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

Academy schools and pupil performance

S. Machin and J. Wilson

Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics, 2009

Under the government's flagship academies programme, poorly performing comprehensives are turned over to private companies, universities and charities which run them free from local authority control. This study shows that academies' GCSE results are statistically indistinguishable from other secondary schools. It found that schools did improve after being turned into academies, with GCSE results improving by between 9.6 and 14.1 percent. However, other poorly performing schools which did not become academies also boosted GCSE results by between six and 14.5 per cent.

African school of thought

D. Bascombe

ChildRight, issue 256, 2009, p. 27-30

There has been concern for decades about the poor educational achievement of Afro-Caribbean children in mainstream schools in the UK. In response, Lee Jasper, a respected race campaigner, is planning to create a private school funded by donations from business and the churches to prepare children for entry to elite historically black colleges and universities in the United States. The school will focus on presenting an 'Afro-centric' perspective on the curriculum to produce young people who are knowledgeable, mature and capable.

'Challenging disabling attitudes, building an inclusive society': considering the role of education in encouraging non-disabled children to develop positive attitudes towards disabled people

A.E. Beckett

British Journal of Sociology and Education, vol. 30, May 2009, p.317-329

The introduction in the UK of the Disability Equality Duty 2006 has provided a new window of opportunity to promote the idea that education has a role to play in changing non-disabled children/young people's attitudes towards disabled people. This article explores the issues raised by the application of the Disability Equality Duty to English schools and the author seeks to 'map the territory' for future research into the role that education might play in challenging disabling attitudes and building an inclusive society.

Challenging schools to offer bonus to teachers

Anon.

Daily Telegraph, June 8th 2009, p.10

Teachers are to be offered a 10,000 allowance over three years as a reward for working in schools that face challenging circumstances. They will also be eligible for extra training and may study for a new Masters in Teaching and Learning qualification.

Child carers take punishment at school in silence

R. Garner

The Independent, June 10th 2009, p. 16

An Ofsted report Supporting Young Carers has found that a 'hidden' army of worried children are being punished because they don't tell their schools they are caring for their invalid parents. As a result, they regularly turn up late for school, take days off or hand in their school work late. But one in three children caring for parents who are disabled, alcoholic or drug takers have not told their school of the situation they are in. The report says young carers talk of their lives as being 'hard' and 'stressful'. Tasks they have to undertake include the collection and administration of medication, first aid and dealing with family finances.

Children 'let down by Victorian teaching in primaries'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 23rd 2009, p. 6

Leading academic Prof. Robin Alexander has condemned the current over-emphasis on teaching English and maths in primary schools which is distorting learning. He argues that primary school lessons are being reduced to 'the trading of obsolete facts' with the sole aim of getting pupils to pass examinations. He also claimed that skills such as being able to talk and write properly, were being turned into 'curriculum fashion accessories' instead of forming an intrinsic part of children's education.

English at the crossroads: an evaluation of English in primary and secondary schools 2005/08

Ofsted

2009

Ofsted investigated standards of English at almost 250 primary and secondary schools in England between 2005 and 2008. Inspectors found a slight decline in both reading and writing among pupils aged five to seven. Among 11-year-olds, the proportion of pupils achieving the standard for their age rose very slowly over those four years. The number of 16-year-olds with at least a Grade C in GCSE English also rose slowly, but more than a third failed to gain good scores. Substantial gaps in attainment remained between boys and girls, as well as among certain ethnic groups. Pupils from Chinese and Indian backgrounds were the highest achievers, while poor white boys performed particularly badly.

English, maths ... and don't forget gypsy awareness

Anon.

Daily Telegraph, June 17th 2009, p. 3

A diversity panel at Sandwell Council in the West Midlands has proposed a gypsy awareness month which would be combined with a leaflet campaign to dispel myths about traveller communities.

The exclusion from school of children aged four to seven

Ofsted

2009

The report recommends that children as young as four should be given group therapy such as circle time at school to control their behaviour and avoid expulsions. Ofsted based its recommendations on inspections of 30 schools which had excluded infants more than once in a year, compared to 27 which had reported no suspensions. Reasons for suspension included biting, swearing, hitting staff and throwing chairs. The report calls on the government to produce guidance to help schools deal with these pupils.

Going private

R. Murphy

Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics, 2009

This research shows that the number of staff abandoning state schools to work in the private sector has increased fourfold in the past 15 years. Private schools educate about 7% of the nation's children, but employ 14% of the teachers. Teachers are not attracted to the private sector by wages but by superior working conditions.

Independent boarding schools get 10,000 to take vulnerable children

R. Garner

The Independent, June 4th 2009, p. 14

Private boarding schools are being offered government grants of 10,000 to take in vulnerable children whose parents are on the verge of breaking up. The decision to make direct payments to schools is an acknowledgement by the Government that earlier attempts to persuade local authorities to back the scheme have had a disappointing response. The grants initiative is part of an attempt by ministers to promote closer collaboration between the state and private sector which is the focus of a White Paper on education, 21st Century Schools, due to be released shortly.

Key Stage 4: towards a flexible curriculum

Ofsted

2009

A new 'flexible' curriculum, taught in the first four years of English secondary schools, was designed to give teachers greater freedom to design their own lessons. This report analyses how the curriculum has been introduced in 37 schools. A further 84 schools were surveyed to measure its effect on lesson planning. Teachers were most enthusiastic about the way in which the new curriculum enabled them to introduce more varied lessons. However, inspectors also identified emerging problems with the courses, including loss of subject content, lack of continuity from primary school, lack of rigour, uneven quality of teaching and artificial links between themes.

Labour to junk Blair's flagship school reform

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 26th 2009, p. 1

Next weeks's education white paper will signal the end of Labour's national strategy for schools, which includes oversight of the literacy and numeracy hours in primaries. The changes will remove centralised prescription of teaching methods and dramatically cut the use of private consultancies currently employed to improve schools. Schools will have more freedom and new networks of school-to-school support will be established to help drive up standards in what is described as a 'new era of localism'. Money saved by the government on its contract with Capita, which currently delivers the national strategy, will be directed to schools to spend on forging networks with neighbouring schools and buying in their own advisers to drive up teaching standards and exam results. Good schools will be expected to work with lower-performing schools to help them improve and although schools will still be able to teach the literacy and numeracy hours, there will be not central bureaucracy to support this.

A new level

D. Bassett and others

London: Reform, 2009

Report argues that A-levels are being reduced to 'satnav' examinations in which pupils are led through questions and granted multiple resits. Some tests are so 'mind-numbingly stupid' that pupils can pass with little subject knowledge. A-levels do not encourage pupils to think or show flair. Academics interviewed for the study claimed that universities were being left to pick up the pieces because A-level study left teenagers ill-prepared to cope with degrees.

No more 'SATs' under Tories

R. Garner

The Independent, June 15th 2009, p. 4

The controversial national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds will be scrapped if the Conservatives win the next general election. The tests dubbed 'SATs' and taken by 600,000 children in the final year of primary school in maths, English and science, will instead be sat by students as soon as they start secondary school. The pledge has been welcomed by both the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers who have threatened to boycott the tests next summer on the grounds that they narrow the curriculum on offer.

(See also, The Times, June 15th 2009, p.15, The Guardian June 15th 2009 p. 6; The Financial Times, June 15th 2009 p. 4; Daily Telegraph, June 15th 2009, p.6)

Nursery pupils excluded for being sexually explicit in class

R. Garner

The Independent, June 24th 2009, p. 8

An Ofsted survey has found that children as young as five are being excluded from school for indulging in explicit sexual behaviour. The findings reveal that more than one in five primary schools have reported 'inappropriate sexual behaviour' by children aged four to seven. At eight schools, children had been excluded as a result of their behaviour. The incidents have raised fears about child abuse although some teachers' leaders believe the 'sexploitation' of children by commercial organisations could be to blame.

(See also The Guardian, June 24th 2009, p. 4; The Times, June 24th 2009, p. 9)

Ofsted finds schools failing on curriculum

A. Lipsett

The Guardian, June 25th 2009, p. 4

Ofsted inspectors have warned that schools appear to have made little progress in implementing the secondary curriculum introduced last September. Inspectors visited 37 schools between May 2008 and March 2009 and have reported that only four of these had implemented the changes 'outstandingly', 21 were deemed 'good', eight 'satisfactory' and one 'inadequate'. The study found that schools that were successful had developed a coherent curriculum throughout the school which was led and monitored by senior staff. However, most schools left it to subject teachers to interpret the changes by themselves, which led to an incoherent 'whole-school curriculum'.

Ofsted orders schools to brush up their English teaching

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 19th 2009, p. 10

As a result of a three-year study by Ofsted, schools have been ordered to overhaul their English teaching. The study found that 30% of lessons are not good enough and little attempt is made to encourage teenagers to read for pleasure. Too many teachers appear to give up on pupils once they fall behind, the report suggests, with white working-class boys most likely to suffer. In some lessons, writing tasks had 'no purpose other than to keep pupils quiet' inspectors found. The report is based on inspectors' visits to 122 primary and 120 secondary schools across England between April 2005 and March 2008. While it praises recent developments, including the use of role play and drama, and reading in primaries, it found that test results had hardly improved since 2004.

Ofsted to replace 'light touch' with tougher school inspections

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 12th 2009, p. 8

The 'light touch' review introduced four years ago is to be replaced. In the new system, inspectors will spend twice as much time in the classroom scrutinising lessons and there will be some snap inspections of low-performing schools. In future, schools that get lower exam results cannot be rated good even if they are in tough areas and making steady improvements. Schools will also be assessed via an annual survey of parents and a rating on pupils' wellbeing.

(See also The Independent, June 12th 2009, p. 10)

Passing exams could be child's play for boys

R. Garner

The Independent, June 3rd 2009, p. 8

For some time leading academics and policymakers have debated the problem of how to overcome the poor performance of boys at school. New research published now shows that the answer may be to simply get them to play more games and passing exams will follow. A study of 508 independent schools reveals for the first time that there is a strong link between the amount of voluntary activities such as chess and cricket undertaken by youngsters and their exam performance. Pupils in the top-performing schools for GCSE results took part, on average, in 50 per cent more activities than those in schools at the bottom of the ladder. In addition, the research found the difference in performance was more marked in boys-only schools.

Primary plans own secondary school

G. Paton and C. Hope

Daily Telegraph, June 16th 2009, p.1

Durand Primary School in Lambeth, south London aims to become the first in Britain to open its own secondary school amid claims that children are being utterly failed after leaving at 11. It is discussing plans to build boarding facilities outside the capital with ministers.

Teachers go back to school in bid to raise classroom standards

R. Garner

The Independent, June 29th 2009, p. 14

Up to 5,000 newly qualified teachers are to be offered the chance to study for a new master's degree for the first time, in a bid to boost teaching standards in the classroom. The initiative is the first stage of a scheme under which the new course is eventually expected to be offered free to all new teachers. Under the first stage, priority will be given to teachers in 'challenging schools' serving disadvantaged areas. In these schools, heads of departments will also be eligible to enrol for the courses, which will include more effective techniques for classroom control. The scheme costs 30m and teachers will be given five years to complete their courses, although most are expected to finish in three.

Watchdog accuses schools of wasting nearly 1bn a year

P. Curtis

The Guardian, June 30th 2009, p. 1

An Audit Commission report has concluded that schools are wasting nearly 1bn of public money every year by 'hoarding' it in bank accounts and failing to shop around for the best deals on meals, equipment and cleaning. The Commission accuses ministers of failing to hold headteachers to account for their expenditure. The report states that schools could save 415m if they negotiated better contracts for the running of their schools and are also sitting on 530m in 'excessive' reserves and urges the government to ensure that schools are spending money efficiently.

Your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century schools system

Department for Children, Schools and Families

London, TSO, 2009 (Cm 7588)

This White Paper proposes that all schools in England should be graded A-F under a new system of 'report cards'. The schools will be ranked on a series of measures alongside exam results, including discipline, attendance, and take up of school meals. They will be scored against each standard and then given an overall ranking. Other proposals include:

  • Giving parents new powers to report under-performing schools directly to local authorities
  • Incentives for schools to allow GPs, the police and social services to establish a presence on school campuses
  • Personal tutors for all pupils to keep a check on their progress
  • More partnerships between schools
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