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

Academies demand autonomy on GCSEs

R. Williams

The Guardian, Feb. 5th 2010, p. 23

Labour's flagship academies have demanded to be allowed to teach elite international GCSEs banned in state schools by the government. The O-level style IGCSEs are favoured by many independent schools which believe they are more rigorous than traditional GCSEs and more likely to impress universities and employers. However, ministers have refused to approve and fund these courses for state secondaries. In a new manifesto, the Independent Academies Association (IAA), a coalition of academy heads, said the government must be less prescriptive about the qualifications it allows schools to offer.

'Asking how instead of why': exploring inclusive approaches to teaching and learning through pupil and teacher responses to a school link project

E. Griffiths

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 36, 2009, p. 213-221

This article constructs a set of inclusive principles for teaching and learning and reports on pupil and teacher responses in mainstream and special schools to a three-week literacy project in which these approaches were implemented. Research diaries and small group-based interviews were used in both educational settings to access the opinions of 20 pupils with a Statement of special educational needs. The research found that the pedagogical approaches were successful in breaking down some barriers to inclusion between the two groups of pupils, but the author concludes that significant changes would need to be brought about for there to be any long term eradication of these obstructions.

Children in one town speak 150 languages

H. Blake

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 8th 2010, p.1

Schoolchildren in Reading have been found to speak as many as 150 different languages in their homes. Language barriers are making it increasingly difficult for teachers to communicate effectively with pupils.

Cohesion, equalities and difference - holding them together

R. Richardson

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 28, 2009, p. 6-11

This forum article is written as a contribution to the current debate taking place in schools, local authorities and central government, as well as in organisations such as EHRC and Ofsted, about how to reconcile the duty to promote cohesion with duties relating to diversity and equality. The article argues that a prerequisite for combining the various duties relating to equality, diversity and cohesion is to identify and itemise the things they have in common. Finally, it reflects on one of the components of the cohesion agenda - the concept of religious literacy.

Dissatisfied parents and teachers push for free education outside state system

G. Hurst

The Times, Feb. 1st 2010, p. 17

The New Schools Network, a not-for-profit organisation, has fielded almost 350 requests for help from teachers and parents interested in setting up independent-but-free schools. The Conservatives have said that they intend to make it easier for teacher and parent groups to establish such schools should they come into power.

Evidence check 1: early literacy interventions

Science and Technology Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2009/10; HC 44)

The Science and Technology Committee has agreed that the Government's focus on early literacy interventions and phonics-based teaching of reading is based on the best available evidence. They have also found that the Government's use of Reading Recovery is based on evidence, but a lower quality of evidence than the Committee, is comfortable with. The Government's decision to roll out Reading Recovery nationally to the exclusion of other kinds of literacy interventions was, however, not evidence-based, and the Committee has suggested that the Government should commission some high quality research, such as randomised controlled trials, in this area. In broad conclusion, they found that there was a willingness on the part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families to base its approach to early literacy interventions on the evidence. However, they discovered worryingly low expectations regarding the quality of evidence required to demonstrate the relative effectiveness and, in particular the cost-effectiveness of different programmes.

Faith schools can teach that being gay is wrong

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 24th 2010, p. 8

Amendments to the Children, Schools and Families Bill currently before Parliament will allow state funded faith schools to teach sex education lessons in a way that reflects their religious character. There is concern that this will allow Christian, Jewish and Muslim schools to dodge requirements to promote equality and respect for diversity.

Former schools chief says Tory teacher plan is 'utter red herring'

R. Garner

The Independent, Feb. 23rd 2010, p.11

The former chief schools inspector, Sir Mike Tomlinson, has called for swift action to help those with experience of the world of work enter teaching. He has criticised suggestions by the Tories that only those with a 2.2 honours degree and above should be able to enter the profession. His recommendations form part of an inquiry by the Skills Commission which has all-party support from MPs.

'I don't see colour': race equality and strategic colour blindness in schools

D. Dent

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 28, 2009, p. 19, 20 and 24

This article argues that acknowledging colour and accepting that in an imperfect world black and white people are different is not racist. And nor is dealing with children according to their needs, including those related to their cultural, linguistic, ethnic and racial identities. The author suggests that in fact it is the opposite and puts forward the view that being aware of and challenging our own perceptions and discomforts, assumptions and stereotypes allows the opening up of dialogue and debate that will in turn challenge racism and prejudice and support empowerment of all.

The integration of an alternative curriculum: Skill Force

L. Rogers and others

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 36, 2009, p. 131-139

Skill Force is a charitable youth initiative that offers 14- to 16-year-old students a key skills based vocational alternative to the traditional curriculum. This article sets out to explore the views of Skill Force instructors and team leaders, school staff and Skill Force Regional Directors. These participants perceived the critical factors in the successful integration of Skill Force to be: effective introduction of the programme to pupils and parents; careful selection of students; clear introduction of the programme to staff; integrated discipline policies; strong support from senior management; good communication; and a willingness to resolve practical difficulties.

Islam and citizenship education: two projects for our times

M. I. Coles

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 28, 2009, p. 25-26

This article examines two discrete but connected projects supporting the teaching of citizenship from an Islamic perspective, The first is the ICE project which is an on-going programme initially designed to support the teaching of citizenship in madrasahs for pupils aged 9-14, where madrasahs are defined as mosque and other Islamic supplementary schools. The second, Young, Muslim and Citizen - Identity, Empowerment and Change is a UK Race and Europe Network (UREN) on-line publication which contains ideas, activities and resources for parents, teachers and youth workers. The author argues that both are invaluable additions to the on-going debate about citizenship and Islam, and both emphasise the potential pivotal role of young British Muslims within the UK's multicultural democracy.

Lamb Inquiry: special educational needs and parental confidence

B. Lamb

Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009

The Lamb Inquiry into parental confidence in special education concludes that councils need to listen to parents properly, and that the system needs to be more ambitious for children with SEN. Specific recommendations include:

  • A new advice helpline for parents of children with SEN
  • Improved independent appeals panels for children with SEN who are excluded from school
  • New codes of practice to ensure that professionals consider a child's needs first, rather than the cost of services
  • A duty on Ofsted to report on the progress of disabled and SEN pupils as part of school inspections
  • The Aiming High for Disabled Children core offer to include guidelines for how children's services should engage with parents of children with SEN.

League tables 'fail to influence' parents

J. Sugden

The Times, Feb. 17th 2010, p. 11

A study entitled 'Children of the 21st Century: the First Five Years', which draws on data from the Millennium Cohort Study, shows that most parents put school performance in league tables behind other factors such as the distance of a school from their home when choosing schools for their children. The findings contradict Schools Secretary Ed Balls' belief that Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) results are the main way in which parents assess schools - a belief that was used to justify his refusal to abolish the exams for 11-year-olds.

Leap confronting conflict: creating safer schools and communities

P. Boucher

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 28, 2009, p. 15-18

The author of this article is a Youth Programme Director for Leap Confronting Conflict (Leap) and reports on the work of the organisation which is a UK specialist in youth and conflict. Leap works with funding bodies, the police, youth services, schools, and local councils. Its role is to harness young people's skills as a way of preventing violence and thereby creating safer schools and communities. Leap also offers training and coaching for adults, organisations and teams throughout the UK as well as producing resource materials.

Low income and early cognitive development in the UK

J. Waldfogel and E. Washbrook

Sutton Trust, 2010

Research shows that children from deprived backgrounds are nearly a year behind their peers in language skills by the age of five. Vocabulary tests comparing offspring of the poorest fifth of families with those of parents on a middle income showed a difference in ability of about 11 months. The report calls for the government to close the gap through parenting programmes, home visits and outreach projects. It also suggests more funding for nursery education for the poorest 15% of two to four-year-olds.

More cheating - and that's just the teachers

R. Garner

The Independent, Feb. 4th 2010, p. 11

Cheating in GCSE and A-levels by pupils, teachers and school exam centres rose markedly in 2009 with the number of teenagers found guilty of cheating rising by 6.2 per cent and the number of teachers disciplined for test 'malpractice' being 30 per cent higher than the year before. A breakdown of figures from the Office of the Qualifications and Exams Regulator (Ofqual) showed that the most common form of cheating was 'bringing a mobile phone or other electronic gadget' into the room. Teachers were disciplined for leaving the exam hall unsupervised and helping candidates to answer the questions.

(See also The Times, Feb. 4th 2010, p. 17)

The National Strategies: a review of impact



The Inspectorate found weaknesses in teaching standards at half of secondary schools and a third of primaries, despite their exposure to the National Strategies programme. This heralded the introduction of centralised teaching methods and led to the launch of daily literacy and numeracy hours in primary schools. The report says that the programme had contributed to improvements in primary schools since 1997, but warned that the rate of improvement had stalled over the past four years. Part of the problem is that schools are being overwhelmed by the weight of new initiatives and teaching materials.

Needs or rights? A challenge to the discourse of special education

K. Runswick-Cole and N. Hodge

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 36, 2009, p. 198-203

This article argues for the abandonment of the 'special needs' discourse, claiming that it has led to exclusionary practices within education. Building on the work of early years educators in Reggio Emilia schools in Northern Italy, the authors advocate for the adoption of the phrase 'educational rights' and suggest that the positive impact of such a linguistic change would be significant both for the lives of young people currently described as having 'special educational needs', and for children's rights.

Parents 'too fatalistic' in choosing schools

A. Kershaw

The Independent, Feb. 17th 2010, p. 2

Researchers involved in a UK-wide Millennium Cohort Study, led by the Institute of Education, University of London, have found that parents may not be putting their first choice on the school application form because they think their child will fail to get into it. The findings showed that between 4 per cent and 7 per cent of parents who were allocated their stated first choice had preferred another school but had not tried to get their child into it.

Private schools get tough on unpaid fees

N. Woolcock

The Times, Feb. 15th 2010, p. 17

Independent schools are getting tough with parents over unpaid fees and using unusual tactics such as hosting weddings in an attempt to make ends meet in the current financial climate. Bankers and lawyers who advise independent schools have told them to merge, cut out perks, sell or rent spare land, make staff part-time and pursue unsettled debts through legal channels.

Pupils 'put on easier courses to boost schools' league positions'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 15th 2010, p. 1 + 4

Data published following a Parliamentary question suggest that secondary schools have been boosting their position in the league tables by entering more pupils for vocational qualifications. Some vocational qualifications in subjects such as computing and travel and tourism are worth the same as four GCSEs, despite taking half the time to teach and being less demanding.

Rights, social cohesion and identity: arguments for and against state-funded Muslim schools in Britain

C. Tinker

Race, Ethnicity and Education, vol. 12, 2009, p. 539-553

The debate over the state funding of Muslim schools in Britain often appears polarised and this article challenges this position by arguing that there are some common concerns shared by those on all sides of the debate, namely rights, social cohesion and identity. The author argues this indicates that, underneath the antagonism and misunderstanding which often pervades the Muslim schools debate, there are some key desires and concerns that unite those on opposing sides and proposes that this realisation could potentially open up a space for dialogue between advocates and opponents of Muslim schools.

The review of elective home education

Children, Schools and Families Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2009/10; HC 39)

Estimates suggest that there are now somewhere between 45,000 and 150,000 home educated children in England. The question of if and how home education should be regulated has been the subject of a series of consultations and research studies commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families which has culminated in the Badman review. Debate has centred on the tension between, on the one hand, the absence of prescription in relation to home education and the ability of home educating families to refuse contact with their local authority, and, on the other, the duty on local authorities to ensure that every child in their area is receiving a suitable education. The Children, Schools and Families Committee supports the introduction of voluntary annual registration for home educating families. Any registration system should be accompanied by better information sharing between local authorities, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and other agencies-including NHS trusts and police forces-to help identify which children are in school, which are being educated at home, and which are in neither category. The success of a voluntary registration system and improved information sharing should be reviewed after two years. The Committee also believes that home educating families should provide some form of statement of their intended approach to their child's education. These requirements should be supplemented by meetings between home educating families and local authority officers on at least an annual basis. Furthermore, they suggest that existing safeguarding legislation is the appropriate mechanism for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of home educated children, and that the proposed addition of annual visits would offer little direct safeguarding benefit over and above this. Key to local authorities being able to work more effectively with home educating families will be their ability to offer suitably resourced support and services.

The safe use of new technologies



Ofsted inspected 35 state schools in England as part of a study of the use of new technology in the classroom. The report says that Internet safety was no better than satisfactory in four out of ten schools and teacher training was weak in 60%. A third of schools inspected used 'locked' systems that restricted access to websites. Ofsted concluded that, while restricted access kept pupils safe online in the short term, it rendered them more vulnerable at home where Internet access was often unchecked. The report calls for improved teacher training, improved age-specific lessons in e-safety, and a move to 'managed' Internet access.

School canteens must smarten up, says trust

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 26th 2010, p.2

Report argues that school canteens should be given restaurant-style makeovers to encourage children to eat healthy meals. Schools should consider using proper tablecloths, crockery and cutlery to tempt pupils into traditionally drab dining halls. It is argued that changes to the atmosphere, queuing system and payment methods could increase the amount of food eaten in canteens by as much as a third.

Science and mathematics secondary education for the 21st century

Science and Learning Expert Group

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2010

This group was set up in 2009 to assess the state of science, technology, engineering and mathematics teaching in schools and colleges. The report praises the high priority given to science and mathematics by the Labour government and insists that courses remain popular. However it claims that an over-reliance on multiple-choice tests is undermining pupils' grasp of the subjects. Examination boards are exacerbating the problem by selling their own textbooks to schools, helping pupils to boost their scores without properly grasping difficult subjects.

Sex and relationships education: potential and challenges perceived by teachers of the deaf

S. Suter, W. McCracken and R. Calam

Deafness and Education International, vol.11, 2009, p. 211-220

Little research has been carried out into sex education for deaf children in Europe. This means that more empirical data are needed to address the growing British concern about the inadequacy of mainstream school sex education, especially for vulnerable children. This study closes a gap in the literature by exploring the views and experiences of teachers of the deaf supporting the sexual development of deaf children in mainstream schools. The data reveal the many barriers teachers of the deaf encounter when delivering sex education, including unsuitable teaching materials, lack of a clear school sex and relationships education policy, and lack of a clear hearing impairment services policy.

Strengthening the special educational needs element of initial teacher training and education

G. Golder, N. Jones and E.E. Quinn

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 36, 2009, p. 183-190

In the academic year 2006-2007, the Training and Development Agency (TDA) set up a development programme to enable Initial Teacher Training and Education (ITTE) placements in special education provision. The goal of the programme was to enhance the knowledge, skills and understanding of inclusive practice for special educational needs and disability among those joining and those relatively new to the teaching workforce. This article outlines one project related to this TDA programme and assesses it against the TDA's objectives for both trainee teachers and the special schools to which they were attached. Results confirm the importance of preparing trainee teachers for a future career in more inclusive schools.

Warning for town halls over power to block schools

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 8th 2010, p. 2

The Conservatives want to prevent Labour councils from using planning laws to block the establishment of their proposed new network of academy-style community schools. The plans would allow parents and charities, as well as businesses, to set up schools. The Conservative government would take new powers to overrule local planning decisions and would allow existing buildings to be turned into schools without planning permission.

White working-class frustration

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Jan.26th- Feb. 1st 2010, p. 11

Underachievement is endemic among white working-class pupils. This article looks at how some successful schools have bucked the trend.

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