Today the Government released the Departmental Business Plans for the period 2011–15. The written ministerial statement on these plans and the launch of the associated website makes this all sounds very dramatic (see below), but what do they tell us about Department for Education's (DfE) plans that we didn't already know? The answer is, not much.

Taken together, these Plans will change the nature of government. They represent a power shift, taking power away from Whitehall and putting it into the hands of people and communities; and an horizon shift, turning government's attention towards the long-term decisions that will equip Britain for sustainable social success and sustainable economic growth." Source: Written Ministerial Statement

The plans are broken down into six areas of priority:

  1. Increase the number of high quality schools and introduce fair funding
  2. Reform the school curriculum and qualifications
  3. Reduce bureaucracy and improve accountability
  4. Train and develop the professionals who work with children
  5. Introduce new support for the Early Years
  6. Improve support for children, young people and families, focusing on the most disadvantaged.

The DfE will begin to open academy applications to a wider group of schools next month; currently the new academy model is only open to schools that Osfted have rated as outstanding. Planning guidance that will allow Free Schools to be developed in a wider range of buildings than currently permitted will be completed in February and proposals for University Technical Colleges will be released in March.

The rate for the Pupil Premium in 2011–12, something that was not mentioned in the Spending Review, will be announced next month.  Schools will receive their first Pupil Premium funding allocation in April 2011. We should get more clarity about school funding in general by the end of the year, as the DfE plan to publish the Schools White Paper (two months later than the draft plans suggested back in July) and the Capital Review in December.

Although schools will have to wait until September 2013 before they start teaching the new National Curriculum, the use of the iGCSE in maintained school has already been approved and proposals for reforming further qualifications should be published in December.

Next month we will also see proposals to "improve the quality of the school workforce", which will cover initial teacher training, CPD and a new programme to attract the best people to the profession. The document make a point of saying that attracting former members of the armed forces to the teaching profession will be part of these plans; which should please Lord Heseltine.

December 2011 will see reform to the school inspection system, with the publication of new inspection framework.  Revised teacher standards and performance management regulations will be published in September 2011, and will be followed by proposal on pay and conditions a year later.

The plans also include a series of milestones, which will be useful dates (well months, at least) for your diary. The numbers at the start of each milestone relate to the six priorities listed above:

Already completed:

1. First new Academy schools opened

December 2010

1. Recommendations of schools' capital review reported to Ministers
5. Local Government Finance Settlement finalised, with details of Early Intervention Grant
6. Special educational needs Green Paper published

April 2011

1. First pupil premium funds transferred to schools
3. Burdens based in secondary legislation removed
5. Trials of new approaches to extension of free early education for 2 year olds in lead local authorities started
6. Streamlined regulations and guidance for care system take effect

May 2011

4. New standards for employers of social workers produced
6. Professor Munro's review of the child protection system published
6. Review of the commercialisation and premature sexualisation of childhood published

August 2011

2. Expanded and improved apprenticeship programme starts

September 2011

1. First Free Schools opened
1. First data released showing number of new schools broken down by type (Academy, Free School, University Technical College)
1. First University Technical Colleges opened
2. First regular data released on number of apprentices in training
4. Revised performance management regulations for teachers published
4. New professional standards for social workers produced
4. First annual data released on number of Teach First teachers

October 2011

1. First annual data released on proportion of pupils receiving pupil premium per school

December 2011

3. School inspection system reformed
5. First annual data released on number of families that have been through an evidence- based early intervention programme by local authority (exact measure to be agreed after Graham Allen review)

March 2012

3. QCDA and GTCE closed

May 2012

3. Local authority children's services inspection regime reformed

September 2012

5. National roll out of free early education for disadvantaged 2 year olds started
5. New Early Years framework in place

April 2013

6. Department for Education assumes responsibility for National Citizen Service

September 2013

2. Schools start to teach new National Curriculum

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