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

35 primary pupils suspended each day for attacking staff

N. Woolcock

The Times, July 31st 2009, p. 14

The latest official figures for school exclusions show the number of primary school pupils suspended for attacking staff rose almost six per cent last year, to over 7,000 or about 35 a day. But the total number of exclusions and suspensions from state schools fell by 6.4% to 8,130.

Building schools for the future: renewing the secondary school estate

Public Accounts Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC 274)

The Department for Children, Schools and Families' Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF) plans to renew every secondary school in the country, by rebuilding half of them, structurally remodelling 35%, refurbishing 15% and providing information and Communication Technology to all. Its aim is to use capital investment in new buildings as a catalyst to improve educational outcomes. The Department estimates that the programme will cost 52-55 billion over its lifetime. The Department was over-optimistic in its original planning assumptions for BSF, creating expectations for the speed of delivery that could not be met. Although the Department had hoped to deliver the programme over 10-15 years, it now expects it to take 18 years, with the last school completed in 2023. Local authorities are responsible for the local delivery of BSF. They plan, procure and manage the BSF school buildings. In 2004, the Department established Partnerships for Schools to manage the national delivery of the programme. The Department and Partnerships for Schools encourage local authorities to procure their schools through a Local Education Partnership. These are 10-year partnerships to procure a flow of projects, structured as joint ventures between the local authority, a consortium of private companies that build, finance and maintain schools, and Building Schools for the Future Investments. It is too early to conclude whether BSF will achieve its educational objectives. Establishing Partnerships for Schools to manage the programme centrally has helped local authorities to deliver more effectively, but while Local Education Partnerships have potential advantages, their value for money is yet to be proven. The report examines the cost and progress of the programme, the use of Local Education Partnerships, the efficiency and effectiveness of the central programme management and the effect of the recession on the programme.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils in schools in the UK: inclusion and 'good practice'

K. Bhopal and M. Myers

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 13, 2009, p. 299-314

This paper examines inclusive processes and examples of 'good practice' in primary and secondary schools for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils in one inner London Borough in the UK. It explores the role of the Traveller Education Service (TES) and argues that the support provided by the TES to schools is essential for the development of 'good practice', but at the same time it stresses that the TES is not a substitute for a school's educational and welfare responsibilities. The paper also argues that the commitment of the head teacher and senior management team to the inclusive ethos of the school is crucial in setting the tone of the school towards positive treatment of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. An inclusive ethos usually works successfully where it is the result of a wider social engagement between the school and community. The paper draws on qualitative interview data with parents, head teachers, deputies, heads of year, teachers, and classroom assistants at the schools.

Heads raise doubts over Sats marks

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, July 8th 2009, p. 2

Teachers have once again raised concern about the quality of marking of 2009 SATS papers. They are particularly worried about the marking of a writing examination taken by 11-year-old pupils in England, where bright children were given very low marks.

'It is a school's ethos that matters'

B. Brogan

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 3rd 2009, p. 19

Report of an interview with Conservation Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove, in which he defends his party's opposition to grammar schools and pupil selection on grounds of ability. Instead the Tories propose introducing a strict academic curriculum in all state secondary schools. To achieve this the Conservatives plan to end local authority control over the supply of places, allowing funding to follow pupils wherever they go, and to offer a pupil premium to schools in deprived areas to encourage new providers to set up independent academies.

National curriculum assessment in England: how well has it worked? Perspectives from the United Kingdom, Europe and beyond

C. Whetton (guest editor)

Educational Research, vol. 51, 2009, p. 131-297

The objectives of this special issue are to illuminate the current National Curriculum Assessment (NCA) system in England and provide a critique of it in terms of its validity, reliability and effects. The authors who have contributed to this were asked to address the question - How well has it worked? The resulting articles provide detail on NCA processes, their complexities and how these are grappled with. They also illustrate the issues that would need to be addressed in any replacement system and some argue that improvement is not necessarily simple, particularly when there are many purposes and different stakeholders.

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: ten years on

Race Equality Teaching, Vol. 27, Autumn 2009, p. 1-56

In 1999, the report of the MacPherson inquiry into the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence was published. It included recommendations on racism prevention and the role of education. This special issue examines what has happened in respect of those recommendations, looking at the current context and suggesting what should be happening in the fight against racism today.

Report to the Secretary of State on the Review of Elective Home Education in England

G Badman

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC 610)

The report examines whether local authorities are providing the right support to home educating families and looks at barriers faced by local authorities and other public agencies in effectively carrying out their safeguarding responsibility in relation to home educated children. The key recommendations set out in this report are:

  • Local authorities should provide more support to home educating families, e.g. through helping provide access to the national examination system, sports facilities, libraries and music tuition.
  • The creation of a compulsory annual registration scheme for home educated children
  • At the time of registration, parents should be asked to submit a statement of their intended approach to the child's education, including what they aim to achieve over the following 12 months.
  • Properly trained local authority officials should have the right of access to the home, following a minimum two-week notification to the parents, allowing them to check that the child is making progress against their learning statement. They should also have the right to speak to the child to ensure they are safe and well, after which a written report must then be produced and shared with the parents and child.
  • Local authorities should be able to refuse registration to home educate if there is clear evidence of safeguarding concerns.

Segregation in schools fuelled by 'white flight' report warns

W. Mansell & P. Curtis

The Guardian, July 10th 2009, p.13

A report from think-tank the Institute of Community Cohesion (ICoCo) warns schools in parts of England are becoming increasingly racially segregated. White parents in some areas are tending to choose to send their children to schools where the majority of pupils are white. In one instance, sixty pupils were removed from one school when its proportion of pupils from ethnic minorities rose to 45%. The report suggests local authorities should consider allocating school places using lotteries in some inner-city areas.

Shut schools to save lives, ministers told

D. Campbell and P. Curtis

The Guardian, July 21st 2009, p. 1 & 2

Ministers have been urged to rethink their policy of keeping schools open through the swine flu pandemic after research has showed that a shutdown would curb the spread of infection and limit the number of deaths. Although schools across Britain have now broken up for the summer holidays, there are fears that when classes resume in the autumn, the number of cases will increase rapidly. However, school closures would cause serious difficulties for working parents, lead to a 1% loss in GDP through absenteeism and see as many as 30% of NHS staff having to take time off just when they would be needed to treat growing numbers of patients.

Statutory assessment of the class? Supporting the additional needs of the learning context

J. Rix

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 13, 2009, p. 253-272

This paper considers issues of funding of support for students facing difficulties in learning, and the role of assessment and labelling within this process. Drawing on a range of literature, the research identifies the focus upon the individual within assessment processes around the world and then considers in detail the strengths and weaknesses of the current form of Statutory Assessment of Special Educational Needs within England. The paper proposes an alternative funding system that resolves shortcomings within the individual approach and the English system. It suggests that a Class Funding Approach could build on a notion of justice for all, reduce the opportunities for wide variations in provision, and minimise the negative impact of current divisive practices.

Stop writing and put down your pens: is this the end of exams as we know them?

P. Curtis

The Guardian, July 13th 2009, p. 3

The Chief Executive of Cambridge Assessment, Simon Lebus, has said that traditional examinations are likely to be phased out over the next ten to fifteen years and be replaced by computerised testing. Continual assessment will take place throughout the school year, although end of year exams may still be available to those who prefer this method of assessment. The announcement has met with mixed responses from teachers and academics, some of whom are concerned about the impact that continual assessment will have on teachers' workloads.

Tax threat could hit hundreds of public schools

R. Garner

The Independent, July 14th 2009, p. 1, 4 & 5

Hundreds of independent schools will be forced to raise fees to take in more pupils from poorer backgrounds, following a landmark ruling by the Charity Commission. Two of the first five schools investigated by the watchdog have been told they fail to meet new standards for retaining their charitable status which is worth around 100m in tax breaks across the sector. The leaders of Britain's 2,500 private schools fear the verdicts could be a foretaste of what is in store for all of them. The Charity Commission report sets out the key issues and offers information on how charitable organisations can meet its public-benefit test. It states that a charity which charges high fees must demonstrate that there is an opportunity for people, who cannot afford such fees, to benefit in a way which is in line with the aims of the charity.

(See also The Times, July 14th 2009, p. 14 - 15; Daily Telegraph, July 14th, 2009, p.6)

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 presents a package of measures designed to raise school standards and empower parents. They include:

  • Introduction from September 2010 of a 'licence to teach' awarded by individual head teachers on the basis of competence in the classroom. The licence would have to be renewed every five years.
  • Introduction of a set of legally defined 'guarantees' for parents and pupils, including the right to up to five hours sport every week, one-to-one tuition for children falling behind in basic subjects, support for gifted pupils and personal tutors for all children. Parents would be able to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman or even sue schools if they fail to act.
  • Introduction of social networking websites for all schools to allow parents to share 'advice and information'
  • Introduction of a 'progress check' in the first year of secondary school to monitor pupils who failed to achieve national standards in basic subjects at the end of primary school.
  • Introduction of an annual report card grading all schools. Half of the measures would be based on pupil academic attainment, while others would take into account discipline, attendance, sport and healthy eating.
  • Strengthened home-school agreements, giving head teachers powers to apply for parenting orders if parents fail to keep children in line.
  • Closure or conversion to academies of any schools judged to be failing in 2011
  • Introduction of surveys of all parents as they apply for secondary school places for their children. They will be asked if they are satisfied with the quality and range of state schools offered in a particular area. If dissatisfaction is found, local authorities will be forced to draw up plans to expand good schools, build new schools and merge struggling schools with their high performing neighbours.
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