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

Balls to set out vision of 100 schools becoming co-operative trusts

P. Wintour

The Guardian, Sept. 11th 2008, p. 11

Ed Balls, the schools secretary has proposed that, over the next two years, 100 schools become co-operative trust schools which are owned and controlled by the local community. Ed Balls is the only member of the cabinet who is also a member of the Co-operative Party.

Black Caribbean children held back by institutional racism in schools, says study

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Sept. 5th 2008, p. 3

A study carried out by Warwick University has revealed that Black Caribbean pupils are being subjected to institutional racism in English schools which can dramatically undermine their chances of academic success. 15,000 were tracked during their time in the educational system for the study which indicated that teachers routinely underestimate the abilities of some black pupils.

Boys do better when they are taught by men, study finds

R. Garner

The Independent, Sept. 30th 2008, p. 9

Research by ICM for the Training and Development Agency, the body responsible for teacher training, surveyed more than 1000 men and found almost half of them (48 per cent) cited male primary school teachers as having had the most impact on them during their school life. In addition, 35 per cent said having a male teacher challenged them to work harder at school while 22 per cent said males had boosted their confidence in their own ability.

Children to get catch-up classes in the three-Rs

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 2nd 2008, p. 2

Pupils aged between seven and eleven struggling with reading, writing and maths will be given one-to-one tuition by specialist teachers to help them catch up, amid fears that too many children are leaving primary school without mastering basic skills. Children will typically get 10 hours of classes spread over 10 weeks, including extra support outside school hours. The programme will initially be trialled in nine areas in 2008 and rolled out nationally by 2011.

Class sizes among the biggest in the world

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 10th 2008, p. 4

A report from the OECD has shown that class sizes in British primary schools are among the biggest in the developed world. About 26 children aged five to eleven share the average lesson in state schools, with only South Korea, Japan and Turkey having bigger classes. These figures were released as research by the think tank Civitas purports to show that small classes are essential to give young children the best start in life.

Design threshold set for new secondary schools

R. Booth and P. Curtis

The Guardian, Sept. 18th 2008, p. 18

As part of the 45bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project, the schools minister, Jim Knight, has stated that new secondary school buildings will have reach a minimum standard of design quality before being given the go ahead.

Fewer men are choosing to teach, despite efforts by Government

S. Cassidy

The Independent, Sept. 26th 2008, p. 21

According to figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, teaching is becoming an increasingly female profession with men making up fewer than one in four new recruits. Despite a multi-million pound campaign to attract more men into teaching, in 2006-07 less than a quarter (23.8 percent) of teaching qualifications were obtained by men, the lowest figure in five years.

Focus on team sports 'is putting children off PE'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 5th 2008, p. 6

Researchers from Loughborough University claim that the current emphasis on competitive team sports such as football, rugby and hockey is putting children off physical exercise. Schools should instead give children more opportunities to take part in solo exercises such as aerobics, pilates and skipping.

Glitches hold up study grants for pupils

P. Curtis and P. Kingston

The Guardian, Sept. 3rd 2008, p. 4

At least 150,000 pupils will not receive their study grants at the beginning of term this academic year due to a series of computer glitches at the new firm, Liberata, entrusted with processing the applications. The educational maintenance allowance system, EMA, is worth up to 30 a week to students aged 16-19 from low-income homes.

Government blamed for exams disaster

S. Cassidy

The Independent, Sept. 11th 2008, p. 18

The firm at the centre of this summer's national curriculum tests fiasco publicly apologised yesterday for its mistakes but laid the bulk of the blame at the Government's door. Bosses from ETS Europe, which had its 156m five-year marking contract cancelled in August, accused government agencies of withholding information, delaying decisions and dramatically changing the terms of their contract.

(See also The Times, Sept. 11th 2008, p. 22)

Key workers and schools: meeting the needs of children and young people with disabilities

R. Webb and others

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 23, no. 3, 2008, p. 189-205

This paper examines the relationship between key worker services for children and young people with disabilities aimed at promoting inter-agency care coordination and schools in seven case-study areas in England and Wales. The findings draw on interviews with professionals, parents and carers who were recipients of these services and teachers in schools serving children supported by key workers. It is argued that key workers can improve home-school relationships, facilitate the contribution of teachers in inter-agency working, enable mainstream schools to better meet the individual needs of pupils with disabilities and improve their inclusive practice.

Local authority performance targets for under achieving pupil groups

Department for Children, Schools and Families


In this consultation paper, the Department for Children, Schools and Families says that exam targets are burdensome to local authorities and are not operating as an effective driver on standards. The Department is now planning to streamline the system so that only the test results of vulnerable groups such as pupils on free school meals, Afro-Caribbeans, Pakistanis and those from traveller families will be routinely monitored.

Mathematics: understanding the score



Ofsted investigated maths classes in almost 200 English primary and secondary schools and found that standards were good or better in just over half, with standards higher in primary schools. However, many pupils were expected to memorise methods, rules and facts parrot fashion, without properly understanding them. Lessons in many cases descend into little more than 'teaching to the test' so that pupils gain qualifications without being equipped well enough for their future careers. In the last decade, maths results for 11, 14 and 16-year-olds have improved although the emphasis on exam preparation means that this is not evidence of improved skills.

Meeting in the middle? A study of parent-professional partnerships

U. O'Connor

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 23, 2008, p. 253-268

This research explores the premise of partnership in Northern Ireland with reference to parents' relationships with the cross-section of professionals who constitute an inevitable by-product of having a child with special educational needs (SEN). The paper presents some findings from a phenomenological study involving 20 parents and represents the third and final stage of a large scale research study incorporating quantitative and qualitative data collection.

Mini-schools ease transition for Year 7 pupils

A. Frean

The Times, Sept. 1st 2008, p. 20

The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust has recommended that secondary schools should create separate 'mini-schools' on their campuses to prevent newly arrived 11-year-olds from being overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer size of the place. This follows government research suggesting that a sixth of pupils do not feel ready to start secondary school and a difficult transition is one reason why students can appear to struggle to progress in their first years of secondary education.

Ministers blamed for 'knee-jerk' education changes

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 5th 2008, p. 10

The Royal Society claims that curriculum reforms introduced over the past decade have had little impact on increasing numbers of pupils studying mathematics and science. Reforms such as the introduction of a '21st century' science curriculum designed to make the subject more relevant were implemented without any evidence that they would boost interest among pupils. Many alternative science courses offered in schools are unsuitable for bright pupils. The Royal Society concludes that curriculum reform should be taken out of the hands of politicians and placed with an independent body.

(See also Financial Times, Sept. 5th 2008, p. 4; Independent, Sept. 5th 2008, p. 15 )

More schools meeting basic GCSE targets, says Balls

P. Wintour

The Guardian, Sept. 8th 2008, p. 6

The number of underachieving schools in England has fallen by about a quarter according to Ed Balls, the schools secretary. Provisional figures suggest that 260 of the 638 underachieving at-risk schools have achieved the target of 30% A - C GCSE grades including English and Maths.

Pay as you study

M. Garner

Society Now, Summer 2008, p. 22-23

Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) were introduced nationally in 2004. They are payments of up to 30.00 a week, depending on family income, which are given to encourage pupils from poor families to stay on in education between the ages of 16 and 18. The money is paid directly to pupils who study at school or a further education college for at least 12 hours week. New research shows that attainment rose for all groups who stayed on in education as a result of receiving EMAs, but that black girls and those from the most disadvantaged areas benefited most.

Pupils at English schools are among the most tested in the world

A. Simpson

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 29th 2008, p. 10

An OECD report has warned that the level of regulation imposed on English schools risks being counterproductive and that teachers are over-burdened with government initiatives. It was particularly critical of Ofsted inspections and highlighted concerns that publishing these reports resulted in a 'name and shame' culture. League tables were found to favour schools that were already advantaged, leaving poorer-performing establishments to struggle in a vicious circle of low staff and pupil morale, high staff turnover, and always being the last choice of parents. The report also warned that as more senior teaching staff retire, poor pay and conditions and unrealistic expectations could make it very hard to recruit successors.

(See also Financial Times, Sept. 10th 2008, p. 4; Guardian, Sept. 10th 2008, p. 7)

SATS facing the chop, says Balls

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 8th 2008, p. 2

The Schools Secretary has hinted that SATS tests, the controversial examinations for children as young as seven, could be abandoned after 2009. The SATS may be replaced with new externally marked tests tailored to each child's ability. Teachers would be able to put children forward for examinations when they had reached a certain level of attainment.

Trays to make way for china in new school eating drive

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept 4th 2008, p. 7

Following a sharp decline in numbers of pupils eating school dinners since 2006, the government is calling on head teachers to reverse the trend by treating pupils like paying customers. Meals should be served using china plates and proper cutlery instead of food trays. Pupils should also be able to book tables for lunch online to avoid queues, and younger children should be able to eat separately from older ones.

Watchdog admits public trust hit by Sats fiasco

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Sept. 1st 2008, p. 2

Isabel Nisbet, chief executive of Ofqual, the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator, has admitted that public faith in the examination system has been compromised by this year's Sats results fiasco. Following the dismissal of the firm responsible for the marking problems, and the introduction of revamped A levels and a new diploma qualification, Ofqual are hoping to improve public opinion of the examination process.

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