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

A-level exams system is 'not fit for purpose'

R. Garner

The Independent, Oct. 8th 2008, p. 4

According to Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former chief schools inspector who headed an inquiry into the future of secondary education, A-levels 'strangle scholarship' and are not 'fit for purpose' in preparing students for university. He has called for a massive reduction in the number of resits for pupils - possibly leading to an outright ban - and a return to the days of the terminal examination at the end of the two-year course.

Academy scheme to expand

R. Garner

The Independent, Oct. 17th 2008, p. 22

The Government has given the go ahead to turn 70 more state schools into privately-sponsored academies by 2010. The schools are selected on the basis of their examination results: those in which only 30 per cent of pupils achieve five A* - C grades are the primary target.

Bridging the divide

M. Baker

Public Finance, Sept. 5th -11th 2008, p. 16-19

The introduction of the new work-related diplomas in September 2008 is the biggest curriculum and assessment reform in English secondary schools since the launch of GCSEs. However, there are concerns that they may be seen as a second class qualification as they are being ignored by grammar and independent schools. Head teachers are also becoming concerned about the complexity of the system, since as well as the three basic levels of diploma (foundation, higher and advanced), there are also progression and extended versions. Moreover, the work-related nature of the diplomas requires collaboration between schools and further education colleges, which is proving challenging. Finally, the practical vocational content of the diplomas has been watered down to such an extent that they will not produce 'job-ready' students, and many non-academic pupils may decide they are pointless.

Children of five to be given sex education

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 23rd 2008, p. 1

In order to cut rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, children at primary school will be given sex education from the age of five. At secondary level, schools will be asked to improve the ways in which issues such as marriage and civil partnerships are covered. More teachers will be trained to deliver the lessons, as it is feared that too many are embarrassed about having to discuss sex in the classroom. Lessons on drug and alcohol abuse will also be reformed.

(See also Independent Oct. 24th 2008, p.4; Times, Oct. 24th 2008, p.21)

Could do better

C. Ryan

Public Finance, Sept. 19th-25th 2008, p. 24-26

The 45bn Building Schools for the Future programme should replace or refurbish every English secondary school by the early 2020s. However, the programme has been subject to criticism for slow procurement, inner-city bias and poor design and has now been given a makeover. Local Education Partnerships, which bring together the local authority, a private builder, and the Partnership for Schools quango, have emerged and are planning the delivery of the programme across a given area. Local authorities had originally been scheduled to benefit from the programme in rigid 'waves'. These have now been replaced by a more flexible process, which allows better prepared authorities to bring forward their most deserving cases more quickly.

Education system must tackle disadvantage says Lammy

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Oct. 27th 2008, p. 8

According to the universities minister, David Lammy, there are still too many inequalities in the education system which prevent children from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to study for a degree. For example, the proportion of university students who are black Caribbean males remains unchanged at just over 1%, and they are much more likely to be at local universities than at academically elite institutions. Lammy believes that government, universities and schools need to increase efforts to tackle these inequalities.

Faith schools worst for flouting entry rules

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 10th 2008, p. 12

An inquiry has unearthed 'widespread' breaches of laws governing how children are allocated places in primary and secondary schools. Faith schools are among the worst offenders, with many illegally asking parents for information about their occupation and marital status. Some schools are also failing to give priority to children in care. The schools are not intentionally trying to select pupils in defiance of the law, but are victims of administrative confusion.

(See also the Independent, Oct. 10th 2008, p.2;Guardian, Oct. 10th 2008,p.15)

Good practice in re-engaging disaffected and reluctant students in secondary schools

Ofsted

2008

Inspectors surveyed 29 secondary schools with a good record for getting badly behaved pupils engaged with education. The report characterises these pupils as causing low level disruption, being suspended from school or being absent for at least a fifth of the previous year. Rewards, such as opportunities to go on trips or gain awards, are powerful incentives for pupils who struggle with school. Rewards encourage pupils to apply themselves more and to achieve better GCSE grades. The most effective schools also promote positive relationships with parents, which makes behaviour easier to manage. However, inspectors also warn that some parents resist school overtures and many collude with pupils against teachers.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Oct. 20th 2008, p.1)

The Head speaks

J. Lovelock (editor)

Buckingham: University of Buckingham Press, 2008

Ten head teachers from leading private schools review to-day's educational landscape in England. They warn that academic study is becoming 'blasphemy' in schools as the curriculum increasingly focuses on cutting teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and obesity. They claim that the curriculum has become a welfare tool for curing society's ills at the expense of genuine scholarship. The ideological opposition to academic selection in state schools, coupled with increased focus on lifestyle classes, is creating a second class education system.

How to meet the 14-19 challenge

S. Learner

Children and Young People Now, Oct 1st-7th 2008, p. 22-23

The first five of the new diplomas which combine academic study with work-based learning were launched in September 2008. The combination of academic and practical work means that schools will have to work in partnership with further education colleges to deliver them. This is a massive undertaking in terms of logistics, organisation and co-ordination. In 2010, 7bn will be transferred to local authorities from the Learning and Skills Council, which will be abolished. This will give local authorities responsibility for commissioning all education and training for 16-19-year-olds.

Men put off teaching by abuse fear

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 30th 2008, p. 2

The government's Training and Development Agency is campaigning to recruit more men into primary schools. Paranoia about paedophiles is stopping men becoming primary school teachers. The lack of male teachers may be having a serious adverse effect on boys' performance in the classroom, especially those from single-parent families without a father figure.

Parents left without guidance as school league tables delayed

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Oct. 1st 2008, p. 10

Ministers have been forced to postpone the publication of school league tables as a result of the Sats marking fiasco. The tables are due to be available next March, though there is no guarantee that they will definitely be released by then, leaving parents in most areas without the most up to date results for local schools, most of which require applications to be submitted by February.

Pay schools extra to recruit from poorest homes, says thinktank

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Oct. 28th 2008, p. 5

The thinktank Policy Exchange has proposed that schools receive substantial bonuses for pupils they recruit from the poorest homes. In a report that sets out how to make spending on education fairer, it says that England's school funding system is a 'disorganised mess' which can penalise schools in disadvantaged areas. The report also proposes that the current system be scrapped and replaced with a 'pupil premium' under which schools get an extra 3,000 for every child from the poorest postcodes.

Quality of dinners and sex lessons to be judged by Ofsted

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 10th 2008, p.2

Ofsted has announced plans to include the quality of meals and sex education lessons in their inspections. Schools will be assessed on how many pupils eat in their canteens, how many do PE, truancy rates and pupils' general well-being. However, plans to include obesity levels and teenage pregnancy rates in the scheme have been scrapped due to fears that schools would be blamed for wider social problems.

SATS tests for 14-year-olds are scrapped to ease exam stress

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 15th 2008, p. 1+2

The government has announced the abolition, with immediate effect, of national tests for 14-year-olds, which it considers serve no useful purpose. They are likely to be replaced by a system of random sampling, in which a small number of pupils would be tested to monitor national standards. The education secretary also announced the introduction of a new American-style report card which would give every individual primary and secondary school an overall grade from A to E.

(See also Independent, Oct.14th 2008, p.4; Times, Oct. 15th 2008, p.3; Guardian, Oct. 15th 2008, p.1+2)

School trips still deemed too risky

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 2nd 2008, p. 1

There are continuing concerns that some children are missing out on school trips amid fears over health and safety. However the education secretary is to launch a 4.5m drive to put the traditional school trip back on the timetable. A new 'kite mark' will identify outdoor activity centres, museums and stately homes suitable for educational visits and meeting safety requirements. Online guidance and training will help teachers plan outings, money be be available for more residential trips and awards will be given to schools for the most imaginative visits programmes.

Schools to be rated on number of pupils at top universities

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Oct. 3rd 2008, p. 19

In an attempt to increase pressure on schools to reduce pupil dropout rates at 16 and promote university to students in disadvantaged areas, school in England are to be rated according to the proportion of their pupils who move on to attend top universities. The proposals are part of a government backed report from the National Council of Education Excellence.

State schools failing to find governors

R. Garner

The Independent, Oct. 14th 2008, p. 14

According to a report published by researchers at Bath University, state schools are short of 40,000 governors. Inner-city schools have been worst hit by the crisis with few parents coming forward to help run them. The shortage has prompted the Schools Secretary Ed Balls to order an urgent review of the way state schools are run, amid claims that parents are increasingly reluctant to devote the time and energy to running schools.

'The trouble is they don't mix': self-segregation or enforced exclusion?

G. Crozier and J. Davies

Race Ethnicity and Education, vol. 11, 2008, p. 285-301

This article draws on a two-year study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) of South Asian parents and their children's views on the school experience. The research found that teachers frequently criticised the South Asian students for not mixing with their white peers, and not going on school trips, as well as not participating in extra-curricular activities, and the authors discuss this in relation to notions of integration, teachers' perceptions of gender and ethnic differences and issues of symbolic violence. The authors conclude that ethnocentrism, together with racist harassment, serves to relegate these young people to the margins, where they have little choice but to remain.

Warning: words can bite

M.J. Drummond

Early Education, no. 56, 2008, p. 3-4

Argues that standards as applied to education should refer to expectations of services, not of children. Expectations of services should be high (nothing but the best will do), whereas high expectations of children can be damaging, with youngsters who fail to reach uniform standards of achievement being discouraged and put off learning for life.

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