HCR Law Events

6 April 2022

Government White Paper: highlights for schools

The highly anticipated White Paper, “Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child” has been published by the Secretary of State for Education, setting out the government’s long-term vision for schools. We have highlighted some of the key proposals that will be relevant for your school.  A separate article looks specifically at the government’s plans for all schools to be part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) by 2030.


The White Paper sets out that more children in England have been achieving their key milestones since 2010.  Since the introduction of the Phonics Screening Check in 2012, the percentage of Year 1 pupils meeting the expected standard has risen from 58% to 82%, with 91% achieving this standard by Year 2 in 2019. However, in 2019, 35% of pupils did not meet the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths at key stage 2.

In order to tackle the persistent issues of underperformance, the government has separated the White Paper into four key areas:

  • an excellent teacher for every child
  • high standards of curriculum, behaviour, and attendance
  • targeted support for every child who needs it
  • a stronger and fairer school system

An excellent teacher for every child

The government’s aim is that, by 2030, every child will be taught by an excellent teacher who Is trained in the best-evidenced approaches. In order to make this goal a reality, all teachers will be given access to professional development at all stages of their career, and teaching will be a high-status profession, drawing in the best teachers in the subjects where they are most needed.

The practical steps which will be taken include:

  • delivery of 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by 2024
  • a new National Professional Qualification for Leading Literacy and a National Professional Qualification for Early Years Leadership
  • investment of up to £180m in the early years workforce
  • £30,000 starting salaries for teachers.

Alongside these changes, by 2024 a reformed Initial Teacher Training (ITT) provider market will deliver quality assured training placing a greater emphasis on ensuring trainees are ready to thrive in the classroom.

To ensure quality remains high, Ofsted inspections of ITT providers will take place more frequently so that every new entrant to the profession receives the best possible training. They will also speed up the inspection cycle so that all providers are inspected by July 2024, and then every three years subsequently.

To attract the best teachers where they are most needed, new teachers will be incentivised to work in places where they are needed most through a ‘levelling up premium’. This will be worth up to £3,000 tax-free for eligible maths, physics, chemistry and computing teachers, in years one to five of their careers, working in disadvantaged schools.

Delivering high standards of curriculum, behaviour, and attendance

In terms of curriculum, behaviour and attendance, the government’s aim is that, by 2030, every child will be taught a broad curriculum in a school with high expectations and strong standards of behaviour.

While no changes will be made to the National Curriculum for the remainder of the parliament, the government proposes to deliver a new arms-length curriculum body to work with teachers creating a free, optional, adaptable digital set of curriculum resources. While this will be an optional resource, it is hoped teachers’ time will be freed up to teach using the best possible resources, reducing workload so teachers need only create new resources only when necessary.

The White Paper also sets out proposed changes to the school week. The current discrepancy of teaching times in schools means that a child who receives 20 minutes per day less of teaching time loses around two weeks of education each year. To combat this issue, by September 2023 there will be a minimum expectation on all mainstream schools of a school week of 32.5 hours. In addition to a new minimum school week, all schools are strongly encouraged to deliver two substantive morning and afternoon sessions each school day. For clarity, this expectation does not apply to specialist settings.

Data will be used more effectively to improve behaviour and attendance, including by introducing an annual behaviour survey and a national data system to drive attendance and help agencies to protect vulnerable children. Schools should also expect new legislation to establish a register for children not in school and modernised rules on recording attendance.

Targeted support for every child who needs it

By 2030, the government’s aim is that every child who falls behind in English or maths will get the right support to get back on track. This will be achieved by ensuring that high-quality classroom teaching and evidence-based targeted support, including tutoring, will be made available to every child who is behind. In addition, schools will fund evidence-based, targeted activities to improve the attainment of disadvantaged children, including the most able, from their Pupil Premium funding.

In order to embed tutoring, up to six million tutoring packages will be delivered by 2024. Schools will be incentivised to provide tutoring and will be expected to provide tutoring to every child who needs it by using their own staff and introducing dedicated, new staff where appropriate.

To support schools, the government will re-endow the Education Endowment Foundation with £100m to allow it to provide guidance and support to schools and act as a ‘guardian of evidence’ to ground education policy in the very best evidence. £55m will also be provided to the government’s Accelerator Fund to develop and scale-up literacy and numeracy interventions.

A stronger and fairer school system

By 2030, the government’s aim is that all children will be taught in a family of schools, with their school in a strong multi academy trust or with plans to join or form one, to enable schools to share expertise, resources and support. The government will also build on the success of the academies programme by consulting on moving schools that have received two consecutive below ‘Good’ judgements from Ofsted into strong trusts.

In respect of admissions, local authorities will retain the overall duty to provide an appropriate place for every child, determining the number of school places that are needed in the area. The Department for Education, via Regional Directors, will be responsible for ensuring that these places are provided by the best possible schools. Regional Directors will make decisions about expansion of existing schools, as well as the creation of new ones. Meanwhile, trusts will continue to act as their own admissions authorities and the government will bring the requirement for trusts to follow the admissions code onto a statutory footing.

In respect of SEND, a range of measures will be introduced to improve the sharing of information between organisations working with vulnerable children, including data about attendance, exclusions and those removed from school rolls. A new system of proactive assurance with Local Safeguarding Partnerships commissioning safeguarding audits every three years will also help to ensure that school policies are consistent with local safeguarding arrangements and the new academy trust standards.

All schools will be only too aware of the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on remote education; the government expects that remote education will continue to be used, to allow children to keep pace with their education when in-person attendance in school is not possible. Every school in the country should have an infrastructure that allows them to make the most of modern digital technology for their children. The government will work with commercial providers to accelerate gigabit capable broadband rollout to schools, to enable all schools to have access to a high-speed connection by 2025.

The key policy in this area is that, by 2030, all schools, including current single academy trusts, will be expected to have joined or formed, or have started discussions to join or form, a 10 school multi-academy trust (or serve 7,500 pupils). More information in respect of the specific drive for multi-academy trusts can be found in our recent article, here.

Practical steps

To prepare for the proposed changes set out in the White Paper, all schools should keep an eye out for updated guidance.

Specifically, the Department for Education will be publishing best practice guidance over the summer to guide schools in respect of the minimum expectation for the school week for mainstream schools. On top of this, the Department’s ‘behaviour in schools’ guidance and exclusion guidance will be reviewed to provide more practical support for school leaders. In addition, the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance will be strengthened.

Schools should therefore be ready to review and update their statutory policies and practices where necessary in order to ensure continued compliance as changes are introduced. It is also essential for all schools, including single academy trusts, to start to take steps to join or form a strong family of around 10 schools.

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About the Author
Emma Swann, Partner, Head of Academies

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