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

10 per cent of pupils fail to master maths

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 19th 2008, p. 20

Findings have emerged from an investigation into primary school maths teaching by the National Audit Office that show 66,000 children - about one in 10 - left primary school this summer still struggling to master the subject after failing to reach the required standard for their age in national curriculum tests. More than 30,000 11-year-olds are four years behind in maths skills when they arrive at secondary school, despite 2.3bn a year spent teaching the subject.

(See also The Guardian, Nov. 19th 2008, p. 5)

Balls wants to end pupils' chip runs


Daily Telegraph, Oct. 29th 2008, p. 2

The schools secretary has said that pupils should be kept in school at lunchtimes to stop them buying junk food at local takeaways. Councils should also stop takeaways from opening near schools. Without such action, there would be no point in introducing healthier school meals.

Big rise in parental complaints about school admissions

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Nov. 3rd 2008, p. 6

The number of official complaints made against schools by parents, alleging that admissions rules have been broken, has dramatically increased this year. Complaints have been disproportionately high against religious schools and selective grammar schools.

(See also The Guardian, Nov. 4th 2008, p. 12)

Boys lagging behind as infant gender gap widens

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 21st 2008, p. 6

Official figures show that girls outperform boys in every area of early development, including basic literacy, communication and imaginative play. This suggests that the majority of boys are not fully prepared for lessons when they start compulsory schooling. The gender gap persists as children move through primary and secondary school. At the age of 16, almost 70% of girls gain five good GCSEs compared to 60% of boys. It is claimed that more tailored preschool education would lead to a dramatic narrowing of the attainment gap among teenagers. Experts maintain that boys are naturally late starters and are being further disadvantaged by the government's Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum.

City academies improving at faster rate than state schools

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 28th 2008, p. 22

A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers has found that the Government's flagship academies are showing bigger improvements in exam results than the rest of the country's state schools but they exclude more pupils and have reduced the proportion of youngsters from poor homes they take in. The report from the consultancy group states that there is 'insufficient evidence' to conclusively judge whether or not the programme is the best way to improve school standards and also warns that some academy sponsors, such as private businesses, religious groups and charities, are becoming disillusioned because they believe the Government is watering down their freedoms. As a result, the researchers believe ministers will face a challenge to meet their declared target of setting up 400 academies nationwide.

Dumbing down of science exams leaves generation of students 'unable to deal with real problems'

N. Woolcock

The Times, Nov. 27th 2008, p. 27

The Royal Society of Chemistry has suggested that the teaching of science in schools fails to meet the standards of previous generations and leaves young people unable to apply what knowledge they have gleaned from their studies to real-life situations. The society has set up an online petition urging the government to review the teaching of science in British schools.

Education, education, education: the Third Way and PFI

C. Connolly, G. Martin and A. Wall

Public Administration, vol. 86, 2008, p. 951-986

Many of New Labour's policy initiatives during their first term in power emanated from an ideology developed by Prof. Anthony Giddens, which became known as the Third Way. New Labour's version of the Third Way led them to find alternatives to state provision and government control, promote wealth creation through fiscal prudence, match rights with responsibilities and foster a culture of duty within strong communities. One example of the Third Way being put into practice is the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). The research reported in this article seeks to investigate the relationship between a stated ideology (Third Way) and its practical implementation, as reflected in specific PFI contracts in the Northern Ireland education sector.

Failing schools turned around by 'superheads'

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 17th 2008, p. 10

Figures show that in the first year of a scheme to identify 'superheads', national leaders in education who could turn around failing schools, a total of 19 schools were removed from the list of failing establishments held by Ofsted, or had a notice to improve withdrawn. In addition, almost all of the struggling schools in the programme saw a major improvement in their national curriculum test and GCSE exam results. The report detailing the findings was commissioned by the National College for School Leadership, the new body set up to provide training for heads.

Five-year inquiry exposes academies to selection claims

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Nov. 14th 2008, p. 2

A five-year independent study is set to reveal that results at the newly created academies have improved markedly but the proportion of pupils taken from the poorest homes has decreased. The findings appear to support claims by critics that more able students are selected to attend academies in order to boost academic results.

Good GCSEs, but 'coasting' schools must try harder

N. Woolcock

The Times, Nov. 14th 2008, p.31

Ed Balls, the education secretary, has written to every local authority to request that they take action to address the problem of 'coasting' schools. Mr Balls has suggested that overall respectable GCSE results can mask poor progress and has given Councils until the end of January to notify the Department for Children, Schools and Families about schools which they believe to be coasting.

Government launches enquiry into academy funds allegations

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Nov. 28th 2008, p. 11

An inquiry into a sponsor of academy schools has been ordered by the government following accusations that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been mismanaged. Concerns about Edutrust were raised by the charity's former chief executive and are set to be investigated by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Grammar schools turn children into failures, says Balls

G. Paton

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

The secretary of state for children, schools and families has launched a fresh attack on grammar schools, claiming that the self-confidence of children who fail entrance tests is shattered. At the same time he unveiled extra funding to help failing secondary moderns (non-selective schools in grammar school areas).

'Intimidating' boys put girls off science, minister says and Separation is on the rise - but case is unproven

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 25th 2008, p. 6

The new Schools Minister, Sarah McCarthy-Fry advocates a return to single-sex education to encourage girls to become more interested in subjects like science and engineering. Her call comes just a week after Vicky Tuck, the president of the Girls' School Association, predicted a return to separate-sex schooling after four decades of numbers dwindling from 2,500 single-sex secondary schools in the 1960s to just 400 today. According to research, however, there is little evidence to show whether or not girls and boys perform better in single-sex establishments. A recent study by the University of Buckingham concluded that it made little difference to a pupil's results whether their parents had chosen a single-sex or co-educational school.

Loophole may see banned teachers return to schools

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 27th 2008, p. 10

Reports that only sex offenders and violent criminals will be automatically banned from teaching under a controversial new vetting system. This means that teachers guilty of fraud (for example helping pupils cheat in examinations) and those with a history of mental illness or substance abuse will be able to apply for new jobs.

More than 4,000 children under five excluded from school

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 7th 2008, p. 6

Figures released yesterday showed that 4,150 children aged five or under have been excluded from school or nursery - 1,450 for physical assaults on an adult and 1,010 for assaults on children. It is the first time the Government has produced such a detailed breakdown of primary-school exclusions although headteachers have repeatedly warned that more children who are starting school or nursery are unable to interact properly, mainly as a result of lack of communication at home and watching TV too young.

Only 80 pupils are expelled for bullying in a year

R. Winnett

The Daily Telegraph, Nov 17th 2008, p.2

Only 80 children were expelled from state secondary schools in England for bullying last year. Conservatives have accused ministers of making it more difficult for schools to permanently exclude pupils, which has led to bullies being returned to the classroom with their victims. 98.5% of pupils suspended for bullying then return to their school; the low rates of expulsion contradict government claims that it is determined to end bullying in schools.

Poor white pupils 'are the lowest achievers'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 12th 2008, p. 2

Study shows that the poorest white working class children are the lowest achieving group in England, apart from gypsy and traveller children. Researchers also looked at what could be done to break the cycle of underachievement and looked at how some schools bucked the trend.

Preparing to deliver the 14-19 education reforms in England

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08: HC 413)

The report examines the 14-19 education reform programme which aims to increase young people's participation in education and training beyond age 16 and raise their educational attainment. Central to the programme are new Diploma qualifications in 14 different occupational areas that offer a blend of academic and vocational learning. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (the Department) has involved universities and employers in designing the Diplomas and developing their content. As new qualifications, there is still much work to be done to convince parents, employers and universities that Diplomas are a credible alternative to existing qualifications. To help make the qualifications more understandable, the Department and its partners need to demonstrate clearly how Diplomas will help young people progress into further learning and employment.

Problematising parent-professional partnerships in education

N. Hodge and K. Runswick-Cole

Disability and Society, vol. 23, 2008, p. 637-647

Partnership between parents and teachers is a modern day mantra within the field of special educational needs. It is promoted as an unquestionable ideal, but is in practice highly problematic. This paper explores the issue by bringing together the different perspectives of two disability researchers: one is the parent of an autistic child, while the other was a teacher of autistic children for 20 years. The paper deconstructs the concept of partnership and then, drawing on the expertise of parents, suggests how empowering parent-professional relationships might be achieved.

Pupils are 'bullied for their beliefs'

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 17th 2008, p. 10

A survey of more than 1,000 pupils by the anti-bullying charity, Beat Bullying, showed that 23 per cent of school pupils were bullied as a result of their faith. In addition, 9 per cent of those with a faith were bullied as a result of wearing religious symbols to school. The findings have prompted anti-bullying campaigners to urge ministers to make it compulsory for schools to record all incidents of faith-based bullying as they have to do in cases of racism and homophobia.

Put to the test

C. Ryan

Public Finance, Oct. 10th-16th 2008, p. 19-21

The chaos surrounding the marking of Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) in Summer 2008 has led to calls for their abolition, amid claims that English children are over-tested and that this is distorting teaching. This article argues that the testing regime, in combination with regular inspections and performance league tables, has helped to improve schools.

State of the right to education in England

Children's Legal Centre


This report draws attention to the considerable areas in which education law and practice in England do not comply with international conventions on children's rights. The government has failed to implement the right to education in England in a number of key areas: Children in custody and immigration detention do not have a statutory right to education

  • There is a lack of suitable provision for children with special needs and disabilities
  • The government has failed to ensure equal access to education for vulnerable groups such as children in care, teenage mothers, refugee and asylum-seeking children, and children from minority groups
  • An unacceptably high number of children are excluded from school every year, or miss school because of bullying
  • Children are denied the right to participate in many procedural and substantive aspects of the education system
  • The excessive use of testing has resulted in the narrowing of the curriculum and the creation of stress for pupils
  • Failure to include sex education in the national curriculum has had a negative impact on the quality of teaching in schools.

(See also ChildRight, issue 250, 2008, p. 11-28)

Struggling schools spared taking excluded pupils

N. Woolcock

The Times, Nov. 5th 2008, p. 23

Ed Balls has announced that poorly performing schools are to receive extra funding and will not have to take disruptive pupils. Secondary moderns in particular will benefit from the initiative. The non-selective schools, in local authority areas where grammar schools remain, can apply for the money if they are deemed to be doing badly. Mr Balls has named more than 600 schools, where 30 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSEs, as being on his National Challenge register.

Teachers decide to go private

N. Woolcock

The Times, Nov. 28th 2008, p. 36

Francis Green, a professor of Economics at the University of Kent has told the Westminster Education Forum that there has been a huge rise in the number of teachers moving from teaching in the state to the independent sector. It has been suggested that this is a response to the large class sizes and uncommitted children in state schools.

(See also The Independent, Nov. 28th 2008, p. 23)

Testing, testing

D. Chaytor

Public Finance, Oct. 31st-Nov. 6th 2008, p. 15

The UK's strict school testing regime has helped push British children to the bottom of international league tables for academic attainment and general well-being. The author welcomes the recent abolition of compulsory Key Stage 3 SATS and the introduction of a new framework for the assessment of school performance. He calls for the introduction of light sampling techniques to track national standards at Key Stage 2, and for schools to be assessed on their success in boosting pupils' motivation, and raising their self-esteem.

Tougher state school admission rules

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 4th 2008, p. 1 + 2

A report from the Office of the School Adjudicator has found that at least two thirds of schools are failing to comply with admissions policies introduced by government two years ago. This means that middle class children are getting the lion's share of places at the best schools. Schools should be made to follow the same rules on a number of key admission criteria such as how they measure the distance between a family's home and the school. Government and faith groups should draw up model questionnaires for use in establishing religious adherence to stop schools asking for banned information about family background.

We are failing our bright pupils admits schools minister Balls

G. Paton

The Daily Telegraph, Nov 14th 2008, p.16

The most intelligent pupils or those with special needs are often neglected between the ages of 11 and 16, Ed Balls admit. According to Government figures, around one in seven children - 86,000 a year - fail to make enough progress in literacy in the first four years of secondary school. Mr Balls ordered local authorities to draw up a hit-list of all schools that should 'be getting better results.' The move marks a policy shift following a previous Government focus on the very worst schools. Schools could be deemed to be coasting if they make little or no improvement in results over several years, if their Ofsted ratings are poor, if head teachers are ineffective or if pupils from deprived homes perform particularly badly in comparison to other children.

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