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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 1999): Education - UK - Schools

ACTION THIS DAY AT SCHOOL

D. Blunkett
The Times, 23rd June 1998, p. 22

Outlines the government's programme for educational reform, including the launch of education action zones, introduction of a new grade of advanced skills teacher, expansion of the specialist schools programme, extension of financial delegation to 100%, and introduction of a new framework for schools which will be categorised as community, voluntary or foundation.

COUNCILS AND COMPANIES BACK EAZ IMPROVEMENTS

J. Fair
Municipal Journal, 26 June 1998, p. 4

Reports enthusiastic support by councils for education action zones. Local Education Authorities, relieved of fears that control of the zones would be handed to the business sector, now view the scheme as an opportunity to attain additional funds and experiment with new ways of working.

EDUCATION: POLICY REVIEW COMMISSION REPORT

Liberal Democrats
London, 1998

New policy calls for a maximum primary school class of 25 and an immediate doubling of spending on books and equipment for each pupil to overcome the effects of recent cuts. Early years education would be made available to all children between three and five years old. Local authorities would be given the role of commissioning schooling for children from a range of providers including independent schools where appropriate. Local schools would be run by not-for-profit Neighbourhood Schools Trusts. Universities would be expected to enroll a quota of students from deprived areas chosen for latent potential rather than by the usual criteria of examination results. A refundable training levy would be introduced for companies representing 2% of their payroll to encourage workforce training.

ENGENDERING SOCIAL REPRODUCTION: MOTHERS IN THE EDUCATIONAL MARKETPLACE

D. Reay
British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 19, no. 2, June 1998, p. 195-209

Empirical study provides support for the assertion that a market system of education provides the middle classes with a competitive edge of which they will increasingly take advantage to dominate access to elite institutions. Middle-class mothers have the power and resources to shape the curriculum offered to their children to give them a head start in the scramble for credentials.

FAILING GRADES ARE NOT AN OPTION

D. Blunkett
Daily Telegraph, 16th July 1998, p. 30

Outlines Labour government's education policies, which comprise a commitment to raise standards using traditional teaching methods, expansion of specialist schools, implementation of education action zones, appointment of advanced skills teachers, and linking of funding to performance targets. Affirms commitment to improving the state system to educate the majority in use of cerebral skills. Good schools will be allowed to proceed with the minimum interference, but failing schools and incompetent teachers will be rooted out.

THE LEA AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF SPECIAL NEEDS EDUCATION: VIEWS FROM THE LITERATURE

D. Skidmore and J. Copeland
Educational Research, vol. 40, no. 2, Summer 1998, p. 139-152

Discussion based on a review of the literature on the role of Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in the administration of special needs education in the context of the quasi-market introduced in 1988. Three broad views emerged from the literature. First, there is a view of LEAs as a centralist bureaucracy which created a culture of dependency. The competition introduced by the quasi-market engenders greater responsiveness by schools. The second view regards LEAs as providers of strategic leadership and a mechanism for democratic accountability. The tendency to inequality caused by the quasi-market may be regulated by continuing partnership between the LEA and schools. Thirdly, the final view sees the quasi-market as increasing inequality and discriminating against SEN. The LEA is a residual administrator of resources, with power of intervention curbed.

LEVELLING DOWN: THE SCHOOL STANDARDS AND FRAMEWORK BILL

S. Williams
London: Centre for Policy Studies, 1998

The Government's education reforms represent a massive centralisation of powers away from schools and into the hands of Local Education Authorities and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. Centralising measures in the Bill include giving LEAs power to employ all school staff and to instruct schools how to raise standards through Education Development Plans. Articles of government, valued by many schools as a definition of their ethos, will be abolished and replaced by standardised "instruments of government" drawn up by the DfEE. Standardisation measures include the abolition of grant maintained schools, definition of rules of admission for all schools by the DfEE, and the requirement for church schools to get LEA approval for their religious admissions policy every year.

MINISTER VOWS TO SHAKE UP SCHOOLS

J. Judd
Independent, 24th June 1998, p. 7

Describes the operation of the planned education action zones. They will be run by forums including representatives of local authorities, business, teachers and parents. All zones will receive £750,000 from government and £250,000 from business for three years and must set targets to raise standards. The 25 successful bids chosen from 60 applications include proposals for an increase of 50% in school opening hours in Birmingham; a longer school day, Saturday classes and breakfast clubs in Hull; work-related lessons for disaffected 14 to 16 year olds in Brighton and Newcastle.

(See also The Times, 24 June 1998, p. 7; Guardian, 24 June 1998, p. 4)

NEW LABOUR: JUST THE SAME OLD DOGMA

T. Keswick
Times, 22nd June 1998, p. 22

Critical commentary on the School Standards Bill, which will, in the author's opinion, impose a drab uniformity on schools through centralised control by Local Education Authorities (LEAs). These will control funding, staffing, implementation of class sizes and early education. Parental choice of school will be curtailed. Religious schools will have to have their religious admissions agreed by the LEAs every year. Children from poorer families will be denied access to private schools through the abolition of the assisted places scheme.

SCHOOLS

Guardian Education, 30th June 1998, p. 4-5

Debates the question of whether there is any role for Local Education Authorities in a world where power is both being delegated downwards to ever more autonomous schools and shifted upwards to a central government taking ever more prescriptive control of teaching methods.

THE TROUBLE WITH SUPERTEACHERS

M. Jenkinson
Labour Research, vol. 87, no. 6, June 1998, p. 21-22

The government has proposed Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs) to form an elite corps of highly paid classroom teachers who will be appointed in education action zones and in specialist schools. Creation of a teaching elite of this kind may prove divisive and adversely affect the morale of the profession as a whole. Extra hours of work required of ASTs may cause them to suffer quantitative overload, leading to increased stress and adverse health effects.

TRUANCY AND SCHOOL EXCLUSION: REPORT BY THE SOCIAL EXCLUSION UNIT

London: TSO, 1998 (Cm 3957)

Factors contributing to truancy are:

  • poor parental supervision;
  • peer pressure;
  • school-based factors such as bullying or anxiety over coursework deadlines.

Reasons for exclusions vary from relatively minor offences to serious criminal offences. Practices in many schools are contrary to DfEE guidance which does not have the force of law. Recommendations for reducing truancy include:

  • setting of school level truancy targets;
  • wider use of work-related learning for 14-16 year olds;
  • imposition of Parenting Orders on parents convicted of failing to secure a child's attendance at school.

Recommendations for reducing exclusions include:

  • setting Local Education Authority level targets for exclusions;
  • publication of performance data;
  • DfEE guidance to be given legal force;
  • imposition on local authorities of an obligation to provide every child excluded for more than three weeks with appropriate full time education, which will encourage LEAs to support schools better in hanging on to at risk children.

(For comment see also Childright, no. 147, June 1998, p. 2-5).

A "VALUE-ADDED" ANALYSIS OF THE 1996 PRIMARY SCHOOL PERFORMANCE TABLES

S. Strand
Educational Research, vol. 40, no. 2, Summer 1998, p. 123-137

In March 1997 the first primary school performance tables were published. The tables were criticized for failing to provide a true measure of a school's effectiveness, since good results might simply reflect a high ability pupil intake. By controlling for the effects of pupils' ability and prior attainment, "value-added" analyses allow more precise identification of schools where factors such as school management and the quality of teaching have contributed to pupils' success. Results of this study show that, even after controlling for the reasoning ability of their intakes, substantial differences between schools remain, amounting to 0.5 of a level between the 10 most effective and the 10 least effective schools.

WASTED YOUTH: RAISING ACHIEVEMENT AND TACKLING SOCIAL EXCLUSION

N. Pearce and J. Hillman
London: Institute for Public Policy Research, 1998

Identifies fundamental problems with the education and training system which are preventing Britain from tackling under-achievement and disaffection. First, schools are perceived by many young people as custodial institutions cut off from the outside world. Schools should be encouraged to break down boundaries by forging links with further education colleges and with local communities, for example by bringing in associate teachers, business units in schools and citizenship curriculum initiatives. Secondly, GCSE league tables have focused on pupils with five A to C passes. This encourages schools to concentrate their efforts on the more able. Thirdly, disaffected young people are badly served by the existing qualifications structure, which consigns a minority to "status zero", not participating at all in education, training or employment. Fourthly, arrangements for funding tertiary education are too complex and inequitable. Finally, financial support for young people is now a minefield of anomalies.

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