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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2005): Education - UK - Schools

14-19 EDUCATION AND SKILLS

Department for Education and Skills

London: TSO, 2005 (Cm 6476)

White paper proposes reforms that would:

  • put achieving functional skills in maths and English at the heart of the 14-19 phase;
  • retain GCSEs and A-levels as the cornerstone of the new system;
  • introduce 14 new specialised diplomas including academic and vocational material, covering each occupational sector of the economy. The diplomas will be available at levels 1 (foundation), 2 (GCSE) and 3 (advanced);
  • involve employers in designing the new specialised diplomas through the Learning and Skills Council;
  • introduce a new general diploma for students achieving five A*-C grade GCSE passes;
  • challenge schools to ensure that young people take examinations when they are ready, not at a fixed age. Numbers of pupils taking public examinations early would be published in school league tables.;
  • reduce the amount of coursework in GCSEs but introduce an "extended project" at A-level.

ANNUAL REPORT OF HER MAJESTY'S CHIEF INSPECTOR OF SCHOOLS 2003/04

Ofsted

London: TSO, 2005 (house of Commons papers, session 2004/05; HC195)

Reports that:

  • there has been a sharp increase in the percentage of schools where discipline is unsatisfactory or worse;
  • the number of failing schools rose by 18% to 332 in 2003/04;
  • attendance is unsatisfactory at 25% of schools;
  • government should intervene much faster and more aggressively to turn round failing schools;
  • schools should offer a more vocationally oriented curriculum to improve pupil motivation and behaviour.

AUTUMN PERFORMANCE REPORT 2004: ACHIEVEMENT AGAINST PUBLIC SERVICE AGREEMENT TARGETS, 2000-2004

Department for Education and Skills

London: TSO, 2004 (Cm 6399)

Reports steady progress on a number of fronts:

  • every three- and four-year-old is now able to access free part-time early education and more than 1.2m new registered childcare places have been created since 1997;
  • the first 180 Children's Centres offering early education alongside childcare have been established;
  • record levels of school attendance have been achieved
  • the interim target of 750,000 learners with Skills for Life qualifications by 2004 has been exceeded, with an estimated total of 827,000 learners achieving a literacy, numeracy or language qualification.

BORING LESSONS, STALINIST SCHOOLS: NO WONDER CHILDREN DON'T BEHAVE

F. Gilbert

The Daily Telegraph, Feb. 2nd 2005, p.22

Calls for the abolition of the state school system and its replacement by a voucher system. All parents would be given voucher with which to pay the school of their choice to educate their children. Good schools would flourish and poor schools would be forced to improve or close

BUSINESS BOOST FOR LANGUAGE TEACHING

M. Green

Financial Times, Feb. 17th 2005, p. 4

More schools are to receive business sponsorship to specialise in teaching modern languages, as the government and employers try to stem a potentially disastrous fall in the number of pupils opting to take the subjects at GCSE and A-level. HSBC, the investment bank, and Microsoft, the software giant, have agreed to give financial backing to 75 schools hoping to become expert in modern languages over the next three years

COMPETING CONCEPTIONS AND VALUES IN SCHOOL STRATEGY: RATIONAL PLANNING AND BEYOND

P. Davies and G. Coates

Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, vol.33, 2005, p.109-124

Article shows how Quinn's Competing Values framework can be used to analyse recent debates about strategic planning in schools in England. In principle the model can be used to examine the strategic role of government or schools. Authors suggest that government in England has chosen to dominate the process of strategy formation and consider the role of external pressure in this light. They next focus on schools as implementers of strategy, looking at the nature of school leaders' knowledge, values and public service motivation.

COULD DO BETTER

C. Ryan

Public Finance, Feb.18th-24th 2005, p.24-27

With an election looming, the government will be focusing on measures to improve school discipline about which there is public disquiet. Author also predicts that the government will retain GCSEs and A-Levels, rejecting the Tomlinson report's proposals for a single unified Diploma as too contentious.

EXAM RESULTS IMPROVING FASTER IN SCHOOLS BACKED BY BUSINESS

M. Green

Financial Times, Feb. 16th 2005, p.4

Inspectors have found that 16-year-old pupils in specialist schools performed better in public examinations compared to those in the rest of the state system since 1998. However, improvement in specialist schools had tailed off since 2000. The inspectors concluded that teaching in modern language and arts colleges needed improvement. Some of the problems encountered in raising attainment were due to poor target-setting and a shortage of well qualified teachers.

HALF OF ALL BOYS CANNOT WRITE AFTER PRIMARY SCHOOL

T. Halpin and A. Blair

The Independent, Feb. 23rd 2005, p.2

A report from Ofsted claims that almost half of boys and one third of girls continue to leave primary school unable to write properly, nearly seven years after the government introduced the national literacy strategy. Ofsted blamed poor teaching and said that one in three English lessons were no better than satisfactory.

HEADS ANGERED BY PLAN TO RETAIN A-LEVELS

R. Garner and S. Cassidy

The Independent, Feb. 21st 2005, p.18

Plans to replace the A-level and GSCE system are to be scrapped, Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, will announce later this week, triggering a confrontation with headteachers and exams and standards watchdogs. Both exams are "here to stay", Ms Kelly will say, despite a recommendation by an inquiry headed by the former chief inspector of schools Sir Mike Tomlinson that they should be replaced by an overarching diploma which would include vocational qualifications.

(See also The Financial Times, Feb. 21st 2005, p.5)

IMPROVING SCHOOL ATTENDANCE IN ENGLAND

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2005 (House of Commons papers, session 2004/05; HC212)

Despite government initiatives costing £885m to curb truancy, this has not declined since 1997/98. Measures have contributed to a reduction in unauthorised absence which has fallen from 7.6% to 6.7% of school days, but the rate of serial truancy has remained steady at 0.7%.

KELLY SOFTENS SCHOOL POLICY

R. Smithers

The Guardian, Feb. 2nd 2005, p.7

The new Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has put back government plans to force all schools to take an equal share of excluded pupils until 2007. However, the requirement for all schools to take a share of the other "hard to place" pupils from September 2005 remains in place. As part of a crackdown on low-level disruption, Ofsted inspectors will make repeat visits to schools with behaviour problems until they improve. Parents will be forced to take responsibility for their children's behaviour through parenting orders administered by the courts and penalty notices for truancy.

(See also The Daily Telegraph, Feb. 2nd 2005, p.4; The Times, Feb. 2nd 2005, p.22)

LIVING COLOUR

P. Weir

Education Guardian, Feb. 22nd 2005, p.10

Article investigates how teachers can bring a multicultural ethos into schools where nearly all pupils are white.

LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE

R. Hattersley

Education Guardian, Feb. 22nd 2005, p.203

Thomas Telford become the most famous comprehensive in the land when 100% of is GSCE students earned at least five A*-C grades, the first time a school with a 'mixed ability' intake had achieved this. The author believes it is a good school bur that the idea that such places drag the whole system up behind them is an illusion.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO FAMILIES: TACKLING CHALLENGING BEHAVIOUR

L. Buckland, J. Rose and C. Greaves

Community Practitioner, vol.78, 2005, p.50-55

Two school nurses implemented a nurse-led intervention tackling challenging behaviour in three Devon schools. Interventions fell into four categories: individual work with the child or the parent, group work to develop social skills and self-esteem, whole class strategies, e.g. workshops on emotional literacy, and partnership working in complex cases. The implementation of the project showed that it is feasible for school nurses to provide such interventions to children and families, if sufficient time, training and competencies are available.

MINISTER'S PLAN FOR BETTER SCHOOL MEALS 'LACKS FUNDS'

J. Boone and S. Davoudi

Financial Times, Feb. 11th 2005, p. 5

Plans to improve the quality of school meals have beencriticised for not providing additional funds to wean children off burgers and chips. The scheme, announced by Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary, would see the implementation of "tougher minimum standards" for meals to reduce the fat, salt and sugar content in processed foods and the establishment of an independent food trust. However the Department for Education and Skills said it could not promise any extra funds until further consultation had been carried out.

(See also The Times, Feb. 11th 2005, p.25)

MORE PARENTS TEACH THEIR CHILDREN AT HOME

M. Taylor

The Guardian, Feb. 2nd 2005, p.5

A growing number of parents are educating their children at home because of increasing concerns about bullying in state schools and the pressure of exams.

NO. 10 PLANS CLOSURE OF FAILING SCHOOLS TO BOOST MOST POPULAR

A. Grice

The Independent, Feb. 8th 2005, p.2

The government is considering bringing forward the date at which parents express a preference for their child's school to give popular schools time to expand to meet demand. The scheme would have to include a tough policy on closing unpopular schools.

(See also The Daily Telegraph, Feb. 8th 2005, p.8)

OUTCRY AT KELLY EXAM REFORMS

R. Smithers

The Guardian, Feb. 24th 2005, p2

Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector of schools and the senior education advisor asked by Labour to revamp the secondary school exam system hit back at the government after it rejected his blueprint for an overarching new diploma to replace GCSEs and A-levels. He warned that the decision to opt for a diploma only for vocational courses - while keeping the "gold standard'" exams - could backfire on the government by prolonging and reinforcing the traditional snobbery towards work-related education.

PUBLIC EXPENDITURE ON EDUCATION AND SKILLS

Education and Skills Committee

London: TSO, 2004 (House of Commons papers, session 2004/05; HC168)

Report covers the effectiveness of increased expenditure on schools since 1997, the current schools funding formula, staff reductions at the Department for Education and Skills, financial management capabilities at DfES, and funding of further education colleges.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: LOW STANDARD OF LIBRARIES IS DAMAGING LEARNING, SAYS CHIEF INSPECTOR

S. Cassidy

Independent, Feb. 7th 2005, p.19

Ofsted inpectors have found that many school libraries are poorly stocked, badly organised, underfunded and underused. They do not support pupils' study and fail to encourage them to read for pleasure. The best school libraries are staffed by keen librarians and remain open for large parts of the school week, enabling pupils to visit for independent research.

SCHOOLING AS VIOLENCE: HOW SCHOOLS HARM PUPILS AND SOCIETIES

C. Harber

London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004

This book asks fundamental questions about the nature and purposes of formal education. There are three main ways of looking at the relationship between formal education, individuals and society:

  • that education improves society;
  • that education reproduces society exactly as it is;
  • that education makes society worse and harms individuals.

Whilst much academic writing and research stress the first two functions, the third is largely played down or ignored. The author argues that while schooling can play a positive role, violence towards children originating in the school system is common, systematic and widespread, and that schools play a systematic role in encouraging violence in wider society. Topics covered include:

  • physical punishment;
  • learning to hate others;
  • sexual abuse;
  • stress and anxiety;
  • the militarization of schools.
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