Education Update: February 2022

 DfE Update February 2022

Hello everyone! I'm back with another update from the Department for Education in England.  It's your monthly digest of all the changes and updates from the hands that rock the learning cradle.

Before I get stuck in with the update this month, I have some exciting news!  I have a brand new podcast series!  You can find it on Spotify, Google Podcasts or iTunes by searching for Mr M's Musing: The Podcast.  Give it a listen, a like and a sub, and please, tell your friends!  I'll be looking for guests to interview in the coming months so, if you want to have your voice heard, drop me a line and we'll work something out! On with the post...

There aren’t all that many updates this month - just three in fact - but they are quite meaty so without further ado, let’s get stuck in.

Advance Exam Information

From Monday 7th, staff and students will have access to some exam content (texts, themes, skills to be assessed) for GCSE, AS and A level exams this summer.  So that’s also a clear indication that the DfE is not anticipating any kind of COVID-related upheaval.  The reason given for the early release of information is to ‘help mitigate the impact of the pandemic’. The Joint Council for Qualifications have links to AQA, OCR, Pearson and Eduqas, as well as some more general information for students and staff.


I had a look at the AQA link for English Literature (there are too many subjects to do a proper deep-dive here!).  It’s a fairly user-friendly page experience.  You select your qualification level and your subject then you are presented with a page of sub-headings outlining what changes have been made.  Principally, the number of questions have been reduced but so has the time and the marks available.  So, rather than it being an easier exam, it’s more ‘GCSE-lite’: the same degree of expectation, just scaled down a bit.  

The most helpful part of the website is the sidebar menu where you can jump to relevant areas quickly.

I also had a quick look at the maths page.  For 2022 only, the students will be given a formulae sheet, removing the need to memorise any formula they might need.  Even better than that, they have downloadable sheets for both the foundation and higher tiers so that the students can become familiar with them before the summer.

Honestly, this is a really useful website - I would even be tempted to provide the address in a Google Classroom, or a Teams post and let the children (and parents) explore themselves.


The OCR website is a little more severe.  You still have the ability to search by qualification and subject, but you just get links to downloadable pdf files containing lists of topics covered by the exam.  There is no handy formulae sheet for maths so, even if your school uses OCR, it might be worth a visit to the AQA site just for the sheet.  They won’t be allowed to take it into the exam but they’ll have it for the run-up at least.

OCR also has a link to their Successful Tips for Revision - but I’ll leave it below:


Pearson's page has even less easy-access information.  You can read all about the outcomes of adaptation consultations, or download whole zip files for entire qualifications, removing the filtering at the source.  Now you have to have everything and open what you want.  Not a massive deal but it is an added stress that no-one really needs right now.

Again, there is a formulae sheet to get familiar with.  I’m not sure why AQA and Pearson will be providing one but OCR will not but I’m Primary-based, so what do I know!


Eduqas are more no-nonsense with their page. You go straight to a list (no drop-down, you have to scroll) and select by subject, then qualification.  Again, no formulae sheet for maths.  I have to say, from the point of view of a Primary teacher, who is used to a singular national exam, it is very confusing to have so many qualification providers who all have their own levels of support.  Does this mean that a maths GCSE from OCR or Eduqas is better than one from AQA or Pearson?  It’s so strange.  I’d love for a Secondary teacher to explain it to me!

The other links on the page are fairly generic.  There is a very handy one-sheet of FAQs for staff and students each, as well as specific guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  The basic takeaway is - make the most of the advanced information for revision purposes; you won’t be able to take any of it into the actual exam.

Mental Health Week

It is Children’s Mental Health Week! The theme this year is Growing Together (last year’s was Mental Health in an Unequal World, if you’re interested).  There are lots of resources from Place2Be and you know I went and had a look at them all…

There are Virtual Assemblies - YouTube videos - introducing the theme.  They were made in collaboration with BAFTA so some celebrities make an appearance. And this I found strange.

For both assemblies, the ‘very special guest’ is Olivia Colman, who very clearly and awkwardly reads a script just off-screen.  Don’t get me wrong; I love Olivia Colman but I wonder how many Primary-aged children will actually know who she is? Not only that, she doesn’t really add anything to the video.  She just sort of repeats what has already been said and makes an already too-long video even longer.

I sound like I’m bashing it… and I guess I am a bit.  The thing is, it’s an 18-minute video.  That’s a very long time for Primary children to sit and watch.  Maybe you would show this in the classroom and not in the hall, so the children were a little more comfortable?  Even then, it’s really long.  I’m not sure how much of it I would bother showing, personally.

What I did like was the 2-minute example of how to make the ‘Support Balloon’ that features in the assembly (Here).  These are really cute and I think would make a fantastic afternoon activity.  Stick on some relaxing music and get the colouring pencils out - bingo! Automatic display!

The link to their free resources takes you (after a couple of clicks, or you can just click here once!) to a dropbox folder with another assembly guide/script; slides to go with it; some posters; and a list of activities.  I wasn’t very impressed with the activities (except for the support balloons).  There is also a link to a fundraising pack - not to raise money for your school; to raise money for Place2Be. I get it, it’s a charity and they do wonderful things but it kind of cheapens the whole thing.  It doesn’t feel like a week to stop and think about the mental health of children; it feels like a telethon.

Calling all Secondary Schools...!

Continuing the Mental Health theme, the Education for Wellbeing programme are looking for Secondary schools to take part in some mental health research.  Specifically, they are looking for Year 9 classes to take part in their AWARE programme, and Year 7 and 8 classes to take part in their INSPIRE research from April through o March of 2023.

Approaches for Wellbeing and Mental Health Literacy: Research in Education (AWARE)

Successful schools will be randomly assigned one of three categories:

  • Youth Aware of Mental Health - a five-week mental health promotional programme delivered by a certified instructor.
  • The Mental Health and High Schools Curriculum Guide - a six-lesson literacy curriculum led by class teachers.
  • Usual Practice - Well, someone has to be the control.  These schools will have a staff and student questionnaire to complete and that’s it.  However, for participating, up to five members of staff will be given mental health and wellbeing training, which is nice.

Interventions in Schools for Promoting Wellbeing: Research in Education (INSPIRE)

Similar to the AWARE schools, there are four randomly assigned groups:

  • Mindfulness - mindfulness-based skills with a particular emphasis on activities that focus on the mind, the body and the world.
  • Relaxation - delivering relaxation-based skills, with a particular focus on deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation techniques.
  • Both of these are delivered by trained schools professionals for 5 minutes on a daily basis.
  • Strategies for Safety and Wellbeing - Influenced by the Protective Behaviours approach, the focus is on mental health awareness within the context of developing safety behaviours and identifying and accessing appropriate support networks.  This is for eight consecutive weekly lessons, each lasting 45 minutes, which are delivered by a trained school professional.
  • Usual Practise - the control group again.  

For schools that end up in the control group for either research project, up to five members of staff will be given mental health and wellbeing training, which is nice.

To register your interest, click here.

Tackling Racism and Mental Health

The same people who are conducting this research, the Anna Freud Centre, have also released a series of podcasts addressing racism and mental health in schools.  There are five in total: an introduction to the topic; advice on tackling racism in school; exploring the impact of racism on self-esteem;  why representation in the curriculum is important; and finally, a discussion on Black British culture.  

The podcasts are 20 minutes each.  Now, even if you listen to your podcasts at 1.5x speed, that’s still over an hour of content to listen to.  Helpfully, they have included the transcripts for each episode and honestly, I found it easier to skim through them.  It might also be a good PSHE lesson to annotate those transcriptions. 

And that’s it.  That’s your February round-up from the Department of Education in England.  Thanks for reading this far.  If you like what you’ve read, you can check out my other posts on various education aspects; I’m currently in the middle of a series of posts about marking and how to make it easier.

For clarity, the Department for Education is a branch of the Government and covers schools in England only.  Nadhim Zahawi is currently the Secretary of State for Education and you can contact him (or his office, at least) here:

You can contact me by clicking on any of the links below or you can simply leave a comment under this post. Thanks for reading and stay healthy, physically, emotionally and mentally!

Carl Headley-Morris

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