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The schools policies now in limbo as election purdah looms

Policy proposals for schools and academies will be delayed or binned now a general election has been called for July 4.

Government enters the pre-election “purdah” period on Saturday where public bodies are restricted in making both announcements and decisions that could influence voting decisions.

Even if the Conservatives retain power there is no guarantee a new Tory administration would keep current plans on policy and commercial contracts.

Bodies including government departments, local authorities, quangos such as Oak National Academy, and non-ministerial departments including Ofsted are affected.

Previously, purdah has meant school funding agreements could not be signed by civil servants – impacting new free schools and academy conversions.

Ofsted does not publish reports making council-wide judgments and might not release ‘inadequate’ reports in cases subject to “significant local political campaigning”.

Any decisions not made by Saturday are likely to be stuck in election limbo.

What does this all mean for schools? Here’s your trusty Schools Week explainer…

The consultations: MSL and ABS binned?

There are at least seven consultations on proposed new policies that will be affected.

The Advanced British Standard consultation closed in March. A white paper on the plans to reform qualifications – which included compulsory maths and English to age 18 – was also promised later this year.

Labour has suggested it will junk the plan should it form the next government.

Labour has also vowed to row back on the proposed minimum service levels that would apply to schools where staff are striking. Government has yet to respond to a consultation on this issue which closed in January.

The government has also not responded to a consultation on non-statutory elective home education which would ask councils to maintain voluntary registers on children not in school.

A consultation on draft guidance for schools on gender questioning children closed in March and a response has not yet been published. 

The recently launched consultation on new statutory relationships, sex and health education guidance is due to run until July.

Government is also currently seeking views on proposals to lift the 50 per cent admissions cap for faith schools. The consultation closes in June. Elsewhere it is seeking views on new national standards for unregistered alternative provision.

The policies: Workload and curriculum plans up in air

A final set of recommendations from the workload reduction taskforce was due this spring. Ministers had promised to cut teacher workload by five hours a week.

The sector has also been waiting for the promised 2019 recruitment and retention strategy refresh. Both are now up in the air.

A model history curriculum, first promised in October 2021, is yet to see the light of day. Last year the DfE said it would be published in 2024. 

The cultural education plan, first pledged in March 2022, remains unpublished too. In February the DfE said it would be published “in the coming months”. 

Ministers are also yet to consult on content for a new natural history GCSE, due to be introduced by September next year.

Meanwhile, the SEND reforms are currently being trialled, with decisions on whether to nationally roll out local inclusion plans and national standards falling to the next government.

Other stuff: Teacher pay, Ofsted and academisation

One of the biggest impacts will likely be the teacher pay-setting process for September – which is likely to be delayed until after the election.

Ofsted’s ‘Big Listen’ exercise also closes next week, meaning no decisions can be taken before the polls in July. Labour intends to consult on scrapping its grading system and replacing it with a ‘report card’.

Flick Drummond

About 800 maintained schools are also in the pipeline for academisation, something which could be slowed down. 

Conservative MP Flick Drummond’s private members bill for a register of children not in school, which had government support, will not progress when parliament dissolves next week. But Labour has committed to implement the policy.

An “independent” review of Oak National Academy, due to be completed by September, will fall to the next government.

Interviews for Ofqual’s permanent chief regulator ended in April, but a preferred candidate is yet to be announced – another decision that could spill over.

The government was also due to respond to the Khan Review on teacher harassment before the summer break.

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