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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2011): Education - UK - schools

70m bill for schools that had to close

A. Gilligan

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 26th 2011, p. 1 + 2

At least three schools built using PFI contracts have closed due to falling pupils numbers, but education authorities will be paying the contractors 'rent' for them until 2035. Many other PFI schools - built and operated by private contractors and rented back to the local authority - face high maintenance costs and frustrating restrictions which limit how the buildings can be used.

All-girl schools lose allure as parents see benefit of learning in mixed environment

J. Sugden

The Times, Jan. 25th 2011, p. 14

The latest edition of The Good Schools Guide shows that the popularity of all-girl schools is declining as more parents choose to have their daughters educated in mixed-sex classrooms. The proportion of girls' schools included in the guide is the lowest since the list began in 1986. In the last ten years many high-performing boys' schools have started admitting girls, so widening the choice of schools for girls to the detriment of female-only schools. Girls' schools have to admit boys to survive.

Anonymity for teachers

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 27th 2011, p. 1 + 2

In an attempt to curb the rise of malicious allegations, teachers will be granted anonymity when accused of attacking pupils. The Education Bill placed before Parliament on Jan. 27th 2011 outlined plans to keep the names of accused teachers secret until they had been formally charged by the police. The action follows publication of figures showing that as many as 25% of teachers have been victims of false accusations by pupils.

Children could drop all but four core subjects

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 21st 2011, p. 8

The education secretary Michael Gove has announced a review of the national curriculum for primary and secondary schools. Only four subjects, English, maths, science and physical education, will remain compulsory for all pupils. A panel of experts will decide whether to make other subjects statutory or allow schools to drop them. The reform will abandon the current focus on teaching methods to specify the core knowledge that children should acquire at each key stage. (See also Daily Telegraph, Jan. 20th 2011, p. 1 + 4)

Children should sit GCSE at 14, says former education secretary

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Jan. 7th 2011, p. 15

Thousands more school children would stay at school past the age of 16 if they took GCSE exams at 14, the former education secretary Estelle Morris has said at the North of England Education Conference in Blackpool.. Morris, who started her career as a teacher, has joined a growing number of educationalists calling for GCSE at 16 to be scrapped. The shadow education secretary Andy Burnham also told the Blackpool conference that the government is erecting a 'Berlin Wall' between vocational and academic qualifications and that the new English Bac, where pupils receive the certificate if they achieve grade C or more in five core subjects, will disengage a generation of young people.

Councils in court over school rebuilding cuts

R. Williams

The Guardian, Jan 24th 2011, p. 12

Six local authorities will take the government to court this week to try to overturn its decision to cancel their multimillion-pound school rebuilding projects. Waltham Forest and Newham councils in East London, Luton, Nottingham and Tory-controlled Kent County Council are going to the High Court seeking a judicial review of the axing of the Building Schools for Future (BSF) programme arguing the decision was taken incorrectly.

Education Bill

London: TSO, 2011 (Bill 137, session 2010/11) The Education Bill published on Jan. 27th will strip schools regulator Ofsted of powers to assess peripheral issues such as school food, pupil well-being, community cohesion and pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Instead it will focus on teaching quality, leadership, pupil behaviour and achievement. Outstanding schools will be spared inspections altogether unless parents or government officials raise concerns. The Bill also gives teachers more powers to discipline pupils, including the right to search them for any banned item and the ability to impose 'no notice' detentions without the current 24 hours' warning. Head teachers will also be given greater powers to expel violent and aggressive pupils. The Bill will lead to the formal abolition of a series of educational quangos, such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, the General Teaching Council for England and the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

Early intervention: the next steps: an independent report to Her Majesty's Government

G. Allen

London: Cabinet Office, 2011

A review commissioned by the government proposes that the concept of school 'year groups' should start at birth instead of when children enter primary school. It also calls for regular assessments of the social and emotional development of every baby and toddler in Britain. It highlights the critical importance of early intervention in ensuring good speech, language and communication development. The 'prime objective' should be to produce high levels of 'school readiness' for all children regardless of family income.

Flatpack schools are a lesson in economics

G. Hurst

The Times, Jan. 28th 2011, p.16

In a move to reduce costs the Government is planning 'a new generation of 'flatpack' schools built to standard designs with smaller classrooms. There will no longer be a need to employ architects, planning advisers and other consultants to design each school from scratch. Costs will also be cut by using standard building materials and fittings in a bid to reduce the price by 30 per cent. Time will be saved with each school taking 13 weeks instead of 18 months to build. Ty Goddard, director of the British Council for School Environments, warned that sacrificing details such as light, acoustics and comfort would harm children's studies. These elements in a school are exceptionally important and can be absolutely proven to have a direct impact on supporting teachers and learners. Good facilities, whether sports or science facilities, are absolutely vital.

Gatekeepers or facilitators: the influence of teacher habitus on students' applications to elite universities

C. Oliver and N. Kettley

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 31, 2010, p.737-753

Low application rates of state school students to elite universities have been identified as a factor in their limited participation. This article explores the role of teachers in state schools and colleges in guiding higher education (HE) choice. Drawing on qualitative research with teachers and students in six institutions, the authors identify differential practices that corroborate explanations of an 'institutional habitus' shaping students' likely pathways to HE. However, they suggest that attention is also paid to teacher habitus, demonstrating how teachers' political and ethical dispositions as well as their social capital are potential factors shaping students' decision-making about HE, and elite university applications in particular.

Give the facts: Gove launches curriculum review

J. Vasagar and J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Jan. 21st 2011, p. 15

History and geography lessons should focus on facts and essential knowledge, the education secretary, Michael Gove, said as he launched the review of the national curriculum. Some teaching unions have attacked the plans as elitist and outdated.

Gove looks to Lib Dems as EMA attacks grow

N. Watt

The Guardian, Jan 20th 2011, p. 4

The education secretary Michael Gove has praised Lib Dem councils that help students with travel costs. The remark came as the attempt by Labour to keep the Education Maintenance Allowance was defeated in Parliament.

Labour 'dumped 5,000 pages of guidance on teachers'

Anon.

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 7th 2011, p. 2

The Conservative Party's analysis of emails sent by the Department for Children, Schools and Families between April 2009 and April 2010 suggests that schools received 4,846 pages of guidance, regulations and details of government initiatives. This equates to 1.6m words. The Tories said that since the 2010 general election they had contacted schools only at certain key points and that all their missives combined amounted to only 69,714 words.

Literacy teaching 'fails premature babies'

J. Sugden

The Times, Jan. 6th 2011, p. 19

A government adviser has said that improved survival rates among premature babies mean that schools must overhaul literacy teaching techniques so that children born early are not left behind. Professor Barry 'Carpenter of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust said that premature babies were often born before their brains had been properly 'wired' making aural learning more difficult.

Modern languages: achievement and challenge 2007-2010

Ofsted

2011

This report, based on inspections at 182 English schools, found that the overall effectiveness of foreign language lessons was not good enough at 40%. Poor lessons at secondary schools were characterised by over reliance on mechanical exercises and worksheets and the use of unproductive activities such as copying out of textbooks without understanding the meaning of the words. These boring lessons have led to the proportion of teenagers taking a GCSE in a foreign language falling from 61% to 44% in the past five years.

More maths, longer days.Gove's school vision takes shape

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Jan. 5th 2010, p. 13

New 'free' state schools featuring immersion lessons in Hebrew, a longer school day and intensive teaching of maths have moved a step closer to opening following the appointments of head teachers and selection of school sites for the 25 projects which have been given the go ahead so far. However, a YouGov survey for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has found little support for the idea among parents, with 31% of the 1,021 polled against the idea and 29% neither in favour nor against.

New method of ranking schools is unfair, say headteachers

J. Shepherd and W. Mansell

The Guardian, Jan 11th 2011, p. 6

Head teachers are angry that league tables for secondary schools, have been changed retrospectively. In the new method for ranking secondary schools introduced by the government, schools will be measured according to the number of pupils who achieve grade C or above in five core subjects: English, maths, one science, one foreign language and one humanity.

Only one in six does well in key GCSEs

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 13th 2011, p. 4

New school rankings show that fewer than one in six pupils gained good GCSE grades in traditional academic subjects. Official figures reveal that almost 550,000 teenagers failed to achieve good passes in core GCSEs. Under the new measure, nicknamed the English Baccalaureate, all pupils are expected to achieve A*-C grades in English, science, maths, languages and humanities. Under Labour, schools were measured by the number of pupils gaining five A*-C grade GCSEs, including English and maths. However, the other three passes could be gained in less academically rigorous subjects. When results under the old system are compared with the new English Baccalaureate scores, the success rate for many schools collapses.

(See also the Guardian, Jan. 13th 2011)

Parents told to 'Go Compare' school spending

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 12th 2011, p. 12

Parents will be able to find out how much schools spend on staff salaries, supply teachers, catering, energy and office costs using new price comparison-style data under government plans to shame schools which waste public money. They will be able to compare schools to see if any achieve better examination results while spending less money. The data is to be published on the Department for Education's main web site as part of a drive to cut public sector waste and boost efficiency.

Prep school bursaries a waste of time, say heads

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 18th 2011, p. 6

Under legislation passed by the Labour Government, fee-paying schools are no longer automatically registered as charities, but can only claim charitable status if they provide wider 'public benefit'. The Charity Commission suggested that offering free places to children from disadvantaged families would enable schools to pass the test. However, research indicates that many schools struggle to fill the free places, for which there is a lack of demand.

Pupils of four tutored for 11-plus

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 5th 2011, p. 4

Children as young as four are being tutored to pass the 11-plus examination amid rising competition for grammar school places. Tutoring can often dramatically improve children's chances of passing the tests, but head teachers say that drilling pupils so young can create too much pressure and damage their long term development.

Removing barriers to literacy

Ofsted

2011

Many schools limit their ambition for children from deprived backgrounds because they do not believe that they can perform as well as others. A culture of low expectations often contributes to poor standards of literacy among large numbers of children at a young age.

Selection at 14 will drive revolution in schooling

G. Hurst

The Times, Jan. 7th 2011, p.1, 6

The UK could follow most Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries by offering children the chance to opt out of academic learning at 14 in favour of vocational education. The colleges will have an engineering focus and each will have another practical specialism such as construction. Pupils will graduate with a 'tec bacc' with GCSEs in English, maths and science, qualifications in each college's 2 specialisms, such as an engineering diploma, plus a lower qualification in basic skills. Lord Baker predicts they will offer an alternative to university education.

Struggling schools could be taken over by high-performing super heads, says Gove

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Jan. 12th 2011, p. 8

Struggling schools could come under the control of more successful head teachers who will be able to make changes to the curriculum and staffing under 'tough, rigorous' plans for improvement, the education secretary Michael Gove said yesterday. The announcement came on the eve of the publication of league table which will reveal that many secondary schools are failing to meet the government's basic targets for GCSE results.

The state of education policy

H. Gunter (editor)

London: Continuum. 2010

This collection of papers considers the shift from welfare based provision of public services to the quasi-market with private delivery and philanthropic investment as an issue that needs a thorough examination through evidence and rigorous argument. This book seeks to do this by not only charting events and providing a detailed examination of what is happening but also by locating these developments within a contemporary political and social analytical framework. Topics covered include:

  • the legal and political process of establishing Academies
  • the working and impact of Academies using a range of data and perspectives
  • the debates and issues regarding this major reform, with comparative perspectives.

The book shows how the Academies Programme in England is an important site for examining the growth of neoliberal ideas and practices in the framing and delivery of public services such as education.

Trainee teachers to be thrown in at the deep end

R. Garner

The Independent, Jan. 10th 2011, p. 20

Trainee teachers will be made to start teaching in the classroom much earlier than they currently do. Ministers believe on the job training will equip would be teachers for the rigours of the classroom, following the success of the TeachFist scheme, which has seen graduates with top degree passes recruited to work in tough inner city schools for the past five years.

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