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

School improvement - or the 'Equivalent'

A. de Waal

Civitas, 2008

Study claims that schools are boosting their position in league tables by forcing pupils to take vocational qualifications instead of GCSEs. It alleges that these courses, which are counted alongside GCSEs as equivalent qualifications, are often 'pointless' and short-change the weakest pupils. It claims that the academies promoted by the Labour government are among the worst offenders.

Approaching race equality training in the early years

H. Kapasi and J. Lane

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 26, Summer 2008, p. 16-22

This article describes the present situation in relation to how the issue of racial equality is tackled in the training for early years' practitioners. While the authors feel there has been some change in the approach over the years, which has taken account of the diversity of people now living in Britain, they argue that it still appears to side step the issue of understanding racism and implementing antiracist practice. The paper recommends a team approach to training as being more effective because it creates a sense of collective responsibility for the issue. In addition, for any real impact to occur, antiracist training needs to be accompanied by an investigation of the policies, procedures, attitudes and practices of the whole setting, as well as creating an open, inviting and welcoming environment where everyone's views are heard.

Black history to be taught in school as part of curriculum

R. Garner

The Independent, Aug. 26th 2008, p. 7

Radical changes to the secondary school timetable will be introduced next week when England's three million secondary school pupils return to the classroom. Key alterations include more emphasis on the study of black Britons and other ethnic minority groups in the history curriculum.

The debate over the state funding of Muslim schools in Britain

C. Tinker

Crucible, July-Sept. 2008, p. 7-16

This paper examines the main arguments used for and against state funded Muslim schools in Britain, highlighting the concerns shared by those on opposing sides. It illustrates that these issues of rights and responsibilities, social cohesion and identities are of concern to both advocates and opponents, thereby challenging the polemical conception of the Muslim schools debate. Its aim is not to evaluate the arguments, but to show that they are some key values that unite those on opposing sides.

Edexcel is called in to sort out Sats fiasco

A. Simpson

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

The examination board Edexcel has been contracted by the National Assessment Agency to help re-mark disputed SATS exam papers following the sacking of ETS Europe. ETS Europe lost its contract in July 2008 after more than one million pupils were affected by lost scripts, lengthy delays, wrongly graded answers and concerns over the quality of markers.

(See also Independent, Aug. 28th 2008, p. 17)

Education and Gypsies/Travellers: 'contradictions and significant silences'

G. Lloyd and G. McCluskey

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 12, 2008, p. 331-345

The paper discusses some key research findings about Gypsies/Travellers and schooling in Scotland and England and the authors identify some of the complex and challenging issues facing these communities in their decisions about schooling and education and which also face those who work with them. These issues are located in the context of current educational policy developments in the UK and, through an analysis of both the Scottish and English policy contexts, the authors' argue that the situation of Gypsies/Travellers highlights key tensions within New Labour's approach to social inclusion and exclusion.

Essays are back in A-level shake-up

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 14th 2008, p. 1

A-levels are to be reformed again in the academic year 2008/09 to make them more demanding. A new A* grade will be introduced to pick out the ablest pupils, longer, open-ended questions will feature in exams, and the existing six modules per subject will be cut to four. Sixth formers will be encouraged to do a university-style 'extended project' as a course bolt-on, worth half an A-level.

Fewer earn top marks in school tests for 11-year-olds

A. Frean

The Times, Aug. 6th 2008, p. 11

The results of the Key Stage 2 primary SATs exams show that there has been a sharp reduction in the number of children achieving the highest score, Level 5, in all three core subjects. The results show that overall almost forty per cent of 11-year-olds are leaving primary school without mastering the key areas of reading, writing and mathematics.

(See also The Guardian, Aug. 6th 2008, p. 4)

Fewer pupils reach the top grade in SATS

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 6th 2008, p. 6

Official figures show that the number of 11-year-olds exceeding the standard expected of their age fell in 2008 in English, maths and science. The fall came despite an overall rise in the number of children achieving the lower standard which all 11-year-olds are expected to meet. The disclosure comes as schools were accused in a Civitas report of artificially inflating scores by coaching weaker children to pass and so boost their position in the league tables. These concerns are leading to pupils starting secondary school being re-tested because teachers fear that they are weaker than their SATS results suggest.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Aug. 5th 2008, p.1 + 4)

GCSEs show new wave of young scientists

D. Turner

Financial Times, Aug. 22nd 2008, p. 2

The number of school students sitting GCSE exams in biology, chemistry and physics leapt by about a third on last year, suggesting that Britain at last is making progress in producing the scientists it needs to compete internationally. The sharp rise suggests the number of A-level candidates and university students in these subjects will also increase in the coming years.

Government damaging troubled schools, say unions

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Aug. 18th 2008, p. 7

Schools will this week find out if they have failed to reach the government prescribed minimum target of 30% of students achieving 5 A - C passes at GCSE. Schools on the 'National Challenge' list who do fail to achieve 30% may face the process of converting to academies.

Gulf widens between private and state schools

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 15th 2008, p.1

Record numbers of sixth-formers gained top grades at A-levels in 2008, but analysis of the results suggests that improvements are driven almost entirely by the success of the independent sector and grammar schools. The independent sector saw a 9.1 percentage point increase in A grades awarded between 2002 and 2008. Over the same period, top grades in comprehensives increased by 3.9 points. Regional breakdowns also show dramatic differences in numbers gaining good grades between affluent and deprived areas. In the North East, the number of top grades increased by just two percentage points to 19.8% between 2002 and 2008. In the South East the number of A grades rose to 29.1%.

Improving the educational experience of children and young people in public care: a Scottish perspective

G. Connelly and M. Chakrabarti

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 12, 2008, p. 347-361

The context for this paper is the policy and practice implications of efforts to achieve social justice for Scotland's 12,000 children and young people in the care of local government authorities. The data on attainment and exclusion from school in particular are reviewed and confirm that this group of children in Scotland, as elsewhere in the UK, typically leave education with significantly fewer qualifications, compared with other young people in their age group, and are significantly more likely to lose time in school due to exclusion. The review also showed the devastating impact of being in care on young children's attainment in reading, writing and mathematics. The implications are discussed in relation to the concepts of social justice, resilience and the educationally rich environment.

Local authorities and the education of young people with sickle cell disorders in England

S.M. Dyson and others

International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 18, 2008, p. 47-60

This paper reports the results of a survey conducted with 107 local authorities in England to assess responses to needs of pupils with sickle cell disorders (SCD). The majority of authorities did not know the number of children under their jurisdiction, only two had policies on SCD and most authorities referred to generic guidance on pupils with medical needs in schools. However, the paper concludes that such generic guidance fails in a number of ways to meet the needs of young people with SCD in terms of prevention, in challenging disability discrimination and in failing to recognise how ethnicity and racism mediate the experiences of young black disabled students.

More policies, greater inclusion? Exploring the contradictions of New Labour inclusive education policy

A. Roulstone and S. Prideaux

International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 18, 2008, p. 15-29

This article explores reasons for the apparent contradiction between the fact that the era of New Labour government has witnessed unprecedented growth in inclusive education policies and the limited evidence that these policies have increased the inclusion of disabled children. Drawing on sociological insights, it is argued that New Labour policies on exclusion from education take their cues from wider constructions of social exclusion and such ideas point to the personal deficits of the excluded rather than social barriers and inequalities that systematically exclude. As increasingly narrow definitions of educational success are likely to add to this exclusion, it is further argued that if real progress is to be made New Labour needs to review the lessons of history in reducing disabled children's educational exclusion.

More schools threatened with closure

S. Cassidy

The Independent, Aug. 22nd 2008, p. 11

More secondary schools across England could be under threat after the Government announced it would expand its hit list of underperforming schools despite a record year for overall GCSE results. Last year, a total of 638 schools were warned they could be closed or turned into an academy unless their GCSE results improved and last summer fewer than 30 per cent of their pupils achieved five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including maths and English. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said that any schools that failed to reach that mark this year could be added to the National Challenge program.

New Public Management and a modernisation agenda: implications for school leadership

C. Coupland, G. Currie & I. Boyett

International Journal of Public Administration, vol. 31, 2008, p. 1079-1094

This paper examines New Public Management (NPM) under New Labour in the UK, which the authors argue contains paradoxical demands due to an attempt to attend to both social and economic goals. One context in which this is evident is that of secondary school leadership, where they conclude that new calls for citizen-type activities and inclusive stakeholder decision-making activity is at odds with principals being made increasingly accountable due to government preoccupation with standards and targets for pupils' attainment.

Preschool learning boosts maths results

J. Randerson

The Guardian, Aug. 29th 2008, p. 7

A government funded study into childhood learning has revealed that children who receive a balanced variety of home and school learning before school age achieve better maths results at the age of 10. The research, carries out by the University of London, also indicated that children who received a good quality preschool education achieved better results at 10.

Pupils should have sex education from the age of four, say MP s

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 26th 2008, p. 2 + 19

A cross-party group of MPs is calling on the government to make sex and relationship education compulsory in all primary and secondary schools. They argue that there is evidence that high quality sex and relationship education helps young people to delay their first sexual experience and leads to lower teenage pregnancy levels.

Quality of education still determined by wealth, says report

S. Cassidy

The Independent, Aug. 8th 2008, p. 20

A report from the Conservatives on educational inequality, A Failed Generation, warns that the gap between rich and poor is widening with the quality of a child's schooling still largely determined by their parents' wealth. Children in the most deprived parts of the country are now 20 times more likely to attenda school on the Government's hit list for poor results than those from the wealthiest areas.

(See also The Guardian, Aug. 8th 2008, p. 12)

Raising the achievement of Somali pupils in British schools

F. Demie

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 26, Summer 2008, p. 42-47

The aim of this research was to study the experience of Somali heritage pupils in schools, as empirical data suggests that Somali children are underachieving and their outcomes at each key stage are considerably below those achieved by all other ethnic groups. Using a case study approach, the author explores the successful strategies which have been implemented in some schools to raise the achievement level of Somali children. Such strategies include schools focusing on parental engagement, having a diverse staff team and strong inclusion policies, adopting an inclusive curriculum and providing effective support for EAL (English as an additional language).

SATs scores 'too generous for 1 in 3 pupils'

A. Frean

The Times, Aug. 5th 2008, p. 3

Research from the think-tank Civitas has indicated that 79 per cent of Year 7 teachers believe that up to one third of their year group was significantly less able than their Key Stage 2 SATs results would suggest. Most teachers blamed the way in which staff 'coached' children to pass the exams, aided by the forewarnings they have about the timing and content of the tests. The findings further undermine the legitimacy of the Key Stage 2 SATs results.

(See also The Independent, Aug. 5th 2008, p. 1; The Guardian, Aug. 5th 2008, p. 1 & 4)

Schools roll out terrorism rule book

R. Verkaik

The Independent, Aug. 19th 2008, p. 5

Schools have become the new battleground in the police's fight to combat terrorism among Britain's youth. Measures designed to stamp out Islamic extremism have been agreed by senior officers and are now being rolled out across the country. They include guidance for parents on how to stop children searching for extremist websites and an anti-extremism agenda in 'all state-maintained educational establishments' by 2009.

Schools told not to call children obese

R. Smith

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 5th 2008, p. 4

The National Child Measurement Programme aims to record the height and weight of all children in their first year at school and again in year 6. Parents will receive letters telling them if their child has a weight problem, but the words 'obese' and 'fat' will not be used to avoid stigmatising them. Instead they will be told that their child is overweight and will receive advice about nutrition and physical activity.

Seven-year-olds' progress in three Rs 'flatlining'

A. Lipsett

The Guardian, Aug. 29th 2008, p. 7

Standards amongst seven-year-olds in basic reading, writing, maths and science have 'flatlined' this year according to the Conservative party. The Sats results for seven-year-olds are very similar to last year, with only a small improvement in science results. The government is rolling out the Every Child a Reader scheme and introducing a new early years foundation stage in an attempt to improve results next year.

So what do we do now then? CPD as a trigger to raise white working class pupil achievement

C. Childs

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 26, Summer 2008, p. 33-35

This paper focuses on initiatives introduced at Launcelot Primary School in London as a result of teachers attending a conference session organised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT). During the session, specific barriers to learning experienced by children from white working class backgrounds were identified and discussed. These included an attachment to the ghetto, lack of parental involvement, absence of role models and so on. This session inspired teachers from the school to brainstorm solutions to each of the barriers and begin to implement strategies to tackle some of them. This involved creating a venue for parents and staff to meet on equal terms which in turn led to improvements at the school, such as creating a stage for performances and a vegetable garden, the purchase of a minibus to increase the number of educational visits, as well as establishing sessions for parents on maths, phonics and reading.

Take GCSEs bit by bit then have a year's rest

N. Woolcock

The Times, Aug. 29th 2008, p. 3

Shake-ups to the GCSE structure could see an overwhelmingly modular set up introduced whereby GCSE students could have a year between sitting examinations and starting A levels. The reforms would see pupils encouraged to start GCSEs before the usual age of 14, with a more modular system making it easier for talented youngsters to achieve qualifications earlier and allowing students to resit modules to improve overall grades.

'There is a little bit more than just delivering the stuff': policy, pedagogy and the education of Gypsy/Traveller children

D. Cudworth

Critical Social Policy, vol. 28, 2008, p. 361-377

Since the late 1960s, consecutive government reports have concurred that the educational underachievement of Gypsy/Traveller children is more pronounced than that of any other social group. This is due to:

  • Ignorance of the cultures of Gypsy/Travellers and the particular educational needs of their children
  • The demands of an inflexible National Curriculum which prescribes what children should achieve by a certain age and which is unsuitable for a nomadic community
  • Pressure on schools to achieve government targets, which leads to the selection of high achieving children. Gypsy/Traveller children, with poor attendance records and low academic attainment, are seen as undesirable pupils.

The author suggests that the situation could be improved by removing much of the current emphasis on measurement of school performance. A less rigid curriculum and more flexible attendance policies would enable schools to include Gypsy/Traveller children.

Third of teenagers fail in reading tests

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 13th 2008, p. 1 + 2

SATS results show that almost a third of 14-year-olds are unable to read to a standard appropriate to their age, despite millions of pounds having been spent on getting pupils more interested in books. More than a fifth of boys and more than one in ten girls were shown to have reading skills lower than the average 11-year-old.

Tinkering and confusion driving students from A-levels, say Tories

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 11th 2008, p. 14

Figures published by the Conservatives show that in 2007 numbers studying for A-levels had dropped from 258,285 to a six -year low of 249,552 in twelve months. Increasing numbers of young people are switching to vocational qualifications or taking alternative academic examinations such as the International Baccalaureate. The Conservatives say that A-levels have been undermined by government reforms and uncertainty over their long-term future.

Tories attack education fund for deprived children

P. Wintour

The Guardian, Aug. 4th 2008, p. 4

Michael Gove, the shadow education secretary, has attacked the government's scheme aimed at persuading deprived children to stay on at school, claiming that it is an expensive flop which has cost 2.3m per deprived child since its launch three years ago.

Towards educational inclusion in a contested society: from critical analysis to creative action

R. Smith and S. Barr

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 12, 2008, p. 401-422

This paper develops some of the ideas explored in the authors' earlier contribution concerned with progress in Northern Ireland towards educational inclusion and how this might more effectively be advanced in a post-conflict transforming society. In particular, the article explores the practical implications of six key ideas thought to be essential for transforming learning environments supportive of cultural diversity, equity and excellence for all and includes examples of how school staff might use these principles to facilitate school improvement. The six key ideas explored include: develop a sense of community and create interdependence; empower citizens for democracy; develop a connective pedagogy; network with parents/carers and community; support learning; and develop cultural fluency.

University challenge makes four subjects the target of more pupils

A. Frean

The Times, Aug. 15th 2008, p. 6

The A level results published on 14 August show that more that 11 per cent of A level entrants achieve more than three A grades in their exams. There is concern that this will encourage students to take more than three A level subjects in order to give themselves an advantage in competition with so many high scoring peers. University admissions officers have already said that they have seen an increase in students with four or more A levels at grade A.

(See also The Guardian, Aug. 15th 2008, p. 12 & 13)

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