Three challenges for school leaders in 2018

Written by: Richard Skipper | Published:
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As the new year begins, what changes do you need to prepare for? Richard Skipper discusses three major challenges waiting for school leaders in 2018

It can be difficult to keep an eye on the policy horizon when you’re so busy with the demands of here and now. So, here are three important changes to look out for in 2018.

The National Funding Formula

The transition period begins: for the next couple of years at least, a “soft” version of the final National Funding Formula (1) will hopefully help schools to manage the transition to the new arrangements. From April 2018, the new formula will be used to calculate each school’s notional budget, and this will be aggregated to give the total schools block budget for each local authority. Your local authority will continue to apply its own local formula for the time being, then distribute its block allocation to schools. To help prepare, you can:

  • Check your notional funding allocation under the new national formula to get an idea of what your funding will be after the transition (2).
  • Review your financial efficiency using the Department for Education’s (DfE) suite of tools (3).
  • Keep an eye out for DfE announcements (4) on any new developments or funding opportunities.

Data protection reforms

From May 25, schools must comply with new data protection law under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is similar to current law but there are some key changes that you need to prepare for. While we await more school-specific national guidance, here are some steps you can start with:

  • First, tell key people in your school that the law is changing and assign responsibility for managing particular changes. If you have a risk register, add data protection to it so it is recorded as a potential compliance issue.
  • Put a plan in place to appoint a data protection officer by May. There’s currently limited guidance on who this should be but the role could be taken on by a senior staff member, outsourced or shared across a group of schools.
  • Carrying out an information audit will help you to work out what personal data you hold, where it came from and who you share it with – so you meet the requirements to keep records of your processing activities and show how you comply with the data protection principles.

The DfE’s case study of an information audit (5) may help. Start by documenting where the riskiest and most sensitive data is, and remember to consider your governing board’s use of data.

You will then need to identify your “lawful basis” for each type of data-processing activity, and update your privacy notices to explain these.

Further actions will include reviewing your processing procedures – including checking they cover new rights for individuals and reviewing how you respond to subject access requests – and updating your data protection policy.

When it comes to consent, check that you seek, record and manage it in line with the rules – for example, to use a child’s picture on the school website. In particular, consent can no longer be assumed: if your consent form currently says something like “if you don’t respond, we will assume we can use your child’s image” you will have to ask again. Under the new rules, consent must be opt-in, specific, documented and easily withdrawn, among other things.

For more information, start with the 12-step overview from the Information Commissioner’s Office (6).

Short inspections

Ofsted’s new arrangements for short inspections took effect this term. If Ofsted has “potential concerns” about leadership and management or quality of education during a short inspection (for schools already rated “good”), it will no longer automatically convert to a full inspection. Instead, the school will be advised of its strengths and areas for improvement, and a full inspection will take place “typically within one to two years”.

If inspectors believe a school may be improving towards “outstanding”, the school will also be advised of its strengths and areas for improvement, and can expect a full inspection within one to two years.

However, short inspections where there are “serious concerns” about safeguarding or behaviour will still automatically convert to full inspection within 48 hours.

To ensure you are ready, it can help to complete regular spot-checks on your single central record and place all statutory documents in one place on the school website (and make sure they are up-to-date). Also, have a daytime availability list of governors, just in case.

Other things to watch out for It is possible that 2018 will bring new statutory guidance on PSHE, if the plans for PSHE to become a statutory requirement in 2019 go ahead. Relationships and sex education (RSE) is to be made statutory by September 2019 (7) and a call for evidence for this has just been published by the DfE with a deadline of February 12. Indeed, this call for evidence includes questions about potential changes to PSHE (8).

Elsewhere, there may also be significant safeguarding changes, following the current consultation on updates to Working Together to Safeguard Children (9).

  • Richard Skipper is a specialist content editor at The Key, which provides leadership and management support to schools:


  1. The National Funding Formula for Schools and High Needs, DfE, September 2017:
  2. National funding formula tables for schools and high needs, DfE, September 2017 (updated October 2017):
  3. Schools financial health and efficiency, DfE, January 2016 (updated January 2017):
  4. Latest Department for Education announcements:
  5. General Data Protection Regulation: Evolution or Revolution for Schools? The DfE Teaching Blog, October 2017:
  6. Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): 12 steps to take now, Information Commissioner’s Office:
  7. DfE Policy Statement on relationships education, RSE and PSHE, March 2017:
  8. Changes to teaching of sex and relationship education, and PSHE, DfE call for evidence, December 2017:
  9. Working Together to Safeguard Children: Changes to statutory guidance, DfE consultation (closed December 2017):


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