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Welfare Reform on the Web (April 2008): Education - UK - schools

2 million children have dyslexic-type reading difficulty

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 14th 2008, p. 4

The government's literacy strategy is letting down up to two million children by not identifying them as having dyslexic-type learning difficulties. The research, funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, suggests that 20% of pupils are at risk of a learning difficulty, including dyslexia.

500 to keep children in school

L. Clout

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 31st 2008, p.14

Reports that children in care and those eligible for free school meals are to be offered pre-paid debit cards worth 40.00 a month to spend on 'positive hobbies' as a reward for attending school. The government hopes that the scheme will reduce anti-social behaviour.

5.5m plan to inspire new generation of Billy Elliots in schools

C. Byrne

The Independent, March 18th 2008, p.20

Following a review of youth dance, and capitalising on the success of television programs such as Strictly Come Dancing, the Government is to invest 5.5m in dance for school-age children over the next three years. In addition, a national dance strategy will be devised under the auspices of an organisation called Youth Dance England.

Balls faces backlash from angry parents over places lottery

R. Garner and C. Brown

The Independent, March 3rd 2008, p.4

Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, is braced for an angry backlash from thousands of parents who failed to get 'first-choice' places in local schools for their children. The parents include about 1,250 in Brighton who are awaiting the results of the first local authority lottery scheme to determine school places, a measure which was introduced by the Brighton City Council in an attempt to stop the practice of better-off parents buying up more expensive homes near the top-performing schools.

(See also The Guardian, March 3rd 2008, p. 6)

Balls to give teachers extra powers to search pupils

B. Russell

The Independent, March 28th 2008, p.28

Under plans unveiled by the Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, teachers will be given increased powers to search pupils for alcohol, drugs and stolen goods.

Behaviour review: an initial response

A. Steer

Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008

Establishing good behaviour among children at home and at school is dependent on a range of actions taking place consistently. There are rarely simple solutions. Among other things, this report calls for all secondary schools to participate in behaviour partnerships. Any school that permanently excludes a child should expect to receive a child expelled by another school in the group on the principle of 'one out, one in'. However, schools should also be able to rely on high quality alternative provision for those for whom mainstream schools are not suitable. It is acknowledged that parents have a role in ensuring that their children behave appropriately in school, and the report calls for more support for the parents of the most disengaged youngsters and a renewed emphasis on parental responsibility.

Brown set to launch enterprise academy

J. Eaglesham

Financial Times, March 12th 2008, p. 2

The Prime Minister will announce a new national enterprise academy today, which has been sponsored to the tune of several millions of pounds by Peter Jones, entrepreneur and panellist on the TV programme Dragon's Den.

Charity rules for schools 'illegal'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 12th 2008, p. 1 + 4

The Charity Commission has published draft guidance on how independent schools can pass a new public benefit test to maintain their charitable status. The guidance says that offering free places to poor pupils is the most obvious way of complying with the regulations. Schools failing to comply could face having their bank accounts frozen, their trustees suspended and their buildings seized.

(See also Guardian, Mar.12th 2008. p.4; Times, Mar. 13th 2008, p. 27)

Compulsory classes until 18 are pointless, expert argues

A. Frean

The Times, March 27th 2008, p. 9

Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, claims making education compulsory till the age of 18 will lead to further disaffection of young people who already feel alienated. Smithers argues that many of those the scheme is aimed at, and those who currently leave school at 16 with few or no qualifications, have already opted out of the system by playing truant and would simply continue to do so if forced to stay in education.

Crackdown on parents who stop at nothing to do best for their children

A. Frean

The Times, March 5th 2008, p.7

Parents who lie about where they live to secure a place for their children at high-achieving schools are being targeted by councils and schools. The Government has ordered authorities to increase vigilance when processing admissions because research suggests that nearly half of children in some local authorities have missed out on their first choice of secondary school.

Educationalists and unions say league tables are 'toxic'

S. Cassidy

The Independent, March 10th 2008, p.22

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told his union's annual conference in Brighton that the Government must abandon league tables because they are having a 'toxic influence' on schools.

Enough youth suicides to fill a school

A. Frean

The Times, March 19th 2008, p. 37

An Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ALT) survey has indicated that three quarters of teachers believe that children are under more stress now than they were a decade ago. This is evidenced by the number of secondary school children committing suicide each year in the UK, which currently stands at between 600 and 800.

(See also The Independent, March 19th 2008, p.7)

Faith schools admit breaking code by asking for a 50 'admission fee'

A. Frean

The Times, 13 March 2008, p. 2

Ed Balls, Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, has claimed that 'significant' numbers of schools, particularly faith schools are flouting admission rules and charging parents 'admission fees'. A Jewish state primary school in North London yesterday admitted that it had charged parents a 50 'admission fee' in breach of the schools admission code.

Far more parents are lying to secure school places

N. Woolcock

The Times, March 19th 2008, p. 4

Figures accessed by The Times indicate that almost nine times as many parents have been caught issuing false addresses within the catchment areas of oversubscribed schools than two years ago. More than three quarters of the 31 councils surveyed by the Local Government Association reported that in recent years there has been an increase in deception.

Fewer parents getting secondary school of choice for children

P. Curtis and A. Lipsett

The Guardian, March 4th 2008, p.6

Up to 210,000 of the 560,000 families receiving offers of secondary school places for their children this morning were set to be disappointed by not receiving their first choice of school. This undermines the government's pledge that every parent be given a choice of secondary school for their child.

Former minister says government is 'thrashing around' on school reform

R. Garner

The Independent, March 5th 2008, p.6

The former Labour education secretary, Estelle Morris, mounted an attack on the Government's school reforms, warning there was a risk of trying one initiative after another with ministers and senior education figures failing to ask key questions about whether reforms were actually working.

Free children from national curriculum, says watchdog

R. Garner

The Independent, March 17th 2008, p.4

Keith Bartley, chief executive of the General Teaching Council (GTC) warns that the current primary school timetable presents pupils with lessons that are 'too formal, too early' and argues that a relaxation of the strict regime based on tests, targets and league tables may be the best way to motivate and inspire children.

French is no longer enough

R. Davis

Education Guardian, March 18th 2008, p. 3

Despite the fact that Britain is multilingual, Ofsted has published a report revealing that in 2007 just 35 individuals were training to teach Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu, while no courses even existed for training to teach Gujurati. The report indicates that community languages are often viewed as irrelevant and are marginalised in deference to languages like French, Spanish and Latin.

Forget education, pupils just want to be famous

N. Woolcock

The Times, March 14th 2008, p. 35

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ALT) has indicated that pupils are likely to see the lifestyles to which they aspire as achievable without the help of formal education. Almost two thirds of teachers who are members of the ALT agreed that the children they taught aspired to be sports stars or pop singers.

Greater academic clout planned for diploma rival to A-levels

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 7th 2008, p. 6

The government has appealed to universities to back the new diploma by announcing a more advanced option intended to enhance the academic credentials of the new qualification. The extended diploma is to be introduced for the brightest students from 2011 and set to be equivalent to four and a half A-levels. The new diploma is to be phased in from this September and the system will be reviewed in 2013, by which time the government is hopeful that GCSEs and A-levels will be on the way to being phased out.

(See also The Independent, March 7th 2008, p. 13; Daily Telegraph, March 7th 2008, p.1 +2)

Half of the children who fail key tests 'have learning difficulties'

N. Woolcock

The Times, March 14th 2008, p. 35

Research commissioned by Xtrodinary People indicates that unidentified dyslexia is a major source of educational failure that could easily be remedied. The research indicated that 55 per cent of primary school children failing at SAT level had symptoms of developmental learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.

'Keep pupils in to stop them eating junk food'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 28th 2008, p. 1 + 2

The government-funded School Food Trust recommends that pupils should be prevented from leaving school at lunchtime so that they cannot gorge on junk food. There are concerns that fast food outlets are luring pupils during the school day with special offers. This risks undermining a campaign to improve school food by limiting canteen access to high-fat and sugary meals.

(See also The Independent, March 28th 2008, p.6)

Lessons in happiness are made a priority in Birmingham

R. Garner

The Independent, March 18th 2008, p.20

One of Britain's biggest education authorities, Birmingham City Council, is to put happiness at the heart of the curriculum for its 180,000 school pupils by telling its 440 schools that they must give as much priority to children's emotional well-being as they do to literacy and numeracy.

Long feud between the government and the NUT may be drawing to a close

W. Woodward

Education Guardian, March 11th 2008, p.1

Tentative negotiations have begun to bring an end to the five year feud between the government and the largest teaching union. The NUT has been frozen out of talks with government over pay and conditions since refusing to sign the school workload agreement in 2003.

Lottery admissions fallout favours private schools

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 5th 2008, p. 11

The government's attempt to make state schools more socially diverse looks set to result in a surge in applications to private schools from those parents who can afford it. In Brighton and Hove, the first area to adopt a lottery system for school admissions, a 44% increase in applications to independent schools has been reported.

Minister: classes of 70 are acceptable

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 20th 2008, p. 1 + 2

Despite concerns that pupils struggle in large groups, and Labour pledges to reduce class sizes, Schools Minister Jim Knight has said that children could be taught in classes of up to 70. He claimed that lessons could be managed by teams of four teachers and teaching assistants.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Mar.24th 2008, p. 8)

Ministers under fire over 'cash for places at faith school' claim

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 13th 2008, p. 14

The Department for Children, Schools and Families' claim that faith schools in three areas were demanding financial contributions from parents to secure places have been dismissed by religious leaders as being without foundation. The Secretary of State has admitted that the claims were based on unverified desk research.

MoD uses propaganda to enlist vulnerable pupils, teachers say

A. Frean

The Times, March 26th 2008, p. 29

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have complained that the MoD targets deprived groups of school children in their advertising campaigns and that they present an inaccurate portrayal of the reality of warfare. A report published by the Joseph Rowntree Trust earlier this year also suggested that the MoD was glamorising war and underplaying the risks involved in an Army career.

(See also The Times, March 26th 2008, p. 29 and The Guardian, March 26th 2008, p. 12; Daily Telegraph, Mar. 26th 2008, p. 14)

Ofsted criticises finance lessons

D. Turner

Financial Times, March 12th 2008, p. 3

Ofsted's latest report criticises the variation in quality of personal finance lessons. In September, 'economic wellbeing and financial capability' will be added to the national curriculum for all 11-16 year-olds.

'One in, one out' rule to stop good schools dumping the worst pupils

N. Woolcock

The Times, March 27th 2008, p.9

The Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, has stated that new measures will require successful schools to take a share of disruptive pupils to prevent them from having a monopoly on those who are best behaved. Schools which exclude pupils would be forced to accept the same number of pupils who had been expelled from other schools, thereby preventing oversubscribed schools from dumping badly behaved pupils onto less successful neighbouring schools.

(See also The Guardian, March 27th 2008, p. 4; The Independent, March 27th 2008, p. 4; Daily Telegraph, Mar. 27th 2008, p. 18)

One-third of teachers threatened

R. Garner

The Independent, March 17th 2008, p.4

One in three teachers has been threatened by pupils according to a survey and one in ten has suffered actual physical harm. All respondents said they had to deal with disruptive pupils and in 98 per cent of lessons this had damaged other students' chances of learning.

(See also The Guardian, March 17th 2008, p. 15 and The Times, March 17th2008, p.27)

Parlez-vous français, mes petits?

N. Jackson

The Independent, Mar. 27th 2008, Education & Careers Section, p.8

In March 2007, the Dearing Report recommended that all primary schools should be teaching a modern foreign language by September 2009. Now that is policy, primary schools are racing to catch up and the Government has allocated 35m to help schools reach the target.

Preachers 'should visit all schools'

A. Frean

The Times, March 25th 2008, p. 21

An NUT policy document, In good faith, recommends that state schools invite preachers from key faiths into schools to provide religious instruction to children who want it. The document also suggests that schools provide 'private prayer space', should allow students to wear clothes which reflect their religious requirements and should observe holy days of world religions.

(See also The Independent, March 25th 2008, p.4; Daily Telegraph, Mar. 25th 2008, p. 6)

Pressure of league tables is forcing teachers to work 100-hour weeks

A. Frean

The Times, March 19th 2008, p. 37

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ALT) yesterday heard that teachers in independent schools are being pressured into working increasingly long hours to ensure the high performance of their school in league tables.

The primary school where every child learns to speak 40 languages

R. Garner

The Independent, March 10th 2008, p.14-15

Reports on Newbury Park Primary School in north-east London which has adopted a policy of teaching each language spoken by the 40 ethnic groups represented among its pupils. By the time they transfer to secondary school its 850 students will have learnt some phrases in each of the languages.

Quiz shows blamed for pupils' offensive language

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 26th 2008, p. 12

According to the NUT pupils are being increasingly offensive and abusive towards fellow pupils and staff as a result of emulating similar behaviour displayed on television quiz shows. Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the NUT, claims shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks and They Think It's All Over encourage children to use bad language.

Revisiting 'technical' education

S. Roodhouse

Education and Training vol. 50, 2008, p.55-58

This paper provides a historical perspective on 'technical' education and on higher education engagement with vocationalism, skills and employers. The author outlines the key developments and places these in the context of contemporary policy, suggesting that the government has substituted technical education with 'the skills agenda' and is applying it relentlessly across the whole education system, including schools. He claims that this is leading to confusion, overlaps and competition and recommends a national debate on an integrated approach to practical learning wherever it takes place.

Rules for disruptive pupils backfiring

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, March 7th 2008, p. 6

Ministers changed the rules on who must take responsibility for looking after excluded pupils. They ordered that parents must supervise children during the first week of a suspension, but that the school is legally responsible for arranging care for the second and third weeks. After three weeks, local authorities take over responsibility. The Association of School and College Leaders says that this has led to headteachers either excluding disruptive pupils permanently or allowing them to remain in the classroom, because it is too difficult to arrange support and mental health care for a child in a week.

Schools 'carry the burden of Britain's family breakdown'

G. Paton and J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 10th 2008, p. 1

The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has said that the decline of the traditional family is breeding a generation of children who are increasingly reliant on teachers to act as surrogate parents. Many pupils are unable to use a knife and fork, sit at table or hold a simple conversation and have to be taught these skills at primary school.

(For comment see Daily Telegraph, Mar. 11th 2008, p. 20)

Schools reject admissions lottery

R. Garner

The Independent, March 4th 2008, p.4 + 30

The vast majority of secondary schools have rejected a plea to introduce a lottery system to determine admissions, headteachers' leaders say. It has been revealed that 'hardly any' of the 2,600 specialist schools and academies had complied with the recommendation from the chairman of their trust, Sir Cyril Taylor, to introduce lotteries.

Self-evaluation 'distorting Ofsted reports'

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March24th2008, p. 8

According to researchers from the Institute for Education, schools are exaggerating their successes under Ofsted's new 'lighter touch' inspection system. Overly positive claims from headteachers are often not fully investigated and proven by inspectors, leading to assertions that some headteachers are manipulating the system to paint unrealistic pictures of their schools.

State schools demanding payments from parents to secure places

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 12th 2008, p. 4

A 'significant' number of state schools are breaking admissions rules by interviewing pupils, giving priority to pupils whose parents attended the school and demanding parents donate money as a condition of their child's acceptance on the school roll. Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, has said that this abuse of the system was disproportionately occurring in faith schools. These revelations follow on from the government's school admissions data which showed that nearly 20% of pupils failed to get their first choice of school.

(See also The Independent, March 12th 2008, p.8 and The Times, March 13th 2008, p.26, The Guardian, March 13th 2008, p. 6)

Tackling gender inequality, raising pupil achievement

C. Forde (editor)

Edinburgh: Dunedin, 2008

Gender remains a significant issue in United Kingdom education with a perceived drop in the attainment of boys in comparison to the attainment of girls. Though the picture is not straightforward, there are clear issues in relation to the educational achievement of groups of boys and groups of girls. Gender in education is a complex concept and its significance in educational achievement remains a deeply debated area. This book examines developing policy and strategies in Scottish schools that aim to tackle gender inequality. It seeks to answer the following questions:

  • Have we gone too far in working to improve girls' achievement?
  • Are boys now falling behind and becoming disengaged from education?
  • How do we avoid simplistic solutions that reinforce stereotypical ideas of gender?
  • How can we use the opportunities provided by educational inclusion to address the learning needs of specific groups of girls and of boys and develop 'gender sensitive' policy and practice?
  • How do we address specific needs in relation to, for example, the level of literacy of boys or self-confidence of girls in ways that are genuinely inclusive?

Teachers call for return to the liberal 1980s

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 24th 2008, p. 2

The National Union of Teachers has called for a return to the liberal style of education seen in the early 1980s, which involved more play for children and less rigid teaching methods. Indications that children's happiness and mental health are currently under threat have led some teachers to demand a system which is more flexible and liberal and led by teachers as opposed to government.

Teachers threaten to strike in protest at academies

S. Cassidy

The Independent, March 26th 2008, p.11

Teachers from the National Association of School Masters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) have stepped up their opposition to the Government's programme of creating more academies by agreeing to a ballot for local strike action.

(See also The Guardian, March 26th 2008, p. 12)

Teachers to vote on work to rule

S. Cassidy

The Independent, March 27th 2008, p.4

Teachers are threatening to work to rule as part of national industrial action, saying unlawful behaviour by schools was swamping them with extra work. NASUWT members could refuse to do photocopying, chase up truants, put up school displays or collect money from pupils on the basis that such administrative tasks were outlawed under a national agreement with the Government in 2003 and classroom assistants were hired to cover such duties.

Tests twice a year will put mental health of pupils at risk, warns teachers' leader

A. Frean

The Times, March 21st 2008, p. 27

Proposals for a new system of testing primary and secondary school students could be worse for the health of children than the SATs they have been designed to replace. Mary Boustead, the general-secretary of the Association for Teachers and Lecturers said she feared that the proposed bi-annual system of testing would increase anxiety among an already stressed population of school children.

(See also The Independent, March 21st 2008, p.26)

Thousands of children starting at school need lessons in how to talk

A. Frean

The Times, March 21st 2008, p. 39

A report by John Bercow, a Conservative MP, has indicated that a high proportion of the population is unable to access information and services which would facilitate their children's speech and language development. The report indicates that amongst socially disadvantaged groups as many as 50 per cent of the school-age population may have communication difficulties.

Tories to end town hall grip on failing schools

A. Pierce

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 25th 2008, p. 1

The Conservatives have announced plans to remove up to 640 failing schools from local authority control, should they win the next election. Control of the schools would be given to city academies, charitable trusts and parents' co-operatives. These groups would receive funding direct from central government, but would be free to raise their own additional cash.

Town halls seek to recapture academies

A. Barker and D. Turner

Financial Times, March 20th 2008, p.3

About a third of city academy school proposals backed by Gordon Brown have included the local authority as a 'co-sponsor' as town halls fight to regain influence over independent state schools.

Under-fives will be subject to 500 targets

A. Frean

The Times, March 24th 2008, p. 24

The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) which becomes law in the autumn legislates 500 milestones to measure the development of children up to the age of five. The framework will necessitate the assessment of under-fives on numeracy, writing and problem-solving skills.

Union calls for end to single-faith schools

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 25th 2008, p. 4

Unions have stated that there should be more focus on religion in all schools but that single-faith schools should become multi-faith and be stripped of their powers to control their own admissions and select pupils on faith grounds. The National Union of Teachers recommends increased flexibility over school uniform, religious symbols and holidays.

Union warns of increasing surveillance in schools

A. Lipsett

The Guardian, March 18th 2008, p. 8

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has warned that schools are becoming increasingly 'Orwellian' due to the surveillance of trainee teachers, sometimes through the use of two-way mirrors, and the increased threat of unwelcome email and text messaging abuse from parents and pupils.

Weaker pupils worst hit by big class sizes

P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 24th 2008, p. 8

Less able pupils who are already suffering at school are worst hit by increasing class sizes. According to a new study by the Institute of Education, adding five pupils to a class increases the likelihood of less academic pupils being 'off task' by 40%.

(See also The Independent, March 24th 2008, p.5)

White boys 'make least progress' at school

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar.28th 2008, p. 14

Boys from the poorest white families suffer at school through lack of ambition, a low opinion of their own abilities, and failure to complete homework. They are also affected by family discord, lack of parental engagement, and lack of access to a computer at home. The gap between rich and poor is more 'polarised' among white pupils than those from other ethnic groups.

(See also The Guardian, March 28th 2008, p. 15; Independent, March 28th 2008, p.24)

Why homework doesn't add up

A. Frean

The Times, March 11th 2008, p. 9

Research carried out by Dr. Susan Hallam of the Institute of Education has found that homework causes such friction in households that any potential educational benefit is undermined. The study suggests that homework is only beneficial to children when given in moderate amounts.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Mar. 11th 2008, p. 8; The Independent, Education & Careers section, Mar. 20th 2008, p. 4)

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