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

Another record year for A-levels prompts frantic university scramble

R. Garner

The Independent, Aug. 19th 2011, p. 4

Record number of students received top grades in their A-levels examinations in 2011. This resulted in record numbers trying to secure a place at the university of their choice, trying to beat the fee increases due to come into force in 2012. The article also reports on the increased take up of Chinese at A-level, although other languages are showing a decrease. The gap between girls and boys in maths and science results has narrowed, probably as a result of pressure to get good results to be at an advantage during difficult economic times.

Brightest pupils being ignored, primary school tests suggest

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug.3rd 2011, p. 8

The 2011 SATS test results for 11-year-olds showed a fall in numbers achieving upper level scores for writing to 42%, down by a fifth from 2010. The drop came despite an overall rise in the number of pupils that all 11-year-olds are expected to meet in reading, writing and mathematics. The results will fuel claims that schools are focusing on average children to boost their position in the league tables while ignoring both the brightest and those at the bottom. In spite of the rise to 67% in the numbers of pupils attaining the expected level in reading, writing and mathematics overall, almost 185,000 children will start secondary school without a grasp of basic skills.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Aug. 2nd 2011, p. 1; The Guardian, Aug. 3rd, 2011, p. 8; Independent, Aug. 3rd 2011, p. 10)

A civic rebalancing of British multiculturalism? An analysis of geography, history and citizenship education curricula

D. Faas

Educational Review, vol. 63, 2011, p. 143-158

This article draws on history, geography and citizenship education curricula and six semi-structured interviews with policy makers – three with officials from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, two from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and one from the Office for Standards in Education. It argues that the governmental approach of a ‘civic rebalancing’ of multiculturalism is reflected in education. The study also shows how history, geography and citizenship curricula reflect current policy discourses, emphasising community cohesion whilst sustaining the British legacy of multiculturalism and underplaying the notion of Europe. The article contributes to a larger debate on the ways in which curricula and policy makers balance cultural diversity and community cohesion, and considers democracy in the school as a potentially cohesive factor. It departs from standard two way comparisons of national versus European or national versus multicultural agendas in addressing how national, European and migration related agendas are intertwined.

A cross-cultural study: deaf students in a public mainstream school setting

J. T. Slobodzian

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 649-666

The 1000 primary school students in this study included a minority population of nine deaf children. The underlying foundation of this mainstream environment allowed for accommodations, but only to the extent that the non-deaf majority was not overtly impacted. Explicit messages of equality and implicit notions of normal were often in conflict. Deaf students learned that acceptance was granted to those who complied with the mores of the majority. The author draws on current pedagogical theory and study findings to offer four principles that will help insure a more inclusive educational experience for deaf and non-deaf students as they are educated together: (1) care must be taken to understand the lived experience of all students; (2) consideration must be given to scheduling issues; (3) sign language interpreters must be provided for all curricular activities; and (4) all students should be acculturated in the dynamics and issues pertaining to a cross-cultural learning experience.

Education, disability and social policy

S. Haines and D. Ruebain

Bristol: Policy Press, 2011

Disability is an increasingly vital contemporary issue in British social policy especially in education. This book brings together for the first time unique perspectives from leading thinkers including senior academics, opinion formers, policy makers and school leaders. Key issues covered include: law and international human rights frameworks; policy developments for schools and school leaders; educational inequalities for disabled children and young people; and curriculum design and qualifications changes for children who are being failed by the current education system..

Educational commodification and the (economic) sign value of learning outcomes

D. Brancaleone and S. O’Brien

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 32, 2011, p. 501-519

If managerialism points to the ideological foundations and bureaucratisation of contemporary education, marketisation signals its commodification, image and exchange. This paper reveals the prevailing influence of marketisation on education. It begins with a brief description of the European context and development of learning outcomes, and outlines the (economic) rationale for their existence. It then sets out to explore the logic of learning outcomes, asking: what is lost in the process of education being exchanged as a commodity? It is argued that marketisation, through its constituent concepts of commodification, image and exchange, seduces as an education ‘spectacle’ and ultimately shapes individuals’ value positions. In essence, marketisation, grounded in contemporary neoliberal economics, privileges quantitative, at the expense of genuinely qualitative, educational substance. Further, it is argued that learning outcomes are a simulacrum: like other signifiers of commodities, they appear meaningful (although they do exhibit meaning) but are ultimately incapable of delivering what they promise: transferable skills, at most, but not education. Ethical consequences are stark and signal the loss of the intrinsic value of education – a loss that begins with its own commodification.

Emails reveal hidden price of free schools

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Aug. 30th 2011, p. 1

The controversial Tory initiative to set up free schools received fast-track public funding after fierce lobbying from education secretary Michael Gove's inner circle of advisers, according to leaked emails. Civil servants were urged that the New Schools Network (NSN) – a charity providing advice and guidance to set up the schools – should be given "cash without delay", in a disclosure which will heighten concern over the government's lack of transparency about the wider free schools programme. The charity, which is headed by a former Gove adviser, was subsequently given a £500,000 grant. No other organisation was invited to bid for the work.

(See also The Guardian, Aug. 30th 2011, p. 12-13)

The first A-levels in their families – but class divide firmly entrenched

C. Cooper and L. Martin

The Independent, Aug. 19th 2011, p. 6

The article reports that the class divide in educational achievement between children of well-off families and those from disadvantaged background persists. In independent schools, 18.1 per cent of scripts obtained an A* grade, compared with 5.9 in comprehensives. State schools have also expressed fears that the slashing of Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from this year will harm the educational and employment prospects of pupils from poorer backgrounds.

Girls surge ahead to open up record gender gap at 16

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Aug. 26th 2011, p. 10-11

Girls are racing ahead of boys at GCSE at "worrying" speed, opening up a record achievement gap between the sexes, results show. Girls outperformed boys in almost every subject and significantly increased their clutch of top grades in the sciences compared with last year. A record 26.5% of girls' entries in all subjects were an A* or A grade, compared with just under a fifth – 19.8% – of boys' entries. This has created a gap between the sexes of 6.7 percentage points, the highest on record. In 1994, when the A* was introduced, the gap was 3.6 percentage points. In 1989, the gap between the percentages of girls and boys achieving A grades was just 1.5 percentage points. Some 73.5% of girls' entries achieved at least a C, compared with 66% of boys' entries. Last week, the A-level results showed the opposite pattern, with boys narrowing girls' lead at A*.

The impact of published school performance results on residential property prices: a comparative study of two UK cities

J. G. Nellis and J. Glen

Global Business and Economics Review, vol. 13, 2011, p. 168-184

This paper presents a study which examines the relationship between published school performance results and house prices in two UK cities. It is postulated that schools which perform better on the most widely recognised measure of performance become oversubscribed and give preference to children living in close proximity to their school. Parents wishing to obtain access to such schools then seek to move to the 'catchment' area for those schools, bidding up house prices in those areas. The authors develop a hedonic price model which relates the price of a house to the physical characteristics of the property, the nature of the local area in which the property is situated and the key measure of performance of the nearest school. They test this model using a large dataset and find that there is a positive correlation between this performance measure and house prices.

Inclusive/exclusive? Contradictory perspectives on autism and inclusion: the case for an integrative position

J. Ravet

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 667-682

This paper explores some of the tensions that frequently arise in debates about inclusion and the education of children and young people on the autism spectrum. This debate is often characterised by bipolar thinking and moral posturing, and is obscured by misunderstandings and omissions. This can create confusion for practitioners trying their best to support learners on the spectrum in inclusive classrooms, and does much harm to the inclusion project. This paper identifies some of the recurring entanglements that obfuscate the debate. The main thesis of the paper is that the effective inclusion of children and young people on the autism spectrum requires practitioners to question two dominant and contradictory perspectives within the inclusion literature – the rights-based perspective and the needs-based perspective – which, arguably, polarise thinking at the theoretical level and inclusive practice at classroom level. The specific aim of the paper is to identify oppositional views on labelling and special pedagogies within these two perspectives and critically explore their implications for teachers supporting learners on the autism spectrum. The possibility of an integrative inclusionist position is tentatively explored.

Interpreting inclusivity: an endeavour of great proportions

R. G. Berlach and D. J. Chambers

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 529-539

Commencing with a historical account of how special needs education has informed the inclusivity debate, the authors consider the knotty problem of what is meant by inclusivity. An examination of the characteristics of inclusivity is then undertaken, and a functional school-based inclusivity framework – a three-faceted model – is proposed. The model commences with a philosophical underpinning designed to generate a number of emphases to be determined by the school. Once agreed upon, these are then operationalised for classroom practices. It is contended that the model is a defensible way of facilitating the development of an inclusivity ethos within the school milieu. Finally, impediments hampering implementation are identified and discussed.

Interprofessional capital in children’s services transformations

J. Forbes

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 573-588

This paper discusses the adoption of an integrated approach to children’s services. The paper opens by introducing the Scottish policy statements that recommend that it is at the level of the school and community that integrated services need to be effective for the aims of social justice and inclusion to be achieved. The policy discourses are analysed to reveal a number of potential issues of contention between the different practitioner groups involved in children’s services relating to the relocation of the space of integration and the nature of practitioner, practice and governance-level relations. The social capital theory is then introduced, and a multi-level conceptual framework of sub-types of social capital is proposed to chart and analyse intersections and potential points of disjuncture in the work of the different practitioner groups in schools. The concept of human capital is used to explore questions of practitioner knowledge, expertise and research practices. It is suggested that mapping the capital resources used by the children’s sector practitioners provides a framework to analyse how inter/transprofessional relations currently operate and to identify interstices where practitioners’ social and human capital need to be reconstructed to better serve children and young people, and their families.

Key players in inclusion: are we meeting the professional needs of learning support assistants for pupils with complex needs?

L. Abbott, R. McConkey and M. Dobbins

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 26, 2011, p. 215-231

Under the aegis of inclusion, greater numbers of learning support assistants (LSAs) in mainstream and special schools are increasingly required to assist teachers with pupils who have complex needs across the full age range. Because of the numerous and wide ranging learning difficulties and learning disabilities in addition to sensory impairment, behavioural difficulties and physical disability that they meet, their roles and responsibilities have dramatically changed. As a result, the professional needs of LSAs have grown and widened, and the question of whether these are being properly met arises. This paper reports on research carried out with a representative sample of learning support staff in Northern Ireland, and with special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) and school nurses. The study examined through a questionnaire the perceptions of LSAs working in a range of schools as to their training needs and, through interviews, sought the views of the SENCOs on current and future training arrangements for LSAs, and the opinions of school nurses on how best children and young people with complex physical healthcare needs can be assisted by learning support staff. A process model was proposed to enable them fully to support inclusion and to tread a clear pathway towards their professional development. The results showed that the SENCOs and school nurses did not consider the qualifications most commonly held by support staff to be adequate for their jobs; the LSAs overwhelmingly wanted further training to undertake their roles, which often involved meeting pupils’ complex medical and health as well as learning needs, yet collaborative planning for this was largely confined to classroom level. Key challenges for LSAs included behaviour management and role reversal when substitute or class teachers were untrained in pupils’ complex needs. There was unanimity that they should be treated as professionals in their own right.

Making up lost ground: challenges in supporting the educational attainment of looked after children beyond key stage 4

J. Driscoll

Adoption and Fostering, vol. 35, no.2, 2011, p. 18-31

Poor performance at key stage 4 compared with their peers, coupled with typically ‘accelerated and compressed’ transitions to adulthood create barriers to further and higher education and skilled work for care leavers. There has been little research on how children in care leaving school at 16 with disappointing qualifications can be supported to make up any educational deficit. This article reports on a small pilot study that investigated some of the factors that influenced care leavers’ choices or decisions in relation to their future education and training, and the support which they themselves identified as beneficial in making those decisions. It explored the young people’s own accounts and explanations in relation to their educational attainment, their attitudes to and engagement with education, and the challenges faced by schools in providing support to young people who are self-reliant and resistant to accepting help in the context of current tensions in education policy.

Maths and sciences soar as schools feel the ‘Brian Cox effect’

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Aug. 19th 2011, p. 12

A boom in maths and sciences at A-level is being attributed by examiners to the pressures of the global recession and the "Brian Cox effect". A dose of glamour injected by the TV physicist, coupled with a realisation that employers will pay a premium for maths, has fuelled big rises in these subjects. Entries for A-level maths are up by just over 40% over five years, while the number of entries for physics has risen by 19.6% and chemistry is up 19.4%. Languages continue a long-term decline, with combined entries for French, German and Spanish down by 6.3%. Geography is down 1.3%while history has gained in popularity, rising 9.5%. The top 10 most popular subjects, in order, are: English, maths, biology, psychology, history, chemistry, art and design, general studies, media studies and physics.

(See also The Guardian, Aug. 19th 2011, p. 12-14)

Mothering and intellectual disability: partnership rhetoric?

C. Rogers

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 32, 2011, p. 563-581

This paper is about mothering an intellectually disabled child identified with special educational needs. It specifically looks at the parent partnership rhetoric that has dominated UK government policy and directives for nearly three decades while research suggests parents and more often mothers have to battle to be recognised as legitimate experts. This paper engages with sociological analysis as it highlights via qualitative narratives that mothers are weighed down by the sheer number of professionals involved in their day-to-day life. Moreover, mothers whose children are not identified in the early years are often blamed in the first instance for playing a part in their child’s difficult behaviour. This research ultimately suggests that partnership work is important and necessary for practice within health, education and social work professions, not least of all because the emotional roller-coaster that mothers experience during the assessment and statementing process is disabling.

Musicians campaign over school Ebacc playing down the subject

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Aug. 16th 2011, p. 12

Musicians have launched a national campaign to persuade ministers of the importance of studying music at school. The coalition government announced in December that schools would be measured according to how many pupils achieved at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, two sciences, history or geography and a modern or ancient language. Musicians are furious that the new measurement – known as the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) – excludes music and other creative subjects, such as art and drama. The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and Music Teacher magazine said they had already noticed that fewer pupils were taking music as a result. The two organisations are calling on the public to write to MPs expressing their "deep concern" at the omission of music and other creative subjects from the Ebacc.

New pupils who don’t even know their name

M. Wardrop

Daily Telegraph, July 29th 2011, p. 10-11

There are growing fears that an increasing number of children are starting school or nursery not knowing their own names. In the worst cases, children reach the age of four unaware that they even have a name. Teachers claim that parents who spend too much time on the Internet or watching TV are failing to teach their children to speak. The problem of poor communication skills is most acute in deprived areas, where research has shown that half of youngsters have difficulties when starting school.

Promoting community cohesion in England

A. B. Morris, M. McDaid and H. Potter

School Leadership & Management, vol. 31, 2011, p. 281-296

Following serious disturbances in some northern cities in England in 2001, concerns about possible rising inter-communal tension led to a statutory duty to promote community cohesion being placed on schools. Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) are required to make judgments in the leadership and management section of their reports on the school's contribution. The published data from the first full year of Ofsted inspections show the Catholic sector to be more effective in contributing to social cohesion than other maintained schools. The significance of these findings is explored and areas for further research are suggested.

Review for school which targets gangs

R. Garner

The Independent, Aug. 22nd 2011, p. 16

The Government has ordered a review of the rejection of plans for a free school aimed at breaking the link between teenagers and gangs. The school would give all school leavers three month’s work experience in their chosen career to avoid them going straight out onto the streets.

Schools set to take control of finding education for expelled pupils

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, June 28th-July 11th 2011, p. 12-13

The government is trialling a system in which schools, rather than councils, hold budgets for alternative education provision for pupils who have been expelled. The pilots are designed to encourage schools to use more preventative work with young people at risk of exclusion.

Setback for free schools as ministers publish planning rules

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Aug. 16th 2011, p. 8

Campaigners hoping to set up free schools face a setback after ministers diluted proposals to let schools open in shops and houses without planning permission. Finding a space in which to set up is one of the major obstacles for free school groups, especially in London where the need for more school places is acute. The government published rules which say councils should have a "presumption" in favour of state-funded schools, but they will still be able to veto new schools on planning grounds. The announcement follows a public consultation on proposed changes which had an overwhelmingly hostile response to the idea of letting schools set up in shops or business premises without seeking "change of use" planning permission.

(See also The Independent, August 16th 2011, p.14)

Sloppy grammar will lose marks in GCSEs

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 25th 2011, p. 1 + 2

Teenagers sitting GCSEs in English language and literature in 2012 will be penalised by as much as 12% for poor spelling and grammar. History and geography papers will face the same standards in 2013 before the policy is extended to other subjects such as science and foreign languages. Modular courses will also be replaced by traditional end-of-course examinations to eliminate overuse of resits

Succession planning in England: new leaders and new forms of leadership

T. Bush

School Leadership & Management, vol. 31, 2011, p. 181-198

There are concerns about the supply of head teachers in many countries. In England, this problem arises from demographic changes and the perceived difficulty of the job. The National College responded to this problem by initiating a Succession Planning programme. This article reports the main findings from the external evaluation of the programme and links them to the wider literature.

Tackling the barriers to disabled parents’ involvement in their children’s education

K. O. Stalker and others

Educational Review, vol. 63, 2011, p. 233-250

Promoting parental participation plays a significant role in education policies across Britain. Previous research has identified various barriers to involving disabled parents. This paper reports findings from part of a study examining disabled parents’ engagement in their children’s education, which focused on good practice. Twenty four case studies were conducted with parents with a range of impairments. Common themes are drawn out, including the perceived importance and benefits of involvement, the need for effective communication and access, both to buildings and information, and the significance of an inclusive school ethos. The findings are discussed in the context of previous research. While some findings accord with the social model of disability, it is argued that more nuanced understandings of disability, which take more account of personal experience, offer a fuller explanation. Implications for policy and practice are discussed including staff training, facilitating disclosure of impairment and local authority responsibilities.

Two in five trainee teachers fail to work in state schools

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 11th 2011, p. 12

Research based on an analysis of courses in 2009/10 has shown that just 62% of trainee teachers end up in state education as others either drop out or go on to teach in private schools. The study described the training system as very wasteful. However, the Department for Education insisted that it had since reformed it.

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