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

11-year-old boys fall further behind girls in the three Rs.

M. Taylor

Guardian, November 1st 2005, p.5

Fifty one percent of boys and sixty three percent of girls reached expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics at age 11 according to the latest government results. While the gap is widening between sexes, overall performance of primary school children is rising and is commended by the Department for Education and Skills despite Statistics Commission warnings not to overstate the significance of primary school figures.

Accused teachers can stay at school

T.Halpin

Times, November 22nd 2005, p. 28

Less than five percent of allegations against teachers lead to conviction. Article reports that new national guidelines have been issued to local authorities on speeding up complaints procedures, with teachers continuing work during the investigation.

Annual report of Her Majestyís Chief Inspector of Schools

Ofsted

London: TSO, 2005 (House of Commons papers, session 2005/06; HC451)

Report begins with a brief overview of quality across the phases and sectors of education and childcare that Ofsted inspects. It then draws together some of the main findings of Ofsted's thematic inspection programme, focussing on national strategies, extended schools, curriculum flexibilities, services for young people at risk of disengagement, advanced bilingual learners, and race equality.

Children aged under five to face national curriculum

S. Cassidy

Independent, November 9th 2005, p.6

Reports that radical proposals in the Childcare Bill will replace the current voluntary framework with a compulsory curriculum for children from birth to three. Three year olds will be taught reading, writing and mathematics. Rules will also be tightened on local authority commissioning and provider obligations. Comments for and against the proposals are provided.

[See also Times November 9th 2005, p.11 for background and breakdown; Guardian, November 9th 2005, p.1]

DfES rejects signs of fall in productivity

L. Smith

Guardian, November 1st 2005, p.28

The Department for Education and Skills says that negative education productivity figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are based on flawed methods which ignore rising GCSE attainment levels. While the ONS accept the need for quality adjusted public service productivity measurements, they are calling for consultation.

Does governance matter for school improvement

S. Ranson and others

School Effectiveness and School Improvement, vol.16, 2005, p.305-325

Paper describes a national study of school governance in Wales to investigate its contribution to the improvement of schools. It argues that there is an association between the practice of governing body scrutiny and the success of a number of primary schools. The questions that governing bodies ask and the enquiries they introduce generate reflection on, and adaptation of, strategies, policies and targets for improving achievement.

Education investment 'not paying off in economic terms'

G. Rozenberg & A. Blair

The Times, November 1st 2005, p.51

Official figures show that productivity in state education has been falling by about 1% a year against a backdrop of rising public spending on schools. These statistics measure productivity on the basis of numbers of pupils being taught. The Office for National Statistics claims that the figures are unfair and is proposing alternative measures that pay regard to the quality of teaching and the economic benefits of a good education in the shape of higher earnings (See also Independent, Nov.1st 2005, p.10; Financial Times, Nov.1st 2005, p.4)

The Education of pregnant young women and young mothers in England

N. Dawson and A. Hosie

2005

Report of a study to explore the educational experience of pregnant young women and young mothers in England. Found that:

  • Many of the pregnant young women and young mothers had disengaged from education prior to pregnancy. However, a majority of these young women reported improved attendance and a greater willingness to engage with education following pregnancy, especially if offered appropriate non-judgemental support.
  • Young women who had had a positive experience of schooling before pregnancy were more likely to be supported by their schools when the pregnancy was disclosed and to have a good record of attendance and achievement
  • According to the young women the most valuable ways in which a school could encourage a pregnant young woman to remain were by: openly discussing her fears and needs; being generally supportive and non-judgemental; and allowing her choice in how her education is handled.
  • There was evidence that young women who had been disengaged from school prior to pregnancy benefited from attending specialist units
  • A lack of affordable childcare was as major barrier to continuing education for young mothers
  • The availability of a reintegration officer was key to enabling young women to make appropriate decisions about how best to continue their education.

Girls take lead in race for academies

A. Blair & G. Hurst

Times, November 7th 2005, p.4

Belvedere School, run by the Sutton and Girls Day School Trusts, is set to become the first major independent school to join the state sector as an academy reserving 10% of places for language specialisation, admitting boys at sixth form, and ending fees and selection from 2007.

[See also Financial Times November 8th 2005, p.5]

History 'sexed up' for less academic pupils

L. Lightfoot

Daily Telegraph, November 5th 2005, p.1

A new vocational qualification to be piloted next year, linking history with heritage and media work for less academic teenagers, has received mixed responses. The exam, to be developed by the OCR group, is praised for offering opportunity but criticised for missing the point of studying history.

Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix prices

T. Halpin

Times, November 10th 2005, p.4

Office of Fair Trading finds fee information exchange between independent schools to be anti-competitive. Article reports email evidence, fee details, schools' defence and next steps.

[See also Daily Telegraph, Nov. 10th 2005, p.2; Financial Times, Nov. 10th, 2005, p.5; Guardian, Nov. 10th 2005, p.10; Independent, Nov. 10th 2005, p.6; Times, Nov.11th 2005, p.40]

Making the difference: improving parentsí involvement in schools: draft bill consultation report

George Street Research

Edinburgh: Scottish Executive, 2005

Of those responding to the consultation, 13% expressed support for the introduction of parents' forums as proposed in the consultation paper. Fifty-six per cent of respondents expressed support for some sort of change in present arrangements that would require legislation. Twenty-seven per cent stated that they did not support change of any sort, and a small proportion restricted their answers to expressing support for the existing school board system at almost every question

The myth of research-based practice: the critical case of educational inquiry

M. Hammersley

International Journal of Social Research Methodology, vol.8, 2005, p.317-330

Educational research in Britain has come under criticism for its failure to provide clear evidence of "what works" for policymakers and practitioners. Author argues that:

  • Research cannot provide all that practitioners need
  • There is a difference between what researchers and practitioners take to be well-found knowledge: organised scepticism versus a pragmatic orientation. This means that research will not provide what practitioners feel they need when they need it.
  • Practitioners have to take account of considerations other than research evidence, including what is politically viable
  • Research can provide too much, too detailed or too complex information
  • Research findings by themselves cannot tell practitioners what should be done, because they do not make value judgments about what is desirable, or what is a priority.
  • Research findings are always fallible and may be wrong
  • Policy impacts will always be affected by factors outside of practitioners control. It is argued that the consequences of enforcing the evidence-based policy model are liable to be negative for both research and practice.

School pays £37,000 to pupils for hitting their exam targets

R. Savill

Daily Telegraph, November 17th 2005, p. 1

A Bristol secondary school, under a New Deal for Communities funded scheme, has paid students cash rewards for meeting or surpassing their target grades at GCSE. It also paid £500 bursaries to 17 A-level students who went on to university.

[See also Guardian, November 17th 2005, p. 13]

Schools are irrelevant in a world of digital media

R. Garner

Independent, November 9th 2005, p.6

A youth culture expert warns of the gap between complex multimedia experiences at home and comparatively unexciting classroom work where teachers' inadequate training is linked to reluctance to use new technology.

Schools use expensive uniforms to deter poor

S. Cassidy

Independent, November 7th 2005, p.11

The best primary schools are deliberately deterring children from poor families from applying for places by demanding that pupils wear expensive uniforms from specialist shops and asking parents to pay for extras such as music lessons or educational visits.

The struggle for the General Teaching Council

R. Willis

Abingdon: Routledge, 2005

The book explores many of the recurring problems that forestalled the successful implementation of policies designed to secure self-regulation of teachers. The author examines the difficulties associated with finance, the inter-association strife, the complexities of producing a workable register of teachers, and the conflict between the government, professional councils and teachers.

Teacher job satisfaction: lessons from the TSW Pathfinder Project

G. Butt and others

School Leadership and Management, vol.25, 2005, p.455-471 Government policy assumes that modernisation and workforce remodelling will be effective as external intervention mechanisms to improve teacher job satisfaction. Article argues that internal management changes may be more effective than externally imposed measures in improving job satisfaction. By comparing responses of teachers within primary and special schools with those from secondary schools, relevant internal factors are identified.

Teachers, time and work: findings from the evaluation of the Transforming the School Workforce Pathfinder project

H. Gunter and others

School Leadership and Management, vol.25, 2005, p.441-454

Article uses empirical findings from the evaluation of the Transforming the School Workforce pilot project to explore whether or not workforce remodelling through the expansion of the role of non-qualified staff has been successful in reducing teacher workload. Evidence suggests that the remodelling policy has only partly dealt with the problem of excessive teacher workload. The reason offered for this is that the remodelling policy does not begin with the purposes and experiences of teachers.

There's a war against our children: black educational underachievement revisited

G. Crozier

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol.26, 2005, p.585-598

Paper presents an account of the school experiences of a group of Afro-Caribbean and mixed race children in two cities in the South of England, based on the views of their parents. The parents recount a pattern of cumulative negative experiences at school which for many of the children results in academic underachievement and loss of motivation to learn. The study provides further evidence of the need to tackle factors such as low teacher expectations and negative stereotyping of young black people which contribute to black academic underachievement.

Thousands of pupils dropping languages for 'easier' subjects

L. Lightfoot

Daily Telegraph, November 4th 2005, p.2

Only a quarter of schools retain compulsory language teaching since the decision was devolved by government in September 2004. A study from the National Centre for Languages reports lowest take-up in deprived areas, a majority of students taking languages only in independent and grammar schools, and a confirmation of the exodus from this critical curriculum area for business competitiveness.

Tomlinson warns of 'two-tier' A-levels

S. Cassidy

The Independent, Nov. 2nd 2005, p.15

The Government's plans to make A-levels harder threaten to create a two-tier school system which could favour the privileged according to Mike Tomlinson, the former head of Ofsted. He warned that plans to make exams harder with optional questions to challenge the brightest could penalise students who did not attend the right school.

Understanding failing schools: perspectives from the inside

M. Nicolaidou and M. Ainscow

School Effectiveness and School Improvement, vol.16, 2005, p.229-248

This paper analyses the experiences of so-called "failing schools" which had been placed in "special measures" following an Ofsted inspection. Authors argue that each school's problems were unique and linked to its culture. Many of the staff in these schools had established a culture of denial in which they refused to acknowledge the reality of their situation. Working and personal relationships between staff were often tense, unproductive and hurtful. Evidence from the study demonstrated the importance of leadership in reshaping the workplace culture and "turning the schools around".

Workforce remodelling and formal knowledge: the erosion of teachers' professional jurisdiction in English schools

G. Wilkinson

School Leadership and Management, vol.25, 2005, p.421-439

The British government aims to reduce teachers' workloads by expanding the numbers and remit of unqualified staff in English schools. This article argues that, because there is no codified body of teacher knowledge, the profession lacks convincing arguments against the expansion of the role of non-qualified teaching staff and that, ultimately, we may see a further erosion of teachers' professional jurisdiction in English schools and an associated downgrading of teachers' status.

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