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

5,000 rise in appeals over primary school allocations

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Oct. 30th 2009, p. 6

Official figures have revealed a sharp rise in the number of parents appealing to get their child into the primary school of their choice. Some 61,950 primary and secondary school appeals were heard in England in 2008 compared with 56,610 the year before. However, the proportion of successful appeals fell from 34.4% to 30.9%. The rise was mainly in primary school appeals, suggesting that more parents are struggling to secure their place of choice for their younger children. (See also The Times, Oct. 30th 2009, p. 19, Daily Telegraph, Oct. 30th 2009, p. 18)

The academies in the community

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Sept. 17th-23rd 2009, p. 12

The number of academies is rising and they are supported by both the Conservative and Labour parties. Academies have a greater degree of autonomy than other schools and are accountable to the Department for Children, Schools and Families, not local authorities. There are concerns about this lack of local accountability which some councils are addressing by becoming academy sponsors themselves.

Boys lag behind in nappy curriculum

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Oct.15th 2009, p. 12

An analysis of the attainment of 560,000 children at the end of the reception year at primary schools show that 52% had reached government targets for all areas of early development, including personal and social skills, literacy, problem solving and numeracy, physical development and creativity. However, boys were significantly less likely than girls to start the first full year of school properly prepared. The gender gap widened in the three key areas of writing, problem solving and elements of personal development.

Brighter pupils 'may dominate diplomas'

R. Prince

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 27th 2009, p. 8

The new Higher and Advanced Diplomas, which are designed to offer academic and vocational courses alongside each other, risk being accessible only to bright pupils due to their high requirements for prior attainment in literacy and numeracy, according to a survey by the Association of Colleges. The survey also showed that 98% of the colleges questioned were planning to offer diplomas by next year. Eight out of ten lecturers were positive about the courses, saying that pupils found them enjoyable.

Children are going to school too young - make them wait until 6, experts say

J. O'Leary

The Times, Oct. 16th 2009, p.4-5

The Cambridge Primary Review says five-year olds should continue with the play-based curriculum used in nursery schools as teaching them to read or count can put them off school. The review cites evidence from other countries, where children start formal schooling aged six or seven and are better at reading than English pupils by the time they go to secondary school. The National Union of Teachers supports the idea.

(See also The Independent, Oct. 16th 2009, pp.4-5)

Children, their world, their education: final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review

R. Alexander (editor)

London: Routledge, 2009

Report recommends that children should not start formal education until the age of six, and should follow a 'played-based' curriculum until they reached that age. Teachers of specialist subjects such as music, science and PE should be introduced into primary schools to work alongside the present generalists who teach all subjects. Teachers should be given more control over what is taught, with almost a third of lesson time turned over to a locally determined 'community' curriculum. SATS tests for 11-year-olds should be scrapped and replaced by a system of less formal assessment throughout primary school. A small sample of children could be assessed at 11 to gauge national performance in all subjects. It is argued that SATS tests and league tables damage children's education because they cause subjects such as history, geography, art and science to be marginalised as schools focus on English and mathematics.

Foreign language teaching is in decline

R. Garner

The Independent, Oct. 30th 2009, p. 19

A dearth of trainee modern foreign language teachers is hampering a Government drive to ensure all children start learning another language from the age of seven. New figures show a drop in the number of trainee primary school teachers specialising in languages. The number has fallen from 710 to 560 in two years, despite next year's Government deadline for making the subject compulsory for seven-to-11-year olds. Numbers of trainee secondary school language teachers fell by 290 to 1,800 over the same period. A Government inquiry headed by former chief schools inspector Sir Jim Rose called for the subject to be introduced into the primary school timetable in 2011.

Hey, Badman, leave our kids alone

N. Rowntree

Children and Young People Now, Oct. 1st-7th 2009, p. 18-19

Prompted by concerns raised by local authorities and the NSPCC about the lack of inspection and the potential for children to be abused, the government commissioned an independent review of home education by Graham Badman. His recommendations have led to outrage in the home education community. Chief among their concerns are the introduction of a compulsory registration scheme, parents having to outline their educational approach in annual statements, and the right of local authority staff to speak alone with children educated at home.

Independent faith schools


Manchester: Ofsted, 2009

Reports that more than a fifth of private faith schools fail to teach pupils about other religions, following an inspection of 51 fee-paying institutions, including those teaching Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu children. Many complained that it was inappropriate for pupils to learn about other faiths at a young age. Some also used teaching materials biased in favour of certain groups. Pupils were brought up to feel they belonged as British citizens, but usually within the context of their own religion. Many parents interviewed told inspectors that they wanted to see greater acceptance of religion within state schools.

Independent schools can keep tax breaks after charity chief backs down

J. Sugden

The Times, Oct. 8th 2009, p.20

The Charity Commission has effectively scrapped plans to remove the charitable status of private schools, allowing them tax breaks of 100 million per year. The chairperson of the Commission said that the plans would be difficult to implement in the current economic climate.

Learning to share

C. Ryan

Public Finance, Oct. 9th-15th 2009, p. 24-28

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has claimed that he can cut 2bn from the education budget without impacting on frontline services. He would do so by using excessive school reserves, improving procurement, and reducing the number of head teachers by requiring groups of schools to share senior staff. The author identifies problems with each of these approaches and argues that savings could more easily be made by freezing teachers' pay and reining in their pensions.

The myth of racist kids

A. Hart

Manifesto Club, 2009

Claims that schools are reporting 40,000 incidents of racism a year involving children as young as five after everyday playground squabbles. Primary school pupils and toddlers in nurseries are being punished for racist insults, even if they do not understand the terms they use. Teachers are being treated like counter staff in police stations, filling in forms detailing name calling and jokes. At the same time, diversity 'missionaries' sent into schools to teach pupils about bigotry are said to be increasing the divide between white and black children by forcing them to see everything in terms of race.

Paying pupils to stay at 16 'cash down drain'

H. Blake

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 22nd 2009, p. 15

The Local Government Association has claimed that the education maintenance allowance, introduced in 2004 to encourage children from poor families to stay in full-time education between the ages of 16 and 19, had failed to meet its objectives and was a waste of money. Instead the cash should be given to local authorities to spend on projects to get young people into work and training.

Pre-service teacher training and special educational needs in England 1970-2008: is government learning the lessons of the past or is it experiencing a groundhog day?

A. Hodkinson

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 24, 2009, p. 277-289

The paper outlines the findings from a literature review of the English government's response to the issue of training pre-service teachers in the delivery of effective special educational needs support. The findings show that although educational practice in mainstream classrooms has changed considerably since the 1970s, the training of pre-service teachers with regards to special educational needs appears to have changed very little. The author argues that the government needs to radically re-think its policy of inclusion to ensure that a coherent plan is formulated which enables teacher training programmes within higher education institutions to train students who are competent and confident in their abilities to work with children who have special educational needs and/or disabilities.

Sack heads of worst schools, says Gove

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 8th 2009, p. 4

The shadow education secretary promised at the 2009 Party Conference that the Conservatives would sack head teachers and management of failing schools, close them, and re-open them as academies sponsored by businesses, charities and universities. He also called for a return to traditional lessons in subjects such as history and science and teaching according to academic ability.

Schools leave young unfit for work, says Tesco chief

M. Laroux and J. O'Leary

The Times, Oct. 9th 2009, p.9

Sir Terry Leahy, the Chief Executive of Tesco, has said that standards in schools are so 'woefully low' that private companies are left to pick up the pieces. Tesco spends time training recruits in basic numeracy and 'communications' skills because workers are ill-equipped on leaving school. Tesco employs 280,000 staff in the UK of whom 40,000 are aged under 19.

Send children to school at four, say ministers

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 19th 2009, p. 6

Ministers say that all children should be able to enter primary school in the September after their fourth birthday, rather than later in the year as at present. However, parents will be able to choose a full-time place in a nursery if they believe that children are not ready for school.

Truancy rates rise in English schools despite crackdown

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Oct. 21st 2009, p. 8

Recent figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families show that truancy rates are rising in England despite schools having taken a tougher line on absenteeism. The government calculates absence and truancy rates by the numbers of half-days of school missed. In the autumn term of 2008 and the spring term of this year, pupils in state primary and secondary schools missed 1.0% of possible half-days without a teacher's permission. Despite the overall rise, the number of 'persistent absentees' - children who miss at least one day of school a week - has fallen.

Twenty outstanding primary schools: excelling against the odds


Manchester: Ofsted, 2009

Report finds that 'parental ineptitude' is one of the biggest obstacles to academic attainment faced by a 'sizeable body' of primary schools in England. Pupils arrive in school unable to use a toilet or speak. This is due to ignorance about parenting combined with the effects of alcohol misuse, poor diet, domestic violence, crime and unstable family relationships. The best schools are overcoming the problems by offering counselling, parenting advice, and reconciliation services.

Watchdog backs calls for A levels at Easter

J. Sugden

The Times, Oct. 7th 2009, p.3

The chief executive of Ofqual, Kathleen Tattersall, has backed an overhaul of the university applications process which would make it even more likely that A-levels would be taken at the start of the summer term, rather than at the end. The move would enable students to make applications based on their actual, rather than predicted, results. It is suggested that the move would make the university applications process fairer and more transparent.

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