We Asked, You Said, We Did

Below are some of the issues we have recently consulted on and their outcomes.

We Asked

The consultation set out ten proposals for reforming the future arrangements for subcontracting of ESFA funded post 16 education and training. The proposals sought to reduce the overall volume of subcontracted delivery across the sector by eliminating provision that is poorly managed and delivered, and provision undertaken for the wrong reasons. It also sought to strengthen the ESFA’s oversight of subcontracted activity.

You Said

In general, respondents felt that some of the proposals, particularly where we have suggested obtaining prior agreement from the agency, would be excessively bureaucratic, both for providers and the agency. Many have pointed out where some of the proposals may be suitable for some funding streams but not for others.

We Did

We have reflected upon the responses and have made changes to our final approach taking account of the views expressed. We have, in some cases, decided to differentiate our approach by funding stream and to take account of particular structures/modes of delivery. Overall, we have tried to eliminate proposals that would be excessively bureaucratic and will build more of our oversight and assurance into the development of the Standard for the Management of Subcontracting (proposal 9).

We Asked

Do you agree with the proposed 10% increases to fees for 2020-21, and how will that affect you as a provider?

You Said

The fees should not be increased because doing so will put additional pressure on the budgets of providers.

We Did

The majority of providers are a long way from paying the full cost of the inspection and regulatory activity undertaken by Ofsted, which means that the taxpayer continues to subsidise the regulation of the majority of children’s social care providers. However, due to additional pressures on the sector caused by Covid-19, we have since decided to waive the collection of the uplift in fees for the financial year 2020-21.

We Asked

We asked for views about strengthening the arrangements for ring-fencing DSG so that it is clear that DSG deficits do not have to be met from local authorities’ general funds.

You Said

The majority of respondents agreed with the proposals but thought they needed further strengthening to achieve what was intended.

We Did

The department put the ring-fencing requirement into the School and Early Years Finance Regulations 2020 to give it statutory backing.  DSG deficits can no longer be paid off from general funds without requesting permission from the Secretary of State, and the DfE will work with authorities to enable them to pay off their deficits from within DSG funds.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-changing-the-dedicated-schools-grant

We Asked

As part of the Government's commitment to all children in education in England, including those already being placed in online provision, we published the consultation document: Online schools accreditation scheme in September 2019. The consultation recognised the growing market of online education services for children in England, many of whom offer a full curriculum and may represent a child’s main or only source of formal education. As this type of provision is currently unregulated, the department sought views on an accreditation scheme to reassure children, parents and local authorities of the quality of education and safeguarding arrangements in using such services.

The consultation made two key proposals:

  • the establishment of a voluntary online education accreditation scheme
  • the establishment of non-statutory standards for online education provision

As part of the proposals, we consulted on the appointment of a Quality Assurance Body (QAB) to provide an inspection service for the online settings that join the accreditation scheme. The consultation document also included the draft standards; views were requested on their suitability and practical application.

The government response to this consultation can be viewed on https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-schools-accreditation-scheme.

You Said

There is substantial support for an accreditation scheme – with over 90% of respondents supporting the principles of the proposed scheme. Below is a summary of areas where we found significant support:

  • 94% of all respondents agreed that there is a need for a quality assurance scheme in some form – 96% of providers, 100% of local authorities, 86% of parents and 100% of the broader education sector;
  • there is 91% support overall for the principles of the accreditation scheme we have proposed – 96% from providers, 94% from local authorities, 93% from parents and 83% from the broader education sector;
  • there is also strong support for basing standards on the Independent School Standards (ISS) – 83% support overall, including 100% support among local authorities. Although there was less certainty about whether we had identified the correct standards, 68% of respondents overall felt that we had, including 80% of local authorities;
  • 89% felt that it is appropriate for online providers to have regard to Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance.
  • there is strong support for the department to appoint a QAB to inspect online settings and providers (94% overall, 96% from providers, 92% from parents, 92% from the broader education sector and 100% from local authorities);
  • there is strong support for publishing all reports – whether standards have been met or not. This found 89% support overall, including 100% of parents and local authorities;
  • there is strong support for giving providers four weeks to submit an action plan if an inspection found they were not meeting all required standards. 83% overall said that this was an appropriate timeframe, including 79% of providers, 81% of local authorities, 90% of the broader education sector and 92% of parents.

Other substantial issues raised are summarised below:

  • 75% of respondents overall were concerned about the inclusion of overseas-based providers in the scheme, including 94% of local authorities;
  • questions relating to safeguarding showed a greater level of uncertainty relative to most other consultation questions. 41% of respondents overall said they were unsure if we had identified standards that would adequately safeguard children, although 52% answered ‘yes’ and only 8% ‘no’. 60% overall said they were unsure that safeguarding arrangements would work in practice, including 73% of local authorities. However, only 8% answered that they would not work, including just 7% of local authorities;
  • there was some uncertainty about whether remote inspections are likely to work in practice. 44% overall said that they were ‘unsure’. 44% also answered ‘yes’ and 12% ‘no’;
  • we detected some misunderstanding about possible sanctions for non-compliance, in the context of a non-statutory scheme.

The government response to this consultation can be viewed on https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-schools-accreditation-scheme.

We Did

Based on consultation feedback, we will make the following substantive changes to the initial proposals:

  • due to concerns raised relating to the inclusion of overseas-based providers, we will restrict the scheme to providers with a physical presence in the UK only;
  • whilst not prohibiting remote inspections entirely, we will indicate a strong preference to the QAB for physical inspections. All initial inspections will be carried out in person;
  • the degree of uncertainty relating to safeguarding suggests that there is a need for better definition and guidance from the department, particularly around a provider’s responsibility and how it will keep children safe online. As such, we will provide clear guidance, highlighting the distinction between the roles and responsibilities of those for the online safeguarding and the roles and responsibilities of those for the physical safeguarding. The term 'physical safeguarding' is intended to cover a wide range of safeguarding aspects – not only those limited to preventing physical harm or abuse. The exact definition of physical safeguarding will differ depending on the individual circumstances and location of the child. In practice, this will signify that the online provider is responsible for the online safeguarding only; the physical safeguarding will rest with the adults present at the site where the online education is being provided;
  • we will change the name of the scheme to the ‘Online Education Accreditation Scheme’. This is to more accurately reflect the difference between providers in this sector and traditional school settings. We will therefore avoid the use of the term ‘school’ altogether and refer instead to ‘online education settings’, ‘online education services’ and ‘online education providers’. The standards will also be amended accordingly;
  • we will assess to what extent it is workable to add additional information requirements at the registration stage;
  • we will make a technical change whereby due diligence is carried out by the QAB, rather than the department. The QAB will report the outcome of due diligence checks to the department;
  • The uncertainty relating to possible sanctions for non-compliance suggests there is a need for guidance from the department to ensure that all parties are clear about how the scheme will work. This will be provided for the commencement of the scheme.

The government response to this consultation can be viewed on https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-schools-accreditation-scheme.

We Asked

The department sought views on: a proposed increase, from April 2020, to the application fee and the annual fee paid to Ofsted by early years settings on the Early Years Register; and the principles that should underpin a revised Early Years Register fee model from April 2021.

You Said

In terms of the proposed fee increase, just over half (56%) did not agree that uprating fees in this way was a reasonable approach to implementing a fee increase in April 2020. However, a quarter (25%) of respondents agreed this would be a reasonable approach, and 18% of respondents said they were neutral. In terms of a revised Early Years Register fee model from April 2021, nearly three quarters of respondents (73%) supported the principle of varying fees based on different categories.

We Did

The department decided not to implement any fee increase from April 2020. The department said it would develop a new Early Years Register fee model with the aim of introducing the revised model from April 2021. However, this may be delayed following the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

We Asked

For your views on our proposals to improve data on the FE workforce. In particular we wanted to know how plans for a mandatory annual workforce data collection would be received by those within the intended scope of the collection and those who would be responsible for making the data returns.

You Said

We were pleased to get a good response covering lots of different voices from the further education sector including providers, sector representatives organisations and individuals working in FE. All comments were considered as part of the review of proposals and reflected in the consultation response.

We Did

As a result, we intend to press ahead by introducing a workforce data collection from the 2020/21 academic year, which will be mandatory from the 2021/22 academic year.

 

A summary of the responses received was included in the full consultation response. The Department will now work with the Education and Skills Funding Agency to prepare for the launch of the collection.

The ESFA will review the impact that Covid-19 disruption has on user-testing and software development. Providers will be informed to what extent this may affect the development timetable. We do not currently expect this to change the requirement for mandatory returns in the 2021/22 academic year.

We Asked

We asked for your views on proposals from employer groups to develop new Apprenticeship Standards, to help ensure that any new Standards taken forward for development are viable, high quality, and widely supported. In particular we wanted to know whether the proposed Apprenticeships were in recognised occupations requiring at least 12 months of training, and whether the Standard would duplicate any others already in existence.

You Said

We received a wide range of responses across all bids, including from, employers, universities, Trade Association, Federation, Royal Marines, Royal Navy, Theatres and schools. All comments were considered as part of the overall review of proposals carried out by the department.

We Did

We approved the following Apprenticeship proposals for development:

  • Digital User Experience Professional
  • Express Delivery Manager
  • Financial Services Professional
  • Senior Leader
  • Science Industry Process/Plant Engineer
  • Motor Finance Specialist
  • Power Networks Engineer
  • Puppet Maker
  • Stone Mason

A summary of comments received was included in the feedback to each proposal. The Department will now support the successful employer groups to develop their Standards.