Latest Educational News

Bitter lessons from an already lost battle

by Belfast Telegraph, January 3, 2006

The grammar schools are finished, dead, kaput. The Draft Order contains no mention of selection.

We are, nevertheless, invited to engage in a "consultation" (has anyone ever worked out how we actually do this?) on her Draft Order.

Labour's dirty little educational secret

by Times, January 3, 2006

That puts the spotlight on Labour’s dirty little secret. For all the Blairite rhetoric about fairness, efficiency, and compassion, the Prime Minister knows that his party must stop punishing the middle-class parent’s guilty ambition to leave the dross behind. We want our children to be People Like Us. This is not snobbery of the Hyacinth Bucket variety, concerned with genealogy and terminology (toilet, loo or lavatory? Lounge, sitting room or drawing room?) We don ’t care whether our child’s playmate is Asian or Caribbean, whether her dad drives a Lexus or mum wears a hijab. We do care, however, about her brains and behaviour. We want a playground where no one pulls a knife, a class that is not disrupted by underachievers, and a school ethos that condemns bullies and rewards good manners.

Defiant Blair in no mood for turning

by Financial Times, January 2, 2006

Tony Blair sent a defiant message on Saturday to rebel Labour MPs opposed to his domestic policy agenda, declaring in his new year message to the nation that controversial schools reforms must go ahead.

Critics of the prime minister looking for any indication that he might step aside sooner than his expected departure date of mid-2007 will be disappointed.

Mr Blair instead shows every sign of wanting to stay in Downing Street for the foreseeable future. He set out a busy agenda for the coming year, including a number of policy challenges on the domestic front and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The government, he said, will face difficult decisions on the health service, education, energy, pensions and benefits; all areas where Labour backbenchers and even cabinet colleagues have voiced concern at the pace of reform.

Primary class sizes among Europe's largest

by Scotsman, January 2, 2006

Primary school class sizes in Scotland are among the largest in Europe, according to a new study.

A survey by Eurydice, an organisation which monitors education performance across the European Union, shows that only England and the Republic of Ireland have more children in their primary classes.

In Scotland's state schools, the average primary class size is 23.9, against an EU average of 19.8.

Pupils paid to turn up for school

by Kent, January 2, 2006

Schools across Medway are offering pupils more than an education – a cash bonus for turning up.

More than 1,800 students are receiving up to £30 a week to persuade them to stay at school.

The Learning and Skills Council is currently rewarding 1,875 sixth form and college students in Medway with weekly payments of £10, £20 or £30 in return for regular attendance.

Students aged 16 or 17 who live in a household with an annual income of up to £30,000 can benefit from the Education Maintenance Allowance.

This year, more students are set to receive the incentives, which already cost the Learning Skills Council almost £3 million a year for Medway students.

The scheme, which was started in September, aims to encourage more young people to continue in further education and reduce the number of students who enter low-paid jobs or face unemployment.

University applications fall as £3,000 fees loom

by Times, January 1, 2006

The number of teenagers applying for university places for this year has fallen by up to 13% at some institutions — providing the first signs that top-up fees are deterring some potential students.

Unpublished data obtained by The Sunday Times from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (Ucas) shows an aggregate 5% fall in applications from all British sixth-formers.



The figures will fuel the fears of Labour MPs who had opposed the imposition of £3,000 top-up fees from autumn this year, arguing that they would put off poorer applicants.

Schools Vow to Resist Deportation Plan

by Sunday Herald, January 1, 2006

When he became Labour leader in 1994, Tony Blair said that he hadn’t been born in the Labour Party but he “would die in it”. What he didn’t say is what he would do if Labour expired first.
Can Blair last another year as leader of the Labour Party? The short answer is yes: there is no sign of him standing down. The real question, though, is whether there will be a Labour Party left to lead.

The year 2006 is likely to be a critical year for Labour – perhaps the most important since 1931, when the party split and the Labour PM Ramsay MacDonald formed a National Government. Yes, it really is as bad as that.

Top speller takes TV words trophy

by BBC, January 1, 2006

A teenager from County Antrim has been named the best speller in the UK after winning the BBC's Hard Spell contest.
One hundred thousand school children, between the ages of 11 and 13, from across the UK took part in the contest.

Months of effort helped Niall, with the staff at his grammar school, St Louis, helping train him in advance of the contest.

He made it to the final 30, spelling words many find it hard even to pronounce.

Teacher Mary McKinley said support from the teenager's family played a crucial part in his success.

Save our grammars campaign: Angela's leap in the dark

by Belfast Telegraph, January 1, 2006

In Angela Smith's brave new post 11 plus world Northern Ireland parents will carefully choose the right secondary level school for their child.

They will make their "informed choice" after studying a "robust" assessment of the child's ability (a pupil profile) and discussing the options with primary school teachers.

Critics say this is a complete fantasy.

They agree the 11 plus exam is outdated but say abolishing academic selection completely in 2008 will lead to chaos.

Grammar schools will be massively over-subscribed, leading to selection by postcode and a dumbing down of academic standards.

Ms Smith took on these arguments in exchanges with MPs when she recently faced the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster.

Tory Christopher Fraser suggested abolishing academic selection did not fit with Ms Smith's claim that she wanted to preserve the excellent standards achieved by grammar schools.

The minister replied that currently all schools in Northern Ireland were obliged to teach the same curriculum. Under the new proposals, the curriculum would be one third academic and one third technical and vocational. The remaining third would be up to the school.

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