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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2012): Education - UK - schools

1,300 primary schools miss targets for teaching English and maths

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Dec. 16th 2011, p. 6

More than 1,300 primary schools were failing to reach official targets for teaching the basics of English and mathematics. League tables showed that 1,310 primary schools in England fell below the expected standards, while about 150 schools had been below the 'floor standard' for five years. Doggedly under-performing primary schools faced a change of management, either by converting them to academies or merging them with a successful school nearby. The figures were based on the results of tests taken by more than half a million 11-year-olds in May 2011. The percentage of children reaching the expected level in English and mathematicss rose in these 2011 tests. However, a third failed to achieve the expected standard - level four - in reading, writing and mathematics combined. One in 10 boys was leaving primary school with the reading age of a seven-year-old, the figures showed.

The annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2010/11

Ofsted

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1633)

This report draws on over 31,000 inspection visits across schools, early years settings, and children's social care and learning and skills providers in England. This in-depth analysis provides an insight into the quality of those services for children and learners; what is working well and what needs to improve. The report highlights how an 'inadequate' inspection judgment, whether for a children's home or school, college or nursery, can be an important catalyst for change. For example, the total number of schools in a category of concern - that is, being placed in special measures or being given a notice to improve - reduced from 553 at the end of August 2010 to 451 at the end of August 2011. Over a fifth of schools judged inadequate at their previous inspection were found to be good or better when inspected again in 2011. In addition, schools are now emerging from special measures faster than previously - after an average of 18 months rather than 20. In inspections of local authority children's social services, where Ofsted completed the second full year of unannounced inspection of contact, referral and assessment arrangements, weaknesses identified the previous year had been addressed in the great majority of cases.

Building a big society: will charity's creeping reach generate a new paradigm for state schools?

D. Morris

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol.33, 2011, p. 209-226

This article unpicks the involvement of charities in provision of state education. Since 1944, primary and secondary education have been provided by the state and funded by the taxpayer. However, in 1944, some established schools, many of which were of a religious (charitable) foundation, chose to remain outside the new state system. Such schools entered into voluntary agreements with their local education authorities. All such voluntary schools were given the right to claim charitable status and to this day are financed partly by the state and partly by charitable funds. Foundation schools were created in 1998 and largely replaced grant maintained schools. They are run by their own governing body and their land and buildings are usually owned by that body or a charitable foundation. A trust school is a form of foundation supported by a charitable trust with an outside partner, for example a business or educational charity. A new wave of charitable provision of state education has been signalled by the Coalition government through its free schools and revamped academies programmes. The government's long term goal is that academy status, with charitable status at its core, should be the norm for all state schools. Upon conversion to an academy, the governing body is required to set up an academy trust - a charitable company limited by guarantee - which enters into an agreement with the secretary of state to establish and maintain an academy. Free schools were a flagship Conservative Party policy in the run up to the 2010 general election. As with academies, free schools will have charitable status. They can be set up and operated, outside of local authority control, by businesses, community or faith groups, teachers or groups of parents. Charitable provision is thus deeply embedded within state education. Charity-led community involvement in education services may well come to dominate rather than simply back up state provision.

The changing face of special educational needs

A. Ekins

Abingdon: Routledge, 2011

The book shows teachers, SENCOs and students in teacher training how to respond to the rapidly changing context of special education. This highly practical and accessible text unlocks the often confusing field of special education provision in schools today by:

  • Summarising and clarifying new policy directions as they emerge, in light of recent coalition government policies on education, SEN and disability
  • Suggesting clear, practical activities to bring the theory to life, helping practitioners to review and reflect upon their work
  • Encouraging critical reflection about existing systems within the school context, considering whether these will remain appropriate and 'fit for purpose'
  • Giving opportunities for teachers, SENCOs and senior leaders to contextualise the changes in terms of the implications for practice in their own school.

Packed with activities, case studies and points for reflection, this book will help the teacher, SENCO, senior leader or advisor to make sense of the rapid pace of change of policy and terminology related to SEN. It will help practitioners in a positive and supportive way, emphasising the exciting opportunities that these changes will provide for developing new, innovative and creative working practices.

Cheating the system: how examiners tip off teachers

H. Watt and others

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 8th 2011, p. 1 + 4

An undercover investigation by the newspaper showed that teachers were paying 230.00 a day to attend seminars with chief examiners during which they were advised on public examination questions and the wording pupils should use to obtain higher marks. The advice appeared to go beyond permitted guidance and opened examination boards to accusations that they were undermining syllabuses by encouraging 'teaching to the test'. The investigation exposed a system where examination boards competed aggressively to win business from schools. Evidence that examination standards had been driven down to encourage schools to sign up was also uncovered. The education secretary ordered an immediate inquiry by regulator Ofqual.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Dec. 9th 2011, p. 1 + 4-7; Daily Telegraph, Dec. 16th 2011, p.1 + 6-7)

Foreign language, history and geography compulsory until 16

T. Ross

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 20th 2011, p. 8

An independent review of the examination system recommended that pupils continue to study 'a broader academic core' of subjects until the age of 16. This would include history, geography and a foreign language, even if the courses did not lead to GCSEs. The review was intended to be the basis of a revision of the curriculum in England, expected to be introduced in 2014.

'Free places for poor' rule in private schools will be ended

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 6th 2011, p. 10

The Upper Tribunal, a judicial body established to rule on contentious areas of law, has ruled that fee-charging charities must provide significant benefits to the poor, but that private schools should have a greater say in how they fulfil the requirements. This means that private schools with charitable status are still obliged to demonstrate that they provide public benefit, but that the Charity Commission must issue new guidance on how to comply. This means that controversial guidance requiring private schools to provide free places for poor pupils will be scrapped.

Grammar schools get green light to expand

D. Gardham

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

Following a consultation on the new draft School Admissions Code, local authorities will no longer have control over the expansion of grammar and grant maintained schools. Moreover, complaints from parents about the expansion of particular grammar schools will no longer be referred to the Schools Adjudicator. The final version of the code also blocks objections to academies that wish to opt out of local authority control. The changes will allow successful existing grammar schools to expand, but will not increase their number.

Leadership shortage as schools struggle to recruit new heads

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 13th 2011, p. 2

A report by Education Data Services analysed the recruitment of senior school staff in the 2010/11 academic year. It found that 36% of primary head teacher positions had to be advertised more than once, compared with 34% in 2009/10. Some 19% of secondary school head teacher posts were advertised more than once in both years. The number of vacancies for deputy heads dropped, suggesting that incumbents were remaining in post longer and not aspiring to top positions. Head teachers' leaders blamed rising workloads, the target culture in schools and a real terms cut in pay for the problem.

Narrowing the gap between 'intention and reality': the case of special educational needs governors in English schools

S. Pearson

Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, vol. 39, 2011, p. 395-711

In England, the governing body of each school has duties in relation to special educational needs (SEN), and these have recently been extended. It is common practice for responsibility for this area to be delegated to an individual governor or subgroup of governors. Clearly, such arrangements are dependent upon an effective relationship between the governing body, and the staff of the school, in particular the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). There is a lack of recent relevant research and the perspectives of the SENCOs are under-represented. This research examines those relationships using data gathered via an electronic questionnaire completed by a national sample of SENCOs (n =191). While examples of good practice exist, the intentions of the national policy are only partly realised in many schools, with a gap between policy and reality.

Primary pupils 'must be taught what it is like to be transgender'

T. Whitehead

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 9th 2011, p. 2

Under an action plan on transgender issues launched by the Home Office in December 2011, the ongoing review of personal, social and health education was to consider equality and diversity teaching, including transgender prejudice. Children may be taught about the challenges facing transsexuals and that it is wrong to bully them.

Private schools fuel divide in society and politics says study

R. Ramesh

The Guardian, Dec. 7th 2011, p. 12

Private education perpetuates a form of 'social apartheid' and has given rise to a political class drawn from a 'segregated elite' that does not understand or share the views of most people, the annual British Social Attitudes Survey warns. The Survey's most controversial analysis centres on why class matters more than ever in British life by looking at the educational background of respondents for the first time. From this, researchers could identify a 'sense of superiority bonus' that comes from attending a private school. This 'superiority' manifests itself in a belief that private education confers a higher position on the ladder of life. After accounting for family background, the study found that the privately educated are still roughly twice as likely as state school pupils to see themselves as being middle or upper-middle class.

Safer schools in the UK: a case study

C. Hayden and others

International Journal of School Disaffection, vol. 8, no. 2, 2011, p. 5-13

The authors critically examine the development of a concern with 'safer schools' in England, exploring important questions about perceptions of high profile incidents of 'violence' in schools and how we should respond.

Third of schools not meeting standards, say Ofsted inspectors

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 14th 2011, p. 6

Ofsted reported that 35% of primary and secondary schools inspected July to September 2011 were rated no better than satisfactory. Fewer than one in seven of the 873 schools visited were marked outstanding. The disclosure was made after the regulator warned in its annual report that too many state schools were being let down by 'variable' standards of teaching.

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