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

A-levels becoming 'just a leaving certificate'

R. Smithers and M. Taylor

The Guardian, August 19th 2005, p.1

The "gold standard" A-level is in danger of becoming no more than a school leaving certificate, head teachers warned yesterday as universities prepared to begin entrance exams and tests because of the government's refusal to introduce reforms. The warning came after the publication of a record-breaking crop of A-level results. The overall pass rate increased for the 23rd year to 96.2%.

(See also The Guardian, August 19th 2005, p.8; Financial Times, August 19th 2005, p.2)

A-level results to add pressure for university entrance tests

A. Blair

The Times, August 15th 2005, p.6

Universities are coming under mounting pressure to adopt admissions tests to distinguish between the best candidates as a record number of A-level students are forecast to gain top grades this week. With almost a quarter of girls predicted to achieve A grades, it has emerged that the government is preparing to back nationwide trials of a generic university entrance test, as early as next month.

(See also Daily Telegraph, August 15th 2005, p.6; The Guardian, August 15th 2005, p.2)

Academies claim boost from GCSEs

R. Smithers, P. Curtis & M. Taylor

The Guardian, August 26th 2005, p.1

The government insisted last night that it will press "full steam ahead" with its controversial £5bn academy programme to transform failing schools, hailing their package of mixed GCSE results this year as evidence the scheme is working.

Any wonder they truant?

K. Reid

Community Care, Aug.11th-17th 2005, p.34-35

Education social work services are overstretched and under-resourced and staff lack training and formal qualifications. At the same time educational social workers have little confidence in the present government's policy of sanctioning parents of persistent truants. Instead they argue that disaffected children alienated from the education system need to be offered alternative or vocational education programmes.

Bias against private schools a 'myth'

T. Halpin

The Times, August 17th 2005, p.12

Independent schools admitted yesterday that discrimination by top universities against their students is a myth. If anything, candidates from fee-paying schools were continuing to win disproportionately large numbers of places.

Blair demands more school choice

D. Charter

The Times, August 15th 2005, p.7

Tony Blair has ordered officials to make it easier and quicker for popular schools to expand after the failure of measures to increase parent power in education. An Education White Paper this autumn will rewrite the rulebook on school choice after a £37 million school expansion programme that was begun in 2003 resulted in just seven popular schools adding extra classes.

Diploma alternative to A-levels is ruled out

R. Garner

The Independent, August 18th 2005, p.7

The Government has hardened its stance against a major reform of A-levels, despite rising concerns over the vast increase in the number of students receiving A grades. The Schools Minister, Lord Adonis, insisted "A-levels are here to stay".

Fresh decline in A-level language pupils

R. Garner

The Independent, August 8th 2005, p.4

A-level results on Thursday will show a further decline in the number of pupils taking foreign languages, particularly German

(See also Financial Times, August 15th 2005, p.2)

GCSE grades soar as heads admit to playing the system

T.Halpin and A.Blair

The Times, August 26th 2005, p.2

GCSE results showed the highest increase in top grades in 13 years as head teachers admitted that schools were increasingly "playing the system" to boost their standing in examination league tables.

GCSE papers marked by admin staff

P. Curtis and R. Smithers

The Guardian, August 22nd 2005, p.1

An exam board is under fire after admitting it was so short of experienced examiners in a GCSE subject this summer that it drafted in its own office staff to help mark the papers. Edexcel, one of the three main exam boards in England, employed its own administrative staff due to pressure to deliver the results on time.

Local education authorities’ approaches to provision for children with specific speech and language difficulties in England and Wales

G. Lindsay and others

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol.20, 2005, p.329-345

Article reports the results of a survey of provision for children with specific speech and language difficulties (SSLD) by local authorities in England and Wales. Provision varied by age group, with designated specialist provision being more prevalent for children aged 5-11, while there was little for young people aged 11-16 in mainstream schools. LEAs decision-making regarding provision varied, influenced by lack of common diagnostic criteria, which was highlighted by the difficulties in distinguishing children with SSLD from those with autism. There were also difficulties translating policies into practice, particularly due to the shortage of speech and language therapists.

Mission impossible? Special educational needs, inclusion and the re-conceptualization of the role of the SENCO in England and Wales

B.A. Cole

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol.20, 2005, p.287-307

Paper considers the role of the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) in schools in England and Wales. Research suggests that, despite the revision of the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice in 2001, SENCOs are still overwhelmed with routine administrative tasks, with too little time to consider the more strategic aspects of inclusion or SEN. Comments by SENCOs from two unitary authorities in the North of England suggest that when the SENCO is supported by senior management within the school, the role can be a powerful one in relation to inclusion. Paper argues that the role of the SENCO needs to be redefined as a senior management post, so that each mainstream school would have at least one powerful advocate for the inclusion of children with learning difficulties/disabilities.

National skills strategy: 14-19 education

Education and Skills Committee

London: TSO, 2005 (House of Commons papers, session 2004/05; HC37)

Committee reviews the operation of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and welcomes the decision to roll it out nationally. It goes on to consider the government's negative response to the proposals of the Working Group on 14-19 Reform for the introduction of an integrated diploma covering both academic and vocational knowledge and skills. It next highlights the tensions between pressures for greater collaborative working and moves to give schools greater independence. It finally discusses the provision of careers advice and guidance and problems arising from the Connexions Service concentrating its efforts on helping those not in employment, education or training.

The participation of volunteer citizens in school governance

S. Ranson and others

Educational Review, vol.57, 2005, p.357-371

Research assessed the extent to which the recruitment of volunteer citizens as governors in powerful deregulated schools has enhanced democratic participation and public accountability, and whether it has made a difference to policy, practice and performance of schools, local authorities and governments in the UK. Study has suggested that while school governors adopted modernising approaches to monitoring schools to improve performance, they have nevertheless developed concepts of governance that are independent of the state and reflect local cultural traditions. However, school governors are overwhelmingly white, middle class, middle aged public/community service workers. As such they do not fully represent some significant segments of their local communities.

Primary results fall well short of targets

R. Garner and S. Cassidy

The Independent, August 8th 2005, p.9

Ministers are nowhere near their goal of 85 per cent of 11-year-olds leaving primary school able to read, write and do arithmetic to the required level by next year, test results will show. This year's results, to be announced in a fortnight, will show a slight improvement in both maths and English. But this will be far short of this government's aspiration of getting 85% of youngsters to reach the required level.

(Re)constructing the head teacher: legal narratives and the politics of school exclusion

D. Monk

Journal of Law and Society, vol.32, 2005, p.399-423

Article attempts to explain why, in the current developing culture of human and children's rights, head teachers have very extensive powers which are popularly perceived as being beyond questioning. Law has potentially an important role to play in protecting the rights of excluded pupils, but has largely failed in that role because of the prevailing nostalgic "reconstruction" of the head teacher's authority as being natural and "common-sense". This is both a critical barrier to law performing its role and at the same time restricts any possibility of it doing so by placing the issue beyond question.

The 'right kind of man': the ambiguities of re-gendering the early primary school environment

D. Jones

International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, vol.12, 2005, p.169-187

Current public discourse is clearly in favour of recruiting more men into primary school teaching, where it is envisaged that children especially boys, are at a disadvantage due to the lack of male role models. Article examines the different voices within the public discourse and surveys recruitment drives by the UK government and Teacher Training Agency to encourage more men to enter the profession. The second part of the article presents the views of a sample of female teachers about male teachers at key stage 1. The women call for the recruitment of "the right kind of man" who would ideally be enthusiastic about young children, a good listener, a team player with a sense of humour, and macho, not a wimp.

School admissions: consultation on the draft School Admissions Code of Practice, School Admissions Appeals Code of Practice and assorted regulations

Department for Education and Skills

London: 2005

The draft codes reflect legislation which requires admission authorities to give priority to looked after children and recommendations by the Education and Skills Select Committee. The Admissions Code is also amended to incorporate protocols set out in the Five Year Strategy relating to accommodating hard to place children. Key changes to the Admissions Code include a revised section on good practice in oversubscription criteria, a list of appropriate and acceptable oversubscription criteria, guidance on application of "first preference first" admission arrangements, a revised section on coordination of admission arrangements, and the new section on "hard to place pupils" protocols. The draft code also includes an annex on the law and guidance on infant class-size appeals.

The shape of things to come: personalised learning through collaboration

C. Leadbeater

Nottingham: DfES Publications, 2005

Report explicitly links two policy agendas which are deeply interconnected but have often been treated separately: personalising learning and school collaboration. If our aspiration is personalisation for all learners, then schools will need to work together to achieve it. Personalising learning relies on getting young people to commit themselves to their education. To achieve this, schools need to use resources flexibly and creatively, especially in partnership, and reach beyond the boundaries of the classroom. The best way to handle the complexity involved in personalised learning is through school networks and collaboration with other stakeholders.

Think-tank calls for shorter exclusions

Young People Now, July 6th-12th, 2005, p. 6

A three day limit to school exclusions is suggested where no full time alternative is available according to this short news item reporting on forthcoming Institute for Public Policy Research study Towards Zero Exclusions due in September.

Towards a typology for conceptualizing the roles of teaching assistants

T. Kerry

Educational Review, vol.57, 2005, p.373-384

Article examines the evolution of the role of teaching assistant since Estelle Morris's seminal speech in 2001. In the face of continuing confusion about this role, paper explores what teaching assistants actually do, based on an analysis of the research literature. It then develops a typology of these roles, with a view to clarifying issues around the deployment and training of teaching assistants.

Transforming the inclusion strategy

P. Traves

Race Equality Teaching, vol.23, no.3, 2005, p.8-12

Multiculturalism is in danger of being sidelined and seen as a minority interest of importance only to a minority of local authorities, a minority of schools and a minority of pupils. Author rebuts this view and argues that multicultural and anti-racist education is more important than ever.

Where the gates stay open

C. Andrews

Community Care, July14th-20th, 2005, p.30-31

Partnership ethos and the government's extended school prospectus pave the way for schools to provide services for their communities and collaborate with other sectors such as health and social services. This article reports on the experiences of Norham Community Technology College in North Shields. These experiences highlight the existence of unique community-specific needs to which any collaborative, extended school must respond.

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