Latest Educational News

Hundreds of schools to be classed as 'coasting'

by TES Connect, June 30, 2015

Hundreds of schools will be branded as “coasting” and face being turned into academies under a new measure to be unveiled by Nicky Morgan today.

The education secretary will spell out new proposals that will define coasting schools as those that have failed to push every pupil to reach their full potential over a number of years.

Controversially, the measure used by the goverment should effectively spare grammar schools from the "coasting" label and any resulting intervention until 2018, because of the high GCSE scores achieved by the pupils they select. The decision comes despite evidence that many grammars are “performing modestly” and failing to stretch their brightest students.

For a secondary school to be judged coasting, fewer than 60 per cent of its children must have achieved five A*-C GCSEs in 2014 and 2015 and it must be below the median level of expected progress. It would also have to fall below a still unspecified level in the new Progress 8 measure from 2016.

At primary level, the definition will apply to schools at which fewer than 85 per cent of children have achieved level 4 in reading, writing and maths for three years, and at which below-average proportions of pupils have made the expected progress between ages 7 and 11.

The Department for Education is unclear on just how many schools will fall into the coasting category because the judgement will partly be based on future 2015 to 2016 results. But officials state that the definition would currently apply to “hundreds” of schools.

Ms Morgan said the new measure would ensure that schools in “leafy areas with more advantages than schools in disadvantaged communities” did not fall beneath the radar. However they are unlikely to include grammars until the raw attainment element of the definition is replaced fully by Progress 8 in 2018.

In 2012, a report by the SSAT, formerly known as the Schools Network, called for grammar schools to be judged by tougher targets as the current five A*-C measure was failing to stretch the brightest students. According to a study by the SSAT, there was “considerable variance” in standards between England’s 164 selective state schools and many were "performing modestly".

Ms Morgan said: "I’m unapologetic about shining a spotlight on complacency and I want the message to go out loud and clear, that education isn’t simply about pushing children over an artificial borderline, but instead about stretching every pupil to unlock their potential and give them the opportunity to get on in life.

“I know that schools and teachers will rise to the challenge, and the extra support we’ll offer to coasting schools will help them do just that.”

Pupil-premium impact 'will take time', says spending body

by BBC News, June 30, 2015

Classified as General.

Money allocated to schools for poorer pupils is yet to make an impact, the spending watchdog has said in a report.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said although the pupil premium had "potential", there was still "more to do" by schools and government.

The government says it wants every child to benefit from a good education, regardless of their background.

Funding in some of the poorest schools had fallen by 5% in the past three years, the NAO estimated.

About £2.5bn was given to schools in 2014-15 as pupil-premium funding - money allocated for children from poorer backgrounds.

Two million children between the ages of five and 16 qualify for extra funding, out of seven million school-aged children.

The aim of the pupil premium is to "close the gap" between richer and poorer children by improving academic performance.

The NAO report says although school leaders are now focusing on improving outcomes for poorer children, the educational gap between poorer and wealthier children has changed only marginally.

"While the attainment gap has narrowed since 2011, it remains wide and, at this stage, the significance of the improvements is unclear," the report says.

Worse off

The NAO is calling for a review of the way money is calculated for disadvantaged children, because not all of them are being identified for extra funding.

The introduction of universal credit and free school meals for all infants, it says, make it more difficult to identify disadvantaged pupils.

And some schools in the most disadvantaged areas are actually worse off because of cuts in other areas of the schools budget.

"Some schools with very disadvantaged intakes have less money per pupil now, in real terms, than in 2010, despite the extra funding provided by the pupil premium," the report says.

'Coasting schools' face tough exam targets

by BBC News, June 30, 2015

Classified as General.

Schools in England will face tougher exam targets, under plans announced by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Those falling below the targets, including some rated as "good" by Ofsted, will be labelled as "coasting".

The new threshold for secondary schools will require 60% of pupils to achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

"I'm unapologetic about shining a spotlight on complacency," said Mrs Morgan.

"For too long a group of coasting schools, many in leafy areas with more advantages than schools in disadvantaged communities, have fallen beneath the radar," said the education secretary.

These might be "very good schools but young people are not fulfilling all of their potential".

'Muddled and unfair'

The education department says that "hundreds" of schools will have to raise their results to meet these higher expectations.

But head teachers' leader Brian Lightman said the definitions for this new category were "muddled and unfair".

Schools falling into this coasting category will be given help to improve, but those that fail to make progress could be turned into academies. The classification will be based on three years of results.

School governors to be named on national database

by BBC News, June 29, 2015

Classified as General.

A national database of school governors in England is going to be created, says the government.

Until now there has been no central register of who is serving as a school governor.

The announcement is a response to the Trojan Horse claims about schools in Birmingham being taken over by groups with a hardline Muslim agenda.

The Department for Education says it will deliver more "transparency" for parents and the wider community.

Records gap

Among the problems identified by the Trojan Horse inquiries was that governors had been interfering in the running of schools and had undermined head teachers.

There were calls for more oversight of governors, but as the BBC revealed in February, the Department for Education did not have a register to check who was serving on governing bodies.

This raised questions about a lack of knowledge about who was in these positions of influence and whether there were networks of individuals who had become governors in multiple schools.

Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, had said that many parents would have been surprised to discover that the Department for Education did not keep a record of people who were school governors.

A report last year said that there were about 350,000 governors, with a major role in overseeing £46bn of school spending.

The Local Government Association called for more oversight to identify governors with "ill intentions".

But in the government's response to the Trojan Horse report, which argued that MPs had downplayed the seriousness of the problems in Birmingham, there are now plans to gather information about governors.

"We will create a national database of school governors by toughening up requirements on schools to publish the identities of their governors," says the education department.

The details of governors published by schools should also include "details of where they serve on governing bodies of schools elsewhere".

This will help "enable more effective oversight," says the Department for Education's response.

National tests for England's infant pupils 'could return'

by BBC News, June 26, 2015

Classified as General.

Ministers are planning to revive national tests for seven-year-olds in England, according to the Times Educational Supplement.

Currently, Year 2 pupils sit tests in reading, writing, maths and science which are marked by teachers and moderated by local councils.

The results of any new tests would be used to hold schools to account on pupils' progress, the TES says.

Teaching unions have already threatened to boycott any new national tests.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb is reported to be considering the proposals as his department gets to grips with how pupil progress is to be measured and recorded now the system of National Curriculum levels has been scrapped.

This was the system of checking pupils' year-by-year progress against a set of national expectations.

'Step too far'

Pupils are expected to reach two levels of progress between the end of infant school - or Key Stage 1 (KS1) - and the end of primary school, or Key Stage 2 (KS2). Schools are held to account on this through the league tables.

A source told the TES: "Nick Gibb is looking at the idea of scrapping teacher assessment in KS1 tests entirely in favour of having reported tests.

"It is because there is a difficulty with using teacher assessment for progress, plus they want to reduce teachers' workload.

Exclusive: National tests could return for infant pupils

by TES Connect, June 26, 2015

Classified as General.

Government considers plans to replace teacher assessment of KS1

Ministers are considering bringing back national tests for seven-year-olds in a move that would plunge relations between teachers and the government to a new low, TES understands.

Results from the government tests would be collected centrally by the Department for Education and then published to hold schools accountable for pupils’ progress. The new Sats would replace the current key stage 1 teacher assessments used to measure attainment in reading, writing, maths and science.

Union leaders have threatened to boycott the tests if they are introduced, branding the proposals a “disaster”.

Senior government advisers and officials are understood to be pushing for the change as the DfE struggles to get to grips with how pupil progress will be measured and recorded now that national curriculum levels have been removed.

TES has been told that schools minister Nick Gibb is seriously considering the proposals. He is understood to be particularly concerned about the existing KS1 assessments because thousands of primary schools have opted to use test-free baseline assessments for four-year-olds.

Locked and ‘loaded up’

A senior source told TES that “loading up” on two sets of teacher-assessed data to measure progress was deemed to be problematic. “Nick Gibb is looking at the idea of scrapping teacher assessment in KS1 tests entirely in favour of having reported tests. It is because there is a difficulty with using teacher assessment for progress, plus they want to reduce teachers’ workload,” the source said.

Home Office bans 60 universities and colleges from enrolling international students in 'emergency' clampdown

by The Independent, June 26, 2015

Classified as General.

The Home Office has banned 60 universities and colleges across the country from taking-on any more international students in an unprecedented clampdown.

In an emergency statement made by Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, in the House of Commons, he said that the highly-trusted sponsor status of the educational establishments had been suspended following a “detailed and wide-ranging investigation into actions by organised criminals to falsify English language tests for student visa applicants.”

In his statement, he added: “We have told two universities – the University of Bedfordshire and University of West London – that they are no longer allowed to sponsor new students pending further investigations which will decide whether they, too, should be suspended.”

An inquiry carried out by the Government found that an estimated 48,000 immigrants may have fraudulently obtained English language certificates – despite being unable to speak the language.

Teaching is among the 'top three most stressed occupations'

by TES Connect, June 25, 2015

Classified as General.

Teaching is consistently among the top three most stressful professions, according to a respected academic who has studied well-being in 80 occupations.

Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester's business school and a former government adviser on well-being, told TES that the profession regularly ranked among the most stressful jobs.

“Of all the occupations I’ve studied, and that’s about 80, teachers are in the top three most stressed occupations,” he said. “The hours are long and antisocial, the workload is heavy and there is change for change’s sake from various governments.”

His comments came as the country's biggest provider of new teachers, Teach First, revealed that it had started offering trainees psychological support because of concerns that classroom pressures could trigger mental health problems.

Other high-stress professions identifed by Sir Cary included healthcare and the uniformed services such as the police, ambulance and the fire services. He added that some parts of the IT industry were also high-stress. Librarians, gardeners and lab biologists tended to be among the least stressed professionals.

Sir Cary has published well over 100 pieces of research on workplace well-being and stress, during a 30-year career in academia. He is the outgoing chair of the Academy of Social Sciences and president of the counselling charity Relate.

He said anxiety, stress and depression were leading causes of sickness absence across many occupations, and in teaching these problems were “endemic”.

Sir Cary said constant changes in education policy added to teachers’ stress levels, and he urged the government to take a “hands-free” approach to education.

UK has 2.3m children living in poverty, government says

by BBC News, June 25, 2015

Classified as General.

The number of UK children classed as living in relative poverty remains 2.3 million, government figures suggest.

The Department for Work and Pensions annual estimate shows the proportion affected - almost one in six - was unchanged from 2011-12 to 2013-14.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said UK poverty levels were the "lowest since the mid-1980s" and showed government reforms were working.

But charities said proposed welfare changes would leave families worse off.

A child is defined as being in poverty when living in a household with an income below 60% of the UK's average.

Average household income in 2013-14 - before housing costs - remained unchanged from 2012-13, at £453 a week - making the poverty line £272 a week.

Mr Duncan Smith told the Commons that government reforms of the welfare system were focused on "making work pay" and getting people into employment.

'Deeply concerning'

He said he remained "committed" to dealing with the "root causes" of poverty, saying employment was up by more than two million since 2010.

Shadow chancellor Chris Leslie accused the government of failing to make progress in cutting child poverty and raising incomes.

The figures represented a "depressing slow-down in the progress we should be making as a country", he said.

Working mothers benefit daughters, study says

by BBC News, June 25, 2015

Classified as General.

Working mothers' adult daughters tend to get better jobs, while their grown-up sons tend do more in the home, a Harvard University study says.

It found daughters of mothers in work have better careers, higher pay and more equal relationships than those of stay-at-home mothers.

This effect was particularly pronounced in Britain and the US, the study, based on data from 24 countries, found.

Mothers should not feel work means they are "abandoning" children, it added.

The researchers, led by Kathleen McGinn, said: "Employed mothers often internalise social messages of impending doom for their children, and fathers who choose to emphasise care-giving run up against countervailing social messages signalling their inadequacy as breadwinners."

'Household lag'

But on examining data from the International Social Survey Programme from 2002 and 2012, they concluded that daughters of working mothers were paid 4% more than their peers.

They also found one in three daughters of working mothers were in managerial posts, compared with one in four of those of stay-at-home mothers.

The study said: "These findings suggest that in addition to transmitting gender attitudes across the generations, mothers' employment teachers daughters a set of skills that enable greater participation in the workforce and in leadership positions."

It found no links between maternal employment and adult sons' working patterns.

More stats please, says British Academy

by TES Connect, June 25, 2015

Classified as General.

The UK is falling behind other countries in a "data revolution" sweeping the world, because statistics and data-handling are beng sidelined in the country's schools, a new report claims today.

The report Count Us In, published by the British Academy, urges the government to do more to tackle what it warns is a "numeracy crisis". It wants to see:

* An improvement of the quality of statistics teaching across subjects

* The curriculum kept under continuous review

* More young people encouraged to study maths until 18

The academy says the new "core maths" qualifications already being developed to provide a post-16 alternative to A-level are a welcome first step but that more work needs to be done.

Its report points out that the ability to understand and interpret data is an essential part of modern life. It adds that the demand for people able to interpret "big data" – huge amounts of information which companies or governments use to improve services – is estimated to be currently creating 58,000 new jobs a year. It says the UK could become a world leader in this field.

But the report states that the country is facing a crisis in level of numeracy, as more students drop maths at 16, than in other developed countries as the number of jobs that need numerate workers is rising.

"We must not underestimate the cultural change that is required – starting now – primarily, but not entirely, with the UK's education systems," the report states.

"Our ability to handle data and reason using numbers will not be transformed overnight," said Professor Sir Ian Diamond, lead fellow and chair of the British Academy’s High Level Strategy Group for Quantitative Skills. "But we need to put in place the structures that will begin to effect that change. Whichever way we look at it – the sheer potential for our economy and society on the one hand, and the risks of not acting on the other – this is an agenda that demands the interests of decision makers at the highest level."

The report comes after the Higher Education Academy warned last year that thousands of science, social science and humanities undergraduates did not study the maths they needed to cope with their subjects at university.

Numeracy crisis threatens to hold back UK in global data race

by The Guardian, June 25, 2015

Classified as bbc news.

The government has been urged to tackle a numeracy crisis in the UK, which experts are warning threatens to hold the country back in the face of a global data revolution.

There needs to be a dramatic improvement in the population’s grasp of basic numeracy and statistics if the UK is to keep up with its neighbours and make the most of the potential offered by “big data”, says a report by the British Academy published on Thursday.

It calls for a transformation in the UK’s approach to building numeracy, statistics and data analysis skills to ensure that students, consumers and workers are as fluent with numbers as they are with words.

The report, entitled Count Us In, focuses on the need for current workers and future generations to develop quantitative skills in order to understand and interpret the vast quantities of data being generated.

It says the UK has the potential to become a world leader in big data, which would in turn lead to enormous economic benefits. The Centre for Economics and Business Research has estimated that 58,000 new jobs a year could be created in the UK between 2012 and 2017, with the UK economy benefiting by £74bn over those five years.

But not only does the numeracy crisis mean the country is in danger of falling behind in the big data race, on a more immediate level, employers are complaining that workers lack numeracy skills, while consumers are unable to make informed choices.

“The ubiquity of statistics makes it vital that citizens, scientists and policy makers are fluent with numbers,” the report says. “There have been some important and encouraging developments to address the UK’s weaknesses in quantitative skills.

Boris Johnson backs 100-hour careers plan

by BBC News, June 25, 2015

Classified as General.

Every young person in London should have at least 100 hours of careers advice or work experience by the age of 16, says Boris Johnson.

The London mayor is launching a report emphasising the importance of giving young people information about getting a job when they leave school.

The report calls for "impartial, independent and personalised careers education".

Mr Johnson says there needs to be an "easy to navigate" careers system.

The London Ambitions report sets out a blueprint for establishing a more substantial role for careers education, in both primary and secondary school.

'Raw deal'

The plan calls for a fixed entitlement, after fears that careers is an area too easily neglected.

Mr Johnson describes it as a "pragmatic way to tackle some of the challenges that young people face when trying to make the right career choices".

Skilled workers 'may vanish' if further education budget cuts continue

by The Guardian, June 24, 2015

Classified as General.

Britain’s supply of skilled workers may “vanish into history” if looming budget cuts in further education and the unchecked expansion of universities are allowed to continue, according to the architect of the government’s vocational education plans.

Professor Alison Wolf, a respected labour market expert and author of the Wolf review of vocational education, said the further education sector that provides the bulk of the UK’s post-secondary training faces possible collapse and the loss of a valuable source of technicians and mechanics.

“I think we should be very alarmed about this – it’s a serious potential crisis,” said Wolf, who publishes a report backed by the Gatsby Foundation arguing that “unstable, inefficient, untenable and unjust” funding is destroying education provision for school-leavers outside of universities.

“It damages and affects the nature of the industrial structure of this country. If you create a system in which vocational training can’t be funded, that is going to have a knock-on effect on which parts of the economy flourish and which don’t.”

Hardest hit are likely to be small companies in manufacturing areas such as the west Midlands, which will be unable to compete with larger companies that can fund their own in-house training.

Wolf argues that FE colleges – already under budget pressures – face a further threat if the government takes resources from the further education budget to fund its plans to expand apprenticeships.

“In post-19 education, we are producing vanishingly small numbers of higher technician-level qualifications, while massively increasing the output of generalist bachelors degrees and low-level vocational qualifications,” the report concludes.

Exam pressure hurting summer sports, says Mike Gatting

by BBC News, June 24, 2015

Classified as General.

The ever-growing pressure on exam results is making it harder for summer sports in schools, says former England cricket captain Mike Gatting.

"The exams cause an awful lot of problems for sport," said Mr Gatting - particularly those summer sports that clashed with the exam season.

Despite calls for more sport in schools, he said, there was a "huge drop off" among 14-to-15-year-olds.

Mr Gatting, 58, is taking part in a week promoting cricket in schools.

The former Ashes winner visited George Eliot primary school, near enough to Lord's cricket ground in London to be almost in range of a decent six

Mr Gatting, an ambassador for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), was promoting cricket in schools, in advance of the Ashes Test series, beginning next month.

But Mr Gatting, who played in 79 Test matches for England, scoring 4,409 runs, said there were conflicting messages about sport.

"We want to push sports in this country," he said, as a way of tackling obesity and to give young people "a chance to get some self-esteem".

But he said pupils, parents and schools were under relentless pressure to prioritise exam results.

The teenage years were when sportsmen and women really developed their skills, he said.

University inspections face major overhaul

by BBC News, June 24, 2015

Classified as General.

The ways in which university watchdogs protect standards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland face a major overhaul in plans expected next week.

It could mean the end of a regular cycle of university inspections.

There are believed to be proposals for a more "risk-based" approach, with higher levels of scrutiny for less established institutions.

There have also been questions about the future of the current watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency.

The plans for discussion, which will be published next week, will set out major changes in how standards are assessed and monitored in universities.

Teaching standards

The plans aim to create a way of ensuring quality at a time of increasing consumer pressure from students and doubts about standards in some new private providers.

An annual survey published this month by the Higher Education Policy Institute showed that less than half of students believed they had had good or very good value for money from their courses.

The shake-up is expected to propose different levels of supervision for different parts of the higher education sector. Universities are said to be resistant to a "one-size-fits-all" monitoring system.

This could mean that established, mainstream universities would no longer face a cycle of inspections of the kind carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).

Newer entrants offering higher education courses would face a tougher level of scrutiny.

For established universities, there would be a stronger emphasis on student "outcomes" - such as data on the employment record of graduates and information from the National Student Survey.

There would also be a strengthening of the "external examiner" system, in which experts from other universities are used to check on the quality of degrees being awarded.

Schools must consider double shifting to accomodate growing pupil numbers

by The Guardian, June 24, 2015

Classified as General.

The latest Department for Education data confirms what headteachers and local authority leaders have been saying for the past few years: we need to re-think how we provide school places.

The growth in immigrants, combined with the baby boom, is putting unprecedented pressure on the school system across the country. There was a 1.3% increase in student numbers (pdf) in state and independent schools in England between January 2014 and 2015. This growth has been most keenly felt in state primary schools, where there has been a 2.1% increase (pdf) in numbers – equivalent to almost 94,000 more children – in the past year.

This has led to super-sized schools, as highlighted in the BBC profile on Gascoigne primary in Barking , the largest primary school in England where the pupil roll totals 1,200. Today, there are 87 primary schools with more than 800 students, compared with 77 in 2014 and 58 in 2013.

The government has committed to opening 500 new free schools over the next five years to ease pressure. This will go some way to housing the rising number of four-year-olds as we nudge to a UK population of 77 million by 2050, but it won’t go far enough. We will also need to fundamentally re-think the school day and teachers’ working patterns.

The orthodoxy of all primary pupils starting school at 9am and finishing at 3.30pm has to be challenged. In the same way that early years settings offer morning and afternoon places, many urban primaries will need to think along similar lines for all their students. This form of double-shifting is common in other countries, and will soon become the norm in England’s major cities.

More than a quarter of primary teachers feel unqualified to teach PE

by TES Connect, June 24, 2015

Classified as General.

More than a quarter of primary teachers do not feel qualified to teach PE and many more would welcome additional training in the subject, according to a survey released today.

The research, by the University of Bedfordshire, found that although 88 per cent of primary teachers recognise that PE is as important as the other topics they teach, many lack confidence when it comes to delivering lessons in the subject.

Of the 400 primary teachers who were surveyed, 28 per cent said that they did not feel adequately qualified to teach PE and 53 per cent said they would welcome more professional development opportunities in the subject.

The study also revealed that more than one in three children leaves primary school with a dislike of physical activity, which could have lifelong implications.

Although teachers acknowledge the value of physical activity, the survey found that 42 per cent of them believe that their students do not enjoy PE lessons and are leaving primary school without the skills they need to take part in ongoing physical activity.

Researchers have warned that inactivity during the first 10 years of childhood has a lasting impact on whether young people go on to develop active habits for life.

Professor Margaret Whitehead, visiting professor at the University of Bedfordshire and former PE teacher, said that teachers must be “equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to deliver quality PE”.

“PE lessons help to shape a child’s first experiences of physical activities,” she added. “It is crucial that these first experiences are positive, rewarding and enjoyable. We need to enable teachers to nurture a lifelong love of physical activity.”

The research adds to concerns about the physical fitness of young people that were raised by another recent study published by the Youth Sport Trust, which found that nearly a quarter of young people believe that playing a computer game constitutes a form of exercise.

Today, a coalition of sporting partners including Youth Sport Trust, Women in Sport and Virgin Active are launching a year-long CPD programme to support teachers who struggle to teach PE.

The coalition, named Active Inspiration, was launched in 2014 with the aim of getting 500,000 young people across the UK to take part in more physical activity over the next five years.

The government has already committed £450 million over three academic years (between 2013 and 2016) to help primary schools improve the quality of the sporting activities they offer in the form of the PE and sport premium.

Teacher training free-for-all announced

by TES Connect, June 23, 2015

Classified as General.

University and school based initial teacher training providers have been told they can take on as many trainees as they want from next year.

The free-for-all announced today by the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) comes in the wake of concerns about growing teacher shortages.

But universities are warning that the removal of limits on trainee numbers for each individual training providers could make the problem worse. They fear it will be detrimental to initial teacher training recruitment and could lead to courses being closed.

National allocations for the number of trainees for in each subject will remain. But universities and School Direct schools recruiting for September 2016 have been told they can take on as many trainees as they want until the national limit in each subject is met.

Charlie Taylor, NCTL chief executive said the change being made in response to frustrations from teacher training providers about the complicated allocations system.

There will be some controls set to ensure a mix of School Direct, SCITT (school centred initial teacher training) and university-led courses. The NCTL has also said it will ensure no individual providers expand beyond a certain level and it will act to prevent significant geographical variation.

But the removal of institutional limits has been condemned by bodies representing universities.

In a joint statement, Universities UK and Guild HE, said: “Within the fixed market that these changes introduce, there will be no guaranteed minimum intake level for university provider-led courses.

“This instability affects the viability of course delivery, reduces the capacity of universities to plan over the long-term and may impact on the ability of universities to support their partnership schools. The changes could, in certain instances, lead to universities withdrawing from specific subjects or from the ITT market altogether.”

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said that the success of the plan would depend on whether there was the flexibility involved to shift applicants between universities and School Direct routes in order to maximise recruitment levels.

Earlier this month Teach First warned that schools are facing the worst recruitment crisis this century, as demand for its teachers has more than doubled compared to last year.

Pupil numbers are rising with official figures predicting that there will be 900,000 extra pupils in England’s schools by 2021, compared to 2010.

French students unable to 'cope' with tricky question

by BBC News, June 23, 2015

Classified as General.

The characters in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement are called upon to cope with all sorts of tricky situations.

But when French teenagers sitting an exam about the book were asked to cope with a tough question, they fell short on one key element - the word "coping".

Now almost 12,000 students have signed a petition saying the question was "impossible" to answer because they didn't know the word.

The 17-year-old behind it claims "only someone bilingual" would understand it.

The students of the baccalaureate English exam were asked how Robbie Turner - who is falsely accused of rape - is "coping with the situation".

But thousands of them took to social media after the test, using the hashtag #BacAnglais, to claim that the question was too difficult.

Addressed to France's Minister of Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the petition calls the question "incomprehensible and impossible to answer".

The pupil behind it, a 17-year-old known only as Arthur, told a local TV station that coping was "not a very common word" and only someone with "excellent" English would know it.

The petition calls for the question either to be annulled from the marking scheme or that bonus points are awarded to those who answered it.

However, others defended the question. Hugo Travers, 18, tweeted: "In 2015 you find a question a little difficult, you launch a petition full of mistakes. No, just no."

The complaint follows a similar controversy in the UK two weeks ago, when a petition over a maths question attracted almost 40,000 signatures.


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