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

Academies federation hopes to run further education college for profit

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Mar. 26th 2012, p. 7

A federation that ran a chain of academy schools planned to become the first in the country to run a state further education college as a profit-making business. The change would mean surplus cash from the college could be used to pay a dividend to shareholders. The Barnfield Federation, which ran four schools in Luton, wanted to be the first academy backer to take advantage of a provision in the Education Act 2011 that allowed further education colleges to be run on a for-profit basis. . Academy schools were not at the time run for profit. But the federation was exploring doing so in future if the law was changed to allow it. Barnfield's chief executive, Pete Birkett, was looking at creating a new business model for schools involving establishing a private company that would raise funds from private equity and pay dividends to shareholders. Public funds from the Department for Education would be paid into a company limited by guarantee, which did not have shareholders. As a first step, Birkett proposed setting up this model for the Barnfield Further Education College, which sponsored four schools in Luton. Shareholders would receive a portion of the college's financial surplus.

The Church school of the future review

P. Chadwick (chair)

Church of England Archbishops' Council Education Division and The National Society, 2012

This report argues that religious education (RE) is being marginalised in many schools, with the Coalition government having no will to address the problem. It warns that the teaching of Christian values is being eroded by the government's utilitarian approach to education. The report also criticised a decision to exclude religious education from the new English Baccalaureate, and highlighted a decline in the numbers of new RE teachers being trained, and a refusal to include the subject in a major review of the national curriculum. It proposes the development of new resources for the teaching of Christianity in all schools.

Delivering the free entitlement to education for three- and four-year-olds

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2012 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1787)

The national take-up rate for three- and four-year-olds in early education has been sustained at 95% since 2008 despite an 8% increase in eligible children. There are however, wide variations in take-up between local authorities. Take-up for children from the most disadvantaged families is lower than overall take-up, and access to high quality provision varies depending on where children live. The percentage of good or outstanding provision across local authorities in March 2011 ranged from 64% to 97%. Areas of highest deprivation are less likely to have high quality provision. Children's level of development at age five has improved, but National Key Stage One results at age seven show almost no improvement since 2007. Although the relationship between the entitlement and Key Stage One results is not straightforward, the Department for Education intended the entitlement to have lasting effects on child development throughout primary school and beyond. It is not yet clear, however, that the entitlement is leading to longer-term educational benefits, and the Department does not yet have robust measures to demonstrate whether the longer-term benefits it expects are being realised.

Early GCSE entry could drive down a pupil's results, warns Gove

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 9th 2012, p. 12

The education secretary Michael Gove expressed concern over the trend for pupils to take GCSEs early. Around a quarter of pupils sat GCSEs in English and maths before the age of 16 in 2010, with numbers soaring five-fold in just three years. There were concerns that the move resulted in pupils achieving a lower grade and receiving less tuition in core subjects. Mr Gove ordered Ofsted to find out what could be done to ensure that early entry did not impact negatively on pupils achieving their full potential.

Educational achievement in selective and comprehensive local education authorities: a configurational analysis

J. Glaesser and B. Cooper

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 33, 2012, p. 223-244

Selective and comprehensive school systems vary in both the degree and timing of selection. To study the consequences of such variation, cross-national comparisons are usually undertaken. Given that cultural differences between countries affect pathways and outcomes, apportioning causal influence in such studies can be difficult. In 1970s Britain, selective and comprehensive systems coexisted. This enables us to compare the influences of organisational arrangements without the complication of national cultural differences. We analyse, for children of various abilities, while taking account of gender and class, the effect on achievement of experiencing comprehensive or selective schooling. Assuming that contextual and individual factors work conjuncturally in producing outcomes, we employ Ragin's configurational Qualitative Comparative Analysis. By treating cases in the National Child Development Study as configurations of factors, we are able to analyse the sufficient and necessary conditions for achievement. We find that system differences affect only some high-ability children's educational outcomes.

An ethnography of permanent exclusion from school: revealing and untangling the threads of institutionalised racism

A. Carlile

Race Ethnicity and Education, vol. 15, 2012, p. 175-194

This article focuses on the administration of disciplinary exclusion (expulsion) from school. It identifies a number of social boundaries between people that negatively affect students subject to permanent exclusion, to the extent that they can be seen as constituting incidents of institutional racism. For example, the high statistical currency of the English language and the lack of adequate translation facilities are shown to constitute social boundaries between people that undermine the participation of parents in school exclusion and inclusion processes. Age assessments for immigrant and refugee children are also seen to affect institutional responses to individual cases of permanent exclusion from school. Assumptions about what excluded students 'need' are found to sometimes be made on the basis of reductive skin colour labels, and a disconnect is discovered between the discourses that school and family are socially authorised to adopt in discussing students at risk of exclusion. It is recommended that institutional racism in schooling is acknowledged and acted upon by both policy makers and practitioners.

First new grammar school in 50 years to meet 'huge demand'

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 26th 2012, p. 8

This article reports plans by Kent County Council to expand its grammar school places amid growing demand for more selective education. Plans included opening a satellite campus offering about 120 places a year in Sevenoaks. Experts predicted the move could open the floodgates to more grammar schools in regions with selective education systems.

Including children with special educational needs in physical education: has entitlement and accessibility been realised

P. Vickerman

Disability and Society, vol. 27, 2012, p. 249-262

The National Curriculum suggests that children with special educational needs (SEN) should have the same opportunities to access physical education as their non-disabled peers. Research, however, shows that children with SEN often have fewer opportunities to engage in physical activity. Moreover, the Coalition government which came to power in 2010 is planning to review special education and there are suggestions that policies promoting inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools may be reversed. This paper identifies four themes that are central to the success or otherwise of children with SEN gaining full access to physical education. These are: 1) hearing the voices of children with SEN; 2) government perspectives; 3) teacher training and schools; and 4) PE teachers, learning, teaching and assessment.

'Including' while excluding: race, class and behaviour support units

V. Gillies and Y. Robinson

Race Ethnicity and Education, vol. 15, 2012, p. 157-174

This article examines the workings of informal exclusion units located within British secondary schools. Although articulated in terms of inclusion and support such initiatives effectively work to remove students regarded as troublesome from mainstream classrooms. Drawing on ethnographic research in three inner-city schools we show how a therapeutic ethos governs activities within the units. A focus on developing personal skills is maintained in an effort to compensate for the perceived shortcomings of parents and wider communities. As we demonstrate, this reasoning drives a culturally intolerant approach concealed within a broader commitment to multicultural values. While notions of diversity are celebrated within the schools, issues of race and racism are routinely avoided, ensuring that institutionally ingrained patterns of discrimination remain unchanged.

Kent gives green light to satellite grammar schools

J. Vasagar

The Guardian, Mar. 30th 2012, p. 15

Conservative-controlled Kent county council voted to allow the creation of two satellite grammar schools linked to existing schools in the county, in the first extension of selective secondary education for decades. The decision was in response to a petition signed by more than 2,000 parents calling for grammar school places to be created in Sevenoaks. More than 1,000 children commuted from the area to grammar schools in neighbouring towns. Under legislation introduced by Labour, no new grammar schools could open. But a new admissions code brought in by the coalition gave greater freedom to existing, popular schools, including grammars, to expand. Though the council had agreed to the creation of the Sevenoaks satellite schools, no existing host grammar had yet been identified for expansion.

Moving English forward



This report calls for standards of English in primary schools to be raised significantly because too many pupils start secondary education with poor reading and writing skills. Moreover, almost a third of pupils who reach national targets at the age of 11 fail to gain good GCSEs in the subject at 16. It claims that standards have been flat since 2005 because the demands put on children are too low. Key weaknesses were found in the way the subject is taught at all ages, with schools often shunning creative and extended writing tasks and failing to teach the basics of spelling. Many schools place an emphasis on analysing non-literary texts such as holiday brochures to get pupils through examinations, instead of requiring them to read whole novels or poems.


One in seven pupils fails to win place at first-choice secondary

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 23rd 2012, p. 16

Almost 75,000 children were rejected for their first choice secondary school in 2012, in a scramble for places at the most sought-after institutions. Data published by the Department for Education suggested that almost one in 20 children were rejected by at least three state secondary schools. More than one in seven pupils in England were forced to accept a place at their second, third or even fourth choice school. Competition was particularly fierce in local authorities with grammar schools, with thousands of pupils competing for a small number of academically selective places.

(See also Guardian, Mar. 23rd 2012, p.13)

Oversight of special education for young people aged 16-25

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1585)

This report examines whether the Department for Education, agencies and local authorities use information effectively to help secure value for money from 16-25 special education in England. Figure 2 sets out the criteria considered to reflect an effective framework. The report does not cover transition for young people leaving 16-25 education, or support for students in apprenticeships or higher education.

Poor pupils less likely to attend church schools in England than rich neighbours

J. Shepherd and S. Rogers

The Guardian, Mar. 6th 2012, p. 19

England's faith state schools were failing to mirror their local communities by shunning the poorest pupils in their area, analysis by the Guardian of the latest government figures showed. The Roman Catholic Church, which repeatedly insisted its schools were inclusive, came out particularly badly in the examination of data published by the Department for Education (DfE). Three-quarters of Catholic primary and secondary schools had a more affluent mix of pupils than their local area. The figures also revealed that most Church of England (CofE) primary schools had an intake that was untypically affluent and more middle-class than a year previously. The findings were expected to fuel claims that faith schools had been picking pupils from well-off families by selecting on the basis of religion. The Guardian analysed the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals - a key indicator of poverty - in each of England's 19,534 state, non-selective primary and secondary schools. All schools designated for children with special needs were taken out.

Pre-appointment hearing: appointment of Director of the Office of Fair Access

Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

London: TSO, 2012 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1811)

Following a recent recruitment exercise, Professor Les Ebdon emerged as the preferred candidate for the post Director of the Office of Fair Access. He was then invited to a pre-appointment hearing with the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. This evidence session assessed the candidate's professional competence and personal independence. Professor Ebdon has extensive experience in higher education. However, concerns about his suitability for the post of Director of OFFA arose during his evidence and the Committee struggled to get a clear picture of Professor Ebdon's strategy for the future of OFFA. While he demonstrated an all-round understanding of widening participation, Professor Ebdon's descriptions of the root causes of the obstacles to accessing universities were not convincing. Therefore, the Committee has questioned his evidence in respect of two of the criteria for selection, namely 'promote the strengths of the arguments in face of opposition' and 'communicate persuasively and publicly, with excellent presentational stills'. Therefore the Committee is unable to endorse the appointment of Professor Ebdon as the Director of OFFA.

The role of the chair of the school governing body in England

C. James and others

School Leadership & Management, vol. 32, 2012, p. 3-19

The research reported here analysed the role of the chair of the school governing body in England, drawing on a national survey of governors and the study of governing in 30 schools. The role encompassed: being a governor; appointing and working with the head teacher; acting as a change agent; active participation in the school; organising the governing body; dealing with complaints; working with parents; and chairing meetings. We discuss the role and the way it is experienced and conclude that the position of chair is substantially under-played; given insufficient status; and is a significant educational and community leadership responsibility.

Schools must learn new skills to save extra-curricular services

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Feb. 21st-Mar. 5th 2012, p. 12

Extended services, once a key plank of Labour policy, have dropped down the list of government priorities and responsibility for funding provision has been handed to schools. As a result, one in ten breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs are predicted to close in 2011/12. This article looks at alternative funding options, such as corporate sponsorship or voluntary sector involvement.

Schools revolution

L. Higgs

Children and Young People Now, Mar. 6th-12th 2012, p. 25-27

Academies are independent state schools, funded by central government instead of councils. They are free to set their own pay and conditions and their own curriculum. Over time, the Coalition government wants all schools, including primaries, to become academies. This transformation has profound implications for standards, funding and the role of the state in the education system. Critics argue that school autonomy does not necessarily lead to improved standards, and that in the long term academies are unlikely to be better financed, as the government is consulting on the introduction of a single national funding formula for all schools. At the same time local authorities are redefining their role in the education system as being to act as champions and advocates for children and to hold schools to account.

Top schools must help poor neighbours or lose status, says Ofsted

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 21st 2012, p. 10

The head of Ofsted suggested in a speech that leading head teachers in state schools should be required to support struggling primaries and secondaries nearby, for example by acting as consultants or sharing staff. Reluctant schools could be encouraged to get involved by being threatened with loss of their outstanding ranking. Head teachers' leaders criticised the remarks as an attempt to bully schools.

Tougher tests in three Rs for trainee teachers

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 28th 2012, p. 10

Applicants would be required to pass rigorous tests to qualify for teacher training places as part of reforms designed to attract the brightest graduates. It was planned that an expert panel would draw up new tests of basic skills to weed out poorly qualified candidates. Ministers also proposed raising the pass mark for existing tests and cutting the number of times applicants could sit examinations.

Worst performing primary schools to be turned into academies

G. Paton

Daily Telegraph, Mar. 7th 2012, p. 2

The newspaper had learnt of plans to pull more than 100 of the worst performing primary schools out of local authority control and turn them into academies run by third-party sponsors. The reforms were thought likely to prompt opposition from teaching unions. In some cases, teachers had already taken strike action to scupper academy deals.

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