Take a look at what's been happening in the world of education and health and safety since our last issue...
Schools Are Making Difficult Decisions Over Meals Price Rise
School leaders are having to decide to either pass the increase on to parents or to absorb the costs themselves. The rises come as the County Councils Network warns that local authorities will face “a winter of difficult decisions” as they set their budgets for the next financial year.
Derbyshire County Council has approved a 10p increase in the price of a primary school meal this term. The council’s education councillor, Alex Dale said; “The increase is, of course, a decision we’ve made reluctantly, but I am more reluctant to compromise on the size and quality of our children’s meals.”
Hampshire County Council’s school meal provider, HC3S, will also increase prices by 20p a day from October 31 for 440 schools. The council said it will award schools almost £1.6 million in discretionary grants from the Household Support Fund to offset the increase.
Councillor Roz Chadd said: “Our focus now is on doing all that we can to bolster our support for vulnerable families over the challenging winter period and ensure that schools are adequately equipped to cover these additional costs.”
Schools across the UK are already struggling to find the money to pay for school meals for their most vulnerable pupils. The latest estimates from the NEU reveal the DfE is currently underfunding free school meals by £395 million a year.
The Feed the Future campaign is asking for free school meals to be extended to about 800,000 more children in households on universal credit. School and education leaders representing more than one million teachers, support staff and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver have also backed the calls.
Report Suggests Employers Must Listen to Help Prevent Injuries to Muscles, Bones and Joints
In a report for SHP online, Alex Minett, head of products and markets at Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) stresses that the law requires employers to prevent the ill health of their workers. This includes injuries to muscles, bones, joints and nerves, but as long as the correct training, aids and equipment are in place to prevent injuries, many moving and handling risks can be effectively mitigated.
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, employers must maintain a secure working environment as well as having a duty to protect workers from harm by providing adequate health and safety training and information, instruction and supervision.
According to the HSE, tasks that can cause back pain or make existing issues worse include:
- Lifting heavy or bulky loads;
- Carrying loads awkwardly, possibly one-handed;
- Pushing, pulling or dragging heavy loads
- Manual handling in awkward places, such as during delivery work;
- Repetitive tasks, such as packing products;
- Bending, crouching or stooping;
- Stretching, twisting and reaching;
- Being in one position for a long time;
- Working beyond your capability or when physically overtired;
- Working with display screen equipment (with poor posture); and
- Driving long distances or over rough ground, especially if the seat is not, or cannot be, properly adjusted or operating heavy equipment (for example, excavators.)
Minett stresses the importance of employee input when it comes to managing the risk of back injury. Back pain often follows a previous accident, so employees are best placed to provide information on their back health histories as well as their capabilities and they should always be encouraged to report problems early so the proper treatment can be sought. Recovery is much faster when the signs of trauma are recognised early and treated appropriately. Employers are urged to look for signs that staff may be struggling with back pain.
Sufferers of chronic pain can go on to develop issues with their mental health, such as depression. The stress of suffering this pain can often make the physical symptoms worse, causing a vicious cycle. GPs will often suggest psychological therapy in addition to other treatments for back pain.
GOV.UK PRESS RELEASE: Thousands of Early Years Professionals Will Benefit From Investment to Drive Quality and Training, and to Better Support the Next Generation of Children.
New opportunities will also be provided for graduates looking to embark on a career in early years teaching, as well as staff looking to train as early years special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs).
Up to £180 million of government funding over the three years will support the sector to focus on children’s development in their earliest of years and help to address existing recruitment and retention challenges. It follows commitments by the Government to improve parents’ access to affordable, flexible childcare through ambitious reforms, for which work continues.
Minister for Schools and Childhood, Kelly Tolhurst, said:
“I’m really proud of the quality and dedication of our early years workforce. This package of support is a huge investment in their skills and professional development, because raising the status of this important sector is key to its growth."
The Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) programme, which has already helped to boost the speech and language skills of an estimated 90,000 children, will also continue this academic year.
The Department for Education, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, has also launched a new ‘Better Health - Start for Life’ campaign, providing parents of children aged 0 to 4 with practical advice and tips to help them develop their child’s language and literacy skills before starting school. Funding from today’s announcement will also support parents to gain additional advice through new Family Hubs, expected to open in the first half of 2023.
The package of support, which will benefit pre-school children all over England, includes:
- Early maths, language, and social development training for 10,000 professionals through the third phase of the Professional Development Programme (PDP3);
- The national rollout of the Expert and Mentors programme to provide bespoke leadership support to 7,500 early years settings and childminders to address the impact of the pandemic on children in their care;
- Graduate-level specialist training leading to early years teacher;
- Support for nearly 6,000 early years professionals to achieve the National Professional Qualification in Early Years Leadership (NPQEYL);
- Training for up to 5,000 Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) to help identify children’s needs earlier so they have the right support. A commitment reaffirmed in the SEND Green Paper;
- A new network of 18 Stronger Practice Hubs to support early years practitioners to adopt evidence-based practice improvements; and
- A new universal online child development training offer to help staff improve their knowledge and understanding of how pre-school children develop, as well as training for early years professionals to help parents and guardians encourage their children’s development at home.
The British Safety Industry Federation Urges PPE and Safety Product Buyers to Check What They Buy
The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) are advising all those responsible for buying PPE that they have a responsibility to ensure that the products they buy are compliant. However, many buyers ‘don’t have the knowledge and resources’ to validate suppliers’ claims.
If products look like PPE and safety equipment and are marketed as such, buyers may think that they will provide the protection that’s needed. However, mounting evidence shows that this is not always the case, and the use of ineffective products that put people at risk of injury, or worse, is on the rise.
For a full list of Registered Safety Suppliers, click here: http://www.registeredsafetysupplierscheme.co.uk/
If you are a business or organisation in the UK that is buying PPE and safety equipment, the BSIF urges you to:
1. CHECK your supplier is BSIF Registered. BSIF audited suppliers are compliant, competent and trustworthy;
2. SELECT appropriate, certified and approved products. Registered Safety Suppliers can support the product selection process through their competence, capability and knowledge; and
3. PROTECT your people, your most precious asset, and help your business to thrive.
BSIF CEO Alan Murray comments: “However you are sourcing your PPE and safety equipment, checking whether your vendor is a Registered Safety Supplier is a quick and easy way of ensuring they are committed to high standards of operation and are compliant with relevant regulations. Remember, anyone can sell safety, but you wouldn’t buy safety from just anyone. Always specify the shield.”
The Government Response to Criticisms of SEND Review.
On October 21st 2022, The Education Committee published a response from the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP, to its letter regarding the Government’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) review.
The Committee’s initial correspondence sparked criticism centred on the lack of resources in the SEND system and funding being targeted at more costly, late-stage interventions.
The Government’s response addresses these concerns, but Committee’s Chair, Robert Halfon, has now urged the Government to deliver on these promises, in light of suggestions from the new Chancellor that areas of government spending may need to be cut.
The Government’s response covers several concerns raised by the Committee:
- High needs funding;
- New national framework of funding bands;
- Disabled apprenticeships;
- New ‘strong trust’ criteria;
- Family-oriented inspection framework; and
- Increased Ombudsman role and neutral advocate.
Education Committee Chair Robert Halfon MP said: “This Correspondence was a welcome answer to our concerns about the SEND system. It is founded on several key pledges which would serve as important first steps towards providing vulnerable children with the support they desperately need. I urge the Government not to backtrack on these pledges. Children with SEND desperately need the funding increases they were promised. The disabled apprentice framework has huge potential to give students with SEND opportunities and skills they couldn’t get elsewhere. Similarly, the Government must keep its pledge to crack down on schools that shut the door on the children they have a duty to help. A stronger Ombudsman, better-defined ’strong trust’ criteria, and a neutral advocate will all help lift families out of the treacle of bureaucracy currently clogging the system. Students with SEND are losing opportunities and struggling to access adequate education. The Department’s promises are good first steps, but they need to be turned into reality for the people they are designed to help.”
£100k Grants For ‘Strong’ Academy Trusts to Take on ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ Schools
Trusts are being offered between £50,000 and £100,000 for taking on “good or outstanding schools outside of an EIA”.
The capacity fund, worth £86 million over three years, is to help trusts “develop their capacity and take on underperforming schools, particularly in education investment areas”. The cash will help trusts build improvement capacity by taking on 'capacity giver' schools as part of £86m fund
Ministers have prioritised the 55 EIAs with the lowest education outcomes for government support.
Grants of up to £300,000 are available for taking on at least one ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ school in EIA areas. Up to £200,000 is available for taking on an underperforming school or any school in an EIA.
Applications to take on underperforming schools will be prioritised.
Winners for the first award of £18 million were announced in October. A total of 104 trusts were awarded on average £170k each. Awards were only available in that round for taking on underperforming schools in certain areas or “other trust capacity building projects”.
The cash can be used to establish new central processes, set up new central team posts or relocation costs for moving staff to new reasons. However, costs can not cover capital expenditure, consultancy for delivering the expansion or due diligence on takeovers.
The application window runs until December 16. Details of the next application round – which will look particularly for projects which “address [government] priorities” in the EIAs – will be published later this year.
Government to Increase Teacher Training Bursaries and Scholarships in 2023
In an attempt to attract new entrants to the profession amid a growing recruitment and retention crisis, the government will increase teacher training bursaries and scholarships in 2023. However, the total funding on offer is still £70 million lower than it was in 2020, before bursaries were slashed. The DfE said the package of support would cost £181 million, more than the roughly £130 million allocated in 2022 and 2021.
Maths, physics, chemistry and computing teachers entering teacher training in 2023 will attract £27,000 bursaries, £3,000 more than this year and 2021, and £1,000 more than in pre-pandemic 2020.
Alternatively, applicants with better degrees can get £29,000 scholarships in those subjects.
The bursary for modern foreign language teachers will increase from £15,000 to £25,000, though this is still lower than the £26,000 offered in 2020. Prospective French, German and Spanish teachers can alternatively get a £27,000 scholarship.
Geography bursaries will also increase from £15,000 to £25,000. Biology bursaries will rise from £10,000 to £20,000, while design and technology bursaries will increase from £15,000 to £20,000.
English, which did not attract a bursary in 2021 or 2022, will attract a £15,000 bursary. However, bursaries that were offered in 2020 in history, art and design, music, business studies and religious education have still not been restored, despite the fact some of those subjects are expected to under-recruit.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, said the increase for some bursaries “only scratches the surface of the crisis”.
“The underlying issue is that salary levels are not competitive enough because of government austerity policies which have eroded the real value of school teachers’ pay by a fifth over the past decade. The government must work with the education sector on a strategic plan which deals with these systemic issues. At present, the majority of schools and colleges in England are struggling to put teachers in front of classes.”
The DfE has also confirmed that grants for trainees on school direct (salaried) routes will be £27,000 for chemistry, computing, maths and physics, £25,000 for geography and languages, £20,000 for biology and D&T and £15,000 for English. Grants for postgraduate teaching apprentices will be £18,000 for chemistry, computing, maths and physics, £16,000 for geography and languages, £11,000 for biology and D&T and £6,000 for English.
The grants are to contribute to training and salary costs
Two Contractors Fined After Fall From Height Fatality in Northern Ireland
Lisburn Magistrates’ Court heard that in September 2020, self-employed contractor James Carlisle, 58, was working to replace the roof of a shed in Hillsborough, County Down. But Carlisle fell more than 4 metres from an “unguarded platform” and died at the scene. He had been working alongside two other self-employed contractors, James Wadsworth and Paul McMullan.
The prosecution, led by the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) found there were “no control measures in place” at the site to prevent falls from height, and that the methods of work were “inherently unsafe”. It went on to say; “The platform consisted of three timber planks spanning an internal shed wall and a cage supported by a telescopic handler. There were no control measures in place to prevent falls from height during the construction work and the method of work employed was inherently unsafe.”
Wadsworth, from Lisburn, and McMullan, from Dundrod, were fined £1,000 each for breaching Article 5(2) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978.
Falls from height are the biggest cause of death on construction sites in England, Scotland and Wales, causing a quarter of fatalities in the year to March 2021, according to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Data for April 2021 to December 2021 revealed that 41% of deaths in the sector were caused by a fall from a height.
The construction industry remains the most dangerous industry in England, Scotland and Wales, accounting for a quarter of all workplace fatalities in the year to March 2022.