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Welfare Reform on the Web (December 2007): Education - UK - schools

The academies programme

Committee of Public Accounts

London: The Stationery Office, 2007 (House of Commons papers, Session 2006-07; HC 402)

An academy is a publicly funded school that is supported by one or more sponsors and operates independently of the local authority. The Department of Children, Schools and Families aims to open 200 academies by 2010 at a capital cost of around 5 billion. This report examines evidence about the progress of the academies programme and identifies the following trends: GCSE performance at academies has improved faster than that of other schools; there have been improvements at Key Stage 3; exclusions of pupils are higher than at other schools; literacy and numeracy levels of academy pupils have been rising but are still less than half the level of attainment in all secondary schools; and most academies' sixth forms have not performed well so far. This report recommends that academies collaborate with other secondary schools to share the benefits of their facilities and the lessons from the educational improvements they have made, but also for the benefit of their own pupils, for example in broadening and improving the quality of education for all sixth formers.

The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills

London: The Stationery Office, 2007 (House of Commons papers, Session 2006-07; HC 1002)

This report introduces the new Ofsted, which came into being on 1st April 2007, and provides commentary on the outcomes of inspection of local authority children's services, schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning, adult education and more. Evidence is presented from more than 36,000 inspections and regulatory visits and provides a robust basis for the report's conclusions. For the first time, the report draws together the findings from surveys and inspection work across all of Ofsted's remit and describes the quality of provision across the spectrum of care and learning, commenting on the themes of improving life chances, the development of children's identity in 21st century England and acquiring skills for employment.

Creative partnerships and the curriculum

Education & Skills Committee

London: The Stationery Office, 2007 (House of Commons papers, Session 2006-07; HC 1034)

Since the establishment of the National Curriculum (in 1988) and the National Literacy and Numeracy strategies (in 1998 and 1999 respectively), concerns have been expressed that creativity and innovative approaches to teaching may have been unintentionally constrained. Since 2002 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), with a smaller contribution from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCFS), has funded an initiative called Creative Partnerships. The scheme funds creative professionals to work in schools with teachers and students, offering continuing professional development to school staff and providing guidance on creativity in relation to wider school improvement. This report offers evidence of a very high level of support among school staff and practitioners for more creative approaches to teaching and recommends more systematic analysis of the evidence linking creative programmes with improved attainment. The report proposes that DCMS and DCFS should review policies such as Every Child Matters and personalised learning strategies to ensure that creativity is established as a core principle in learning and development. The committee considers a key priority for Creative Partnerships in the coming years will be to produce replicable models or templates, which can be used and adapted to initiate work in schools that have not yet participated directly in the programme, ensuring that all schools benefit from the investment to date.

The Death of progressive education: how teachers lost control of the classroom

R. Lowe

London: Routledge, 2007

This book examines the changing politics of the classroom over the last sixty years, charting the process by which society moved away from being one in which teachers decided both the content of the school curriculum and how it would be taught towards the present situation in which a host of external influences dictates the nature of the educational experience. The author identifies the key social and political developments which made this transformation inevitable and, at the same time, raises the question of how far the loss of control by teachers has also meant a shift away from progressive, child-centred education. Key issues covered include: the post-war debate on the school curriculum and the extent to which it was fiercely contested; the Black Paper Movement of the early 1970s; the ways in which radical right rhetoric has come to dominate the politics of education and the educational press; how the term 'progressive education' has been subtly reworked, so that those claiming to reform education now focus on measurable outcomes and the accounatbility of schools to parental and government pressure; and an historical analysis of the ways in which the 'Thatcher revolution' in schools has been taken forward and developed under both John Major and Tony Blair.

Educational failure and working class white children in Britain

G. Evans

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

The book asks what it means to be working class in Britain at the beginning of the 21st century. Why, despite over 50 years of compulsory education in Britain, are many working class children still likely to end up in the same kind of low-paid, routine occupations as their parents? Either schools are failing working class children or working class life presents alternative means for gaining social status that conflict with what it means to do well at school. Or perhaps both factors are relevant. The book focuses on the white working class children in Bermondsey, Southeast London and analyses the reasons for their educational failure.

Experiences of a gifted and talented enrichment cluster for pupils aged five to seven

A. Morgan

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 34, 2007, p. 144-153

There has been an increased commitment to gifted and talented education in the UK in recent years, with a national strategy promoting grant-funded programmes. However, research into the effectiveness of gifted programmes is limited. This study investigated parents', teachers' and children's views of an enrichment programme for gifted and talented pupils aged five to seven. Results showed that parents and children rated the cluster highly, especially the varied teaching styles and interaction with other gifted children. There were few concerns about withdrawal of children from school to attend. All parents felt that their children had benefited from attending, and around half said there had been an impact on their social and academic development.

The great City Academy fraud

F. Beckett

London: Continuum, 2007

In March 2000, David Blunkett announced the creation of a network of City Academies to address the issue of educational provision in the UK's most challenging communities. This book turns a critical spotlight on various aspects of the academies programme. The author looks at the origins of the initiative; explores the politics of its implementation; examines the links between sponsors and political honours and the disturbing evidence of the religious agendas of some of the academies' sponsors. He explores the impact of academies not just on the education of pupils and teachers in the academies themselves, but on other neighbouring schools and indeed on the whole publicly funded education system.

How to reach 'hard to reach children': improving access, opportunities and outcomes

K. A. Pomerantz, M. Hughes and D. Thompson (editors)

Chichester: Wiley, 2007

This book addresses core underlying difficulties affecting young children and young people in the community and in schools, relating to underachievement, disengagement and school avoidance and is a timely contribution to the government's new 'Every Child Matters' agenda. It explores the consequences of school exclusion and the practices that can enhance the inclusion of pupils with social, emotional and behavioural needs. The book offers new and creative approaches to promoting multi-agency teamwork in relation to working with looked after children, refugees and asylum seekers and those with challenging behaviour and their families. The emphasis throughout the book is of multidisciplinary teamwork, collaboration and the validation of children's views. It gives a powerful insight in to how the government's five outcomes can be realised by children who are hard to see, hard to find, hard to engage, hard to manage, and hard to change or retain within systems set up to help and educate them.

Involving parents in their children's learning. 2nd ed.

M. Whalley and others

London: Paul Chapman Publishing, 2007

This book is the result of a five-year research project at the Pen Green Centre for under fives and their families. The authors describe the rich and challenging dialogue that develops when early years practitioners, supported by colleagues in higher education institutions, work collaboratively with children and families. Among the themes covered are: developing evidence-based practice; sharing ideas with parents about key child development concepts; parents and staff as co-educators; working with parents who find education services 'hard to reach'; sharing information and developing a rich curriculum; and the impact of study groups in primary schools on children and parents.

The literacy game: The story of the National Literacy Strategy

J. Stannard & L. Huxford

London: Routledge, 2007

The National Literacy Strategy (NLS), initiated in England in 1997, was the most ambitious educational reform programme in the world. This book is s systematic review of NLS, examining its origins and evolution, acknowledging its successes and pinpointing the lessons to be learned from the programme. The authors set out the political background and context to literacy education in England from 1996 onwards; explain and evaluate the rationale and design underpinning NLS; provide an example of the principles and practices of large-scale system change; link NLS to global research on educational reform; and consider the impact and consequences of NLS on standards of literacy.

Making minds: what's wrong with education and what should we do about it?

P. Kelley

London: Routledge, 2007

Making minds offers parents, educationalists and policymakers an insight into the scientific research that reveals how we can make minds. Understanding the physical process of learning, like the decoding of DNA, will change how we see ourselves. The author is an outspoken educational commentator and this book challenges basic assumptions about learning and shows the dangers of conventional wisdom. He shows how segregation, prejudice and politics damage education systems and draws on case studies of university admissions, language for young children and degree courses in schools to show how things can change. He demonstrates how new technologies and new research in neuroscience now explain how learning could, and should, make minds.

Managing from the middle? Tensions and dilemmas in the role of primary school special educational needs coordinator

C. Szwed

School Leadership and Management, Vol. 27, 2007, p. 437-451

The UK government, both within the revised Code of Practice (2001) and within its national standards, has sought to define the role of the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). However, many commentators have found such definitions limited and functionalist. There are extensive variations in the role and responsibilities, and differences in status and 'power' in spite of government recommendations that the role should be a strategic one. This research draws from in-depth case studies to analyse the developing role. The findings indicate that the role cannot be generalised and that the SENCOs are operating in increasingly complex contexts with very different styles of leadership/management. It is argued that to be effective within the inclusive schools agenda, schools need to reconsider the leadership role of the SENCO.

Modernising schools: people, learning and organisations

G. Butt & H. Gunter (editors)

London: Continuum, 2007

This book poses four central questions about educational reform: what are the antecedents of the current waves of modernisation; does workforce modernisation offer meaningful ways forward for the teaching profession; how is the leadership of change to take place with respect to educational modernisation; and what alternative approaches to remodelling might be developed with regard to the workforce labour market. In exploring these questions this book draws on research evidence and accounts of remodelling from researchers, headteachers, governors, teachers, students and parents. It focuses on the challenge of the modernisation of education both in the UK and internationally, and considers its underpinning concepts and policies, providing examples of workforce remodelling and the management of this process in schools. It also examines how resources are used and the effects of remodelling practice on different stakeholders.

Parenting and inclusive education: discovering difference, experiencing difficulty

C. Rogers

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

The book questions the very heart of the weak inclusive education discourse and unpacks parents' narratives in relation to denial, disappointment and social exclusion. It is written from the perspective of a sociologist who is also the mother of a learning disabled daughter and is about the lives of 24 parents, who have negotiated, or are in the process of negotiating, the emotional and practical journey of mothering or fathering their learning 'disabled' child. The difficulties experienced affect parents, the child and the extended family, and are calculated on a continuum of 'normal' family practices, which can render the family 'disabled', difficult and excluded. The book's findings reveal that while parents have been depressed, turned to alcohol, felt suicidal, suffered in their relationships and wanted to desert their children, many have also fought the health and education systems, shown resilience, set up self-help groups and, most importantly, demonstrated that their children are worth fighting for.

Provision for youngsters with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream schools: what parents say - and what parents want

P. Whitaker

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 34, 2007, p. 170-178

The UK government has shown increasing commitment to both inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools and to parental choice of school. Parental experiences and perceptions of inclusive education thus have the potential critically to influence the shape of future provision. Almost half of the parents of the 350 autistic children attending mainstream schools in Northamptonshire responded to a questionnaire exploring their experiences, views, attitudes and levels of satisfaction. This analysis looks at differences and similarities between the views of the 'satisfied' and 'dissatisfied' groups of parents. Overall, 61% of respondents reported themselves satisfied with the provision being made for their children. The extent to which parents felt that school staff understood their children's difficulties, and the perceived flexibility of the schools' responses to the children's needs were the factors which most sharply differentiated the two groups of parents. The extent and quality of reciprocal communication between home and school also seemed strongly associated with levels of satisfaction. The two groups of parents shared many concerns, with the schools' role in promoting social development and social relationships emerging as a high priority.

Special educational needs: assessment and funding

Education & Skills Committee

London: The Stationery Office, 2007 (House of Commons papers, Session 2006-07; HC 1077)

This report outlines how confidence in the provision for children with special educational needs might be improved through separating assessment from funding. It makes three specific recommendations: commissioning of assessments by local authorities or Children's Trusts; delegation of responsibilities for assessment to schools; and making educational psychology services more independent. Amid concerns that money delegated to schools to fund provision for special educational needs is not necessarily spent as intended the report requests an early statement from the Government on how the money from the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review will be used. The committee also asks the Government to make explicit commitments to provide a national framework for special educational needs and to encourage local authorities to publish provision maps setting out the services and support that schools and other providers across each area ought to be making available.

The Special school's handbook

M. Farrell

London: Routledge, 2007

The Special School's Handbook gives an up-to-date picture of the work of special schools, using case studies of good practice to provide clear suggestions on how special schools may be further developed. Issues addressed include: adapting the curriculum to give special schools more flexibility; implications of 'Every Child Matters' and multi-professional working; organisational changes in special schools; the changing roles of staff in the modern special school; ways of assessing the progress and achievement of pupils; and working with parents. Each chapter features thinking points and suggestions for further study.

Tackling low educational achievement: a report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

R. Cassen and G. Kingdon


This study traces the effects of disadvantage on educational attainment in the UK from early years to the end of compulsory schooling. A picture emerges of poor and lower class children starting out behind in educational development, while there is not enough in the pre-school and school systems to help all of them catch up. Disadvantaged white British children appeared more at risk than other ethnic groups. Many children have reading and writing problems in primary school if they are behind their peers at entry. Their difficulties continue into secondary school, which they leave without obtaining good GCSEs. The research showed that good secondary schools are reluctant to take on disadvantaged pupils who may underachieve and so adversely affect their position in the school league tables. Moreover support for children with special educational needs varied across local authorities and many did not receive the assistance prescribed by government policy.

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