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

Anger over sell-off of 300 primary school sites

A. Lipsett

The Guardian, April 15th 2008, p. 13

According to a survey by Channel 4 News more than 100 local authorities have sold almost 300 primary school sites over the last 10 years. Sales to date have generated £236 million for local authorities and a further 188 are earmarked to be sold soon.

Autistic spectrum disorders: a challenge and a model for inclusion in education

R. Jordan

British Journal of Special Education vol. 35, 2008, p.11-15

This article considers the role of education in the lives of people with autistic spectrum disorders. The author traces the growth in our knowledge about autistic spectrum disorders and the development of a variety of ways of responding to autism, from the highly specialised, and frequently strictly segregated, to the explicitly inclusive. She uses her analysis to draw distinctions between 'therapeutic' models of education and education as 'entitlement' – and identifies problems with either paradigm. She also provides a vision for a future in which there is greater flexibility and diversity and in which equity is achieved by treating all learners differently.

Balls in talks over cadet corps in schools

M. White

The Guardian, April 7th 2008, p. 10

The children's secretary, Ed Balls, is in talks with the Ministry of Defence about a scheme to help restore discipline amongst young people by expanding the military cadet corps in English secondary schools. A review of the idea is currently underway, with the aim being to potentially ground vulnerable teenagers and build a better understanding between civil society and the armed forces.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Apr. 7th 2008, p. 10)

Boys 'better at English in single sex classes'

L. Carter

Daily Telegraph, Apr. 28th 2008, p. 6

Researchers have found that boys at primary school perform significantly better in English tests if they are taught in classes with fewer girls. The study used results from every state primary school and found that as the proportion of girls increased, boys' performance in tests declined.

Concern over headteacher training

D. Turner

Financial Times, April 2nd 2008, p. 4

The National College for School Leadership, the government agency that provides the National Professional Qualification for Headship, has confirmed that fewer than half the teachers who pass the qualification go on to become headteachers. The finding is based on analysis of figures for the last 10 years, which show 43 % of those who pass go on to become heads. It suggests about £40m has been spent on training people who do not become heads.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Apr. 2nd 2008, p. 10)

Do generalist parenting programes improve children's behaviour and attendance at school? The parents' perspective

L. Rogers, S. Hallam and J. Shaw

British Journal of Special Education vol. 35, 2008, p.16-25

Previous research has demonstrated that parenting programmes can be effective in changing behaviour and parent/child interactions, but little attention has been given to the impact of these programmes in relation to improving attendance and behaviour at school. In the context of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003) and the Respect Action Plan (2006), this paper explores parents' perceptions of the impact of parenting programmes on their own and on their children's behaviour, with particular reference to behaviour at home and at school. The study, based on questionnaire data from 142 parents and interviews with a sample of parents and teachers, suggests that parents were broadly positive about the benefits of parenting programmes. However, where the child's problem was rooted in school-related issues, some concerns about behaviour and attendance remained, leading the authors to recommend that parenting programmes be more closely aligned with activities in school and with educational processes.

Education and climate change – some systematic connections

P. Ainley

British Journal of Sociology of Education vol. 29, 2008, p.213-223

Unlike most papers on education and ecology, this one is not concerned with the content of education, but its organisation as a system and hence its purpose or finality. The central contention of the paper, which takes English education and training (or 'learning') as a case in point, is that in a new market-state formation the pursuit of short-term goals is tied to the global free-market economy over which any attempt at democratic control has been relinquished. At a time when humanity worldwide faces increasing change in the ecology that sustains it, this is considered to be 'ecocidally insane' and the opposite of any sort of learning from experience to alter behaviour in the future. The re-regulated new global market is seen in conclusion as a crisis response to the end of the previous Keynesian welfare nation-state formation. As such, it is argued to be unsustainable in any sense.

English is not the first language for 800,000 children

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Apr. 30th 2008, p.1

Almost 500,000 children in primary schools now have English as their second language, with a further 350,000 in secondary schools. The numbers have almost doubled in a decade to reach record levels. Teachers have warned that large concentrations of pupils with a poor grasp of English are straining their capacity to provide all pupils with a decent education. More money is needed to cater for the many different languages spoken by pupils in the same classroom.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Apr. 28th 2008, p. 6)

Exam chief: rival to A-level in disarray

P. Curtis

The Guardian, April 17th 2008, p. 1

The head of one of the UK's leading exam boards, Edexcel, has warned that the government's new diploma scheme 'risks failure' when it is launched in September. Jerry Jarvis has raised concerns that up to 40,000 pupils will be left with 'worthless' qualifications if the government doesn't address some inherent problems, which include teachers lacking adequate training and fears that the qualification will be too demanding for some pupils, thereby leading to an increase in the number of young people who achieve no qualification at all.

The failed generation: the real cost of education under Labour

C. Skidmore

Bow Group, 2008

This report highlights the total number of pupils who have taken their GCSEs under Labour since 1997. It discovers that an entire generation of almost 4 million pupils has failed to gain their expected qualifications of five good GCSEs including English and maths, and that approaching a million pupils have failed to gain five GCSEs of any grade. With an increase in education spending of 75%, over £70.5 billion has been spent on educating pupils who failed to gain the qualifications now expected in the modern workplace.

Faith schools 'face witch-hunt over admissions'

G. Paton and G. Tibbetts

Daily Telegraph, Apr. 3rd 2008, p. 1 +4

The government has been accused of a witch-hunt against religious schools after naming 87 Anglican, Catholic and Jewish secondaries which it claimed were illegally selecting the best pupils. The schools were accused of using banned admissions policies such as asking for financial contributions from parents of prospective pupils. The schools denied any wrong-doing. Some admitted asking for voluntary contributions, but said this was unrelated to the allocation of places.

(See also The Guardian, April 3rd 2008, p.4, The Independent, April 3rd 2008, p. 1-2)

Gangs and schools: interim report

K. Broadhurst, M. Duffin and E. Taylor

Birmingham: NASUWT, 2008

Key messages to emerge from the research, carried out by PRCI for the NASUWT, include:

  • that it is essential to encourage schools with a problem to admit it
  • schools need to be provided with support to build confidence to tackle the issues
  • peer mentoring schemes involving appropriately vetted ex-gang members working with young people about the reality of life in a gang and the negative consequences of gang culture show promise
  • prison visits may act as a deterrent to joining gangs. Often the lavish lifestyle young people associate with gang culture appeals to them without their truly understanding the potential long-term consequences
  • the promising practice examples (which need more in-depth evaluation) reported by the schools to tackle gangs and gang-related issues include: restorative justice models, peace treaties between community leaders, peer mentoring schemes and policies to deal with those excluded from school to prevent their further involvement in undesirable activities.

GCSEs expose increasing gap between rich and poor

R. Garner

The Independent, Apr. 21 2008, p. 13

Figures released today from last year's GCSE exams exposed the glaring gap between the performance of poor and richer pupils. Just over one in five children (21.1 per cent) on free school meals – a traditional indicator of poverty – obtain the Government's benchmark of five A* to C grade passes including maths and English compared to 49 per cent of those not on free school meals. Statistics also show that this gap increases as students progress from primary school to the first three years of secondary schooling.

Giving power back to teachers


London: 2008

This policy document sets out plans to improve behaviour in schools. 'Giving Power Back to Teachers' contains ten proposals to deal with the growing problem of violent and disruptive pupils, including:

  • Restoring headteachers' authority, by ending the right to appeal against exclusions
  • Changing the law so teachers can physically restrain violent pupils
  • Giving headteachers the power to ban any items they think may cause violence or disruption

Humanism to be added to GCSE religious studies

R. Garner

The Independent, April 18th 2008, p. 8

One of the biggest exam boards, the Oxford & Cambridge and Royal Society of Art exam board (OCR), is planning to announce today that the study of humanism will form part of the syllabus for a GCSE for the first time. The move is part of a reform of religious studies as a result of which students can study six major religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism) as well as humanism.

Hundreds of qualifications for teenagers likely to go in vocational diploma reforms

P. Curtis

The Guardian, April 1st 2008, p. 4

The government plans to streamline the range of qualifications taken by teenagers to make way for the new vocational diploma. Hundreds of popular vocational A-levels, BTecs and City and Guilds courses are set to be scrapped, including subjects such as body massage, nail art and travel and tourism.

(See also: The Times, April 1st 2008, p.8)

Improving learning through consulting pupils

J. Rudduck and D. McIntyre

Abingdon: Routledge, 2007

In England, pupil involvement is at the heart of current government education policy and is a key dimension of both citizenship education and personalised learning. Drawing on research carried out as part of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP), the authors examine the potential of consultation as a strategy for signalling a more partnership-oriented relationship in teaching and learning. While consultation is flourishing in many primary schools, the focus here is on secondary schools where the difficulties of introducing and sustaining consultation are often more daunting, but where the benefits of doing so can be substantial. The authors conclude that pupil consultation can lead to a transformation of teacher-pupil relationships, to significant improvements in teachers' practices, and to pupils having a sense of themselves as members of a community of learners.

Is the school system failing British Muslims?

R. Butt

Education Guardian, April 1st 2008, p.1

According to the Office for National Statistics around 33% of British Muslims of working age have no qualifications, the highest proportion of any religious group in the country. Members of the Learning Education Forum of the International Board of Educational Research and Resources are meeting to discuss why the British education system seems to be failing so many people.

Laying down the law: an analysis of the Education and Skills Bill

E. Welton

ChildRight, issue 245, 2008, p. 11-13

One of the key proposals in the Education and Skills Bill introduced into the House of Commons in November 2007 is to raise the school leaving age in England and Wales from 16 to 18. The Act, if passed, would require all young people between the ages of 16 and 18 to participate in full time education or a combination of work and education with the aim of achieving nationally accredited qualifications. This article considers the implications of the proposals.

A million miss lessons as teachers strike

A. Frean

The Times, Apr. 24th 2008, p. 9

A strike by members of the National Union of Teachers may result in the complete closure of one sixth of schools in England and Wales. The strike is being called in protest against a pay settlement below the rate of inflation. The NUT argues that next year's 2.45 per cent pay settlement and a 2.3 per cent settlement in 2009 and 2010 in real terms represent a pay cut given that inflation measured by retail priceindex currently runs at 3.8 per cent.

(See also The Guardian, Apr. 24th 2008, p. 1 and The Independent, Apr. 24th 2008, p. 10)

Ministers shelve £45bn plan to rebuild every state school by 2020

P. Curtis

The Guardian, April 10th 2008, p. 7

The government has been accused of watering down its £45bn pledge to rebuild every state school in the country, by switching to a scheme which will instead fast track four new schools in every local authority. The plan for every school to be rebuilt by 2020 has been scaled down and replaced with 'ambitions' for every school to have a plan for redevelopment in place by this date.

Number of pupils due to take new diplomas scaled down by a quarter

P. Curtis

The Guardian, April 18th 2008, p. 4

Jim Knight, the schools minister responsible for diplomas, has said that original plans for 40,000 pupils to study for the new qualification will be scaled back 'in order to maintain quality. Tthe new diploma scheme is now set to be taught to around 30,000 pupils in September.

Opening of academies to accelerate

A. Barker

Financial Times, April 8th 2008, p. 4

The government is set to increase its targets for opening more academy schools in an attempt to undermine attacks from the opposition which claims that Labour is abandoning its commitment to educational reform. The number of academy style schools opening annually is set to rise from 55 to 70 or more.

Paid professionals could replace school governors to raise standards

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Apr. 2nd 2008, p. 10

Government is considering replacing the thousands of volunteer governors running state schools with paid professionals in a move aimed at boosting educational standards. There are concerns that the present system is no longer fit for purpose in a world where schools control multi-million pound budgets and have to be run like businesses.

Pioneer co-op among 115 new trust schools

P. Curtis

The Guardian, April 10th 2008, p. 17

The government has announced 115 new trust schools which are paired with businesses or charities and have powers to appoint staff, own their buildings and devise their admissions policies. The list includes the new co-operative school in Stockport, Greater Manchester where pupils, parents and teachers will have input and influence on how the school is run.

Planning for the 2040s: everybody's business

P. Mittler

British Journal of Special Education vol. 35, 2008, p.3-10

This article asks a series of challenging questions about the future for babies born with a significant disability today. The author reflects on the changes needed in society and in schools both for the child and the family and proposes that the time is ripe to take advantage of new international and national opportunities to lay the foundations for a society that fully includes disabled people and safeguards their basic human rights. He argues that everybody can help to determine the values and priorities of the society in which today's baby will grow up and suggests that the Make Poverty History campaign has provided powerful evidence that the voice of ordinary citizens can shape politics and set priorities. He encourages everyone to think globally and act locally on a host of issues, including supporting families, planning for transition, promoting quality of life, facilitating professional development and challenging inequality.

Positioning behaviour: Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the post-welfare educational era

P. Adams

International Journal of Inclusive Education vol. 12, 2008, p.113-125

As schooling at least partly concerns itself with formulating relationships, it is understandable that certain behaviours are seen as necessary to the advancement of learning and teaching. Via the assertion that contemporary English education is immersed in the target-driven, economically determinist assumptions and orientations of the post-welfare era, it is proposed that certain pupil behaviours are seen to be required, i.e. behaviours that supposedly engender increased performance in external examinations and tests. Problematically, such requirements effectively position some pupils outside this narrative, particularly those whose behaviour is deemed non-compliant. Often speculation determines that such pupils might 'have' Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and following a 'positive' diagnosis they are thus pathologized. This paper contends that both parents and educational staff are complicit in the seemingly burgeoning diagnosis of ADHD but for different reasons: parents see it as a diagnosis that offers mitigating circumstances for pupil behaviour and therefore increased entry prospects to those schools seen to do well; teachers see it as a means to mediate the seemingly contradictory demands for increased attainment and compliance with the central mandate for inclusion of pupils with special educational needs.

Primary schools devastated by 'moral panic' and 'policy hysteria'

S. Cassidy

The Independent, April 18th 2008, p. 8

According to the latest reports of the Cambridge University-led Primary Review, primary school education has been damaged by prescriptive state interference which has taken all the fun out of children's learning. The three reports published today examine teacher professionalism, training and leadership.

Pupils pay for exams…with their books

A. Frean

The Times, April 7th 2008, p.14

A Government-commissioned report indicates that examination fees are costing schools and colleges more than £700 million per year. One school told researchers that their exam fees had risen from £30,000 per annum to £100,000 per annum for the same number of pupils over a five year period. While exam fees have risen, the report indicates that textbooks are in short supply in most secondary schools.

Putting words in their mouths: the role of teaching assistants and the spectre of teaching pedagogy

H. Gibson and H. Patrick

Journal of Early Childhood Literacy vol. 8, 2008, p.25-41

National governments in Britain have consistently promised that, while they would legislate for a curriculum, it would not tell teachers how to teach. This article suggests, however, that this policy is compromised with the current programme to 'remodel the workforce' and augment the role of the classroom or teaching assistant (TA). The authors examine the likelihood that what a teacher is may subtly change and overlap with the TA's new role and argue that, despite what the government says, TAs will have little professional authority to question centrally determined initiatives regarding methods and approaches to teaching. There is a detailed and critical review of the recommendations for teaching and learning contained within the government's publication Additional Literacy Support. The authors reflect in particular on the 'Example Scripts' that are said to model 'perfect lessons' for TAs to imitate, and suggest that their view of perfection is at least contentious, concluding that TAs may increasingly come to serve as a conduit for a centrally controlled pedagogy.

Removing barriers to achievement: a strategy for inclusion or exclusion?

C. Lloyd

International Journal of Inclusive Education vol. 12, 2008, p.221-236

This paper presents a critical analysis of policy relating to the inclusion of children with special educational needs (SEN) in the mainstream of education which claims to secure for them a genuinely equitable educational experience. The paper focuses particularly on the potential of current government strategy, presented in Removing Barriers to Achievement. The Government's Strategy for SEN (2004) and confirms that, as in previous policy, there is a failure to recognise the complex and controversial nature of inclusion; no attempt is made to address the exclusiveness of the curriculum, assessment procedures, and practices of mainstream provision and the author suggests the strategy is founded on notions of normalisation, compensation and deficit approaches to SEN. He argues that there is a need to recognise that, as long as policy is founded on the idea that inclusion into the mainstream of schooling, and achievement measured against a set of norm related standards, is the route to 'good' education, children with SEN will continue to be disadvantaged and to receive an inferior educational opportunity.

The running battle to boost fitness

S. McCormack

The Independent. Education & Careers Section, April 3rd 2008, p. 4-5

The prominence given to physical education in British schools, and its popularity among children are still a long way behind some countries such as Japan. The article features some UK schools which have made physical exercise a greater part of the curriculum.

School pays pupils to fill teaching gaps

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Apr. 29th 2008, p. 4

Due to a shortage of qualified staff, Chalfonts Community College in Buckinghamshire is employing sixth formers as supply teachers to cover classes for younger pupils. Sixth formers are paid £5 for each 50-minute class they conduct and are trained in lesson preparation and behaviour management. Although an older adult is present in the classroom, they do not take the lesson and may not be a trained teacher.

School 'superheads' to earn £200,000 year

A. Frean & P. Webster

The Times, April 18th 2008, p.1

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary has asked the School Teachers Pay Review Board (STRB) to put forward a new system of 'rewards and incentives' for 500 new 'superheads' in return for taking over the management of 'failing schools'. John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) suggested that this could lead to 'superheads' earning as much as £180,000 - £200,000 at the very top end of the scale.

(See also The Independent, Apr. 22nd 2008, p. 17)

Schools may be judged on teenage pregnancy rates and drug problems

A. Lipsett

The Guardian, Apr. 30th 2008, p. 1

The government is planning to give parents a truer picture of their children's lives by recording teenage pregnancy rates, drug problems, criminal records and obesity levels amongst pupils. Under the proposed plans schools would need to adhere to strict new recording rules and be accountable for 18 additional target areas, including bullying and what happens to pupils after they leave school. Schools will be assessed in how far they meet these new social targets as part of the Ofsted inspection process.

Schools struggling to keep healthy meals on menu as cost of ingredients soar

C. Mortishead & P. Stiff

The Times, April 21st 2008, p.8

The recent increasing cost of basic foodstuffs such as bread, eggs and cooking oil has had an impact on the ability of local authorities to maintain the provision of high quality school meals. Sandra Russell, the chair of the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA), said that most local authority school catering services were already running at a loss and that price rises were almost inevitable.

Second-chance exam 'dumbs down' GCSE

N. Woolcock

The Times, April 10th 2008, p.11

Proposals to reform the GCSE examination to make it modular so that exams would be taken over a two year period have been criticised for potentially increasing exam stress on students as well as making the examinations easier to pass. The new format has been proposed by the OCR examinations board and if approved this summer could cover 43 subjects.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Apr. 8th 2008, p. 1)

Sharp rise in the number of unqualified teachers

The Independent, April 16th 2008, p. 8

The answer to a parliamentary question from the Conservatives shows that there are now 16,710 teachers working in UK schools who do not have qualified teacher status (QTS), up from 2,940 in 1997. There are also more overseas trained teachers without QTS, numbering 10,970 in 2007 compared with 2,480 in 1997. The figures may cause some people to fear that children's education is being damaged.

State funds tough new school leaver exams

D. Turner

Financial Times, April 14th 2008, p. 4

The government has approved funding for Pre-Us, a new exam which is seen as tougher than current A-levels, to be offered in a number of subjects. The aim is to help Universities identify the strongest candidates.

We can free ourselves from the tyranny of school league tables

M. Stephen

Daily Telegraph, Apr. 29th 2008, p.20

This comment piece calls for the abolition of school league tables on the grounds that they are highly misleading and stifle innovation and creativity in the classroom by creating a climate of fear amongst teachers and schools. Head teachers are under pressure to make pupils sit easier subjects such as media studies to the detriment of maths and the other sciences, and schools are under pressure to keep weaker candidates out of their sixth forms.

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