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

10,000 'golden handcuffs' for teachers

A. Frean

The Times, Jan. 13th 2009, p.8

Teachers who take jobs at the most poorly performing schools in disadvantaged areas are to receive 'golden handcuff' payments of 10,000. The package will be available to 500 schools and will be part funded by Government and part funded by the schools themselves. The announcement comes after research by the Conservatives indicates that poorer teenagers continue to fall behind their middle-class peers.

100,000 fail to get a good GCSE

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 15th 2009, p. 1 +2

Official figures show that around 100,000 teenagers failed to gain at least one GCSE at grade C or above in 2008. More than half of 16-year-olds, 342,000, missed gaining five good grades, including the key subjects of English and mathematics.

Absentee fathers must be sent their children's school reports

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 2nd 2009, p. 10

Schools are being told they must step up communications with absentee fathers to try to improve pupils' well-being and performance. Ministers will be revising school record regulations to underline the importance of keeping 'everybody with parental responsibility' aware of pupils' progress at school which in practice means sending fathers who do not live with their children copies of their end-of-term or end-of-year reports and exam results. Academics and teachers' leaders argue that more involvement by fathers in their children's education could be a key to improving the performance of boys in schools and the numbers going to university.

Big salaries fail to attract school heads

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 9th 2009, p. 4

Statistics show that salaries of up to 120,000 per year are failing to woo enough heads to run state schools. The percentage of schools having to re-advertise headship vacancies during the past year rose in the primary and secondary sectors. Headteachers' leaders said senior teachers and deputy heads were reluctant to apply because they felt heads were increasingly like football managers, facing the sack if their results were not good enough.

Brightest state pupils fail to get good grades at GCSE

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan 21st 2009, p. 15

Under the Labour government's Gifted and Talented Scheme, all schools in England select the brightest pupils for extra support, weekend tuition and after-school classes. Of children selected for the scheme, 14.3% failed to get five good GCSEs in 2007.

Class divide opens up in teaching of languages

R.Garner

The Independent, Jan. 16th, 2009, p.10

School league tables published by the government exposed a stark divide between state and private schools in the teaching of modern languages. The government have been criticised for making the study of modern languages optional for 14 to 16 year olds.

Diplomas special report

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Jan. 8th-14th 2009, p. 19-21

Presents results of a survey exploring the views of both young people and professionals on the new diploma qualifications introduced in September 2008, followed by interviews with six young people who have opted to take the new courses. Results show that the diplomas are not being effectively promoted by schools.

Encouraging engagement: an emerging role for school based family workers in English secondary schools

R. Rose

The International Journal of School Disaffection, vol. 6, no. 1, 2008, p. 5-11

Government initiatives in the UK have led to some innovative approaches for the support of young people who may be at risk of exclusion, disaffection or disengagement from the education system. This paper describes one such initiative, the use of family workers in schools, and considers how service users perceived this system. Research was conducted over a period of 18 months in two English secondary schools and semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were conducted with key stakeholders and providers involved in the schools including students, teachers, headteachers, parents, professionals from other agencies, other school staff and local authority representatives. The work in the schools reported in this paper indicates that the deployment of family workers has had a positive impact on ensuring that students perceived as vulnerable and at risk both remain within the education system and develop a more positive attitude to schooling.

Exam board promises to give schools better GCSE results

W. Mansell and G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 14th 2009, p. 6

Edexcel has produced teachers' guides promising to give pupils 'more accessible' questions. This disclosure led to criticisms that the board was competing for schools' business by promising easier examinations and better results than their rivals.

Exam boards accused of spin to hide A-level grade inflation

T. Clark & P. Curtis

The Guardian, Jan. 20th 2009, p. 7

Last summer saw the 26th consecutive increase in A-level pass rates, with the proportion of students achieving an A rising to 25.9%. Three national exam boards have been accused of spinning last summer's results in a 'desperate' attempt to convince the public that achieving a top grade is not becoming easier.

Get on the bus: changes to school transport legislation

S. Thornthwaite

ChildRight, issue 252, 2009, p. 27-29

Gives an overview of the development of the school transport system in England since its introduction in the 1940s. School transport provision in England is niggardly by international standards and numbers of children eligible for free services is falling. The fundamental problem is the constant redirection of funding to other causes, leading to an increased walking distance and fewer students entitled to free transport.

Leadership not poverty to blame for poor exam results, says Balls

A. Frean

The Times, Jan. 16th, 2009, p.25

The Children's Secretary, Ed Balls has criticised an 'excuses culture' which blames poor school performance on poverty and has emphasized the importance of strong school leadership for improving results in schools with a high number of pupils from disadvantaged areas. His comments have been heavily criticised by teachers' groups and unions as well as the Child Poverty Action Group.

(See also The Guardian, Jan. 16th 2009, p. 8)

More than half of pupils fail to hit GCSE targets

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 15th 2009, p. 16

According to official statistics, more than half of the nation's teenagers are still leaving school without reaching the Government benchmark of five A* to C grade GCSEpasses, including maths and English. The figures, which were released on the eve of the school exam league tables, show just 47.6 per cent of children obtain the top-grade passes. This means around 314,000 pupils a year still fail to clear the hurdle despite millions of pounds being invested by ministers in improving standards in secondary schools.

(See also, The Times, Jan. 15th, 2009, p.3)

Ofsted's new mission - to get rid of boring teachers

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Jan. 5th 2009, p. 1 & 8

Ofsted's chief inspector of schools, Christine Gilbert, is to launch a crackdown on 'boring' teaching in response to concerns that children's behaviour is deteriorating because they are not paying attention in class. Inspectors will be told to give more advice to struggling schools on how to present stimulating lessons.

Peter's story: reconceptualising the UK SEN system

C. Truss

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 23, 2008, p. 365-377

This paper addresses the broad question of whether or not the UK SEN system works from the perspective of the parent and the child, at the moment when a need first becomes apparent. The sparse literature on this topic suggests parental experiences may differ substantially, but there is growing evidence from small-scale studies that parents are unhappy with the situation and children's needs are not being met. The findings of a longitudinal participant observation study are presented. It is argued that current conceptualisations of the SEN system are located exclusively or primarily within the educational domain and fail to take into account the full complexity of the system. To access support via the SEN system, a child and his/her parents have to interact within three distinct domains: educational, legal and medical, and in each of which the child occupies a qualitatively different space as 'pupil', 'case' and 'patient'. There is scope for errors and failings to occur within each domain, at multiple levels, and in the interstices between domains. The author argues that this alternative 'whole systems' perspective on the SEN system transcends current conceptualisations and that existing solutions proposed to improve the SEN system will not work unless they take into account these complex dynamics.

Public expenditure

Children, Schools and Families Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC46)

This report argues that, due to the financial crisis, future increases in education spending are likely to be minimal and urges councils to start planning for a 'much more austere future'. Plans at risk include the government's proposals to rebuild every secondary school in England, which may have to be curtailed.

School governors pay for pupils' failure

A. Frean

The Times, Jan. 16th, 2009, p.25

St. Bede's Catholic Science College in Boston , Lincolnshire has had its entire governing body removed and replaced by an interim board following results which put it second to last in government league tables. Only 7 per cent of pupils achieved 5 A* to C grades in the GCSE results last summer.

School-leaving age may rise to 18 in effort to tackle unemployment

A. Seager

The Guardian, Jan. 5th 2009, p. 7

The government is considering the introduction of a number of measures in an attempt to combat the expected huge rise in unemployment this year, including raising the school-leaving age to 18 immediately and offering employers a national insurance 'holiday' for new workers they employ. The government has already introduced legislation that would ensure that all 16-and-17-year-olds remain in school, training or on an apprenticeship scheme until they are 18, but this only applies to children who will be 11 this year, and so will not be effective in practice for another five years.

Schools 'are not ready' for special needs shake up

A. Frean

The Times, Jan 2nd 2009, p. 16

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has suggested that the requirement for all special needs coordinators (Sencos) to have a formal teaching qualification should be delayed until a government review has been undertaken. The government announced last year that from September 2009 all Sencos appointed would be required to be qualified teachers and to receive further special needs training. The ASCL has argued that the new requirements undermine previous efforts to enable non-teachers to take on these roles as a means of reducing teachers' workloads.

Secretly for sale: the schools afraid of causing panic exodus

A. Frean

The Times, Jan. 8th 2009, p. 3

The effect of the economic downturn on private schools is such that at least 25 independent schools are seeking buyers. It is expected that more schools will come on to the market over the new term as parents decide that they are no longer able to afford to pay private fees.

Ticking the right boxes: reliable, faster and cheaper alternative to SATs

T. Burkard

Centre for Policy Studies, 2009

Argues that pupils should be set multiple choice questions for their Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) at the age of 11 instead of being asked to write essays. Claims that the drive to make SATS more relevant to pupils' lives means that they are now of little value, with children being given marks for writing 'absolute rubbish'. Suggests that multiple choice questions would be quicker to mark, cheaper and a more accurate test of knowledge and ability.

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