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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2009): Education - UK - schools

Academies are 'damaging standards' in state schools

R. Garner

The Independent, Dec. 22nd 2008, p. 12

A report published by researchers at the University of London's Institute of Education has concluded that academies are failing to carry out one of the first remits given to them by former prime minister Tony Blair, that is, to collaborate with neighbouring schools to drive up standards throughout the state sector. The research found that the Government's flagship academies can have a detrimental effect on standards in neighbouring schools as most academies have higher exclusion rates than the average state school and while neighbouring schools are often forced to take in some of these excluded pupils, academies rarely, if ever, offer places to students excluded from other institutions.

(See also The Guardian, Dec. 22nd 2008, p. 5 and The Daily Telegraph, Dec. 22nd 2008, p.10 )

Between a rock and a hard place: parents' attitudes to the inclusion of children with special educational needs in mainstream and special schools

K. Runswick-Cole

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 35, no. 3, 2008, p. 173-180

This paper reports on parents' attitudes to the placement of their children with special educational needs in mainstream and special schools as well as their attitudes to inclusion. The author sets her review within the current policy and legislative context. As part of the study, 24 parents were contacted and interviewed regarding their attitudes to inclusion and the views of seven professionals were also sought. The findings reveal that parents' attitudes to mainstream and special schooling are influenced by their engagement with models of disability. In addition, the parents' experiences suggest that, despite the shifts in policy since 1997, the process of inclusive education continues to be fragile.

Confusion about inclusion: patching up or system change?

K. Wedell

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 35, no. 3, 2008, p. 127-135

This article looks back over 35 years of developments in the worlds of special and inclusive education and addresses the complexities, such as the standards agenda and policy on inclusion, that have led some commentators to adopt controversial positions as well as engendering heated debate. The author also discusses a dilemma that is emerging as a key issue in the field, that is the relationship between 'difference', stigma, equality of opportunity and 'special' or separate provision. The response provided in this article takes, as a starting point, the notion of a flexible education system that could recognize diversity among learners as while making provision for all. The author argues that all young people should be valued as individuals so that the differences between them can be acknowledged without prejudice and only in this way can the artificial separation of special educational needs policy and mainstream thinking be ended.

Could do better: education policy since 1983

T. Jeffs

Youth and Policy, no. 100, 2008, p. 139-152

The education system operating in England and Wales in 1983 was based on the Education Act 1944. Subsequently the governments of Thatcher, Blair and Brown introduced sweeping reforms aimed at creating a market in education, destroying union power, promoting an enterprise culture and emasculating local government. Schools were removed from the control of democratically elected local authorities; a prescriptive National Curriculum was introduced; quasi-markets were created, forcing young people to think of themselves as consumers rather than pupils; and a regime of stringent national tests and school league tables based on performance was imposed.

Equity in education: responding to context

M. Ainscow and others

Centre for Equity in Education, University of Manchester, 2008

This report investigates how policies designed to promote joined up responses to local inequalities in the education system are working out in practice. It argues that the model for setting national targets to hold services to account must change. There is a deep flaw in the assumption that if each service meets Its targets, then the net gains will be enough to resolve inequities. The report suggests that the factors leading to inequities cannot be tackled so simply, and that deeper analysis and discussion are needed at the local level. There is evidence that where local authorities have tried to establish a common framework for co-ordinating local actions there were often problems with making this work in practice.

(For summary see Race Equality Teaching, Autumn 2008, p. 41-44, 46)

Far East pupils beat English in maths and science tables

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 10th 2008, p. 10

According to the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), English children aged 10 to 14 consistently achieve better results than those from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. However, they are still lagging behind children from Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. Other top-performing countries, such as Canada, Finland and Belgium, were excluded from the league tables. Critics say this result is a modest return on the public money invested every year on core subjects.

Fee-paying schools told to offer extra free places to the poor

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 17th 2008, p. 1 +2

New Charity Commission guidance directs private schools to offer more free places to children from poor homes in order to demonstrate 'public benefit' and retain their charitable status. Schemes could be funded by raising fees for existing parents.

Half-hour session 'boosts reading age by two years'

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 28th 2008, p. 14

The Reading Recovery Programme is run by Every Child a Reader, a partnership of English Education Authorities, the government and business leaders. A pilot scheme tested by the Programme on more than 5,000 six-year-olds with serious reading difficulties showed that daily one-to-one half hour literacy sessions could improve their reading age by two years in less than five months. The government is now planning to spend 144m over three years on similar schemes for the lowest achievers.

Half of grammar school pupils had private tuition

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 19th 2008, p. 6

A survey of almost 550 parents provides further evidence that selective state schools are being monopolised by children from ambitious middle-class families. Results show that 81% of parents coached their child to pass the entrance examination. Half paid for private tutors while the rest taught the children themselves at home. Those using hired help spent an average of 700.00 on fees.

Independent review of primary curriculum: interim report

J. Rose


The interim report from this major review of the curriculum proposes that primary school children should be taught by theme, with traditional lessons in history, geography and science disappearing. Literacy, numeracy and ICT should remain priorities, but other subjects should be grouped under six 'learning areas or themes', which schools will apply to real life situations. The six areas are: understanding English, communication and languages; mathematical understanding; scientific and technological understanding; human, social and environmental understanding; understanding physical health and well-being; and understanding the arts and design. Topics covered could include sex and relationships, managing money, healthy eating, dealing with violent behaviour and internet safety. The report also recommends that:

  1. Children born in the Summer should be allowed to start school part-time to give them more chance to develop
  2. Children should be given more help to acclimatise to secondary school

Leading multi-ethnic schools: adjustment in concepts and practices for engaging with diversity

S. Shah

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 29, 2008, p. 523-536

The student population across the world is increasingly reflective of diverse cultures, religions and ethnicities which can become a challenge for educational leaders, teachers and policy-makers in the absence of an understanding of the range of knowledge sources people draw for directing their beliefs and daily practices. This paper explores the multi-ethnic context in Britain with a focus on Muslim students in English secondary schools, and argues for drawing on diverse ethnic knowledge sources to inform and enrich approaches towards managing diversity. It also discusses the concept of Adab derived from Muslim ethics and philosophy, and debates possible contributions of such conceptual adaptations towards improving educational engagement and performance.

Left-handed children 'do badly at school'

R. Garner

The Independent, Dec. 2nd 2008, p. 13

According to a study of national curriculum test results carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol for the Economic and Social Research Council, children who are left-handed or ambidextrous perform worse at school than right-handers. The researchers, who looked at the results of more than 10,000 children, reveal that left-handers perform less well in IQ tests and tests for 11-and-14-year-olds. Left-handed girls fare worse than boys, as while left-handers from both sexes start off performing worse, girls fail to catch up with their right -handed peers during later school life.

Local Authority performance targets for under achieving pupil groups

Department for Children, Schools and Families


This consultation presents proposals to alter target setting categories for black and minority ethnic groups. It presents a new model for local authority statutory targets for under-achieving pupil groups. The current model based on 17 ethnic groups would be replaced with a focus on groups that under-perform nationally, including pupils eligible for free school meals. In addition, the Department proposes building into the regulations a trigger to ensure targets are set for these groups if they underachieve in a particular local authority. Wherever the attainment of any of these groups falls ten percentage points or more below the local authority average for that age cohort, LAs will be required to set targets for that group.

(For comment see Race Equality Teaching, vol. 27, Autumn 2008, p. 39-40)

Million poor pupils denied free meals

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Dec. 16th 2008, p. 1 & 12

Half or pupils from families in poverty do not receive free school meals as a result of flaws in the funding system. A million children have been affected because the income threshold to qualify for free school lunches is set lower than the current level used to define poverty. Schools are also missing out on funding as extra money for teaching is available based on the number of pupils eligible for free school meals.

Multi-agency working: what are the perspectives of SENCOs and parents regarding its development and implementation?

P. Barnes

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 35, 2008, p. 230-240

This study revealed overwhelming support among SENCOs and parents for increased multi-agency activity among the school-age population. There was a general consensus that either the key worker/single point-of-contact model or a collaborative teamwork approach, working within the community, accessed directly by families and SENCOs, would be the best way forward for supporting vulnerable children. Respondents perceived that a single point of contact would improve communication and information-sharing, and that multi-agency team working would improve support to both the child and the family, in addition to improving the efficiency of the system. In essence, multi-agency working was perceived to be the means whereby many frustrations and anxieties, encountered within a fragmented system of time-consuming multiple appointments, assessments and poor information sharing would be alleviated.

Mathematics performance in primary schools: getting the best results

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08: HC 1151)

Since the late 1990s, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (the Department) has had a specific strategy aimed at improving performance in primary mathematics. This report evaluates performance in primary mathematics and the impact of the Strategy and related interventions, through detailed examination of data on pupil performance and characteristics, and of qualitative data on how the Strategy is being implemented. In particular this report evaluates the Department's performance in:

  • raising attainment and progress in mathematics and narrowing achievement gaps between certain pupils and their peers
  • improving the delivery and effectiveness of the national strategy's resources and interventions and their impact on pupil and school performance

Encouragingly, the report finds that improvement programmes targeted at lower performing primary schools are having a positive impact, with nearly 85% of primary schools achieving the department's target for the proportion of pupils reaching the expected standard in their final year of primary school.

New exam outranks A-level for a place at university

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 18th 2008, p. 1 + 2

In September 2008, Cambridge University International Examinations launched a new Pre-U examination which is free of coursework and assessed through final exams. The second highest grade in the new examination will score above the newly introduced A* grade in traditional A-levels. Fifteen state and 35 independent schools are running courses. It is likely that more sixth-formers will sit the Pre-U as competition for places at leading universities increases.

Playground soldiers

J. Lepper

Children and Young People Now, Nov.27th-Dec.3rd 2008, p. 20-21

The government is investing in military style education programmes to help disaffected teenagers. It has funded the charity Skill Force, which provides young people with learning support from ex-military personnel. It is also encouraging the establishment of cadet corps in state schools. There are plans for cadet forces based in independent schools to help nearby state schools set up similar schemes.

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 14-19 education reform programme aims to increase young people's participation in education and training beyond age 16 and raise their educational attainment. Central to the program are new Diploma qualifications in 14 different occupational areas that offer a blend of academic and vocational learning. This report took evidence from the Department for Children, Schools and Families on giving young people access to Diplomas; reducing complexity and communicating simply; and having the capability to deliver the reforms. The report concluded that:

  • there is still much work to be done to convince parents, employers and universities that Diplomas are a credible alternative to existing qualifications
  • in order to provide good quality opportunities for young people across the full range of Diplomas, local providers of education and training must collaborate closely
  • some consortia preparing to offer the Diploma are less well advanced than others and these will need increasing assistance from the Department if they are to be able to offer Diplomas in later years.

Pupils punished for good writing by SATs markers

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 16th 2008, p. 6

Submissions from teaching unions to the Sutherland inquiry into the 2008 SATs marking fiasco reveal a catalogue of errors by ETS Europe, the private contractor in charge of marking, including examination papers being left uncollected at schools for up to two weeks, marked test papers being returned to the wrong schools, gross inconsistencies in marking papers, and poor quality support from a telephone helpline.

School admissions code: presented to Parliament pursuant to Section 85(3) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998

Department for Children, Schools and Families


This new admissions code comes into force in February 2010. It aims to prevent middle class children from dominating the best comprehensive schools. To this end it bans schools from asking for any supplementary information about an applicant's family background, including marital status, criminal convictions, or parental occupation. Schools are also forbidden to ask for birth certificates or other documents such as passports which contain information about parents.

School and choice from a household resource perspective: preliminary finings from a North of England case study

H. Jarvis and S. Alvanides

Community, Work and Family, vol. 11, 2008, p. 385-403

Parents in England have been given the right to choose a school for their child other than that nearest their home. A case study of two schools in Newcastle shows how this has enabled middle class parents with private cars and family members available for the school run to send their children to good schools some distance from where they live. Low-income families have poorer access to transport and tend to choose the local school. However encouraging middle-class parents to drive their children to school is not environmentally friendly, and the authors argue that government should be working to ensure that all local schools are equally good across the country.

Schooling and looked-after children: exploring contexts and outcomes in Standard Attainment Tests (SATS)

D. Davey and A. Pithouse

Adoption and Fostering, vol. 32, no.3, 2008, p. 60-72

This article outlines findings from a longitudinal case study which ran from 2002 to 2006 and explored the educational achievement of young people looked after in one local authority in South Wales. Among this group were 14 young people at a point one year before taking their Standard Attainment Tests (SATs). These were followed to the age of 15 when they would be eligible to take GCSEs. This article focuses mainly on the outcome of the SATS and the looked after arrangements of the 14 young people in the year leading up to these important tests. The SATS results are presented in a context of school attendance, type and stability of care placements and education moves. Associations between schooling and separation are explored using an analysis of trajectories and outcomes that reveal how and why some young people achieve while others do not.

Spanish overtakes German as languages decline finally halts

R. Garner

The Independent, Dec. 4th 2008, p. 10

Spanish has replaced German as the second most popular language learnt in schools, it was revealed yesterday. In addition, the number of state schools offering Mandarin as an option has more than trebled in the past two years from one in 25 to more than one in seven. The figures were revealed in the annual census of secondary schools compiled by the Centre for Information on Language Teaching, which also showed that the dramatic decline in study of languages has halted for the first time since learning a language was made optional for 14-16-year-olds. However, there has been no increase in take-up.

Special or inclusive education: future trends

L. Florian

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 35, 2008, p. 202-208

This paper considers how we can respond to human differences in ways that include learners in, rather than exclude them from, what is ordinarily available. It focuses on the issue of practice and what might be done better to prepare teachers to respond to difference in ways that go beyond the methods that are currently available. It acknowledges but does not resolve the dilemmas of difference. Rather, it suggests that a starting point is in practice: the things that teachers can do that give meaning to the concept of inclusion, regardless of the often restrictive structures of schooling and the constraining nature of target approaches to educational outcomes.

The Sutherland Inquiry: and independent inquiry into the delivery o f the national curriculum tests in 2008: a report to Ofqual and the Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09: HC 62)

The report into the 2008 SATS marking fiasco clears the Department for Children, Schools and Families and Secretary of State Ed Balls of blame. Instead it accuses the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority of complacency and incompetence in not making adequate checks on the reputation and track record of its American contractor responsible for marking, ETS Europe.

Teachers, social class and underachievement

M. Dunne and L. Gazeley

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 29, 2008, p. 451-463

Addressing the 'social class attainment gap' in education has become a government priority in England. This article reports on a small research study undertaken in order to develop a clearer understanding of underachievement of working class pupils within the classroom. The study focused on local social processes by exploring how secondary school teachers identified and addressed underachievement within their classrooms. The analysis revealed that teachers' identifications of underachieving pupils overlapped with, and were informed by, their tacit understanding of pupils' social class position. While many teachers resisted the influence of social class, they still used stereotypes to justify their practice and expectations, positioning pupils within educational and occupational hierarchies. The authors conclude there is a need for more systematic attention to the micro-social processes that create the conditions within which working class underachievement is produced.

Teachers may face sanctions for bad behaviour at weekends

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Dec. 19th 2008, p. 20

Teachers who get drunk and behave badly at weekends could face disciplinary action. A new code of conduct, published in draft form, says teachers could face sanctions if they damage 'public trust and confidence' in their profession. Keith Bartley, the Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council for England (GTC), the profession's watchdog, said teachers needed to 'consider their place in society' and act as role models.

(See also The Times, Dec. 19th 2008, p. 29)

Teachers under pressure

M. Galton and J. MacBeath

London: Sage, 2008

This book is based on research carried out over a five-year period which began with an exploration of teachers' lives in primary schools in 2002. This was partly prompted by a report to government by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2001, suggesting that the tasks teachers performed could be divided into 'low'- and 'high'-level activities with a recommendation that the former could either be done by less well-qualified staff or automated using the latest information technology. Following the first study in primary schools, these issues were explored in a secondary context, with a third study focusing on inclusive policies, which had shown up as a recurring theme in the two prior studies. The majority of chapters in the book focus on these issues within a UK context. However, one chapter examines the international perspective, charting common themes in four countries, namely Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.

What future for special schools and inclusion? Conceptual and professional perspectives

B. Norwich

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 35, 2008, p. 136-143

This article examines the roles that special schools can play within inclusive educational systems and notes that the percentage of young people in special schools in England has remained fairly stable over a number of years, despite inclusive policy initiatives. The author suggests that policy makers and practitioners have found it hard to understand how a broad and shifting notion like inclusion should be operationalised, especially when valued positions, such as meeting individual needs and providing a sense of belonging and participation, can appear to generate such tensions and contradictions. He puts forward a multi-dimensional model that involves identification, participation, placement, curriculum, and teaching and governance and shows how schools, whether mainstream or special, need to strive towards commonality in terms of all five dimensions rather than simply in terms of placement.

White boys on free meals fall further behind in GCSEs

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Dec. 12th 2008, p. 20

Government figures have been released indicating that white working class boys have fallen further behind their classmates in terms of GCSE results this year. Just 16% achieved the government's target of five good GCSEs including English and maths, 32 percentage points behind the national average of 48%.

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