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

Academies get right to reserve places for poorer pupils

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, May 27th 2011, p. 16

Academies and free schools will be allowed to reserve places for children entitled to free school meals under a new admission code published by the Department for Education. The code gives those schools, but not other state schools, the right to take children whose families' annual income is 16,190 or below rather than those from better off families.

Alarm over falling standards of A-levels and GCSEs

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, May 13th 2011, p. 1 + 4

This article reports that Ofqual is to announce an investigation into claims that A-levels and GCSEs have become too easy. The inquiry is expected to cover annual rises in grades, the perceived difficulty of qualifications, the range of courses and commercial competition between examination boards. The regulator has already been asked to look into examination resits and how tests compare with those used overseas.

Boost for the better-off as Gove bans lotteries for school places

J. Sugden and G. Hurst

The Times, May 27th 2011, p. 23

'Councils face curb on power over admissions' A new 'slimmed down' version of the school admissions code was published on May 27th 2011. It will allow popular schools to expand at the expense of undersubscribed schools. Councils will no longer be able to allocate places at oversubscribed schools randomly by lottery rather than by catchment area.

Draft school admissions code

Department for Education


In one of its most significant education reforms, the Coalition Government has revised and simplified the school admissions code of practice. The new draft code issued for consultation:

  • Requires schools to give priority to children from Armed Forces families, meaning that primary schools have to admit them to infant classes even if doing so exceeds the legal limit of 30 pupils
  • Bans local authorities from using area-wide lotteries to distribute places at over-subscribed schools. However, individual schools can still hold lotteries.
  • Strengthens the powers of the Schools Adjudicator, the official admissions watchdog, and gives parents more freedom to report schools to the regulator if they suspect head teachers of breaching the code.
  • Allows parents to reserve places for their children at free schools, if they were involved in setting them up
  • Gives all staff the right to a place for their child at the school which employs them
  • Allows academies and free schools to select pupils on the basis of family income, giving preference to pupils entitled to free school meals. This move is designed to give poorer pupils access to the most sought after schools and stop them being edged out by middle class families who buy properties near the best secondaries to secure places.

Education policy, practice and the professional

J. Bates, A. Pickard and S. Lewis

London: Continuum, 2011

In this introduction to education policy, practice and the professional, the authors begin by focusing on historical policy from the state's first interventions in education through to Thatcherism, and Blair's Education, Education, Education mantra. They then explore key contemporary policies and offer a critique of how they have worked in practice, before moving to look at the hysteria that often surrounds education policy, with focus on media representation and the effects this has on the teaching profession. Commentaries and case studies are presented throughout providing an accessible link to what it was really like to learn, teach and live at the time the policy was in place.

Exam cheats risk being discovered by computer

G. Hurst

The Times, May 27th 2011, p. 23

Marks per question awarded to each pupil are to be screened by computer to check for similarities with other candidates who sat the exam at the same school or college. Individual answers could then be checked manually and schools could be asked for exam seating plans to check whether pupils under suspicion of cheating were sitting next to or near each other. If students have cheated marks could be deducted or they could be refused a grade.

Help with homework part of the curriculum

T. Ross

Daily Telegraph, May 20th 2011, p. 1

Tim Oates, head of the expert panel on curriculum reform in England, has suggested that parents will be expected to spend more time helping their children with schoolwork under plans to extend the reach of the national curriculum into the home. Head teachers welcomed the ideas but family campaigners criticised them as impractical for some parents.

Leadership support through public-private 'partnerships': views of school leaders

S. Mertkan

Educational Management Administration and Leadership, vol. 39, 2011, p. 156-171

The English education system has been radically transformed over the last two decades. Throughout this period, the New Right and New Labour government policies have embraced the rhetoric of empowering schools to become self-managing institutions. In the course of this transformation, school leadership and management have become exceptionally complex and increasingly demanding with the leadership team being accountable for business management as well as pedagogical leadership. This article explores through loosely structured thematic interviews with headteachers and school business managers whether there is a demand for voluntary business management support from businesses. Schools demonstrate a willingness to receive strategic business management support from businesses, but present a multifaceted picture. Personalized school-business partnerships that are flexible and adaptable to the changing needs and capacities of both partners seem to be the way forward.

New free school 'poaching pupils' in a struggle to fill its first form

G. Hurst

The Times, May 31st 2011, p. 14

Plans to create England's biggest free school have been marred by accusations of pupils being poached and a pledge to offer places to children from a private school has been broken.

One in eight is denied first choice primary

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, May 9th 2011, p.6

There is a critical shortage of reception class places in some areas, leading to as many as 72,000 infants being forced to accept second, third or fourth choice schools in 2011. The squeeze on places has been attributed to an influx of immigrant families in some areas combined with a drop in the number of children being sent to private schools due to the recession. It is feared that, without a large injection of cash, a number of authorities may struggle to accommodate demand in future years, leaving some children without school places.

'Outstanding' school facing closure in reorganisation

R. Garner

The Independent, May 9th 2011, p. 16

Harrowden Middle School, in Bedford, might have to close notwithstanding having improved its performance significantly. The threatened closure, which could happen within three years, is due to a nearby school which has been turned into an academy. The new academy will take in 13- to 18- year-olds; it is thought that it will not be possible to run the two schools side by side. Harrowden plans to draw pupils from pre-school to age 16 in order to remain open.

Private schools call in debt collectors over unpaid fees

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, May 13th 2011, p. 9

Private schools are turning to debt collectors to force parents to hand over millions of pounds of unpaid fees. The harsh economic climate has led to more parents defaulting - or falling into arrears - on their children's school fees, the Independent Schools Bursars' Association has said.

Private schools suffer drop in pupil numbers

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Apr. 28th 2011, p. 5

The number of pupils at private schools has fallen for the second year running as the economic climate forces families to tighten their belts, figures released by the Independent Schools Council have shown.

Pupils could face careers advice void when schools take charge

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Apr. 19th-May 3rd 2011, p. 12-13

The Education Bill currently before Parliament places a duty on schools to provide access to impartial and independent careers advice, but removes the statutory requirement for councils to offer Connexions Services. Where the local authority closes its Connexions Service, schools may struggle to afford to purchase high-quality provision. In fact, they could largely fulfil their duty by giving pupils access to the government's new all-age telephone careers advice line and website.

Raising the achievement of all pupils within an inclusive setting: principal strategies for developing best practice; a reflective conversation with Belle Wallace, Sue Leyden, Diane Montgomery, Michael Pomerantz, Carrie Winstanley and Sally Fitton

M. Shaughnessy

Gifted Education International, vol. 27, 2010, p. 121-131

Recently, Routledge has published a stellar text outlining a series of practical strategies for raising the achievement of pupils within an inclusive setting. In this interview, the authors crystallise some of the main points conveyed through the text. The book is based on detailed case studies of 12 schools in the UK, ranging from early years through to secondary. Importantly the book outlines strategies for best practice which address the needs of all pupils, promoting the practice of inclusion with differentiation of active support according to pupils' needs and level of development.

(Re)conceptualising risk: left numb and unengaged and lost in a no-man's-land or what (seems to) work for at-risk students

D. Zyngier

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 211-231

This review of current research into at-risk programmes serves to categorise and characterise existing programmes and to evaluate their contribution to assisting students at risk from marginalised backgrounds. This characterisation questions the (sometimes) implicit assumptions and the consequences of those assumptions inherent in and behind these various accounts. Using as a lens the (various and varied) understandings of social justice and the goals of education, the author identifies three sometimes overlapping and sometimes contesting standpoints in relation to at-risk students, characterised as instrumentalist or rational technical, social constructivist or individualist, and critical transformative or empowering. It is argued that a critical transformative understanding of risk may deliver improved outcomes for young people by challenging 'the school context in which the young people are located'.

Repositioning of special schools within a specialist, personalised educational marketplace - the need for a representative principle

J. Rix

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 263-279

This paper considers how notions of inclusive education as defined in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Salamanca Agreement (1994) have become dissipated, and can be developed and reframed to encourage their progress. It analyses the discourse within a range of academic, legal and media texts, exploring how this dissipation has taken place within the UK. Using data from 78 specialist school websites it contextualises this change in the use of the terms and ideas of inclusion with the rise of two other constructs, the 'specialist school' and 'personalisation'. It identifies the need for a precisely defined representative principle to theorise the type of school which inclusion aims to achieve, which cannot be subsumed by segregated providers. It suggests that this principle should not focus on the individual, but draw upon a liberal/democratic view of social justice, underlining inclusive education's role in removing social barriers that prevent equity, access and participation for all.

Response to the 'Importance of Teaching' and the Education Bill 2011

R. Garside and others (editors)

Race Equality Teaching, vol. 29, 2011, p. 1-50

This edition of Race Equality Teaching has been specially commissioned to respond to the education White Paper and represents a concerted effort by a team from the journal's editorial board to put before the secretary of state and his ministers the evidence that their plans will do little good and, especially for the most disadvantaged, enormous harm. Robin Richardson measures the Department for Education's performance on equality in the light of the Home Secretary's letter to the cabinet about their duty to have due regard for it. David Gillborn shows why, despite all the rhetoric, the coalition government's education policy will make things worse for black students. Ros Garside points out that, despite much documented research showing that children learn best when the subject engages them, the White Paper harks back to a past of teaching from the front and an elitist curriculum - even excluding Religious Studies from the new baccalaureate. Bruce Gill and Feyusa Demie find that on issues of accountability, the White paper has little new to offer. Sally Thomlinson reminds ministers that not all pupils are white and that decades of research evidence about race, education and good practice exist. Missing from the White Paper is the presence of black pupils in schools. Also missing is the recognition of the substantial evidence about interventionist programmes which have narrowed the gaps between their and their white peers' achievements.

The role and performance of Ofsted

Education Committee

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC570)

The report recommends that Ofsted should be split into two inspectorates, separately overseeing children's social care and education. Two new positions should be created within the Department for Education to work alongside chief inspectors of schools and social care to ensure that government policy is informed by evidence. Unannounced inspections should become the norm, and Ofsted should ensure that more frontline practitioners are seconded to the inspectorate, with potential adjustments to local authority officers' job descriptions to make this possible. Inspection reports should be made more 'parent friendly', along with increased efforts to engage parents and young people in the inspection process. Ofsted should increase transparency about contracts with, and performance of, the three companies that undertake inspections on its behalf.

(For comment see Community Care, Apr. 21st 2011, p. 9 and Children and Young People Now, Apr. 19th-May 3rd 2011, p. 8-9)


Social and emotional pedagogies: critiquing the new orthodoxy of emotion in classroom behaviour management

V. Gillies

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 32, 2011, p. 185-202

This paper examines new structured attempts to address and manage emotions in the classroom. Critical analysis focuses on the broad emotional literacy agenda operating within schools, and more specifically the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme. Data are drawn from an ethnographic study located in Behaviour Support Units in three mainstream, inner-city comprehensives to highlight the gap between the 'rational emotionality' being promoted and the fraught, and often uncontainable, emotions that drive everyday school life. It is also argued that the therapeutic model underpinning SEAL activities in schools risks individualising and thereby misinterpreting socially and culturally embedded difference, pathologising particular pupils in the process.

Teachers' response to the gifted and talented policy in the UK: a review of the landscape

V. Koshy, C. Pinheiro-Torres and R. Casey

Gifted Education International, vol. 27, 2010, p. 206-218

The study reported in this paper explores how primary school teachers in England are responding to the gifted and talented initiative introduced by the UK government a decade ago. A survey carried out with a national sample of primary school teachers revealed that an increasing proportion of teachers, compared to a similar survey carried out in 1996, were identifying their gifted and talented pupils. There was also an increase in the number of schools with policies in place for gifted and talented education. However, the survey also indicated a number of issues that need addressing if the initiative is to achieve its objectives of providing the best possible education opportunities for children. For example, it was found that a significant number of practitioners were not aware of the existence of the National Quality Standard for gifted and talented education, provided by the UK government in 2007, and that the subject-specific criteria provided by the UK Curriculum Authority for identification and provision have been largely ignored. The process of identifying gifted and talented children seems haphazard and based on pragmatic considerations. Analysis of teachers' responses also revealed a range of views and theoretical positioning held by them, which may have implications for classroom practice.

Weaker schools face squeeze as Gove unleashes academies

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, May 23rd 2011, p. 1

Ministers want to scrap restrictions on the expansion of the most popular state schools, allowing them to take on more pupils in a move that will increase the financial pressure on failing schools. Ministers believe some local authorities are deliberately preventing good schools from raising their planned admission numbers for fear that it would become much harder to sustain weaker schools if pupils defect.

(See also The Guardian, May 23rd 2011, p. 9)

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