Latest Educational News

Cambridge University to remain with NUS

by BBC News, May 27, 2016

Cambridge University will remain affiliated to the National Union of Students after a referendum of students rejected a motion to leave.
Cambridge is one of several universities to hold disaffiliation votes after Malia Bouattia, who has been accused of anti-semitism, was elected as NUS president.
Just over half of the 6,178 students who voted rejected the motion.
A vote at Oxford University is scheduled for next week.
NUS vice-president Richard Brooks said he was delighted at the result "which comes at a crucial time for students".
Mr Brooks said the union was planning changes to its democratic model.
"It means that Cambridge students will continue to be part of our national voice."
Cambridge University Student Union President Priscilla Mensah, who campaigned against disaffiliation, said she was "pleased that Cambridge students will continue to have a voice in shaping and changing NUS for the better".
The Yes to Disaffiliation Campaign described themselves as disappointed.

Teachers worse off by tens of thousands of pounds, analysis finds

by TES Connect, May 27, 2016

Teachers in Scotland have lost out on thousands in the past six years, because of increased pension contributions and below-inflation rises, the NASUWT says
Teachers in Scotland have lost tens of thousands of pounds from their salaries since 2010, with the best-paid classroom staff down by more than £30,000 and headteachers by nearly £65,000, an analysis shows.

The study by a teaching union shows that failure to keep pace with inflation and increasing pension contributions have put Scotland near the foot of international rankings.

The figures also reveal that a teacher on point 1 of the main scale missed out on £18,177 cumulatively between 2010 and 2016; while a teacher at point 6 missed out on £25,753 over the same period.

'Shocking' loss of earnings
Jane Peckham, the Scotland organiser for teachers’ union the NASUWT, said that while officials knew the situation was bad, she had been “quite shocked” to see the findings of her organisation’s analysis. Her union also says that an increase in National Insurance contributions in April will "wipe out" the 2016 pay award agreed last year.

Details of the research emerged at NASUWT Scotland’s annual conference in Edinburgh this month, where members heard that the country ranked 22nd out of 32 nations for teacher salaries, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of another union has said that teachers at the top of the pay scale in England are £2,108 a year better off than equivalent teachers in Scotland.

Seamus Searson told the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association's annual conference in Crieff that the Scottish government was “failing to address the fundamental issue of teachers' pay” and called for a “substantial increase” to retain and attract teachers.

Scots students face 'shocking' university access gap

by BBC News, May 27, 2016

Young Scots from disadvantaged areas are four times less likely to go to university than those from wealthy backgrounds, researchers have found.
Their study showed 90% of growth in higher education places for disadvantaged students came from colleges, not universities.
The Sutton Trust said its findings showed a "shocking access gap".
The Scottish government said university access for students from poorer areas was up by 29% since it came to power.
In England, those from the poorest neighbourhoods are 2.4 times less likely to attend university than people in the richest areas.
Those in Northern Ireland and Wales are three times less likely to do so.
'Strong push'
The Sutton Trust is now calling for the urgent appointment of a new independent commissioner for fair access to tackle the problem.
Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: "Scotland faces a shocking access gap and it is vital that the government appoints a strong independent commissioner without delay.

Exam regulator clamps down on re-marks

by BBC News, May 26, 2016

England's exams regulator is clamping down on the "unfair advantage" gained by some schools which seek high numbers of GCSE and A-level re-marks.
Ofqual is changing its system this summer, so that new marks can only be issued if a "marking error" is found.
Their research shows independent schools seek twice as many GCSE reviews as comprehensive schools request.
But Chris King, chairman of the independent schools body the HMC, called the proposals "unfair".
Most reviews led to slightly higher marks, Ofqual said, penalising pupils from schools which did not ask for re-marks.
It said the change would mean a "level playing field".
Independent schools sought reviews for one in eight A-level grades, more than twice the proportion of state-funded colleges, it added.
Exam boards charge fees of between £20 and £60 per paper to be re-marked, but refund the fee if the grade changes. These costs are borne by the school.

New childcare policy 'could widen the attainment gap' in schools

by TES Connect, May 26, 2016

Increased strain on funding and places could lead to poorer quality provision, report finds
A new policy that will provide working families with 30 hours of free childcare for the under-5s could widen the attainment gap when children start school, a report warns today.

The research from the thinktank CentreForum finds that the policy – being introduced in September 2017 – may mean that children from disadvantaged backgrounds end up with worse, rather than better, access to high-quality early-years education.

Giving working families extra childcare for three- and four-year-olds would create a demand for places which could mean that two-year-olds from poor families who also qualify for free places could be squeezed out of nurseries, the report warns.

Previous experience in providing the 15 free hours that all three- and four-year-olds currently receive shows that underfunding and a lack of places can lead to poor quality provision, it says. To have an impact on attainment upon starting school, early years provision must be of high quality, it adds.

In a foreword to the report, David Laws, the former Lib Dem schools minister who is now CentreForum executive chairman, said: “There is a risk that this policy may widen the attainment gap on entry to school, and cut across initiatives such as the Pupil Premium, which aim to narrow this gap.”

Teacher 'caused' last-minute exam change

by BBC News, May 26, 2016

A teacher who allegedly told students what to expect in the Higher English exam sparked a near-emergency at the exams agency, BBC Scotland can reveal.
One of the Higher English papers was replaced weeks before the exam amid concerns it may have been leaked.
A teacher involved in setting the paper may have given their students too much information, BBC Scotland understands.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said it was carrying out a full investigation.
It compiled a replacement paper as a precaution.
The replacement was sent to schools and exam centres a week before the exam earlier this month. It was compiled much more quickly than usual to meet the urgent deadline.
The SQA gave little information about the specific circumstances which led to the emergency.
The exams body said "unusual" and external" circumstances were to blame.

A third of teacher training places unfilled in Wales

by BBC News, May 26, 2016

A third of secondary school teacher training places were not filled at the start of this academic year, official figures show.
A teaching union said it showed Wales is facing a problem with recruiting new teachers.
Only 553 students started initial secondary teacher training in September 2015 but the official target is 880.
The Welsh Government said the overall teacher vacancy rate "remains very low".
The Ucac teaching union said the figures were "dramatic" and blamed the "out of control" workload as one factor in making the profession less attractive.

Online degree units to cut tuition fees

by BBC News, May 26, 2016

A UK online university network is claiming a "breakthrough moment" with a project which will allow students to cut the cost of a Russell Group degree by studying part of it online.
A Futurelearn online course will provide credits towards a University of Leeds undergraduate degree.
It will mean reducing the time and cost of tuition fees for a full degree.
Futurelearn chairman Peter Horrocks says this will provide the flexibility needed by many students.
The online learning platform, which offers courses from more than 50 universities, was set up in 2013 by the Open University, as a UK provider for so-called Moocs (massive, open, online courses).
'Significant step'
There are 3.7 million students registered for Futurelearn's online courses, but Mr Horrocks says that this latest development represents a "really significant step".
It will allow students to take a University of Leeds online course in Environmental Challenges and, if they pass an exam, to gain credits towards a geography degree at Leeds.

Sturgeon announces school reform summit as part of 'bold' education plan

by BBC News, May 25, 2016

The Scottish government is to convene a "major summit" of education leaders in a bid to close the attainment gap between schools.
Nicola Sturgeon underlined education and the economy as her top priorities in a speech at Holyrood.
The first minister said her ministers aimed for "real and lasting progress towards true equality of opportunity".
Opposition parties said they would work with the government on education, but urged "genuine reform".
Look back on Nicola Sturgeon's address to Holyrood and reaction to it
The FM will be speaking to the BBC's Scotland 2016 programme at 22:30 on BBC Two Scotland
MSPs will also vote later in the day on a motion to extend future sessions of First Minister's Questions to 45 minutes.

Four-year-olds' name-writing ability predicts their later achievement, research finds

by TES Connect, May 25, 2016

Children who can write their name well when they start school perform better than other children at reading and maths later in life, research has found.
The study, by Durham University and published today, shows name-writing ability is a “robust predictor” of later academic ability.

It says that teachers should look at children’s name-writing skills as a way to identify underlying difficulties and offer extra support to those who are struggling.

But it also finds that although there is a correlation, there is no evidence of a causal relationship between children’s ability to write their names and their later academic achievement, so helping children to write their name well will not necessarily determine their future outcomes.

The findings, published in the academic journal Educational Research, show children with longer names do not gain an advantage. Previous studies have suggested that having a longer name was an advantage because it helped children to become familiar with a wider range of letters at a young age.

Dr Lee Copping, assessment developer at Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring and lead author of the report, said: “This study shows that name-writing ability in the early years is a good predictor of future outcomes in reading and mathematics.

“Teachers should have confidence in using such measures alongside other indicators of attainment in these subject areas to inform their teaching and planning.”

The research was carried out by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University. The study analysed nearly 15,000 pupils from England, Scotland and Australia. In the English sample, the findings remained the same after controlling for pupils’ socioeconomic status and ethnicity.

Head teachers say cancel primary test results

by BBC News, May 25, 2016

Head teachers are calling on the education secretary to stop the publication of this year's primary school results in England.
They warn of "serious mistakes" in the introduction of changes to tests and say results are too "unpredictable".
This year's primary tests also saw a series of leaks and cancellations.
But the Department for Education said its reforms would "help ensure all children leave primary school having mastered the basics".
Leaders of the National Association of Head Teachers have written an open letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan urging her to cancel the public use of any data from this year's primary tests.
It would mean there would be no primary school league tables, based on the tests taken by 10 and 11 year olds.
The head teachers' union says that individual pupils should be given their results, with warnings to parents about concerns about their reliability, but the results were not robust enough to be used to make comparisons between schools.
Heads are complaining about "inadequate" time to prepare for changes, "obscure guidance" and "massive variations" in how schools approached the tests.
They say that the outcomes of the tests are likely to be so "skewed" that "comparisons between schools become very risky".

Lecturers' pay strike - other staff 'could enter dispute'

by BBC News, May 25, 2016

University lecturers are due to start a two-day strike over pay, amid warnings other staff could join the dispute.
The University and College Union says the 1.1% rise offered by the universities is "an insult".
But the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said the walkout was "disappointing given the very good pay offer".
Unions representing university support staff are balloting on the offer, with strike action possible in the autumn.
Salary squeeze
UCU says its members have suffered a real-terms pay cut of 14.% since 2009 and complains the squeeze on staff salaries has come as university leaders enjoyed hefty increases.
"A 1.1% pay offer is an insult to hardworking staff, especially in light of the 5% pay rise vice-chancellors have enjoyed while holding down staff pay," said general secretary Sally Hunt.
"Industrial action which impacts on students is never taken lightly, but members feel that they have been left with no alternative.
"If the employers wish to see a swift end to this dispute, and avoid further disruption, they need to come back to the table with a much-improved offer."
Summer exams are still running at some universities, though many have finished.
A spokesman for the employers anticipated only "minor impact and minimal student disruption".

Exam board apologises to travel firm over out-of-date AS-level question

by TES Connect, May 24, 2016

Business studies paper included a case study about redundancies and store closures at Thomas Cook, but the information was from 2013
England's biggest school exam board has had to apologise to the travel firm Thomas Cook over a question about the company on one of this year’s AS-level papers.

The AQA AS-level business studies paper, which students took on 19 May, included a case study about plans for store closures and redundancies at the company.

But the firm complained that the exam paper did not make it clear that the information was three years old. It stressed that the case study did not reflect its current situation.

The board has not released the exam paper in question because it avoids publishing recently taken papers so that they can be used as mock exams.

Context needed
An AQA spokeswoman told TES: "We often include real-life case studies in our exams, but we should have made it clear that this one came from three years ago. We’ll make sure we always give this kind of context in the future."

In a statement, the board said: "Our AS-level business studies paper featured a case study about travel company Thomas Cook's plans for store closures and redundancies.

"Thomas Cook has asked us to point out that the information used in this case study was from 2013 and doesn't reflect their current circumstances or plans.

"We're happy to do so and apologise for any misunderstanding."

The Guardian says the second best university for education in the UK is in Belfast

by Belfast Live, May 23, 2016

A Belfast college has been placed second in the Guardian's education league table – behind only Cambridge University.

It's the second time in a row that St Mary's University College on the Fall's Road has been ranked in the top-two.

In the process, St Mary's pipped the prestigious Durham into third with Southampton fourth and Northumbria fifth.

The principal of St Mary’s, Professor Peter Finn, said: "Once again St Mary’s is delighted to be ranked so highly in the Guardian League Tables.

"The tables provide a very good indicator about the quality of the student experience that the College offers those studying education.

"We are very confident that the students who choose St Mary’s for their Initial Teacher Education make an excellent choice."

The University of Ulster was ranked top in the UK for pharmacy and pharmacology with Queen's placed fifth. Queen's came first for dentistry.

In the overall rankings for universities in the UK by the paper, Queen's was placed 48 with Cambridge again coming out on top.

Schoolchildren vote to remain in the EU

by TES Connect, May 23, 2016

Pupils argue for and against remaining in the European Union in a debate organised by First News ahead of the referendum
Today 100 pupils from 20 schools across the country participated in a debate on the European Union referendum in the state rooms of the House of Commons in London.

First News, the newspaper for children, organised the event to give a voice to some of the children who, although too young to vote in the referendum on 23 June, will be living with the result.

Five schoolchildren, aged 7 to 14, were selected from each of the schools to participate in the debate after submitting videos of themselves discussing whether the UK should remain in the EU.

Sophie Bamber, a teacher of Years 7 and 8 at Lincroft School in Oakley, Bedfordshire, said: “Most children were aware the referendum is happening but just didn’t know enough to talk about it. I hosted workshops for Year 7 and 8 with our business studies teacher to explain what it’s all about, and put forward some of the arguments for and against.”

A third of teachers 'considering leaving within the next year'

by TES Connect, May 23, 2016

Teachers give work/life balance as the main reason they want to leave their jobs
Nearly a third of teachers and other education workers are considering leaving their schools within the next year, a report finds.

A poll of 1,365 school staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, nursery staff and administrators found that 30 per cent were considering changing job in the next year.

Among mainscale teachers, this figure rose to 34 per cent.

Asked to choose one of four reasons why they are considering leaving the education sector, nearly half (47 per cent) of teachers said poor work/life balance.

Nearly four-fifths of senior teachers reported feeling pressure to leave at state pension age, regardless of their skills and experience, while 36 per cent in this category said that the pressure on them to leave at state pension age was significant.

The survey results may make ominous reading for the government, which has failed to hit its recruitment targets for education for four consecutive years.

Jenny Rollinson, managing director of Randstad Education, which carried out the survey, said: “The genuine concerns many teachers have should give the government food for thought.

“Something needs to be done, and fast, if children are to continue to receive the high quality education we know our teachers are capable of delivering.

“The education sector urgently needs to be revitalized and while the government must play its role, many schools, too, will have to do their bit to bring about change.”

Weight new school funding formula in favour of schools struggling to recruit, report says

by TES Connect, May 23, 2016

Joint IPPR and Teach First study on schools in the North of England also warns that expertise could be lost because of academisation
Areas of the country which struggle to recruit teachers should receive more cash under the new national school funding formula, a study on how to improve education in the North of England recommends.

The report, from the Institute for Public Policy Research North (IPPR) and Teach First also warns that the government's academisation programme could damage standards in the North by leading to the loss of local authority expertise.

"At a local authority level, around half of the North’s local authorities outperform the national average," the report states. "Redcar and Cleveland, Trafford and Warrington all have results that would be the envy of most London boroughs.

"It is important that the expertise of these local authorities is not lost as more schools become academies."

The study calls on the government to use its forthcoming overhaul of school funding to ensure that the system is “explicitly weighted” towards schools struggling with recruitment.

Jonathan Clifton, associate director for public services at the IPPR and one of the report’s authors, said: “Just as the funding formula weights funding towards London because they think it costs more to live there, why not look at weighting a funding formula according to whether it’s difficult to attract great teachers and leaders by looking at the local labour market?”

Mind the funding gap
The report highlights the fact that northern secondaries receive £1,300 less per pupil on average than those in London, and states that attainment in some areas of the North is “a big cause for concern”.

Tackle pupil attainment gap in northern England, IPPR urges

by BBC News, May 23, 2016

Tackling the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils is the key to improving the performance of schools in northern England, a report has said.
The study by the Institute for Public Policy Research says northern secondary schools lag behind the England average.
The report echoes Ofsted's warning that without better education, the government's Northern Powerhouse economic plan will "splutter and die".
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said ongoing reforms had helped poor pupils.
The attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is "falling", but "the job is not finished yet", she said.
The IPPR report, which was funded by education charity Teach First, said the proportions of pupils achieving the benchmark five GCSEs at grades A* to C were:
55.5% in the north
57.3% in England as a whole
60.9% in London
And pupils eligible for free school meals at northern schools do worse at GCSE than their counterparts in London, the researchers found.

Part-time postgraduate support in Wales scrapped

by BBC News, May 23, 2016

Support for part-time postgraduate study has been scrapped due to a reduced budget this year, the body in charge of funding Welsh universities has said.
The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales has announced how it will allocate £132m of public money.
Research and part-time undergraduate provision has been prioritised.
But it warned the increasing cost of the student tuition fee grant could also impact higher education funding.
HEFCW received a reduced budget from the Welsh Government this year, though the cut of £11m was less than originally feared.
Scrapping support for part-time postgraduate study - which received £6.5m last year - was one of the outcomes of a lower budget settlement, it said.
As well as funding from HEFCW, universities receive student tuition fees of up to £9,000 per student, which include more than £5,000 per year through the tuition fee grant for Welsh students.
HEFCW's budget from the Welsh Government has dropped as the tuition fee grant payments have increased.

Workload: 'School leaders need to set their teachers a better example'

by TES Connect, May 22, 2016

Teachers want heads to show them the way on work-life balance – but all too often leaders neglect their own wellbeing, according to new research
The finding comes from a major comparative study of school leaders in London, New York City and Toronto.

The UCL Institute of Education (IoE) research shows that class teachers expect leaders to be understanding about staff members’ lives beyond the school gates and to model a healthy work-life balance.

But in reality, the majority of schools leaders in the study struggled to achieve that balance, in spite of the fact that their example could have a positive influence on their teachers.

Karen Edge, from the IoE, who interviewed the participants in the study, fears that poor wellbeing habits among school leaders could be filtering down to teachers and putting future leaders off the profession.

'Culture of self-sacrifice'
“If you are looking to move up the career ladder and you are seeing headteachers talking about only stress and challenge then it doesn’t make it an attractive choice. If you love your job you need to say it and say it loudly,” she said.

“If heads can’t find a way to have a life themselves then no one is going to want to step into that role. It will only become more difficult.”

The study shows that heads leading by personal example are “more influential than simple statements or encouragement”. And yet, many leaders find it hard to set a good example on work-life balance.