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

Academies are losing their freedom, say heads

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb 24th 2009, p. 6

Academy schools in England are sponsored and run by churches, entrepreneurs, charities and universities and are supposed to be free from local authority control. They can set their own curriculum, decide on teachers' pay and alter the academic year. However, there is concern that provisions in the Apprenticeships Bill currently before Parliament will encroach on their freedoms.

Call to swap primary tests for pupil parade

J. Sugden

The Times, Feb. 12th 2009, p. 13

National curriculum tests for 11-year-olds could be replaced by university-style graduation ceremonies in ideas proposed by Sir Tim Brighouse, the government's advisor on examinations. Graduation certificates would allow talents such as singing, as well as attainments in core subjects of English, mathematics and science to be recognised.

Curriculum, pedagogy and progression in 'sustained shared thinking'

I. Siraj-Blatchford

Early Education, Spring 2009, p. 6-7

This article looks at the learning processes underlying the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) approach to progression, and the relationship of those processes to a term used in EYFS guidance - sustained shared thinking.

Diplomas 'should be qualification of choice'

D. Turner

Financial Times, Feb 16th 2009, p.4

In an interview with the Financial Times, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, education minister responsible for the government's new-style diplomas, describes their merits and argues that they will better prepare school-leavers for the world of work. Her comments are seen as evidence of increasing government support for the scheme. Diplomas are intended as an alternative to GCSEs and A-levels and are currently available in four subjects: IT, construction, engineering, and creative and media. More subjects will be rolled out and by 2013 all pupils will have the right to take them.

Foreign recruits boost language learning

R. Garner

The Independent, Feb. 16th 2009, p. 12

A pioneering initiative under which foreign students studying in the UK are hired to teach languages in secondary schools is having a dramatic effect in reviving language lessons in disadvantaged areas. The scheme, reminiscent of the old-fashioned French assistants, is being trialled in three secondary schools in Brighton and may spread to other parts of the country. In one of the schools where the scheme began two years ago, the number of students studying a modern foreign language for GCSE has doubled and 54 per cent of those taking the subject gain a top grade A* to C-grade pass.

A hard lesson to learn

C. Ryan

Public Finance, Feb. 13th-19th 2009, p. 24-26

Since the death of Victoria Climbi?, the New Labour government has introduced reforms to integrate children's social services and education departments at local level. This has led to schools assuming greater responsibility for children's general health and welfare. Head teachers fear that this could be undermining the drive to raise educational standards for all, without contributing to the welfare of children in need of protection.

More private schools to become academies as admissions slump

J. Swaine

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 2nd 2009, p. 13

Increasing numbers of private schools could become state academies as the recession reduces admissions. Independent schools face having to convert or close as parents are forced to abandon the sector because they can no longer afford the fees.

National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth: evaluation

ACL Consulting

Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009

Labour's Gifted and Talented Scheme was set up in 1999 to provide extra support for the brightest children in state schools through after-school classes and weekend tuition. However, this research shows that the programme made little impact because schools have been unwilling to nominate pupils, possibly due to fears of promoting 'elitism'.

No-nonsense heads are praised for dragging sink schools to top of the class

N. Woolcock

The Times, Feb. 24th 2009, p. 18

An Ofsted report published today has praised a dozen 'sink' schools in deprived areas which have achieved excellent results against the odds. All of these schools have been transformed from near-failing institutions to attain results higher than the national average. For example, Robert Clack school in Barking, East London went from 18 per cent of students obtaining five good GCSE passes in 1996 to 80 per cent in 2008. The report has sought to discover the common practices which have been used in these schools.

Outcomes of in-school leadership development work: a study of three NCSL programmes

T. Simkins and others

Educational Management, Administration & Leadership, vol. 37, 2009, p. 29-50

This article present the results of a study of the impact of three programmes created by England's National College for School Leadership (NCSL), namely Leading from the Middle, the National Professional Qualification for Headship and the Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers. All three programmes incorporate a blended learning approach that includes an in-school component and the article focuses on factors within these programmes that influence learning from this. In particular, it looks at factors relating to individual participants and the school contexts within which they work. Finally, as well as relating the findings to previous literature on work-based learning, it suggests a broader model of the factors that influence the outcomes of leadership development programmes.

Schools face admissions spot checks

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Feb. 3rd 2009, p. 11

The new chief adjudicator of Schools, Ian Craig, has released plans to tighten up the policing of the school entry system to help ensure admissions practices are fair. Under the proposals schools which are suspected of breaking the admissions rules could face snap inspections.

Schools 'failing to fire the imagination'

N. Woolcock

The Times, Feb. 23rd 2009, p.10

The Cambridge Primary Review - the largest review of primary education in 40 years - has concluded that the current fixation with Key Stage tests has an adverse impact on the education of children in the UK. The review also concludes that the curriculum does not allow enough space for creativity and focuses too heavily on literacy and numeracy which are often taught in highly unimaginative ways.

Schools focus on C-grade pupils to rise higher in league tables

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 11th 2009, p. 10

Research by the Liberal Democrats has shown that schools are increasingly focusing on coaching borderline pupils so that they scrape a grade C pass at GCSE in order to improve their position in the national league tables. The government has threatened to close schools which fail to ensure that at least 30% of pupils achieve five A*-C passes at GCSE. This gives schools an extra incentive to focus on pupils predicted to get Ds in order to convert them to C grades.

Schools 'should decide what teachers earn'

R. Garner

The Independent, Feb. 6th 2009, p. 15

The shadow Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has pledged that under a Conservative government all state schools would be freed from teachers' national pay scales in order to award good classroom teachers higher salaries. Mr Gove announced that schools would receive a 'pupil premium' for every disadvantaged child on free school meals they took in. In effect, this would mean that the most disadvantaged schools would be in the best position to offer higher salaries to reward classroom excellence.

Schools urged to teach good parenting skills

R. Garner

The Independent, Feb. 2nd 2009, p. 9 & 26

A report published by the Church of England Children's Society recommends that all children should be taught good parenting skills in school. The report states that today's youngsters are under more stress than any previous generation because of family breakdown, increasing commercial pressures and exam stress leaving them 'anxious and troubled'. The report suggests ways to improve the quality of parenting. These include lessons in personal and social education at school covering the skills of parenting, relationships and child development. More than 35,000 people have contributed to the inquiry, with the lives of thousands of children being studied.

State schools to offer boarding from seven

R. Garner

The Independent, Feb. 10th 2009, p. 4

State boarding school places for children at risk of being taken into care will be available as part of the Government's flagship academies programme, which offers a growing number of schools with all-through education to children from the age of three to 19. There would be day-school provision for children aged three to seven and boarding places for children from seven up. Provision could spread to other state boarding schools as the three-to-19 school model is gaining popularity among ministers and education advisers.

Teachers at worst schools 'put best students off university'

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Feb. 2nd 2009, p. 12

According to the higher education minister, David Lammy, bright children in the lowest performing schools are being failed by teachers who are actively putting them off applying to the top universities for fear they 'won't fit'. The minister is set to unveil plans under which schools will be asked to identify high achieving pupils and provide them with intensive advice on higher education. The 1m package will support more than 700 schools identified as underperforming. They will be asked to appoint a senior teacher to talent-spot and promote universities to pupils. In addition, all schools will have to establish links with higher education institutions.

Teachers 'failing to spot' causes of bad behaviour

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Feb. 6th 2009, p. 11

According to the government's chief advisor on school discipline, Sir Alan Steer, bad behaviour in schools is being fuelled by teachers' failure to properly identify children with special educational needs. He said many schools were working well to identify pupils with a special educational need (SEN), but other pupils were simply being labelled as 'naughty' and not offered adequate support.

Teachers 'need lessons in breaking up fights'

R. Garner

The Independent, Feb. 13th 2009, p. 15

Two thirds of teachers believe that they should have lessons in how best to intervene when students fight. Staff are confused about the extent to which they should intervene physically and the possibility of litigation should parents complain about the level of physical restraint teachers use in such cases. Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has suggested that the rise in exclusion and suspension cases is in part fuelled by the inability of teachers to deal with fights on the premises which leads to the severity of fights escalating.

Top civil servant attacks schools policy

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 13th 2009, p. 1

Prof. Adrian Smith, the second highest ranked civil servant in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has attacked has attacked Labour education policy, suggesting that the reforms have focused on the masses at the expense of bright pupils. He also said that:

  1. science lessons had been undermined by health and safety legislation
  2. the government may have exaggerated the success of a drive to get more teenagers to study science seriously
  3. universities won't touch the new elite A* grade at A level for fear of recruiting too many students from independent schools
  4. that the new vocational diplomas fall between the two stools of stretching the brightest and aiding the weaker students.

Trainees aged 16 to teach in schools

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 5th 2009, p. 1

Reports government plans to create up to 4,000 posts for trainee teaching assistants, who would help supervise pupils aged from five to 14. This would allow sixteen-year-olds with basic qualifications to help to instruct pupils just two years their juniors.

Twelve outstanding secondary schools: excelling against the odds



Ofsted investigated 12 successful inner-city secondary schools with a high proportion of pupils from 'poor or disturbed home backgrounds'. Schools imposed tight rules on behaviour and dress such as banning pupils from wearing designer trainers and gang colours and having shaven heads. Formal assemblies, regular patrols of corridors, frequent school trips and strong values also helped to raise standards. Many schools had police officers permanently stationed within the grounds

Where now after damning indictment of education?

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Feb. 20th 2009, p. 17

The Cambridge review of primary education, based on a series of reports and surveys conducted over three years and involving more than 70 academics, has been released. Its results present a damning view of the primary curriculum which it suggests has failed generations of children. It presents ideas for new approach to schooling including a new curriculum.

(See also The Independent, Feb. 20th 2009, p. 1 & 2)

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