Schools White Paper: summary and reaction

As we all know by now, the Government has published its long-awaited Schools White Paper. The ‘Opportunity for All’ document sets out the Department for Education’s vision for schools for the next eight years.

The overarching theme of the paper – the first Schools White Paper in six years – is the ambition to ensure all children reach their full potential.

Launching the document, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi vowed that any child who fell behind in maths or English would get the support they needed to get back on track. He also pledged to make sure all children had access to a school that met the Government’s current best standards.

But the white paper has received criticism because some of the policies aren’t new.

What’s included in the Schools White Paper?

The proposals form part of a wider programme of change that includes other policy documents, such as the SEND Review and the Levelling Up White Paper.

By 2030, the Government wants 90% of children to leave primary school having achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths – up from 65% in 2019.

And it aims to increase the national GCSE average grades in English language and in maths from 4.5 in 2019 to 5 by 2030.

Here’s a summary of the main measures in the Schools White Paper


  • £30,000 starting salaries to attract and retain the best teachers – with extra incentives to work in schools with the most need.
  • 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by 2024.
  • Specialist training to drive better literacy.

Curriculum, behaviour and attendance

  • A new arms-length curriculum body that works with teachers across the country to co-create digital curriculum resources that are free, optional and adaptable.
  • Schools to offer a minimum school week of 32.5 hours by September 2023.
  • A register for children not in school, to make sure no child is lost from the system.
  • A National Behaviour Survey to better understand what parents, children, teachers and leaders think of behaviour and wellbeing in their school.
  • Every school to have access to funded training for a senior mental health lead to deliver a whole-school approach to health and wellbeing.

Targeted support

  • A ‘Parent Pledge’ that schools will provide evidence-based support if a child falls behind in English or maths, and to tell the parent about their child’s progress.
  • Up to six million tutoring courses by 2024 and action to cement tuition as a permanent feature of the school system.
  • At least £100m to put the Education Endowment Foundation on a long-term footing, so it can continue to evaluate and spread best practice in education across the country.

The school system

  • By 2030, all children will benefit from being taught in a school that has joined – or is in the process of joining – a strong multi-academy trust (MAT).
  • A fully trust-led system with a single regulatory approach to drive up standards.

What does the white paper mean for school governors?

I’ve worked with hundreds of governing boards across the country, and I know that many are already working hard to support their schools to deliver the high standards of curriculum, behaviour and attendance that parents expect. In fact, I was at a school in Crewe this week where the board are laser-focused on this topic and in their drive to challenge and support leaders to do their best for children.

The governors I work with are also conscious of staff workload and wellbeing, which the 32.5-hour school week will impact on. Schools are considering what this would mean for them, and in some cases, it would mean adding five minutes to the day – and for what benefit?

Looking at the section on targeted support. Again, most boards I know already challenge their school to ensure the focus is on every child achieving their best.

The big one for me is the proposal about academies. I work with many MATs to help them improve their governance within and across the trust. Governors play a key role in both the leadership and management of schools, and I know the positive impact local governing boards can make when they use their voice at the school level within a MAT setting. They’re the eyes and ears of the trust, and local governing boards are a key element in the success of any MAT.

And let’s not forget about funding, which is always an issue for schools. It will be interesting to see if the Government provides enough money to deliver its ambitions. In the past, it hasn’t, and schools have borne the brunt.

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Posted in Shaping Governance.