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

Academies are creaming off best headteachers, research suggests

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 9th 2008, p. 8

A study conducted by Education Data Surveys has found that the government's flagship academies are creaming off the best headteachers from neighbouring schools by offering six figure salaries. According to teacher unions the improved GCSE results in academies have been at the cost of state schools.

Academies criticised for expelling 10,000

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 25th 2008, p. 6

Privately sponsored state academies have been accused of excluding disproportionately large numbers of students, nearly 10,000 last year, for poor behaviour. Despite making up only 0.3% of state schools in Britain, academies were responsible for 2% of all temporary exclusions and 3% of permanent exclusions last year.

Budget cuts leave thousands of schools facing the toughest squeeze in a decade

S. Coates

The Times, Jun. 5th 2008, p. 24

The Government expects 7,700 schools (about one third of the total) in England to make savings next year, with the worst-performing schools hit hardest, according to the Liberal Democrats. The cuts are expected to leave hundreds of teachers and staff facing redundancy.

CBI tells Balls to drop diplomas from overloaded education system

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 23rd 2008, p. 8

The Confederation of British Industry has withdrawn its support for the government's proposed plan to overhaul the GCSE and A-level system in favour of diploma qualifications. The CBI, which represents 240,000 employers warned that the education system is already too overloaded to cope with new qualifications and that there is no appetite among employers for the reforms.

(See also The Independent, June 23rd 2008, p. 4 and The Times, June 23rd 2008, p15)

Children to attend one school from age five through to 18

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 10th 2008, p. 1

The Schools Minister has called for an increase in the number of "all through" schools to stop pupil performance dipping between primary and secondary level. The proposals are modelled on the private sector, in which senior schools often have their own preparatory school built nearby. It is believed that some of the 638 secondary schools failing to reach government targets could be converted into all age academies.

The Composition of schools in England

Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008

This survey shows that more than half of parents shun their nearest school and send their children almost two miles to lessons every day. Children from middle class families are most likely to commute long distances as parents go to extreme lengths to find the best secondary school. The exodus means that the state education system is more segregated than when Labour came to power in 1997, as deprived children are concentrated in a smaller number of schools. Despite government opposition to grammar schools, more children in England now attend selective schools than in 1997. The best schools, including grammar and faith schools, are less likely to reflect their local community than comprehensives.

The Days of the recruitment beauty contest are over

M. Ashley

Journal of Partnership and Professional Development vol.22, 2008, p.85-101

The national teacher shortage has required schools to look at creative solutions to addressing this dilemma. This paper illustrates the innovative approach adopted by one inner city primary school in recruiting staff that supports the school's vision and ethos of educating the whole child and its commitment to professional development. The author presents a case study of an inner-London primary school that was commended in an Ofsted Report on how well its management had coped with a significant amount of its teaching staff being from overseas.

Dilemmas of devolution: the 'politics of Britishness' and citizenship education

R. Andrews and A. Mycock

British Politics, vol.3, 2008, p. 139-155

Concerns about immigration, community cohesion and the future of the union have led politicians and policy-makers to seek to promote British values through citizenship education in schools. Since devolution in 1997, arrangements for citizenship education are evolving along ever more divergent trajectories in the education systems of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. This partly reflects the emergence of different policy-making approaches, but is also a product of attempts to reconstruct national identity within devolved curricula. In this context, nationwide proposals for the promotion of British values and culture make citizenship education within and across the UK increasingly contentious.

The diploma: a disaster waiting to happen?

A. Smithers and P. Robinson

Buckingham: Carmichael Press, 2008

Britain stands on the brink of a massive upheaval in school qualifications. Although the government has yet to declare its hand, its intention appears to be to replace A-Levels, GCSEs, BTECs and other qualifications with just one award, the Diploma. This report examines what the policy hopes to achieve, looks in detail at three of the first diploma strands, and analyses the views of awarding bodies, teachers, schools and colleges, and employers and universities. It considers both the thinking behind the proposed change and the practicalities of implementation.

Early education for citizenship: the Scottish approach

A.-W. Dunlop

Early Education, no.55, 2008, p. 5-6

All countries in the UK include citizenship in their national curriculums, but the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland is alone in making it a core feature of its early years framework. Teaching and learning approaches to citizenship in the Scottish curriculum include:

  • Participation by young children in decision-making within classroom activities and at the whole school level
  • Development of authentic community links
  • Active approaches to learning, including discussion, debate and investigation
  • Whole school activities that raise awareness of citizenship issues, ethical decision-making and shared values.

The education debate

S. J. Ball

Bristol: Policy Press, 2008

This book traces the flood of government initiatives and policies that have been introduced over the past twenty years, including beacon schools, the academies programme, parental choice, foundation schools, faith schools and teaching standards. The author looks at the politics of these interventions and how they have changed the face of education, 'joining up' policy within a broader framework of initiatives that have turned children into 'learners' and parents into 'consumers'. He examines issues of class, choice, globalisation, equality and citizenship, and explores the conflicting needs of children and families on the one hand and the economy and state on the other.

Education under fire: fears over teaching standards push parents to private sector

S. Cassidy

The Independent, Jun. 5th 2008, p. 10

An Ipsos MORI poll has found that 57 per cent of parents would consider removing their child from the state school sector if they could afford it. The main reasons cited were fears about poor discipline and constant meddling with the curriculum.

The Future of educational change

C. Sugrue (ed.)

Oxford: Routledge, 2008

This book provides a systematic overview and critique of contemporary approaches to educational change from some of the leading writers and scholars in the field. The authors question the extent to which research has become increasingly ideologically driven and controlled rather than informed by more broadly based concerns for equity and social justice. They call for policies that seek genuine educational 'reforms' rather than those that perpetuate increasing inequalities in a globalised world. The book, divided into four sections, addresses the following key issues: the impact of educational change; how the impact has differed in different circumstances; the new directions for research on policy and practice; and ways of linking research, policy and practice.

Improving behaviour and attendance at school

S. Hallam and L. Rogers

Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2008

This book draws together research and practice around the complexities of improving behaviour and attendance in school and offers a range of practical solutions for schools, teachers, non-teaching staff and those working to support them in local authorities. It discusses the work of Behaviour and Extra Education Support Teams, teacher coaches, learning mentors and nurture groups as ways of supporting children and young people, particularly those identified as being 'at risk'.

Improving learning through consulting pupils

J. Ruddock and D. McIntyre

Oxford: Routledge, 2007

Drawing on research carried out as part of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme, this book discusses the potential of consultation as a strategy for signalling a more partnership-orientated 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 demanding, but where the benefits of doing so can be substantial. Topics covered include: the centrality of consultation about teaching and learning in relation to broader school-level concerns; teaching approaches that pupils believe help them to learn and those that obstruct their learning; teachers' responses to pupil consultation - what they learn from it, the changes they can make to their practice and the difficulties they can face; and the things that can get in the way of pupils trusting in consultation as something that can make a positive difference.

Independent review of mathematics teaching in early years settings and primary schools: final report

Sir Peter Williams

Nottingham: DCSF Publications, 2008

Report places a renewed emphasis on numeracy in the early years. It says that nursery staff and childminders should encourage young children to write and draw, helping them to develop mathematical skills. Early years settings should also ensure that sufficient time is given to mathematical discussion around practical activities such as cooking and shopping. Parents should also be encouraged to help children understand maths during household activities. In some schools, parents could be invited into class to bring them up to date with modern teaching methods.

Jamie's healthier school dinners fail to attract children

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 24th 2008, p. 6

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families, the Local Authority Caterers' Association has said that the school meals service is nearing collapse as children vote with their feet and reject the healthy hot meals they are serving in favour of junk food. Many school canteens are running at a loss and may be forced to close.

Learning lessons

R. Aldridge

Public Finance, May 30th-June 5th 2008, p. 24-25

Sponsors of city academies are portrayed in the media as gaining control of public assets cheaply and as receiving favours or financial rewards from the role. The author, who sponsors two academies, argues that this is unfair and defends the programme. He explains how city academies benefit from the experience of their sponsors, who all have a record of success in other fields, and offer first-class educational facilities to young people in deprived areas.

(For report on expansion of the academies programme, see Daily Telegraph, June 23rd 2008, p. 6)

Level playing field? The implications of school funding

L. Sibieta, H. Chowdry and A. Muriel

Reading: CfBT Education Trust, 2008

Despite undergoing significant reform in recent years, the system of state school funding in England remains opaque and poorly understood. Yet the process by which schools are funded has important implications, both for the effectiveness with which funds are targeted and for the incentives schools face are offered to attract pupils and improve quality.

The four chapters of this report discuss the following questions:

  • How have overall levels of public spending on education and schools in the UK evolved in recent years?
  • How does the English school funding system allocate money to individual schools?
  • How redistributive is the school funding system, and to what degree do funding variations reflect educational needs and parental background?
  • What incentives are offered to schools to attract new pupils and to improve school quality?

    Low-performing schools to get 1m each to lift standards

    P. Curtis

    The Guardian, June 20th 2008, p. 4

    The government is set to give every struggling secondary modern school 1m in an effort to raise the standards of poorly performing schools. The handouts are intended to be used to set up partnerships with more successful schools to share best practice and improve overall standards.

    (See also The Times, June 20th 2008, p.15)

    Minister plans to close up to 270 failing schools

    P. Curtis

    The Guardian, June 10th 2008, p. 4

    Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary has revealed that up to 270 underperforming schools will be closed over the next three years to be replaced with academies and trust schools. If the programme is implemented there will be more than 300 academies in operation by September 2010.

    (See also The Guardian, June 11th 2008, p. 12)

    More top graduates lured to teach in tough schools

    R. Garner

    The Independent, June 24th 2008, p. 17

    The Government has announced that the Teach First scheme, which aims to recruit graduates with top-level degrees to teach in inner-city secondary schools without them having to study for a teaching certificate, will more than double its intake from 380 to 850 recruits per year by 2013.

    New directions in school leadership

    P. Lewis and R. Murphy

    Journal of School Leadership and Management vol.28, 2008, p.127-146

    Different approaches to conducting and theorising school leadership have become a major preoccupation within school systems throughout the world. This reflects the importance placed upon school-level education and the belief that leadership issues can play a big part in increasing the effectiveness of pupils' learning. This paper re-visits some findings from an earlier review and examines them in the light of more recent research both within education and from other fields, where leadership models have come under close scrutiny. The author argues that much is to be gained from sharing insights into leadership across different areas of professional activity and illustrates some of the benefits of such an approach.

    New teachers fail in basic skills

    P. Curtis

    The Guardian, June 27th 2008, p. 7

    An Ofsted survey has revealed that new teachers are not being adequately trained to identify and support children who struggle with reading. The survey also indicates that some teachers lack the ability to teach pupils to spell and are unable to teach young children according to the phonics system introduced in schools last September.

    The National Challenge: a toolkit for schools and local authorities

    Department for Children, Schools and Families

    Nottingham: DCSF Publications, 2008

    The National Challenge will support schools with the lowest GCSE results so that by 2011 at least 30% of students in every secondary school will achieve five GCSEs at A* to C, including English and mathematics. The National Challenge will focus greater attention, help and resources on schools that are currently below this benchmark. Each National Challenge school will be supported by a National Challenge Adviser who will take on and extend the role of the existing School Improvement Partner. Schools, their Advisers and local authorities, working with the DCSF, will need to identify an appropriate package of support for each school. If schools are stuck below the target in 2011, they will be closed or replaced by an Academy of National Challenge Trust.

    (See also Department for Children, Schools and Families. Promoting excellence for all: school improvement strategy. 2008)

    Northern Ireland locked in schools stalemate

    P. Gosling

    Public Finance, May 23rd-29th 2008, p. 14-15

    Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that still systematically uses the 11-plus examination to select pupils for grammar schools. Academic selection is rejected by Sinn Fein but supported by the Democratic Unionist Party. For the past 12 months the Sinn Fein education minister has been trying to find ways to replace the 11-plus in the face of unionist opposition.

    Peer power

    S. Learner

    Children and Young People Now, May 21st-27th 2008, p. 22-23

    For sex and relationship education (SRE) to be useful it must be relevant to young people's lives. It is important to ask them what they need from SRE. Programmes can then be designed to meet their expressed needs. This article showcases the work of the Terrence Higgins Trust, which is using a grant from the Lottery to enable young people to develop their own sexual health education projects.

    Physics teachers dying out in some state schools, report says

    P. Curtis

    The Guardian, June 30th 2008, p. 10

    The number of applicants to physics teacher training courses has fallen dramatically, with a 27% drop in the last year, whilst retiring physics teachers now outnumber new recruits by 26%.

    Popular schools may be allowed extra pupils

    A. Frean

    The Times, Jun. 13th 2008, p. 15

    The Schools Minister, Jim Knight, has put forward a proposal which would plan, enable popular state schools to exceed their admission policy by 26 pupils per year. The document which is out for public consultation until October 2 is aimed at addressing figures which demonstrate that nearly one fifth of school children did not gain a place at their first choice of secondary school.

    Pupils from poor homes far more likely to be taught by unqualified teachers

    R. Garner

    The Independent, June 4th 2008, p. 11

    Figures from the National Foundation for Education Research show that nearly four out of ten state secondary school teachers are being forced to take lessons in subjects they are not trained to teach. The research also reveal a 'postcode lottery' in which children at schools in the most deprived areas of England are less likely to be taught by someone well-qualified compared to those at more privileged institutions.

    School admissions code: consultation document

    Department for Children, Schools and Families


    The key proposal is that all parents' applications for primary and secondary school places will be co-ordinated by the local authority where they live. This will give a single point of inquiry for all school applications. Other proposals include:

    • Clarifying the current admissions code to underline that schools can ask parents to support their ethos
    • Giving all parents the legal right to apply to at least three primary schools
    • Creating a standardised application form for use by all local authorities.

    Set schools free, says Clegg

    R. Prince

    Daily Telegraph, June 16th 2008, p. 4

    The Liberal Democrat party leader calls for schools to be less constrained by the national curriculum, for the number of civil servants at the Department for Children, Schools and Families to be halved, with power devolved to the local level, and for the establishment of an education standards authority to ensure that examinations are not dumbed down.

    Sexual health clinic at one in three secondaries

    A. Bloxham

    Daily Telegraph, June 23rd 2008, p. 8

    A study by the Sex Education Forum has found that one in three secondary schools in England has a sexual health clinic distributing condoms, pregnancy tests and even the morning after pill to children as young as 11.

    Success in science


    London: 2008

    The report evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of science in primary and secondary schools between 2004 and 2007. Standards in science have not improved substantially in the last three years. This report identifies the reasons for this and provides examples of schools where young scientists excel. It also discusses issues at the heart of science teaching today. It claims that teachers are abandoning practical experiments and relying on textbooks to ensure that pupils pass tests. The report also criticizes the poor state of science laboratories and shortages of specialist teachers.


    Sustaining improvement: the journey from special measures


    London: 2008

    Schools require special measures because they are failing to give pupils an acceptable standard of education. This survey aimed to identify actions and approaches that led to improvements in such schools. Inspectors visited 14 schools. Results showed that standards could be improved through the introduction of traditional school uniforms, house systems and high profile school councils to give expression to pupil voice.. A zero tolerance approach to unruly pupils and non-negotiable standards of behaviour for staff also had positive effects.

    Teachers who can't do maths plus a week at summer school equals 1,000

    A. Frean

    The Times, June 17th 2008, p.9

    Sir Peter Williams, chairman of the Government's Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education has published a review which exposes the low level of maths qualifications among teachers. He has advised that nominated maths specialists are sent to summer schools at which they would receive training over a three-year period to build up qualifications towards masters level. They would be paid 1,000 for each summer school attended and would be expected to disseminate maths information and provide support for other teaching staff.

    Tenth of brightest pupils opt out of higher education

    S. Cassidy

    The Independent, June 13th 2008, p. 17

    Research commissioned by the education charity The Sutton Trust found that one in ten state school pupils will drop out of education before university despite once having been among the brightest in their class. The academic gap between the poorest pupils and the rest of the population tends to widen as children move through the school system resulting in significant numbers of young people with potential not progressing to university level.

    (See also The Guardian, June 13th 2008, p. 12)

    'Too rigorous' literacy goal for under-5s to be watered down

    A. Frean

    The Times, 30th June 2008, p. 5

    It is expected that the Children's Minister, Beverley Hughes, will announce changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage framework which has been heavily criticised for introducing unrealistic and potentially damaging targets for the under-5s. A panel of experts has advised that the guidelines are too rigid and could prove demoralising for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    Top private schools shun 'too complex' diploma programme

    P. Curtis

    The Guardian, June 30th 2008, p. 2

    Leading private schools are refusing to adopt the government's new diploma qualification because it is too complex. Independent schools have been offered a series of incentives by the government but many are not keen on the proposals, which will undermine the credibility and value of the new diplomas.

    Using self-evaluation for inspection: how well prepared are primary school headteachers?

    D. Plowright

    Journal of School Leadership and Management vol.28, 2008, p.101-126

    This article explores the extent to which primary school headteachers are prepared for the increasing contribution that self-evaluation is now expected to make to raising standards. Data were collected from headteachers in one local authority in England using a questionnaire and a number of semi-structured interviews. The findings indicate that headteachers hold a positive view of how self-evaluation contributes to school improvement and are able to make clear links between the two. However, the research raises questions about the structures currently being put into place by government to support schools in the future.

    The value of mathematics

    E. Kounine, J. Marks and E. Truss

    Reform, 2008

    Report claims that maths GCSEs are considerably easier than tests set 50 years ago as questions are simplified to make them more relevant to modern teenagers. It adds that pupils can now gain a good grade with fewer than half the marks required in 1990. The lack of rigour has led to fewer pupils studying the subject at A level or at university, with just 60,093 taking A levels in 2007 compared to 84,744 in 1989.

    Whatever happened to infant play

    P. Gordon-Smith

    Early Education, no.55, 2008, p. 7-9

    In England, there is an intense focus on children acquiring literacy and numeracy skills at a very young age, to the exclusion of play-based learning. Children in England enter the formal curriculum at five. Campaigners want to extend the play curriculum, and cite the success of other countries where play-based learning is the norm for five- and six-year-olds. The article presents case studies of successful play-based learning in primary schools in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

    Why I'm not cool at school: examining the underachievement of black boys

    Y. Ilumoka

    Journal of Partnership and Professional Development vol.22, 2008, p.29-46

    This paper investigates the underachievement of black African/Afro-Caribbean boys within the British education system. The author attempts to identify various 'tipping moments' in the educational journey of these boys and to establish the students' perception of society and the education system and how these two key elements could facilitate their learning in a much more positive and productive way. The research aims to give these young people a voice and identifies the critical role played by family, community and school in ensuring the achievement of black African and Afro-Caribbean boys.

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