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

12,000 parents prosecuted for children's truancy

J. Vasagar and R. Garner

The Guardian, Nov. 9th 2011, p. 16

Nearly 12,000 parents were prosecuted and 25 given prison sentences because of their children's truancy from school in 2010, figures show. The longest jail sentence imposed on a parent was 90 days, according to the Ministry of Justice. A total of 11,757 parents were prosecuted for failing to ensure their child's attendance at school, up from 11,188 in 2009. Just over 9,000 were convicted, and nearly two-thirds of those were fined. The highest fine imposed in 2010was 850. Just over 400 parents received a community sentence and 53 received a suspended sentence, according to figures released following a freedom of information request.

Academies paying staff 200,000-plus

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Nov. 15th 2011, p. 8

Charities that run chains of academy schools are using public funds to pay senior staff six-figure salaries, with some on 240,000 or more. The Guardian analysed the most recent annual reports of five major chains, each of which receives tens of millions of pounds from the government each year. The reports, which are for the year ended 31 August 2010, show three chains - Ark Schools, Harris Federation and the United Learning Trust - awarded already high-earning staff performance-related bonuses, or increased their pension, salary and bonus packages from the previous year. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the figures were 'astonishing in the current economic climate' and warned that public funds may be being channelled into the pockets of individuals and away from the needs of pupils.

Attitudes to school and intentions for educational participation: an analysis of data from the Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England

J. Attwood and P. Croll

International Journal of Research & Method in Education, vol. 34, 2011, p. 269-287

The paper investigates the attitudes of young people in England towards schooling and education and the relationship of these attitudes to intentions for educational participation and to various background characteristics of the young people. It provides an example of secondary data analysis through using the Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England - a large-scale, government-funded panel survey of pupils moving through the secondary school and into employment or further education and training. The size of the sample, starting with 15,000 young people, enables a detailed analysis of small sub-groups within the data while interviews with parents mean that pupil attitudes and intentions can be related to family characteristics. The results show that young people are very positive about their schools and share the values of the education system, although a small minority expressed much more negative views. Negative views were strongly associated with plans to leave education at 16 although there were negative pupils who nevertheless planned to continue to participate and positive pupils who planned to leave. The most negative pupils included both males and females and young people from all social backgrounds. However, most ethnic minority groups were under-represented among those expressing negative views.

Brightest students offered 20,000 to train as teachers

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 8th 2011, p.1

This article announces sweeping reforms to the system of teacher training in England aimed at raising the profile of the profession. The reforms will apply to courses starting in 2012. Bursaries of 20,000 will be available to students with a first class honours degree training to teach maths, sciences and foreign languages. Students with a 2:1 degree are expected to receive bursaries of 15,000 to teach these subjects, while those with 2:2s could receive 11,000. The government will also encourage more ex-army personnel to enter the classroom with a new Troops to Teachers programme. Student teachers will be expected to display better standards of English and maths before being allowed to qualify, scrapping a current rule that gives trainees unlimited attempts at passing basic tests. Courses will be reformed to put more emphasis on reading and managing behaviour. Ministers will also build on plans to train more teachers in schools instead of on university-based postgraduate courses.

British pupils' social mobility divide is among world's worst

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 28th 2011, p. 6

Research by the Sutton Trust showed that the 'education gap' between disadvantaged and privileged pupils was wider in Britain than in elsewhere in the developed world. Data suggested that children from low-income homes were more than a year behind richer classmates when they started school at the age of five, a bigger gap than anywhere except the USA. The disclosure came after Ofsted warned that deprivation continued to be a 'significant factor influencing the quality of schools' in England. The regulator said that schools serving the poorest 20% of pupils were four times more likely to be inadequate than those for the wealthiest 20%.

Disappearing into a black hole

R. Shrubb

Learning Disability Today, Dec.2011/Jan. 2012, p. 14-15

This article presents a case study of a couple, who, exasperated by the failure of their local authority to offer suitable special needs education for their autistic daughter, set up a Facebook group to complain. However, the group became a victim of its own success as the strain of supporting about 100 other families with similar problems over access to special education became too great for the founders. The author concludes by commenting that the situation may improve as the present government proposes that special schools will no longer be reserved for those most in need.

Draft School Admissions Code

Department for Education


The new admissions code requires state schools to give priority to children falling into a widened range of categories. Individual schools are given power to reserve places for children of staff, including cooks and cleaners, adopted children and those who have families in the armed forces. A new wave of academies and free schools are also allowed to discriminate in favour of children eligible for free school meals. Key reforms include streamlining of primary school allocations by distributing all places on the same 'national offer' day, giving good schools greater freedom to expand without having numbers controlled by local authorities, allowing anyone to complain to the school admissions regulator, and allowing schools to admit multiple birth children to infant classes even if it means pushing them above the 30-pupil legal limit.

Education Act 2011

TSO, 2011

This Act gives teachers powers to search pupils' clothing, bags and lockers without consent for any banned items that could be used to disrupt lessons, including mobile phones, MP3 players and iPODs. Teachers will also be able to search for legal highs, cigarettes, pornography and fireworks. The Act also paves the way for 'no notice' detentions, abolishing the requirement for at least 24 hours warning to be given before pupils could be kept in at school. Furthermore, the Act introduces reforms to tackle poorly performing schools. Ofsted will in future be required to judge state schools against just four key criteria: pupil achievement, teaching quality, leadership and behaviour. The secretary of state for education is given powers to close underperforming schools. In the past he could only recommend the move to local authorities.

Education policy and philanthropy: the changing landscape of English educational governance

S.J. Ball and C. Junemann

International Journal of Public Administration, vol. 34, 2011, p. 646-661

In education in England the delivery of state services by philanthropists, charities, faith groups, voluntary organisations and parent groups is gradually expanding, and the coalition government has indicated its continued commitment to this direction of travel. This article traces the role of corporate philanthropy in the delivery of state education services.

The emerging policy model for career guidance in England: some lessons from international examples

A.G. Watts

Journal of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling, issue 27, Nov. 2011, p. 32-39

This brief international review indicated strong support for three main features of current government policy for career guidance in England: an all-age careers service; enhancing the professionalism of career guidance practitioners; and the partnership model between schools and an external service. On devolution of responsibility for career guidance to schools, the evidence was more negative. It suggested that for such a policy to be successful, strong levers were needed. These should include measures to assure professional standards, support for school planning and self-evaluation, and in-service training for school heads.

Girls and gender in alternative education provision

L. Russell and P. Thomas

Ethnography and Education, vol. 6, 2011, p. 293-308

UK Government policy states that all young people aged 14-19 are entitled to a broad and balanced curriculum, with access to 'personalised' education and training pathways. With boys currently leading the statistics on exclusion, girls' educational and social needs are often sidelined in alternative education provision, as the majority of education and training programmes are populated by and designed for boys. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork from six alternative education provision sites located in the Midlands of England, we argue that there are problems for girls with what's on offer, and with access and participation. We describe three girls and their discursive positions to reveal how gender is (re)produced and suggest a need for future research to investigate the experiences of girls in alternative education provision.

The knight of faith: ethics in special needs education

J. Steinnes

The Journal of Moral Education, vol. 40, 2011, p. 457-469

This article attempts to contribute to the understanding of the particularly important and inescapable role that ethics must play in the context of special needs education. Perspectives from Kierkegaard and Derrida are presented and used in order to explore the complexity of the context and to show the importance and responsibility of the agency of the educator. Such persons must be able to make risk-filled decisions, with no guarantees, regarding the potential 'good' of others. Consequently, the individual educator must go beyond ethics in order to justify particular courses of action and this inevitably leads to an engagement with the realm of faith.

Labour's Twigg backs English bac

J. Shepherd and J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Nov. 28th 2011, p. 13

The government's English baccalaureate (Ebacc), which recognises pupils who achieve good passes in a mix of academic subjects at GCSE, has won support from Labour's education spokesman. Stephen Twigg, who was appointed shadow education secretary in October 2011, gave qualified praise to the measure, which he said might reverse the decline in children studying languages. His endorsement was the latest shift in position after Twigg expressed support for free schools, if they raised standards and helped narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor. In an interview with the Guardian, he said: 'The Ebacc has one clear positive: more children carrying on to languages at 16. Let's be frank, the government has achieved something there and I welcome that.' However, Twigg said the Ebacc had 'a whole set of negatives' in terms of potentially crowding out other subjects.

Managing teacher balkanization in times of implementing change

S. Ng

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 25, 2011, p. 654-770

The purpose of this article is to report an exploratory study which was designed to illuminate how school cultures and teachers' value orientations are affected by the educational change of parental involvement. Two schools were selected purposefully for the study. In-depth interviews with 12 teachers and their principal were conducted in each school where observation took place for half a year. Eventually themes and dimensions of teachers' value demarcations emerged in times of change. The study demonstrates that three balkanized factions of teachers were wrestling at school. The first balkanized teacher group welcomed the innovation of parental involvement. The second faction of teachers who distrusted the innovation demonstrated resistance to change. The third type of teacher was the majority who might or might not take part in implementing change. However, once incentives were imposed by the management, they would probably be assimilated.

'Mickey Mouse' vocational courses cut from school league tables

T. Ross

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 28th 2011, p.12

In 2011 about 7,000 vocational qualifications were counted in official school performance tables, a fact that led to head teachers allegedly entering pupils for 'soft' examinations to boost their school's position in the highly competitive rankings. In October 2011 ministers published strict new rules designed to ensure that only the most rigorous vocational qualifications could be counted in league tables from 2014. In order to be counted, vocational qualifications would have to offer 'proven progression' to a range of further study options. All courses would have to take up as much study time as at least one GCSE, and they would have to categorise results using a GCSE-style grading system of A* to G.

Nearly 800 schools stuck and failing to improve, says Ofsted

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Nov. 23rd 2011, p. 7

Nearly 800 schools inspected in 2011 are 'stuck' and failing to improve, according to Ofsted's annual report. The education watchdog said that 14% of schools had been judged as satisfactory twice in a row, and their capacity for improvement was found to be limited. Ofsted also said it was a serious concern that teaching in more than 40% of schools was no better than satisfactory. Teaching was found to be outstanding in just 6% of schools, even though 11% were judged to be outstanding overall.

Oversight of financial management in local authority maintained schools

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1517)

In the current financial environment more schools have to manage with reduced funding and this report underlines the importance of effective financial management. It is essential that the financial management framework for schools is capable of alerting the Department for Education to any systemic issues that may require action or intervention. The Department sets standards but responsibility for financial management and cost reductions lies with schools themselves, with local authorities responsible for exercising effective oversight. Schools' financial management capability has improved - for example, as more schools have employed or have access to a school business manager. Many schools consider that they need to reduce staff costs and that they need guidance on how to do so while maintaining high-quality education. Local authorities do not publish systematic data to demonstrate how they are monitoring schools' financial management and that they are intervening where necessary. Indeed, many local authorities are set to devote fewer resources to monitoring and supporting schools' financial management - 40% of authorities responding to an NAO survey do not believe they have sufficient resources to provide effective support to schools and almost half of those authorities are planning to reduce the amount of staff time spent on support. The report recommends that the Department should make clear how it is going to review the working of the financial management arrangements.

School funding reform: an empirical analysis of options for a national funding formula

H. Chowdry and L. Sibieta

Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2011

This report discloses that government reforms of cash allocations to schools in England will create large numbers of financial 'winners and losers'. The government is planning to replace the myriad local authority schools funding formulae with one centrally set national funding formula. This study models the various options open to the government. One in six schools could see funding cuts of 10% or more because of the reforms. A further one in ten could receive around 10% more money. The reforms could also result in a radical shift between age groups, with secondary schools receiving less money while budgets rise in the primary sector. Some areas could be hit harder than others, with schools in the North East, Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber losing out. At the same time, the biggest winners could include parts of the East of England, South East and South West.

Schools must engage 'switched-off' pupils, warns Gove's behaviour tsar

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Nov 21st 2011, p. 2

Schools must do more to engage children who are passively 'opting out' of lessons, the government's adviser on behaviour warned. While 'chair-chucking boys' usually got attention in class, schools needed to address pupils doing the minimum in lessons, said the adviser, Charlie Taylor. Taylor, a headteacher who was reviewing the government's approach to pupil truancy, said magistrates were often too soft on the parents of persistent truants. Courts needed to take a tougher line in cases where schools had reached the 'end of the road', he said.

Secondary SENCo leadership: a universal or specialist role?

J. Oldham and J. Radford

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 38, 2011, p. 126-134

In this qualitative study, the authors investigate tensions in the role of mainstream secondary school SENCos. A review of legislation and literature concerning SENCo leadership suggested that divergent forces were acting on the role, and in-depth interviews with SENCos in two local authorities were undertaken to gather data on this. It was found that SENCos considered leadership to be highly relevant to their role for reasons dominated by the team that they led and the influence of more senior staff. Combined with little influence at a whole-school, universal level, it is suggested that this finding is evidence of divergent forces in operation. The distribution of leadership in schools and pressures regarding the achievement of pupils with special educational needs are proposed as causes and this is presented in a model. Potential problems emanating from this tension are explored and solutions are proposed for future consideration in theory and policy.

Time to end the bias towards inclusive education?

K. Runswick-Cole

British Journal of Special Education, vol. 38, 2011, p. 112-119

The UK coalition Government's call to end the 'bias' towards inclusion represents a shift in 'policy speak' as the new administration attempts to re-narrate special education by putting forward a 'reasonable and sensible' solution to the 'problem of inclusion'. However, implicit in the call is the assumption that there has, in fact, been a 'bias towards inclusion' in education policy and practice; here, that assumption is challenged. Using a critical disability studies perspective, the author, draws on the concept of ableism and critiques of neo-liberal market systems in education to reveal and explore the persistent barriers to inclusive education embedded within the education system. It is argued that although there may have been an inclusive education policy rhetoric, this rhetoric is rooted in conceptual incongruities which, rather than promoting inclusion, undermine an inclusive approach to education.

The use of national data sets to baseline science education reform: exploring value-added approaches

M. Homer, J. Ryder and J. Donnelly

International Journal of Research & Method in Education, vol. 34, 2011, p. 309-325

This paper uses data from the National Pupil Database to investigate the differences in 'performance' across the range of science courses available following the 2006 Key Stage 4 (KS4) science reforms in England. This is a value-added exploration (from Key Stage 3 [KS3] to KS4) aimed not at the student or the school level, but rather at that of the course. Different methodological approaches to carrying out such an analysis, ranging from simple non-contextualized techniques, to more complex fully contextualized multilevel models, are investigated and their limitations and benefits are evaluated. Important differences between courses are found in terms of the typical 'value' they add to the students studying them with particular applied science courses producing higher mean KS4 outcomes for the same KS3 level compared with other courses. The implications of the emergence of such differences, in a context where schools are judged to a great extent on their value-added performance, are discussed. The relative importance of a variety of student characteristics in determining KS4 outcomes are also investigated. Substantive findings are that across all types of course, science prior attainment at KS3, rather than that of mathematics or English, is the most important predictor of KS4 performance in science, and that students of lower socio-economic status consistently make less progress over KS4 than might be expected, despite prior attainment being accounted for in the modelling.

We shall shame schools that 'muddle through'

D. Cameron

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 14th 2011,p. 24

In this comment piece the Prime Minister attacked 'coasting' schools that were content to muddle through and achieve respectable results while not pushing pupils to achieve their full potential. He emphasised that the coalition government intended to release data that would make it easier to detect coasting schools and was also toughening up examinations.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Nov. 14th 2011, p.1 +2)

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