Latest Educational News

Drugs tests in schools 'extreme'

by BBC, May 31, 2006

Introducing random drugs tests in schools is an "extreme measure" which may drive abuse underground, a drugs information charity warns.
The criticism from DrugScope follows news that secondary schools in Kent will be carrying out the tests.

But DrugScope fears the move could undermine an open relationship between pupils and their teachers which can allow drug misuse to be debated freely.

The charity has instead called for a focus on drugs education in schools.

The decision to introduce the tests in Kent's schools follows a scheme at Abbey School, in Faversham, where pupils were randomly selected and tested by taking mouth swabs.

School's turnaround from condemnation to excellence

by Scotsman, May 31, 2006

A school which was severely criticised in a damning report two years ago has completed a turnaround by being included in a scheme encouraging excellence in Scottish education.

Lossiemouth High has been named as one of the Scottish Executive's Schools of Ambition.

The designation, which recognises the Moray school's drive and innovation, marks a transformation at the 750-pupil school.

In 2004, inspectors condemned Lossiemouth High, claiming it lacked leadership and suffered from poor morale and attainment.

They also noted that parents had expressed concerns about a lack of discipline among pupils and the level of staff absences. Only about half of parents felt that the school was well led and had a good reputation locally.

Earlier start to day for pupils

by BBC, May 30, 2006

Hundreds of primary school children in Aberdeen are to start classes 20 minutes earlier, it has emerged.
Education officials are trialling the changes at one school in the city to see if it brings about improvements in pupils' concentration.

After the summer holidays, pupils at the city's Glashieburn Primary School will start lessons at 0840 BST instead of 0900, finishing at 1500.

They will have one hour for lunch and an extra five minutes at break time.

Parents rebel at 'Dickensian' school run by millionaire evangelist friend of Blair

by Guardian, May 30, 2006

Among the parents who had gathered in the back bar of the Moorends Hotel there were tales of curious expulsions and strange practices. One mother said her daughter had been removed from school after being accused of wearing the wrong trousers, another that her son had been permanently expelled for smoking.

A father claimed his son had been sent home for walking the wrong way down the corridor, another that his 16-year-old daughter was kicked out after getting a kiss from her boyfriend at the school gates. And underlying it all was a feeling that Trinity, the third state funded secondary to be run by an evangelical Christian and friend of Tony Blair, Sir Peter Vardy, was pushing an aggressive religious agenda. Cindy Denise, whose two children are both at Trinity, claimed pupils were disciplined if they did not carry the Bible on certain days and summed up the mood at the meeting, describing the school as "a complete joke". "They are kicking children out for nothing and won't listen to anyone who wants to know what is going on."

Kent schools to introduce random drug tests

by Guardian, May 30, 2006

Random drug testing could be introduced in secondary schools if head teachers and parents feel it would help children to resist peer pressure.
The government has signalled it is interested in rolling out random drug testing after one school dramatically improved its academic performance. A pilot scheme will be introduced in Kent schools in the autumn.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) chose Kent for the pilot because a headteacher from the area first introduced it in his school with astonishing results.

Pupils to face random drug tests at school

by Daily Mail, May 30, 2006

Random drug testing could be introduced in all secondary schools to help children resist peer pressure and "just say no" to drugs.

The first UK school to introduce random drug testing posted their best ever exam results following a year-long pilot last year.

Now the Government has signalled it is keen for random drug testing to be rolled out nationwide, depending on the success of a pilot scheme they plan to introduce in Kent schools in autumn.

Headteachers and parents will be asked if they would like their pupils to take part in the pilot.

Kent was chosen by the Department for Education and Skills for the pilot because it was a local headteacher who first introduced it in his school with astonishing results.

The wider implications of a study of Oxbridge examination results

by Times, May 30, 2006

Few issues produce more heat and less light than admissions to the leading universities. There are many working in the independent sector who swear blind that fee-paying pupils are being discriminated against when it comes to entering the likes of Oxford and Cambridge. There are others involved with comprehensives who are no less convinced that these two universities are still bastions of Brideshead Revisited. They cite that the proportion of state school students accepted at Oxbridge fell, according to the most recent figures released, and barely exceeds 50 per cent of all those taken. It is an argument that no amount of evidence is ever likely to silence completely.
Yet, as we report today, there is now some evidence that should improve the quality of this discussion. It has long been asserted that Dons should make slightly lower A-level offers to those from state schools because they have untapped potential that will only be truly realised once they enter these hallowed institutions. There has been a widespread assumption that if admitted, students from comprehensives ultimately do better than their contemporaries from more privileged backgrounds. A study of all graduates studying all courses published in 2003 appeared to reinforce this notion.

Dons debunk claim that state pupils do better at Oxbridge

by Times, May 30, 2006

Oxford academics have challenged the belief that state-educated pupils perform better at university than those who have been privately educated.

Their study suggests that at Oxford and Cambridge, A-level grades accurately indicate success and that admissions tutors should not be more lenient towards those from state schools.

Oxford and Cambridge took a smaller proportion of entrants from state schools in 2004 than the previous year, despite government pressure.

Teachers climbing the wall as PE plans descend into chaos

by Scotsman, May 29, 2006

Scottish Executive plans to offer every pupil two hours of sport a week are in disarray as city headteachers warn they have not been given enough cash to make the initiative work.

Education Minister Peter Peacock set the target two years ago as part of a drive to cure a perceived "couch potato" culture among Scots youngster.

GCSE papers destroyed in van fire

by BBC, May 28, 2006

Completed GCSE scripts from three high schools were destroyed in a fire while on their way to marking last week.
The van transporting English literature and music papers collected from Ashcroft, Putteridge and Stopsley High schools in Luton, Beds, caught fire.

Letters were sent out to parents from the schools explaining what happened.

The AQA examination board said no pupils will be disadvantaged and grades are likely to be awarded based on course work and teachers' assessments.

An electrical fault is blamed for damage to the van which caught fire last Tuesday night at the Parcel Force depot in Dunsby Road, Milton Keynes.

Primary school truancy crackdown

by BBC, May 28, 2006

Ministers have ordered a crackdown on truancy and absence in primary schools after figures showed a rise in the number of children failing to attend.
Schools minister Lord Adonis has identified the worst-offending 17 local authorities, urging them to improve attendance among five to 11-year-olds.

direct-debit state schools

by Telegraph, May 28, 2006

Baking a cake and buying raffle tickets for the school fete were once enough to fulfil parents' fund-raising obligations.

Now families are being asked to set up direct debits to pay thousands of pounds a year to state school coffers.

Growing numbers of schools are persuading parents to set up standing orders, mirroring the method used by big charities to maximise regular contributions.

The trend, initially adopted by secondary schools, where parents traditionally have less direct contact with the school, is now being pursued by primaries. The move has been criticised by teachers' unions.

They fear that it could mean big funding boosts for schools in middle-class areas, while giving parents an excuse not to become involved in the school community.

According to figures from the National Confederation of Parent Teachers Associations (NCPTA), parents raised more than £73 million for schools last year, an increase of £4.5 million on the previous year.

Primary schools of rock

by Sunday Times, May 28, 2006

Learning music is good for academic performance, but if you really want to strike a chord with young children, teach them the guitar.

It is 3pm on what feels like the hottest day of the year. In Glasgow’s Saracen Primary, after a long day of battering tables and tenses into the heads of his 26-strong primary six class, nobody would begrudge Graham Holmes a cup of tea. But he is still in his classroom, where nine boys and one girl are attempting 10 different things on acoustic guitars. The noise would give Gene Simmons a headache if he happened to stroll in looking for recruits for his Rock School.
Holmes raps on a desk with an orange plastic ruler. “Stop playing those guitars.” There is a modest reduction in the strum und drang, while everyone starts asking questions, demanding plectrums and asking permission to go the lavatory. When they start playing Wild Thing, it feels as if peace has broken out.

A cure for Stress?

by Independent, May 28, 2006

Two months ago, a visitor to The Holt School in Wokingham - an all-girls comprehensive with good exam results - might have encountered a rather unusual sight. Ninety girls - the entire lower sixth - sitting silently in a large room breathing to a slightly unusual rhythm - five seconds in, five seconds out. A little while later the girls could be seen being encouraged to relive a time when they felt happy or loving and then to conjure up that memory while doing the breathing.

These exercises would not have seemed out of place in a medieval nunnery - in fact the breathing rhythm is the same one you slip into when reciting religious mantras such as Ave Maria - but in a modern school with GCSE and A levels looming? In fact if you are a parent whose child is sitting exams this term, you may wish they had been learning these ancient techniques, combined with the late-20th-century digital twist of laptop and software, in a package known as Heartmath. It is now being used in half a dozen schools around the country with what seem to be impressive results. Soon one of the key questions at parents' evenings may no longer be: "Do you have good IT facilities?" but "Do you teach Heartmath?"

Failed: One in three education targets

by Telegraph, May 28, 2006

The Government will fail to meet more than one in three of its vital targets in education - the policy area claimed as a personal priority by the Prime Minister.

The dismal record, revealed in the Department for Education and Skills annual report, shows a range of failures in benchmarks relating to everything from reading and writing to GCSEs, under-age pregnancy and the smoking habits of young mothers.

Of the 15 performance targets set in 2004, five have "slipped", five are on course and five have not been "fully assessed". Progress on outstanding targets set in 2002 is even worse, with just three of the eight milestones likely to be achieved.

There is serious under-performance in all areas under the department's control, including schools and colleges, the £3 billion Sure Start scheme and the Teenage Pregnancy Unit.

Critics condemned the "complacent" language used in the report, published without fanfare on the department's website two weeks ago, and claimed the failures pointed to generations of children being let down.

The Wilson Twins: Double vision

by Independent, May 28, 2006

They are identical twins who do all they can to look unlike each other. But in their art the sisters unite to create a unique view of the world, from an abandoned sanatorium to the old Stasi HQ

University attacks government’s ‘unwise’ admissions proposals

by Oxford, May 28, 2006

Government proposals to alter university admissions have met with criticism and derision in Oxford this week, following announcements made by Education Minister Bill Rammell on Monday. The government plans, which would allow offers to be made to students after the publication of A-Level results, have united dons, administrators and students in opposition.

University Officials have communicated with the government, expressing their frustration at the “unresolved and outstanding problem”, while OUSU argue that the proposals “go against the idea of democracy”. A government consultation with universities demonstrated the overwhelming extent of hostility to the proposed system, with only 24% of institutions showing support. Despite this, the government has rejected the opinion of its own consultation.

Both the University and OUSU support the principle that students should apply to universities after they receive A-Level results, in a system known as ‘Post-Qualification Applications’ (PQA). The aim of PQA is to assist students from state school backgrounds without the confi dence to apply for elite institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge. However, dons have suggested that the government has botched attempts aimed at a phasing-in solution.

It is due to be implemented in 2008 and is intended to lead to full PQA by 2012. Terry Hoad, an English tutor at St Peter’s, said, “There are logistical problems which are quite serious. I would worry about fetishising ALevel results over everything else when people clearly develop in different ways.” “The new systems will mean signifi cant adjustments to school and university term times. Whatever we do, we must allow enough time to make fair decisions.

Tailoring lessons for every pupil

by BBC, May 27, 2006

There is a very tricky question which is bothering many people involved in schools today, namely: "What is personalised education?"

The question is important because "personalisation" is the current buzzword in the Department for Education and in schools.

Last October, the Prime Minister said the government's school reforms would lead to "personalised lessons" for pupils.

The then Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly (my, how fast they change!) characterised the reforms as being about "personalisation and choice".

So, everyone is talking about it. It will eventually affect every child in a school. All teachers will have to learn how to teach it. But what does it mean?

Ask professional educators and you might get an answer like this: "Personalised learning is about learner-managed and co-constructed learning¿the shift from dependency to independence and interdependency¿and invitational learning and assessment."

I took this from a website dedicated to personalised education. If you can make sense of it, you are a much better person than me.

It also talked about the "re-integration of learning, life and community", making use of "catalogue and natural versions of curriculum and assessment" and "de-coupling of age-stage progressions".

maths problems multiply

by Telegraph, May 27, 2006

Modern methods of teaching maths which have mystified parents and confused many pupils are to be abandoned six years after the Government forced them on primary schools.

The same unit at the Department for Education which devised the strategy now wants teachers to go back to the "standard written method" it abolished.

University warns strike could prevent honours graduations

by The Herald, May 26, 2006

Final year students at one of Scotland's largest universities will not be able to graduate with an honours degree this summer if the increasingly acrimonious dispute over lecturers' pay drags on.
As talks in London between unions and university employers broke up without agreement last night, undergraduates at Glasgow University were told that some would not be given final degree marks at planned graduation ceremonies in June and July if the strike continued.

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