Latest Educational News

Exclusive: Technical schools can offer pupils an alternative to grammars, says Justine Greening

by TES Connect, October 28, 2016

University Technical Colleges provide breadth of offer to 'very different young people', education secretary insists
Technical schools could provide a suitable route to educational success for many "very different young people" who do not attend grammar schools, Justine Greening has suggested.

The education secretary was discussing with TES how a modern system that included grammar schools might work. She said that while she would not herself have suited a University Technical College (UTC) education, she believed the schools were a "good option" for students who were more suited to a "technical education-based route".

The education secretary’s views were reinforced following a recent visit to Didcot UTC in Oxfordshire, where she witnessed students learning at a "phenomenal rate", she said.

But, in the interview, Ms Greening sidestepped the opportunity to express her full personal support for the grammar schools policy (subscribers can read the interview here).

"I wouldn’t have fitted in at a UTC; I loved my economics and I loved my geography, but these are kids who just loved science and practical stuff," Ms Greening said.

"All that time in the laboratory that, for me, I was ready to [get out of there]. It’s about having that breadth of offer for very, very different young people."

We need a game plan for football in education

by TES Connect, October 28, 2016

The beautiful game can be a distraction from learning, but, equally, it can serve as a means to engage pupils in subjects from maths to modern studies
A former flatmate of mine was a talented footballer and used to turn out for Glasgow University. He competed against amateur teams from some of the city’s toughest areas – whose players relished the opportunity to kick a student with relative impunity.

One weekend, he returned to the flat from one of these sporting badlands with a story that still makes me chuckle nearly two decades later.

Football is ripe for exploration by teachers and pupils
He was a nimble player, whose sleight of foot could make opponents look foolish, and he had been playing well that day. A grizzled opponent was unimpressed by his style and chuntered words to that effect. My flatmate failed to heed the warning and casually slipped the ball past his floundering rival.

Retaliation was swift: he was suddenly scythed from behind, and went spiralling through the air. As he lay groaning on his back, a snarling face came into view and uttered the immortal line: “Take that, brains!”

Exclusive: Term-time holidays 'do not harm primary test scores'

by TES Connect, October 28, 2016

Findings undermine government's clampdown on school absences, claim researchers
Authorised term-time holidays have little impact on primary pupils’ attainment and may even be linked to better performance in tests, according to findings seen by TES.

The researchers say the figures undermine the government’s “mind-boggling” clampdown on term-time holidays, which is currently being contested in the courts.

The DfE has repeatedly claimed that each day missed from school can harm pupils’ attainment. Since September 2013, heads have been allowed to authorise term-time absences only in “exceptional circumstances”, which do not usually include holidays.

Earlier this year, the DfE published key stage 2 and KS4 data, which schools minister Nick Gibb said provided “further evidence that missing school for even a day can mean a child is less likely to achieve good grades, which can have a damaging effect on their life chances.”

However, two scientists have investigated the figures, separating the data for authorised term-time holidays from the broader dataset used by the government, which includes other absences such as those related to illness or exclusion.

They have concluded, independently, that authorised holiday absences are not linked to poorer attainment at KS2.

In addition, the data shows that pupils who take no authorised holiday absence at all are less likely to reach level 4 at KS2 than those who take at least one day off for a family trip during term-time.

The analysis was carried out by Beccy Smith, a theoretical physicist by background, who has two primary-aged children who are educated partly at school and partly at home. She said that her research threw doubt on to the government’s “mind-boggling” claims about the effects of school absences.

History proves private school bursaries will fail

by TES Connect, October 28, 2016

The government plans to bring in fully funded grants for poorer pupils to attend independents, but we have tried – and failed – to do this three times already
As everyone knows, the government really, really wants to bring back selective schooling. This has led to a fierce debate about the merits or otherwise of grammar schools. But few have noticed that the reintroduction of selection is a twin-track strategy. Ministers also plan to compel independent schools to provide “fully funded bursaries” for poorer pupils. The government says the number should be “considerably higher” than now.

We do not have to guess how this will work out. Post-war history is littered with attempts to force private schools to open up places to a wider clientele. Over many decades, both Labour and Conservative education ministers – including Rab Butler from 1941-45, Anthony Crosland from 1965-67 and Mark Carlisle from 1979-81 – spent much energy on the issue.

Ambitious but unsuccessful
Three main attempts were made. The first occurred during the Second World War, arising from a desire to scrub away society’s divisions. An official committee under Lord Fleming recommended top independent schools should devote one-quarter of their places to state-funded bursaries. Within a few years, thousands of children were benefiting. But growth stalled. In 1952, TES wrote that the plan was going “into storage”.

Why do Finnish pupils succeed with less homework?

by BBC News, October 27, 2016

How do Finnish youngsters spend less time in school, get less homework and still come out with some of the best results in the world?
The question gets to the heart of a lot of parental angst about hard work and too much pressure on children in school.
Parents facing all those kitchen table arguments over homework might wonder about its value if the Finns are getting on just fine without burning the midnight oil.
As the OECD think tank says: "One of the most striking facts about Finnish schools is that their students have fewer hours of instruction than students in any other OECD country."
Long summer holidays
It also touches on another tension between schools and families - the increased cost of summer holidays.
While children in England and Wales are still toiling away in school into the middle of July, the Finns have already been on holiday for six weeks, in a summer break that lasts 10 to 11 weeks.

Government formally drops academies legislation

by BBC News, October 27, 2016

The government is dropping a bill to convert all schools to academies, announced in the Queen's speech.
The Education Bill was based on a white paper which initially suggested all schools in England would be compelled to become academies.
But the element of compulsion was dropped after protests from councils and, instead, the bill encouraged schools to convert.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said no new legislation was required.
In a written Parliamentary statement Ms Greening said: "Our ambition remains that all schools should benefit from the freedom and autonomy that academy status brings. Our focus, however, is on building capacity in the system and encouraging schools to convert voluntarily.
"No changes to legislation are required for these purposes and therefore we do not require wider education legislation in this session to make progress on our ambitious education agenda."
The element of compulsion was dropped by the government after protests from many councils, including the mainly Conservative members of the County Council Network, who were opposed to forcing high-performing schools in their areas to convert.

Sharp drop in EU applications to 'early deadline' university courses

by TES Connect, October 27, 2016

But Ucas sees slight rise in UK applications to Oxbridge, medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses, which all have early deadlines
Applications from European Union students to university courses with early deadlines have dropped by 9 per cent, ending a trend of annual increases.

The Ucas figures are for UK courses with an October deadline, including all those taken at Oxbridge as well as medicine, dentistry, and veterinary degrees taken at other universities.

Applications from the EU have fallen by 9 per cent (620 applications) since last October to 6,240, almost reversing last year’s 8 per cent increase.

The numbers had been steadily increasing each year since 2013, the first year for which figures are available in today’s Ucas report.

Following the Brexit referendum result, European Students’ Union president Fernando M Galán Palomares warned that he expected student mobility between the UK and the rest of Europe to decrease dramatically due to higher tuition fees, “hostile visa regulations” and decreased access to healthcare and work opportunities.

Today, Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: “We will be watching the numbers of EU applications in the run-up to the January deadline, especially now that the government has confirmed arrangements for continuing access to student loans for 2017 courses.”

Leading Omagh grammar schools to end 11-plus tests

by IRISH NEWS, October 27, 2016

Classified as 11 Plus.

A PLAN by two leading Catholic grammar schools to stop 11-plus tests has won approval.

In a joint move, Omagh Christian Brothers' Grammar School and the town's Loreto Grammar will phase out selection entirely by 2020.

This is being seen as a major coup in the Catholic Church's drive to end academic selection.

Pleas from the Church, politicians and unions to abolish transfer tests have, by and large, fallen on deaf ears in recent years.

The Omagh announcement is, therefore, being seen as hugely significant - the area has a large Catholic population and a good grammar pedigree.

Nine in 10 sixth-form colleges 'concerned' about their finances

by TES, October 27, 2016

Two-thirds of colleges have dropped courses as a result of funding cuts, according to research by the Sixth Form Colleges' Association
Nine in 10 sixth-form colleges are concerned about their financial health, a new report by the Sixth Form Colleges' Association (SFCA) has found.

The SFCA’s Funding Impact Survey Report found that 90 per cent of sixth-form colleges surveyed said they were "concerned" or "extremely concerned" about the financial health of their college in 2017/18. Furthermore, almost two thirds (64 per cent) of the colleges said they did not believe the amount of funding they will receive next year will be sufficient to support educationally or economically disadvantaged students.

Cutbacks force 90% of colleges to offer pupils only three AS-levels

by Guardian, October 27, 2016

Students to see larger class sizes and fewer subjects and extracurricular activities on offer due to broad funding cuts says new report
The widespread practice of students pursuing four AS-levels before dropping their weakest subject for the final year is to be phased out, a report has claimed, as funding pressures on sixth-form colleges see new pupils offered just three qualifications from the outset.

In recent years, students have been encouraged to enrol in four AS-levels in their first year in sixth form, then to abandon their weakest subject in their second and pursue their three best to A2-level.

Michael Gove backtracks over grammar school plans

by Guardian, October 27, 2016

Classified as 11 Plus.

Former education secretary, who previously opposed the scheme, says ‘approach government is taking is right’
The former education secretary Michael Gove has backtracked on his opposition to opening more grammar schools after the government announced plans to expand their number.

Gove blocked the first introduction of new grammar schools in half a century in 2013, having promised three years earlier not to allow such a move in areas where the schools were not already established.

A-levels choice 'reduced by funding squeeze'

by BBC, October 27, 2016

Funding pressures mean pupils at sixth-form colleges in England must choose from an increasingly narrow range of A-level subjects, a study has found.
The Sixth Form Colleges Association's annual survey suggests two-thirds of colleges have had to drop courses.
Over half (58%) have also reduced or removed extra-curricular activities such as music, drama and sport.
The government said it had protected the base rate of funding for all post-16 students until 2020.

UK university applications from EU down by 9%, says Ucas

by Guardian, October 27, 2016

Figures are for early tranche of courses, including Oxbridge, and may have been affected by delayed announcement about funding for EU students
The number of EU students applying for places on some of the most sought-after courses in the UK’s leading universities has dropped by 9%, according to Ucas, which administers university entry.

The data applies to a limited number of courses with an earlier application deadline of 15 October but the marked decline in interest from EU students will lead to fears about the damaging impact of the Brexit vote on the UK’s universities.

Hothoused and hyper-racialised: the ethnic imbalance in our selective schools

by Guardian, October 27, 2016

Classified as 11 Plus.

As families increasingly turn away from their local public schools, our kids are less likely to experience the full range of our diverse society

Growing up in multicultural Australia, I first really understood multiculturalism by going to school. Not via textbooks, but through my lived experience of making friends with kids from a dozen different cultural backgrounds, and being exposed to the range of different ethnic groups with whom I shared my suburb. I learned to get along with people very different from myself, or at the very least, I accepted their right to share my school community.

Business or economics: How can I help my son choose which A-levels to take?

by Telegraph, October 27, 2016

At the age of 15, university can seem a long way off.

Despite this, it's at the age of 15 that many pupils have to decide which A-level subjects to study at school. This decision is, in turn, somewhat controlled by the degree they wish to pursue at university.

Pick the wrong combination of subjects and they could find that certain degree paths are closed off. Pick subjects that they feel they should do, rather than those they are passionate about, and they may not excel in the long run.

It's vital that teenagers give serious thought to the next steps, rather than relying on the four subjects they sort-of-liked at GCSE. It's here that parents can help; provided that the final decision comes from the pupil.

'If education ministers are really acknowledging major problems with primary assessment, 2017's Sats have to be suspended'

by TES Connect, October 26, 2016

If the DfE is truly acknowledging our concerns, why are this year's children taking the same tests that have produced invalid data and initiated a national consultation, asks one primary head
The Department for Education has finally issued a statement about primary assessment arrangements, following a tumultuous year in primary schools and unprecedented levels of confusion and dissatisfaction. I really want to believe that change is afoot and that the DfE has truly listened to the very real concerns expressed by governors, parents, teachers, children and academics, because I do not know how much longer many of my colleagues and I can continue to make our broken education system work.

I have the privilege to work with an incredibly committed and professional team who have high expectations of themselves and their pupils, who encourage children to ever greater heights, despite some of them facing impossibly difficult and myriad barriers to progress.

Each day we deliver a school experience that sees our children skip into school with an enthusiasm for learning and thirst for progress that is wonderful to be part of. We continue to aim high and dream big, despite the ever more impossible demands that we are under and the ever increasing workload that we face.

We want to make learning thrilling and demanding, we want to raise standards of attainment and progress; that is our reason for teaching. We want to use assessment and testing to ensure that children reach their true potential and are happy to judge our own performance based upon how the children in our care learn and develop.

'If the government does not act, teachers will walk because of poor pay and overwork'

by TES Connect, October 26, 2016

Once inflation is taken into account, teachers have, on average, faced a real-terms pay cut of £2,273 since 2010 – this cannot go on, writes one union leader
Teachers need a pay rise. In 2011/12 the government imposed a two-year pay freeze on public sector workers which was followed by a one per cent pay cap until 2015/16 – a cap which has now been extended for another four years. Between 2010 and 2016, accounting for inflation, teachers have, on average, faced a real-terms pay cut of £2,273.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has commented that: “The government’s announced 1 per cent limit on annual pay increase for a further four years from 2016-17 is expected to reduce wages in the public sector to their lowest level relative to private sector wages since at least the 1990s”. This, argues the IFS, “could result in difficulties for public sector employers trying to recruit, retain and motivate high-quality workers”.

This warning is echoed by the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) which found, in its 2016 report, that recruitment and retention was problematic, with increasing vacancies in all core subjects and difficulties in recruiting trainee teachers and retaining them in the profession.

The STRB stated: “The relative position of teachers’ earnings has deteriorated further this year and they continue to trail those of other professional occupations in most regions”. The STRB argued that there is a case for an uplift to the 1 per cent pay cap if teacher recruitment and retention problems are to be tackled successfully.

Michael Gove: Liberal Democrats stopped me introducing new grammar schools

by Politics Home, October 26, 2016

Classified as 11 Plus.

Michael Gove has claimed the Liberal Democrats stopped him approving new grammar schools in the Coalition Government.

Theresa May made the issue one of her first flagship policies when she became Prime Minister, announcing that the ban on new selective schools would be lifted.

In David Cameron’s six years in No 10, much of which saw Mr Gove in charge at the Department for Education, the Government repeatedly resisted calls for new grammar schools.

Mr Cameron previously said those proposing the policies were “clinging on to outdated mantras that bear no relation to the reality of life”, while Mr Gove described the schools as a “distraction” from education priorities.

Violence against teaching assistants: 'I’ve been pinched, kicked and spat at'

by Guardian, October 26, 2016

They’re facing crippling pay cuts and trade unions say they are undervalued, but TAs have to deal with some of the most challenging behaviour in schools

Teaching assistants are under huge strain, with many taking on more responsibility than ever before while also facing diminishing wages. A recent survey by the ATL union found many TAs are working overtime without getting paid and undertaking tasks that are officially reserved for teachers. The situation has reached breaking point in County Durham, where TAs are this week holding a vigil outside council headquarters.

For many TAs, one of the biggest challenges of the job is managing the behaviour of difficult students – which can deteriorate into violence. We spoke to three TAs* from across the country to get an insight into the issue.

Concerns raised at over-subscription for secondary school places

by BT , October 26, 2016

Half of secondary schools in England are over-subscribed, with the best being the hardest to get a place at, research suggests.

Half of secondary schools in England are over-subscribed, with the best being the hardest to get a place at, research suggests.

In some areas of the country, the vast majority of secondaries rated outstanding by Ofsted have more families applying than spots available.

The analysis was published by's FindASchool service just days before the October 31 deadline for parents to submit applications for children starting secondary school next autumn.