education spending is based on pupil need, not unfair and outdated calculations.
Supporting schools to develop pupils into well-rounded, confident, happy and resilient individuals to boost their academic attainment, employability and ability to engage in society as active citizens.
Continuing to tackle radicalisation of young people wherever it occurs and supporting schools to recognise the signs of radicalisation early and to act quickly.
We want to make sure that every child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Planning for the year ahead
Many of you have told me that you would like to have information to help you plan for the year ahead. We have published more details about our priorities for education and other important information – including mandatory requirements – in the department’s timelines for schools, published today.
I am also mindful that schools will need to continue to find savings. I know this will be challenging, but the department will be on hand to help you make the best financial decisions for your schools. A new package of information and tools will be available on GOV.UK shortly. It will bring together financial health and efficiency information for schools in one place; and more support will be available during the course of the year. As part of that package of support look out for an email with a benchmarking report card for your school.
In December 2014 I announced our backing for a new Careers & Enterprise Company (C&CE). If young people are to fulfil their potential then I want them to be inspired about the opportunities and careers available to them in the 21st century. The C&EC is now working with your Local Enterprise Partnership to appoint a careers coordinator and volunteer enterprise advisers to support schools with their careers provision – more details can be found on their website.
Finally, I am delighted that the Chancellor has announced funding for a significant expansion of the National Citizen Service. This is an amazing opportunity available to 15- to 17-year-olds and I’ll have more to say about the offer to schools soon.
Later this term we’ll share more details of our vision for education over the next four years and what more we believe we need to do to create an education system that truly unites us as one nation.
I will be continuing with my school visits and teacher direct sessions across the country and hope to meet many more of you during 2016.
In the meantime, please do get in touch via Gov.UK or via social media if you have anything you would like to tell me about your job, your school or any aspect of education.