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

100 free schools to open next year

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 20th 2011, p. 6

More than 100 free schools run by parents, teachers and charities will open by September 2012. Under Michael Gove's 'free schools' policy, any non-profit making group can apply to open a school free of local council interference. The group will have almost complete freedom to hire staff, set teachers' pay, alter the academic year and write the curriculum.

'Brownie points' route into church schools is banned

J. Sugden

The Times, June 27th 2011, p.8

The Bishop of Oxford in his role as chairman of the Church of England's Board of Education will present a report to the General Synod in York in July 2011 which says that the only criterion to be taken into account when allocating church school places is attendance at worship. Awarding extra points to parents who play a more active role in the church is seen as discriminatory against families who for a variety of reasons are unable to participate. The Bishop believes that the present points system should be abolished and church schools should return to their mission of educating the poor and needy rather than allocating places to pupils whose middle class families play the system. Church schools should be more inclusive of the wider community and open their doors to ethnic minorities and immigrants who are not Christians in preference to local church families.

Cameron orders 'tough action' over exam blunders

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, June 23rd 2011, p. 12

David Cameron has intervened to shore up public confidence in the examination system after a string of errors in Summer 2011 GCSE and A-Level papers provoked an angry backlash from students and teachers. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents examination boards, said that marking schemes would be adjusted to reflect the problems after at least nine errors were found in papers. Up to 250,000 pupils may have been affected by the blunders, according to a Labour MP who raised the issue at prime minister's questions.

Can community-based interventions on aspirations raise young people's attainment?

R. Lupton and K. Kintrea

Social Policy and Society, vol.10, 2011, p. 321-335

The New Labour government in England 1997-2010 was concerned with narrowing gaps between poor neighbourhoods and others on a wide range of indicators, including educational attainment. During 2008, a consensus seemed to build up across Westminster departments that 'aspirations' could be a key lever for improving a number of outcomes including educational participation. An initiative to raise young people's aspirations was subsequently launched via a programme known as Inspiring Communities. This article reviews whether existing knowledge gives any reason to think that neighbourhood-based interventions to tackle aspirations would be a fruitful approach to closing the achievement gap between children from low-income families and others. Unfortunately the available evidence does not lead to firm conclusions.

Children get maths lesson from Asian 'tigers'

G. Hurst

The Times, June 20th 2011, p.5

The coalition's review of the national curriculum has suggested changes to be introduced in schools in September 2013. Children will have to learn difficult concepts in maths and science at a much earlier age as English schools copy the approach in Asian 'tiger' economies. The number of topics taught in primary schools will fall, allowing more time to practice tasks such as long division or multiplying fractions. In science there should be greater focus on pure principles of chemistry, biology and physics at an earlier age. In English the big focus will be on reading, to improve standards in primary schools and encourage broader reading of more books.

Docile bodies or contested space? Working under the shadow of permanent exclusion

A. Carlile

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 303-316

This paper aims to examine the experiences of pupils and professionals who are affected by actual or threatened permanent exclusion (what used to be called being expelled) from school. An ethnographic study based on the writer's employment within secondary schools and the children's services department of an urban local authority in England explores the idea that professionals may be forced to make decisions about pupils in the face of powerful competition between the politically unchallengeable concepts of tolerance, inclusivity, attainment, and choice. The paper argues that the tensions of multi-agency working are focussed within what will be called the contested space of the pupil's 'extended body'. Permanent exclusion, along with its tendency to prompt a pathological reading of a pupil's issues, is therefore seen as an authoritarian strategy designed to ameliorate the inherent paradoxical tension experienced by the various professionals working within an education system dedicated to the concept of 'full inclusion' but measured and funded on the grounds of academic league tables.

Free schools 'open all year'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 21st 2011, p. 1 + 2

Schools will open throughout the year and teach on Saturdays under a Coalition plan to raise education standards. The Government's flagship 'free schools' will be given new powers to shake up the academic year by axing traditional holidays and staging booster lessons outside the normal timetable. Michael Gove, the education secretary, said the plans would help working parents and provide extra tuition for children falling behind.

Gove performs U-turn with crackdown on failing primaries

R. Garner

The Independent, June 17th 2011, p. 24

The education secretary, Michael Gove, has announced a new crackdown on underperforming schools. He revealed that 200 under-performing primaries would be shut down in 2011/12 and turned into academies. Mr Gove will also hold talks with local authorities over measures to improve the performance of 500 other underperforming schools. He has set a new target for schools to achieve 50 per cent of pupils getting five A* to C grade passes at GCSE by 2015. The plans have been criticised by some educationalists, and the Government accused of performing a U-turn. Teachers' leaders object to the idea that turning poorly performing schools into academies is a panacea for improving standards.

(See also The Guardian, June 16th 2011, p. 5)

Gove sets new strike hurdle as 15,000 schools face shutdown

R. Watson and J. Sherman

The Times, June 29th 2011, p.6-7

It is expected that many head teachers will have to close their schools on June 30th, the date of the national strike against pension reforms, because they do not know how many teachers would work. At the moment teachers do not have to let their heads know if they are going to strike but Michael Gove has signalled that he intends to review the legislation. In an effort to win public sympathy for the Government's stand on public sector pension reform, Prime Minister David Cameron stated that anyone who continued to contribute to their pension schemes would be better off, that no one would lose what they had accrued and that all entitlements currently in place would be protected.

(See also The Times, June 27th 2011, p.5)

Gove's academy fanfare interrupted as mistakes in council funding are revealed

P. Wintour

The Guardian, June 17th 2011, p. 18

The ambitious plans of the education secretary, Michael Gove, to announce a fresh wave of academy schools were temporarily derailed when his junior minister Nick Gibb was forced into the Commons to answer charges that his department had misallocated funds for academies. The Financial Times said errors in funding had led to some councils being over-funded by as much as an extra 300 per pupil, worth around 300,000 a year to the average secondary academy.

Grammar schools will be allowed to expand

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 23rd 2011, p. 1

Grammar schools will be allowed to expand under reforms designed to give more pupils access to the best education, the Government has signalled. Currently, some 158,000 pupils attend state-funded grammars - almost five per cent of the school roll - but it is thought the number will grow significantly within just five years. More grammars should also convert into independent academies giving them additional powers over the curriculum, staff pay and the academic year.

Improve bad primary schools or lose them Gove warns councils

G. Hurst

The Times, June 17th 2011, p. 20

In a recent speech at the National College for School Leadership conference in Birmingham Mr. Gove, the education secretary, attempted to refocus the academies policy on transforming failing schools. He plans to appoint sponsors to take over 200 failing primaries and reopen them as academies, many in partnership with schools nearby. The Department for Education has identified a further 500 primaries with consistently poor results which it believes need intervention. Local authorities have been told to submit plans for raising standards or face losing control of them. For secondary schools, Mr. Gove will raise the target for the proportion of children achieving 5 GCSEs including English and maths at A*-C from 35 to 40 per cent in 2012, with 'aspiration' to raise it again to 50% in 2015. Schools with results beneath those targets face intervention but may be spared if pupils make good progress.

Independent review of Key Stage 2 testing, assessment and accountability: final report

Lord Bew of Donegore


This independent review of assessment in English primary schools recommends:

  1. introduction of a new style test for all 11-year-olds in spelling, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation and handwriting to drive up poor standards in English
  2. maintaining existing tests in maths and reading
  3. keeping the current system in which teachers informally monitor children's speaking and listening skills
  4. introducing three-year rolling average results for schools alongside annual scores to stop small primaries being penalised by sudden dips in grades
  5. giving children at least a week to take tests if they are ill on examination day, replacing the current system in which absences are marked down as failures
  6. investigating the possible use of online testing and marking.


Involving children with learning and communication difficulties: the perspectives of teachers, speech and language therapists and teaching assistants

A. Feiler and D. Watson

British Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol.39, 2011, p. 113-120

Policy initiatives both in the UK and internationally within the field of disability have rightly highlighted the importance of hearing the child's voice. However, it is imperative that professionals work together effectively to enable this to happen. This study presents the perspectives of teachers, speech and language therapists and teaching assistants on involving children with severe learning and communication difficulties in decision-making at school. For most staff, involving children with severe learning and communication difficulties was a priority at both the whole school level and in everyday interactions . However, their comments indicate that this is a demanding task and that more training is needed to enhance skills.

The mediation of acculturation: orchestrating school leadership development in England

M. Wallace, M. Tomlinson and D. O'Reilly

Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, vol. 39, 2011, p. 261-282

Among western governments large-scale leadership development initiatives represent an increasingly deployed means of promoting the acculturation of school leaders to support educational reforms and ongoing improvement. England's sophisticated initiative centres on the National College for Leadership in Schools and Children's Services, a politically driven intervention to acculturate headteachers and other senior school staff into transformational and distributed leadership. It is linked in significant measure to government-driven reforms, alongside continuous improvement efforts. Qualitative research whose focus included tracking the evolution of this initiative showed how moderate mediation, within broad structural and ideological limits, is integral to its implementation. The fostered leadership culture appeared to interact with recipients' existing organizational and wider professional cultures, valuing a substantial degree of local autonomy, stimulating reinterpretation and adaptation. Yet mediation appeared ultimately to have supported the government's agenda through local adaptation of reforms and some independent innovation consistent with the reform thrust. Contemporary government policy is to promote innovation, but the continued retention of nationally set expectations, strong accountability measures, and heavy sanctions seems likely to limit its potential for promoting locally inspired educational improvement.

Million pupils with poor English

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 23rd 2011, p. 8

Almost one million schoolchildren speak English as a second language, official figures show, sparking claims that mass immigration is placing a 'huge strain' on the education system. The proportion of children starting school with a relatively poor grasp of English has now doubled in just over a decade. In some parts of London as many as three-quarters of pupils speak other languages. The disclosure comes despite concerns over cuts in funding to teach pupils with English as a second language. A ring-fenced grant set aside to boost language skills among foreign pupils was abolished by the Coalition, with money now devolved to local councils to spend as they see fit.

More children on free school meals as families struggle

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, June 23rd 2011, p. 8

Growing numbers of children are claiming free school meals as families struggle to stay above the poverty line. Overall numbers have increased every year since 2007, suggesting that parents continue to feel the impact of the economic downturn. From next year schools will be able to claim a 'pupil premium' worth 430 for every deprived pupil they admit.

Personalised transition: a collaborative approach to funding individual budgets for young disabled people with complex needs leaving school

A. Cowen, P. Murray and S. Duffy

Journal of Integrated Care, vol. 19, Apr. 2011, p. 30-36

This new model of personalised transition for disabled school leavers with complex needs was developed by the governors and head teacher at Talbot Specialist School in Sheffield, in partnership with Sheffield City Council and NHS Sheffield. It offers an innovative model of bringing together funding from three sources to support the young people moving into adulthood in the familiar environment of their school. From 2007, young people and their families have been able to control individual budgets from social care, health and education.

Private firm sniffs a profit in coalition schools policy

J. Vasagar and W. Mansell

The Guardian, June 21st 2011, p. 6

A private education company run by a former head of Ofsted has told investors that the coalition's expansion of academies and introduction of free schools will create more opportunities for private firms to make money. Wey Education's statement to potential investors says the government's plans will 'create increased opportunities for private sector companies to manage and run state-funded schools at all levels'.

School leavers falling behind with maths skills, says report

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, June 14th 2011, p. 8

Teenagers are leaving school without the maths knowledge they need for university or the workplace, an influential committee of maths teachers has warned. A report by the advisory committee on maths education said maths A-level and other post-16 education qualifications were not demanding enough for many university courses.

School Teachers' Review Body: twentieth report 2011

A. Wright (chair)

Norwich: TSO, 2011 (Cm 8037)

This report considers two issues:

  • Payment for teachers earning 21,000 or less, in the context of the two-year public sector pay freeze that will affect teachers from September 2011
  • Whether there should be a limit on the value of the discretionary payments that can be applied to head teachers' pay, and if so, what it should be and how it should be applied.

The only teachers whose full-time equivalent pay is 21,000 or less are some of those on the unqualified teacher scale. The Department for Education (DfE) proposed a non-consolidated payment of 250. The Review Body concludes that the non-consolidated payment of 250 in both years is appropriate for all full-time unqualified teachers, with pro-rata payments for those working part-time. Remuneration for head teachers is a crucial issue, and the Review Body concludes that the case has been made in principle for a limit to be put in place, and that effective governance is key to ensuring appropriate reward whilst maintaining proper oversight of public funds. There should be a 'base' Individual School Range (ISR) for a head teacher described in the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD). Any discretion above 'base' ISR pay must be clearly justified and should not exceed the limit of 25% above the individual's point on their 'base' ISR in any given year. The Department should redraft the STPCD to give effect to the recommendations and to draw together all existing discretions as they impact on head teachers.

Schools overlooked on new health boards

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, June 1st-13th 2011, p. 14-15

Research on the emerging structure of health and wellbeing boards shows that schools will be underrepresented when councils take on responsibility for public health. Only two areas out of 46 surveyed had representatives from local schools on their board. However, a significant number of councils hope to absorb their children's trusts into their health and wellbeing boards, which could help better represent the views of education professionals.

Schools told to raise the bar on GCSE exam results

P. Wintour and N. Watt

The Guardian, June 15th 2011, p. 1

The education secretary, Michael Gove, will try to demonstrate the coalition has not lost its zeal for public service reform when he announces tougher exam targets for England's worst-performing schools. In an attempt to end what he sees as the low-expectations culture in some schools, he will say that by 2015 he expects every secondary school in England to be achieving the current national average of at least 50% of pupils attaining five A*-C grades at GCSE, including English and maths. If not, the school will be regarded as underperforming.

Special needs schools suffer 1m funding cut

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, June 21st 2011, p. 6

More than 20 schools for children with special needs have suffered a 1m reduction in government funding, which will lead to cutbacks in provision, affecting services such as translating books into braille and helping children with disruptive behaviour. The cut affects private special schools that received money for programmes involving children at state schools.

'Stroppy' or 'confident'? Do carers and professionals view the impact of transition support on young people differently?

A. Kaehne and S. Beyer

British Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol. 39, 2011, p. 154-160

Transition from school for young people with learning disabilities remains a problem for everyone involved. Policy has identified transition for young people with learning disabilities as a priority for national and local government; however progress has been slow and success variable. One reason for the difficulties may be that carers look at transition from school in a different way to school and support staff. Carers often stressed how things changed within the family during the time of transition, while teachers and support staff emphasised changes in the independence and social skills of the young people in the study. These different viewpoints may have implications for how to structure and deliver transition support.

Teachers 'expect less' from black middle-class pupils

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, June 6th 2011, p. 9

Teachers expect black middle-class pupils and their parents to be far less interested in education than their white middle-class counterparts, a study by the Institute of Education at the University of London has found.

Towards a blended model of leadership for school-based collaborations

A. Coleman

Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, vol. 39, 2011, p. 296-316

Interest in collaborative working has grown enormously in the last 20 years, driven by the view that partnership working may improve efficiency and add value in outcomes. As a result, collaborative working is an unavoidable feature of the 21st-century school and a consistent part of government policy for the provision of services to children. However, remarkably little research has been undertaken into the nature of the leadership required to maximise the potential of such partnership based working within this context. This article outlines the findings from original research, supported by the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services, into the nature of effective collaborative leadership in schools. It finds that the demands of such leadership are markedly different from those associated with traditional models, which view the school in isolation. In response to this, it outlines a multi-dimensional model for leadership, which draws on elements of a range of existing leadership models, including authentic, relational, distributed, political and constitutive leadership. This article concludes by stating that it is only through the utilization of a blended form of leadership (Collinson and Collinson, 2006) that school leaders are able to effectively realise the potential collaborative advantage associated with partnership working. In doing so, it highlights the significance of day-to-day leadership activity, stating that effective collaborative leadership is rooted in a focus on the mundane rather than a preoccupation with the extraordinary aspects of this role.

Training our next generation of teachers: an improvement strategy for discussion

Department for Education


This consultation document proposes reforms to introduce a new system of tapered bursaries to encourage the brightest students to enter the teaching profession. Students with first class degrees would receive up to 20,000 to teach secondary school subjects such as physics, maths and chemistry, which suffer staff shortages. They would receive 13,000 to teach medium priority specialisms such as languages and IT, and 9,000 to teach other secondary subjects or work in primary schools. Students with a 2:1 degree would receive 15,000 to teach shortage subjects, while those with 2:2s would receive 11,000. Other reforms to teacher training include the introduction of new personality tests, combined with tougher English and maths exams, to weed out the weakest applicants. Teacher training courses would be reformed to put more emphasis on behaviour management and reading. Trainees will be taught about restraint techniques, legal powers to search pupils, and how to deal with low-level classroom disruption. More students would be trained on the job in schools instead of in universities, where teaching is considered to be too theoretical.

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