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

Annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2008/09

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2009/10; HC11)

Reveals that children are receiving a substandard education in a third of schools because of a 'stubborn core' of poor teaching. A significant minority of schools and colleges in England remain mediocre or worse, with pupils finishing compulsory education without basic skills. Almost half of Labour's flagship academy schools are failing to provide a satisfactory level of education. Poor teaching is also fuelling bad behaviour as pupils are less likely to lose concentration and disrupt lessons which are lively. The report also warns of a lack of focus on literacy for the slowest pupils, limited opportunities for children to enrich their vocabulary, insufficient attention to 'writing at length' and an inability in many schools to teach problem solving in maths.

Approaches to dispute resolution in additional support needs in Scotland

S. Riddell and E. Weedon

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 24, 2009, p. 355-369

One of the aims of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 was to increase parents' rights in relation to the education of their children. In addition to the creation of the Additional Supports Needs Tribunals for Scotland, parents were given new rights to challenge local authority decisions through mediation and independent adjudication. Low-level resolution of disputes at school and local authority level was also encouraged. This paper uses informant interviews to explore views on new dispute resolution arrangements. Local education authority officers expressed some concerns about the new measures, and were particularly critical of the tribunal on the grounds that it was expensive and stressful, although the role it might play in tightening up procedures was also recognised. Advocacy groups and parents' organisations, on the other hand, welcomed the new measures but were concerned about the rules restricting access to the tribunal and the fact that the outcome of mediation and adjudications were not legally binding. They were also concerned about limited access to information and advocacy. Overall, key informants believed that the new measures had advanced parents' rights to some extent, although further changes were needed to achieve a radical shift away from the post-war dominance of bureaucracy and professionalism in Scotland.

Children, Schools and Families Bill

TSO, 2009

Bill enshrines 38 legal rights for pupils and parents, including a guarantee that all children will get 5 hours PE and high-quality cultural activities every week and a right for pupils to have their say about behaviour standards in schools. Other rights include one-to-one tuition for pupils struggling with the basics and a promise that all schools will promote healthy eating, active lifestyles and mental well-being. Parents will be able to complain directly to the Local Government Ombudsman if schools and councils do not meet the guarantees. Schools will have to publish an annual report card, stating their examination results, behaviour policies and attendance records. All teachers in England will require a 'licence to teach' and will be subject to a skills check every five years.

Education for all: the future of education and training for 14-19 year olds

R. Pring and others

London: Routledge, 2009

This book is based on a review of 14-19 education and training in England and Wales funded by the Nuffield Foundation. It has been shaped by the question: What counts as an educated 19 year old in this day and age? The book argues that rather than pursue parity of esteem in a highly divided system, the basic structure of the qualifications system has to be addressed. A more unified approach is proposed, in which different pathways can be explored, and the book also examines the idea of a common baccalaureate structure for England, similar to that which already exists in Wales, with both a common core of education and the chance to specialise.

Exam board chief warns of loss of public trust

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 12th 2009, p. 2

The chief executive of one of the country's biggest exam boards, the Oxford, Cambridge and Royal Society of Arts (OCR) exam board, has warned of a loss of public trust in exams. He claims that schools are under pressure to put pupils in for exams which would earn points in league tables rather than choose what is best for the students. As a result, too many pupils are taking A-levels who could more usefully be taking an alternative qualification. In addition, schools are putting pressure on pupils to take the government's flagship new diplomas.

Exam regulator finds board lottery in GCSE science grades

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Nov. 20th 2009, p.20

An analysis by the exam watch dog Ofqual has revealed disparities in the marking of science GCSE papers by different exam boards. Some exam boards were shown to set the bar for higher grades far lower than others.

Extended schools: the pioneers

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Oct 22nd-28th, 2009, p. 12

By 2010 all schools are required to provide access to extended services including childcare, parenting support, swift and easy access to specialist services, clubs and activities and community access to facilities. This article presents two innovative approaches to delivering a sustainable and relevant range of services.

Independent schools refusing to sign up for new diplomas

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 30th 2009, p. 16

The government's flagship diploma qualifications are not being taken up by most independent schools. Only six fee-paying schools across the country have joined one of the consortia set up to deliver the new qualification, which is in its second year of being offered to pupils. Oppositions MPs say the diplomas will effectively reinforce a two-tier education system if they fail to appeal to the independent sector. Figures also reveal that more than one in 10 state schools have yet to sign up.

Key issues in education policy

S. Ward and C. Eden

London: Sage, 2009

The book examines government policy in a series of key areas, such as the curriculum, market forces, educational inequality and race issues. The authors explore the role of education policy in the context of the general direction of government policy, politics and the economy, making links with other policy areas such as health, social services, home affairs and foreign policy. They also examine the nature of government policy in terms of globalisation and the knowledge economy.

Lessons from the front 2009

Teach First, 2009

Report calls for the abolition of setting and streaming, and for all pupils to be taught in mixed ability classes. This approach should boost standards and self-esteem among all pupils. It also argues for reform of admissions to prevent the best comprehensive schools from being monopolised by middle class children. Schools should introduce a system of 'fair banding', in which all children are given an entrance test with equal numbers of bright, average and poor-performing pupils given places. It calls for the scrapping of league tables amid concerns that schools routinely enter pupils for easier courses to boost rankings.

Ofsted's pupil safety rules are impossible, say head teachers

J. Sugden & G. Hurst

The Times, Nov. 19th 2009, p.15

Under a new programme of inspection, introduced this term, Ofsted are penalising schools for lack of security. Many of the schools affected are highly performing in other areas. Head teachers have claimed that inspectors have been trying to catch schools out as they attempt to update child protection policies.

Poor white boys worst primary performers

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 20th 2009, p. 10

Official figures show that fewer than half of white British boys from the poorest families started secondary education with a decent grounding in English and mathematics. The figures also show that these boys fell further behind their classmates in the past 12 months.

Public consultation on proposed amendments to the regulations on pupil and school information

Department for Children, Schools and Families


Currently schools are required to write an annual report to parents covering children's attendance, examination results, and progress in the classroom. The government is proposing that they should also report annually on pupils' positive and negative behaviour.

Pupils taught not to bully transsexuals

T. Whitehead

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 25th 2009, p. 1 + 2

As part of the first national strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, children as young as five will have lessons on gender equality. Older children will also be taught as part of the national curriculum that it is wrong to hit girls or bully transsexuals. Trainee teachers will have to learn about gender awareness and domestic violence before they can qualify and Ofsted will check up on how well schools are performing in this area. (For comment see Daily Telegraph, Nov. 26th 2009, p. 8; see also Guardian, Nov. 25th 2009, p.5)

Pupils to learn about sex from age of five

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 6th 2009, p.1 + 2

The government has announced plans for sex and relationship education to start in English schools when pupils are five. Children will learn about parts of the body, the facts of life and puberty at primary school. At secondary school, they will be taught about pregnancy, contraception, HIV, abortion and homosexual relationships. Parents will be able to withdraw children from the classes on moral and religious grounds up to the age of 15, but the plans ensure that all pupils will receive one year of compulsory sex education before they leave school at 16. Faith schools will be forced to teach all aspects of the curriculum, including homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

(See also Guardian, Nov. 6th 2009, p.6)

Quasi-regulation and principal-agent relationships: secondary school admissions in London, England

A. West, H. Pennell and A. Hind

Educational Management Administration & Leadership, vol. 37, 2009, p.784-805

This article examines the issue of school choice through the lens of the English market-oriented reforms and focuses on the quasi-regulation and regulation of admissions to publicly funded secondary schools. It examines admissions to state-maintained secondary schools in London in terms of the criteria and practices used in the event of there being more applicants than places available, and also explores changes in admissions criteria and practices between 2001 and 2005 in light of legislative and policy changes that have been introduced. Principal-agent theory is used to explain the differing responses of schools with responsibility for admissions and local authorities to the legislative and policy framework. It is argued that while local authorities act broadly in line with government guidance and regulations, schools acting as agents do not necessarily do so and more appear to select particular groups of children as opposed to others.

Record number of primary pupils in supersize schools

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 13th 2009, p. 15

The number of pupils enrolled in primary schools in England with over 800 pupils has increased by 50% since 1997. Councils are being forced to expand schools to meet extra demand caused by immigration and high birth rates in some areas. Families across the country are campaigning against plans to expand schools.

Report to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on fraudulent or misleading applications for admissions to schools

I. Craig

Office of the Schools Adjudicator, 2009

In the context of concerns around widespread lying by parents to secure places at the best state schools, this study surveyed 123 out of 150 local authorities in England. They said that 1,100 parents were found to have made fraudulent applications in 2008. They reported that deceptive applications were becoming more commonplace, and that friends and neighbours colluded with parents to 'play the system'. It is concluded that additional sanctions on parents are needed to prevent cheating, probably through the courts. The research also showed that only 37% of local authorities and 11% of schools were totally compliant with new rules introduced to make the admissions process fairer.

Rival to GCSE 'fails to meet national curriculum standard'

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 5th 2009, p. 19

The government has blocked the use of a rival exam to the GCSE - considered by many independent heads to be more rigorous - in state schools. Ministers ruled that they could not approve the use of the Cambridge International Certificate (known as the International GCSE) in the key subject areas of English, maths, science and ICT.

School leadership and education policy-making in England

H.M. Gunter and G. Forrester

Policy Studies, vol. 30, 2009, p. 495-511

Since it came to power in 1997, the New Labour government has focused on the modernisation of the education system. It has focused on enhancing the role and status of head teachers as school leaders as one means of ensuring that its reforms are delivered and not resisted or changed locally. This research examined the people and ideas that New Labour drew on in order to frame and promote its policies in this field. It explored the range of agents actively involved in the development and enactment of the policy.

Scientists win place for evolution in primary schools

P. Curtis

The Guardian, Nov. 9th 2009, p. 6

The government is ready to put evolution on the primary curriculum for the first time after years of lobbying by senior scientists. The schools minister, Diana Johnson, has confirmed the plans will be included in a blueprint for a new curriculum to be published in the next few weeks. It follows a letter signed by scientists and science educators calling on the government to make the change after draft versions of the new curriculum failed to mention evolution explicitly.

Struggling sponsor cannot open more academy schools

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 6th 2009, p. 9

The largest sponsor of academy schools, United Learning Trust, has been told it cannot take on any more until it has improved standards at existing schools. The government has already handed control of 17 state schools to the charity. The charity points out that it has taken on some of the most challenging predecessor schools in the country.

(See also Guardian, Nov. 6th 2009, p.13)

Teachers fight classroom 'licence'


Daily Telegraph, Nov. 13th 2009, p. 2

There is fierce opposition to government plans to make teachers undergo five-year check-ups to ensure they are fit to practise. Some 10,000 members of the National Union of Teachers have signed postcards declaring their opposition. Under the proposals, teachers who fail their check-up would be banned from the classroom.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Nov. 19th 2009, p. 4)

Tories plan immediate detention for badly behaved schoolchildren

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 26th 2009, p. 1

Children would be given an immediate detention for misbehaving at school under Conservative plans to scrap rules that say that parents must be given 24 hours' notice. The announcement forms part of a Tory strategy to place good discipline at the forefront of education policy.

Tories to get tougher on new teachers

R. Garner

The Independent, Nov. 6th 2009, p. 9

In a keynote speech setting out the priorities for the first year of a Conservative government, the party's education spokesman, Michael Gove, announced all would-be primary teachers will have to have at least grade B passes in maths and English among their GCSEs, instead of C-grade passes as at present. In addition, those opting for a PGCE course following a degree will need to have at least a 2:2 pass, rather than any degree as at present.

Tried and trusted subjects must not be scrapped, says adviser to Prince

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 20th 2009, p. 10

The government is pushing ahead with proposals for the radical reform of the primary school curriculum in England. Under the reforms, traditional subjects will be replaced with broad 'areas of learning' from 2011. Teachers will have freedom to dictate the content of lessons within a basic framework and schools will be encouraged to make links between subjects. The new curriculum will be enshrined in Labour's new Children, Schools and Families Bill unveiled in the Queen's Speech.

Wasted: the betrayal of white working class and black Caribbean boys

H. Sergeant

Centre for Policy Studies, 2009

Report claims that a generation of working class boys from the poorest White and Black Caribbean backgrounds are being turned into 'misfits and criminals' by the education system. It blames the 'ideological fads' of the 'Left-wing educational establishment', including a hard core of teachers who believe proper discipline belongs to the Dark Ages and allow pupils to run wild. Failure to teach reading effectively in primary schools has led to boys starting secondary school with poor literacy skills, leading to frustration and resentment.

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