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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2010): Education - UK - schools

1 in 10 schools fails to meet minimum GCSE standard

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 14th 2010, p. 12

Recently published league tables show that one in ten schools failed to meet the Government's minimum target of five top grade GCSE passes including maths and English, with the gap between rich and poor pupils growing. Of the 301 schools that failed to reach the target, 46 recorded worse results than last year and 15 remained the same. The tables also revealed a fall in the percentage of pupils attaining three A grades at A-level in the poorest schools, while the numbers rose in more affluent ones.

(See also The Guardian, Jan. 14th 2010, p. 13)

Blair's educational legacy?

G. Walford (editor)

London: Routledge, 2010

This book was published as a special issue of the Oxford Review of Education and brings together the assessments of key educational researchers who were centrally involved with both the critique and implementation of various policy developments under the Blair government. It considers the relationships between theory and practice and examines the nature of policy and politics. Each contribution reviews the empirical data and policy changes relating to Blair's period as Prime Minister and assesses the long-term and lasting effects as well as the shorter-term responses.

Boom time for tutors in scramble for places at grammars

M. Evans

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 18th 2010, p. 11

There has been an explosion in the number of primary school children receiving private tuition to prepare them for grammar school entrance examinations, especially in London. Despite the recession, families are paying tutors up to 40.00 per hour to further their youngsters' education in the face of increasing competition for places at the best state schools.

Career changers a new force in teacher training

P. Walker and R. Williams

The Guardian, Jan 4th 2010, p. 6

Bankers, lawyers and managers are becoming teachers as a result of the recession according to figures from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).

Children going backwards in the three Rs

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 14th 2010, p. 4

School league tables for England for 2008/09 show:

  • Only half of pupils nationally gained 5 A*-C grade GCSE passes, a two percentage point rise compared with 2007/08.
  • Results improved twice as fast in flagship academy schools, even though 41 featured among the 250 worst in England
  • Independent schools dominated an alternative A-level league table after taking half of the top 200 places, despite accounting for only a fifth of institutions
  • A quarter of pupils in England's toughest state schools were classed as habitual truants
  • Less than half of pupils at 878 secondary schools made the progress expected of them in mathematics as shown by their GCSE results compared to their SATS scores at age 11. The majority of children at 433 schools also fell behind in English.

Faith schools 'robbed' of their selection powers

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 11th 2010, p. 1

Reports claims that faith schools are increasingly being robbed of the power to select children of the same religion under new admissions guidelines. In the last six months of 2009, more than 30 faith schools were investigated by the Office for the Schools Adjudicators after being accused of breaching the guidelines, including use of points-based systems for identifying genuinely religious applicants.

Five-year-olds taught to read are no better off

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 6th 2010, p. 10

Research carried out at the University of Otago in New Zealand suggests that children taught to read at the age of five are no better off than those not introduced to books until they are seven. The findings cast fresh doubts on UK government reforms designed to promote literacy at an increasingly early age.

Independent schools deserting A-Levels and GCSEs

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 15th 2010, p. 17

A survey by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents 250 of the country's elite former boys'-only schools, shows that the top independent schools are accelerating a drift away from A-levels and GCSEs. Growing numbers of private schools are now offering the International GCSE (IGCSE) which is based on traditional O-levels with an emphasis on end-of-year exams. In addition, the International Baccalaureate (IB) is gaining more of a foothold in private schools.

(See also The Guardian, Jan. 15th 2010, p. 23)

Independent schools to benefit from confusion over A* grade

G. Hurst

The Times, Jan. 12th 2010, p. 11

It has been found that Independent Schools are increasingly likely to predict A* grades for their students on forms submitted to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Despite government recommendations last year that the A* grade should not be used to make predictions, UCAS included the grade on forms submitting candidate information to universities. There is concern that the overuse of the A* predicted grade by Independent Schools will improve their student' better chances in applications to the most prestigious institutions.

It's illegal to force us to admit poor pupils, say heads

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 12th 2010, p. 10

Under the Charities Act 2006 fee-paying schools are no longer automatically entitled to charitable status and must prove that they provide 'public benefit'. In a trial assessment in 2009, two small preparatory schools failed after the Commission ruled that they did not offer enough free or subsidised places to disadvantaged children. The Independent Schools Council claims that the Commission's focus on free places represents a gross misinterpretation of the rules and is politically motivated. The Council is considering legal action.

Language trends 2009



Report claims that the vast majority of English secondary schools have abandoned a government target intended to ensure that at least half of pupils take a GCSE in languages. At many schools languages have been dropped in favour of easier subjects to protect the school's position in the league tables. A third of state schools have also cut the amount of time spent teaching languages to 11 to 14-year-olds, even though they are compulsory at this stage. In comparison, languages are compulsory in more than eight out of ten private schools up to the age of 16.

Learning: creative approaches that raise standards



This report is based on inspections of 44 state schools in England, and claims that new and innovative teaching methods engage pupils and boost results. Teachers are increasingly abandoning traditional 'chalk and talk' methods in favour of extravagant lessons designed to appeal to bored pupils. In one example, a school staged a London Fashion-Week style event in which pupils learnt about the science and technology behind the clothing industry. Another secondary school used drums in a maths lesson to highlight the relationship between numbers. Pupils were encouraged to work on a drumming routine to accompany the multiplication table, boosting their recall of numeric patterns.

Ministers force five-year-olds to learn how to save money

R. Edwards and A. Jamieson

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 4th 2010, p. 2

Reports on the introduction of compulsory financial management education in primary and secondary schools from 2011. Children aged five to seven could be taught how to identify different coins and notes and how to save money. From seven to 11, children could learn about managing bank and savings accounts, and how to budget. In secondary schools, pupils up to the age of 14 could be given lessons on credit cards, mortgages and loans, or on managing household finances; 14-16 year-olds could be taught about debt.

New pupils 'should start secondary school in June'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 27th 2010, p. 13

Research suggests that many children lack the emotional resilience to cope with the transition from primary to secondary school. Pupils need more time to adjust to the more intimidating atmosphere of larger schools, older children, mixed timetables and specialist subject classes. It is therefore recommended that 11-year-olds should move to secondary school in June on a part-time basis to ease their way into a different style of teaching.

Primary schools face biggest influx in a decade

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Jan. 25th 2010, p.1

Demand for places in state primary schools has soared to its highest level for ten years, due to a baby boom and parents deciding not being able to afford private schools during the recession. It is expected to mean fewer parents get their first choice of school.

Pupils to have say on school rule changes

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 13th 2010, p. 10

From September 2010, government is forcing primary and secondary schools in England and Wales to consult pupils about changes to school policies. The new duty will cover changes to the curriculum, any moves to restructure the timetable, and reforms to school equality rules. Critics say that the changes risk undermining adult authority and are open to abuse by malicious pupils.

Recognising the value of support


Labour Research, Jan. 2010, p. 13-15

Numbers of school support staff have increased from 133,900 in 1997 to 345,000 in 2009. Support staff cover administrative and clerical tasks once carried out by teachers, as well as playing a greater role in the guidance and supervision of pupils. However, their pay does not reflect their increased responsibilities. This article introduces the work of the new School Support Staff Negotiating Body, which will now set their pay and conditions.

School accountability

Children, Schools and Families Committee

London: TSO, 2010 (House of Commons papers, session 2009/10, HC88)

Report claims that Ofsted stigmatises and undermines schools by imposing too many targets and regulations. It also argues that Ofsted is unwieldy and lacks proper focus after being significantly expanded in recent years. The Committee is attracted by a model of accountability that encourages schools to engage in a process of continuous self-evaluation verified through inspection. Concern is expressed that the government is subjecting schools to a bewildering array of new initiatives and the government's 21st Century Schools White Paper signals the introduction of even greater complexity in an already overly complex system of accountability.

Schools are still split by race in riot towns

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 20th 2010, p. 6

A study which charted the ethnic make-up of primary and secondary schools in England between 2002 and 2008 has found that segregation by race remains widespread in English schools:

  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils in Oldham account for about a third of the primary school population, but eight out of ten are in schools that are mostly non-white, a rate unchanged over the period investigated
  • In Blackburn, some 40% of pupils are from Indian or Pakistani backgrounds. Around 85% are educated in schools where most children are non-white.
  • In Bradford, Pakistani pupils make up around a third of the school age population, but less than 10% are taught in schools in which white children are a majority.

Schools overburdened with an initiative a week, teachers say


The Times, Jan. 13th 2010, p.11

In an interview with The Times, Gillian Low, the president of the Girls' Schools Association, has claimed that schools are being overburdened with initiatives in ways which suggest incoherence in the Government's plans for education. Government intervention in education has increased since the introduction of the national curriculum in 1992, but Mrs Low said that it has particularly increased recently under Ed Balls.

Schools to pay the price of prudence

J. Sugden

The Times, Jan. 8th 2010, p. 1 and p. 9

A third of schools have what the Government sees as 'excessive balances' in their accounts. Vernon Coaker, the Schools Minister, has warned that the surpluses are too high and head teachers must discuss giving the money back to their local council, or face being forced to pay it back under new legislation to be introduced in 2011.

Teachers in call to aid white working class

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 18th 2010, p. 16

A report produced by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) entitled Opening Locked Doors calls for a new government grant to help white working class children improve their exam performance. While it acknowledges they are not the only under-achieving group, the report claims they are the largest in numbers and by many criteria the greatest under-achievers. The research recognises that class is just as important as race in tackling poor exam performance and has a bigger impact than gender. The report warns that the education system cannot ignore the plight of while working class children in case they become prey to far right groups.

Teachers reluctant to teach politics for fear of showing bias

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 22nd 2010, p. 16

An Ofsted report has found that teachers are reluctant to talk about politics in the classroom for fear of being accused of showing bias. This reticence is damaging the delivery of lessons on citizenship which were made a compulsory part of the school curriculum in 2002 by Labour.

Teachers will join the elite, pledges Cameron

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 18th 2010, p.1

A Conservative government would raise the status of the teaching profession in order to attract the best graduates. No-one with less than a 2:2 degree would be given state funding to train as a teacher. Maths and science graduates from the 25 best universities entering teaching would have their student loans paid off in stages. The current Graduate Teacher Programme for older entrants would be replaced with a Teach Now scheme which would place trainees straight into a school to learn on the job.

Tory plan to raise teaching standards by denying funds to weak graduates

N. Watt

The Guardian, Jan. 18th 2010, p. 4

Today David Cameron will announce Tory plans which effectively discriminate against graduates from less prestigious institutions, or with third class degrees, who wish to pursue a career in teaching. The plans have been described as 'brazenly elitist' by Cameron himself. Cameron hopes to make teaching a desirable and high-prestige profession by only offering funding to graduates with degrees in science subjects from 'good universities'. The precise definition of what constitutes a 'good university' has yet to be unpicked but it is likely that it does not include former polytechnics.

(See also The Independent, Jan. 18th 2010, p. 15, The Times, Jan. 19th 2010, p.16 - 17 and The Guardian, Jan. 19th, 2010, p.17)

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