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

Academic rigour and social mobility: how low income students are being kept out of top jobs

E. Truss

Centre Forum, 2011

This study found that the number of positions available in skilled trades and clerical jobs had fallen since the mid-1990s due to technological advances. More than one million more people have been employed in professional occupations such as the law and medicine, but skilled tradesmen have dropped by 300,000. Young people from poor families are not being prepared to flourish in this economy, as they are pushed by schools into taking practical GCSEs and A-levels. These do not provide the formal academic qualifications required by employers and elite universities.

The Academies Programme

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010-2011; HC 552)

This report focuses on the performance of sponsored academies; they have performed impressively to date, achieving rapid academic improvements and raising aspirations in some of the most deprived areas in the country. In many cases this has been achieved through high-quality leadership, a relentless focus on standards, and innovative approaches to learning and to the school timetable. The sponsored academies see collaboration across chains or 'clusters' of academies as the way forward which will help to further raise standards and develop future leaders. However, there are some emerging concerns to which the Department should have regard. There is concern that there are already signs of potential financial and governance instability, even at this early stage in the development of the Programme. There needs to be a strong framework with which academies must comply to ensure probity and effective governance across the Programme in the future. While the Department has issued guidance on internal controls and financial management, it has not made important elements mandatory, and many academies are not complying. From 1 April 2010, most of the functions for funding and monitoring of academies transferred from the Department to the Young People's Learning Agency. The Department and the Agency are planning to overhaul academies' governance and accountability, with an emphasis on light-touch regulation. However, light-touch central regulation can only meet the standards for managing public money if it is accompanied by robust controls at academy level to ensure good governance and clear accountability. Some existing sponsors have failed to fulfil the financial contributions they originally pledged to their academies. The status of some of these debts is unclear and, especially as sponsors of new academies are no longer required to make a financial contribution, there is a risk they will never be paid. In reducing administrative overheads in the Agency, it is imperative that the Department makes sure there is sufficient and appropriate capacity to ensure that academies provide value for money and that fraud and overpayments do not occur.

As education cuts loom, drama teachers are first in line for chop

R. Garner

The Independent, March 14th 2011, p. 20

A high number of teachers are expected to lose their jobs, as the Coalition implements its plans for an 'English Baccalaureate.' Art and drama teachers, and others who teach vocational subjects are first in line, as the new English Baccalaureate will mean that schools will be assessed on the percentage of pupils getting five A* to C grades in academic subjects, including maths, English, a language, a science and a humanity. As a consequence, schools are restructuring their timetables, axeing staff who do not teach 'core subjects.'

(See also The Guardian, March 14th 2011, p. 16)

Barriers to parental involvement in education: an explanatory model

G. Hornby and R. Lafaele

Educational Review, vol. 36, 2011, p. 37-52

The issue of parental involvement (PI) in education is notable for the extensive rhetoric supporting it and considerable variation in the reality of its practice. It is proposed that the gap between rhetoric and reality in PI has come about because of the influence of factors at the parent and family, child, parent-teacher and societal levels which act as barriers to the development of effective PI. This article presents a model which has been developed in order to clarify and elaborate on the barriers in each of these four areas. First, parent and family factors are discussed, focusing on parents' beliefs about PI, parents' current life contexts, parents' perceptions of invitations for involvement, and class, ethnicity and gender. Next, child factors are addressed, focusing on age, learning difficulties and disabilities, gifts and talents, and behavioural problems. Then, parent-teacher factors are discussed, focusing on differing agendas, attitudes and language used. Finally, societal factors are addressed, including historical and demographic issues, political issues, and economic issues. It is argued that the model will enable education professionals to achieve a greater understanding of the barriers to PI, which is a necessary precursor to the development of more effective PI in education. The model can also be used in pre-service teacher education and professional development courses for education professionals, as well as for identifying areas of future research on PI.

Behaviour and discipline in schools

Education Committee

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers; session 2010-2011, HC 516-I) Good order is essential in a school if children are to be able to fulfil their learning potential. Data on behaviour currently collected by the Department for Education does not fully represent the nature of behaviour in schools-good or bad-and the impact of that behaviour upon staff, pupils, parents and carers. A good school behaviour policy, agreed and communicated to all staff, governors, pupils, parents and carers, consistently applied, is the basis of an effective approach to managing behaviour. Teachers need to feel that they have the support of the school leadership in applying the behaviour policy, and the committee therefore supports proposals in the White Paper The Importance of Teaching to reform the National Professional Qualification for Headship, to give clearer emphasis on leading and supporting staff in maintaining and improving standards of behaviour in schools. Governors have an important role in challenging and supporting headteachers to ensure that behaviour policies are applied consistently, and it is hoped that take-up of training for chairs of governors, to be provided by the National College, will be high.

Children denied place at every school they chose

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 2nd 2011, p. 10

Official figures show that in some areas one in 10 children will be sent to schools their parents did not name on their application forms due to intense competition for places at the best state secondary schools. This amounts to some 16,000 children nationally, who will be allocated a secondary school place by their local council.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Feb. 28th 2011, p. 13)

Controversial Education Bill assigns more power to the centre

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 8th-21st 2011, p. 10-11

Unions have criticised the Education Bill presented to Parliament in January 2011 for shifting too much power to central government and running counter to the current promotion of localism. The Bill extends the education secretary's powers to intervene in underperforming schools. It also sets out plans to abolish the Young People's Learning Agency and the Training and Development Agency for Schools. These will be replaced by executive agencies of the Department for Education.

Council grant raided to help fund academies

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Jan.25th-Feb. 7th 2011, p.12-13

All English councils are having money taken from their 'formula grant' to the tune of 148m in 2011/12 and 265m in 2012/14 to fund academies. Because the government is unsure how many schools will convert to academy status, the cash is being taken from all councils, even those who have no academies within their boundaries, and although local authorities will make only marginal savings when schools convert to academies.

Cuts 'will undermine special needs budgets'

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, March 10th 2011, p. 4

Campaigners have warned that government's plans to give parents of children with special education needs their own budgets to spend on the support they need could be undermined by councils' cuts to services.

Educating the next generation of scientists

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/11; HC 632)

The Department for Education (the Department) has made impressive progress on aspects of science and maths secondary education. The numbers studying separate GCSE biology, chemistry and physics (Triple science) have risen by almost 150% between 2004-05 and 2009-10. Nevertheless, there is a risk that this progress will not be maintained. Good-quality teaching is essential to increasing children's interest, enjoyment and achievement, but progress in increasing the number of specialist physics and maths teachers has been slow. There is also evidence that science facilities in many schools are unsatisfactory and even unsafe. Despite this, the Department does not intend to collect information on the extent of the problem, and has abandoned targets for improving the condition of these facilities. The Department must approach the challenge of improving school science and maths through a coherent, system-wide strategy rather than as a number of initiatives operating in isolation. This strategy will need to ensure that key success factors such as GCSE Triple Science, specialist teachers, good-quality science accommodation, quality careers advice and programmes to increase take-up and achievement are made available in a concerted fashion in all areas of the country.

Fall in reading standards as children opt for easy books

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 3rd 2011, p. 6

A study commissioned by the education company Renaissance Learning analysed the reading habits of 150,220 children in primary and secondary school. The research found that, in the first four years of compulsory education, pupils generally read books above what would be age appropriate. In the final two years of school, however, boys and girls read books that were well below what might be expected, such as the picture book The Happy Caterpillar.

Fee schools laud medical success

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, March 17th 2011, p. 20

More than a quarter of all medicine and dentistry students come from the country's fee-paying schools, official figures released by the Independent Schools Council have shown. This is despite the percentage of pupils attending private schools in England being just 7%.

Gove accused of trying to recreate two-tier schooling

N. Watt

The Guardian, March 11th 2011, p. 16

Michael Gove is turning the clock back to the 1950s and introducing grammar schools by the back door, the Labour Party warned as it launched a campaign against the 'elitist' baccalaureate at a head teachers' conference.

Gove plan 'could hold back the brightest students'

G. Hurst

The Times, Mar. 7th 2011, p. 18

Bright students risk missing out on the best universities and jobs under Michael Gove's plan to restore a traditional school curriculum. The plan to prioritise traditional subjects such as English, maths and history risks depriving teenagers of the skills that universities and employers want most. These include research, independence, technology, communications, leadership, team work and problem solving. It is the highest achieving children seeking places at top universities and applying for the best jobs who most need such skills in addition to an academic education. Employers want people who can communicate, identify problems and find creative ways of solving them, have leadership skills, can manage people, lead people, motivate people, inspire them, use new technologies and so on

Gove unveils cut-price replacement for EMA

P. Wintour

The Guardian, March 29th 2011, p. 10

Education secretary Michael Gove yesterday made another policy U-turn when he announced a more generous than expected replacement for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), setting aside 180m a year. The scheme, named '16-19 Bursaries' represents a cut of two thirds from the previous 560m annual budget and will be targeted only at the poorest students, so depriving hundreds of thousands of students of state support.

Gove's 50-book reading target for all pupils

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 22nd 2011, p. 10

Education secretary Michael Gove has suggested that children as young as 11 should be expected to read 50 books a year as part of a drive to improve literacy standards. The vast majority of teenagers read only one or two books as part of their GCSEs at present.

Heads may be able to refuse entry to middle class pupils

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 1st 2011, p. 10

Oversubscribed academies and free schools could be given powers to prioritise children from the poorest homes when awarding places under proposals being developed by the coalition government. The reforms would allow head teachers to admit pupils eligible for free school meals before considering most other children. The move is designed to give the most deprived pupils greater access to popular schools amid fears that they are losing out to middle-class youngsters in the competition for the most sought-after places.

Hughes calls for 100m to help poorer students

P. Wintour, A Stratton and P. Curtis

The Guardian, March 14th 2011, p. 12

Simon Hughes is pushing the Treasury to adopt a multimillion pound package to support 16- to 19-year olds staying at school or college as pre-budget negotiations across Whitehall enter the final stages. The Lib Dem deputy leader is lobbying for a compromise solution after the government set out plans to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

Personalised leadership development? Lessons from the pilot NPQH in England

M. Crawford and P. Earley

Educational Review, vol. 36, 2011, p. 105-118

This article draws upon an evaluation, carried out for the National College, of the piloting of the new National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) in England. The pilot programme focused on the personalisation of headship training to make it more customised to the identified needs of each individual. The reconfigured programme featured leadership coaching, school-based work, face-to-face events, online communities, peer learning groups, and use of online NPQH materials in a virtual environment. The evaluation study was carried out with participants, providers and coaches over the 12 month period of the pilot. The evaluation team concluded that the pilot programme had gone well for the majority of the participants, who viewed the revised NPQH as having significant strengths. These included its focus on personalised learning, the supportive environment offered by providers, its various components (in particular coaching, placement schools, online aspects, etc.) and a timeline that fits in with trainee head teacher aspirations. In particular, needs identification and personalisation was a clear strength of the programme and the only barriers to learning related to individual's learning styles and preferences.

Pupils behaving badly? It's time to send in the Army

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 28th 2011, p. 13

Reports that the government is to award some 1.5m to the charity SkillForce to enable it to train former military personnel to work as mentors in schools in deprived areas. It is hoped that the former services personnel will instil discipline, self-respect and a sense of purpose in pupils from poor backgrounds. The government is also expected to announce funding for a new Troops to Teachers programme in England to pay ex-servicemen 9,000 to retrain as teachers.

School choice figures show 40% may miss out in some areas

J. Vasagar and J. Shepherd

The Guardian, March 1st 2011, p. 9

Up to 40% of children could fail to win a place at their first choice of secondary school in some of the most competitive areas of the country, new figures show.

(See also The Guardian, March 18th 2011, p. 14)

Schools struggle with attention disorder 'avalanche'

J. Sugden

The Times, Mar. 25th 2011, p. 15

The Government has published guidelines for teachers on how to deal with the 'avalanche of pupils' with attention disorders. Children born very early were more likely to struggle with maths and reading and have behavioural problems and learning difficulties because their brain had developed outside of the womb. 'The findings of this research offer very important insights into a new generation of children with complex learning difficulties. It offers imaginative and practical guidance on how teachers can support children in their learning.'

Sixth-formers give up on gap year dreams to beat increased fees

J. Sugden

The Times, Mar. 1st 2011, p. 16

A sharp rise in young people trying to get into university at the second attempt and before fees go up has led to record numbers of candidates months before applications close.

Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability.

Department for Education

London: TSO, 2011 (Cm 8027)

The vision for reform set out in this Green Paper includes wide ranging proposals to improve outcomes for children and young people who are disabled or have special education needs (SEN), minimise the adversarial nature of the system for families and maximise value for money. This publication marks the start of a four month period of consultation and a period of testing proposals in local areas from September 2011. The Department will work across government and with local and national partners to set out detailed plans by the end of the year. Proposals include a new single assessment process and 'Education, Health and Care Plan', bringing together support across education, health and social care. All parents will be offered the option of a personal budget by 2014 and given a real choice of type of school.

(For comment see Children and Young People Now, Mar. 22nd -Apr. 4th 2011, p. 14-15)


Top teachers for deprived schools

L. Smith and S. Morrison

The Independent, Mar. 30th 2011, p. 21

From September 2011, Teach First, an education charity, will place up to 80 high-calibre new graduates, after having trained them, in deprived primary schools. The aim is to tackle the link between poverty and low academic achievement. The National Union of Teachers has said that, although Teach First do a good job, their preferred route for entry into the profession is through undergraduate and PGCE courses.

The wider pedagogical role of teaching assistants

R. Webster and others

School Leadership and Management, vol. 31, 2011, p. 3-20

Teaching assistants (TAs) comprise a quarter of the school workforce in England and Wales. There has been controversy over TAs' deployment and appropriate role regarding supporting learning and these debates have been transformed by findings from the largest study of school support staff (the DISS project), which show that TA support has a negative impact on pupils' academic progress. This article explores the most likely explanations for the negative effects of TA support through the lens of the wider pedagogical role model, the components of which enable us to understand the effects of TA support in terms of the decisions made about TAs, rather than by them.

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