ESFA Update academies: 26 May 2021 – GOV.UK


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1. Latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Department for Education has published guidance about COVID-19 in educational settings for staff, parents and carers, pupils and students on GOV.UK.

Please check GOV.UK regularly for updates.

2. Action: ransomware infections in MATs

On 23 April, Jon Gilbert, DfE’s chief information security officer, wrote to multi-academy trusts (MATs) with important information about an increasing number of cyber-attacks involving ransomware infections affecting the education sector recently, notably multi-academy trusts.

In his email, Jon asked MATs to confirm to DfE that their trust is taking action to protect their systems and ensure that they have both a backup regime and incident management plan in place.

We are still awaiting a number of responses from MATs. If you have not yet replied, please email [email protected] with your response.

3. Action: Business rates: call for academies to submit historic claims for unclaimed years

DfE recently consulted on proposals to centralise the payment of national non-domestic rates (NNDR), more commonly known as business rates, for state-funded schools. These proposals involve the ESFA paying business rates directly to billing authorities on behalf of schools from 1 April 2022.

Under these proposals, moving to the new payment system will mean that academies will no longer need to submit rates claims via the NNDR portal to recoup their rates costs, and this academy upload function will be removed. Instead, all billing amounts (including any adjustments) will be uploaded by billing authorities.

If we proceed with these proposals, following the recent consultation, from 1 April 2022 the functionality for academies to submit historic claims for previously unclaimed years will be removed. Academies would have until the end of March 2022 to submit any outstanding historic claims relating to the 2015 to 2016 financial year onwards via the NNDR portal. From 1 April 2022, ESFA would no longer accept, process, or reimburse academies for historic claims relating to unclaimed years.

If this change comes into force, it will only apply to any years from 2015 to 2016 onwards which have not already been claimed for. Academies would continue to be able to claim for historic adjustments to claims made from 1 April 2017 onwards through the NNDR portal after April 2022.

Whether or not we proceed with the proposals outlined above, we would strongly encourage academies to submit any historic NNDR claims for unclaimed years at their earliest convenience, so that DfE can meet such claims promptly.

4. Reminder: making significant changes to an existing academy

Academy trusts proposing to make a significant change which will affect clauses in their funding agreement, MUST submit a proposal for change and follow the required process in advance of the change being made.

Proposals for change must be submitted to the department through either a fast-track application or a full business case. You can find further details in the Making significant changes to an open academy and closure by mutual agreement guidance.

Failure to submit a proposal for change could constitute a breach of your funding agreement. This includes changes requested by the local authority.

5. Information: third payment of the catch-up premium

The third and final payment of the catch-up premium will be delivered to local authorities on 28 May 2021 and academies on 8 June 2021.

There has been an update to allocations for alternative provision.

Allocation details and conditions of grant are now available and further details on the catch-up premium guidance can be found on GOV.UK.

6. Information: school capacity survey 2021

The school capacity (SCAP) survey is an annual data collection of school capacity, pupil forecasts and planned capacity changes. Local authorities must complete the return for all mainstream schools in their area including academies, free schools, UTCs and studio schools.

The department uses the data to support a range of funding, policy and operational decisions, so it is important the data is accurate.

The SCAP 2021 survey opens on 7 June. Your local authority may contact you to confirm current school capacity or planned capacity changes. If so, you should work with them to accurately report capacity data.

Academy capacity in SCAP will usually be based on the capacity recorded in the school’s funding agreement but should reflect the latest position if subsequent changes have been made.

7. Information: webinars for RPA members

As part of our risk management support, we’re hosting webinars on 2 subjects in June. Please select the best date for you to read more information and register.

7.1 Crisis management

Covers how a crisis can impact your organisation and how to respond during a crisis event.

  • 10 June 2021 - 10am to midday
  • 23 June 2021 - 4pm to 6pm

7.2 Regulatory mock trial

This training event covers court proceedings following a health and safety incident in a school.

  • 15 June 2021 - 9am to midday
  • 18 June 2021 - 9am to midday

8. Information: Approved frameworks webinars

DfE’s Schools Commercial Team is hosting a series of webinars with suppliers throughout June with useful information and guidance on the DfE approved frameworks. Each event has multiple dates.

  • Education Mutual staff absence - designed to provide an alternative to commercial staff absence providers.
  • YPO Energy - how to access this framework for purchasing energy.
  • Staff absence insurance -provided by Crescent Purchasing Consortium and Schools Advisory Service.
  • Supply teachers and agency workers - help with organising supply teachers and agency staff.
  • YPO network & telecoms - approved framework for networks and telecoms purchasing in schools.

9. Information: Behaviour Hubs programme open for applications

Schools should be safe, disciplined, and positive environments, where teachers can teach, and pupils can learn – free from disruption. The Behaviour Hubs programme aims to support school leaders by providing expert help to improve their school’s behaviour cultures.

This is a one-year programme (MATs will be on the programme for two years) which will partner a school or MAT with a local Lead School or MAT that has an exemplary school behaviour culture and experience in supporting others to improve, who will provide one-to-one support and mentoring while they develop new approaches to manage pupil behaviour. This is further enhanced by training from expert Behaviour Advisers, hub networking events to share best practice, open days to observe good systems in practice, and high-quality resources.

Recruitment for the next cohort of supported schools and MATs is currently underway, and schools rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted are eligible to apply. New cohorts of schools are added termly, and applications made by 11 June will be considered for support starting this September.

Please forward this opportunity to RI schools who may benefit from the programme.

For more information about the programme and funding, see the brochure or visit the behaviour hubs to apply. Schools can also join a webinar at 9.30am on 8 June.

10. Information: Ofqual guidance for centres and students on the awarding process this year

To support centres and students through the awarding process this year Ofqual has recently published:

  • Guidance for centres: The awarding of vocational and technical and other general qualifications in summer 2021
  • Student guide to awarding: summer 2021

10.1 Guidance for centres

This guidance provides centres with clear guidance on a range of topics related to awarding this year, including:

  • the role of internal and external quality assurance processes in ensuring results are consistent and fair
  • retaining evidence of teacher assessed grades
  • the process for appeals
  • additional assessment opportunities

We have also included a section on cyber security, calling on awarding organisations and centres to be aware of and manage risks appropriately.

10.2 Student guide to awarding summer 2021

We have also made available guidance for students taking general qualifications and vocational and technical qualifications, which outlines the arrangements for awarding this summer and signposts additional sources of information.

We appreciate how hard everyone is working during these challenging times to ensure that as many students as possible can receive their results and progress on to the next stage of their education or employment.

11. Information: new regulations on school sessions for academic year 2021 to 2022

We have laid regulations to reduce the minimum number of sessions schools are required to meet in the academic year 2021 to 2022 and enable everyone to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen on 3 June 2022.

Many schools will be on their half term breaks in the week commencing 31 May 2022, but where the additional bank holiday falls in term time, schools and local authorities should observe the Bank Holidays on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 June and may therefore need to prepare and make any amendments to their published term dates for the academic year 2021to 2022.

We have also laid regulations to allows schools in England to hold the extra INSET day on 4 January 2021 which was to help teachers train and prepare for coronavirus testing in schools. The amendment to regulations will mean that schools will not be at risk of breaching their statutory duty.

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