Could the festive season bring a long-awaited gift to headteachers in England?
Apparently so, if education secretary Gillian Keegan is telling the truth. This week she said that long-awaited government guidance on transgender issues in schools would be published “before Christmas”.
And don’t panic that your school holidays will be taken up picking through government documents – the workload-sensitive Keegan has insisted a long consultation period will follow:
“I don’t want teachers to spend their Christmas worrying about it as much as I’ve spent most of the year worried about it,” said the politician, who is often rather open about how she feels about controversies falling on her beat.
And it seems the DfE is being particularly generous in its efforts to ensure teachers’ enjoy their future holidays: It announced that £2m would be spent developing artificial intelligence to help them plan their lessons. Far be it for School Management Plus to be sceptical, but these sort of government projects rarely have the impact of reducing anybody’s workload.
Elsewhere, we received confirmation of a five percentage point increase in the employers’ contribution to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. This financial sting will be borne by the Government in state schools, but private institutions will be left scratching around for the extra cash or making an exit from the TPS altogether.
Daniel Kebede, the new general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said it was “is not prepared to sit back while our members see their contracts of employment ripped up and their pensions snatched away.” In other words, more strikes over pensions could be on the cards.
In other financial news, The Sunday Times reported that independent schools were offering a “pay now” option on school fees to avoid any VAT that might be imposed on fees after the next election.
But a spokesperson for the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA) insisted advance fee payments were “very explicitly not being marketed as a tax loophole” and only a “very limited” number of families could afford them anyway.
Amid all this financial uncertainty, well-loved independent schools in the UK continue to shut down. The latest controversial closure notice comes from Falcons Pre-Prep in Chiswick, which is being closed at the end of term by new owners Inspired Education.
The Telegraph reports that parents plan to sue the group over the plan, which was announced on the second day of term, accusing it of an “egregious example of corporate greed”.
Sometimes there’s no hiding from the fact private education can be a business like any other.