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

A-levels may move before Easter

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 15th 2011, p. 1

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service was considering introducing rules that would allow pupils to apply for degree courses after receiving their A-Level results. It would replace the system of making offers based on predicted grades. Under the proposed system the examinations would be staged before Easter instead of in May and June and results would be announced in July. This would enable students to apply for university in July, in time for the start of term in the Autumn.

(See also Times, Sept. 15th 2011, p. 13; Guardian, Sep. 15th 2011, p. 1)

British pupils plunge to bottom of European foreign language table

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 30th 2011, p. 12

An international study has shown that UK school children are less likely to learn foreign languages than pupils in almost any other EU member state. The fall in numbers of pupils learning foreign languages followed a Labour government decision in 2004 to make languages optional at GCSE level in England. Ministers are now trying to reverse the decline through the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, a new school leaving certificate that rewards pupils who achieve good grades in five traditional subjects, including languages.

Burnham to unveil the' ModBac'

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Sep. 28th 2011, p. 6

The shadow education secretary has called for the creation of a national Ucas-style system for apprenticeships to provide a clear path for teenagers who do not go to university. Burnham called for a true baccalaureate, which would prepare young people for the modern world. He argued that the education secretary, Michael Gove, was promoting Latin and ancient Greek - two of the GCSE options in the English baccalaureate - over engineering, ICT and business studies.

Don't leave it all to teachers Clegg warns

A. Asthana

The Times, Sept. 5th 2011, p. 19

Details released of Nick Cleggs' speech at the Liberal Democrat 2011 party conference include him saying that parents must take responsibility for their children and not expect teachers to be 'surrogate mothers and fathers, social workers, child psychologists, nutritionists and child protection officers'. Parental help has been found to be the single most important factor in a child's progress. Children who experience warmth at home with clear discipline are less likely to get into trouble during adolescence.

Free schools built in mainly middle class areas

J. Vasagar and J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Sept. 1st 2011, p. 10

Analysis of the catchment areas of the first 24 free schools approved by the government shows they are skewed towards the middle class and that white, working-class pupils will be under-represented. Research shows that the 10-minute commuting area around the first wave of free schools is dominated by middle-class households, appearing to undermine coalition claims that they are empowering working class families. The areas have 57% of better-off, educated and professional households compared with the English average of 42.8%. There are also a higher-than-average proportion of Asian homeowners in the free school catchment areas - 5.3% - compared with 1% in England as a whole. Just 29.1% are categorised as 'hard-pressed' or of 'moderate means', compared with 36.9% for the country.

Half of all parents want caning brought back to control the classrooms

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 16th 2011, p. 6

A survey of 2000 parents and 530 children by the Times Educational Supplement found strong support for the reintroduction of corporal punishment in schools. Some 49% of parents and 19% of secondary school pupils supported the move. However, the Department for Education has rejected calls to bring back the cane.

Heads you win?

C. Ryan

Public Finance, Sept. 2011, p. 36-39

This article presents an overview of the progress of the coalition government's education system reforms, focusing on the free schools, sponsor-led academies and academy converters programmes. There are concerns that academy converters, which are outstanding schools, will divert local authority funds from struggling institutions, as they can claim their share of the Local Authorities Central Services Equivalent Grant, to pay for services previously provided centrally. Councils tend to spend a greater proportion of these funds on failing schools. Free schools are also seen as a threat by existing schools on the grounds that they will attract the best pupils. Government policy will lead to the weakest state primary and secondary schools becoming sponsor-led academies, supported by independent schools or other successful academies.

The impact of Specialist School status: the views of Specialist Language Colleges and other schools

L. Fisher

Educational Review, vol. 63, 2011, p. 261-273

The Specialist Schools Programme in England was predicated on the idea that designating a school with an identity centred around one subject specialism and providing additional funding for its development would raise standards in that specialism and across the school as a whole, as well as spreading excellence to other schools. This paper presents findings from an empirical study investigating one such specialism, the Specialist Language College (SLC), from the perspective of key stakeholders in both SLCs and non-SLCs. The study findings suggest that on designation as a Specialist School, strong impact is felt in terms of improved resources, information and communication technology (ICT) provision and most importantly on the status of languages in SLCs. The amount of contact and the impact of any contact between the SLCs and non-SLCs are reported as negligible, however, suggesting that aspects of the partnership aims of the specialist schools initiative are not being met.

Improving attainment across a whole district: school reform through peer tutoring in a randomized controlled trial

P. Tymms and others

School Effectiveness and School Improvement, vol. 22, 2011, p. 265-289

Districts are an important unit for administrative purposes, but they vary little in their impact on students' attainment, at least in the UK. Further, government attempts to raise attainment are often disappointing. The project described in this article aimed to engage schools in reform to change students' attainment and attitudes in schools across a whole district. The intervention, peer tutoring, has a good research pedigree in small-scale studies, but scaling it up to district-level implementation has not been rigorously evaluated. Over two years, 129 elementary schools in one Scottish district were randomly assigned to different interventions. The implementation was not perfect, but the results were positive with respect to cross-age tutoring, which had effect sizes of about 0.2. Despite limitations, the study demonstrates that it is possible to carry out a clustered randomized controlled trial (RCT) on a large scale working with districts and suggests that peer tutoring has promise when scaled up.

Inclusive practice? Supporting isolated bilingual learners in a mainstream school

A. M. Grieve and I. Haining

International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 15, 2011, p. 763-774

This paper is based on action research carried out in a primary school in Scotland where few bilingual learners shared their home language with classmates or staff. It investigated the educational experiences of bilingual children in the early stages of primary school, in which there were often practical difficulties supporting isolated learners in using their home language in school. It tracked a cohort of isolated bilingual learners over a period of two years and considered how theories of support for bilingual learners can be applied to isolated learners. It identified two themes: support for new arrivals who are at the early stage of acquisition of English and how monolingual schools can show that they value home languages and promote bilingual skills. The research reveals techniques for tackling the very real social issue of bilingual learners in monolingual classrooms, a topic of currency in today's climate. It engages with concepts of pupil difference, practices of social justice and inclusion, as well as consideration of a quality curriculum for all students. The study reflects on practical arrangements for new arrivals, working with parents unfamiliar with the education system and creating opportunities for pupils to use and share their home language within school.

More parents sending pupils to private tutors

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 5th 2011, p. 12

Research has shown that growing numbers of middle-class children are being sent to private tutors to boost examination grades and win places at top schools and universities. It has emerged that about 25% of parents admit to paying for private tutors to maximise their children's examination grades. Educationalists have criticised the rise, saying that some children are suffering from stress-related illnesses due to the pressure.

Nine-minute reading test to assess all six-year-olds

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 16th 2011, p. 2

The government announced that all six-year-olds in state schools would be given a new reading text from Summer 2012. Pupils would be required to read a list of 40 words as part of an assessment designed to identify those struggling the most after a year of compulsory education. In a controversial move, the test would include a series of made up words such as 'zort', to ensure that pupils could decode unfamiliar words using phonics.

No excuses: a review of educational exclusion

A. Eastman (study leader) Centre for Social Justice, 2011

This study found that there were almost 6,000 permanent exclusions from school every year, and more than 330,000 suspensions. It estimated that the impact of exclusions on society cost 650m over a lifetime, while the bill for suspensions was nearly 9bn. It accused some unscrupulous schools of continuing to take funding for 'ghost pupils' who had been excluded and not provided with alternative education. Twice as many pupils were being educated in pupil referral units in 2011 as in 2001, despite a place costing 18,000 a year compared with 4,000 at a mainstream secondary school. The report concludes that there has been a profound failure in attempts to improve classroom discipline. Persistent disruptive behaviour or verbal abuse and violent assaults on teachers or fellow pupils were the main reasons for exclusion, but some parents refused to address problems or accept help when offered. The general atmosphere of fear and violence at the poorest schools was leading pupils as young as seven to bring knives and other weapons into the classroom. It is concluded that parents of disruptive pupils who refuse to engage with schools should face sanctions such as withdrawal of welfare benefits. Teachers should receive training in conflict resolution.

Primaries 'forced to give sex education to be Healthy Schools'


Daily Telegraph, Sept. 26th 2011, p. 2

Labour introduced the National Healthy Schools Programme in 1999, with the aim of encouraging healthy behaviours and reducing health inequalities. However a survey of 152 local authorities in England found inconsistencies in the way that programme guidelines were being applied. Some local authorities insisted that primary schools offered sex education in order to qualify for the Healthy Schools award. Such lessons were not required by law or by programme criteria.

Pupils can score well in maths tests 'without knowing basics'

J. Sugden

The Times, Sept, 7th 2011, p. 14

Research from the Institute of Education found that children were doing well in national tests without knowing their times tables or being able to subtract small numbers in their heads. A separate investigation indicated that teachers were altering pupils' marks to give the impression of progress.

Reform, inequalities of process and the transformative potential of communities of practice in the pre-school sector of England

D. Simpson

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 32, 2011, p. 699-716

The integration of care and education across pre-school sectors in several European countries is currently a key policy priority. In England this necessitates reform aimed at re-modelling a traditionally hierarchical and divided workforce. Drawing on research with early years professionals, this article explores the micro-politics of reform with a focus on the extent to which workers in pre-school settings are engaging in new collaborative ways of working. In particular, the transformative potential of the communities of practice model in shaping changes to the early years workforce is discussed. Findings reveal the intersection of social class as labour-market position with several cross-cutting issues and their importance in perpetuating continuing inequalities of process. These present a challenge to the emergence of any new form of collaborative inter-professional working arrangements within the English early years context.

Schools raise alarm over cuts to extra literacy help

R. Garner

The Independent, Sept. 19th 2011, pp. 1, 2

Following the Government's budget squeeze, schools are being force to abandon a programme which supports pupils who have difficulties reading. The Reading Recovery Programme helps pupils who fall behind in their reading abilities and has been hailed as a great success.

School wars: the battle for Britain's education

M. Benn

London: Verso, 2011

School Wars tells the story of the struggle for Britain's education system. Established during the 1960s and based on the progressive ideal of good schools for all, the comprehensive system has over the past decades come under sustained attack from successive governments. From the poorest comprehensives to the most well-resourced independent schools, School Wars takes a forensic look at the inequalities of the current system, the damaging impact of spending cuts, the rise of 'free schools' and the growth of the private sector in education. The book also explores the dangerous example of US education reform, where privatization, punitive accountability and the rise of charter schools have intensified social, economic and ethnic divisions. The policies of successive British governments have been muddled and confused, but one thing is clear: that the relentless application of market principles signals a fundamental shift from the ideal of quality education as a public good, to education as market-controlled commodity. The author ends by outlining some key principles for restoring strong educational values within a fair, non-selective public education system.

Science plus maths add up to give boys winning formula for closing gender gap

G. Hurst

The Times, Aug. 19th 2011, p. 8

Science and maths have undergone a resurgence in schools, helping boys to close the achievement gap with girls at the highest level. Awarding bodies said that the trend was behind a rise in the proportion of A* and A grades awarded to boys at A level in 2011. Boys dominated entries for physics and further maths and accounted for more entries than girls in maths and chemistry. Only biology was more popular among girls.

Strain on parents' incomes spells uncertainty for extended services

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Sept. 6th-19th 2011, p. 12-13

A study of 492 extended services providers found that almost 10% of respondents were at risk of closing in the school year 2011/12. A further 15% of providers were in limbo, unsure as to whether their service would be maintained because of uncertainty over funding. The survey found that demand for breakfast clubs, after school clubs and holiday childcare schemes had dropped in 38% of settings in 2010/11, with pressure on parents' incomes and unemployment cited as the two main factors fuelling the decline.

Traditional science lessons may return

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 15th 2011, p. 12

Michael Gove, the education secretary, criticised theme based approaches to science in a speech to the National College of School Leadership and argued that pupils should have separate lessons in biology, chemistry and physics. He also suggested that more primary school pupils should be taught by specialist subject teachers.

Twice as many pupils taking tough GCSEs

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 31st 2011, p. 1

Research shows that almost 50% of pupils starting GCSE courses in September 2011 chose to take separate courses in traditional academic subjects, including mathematics, English, the sciences, and a foreign language. This compares with less than 25% of pupils taking those courses in September 2010. The rise follows the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, a new school leaving certificate that rewards pupils who achieve good grades in five traditional subjects.

We ask too much of teachers, says Clegg

J. Vasagar and A. Stratton

The Guardian, Sept. 5th 2011, p. 15

The deputy prime minister opened up a new front in his disagreements with the education secretary, Michael Gove, criticising the decision by the Tories to heap responsibility for children's development on to teachers. Nick Clegg's aides believed the Conservatives had placed too much emphasis on teachers as arbiters of authority over children in the wake of the August 2011 riots. Gove planned to fast-track former soldiers into schools to provide children with more male role models. In a speech to teachers and pupils, Clegg said: 'We already expect our teachers to be social workers, child psychologists, nutritionists, child protection officers. We expect them to police the classroom, take care of our children's health, counsel our sons and daughters, guide them, worry about them - and on top of that, educate them too. 'Teachers are not surrogate mothers and fathers. They cannot do it all.'

We can turn around 20 primary schools, academies chief says

G. Hurst

The Times, Sept. 5th 2011, p. 19

Ministers announced that 200 primary schools with consistently poor results had to become academies. The head of E-ACT offered to sponsor 10% of them.

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