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

Academies boom hurts support services

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Dec. 13th 2011-Jan. 9th 2012, p. 12-13

One of the coalition government's flagship reforms has led to 1,200 academies opening in the space of 18 months. Academies receive money direct from central government to buy in support services such as educational welfare that local authorities run for maintained schools. This leaves local authorities struggling to sustain support services for their remaining maintained schools. In response, Lincolnshire County Council is urging all schools in its area to convert to academy status under a single trust. It is argued that the plan would help preserve local schools, provide an infrastructure of support services, and maintain the wider school community.

Academies free children from a creed of failure, says Gove

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 5th 2012, p. 10

In a speech, education secretary Michael Gove criticised local authorities who refused to co-operate with the academies programme, saying that they were 'happy with failure'. He accused the 'Left-wing educational establishment' of being more concerned with protecting discredited methods than improving standards. The government is committed to expanding the academies programme, but teaching unions are critical, saying that academies are unaccountable and risk fragmenting the education system.

'Coasting' schools facing a crackdown

R. Winnett

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 17th 2012, p. 1

The Prime Minister announced plans to tackle the problem of 'coasting' schools in middle class areas. More than 300 schools teaching the most affluent 20% of children had repeatedly been described by Ofsted inspectors as just satisfactory and accused of failing to improve pupils' results. Under the new plans, they would be placed in a category called 'requires improvement' and revisited by inspectors every 12 to 18 months. Those failing to improve in three years would be put in 'special measures'.

Developing equitable education systems

M. Ainscow and others

Abingdon: Routledge, 2012

Despite consistent improvements in the school system of over recent years, there are still too many children who miss out. It is not only children from disadvantaged backgrounds attending hard-pressed urban schools that the system is failing - even in the most successful schools there are often groups of learners whose experience of schooling is less than equitable. As a result of their close involvement with a group of schools serving a predominantly working-class community over five years, the authors of this book offer an analysis of how marginalisation within schools can arise, and provide suggestions for responding to this crucial policy agenda. They propose a teacher-led inquiry strategy that has proved to be effective in moving forward thinking and practice within individual schools. However, their research has shown that using the same strategy for system change is problematic within a policy context that emphasises competition and choice. Learning from this experience, the authors analyse the factors that inhibit the collaborative approach needed to reduce inequities that exist between schools, in order to formulate proposals that can move the system as a whole towards more equitable provision.

Education in a multicultural environment: equity issues in teaching and learning in the school system in England

B. Boyle and M. Charles

International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 21, 2011, p. 299-314

The paper focuses on the auditing and accountancy paradigm that has dominated educational measurement of pupil performance for the last 20 years in England. The advocates of this minimum competency paradigm do not take account of the results of its dominance. These results include ignoring the heterogeneous complexity of groups within societies that exist now internationally and the reduction in pedagogy and curriculum experience to a 'one-size-fits-all' model of teaching concentrated on the tested subjects. This is complemented by the 'recitation script' style of pedagogy in schools based on coverage, delivery, completion and measurement rather than interpretation and analysis to support the complexity and diversity of individual learning needs.

Exam seminars face inquiry by watchdog

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 6th 2012, p. 1

The regulator Ofqual announced that it would carry out an investigation into seminars run by examination boards and designed to help teachers improve GCSE and A-level results following claims of abuse of the system. The review was expected to lead to tighter regulation or to the events being abolished altogether.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Jan. 10th 2012, p. 1)

Gove condemns academy critics as 'ideologues' who embrace failure

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Jan. 5th 2012, p. 2

The education secretary, Michael Gove, risked infuriating thousands of teachers and councillors by describing those opposed to academies as 'ideologues happy with failure'. In his sharpest attack on those against academies - one of the coalition's flagship education reforms - Gove warned that he would plough on with the programme regardless of critics. 'Change is coming. And to those who want to get in the way, I have just two words: hands off,' he said in a speech at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, an academy in south-east London.

Gove faces calls to scrap limit of 30 pupils to an infant class

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Jan. 6th 2012, p. 4

The government came under renewed pressure to raise the limit on infant class sizes after a councillor revealed that his local authority had spent 274,000 hiring extra teachers to keep their classes below the legal threshold. Sefton Council on Merseyside spent the money on extra teachers for just eight extra pupils over two years. A baby boom had put intense pressure on primary schools - government figures showed that more than 450,000 extra primary pupils would need places in England by 2015. Labour legislated to limit class sizes for five- to seven-year olds to 30 pupils in 1998, but councils in London circulated a document in 2011 which said this limit should be raised to allow up to 32 children in a class. In Sefton, the council spent more than a quarter of a million pounds so that classes with 31 pupils could have two teachers.

Gove's latest plan for schools: the wiki-curriculum

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Jan. 12th 2012, p. 9

A 'wiki' approach to designing the curriculum that would allow teachers and experts to collaborate in tailoring lessons for schools was proposed by the education secretary, Michael Gove. The new approach to the curriculum for every subject drew inspiration from a US military counterinsurgency strategy outlined in Thomas Friedman's book, That Used to Be Us. The wiki approach would be extended to other subjects after being piloted in the government's new programme of study for computer science, Gove said. Schools were given the freedom to use teaching resources in computer science designed by leading employers and academics, in a move aimed at transforming the teaching of information and communication technology (ICT).

How schools do policy: policy enactments in secondary schools

S. J. Ball, M. Maguire and A. Braun

Abingdon: Routledge, 2012

Over the last 20 years, international attempts to raise educational standards and improve opportunities for all children have accelerated and proliferated. This has generated a state of constant change and an unrelenting flood of initiatives, changes and reforms that need to be 'implemented' by schools. In response to this, a great deal of attention has been given to evaluating 'how well' policies are realised in practice - implemented! Less attention has been paid to understanding how schools actually deal with these multiple, and sometimes contradictory, policy demands; creatively working to interpret policy texts and translate these into practices, in real material conditions and with varying resources - how they are enacted! Based on a long-term qualitative study of four 'ordinary' secondary schools, and working on the interface of theory with data, this book explores how schools enact, rather than implement, policy.

Leadership and the reform of education

H. M. Gunter

Bristol: Policy Press, 2012

Western politicians consider that leadership is essential for the delivery of educational reform. This important and timely book examines how leaders, leading and leadership became the dominant theme in education. It presents an analysis of the relationship between the state, public policy and the types of knowledge that New Labour used to make policy and break professional cultures. It is essential reading for all those interested in public policy, education policy, and debates about governance and will be of interest to policymakers, researchers and educational professionals.

League tables lead to 'drop in standards'

N. Collins

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 26th 2012, p. 1 + 2

A 2010 international study comparing educational standards in 57 developed countries found that Britain had dropped from fourth place to 14th in science and from seventh to 17th in English. In maths, Britain was ranked 24th, with pupils scoring well below the national average in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. Former headmaster and author Roger Titcombe argued that the British education system had not prepared pupils for the PISA tests, which examine understanding rather than knowledge. He alleged that the school league tables system encouraged head teachers to drill pupils to pass GCSEs rather than providing them with a rounded education.

More than 100 failing secondaries face closure

J. Shepherd

The Guardian, Jan. 27th 2012, p. 19

More than 100 secondary schools in England faced being closed and re-opened as academies for failing government targets, official data revealed. League tables of more than 3,300 secondaries published by the Department for Education in January 2012 showed that 107 schools were failing to reach minimum standards required by the coalition. In all schools, at least 35% of pupils were expected to gain five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths. Those schools that failed to meet this target, and whose pupils were not achieving above-average progress in English and maths, were considered sub-standard. The headteachers of under-performing schools could be replaced and their management investigated by education department officials.

Never 'friend' a pupil: misconduct cases highlight risks of teachers using Facebook

J. Vasagar and M. Williams

The Guardian, Jan. 24th 2012, p. 14

More than one in 10 school teachers accused of misconduct in 2011 had used social networking sites and email to forge inappropriate relationships with their pupils, an analysis of disciplinary cases found. Facebook, Twitter, online chatrooms and emails were used to befriend children in 43 of the cases brought to the regulator, the General Teaching Council (GTC) for England in 2011. Eighteen teachers were given prohibition orders and struck off, while 14 were suspended. In all, the GTC heard 336 cases of 'unacceptable professional conduct' that year. The cases before the professional watchdog represented the tip of the iceberg in terms of inappropriate use of social networking, as the GTC only handled cases where a teacher had been sacked or resigned in circumstances where dismissal was possible.

Professional attitudes to the use of pupil performance data in English secondary schools

A. Kelly and C. Downey

School Effectiveness and School Improvement, vol. 22, 2011, p. 415-437

This paper presents findings from an exploratory survey of teachers' perceptions, understanding, and use of pupil performance data in English secondary schools and examines the extent to which these are associated with school-level performance and a range of other factors, including teachers' positions of responsibility. The survey was supplemented by a series of in-depth interviews. Use and availability of pupil performance data was found to be widespread, but classroom teachers reported significantly lower levels of use and understanding. The research also reveals a data-use hierarchy in schools, with many indicating that some data are accessible only to school leaders or provided pre-interpreted. Most teachers make regular use of their own sources of pupil data, which is seen as at least as useful as 'official' data, which poses challenges for policymakers in raising levels of use and creating a 'mixed economy' of sources.

'Satisfactory' schools no longer good enough, says Ofsted

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Jan. 17th 2012, p. 9

The Ofsted rating of 'satisfactory' for schools - widely regarded as a euphemism for a poor school - was to be scrapped, the new chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, proposed as he outlined new plans to tackle 'coasting schools'. Schools that failed to provide a good standard of education would be graded 'requires improvement', and no school would be allowed to stay in this category for more than three years. These schools would face a fresh inspection within 12 to 18 months, rather than up to three years later, as previously. They would have to demonstrate improvement over the course of two more inspections over a three-year period, or face going into special measures.

Schools 'routinely cheat' to fool Ofsted inspectors

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 6th 2012, p. 10

Whistleblowers warned Ofsted that schools were routinely cheating to avoid failing inspections by bribing pupils, sending troublemakers home, and rehearsing lessons. Ofsted reported that 38 complaints about schools' conduct had been received over an eight month period in 2011, but this was believed to be the tip of the iceberg. The regulator planned to carry out a small number of unannounced inspections to gain a more accurate picture of standards.

Stronger powers to sack teachers who fail in the classroom

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 13th 2012, p. 18

The Department for Education unveiled new regulations designed to significantly reduce the amount of red tape surrounding teacher performance management. These included: 1) allowing under-performing teachers to be removed in around a term instead of 18 months; 2) removing the three-hour limit on teacher observation, giving heads freedom to monitor staff throughout the year; and 3) scrapping more than 50 pages of 'unnecessary' guidance regulating capability procedures. The proposals prompted outrage among teachers' leaders, who branded them draconian.

'What about us?' Gypsies, Travellers and 'White racism' in secondary schools in England

K. Phopal

International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 21, 2011, p. 315-329

This article examines the concept of 'White racism' in relation to the experiences of Gypsy and Traveller groups in England. It is based on ethnographic research conducted in two secondary schools during the years 2006-2009. Interviews were carried out with pupils attending the secondary schools, their mothers and members of the Traveller Education Service. The research reveals that racism experienced by White Gypsy and Traveller groups is understood differently to that experienced by non-White minority ethnic groups. This is further related to how Gypsy and Traveller groups are perceived inside and outside schools, as 'others' and 'outsiders'. The article considers discourses around racism and discrimination and how they might work to disadvantage Gypsy and Traveller groups in schools.

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