Latest Educational News

One in three university students wish they had chosen a different course, says study

by The Independent, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Nearly half a million university students believe they may have chosen the wrong course to study, according to a major new study.

One in three told researchers that - knowing what they now know about their university - they would have chosen a different course.

As the study - carried out for influential university think-tanks, the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy points out: “Given that there are 1.4 million full-time undergraduates, this suggests there could be nearly 500,000 full-time students who believe they are on a sub-optimal course.”

A breakdown of courses shows students who are studying architecture or business and administration courses that are the unhappiest - with 43 per cent saying they “definitely” or “maybe” should have chosen a different course.

The happiest students are those studying medicine and dentistry - where only 14 per cent would consider swapping courses.

One of the reasons students cite for their dissatisfaction is that they were not given enough information about their course before they signed on for it - 21 per cent saying the information they received was “vague” while a further 10 per cent said it was “misleading”.

Too many disadvantaged university students dropping out despite rise in acceptance rates, says watchdog head

by The Independent, June 4, 2015

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Too many disadvantaged students are still dropping out or failing to get top degree passes despite a rise in their acceptance rates, the head of the universities’ fair access watchdog has said.

Professor Les Ebdon, director of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), said “the tanker seems to be turning” at Britain’s most elite universities as they were now taking in more students from poorer households.”

“There’s been a 28 per cent increase in the number of students from disadvantaged groups in the most highly selective universities,” he said in an interview with The Independent. The rise followed “ten years of stagnation” in which figures had failed to improve.

However, he added: “Although there are record-breaking rates of entry among disadvantaged groups, too many of these entrants are still getting lost by the wayside. Some will never graduate and those who do are more likely to underachieve than students who are the same in every respect apart from different backgrounds, gender or ethnicity.

Ofsted should inspect character development, report says

by TES Connect, June 4, 2015

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Ofsted should place the same importance on the way schools teach “character development” as it does on attainment measures when assessing schools, the think tank Demos has said.

The call comes in a report published today by the think tank and the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham.

The report, Character Nation, said character education should be embedded in the UK’s educational curriculum. Ofsted inspectors should look at the way in which students participate in “civic activities” within their communities, it said, and initial teacher training (ITT) courses should cover the delivery of character education.

It called for a greater emphasis to be placed on monitoring and evaluating character education so that the “real-world impact” of schools can be highlighted in league tables.

The report said “strong character attributes” such as “moral, intellectual, performance and civic virtues” were linked to higher educational attainment, employment outcomes, and positive mental and physical health.

These attributes, it said, could be “developed and taught with the right guidance”.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has spoken of her commitment to helping schools develop students’ “character, resilience and grit”. In December she announced a £3.5m fund for character education programmes, citing as good practice a scheme run in Stratford, east London, in which students are given time in the school day to “master” personal goals such as an instrument or a language.

Universities increasing outreach but offering fewer bursaries, report finds

by TES Connect, June 4, 2015

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Universities are spending more money on improving access for students from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds – but fewer students are receiving financial help, research shows.

A report published today by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) reveals that about 358,000 students from low-income and under-represented groups received a financial award in 2013-14, down from 401,500 in 2012-13. The figures relate to those studying at higher education institutions and further education colleges with access agreements.

Although fewer students received financial help, those who did tended to receive larger sums, the report found, with the average value rising from £1,268 in 2012-13 to £1,638 in 2013-14.

It also found that universities had significantly increased their budgets for “widening participation activity” in ways that did not include financial support. These included programmes to raise aspirations among potential applicants and to mentor and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds once they had entered university.

The report said total investment in widening participation through access agreements, including financial support and other activities, stood at £628 million in 2013-14, up from £564 million the previous year. However, it found that the proportion of this spent that was on financial support had fallen to 69 per cent, from 74 per cent in 2012-13.

“We were pleased to see this continued refocusing of access agreement investment away from financial support and towards outreach and student success activity, as this was in line with our guidance, which emphasised the contribution of these activities to improving the diversity of the student population,” the Offa report says.

The report also finds that universities and colleges had met, or were on course to meet, 90 per cent of the targets that they set themselves in their 2013-14 access agreements – documents that set out how they will promote fair access to people from lower income backgrounds, which are a condition of being allowed to charge higher fees.

New grades for English speaking and listening tests unveiled

by TES Connect, June 4, 2015

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Students starting their English GCSEs in September will take a separate speaking and listening test assessed by their teachers and graded under a new system, Ofqual has revealed.

Alongside the new English language GCSE, students will be awarded a separate grade of either "distinction", "merit", "pass" or "not classified" for speaking and listening. This replaces the current grading system used for the speaking and listening component of the existing GCSE, in which students receive a grade from 5 (the highest) to 1.

This follows a change in the overall grading system for GCSEs, with the A*-G system being replaced by a new scale of 9 (the top grade) to 1.

Documents published by Ofqual today also reveal that teachers will be asked to submit audio-visual recordings of a sample of their students’ tests, rather than of all students’ tests as was originally suggested.

The documents set out the details of how the new speaking and listening tests will work after Ofqual announced in 2013 that the tests would no longer count towards overall GCSE grades. The watchdog said this was because of "inconsistency" in how schools marked the tests.

Under the new system, the speaking and listening mark will be listed separately on pupils’ grade certificates. Ofqual has decided to use a "not classified" grade instead of a "fail" for students who do not meet the criteria.

Spoken language tests will take place “in a formal setting, before an audience and require preparation to have been undertaken by the learner,” Ofqual has said.

Schools will have to provide a statement to exam boards confirming that they “have taken reasonable steps to secure that students complete the spoken language assessment”.

George Osborne announces fresh cuts to education budgets

by TES Connect, June 4, 2015

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Chancellor George Osborne has announced almost a billion pounds of in-year spending cuts to the budgets of the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Mr Osborne said today that the DfE and BIS would each make an extra £450m of savings in the 2015-16 financial year, totalling £900m in reductions.

Few details of the new savings have been announced, but a statement from the Treasury said there would be “savings in higher education and further education budgets in BIS, and savings in the administration of arms lengths bodies in the Department for Education”.

It said the DfE savings would be from non-schools spending, adding that savings would come from Whitehall efficiencies and from “tightly managing departmental budgets in-year, so that instead of spending up to budget, departments deliver underspends”.

The spending cuts are part of a series of measures to bring about £4.5bn of deficit reduction this year, Mr Osborne said. This includes £3bn in Whitehall savings, including from the DfE and BIS, and an estimated £1.5bn from the sale of the government’s remaining shares in the Royal Mail.

A spokesman for the DfE said: “These savings will come from a variety of measures including expected departmental underspends in demand-led budgets, efficiencies and some small budgetary reductions.”

A BIS spokeswoman insisted that priority areas such as apprenticeships would be protected, and added that a "significant" proportion of the savings would be made through "surrendering underspends, making efficiencies and reducing lower value spend".

"It is right that as the nation tightens its belt on public spending, the FE sector plays its part in ensuring value for money for taxpayers by finding savings," she added. "We will be asking Skills Funding Agency for advice on how savings can best be achieved in line with ministers priorities around apprenticeships and priority FE participation funding, and whilst safeguarding the resilience of the sector."

Students doubt fees value for money

by BBC News, June 4, 2015

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Many students are unconvinced they have received value for money from their university courses, according to an annual survey.
And a large majority do not think they have been given enough information about how tuition fees are spent.
The survey suggests students average 12 hours per week "contact" time, when they are taught by staff.
The findings are part of a survey of 15,000 students in the UK, carried out by higher education think tanks.
The Student Academic Experience Survey, carried out by the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy, examines levels of consumer satisfaction among undergraduate students.

Dissatisfied students want more contact time with teaching staff

by The Guardian, June 4, 2015

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Students who get limited contact time with university staff are less likely to enjoy the student experience – and those who don’t work hard enough don’t have a good time either.

A survey of more than 15,000 full-time UK undergraduates found that on average students spent more time studying independently than they did with teaching staff, leaving some feeling unsatisfied with their experience of university.

The research, carried out by Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA), found that students were less satisfied when they had fewer than 10 contact hours a week and class sizes of more than 50 students.

Last Oxford vote on admitting female students

by BBC News, June 4, 2015

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On Thursday afternoon a vote in Oxford University will mark the symbolic last step in a journey that began in 1879.
St Benet's Hall is set to become the last academic institution in Oxford University to change from a single sex college to become co-educational, when it is expected to formally decide to admit female undergraduate students.
It comes 136 years after the first women's colleges were opened at the university - and 95 years after women were able to become full members of the university.
And step-by-step, since the 1970s, previously all-male colleges have been moving towards admitting women. It's also almost a decade since the last all-women's college admitted male students.
The vote by trustees at St Benet's comes a week after another milestone, with the nomination of Louise Richardson as Oxford University's first female vice chancellor.

New English GCSE shows 'breathtaking ignorance' of dyslexia, teacher says

by TES Connect, June 3, 2015

The reformed English literature GCSE will discriminate against pupils with dyslexia and special needs because of the government’s “breathtaking ignorance” of these conditions, an English teacher has said.

In an open letter to education secretary Nicky Morgan, blogger and teacher Mary Meredith claims that the new English GCSE contravenes the 2010 Equality Act.

Ms Meredith, a Lincolnshire senior leader in charge of inclusion, writes that pupils with conditions such as dyslexia, which affects verbal memory, will be disadvantaged by the reformed exam.

She argues that the new GCSE will not allow pupils with special needs “to fully demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding”.

The new GCSE includes a closed-book test, for which pupils will be expected to have memorised 15 poems, “in complex and often ambiguous language, and drawn from a range of socio-historical contexts,” Ms Meredith says.

These poems must be memorised well enough for at least one to be analysed from memory during the exam. “A difficult task for all,” Ms Meredith writes in her blog. “An impossible one for the minority we ought to be more concerned about.”

The new GCSE qualifications will be taught from 2016, but schools aiming to offer a course over three years could begin teaching them in September.

The exams watchdog Ofqual has already admitted that standards for the reformed maths GCSE have been set at the wrong level, and has instructed exam boards to draw up new questions. And, last week, TES revealed that Ofqual will also be running extra checks on the level of difficulty for the reformed science exams.

Under the terms of the 2010 Equality Act, Ofqual must allow reasonable adjustments to be made for children whose disability places them at a disadvantage in any given exam. In the case of a closed-book test, this would involve providing the full texts for children with impaired verbal memory, according to the Equality Advisory Support Service, cited in Ms Meredith's blog.

New bill to turn 1,000 schools into academies

by TES Connect, June 3, 2015

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Up to 1,000 “failing” schools will be turned into academies under controversial new legislation to be tabled today by the government.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan will introduce “tough new measures” contained within the new Education and Adoption Bill that will “sweep away bureaucratic and legal loopholes” and force councils and governing bodies to convert struggling schools into academies.

The new rules will mean every school rated “inadequate” by Ofsted in the future will be turned into an academy.

According to the Department for Education, since 2010 the government has already intervened in half of all schools placed in special measures. The new legislation will give officials the power to go into every school rated “inadequate”, which it expects to number as many as 1,000.

The new bill will also put in place plans to tackle so-called “coasting” schools, putting them on a notice to improve. These schools will be given additional support from a team of “expert headteachers”, while those that do not show any improvement will be given new leadership.

Ahead of the bill being laid before Parliament, Ms Morgan said the piece of legislation would allow the “best education experts” to intervene in schools from the “first day we spot failure”.

“It will sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children,” she said.

“Hundreds of schools, often in disadvantaged areas, are already being turned around thanks to the help of strong academy sponsors – education experts who know exactly what they have to do to make a failing school outstanding. This bill will allow them to do their job faster and more effectively, ensuring that thousands more pupils, from across the country, get the world class education they deserve.”

Hundred of clever children from disadvantaged homes being failed by secondary schools, says new report

by The Independent, June 3, 2015

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Clever children from disadvantaged homes are being failed by their secondary schools after shining at primary level, a report warns.

Every year, hundreds of children who scored among the top 10 per cent of the country in tests for 11-year-olds end up lagging behind their peers by the time they take their GCSEs.

More than one in three bright boys and 24 per cent of bright girls from disadvantaged homes underachieve at GCSE, according to figures obtained by the Sutton Trust, the education charity campaigning for equal access to education for all pupils.

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One in ten of the poor but clever children barely achieve C grades or do even worse when it comes to GCSE exams. In comparison, poor children from affluent homes who scored in the top 10 percent in tests for 11-year-olds are likely to go on to achieve eight straight A grade passes at GCSE.

Poor bright boys underachieving at GCSE, says charity

by BBC News, June 3, 2015

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Bright boys from poorer backgrounds in England "seriously underachieve" at GCSE, according to research from the Sutton Trust education charity.

After comparing test results at primary school with how children perform at GCSE, researchers say more than a third of poorer boys underperform.

The Sutton Trust says too many schools "lack the support" for these students.

The government says the attainment gap between rich and poor children is narrowing.

'Missing talent'

Researchers looked at results from 7,000 children who performed highly in their Sats tests at the end of primary school, but did not go on to achieve GCSE results in the top 25% of pupils.

The report acknowledges that "progress through school is not always smooth and predictable" and there are children who fall behind at secondary school.

But they identify some children as "missing talent", including bright boys from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Boys, the researchers say, are almost twice as likely as girls to "fall off track" and being from a poor background more than doubles that risk.

Their research concludes that 36% of "highly able" boys who are eligible for the pupil premium fail to achieve a "good set of GCSEs".

Teachers in strike threat over pay and workload

by BBC News, June 3, 2015

Teachers could be set to strike if they fail to get a "satisfactory outcome" in talks over pay, union leaders have warned.

Members of the EIS union will raise the prospect of industrial action at their annual general meeting this week.

Teachers will also consider action if workload issues remain unresolved after a survey claimed the average teacher worked 46.5 hours a week.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan, said: "These issues must be tackled."

A Scottish government spokesman said they were working with teachers' representatives, local authorities and other partners "to address concerns around workload".

EIS members in Dundee have said that the union's council must "campaign for a restorative pay deal for teachers which does not link an increased salary with detrimental changes to conditions of service".

Their motion adds: "If no satisfactory outcome is forthcoming, members are to be balloted for industrial action up to and including strike action."

Exam system

Other motions to be debated at the conference, which will take place in Perth from Thursday to Saturday, could lead to industrial action as a result of changes to the exam system.

The East Ayrshire local association has put forward a motion calling for a "ballot for a boycott of all SQA-related work unless SQA assessment can be managed within the 35-hour working week."

Mr Flanagan said: "Despite the fine words of politicians on the need to support schools and teachers, the evidence from both the recent EIS workload survey - which highlighted an average teacher working week of 46.5 hours - and the range of motions to this year's AGM indicate that excessive workload remains a huge issue for teachers and, therefore, for our schools and our pupils."

All failing schools to be academies under new bill

by BBC News, June 3, 2015

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Up to 1,000 schools in England, including all those rated inadequate by Ofsted, will be turned into academies under plans being published later.

The Education and Adoption Bill seeks to "remove bureaucratic and legal loopholes" that slow up the process of turning failing schools into academies.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said schools would be improved faster by academy sponsorship under the plans.

Labour said the "divisive" bill missed the challenges faced by schools.

Pupils 'languishing'

The government says campaigners have too often been able to delay or overrule the process by which schools deemed failing become academies.

Ministers believe debates surrounding some attempts to impose academy status result in too many pupils "languishing in underperforming schools".

Under the bill, the regional commissioners would take on the responsibility for making academy orders, and the requirement for potential academy sponsors to consult with the local community would be scrapped.

The bill sets out measures to turn all schools deemed to be failing into academies, doubling the current rate.

Currently, schools are said to be failing if rated inadequate by Ofsted and missing government benchmarks on results and pupil progress, but the bill is expected to set out new yardsticks.

Teachers confused over new numerical GCSE grading system

by TES Connect, June 2, 2015

More than four out of 10 teachers say they do not understand the new 9-1 grading system that will be introduced at GCSE to replace the A* to G system, research has shown.

A survey by YouGov on behalf of Ofqual, the exams watchdog, has revealed widespread confusion over the new numbered grading scale due to come in by 2017, with two-thirds (64 per cent) of students and more than half of parents (54 per cent) stating they did not understand it.

In contrast, two out of three heads said they understood it, while a fifth said they didn’t.

Under reforms to GCSEs, the new numerical grading system will place 9 as the top grade and 1 as the lowest, with it being suggested that a grade 4 will be roughly equivalent to a C. Students will first receive the new 9-1 grading system in August 2017.

But the YouGov survey of 3,192 people - including 241 heads, 704 teachers, 324 students and 353 parents or carers - suggests the government needs to do more to communicate how the system will work.

“The level of understanding of the new 9-1 grading scale is low amongst young people and parents and not as widespread as may be expected amongst teaching professionals,” the report adds.

The research also revealed that heads, teachers, students and parents were losing faith in GCSEs and A-levels overall, with more than half of heads (52 per cent) stating they felt the standard of marking had deteriorated in the past year.

Respondents also said they felt there had been “too much change” in the GCSE system, with 74 per cent of teachers and 86 per cent of heads agreeing with the statement.

“Concerns remain from some of those working within the education system over standards and accuracy – leading some respondents to feel less confident in the GCSE system than they did last year,” the report says.

Similarly, the Ofqual report, called Perceptions of A-levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, showed nearly half of heads (49 per cent) stated that they were less confident in A-levels than the year before.

UK universities urged to adopt US-style grading system

by The Guardian, May 29, 2015

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UK universities are being encouraged to adopt a new US-style grading system to provide employers with a more accurate picture of how students perform throughout their studies.

In a report, published by the Higher Education Academy, universities are urged to trial the grade point average (GPA) system, used by universities in the US, Canada and Asia, alongside the current honours degree model, over a five-year period.

GPA gives students a more precise grade by providing a cumulative score of average marks throughout a student’s degree. These are then corresponded to grades ranging between F- to A+.

The system is said to provide more detail about whether a candidate came at the low or high end of a degree classification and offer greater international comparability of degree results.

Massive online courses set sights on sixth formers

by BBC News, May 29, 2015

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Three free online programmes, aimed at helping sixth-formers bridge the gap between school and university, are due to launch this summer.

The university-led "massive open online courses" (MOOCs) will be available on the FutureLearn website.

The content includes choosing a university and how to apply.

The aim was to help students choose a degree course "that is right for them", said FutureLearn's head of content, Nigel Smith.

The courses are due to begin soon after sixth-formers have sat their AS and A-level exams in June and July, when they will be thinking about starting university or applying for a degree course in the autumn.

Critical thinking

Sheffield university is providing two courses on applying for jobs and courses and succeeding at interviews.

The first includes writing covering letters and personal statements.

The second is on interviews, covering how to research organisations, what to wear and how to deal with commonly asked questions.

Both courses include input from employers and admissions tutors and are open to anyone, not just young people.

The third, from the University of East Anglia, includes advice from lecturers and undergraduates on the skills new students will need.

This focuses on critical thinking, data analysis and how to sustain a supported argument as well as coping with the university environment.

Mr Smith said: "At age 16-18 you don't necessarily feel ready to make such an important life decision as choosing what to study at university.

Science caught up in GCSE standards row

by TES Connect, May 29, 2015

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Uncertainty over standards in new GCSEs in England has spread to another major area of the curriculum. Ofqual has revealed that it will now have to run extra checks on the level of difficulty in reformed science qualifications.

The news follows the exam regulator’s discovery that standards in sample assessments for reformed maths GCSEs, which it had already approved, were at the wrong level.

Last week, Ofqual said it was asking all exam boards offering reformed GCSEs to draw up new sample papers for maths qualifications due to be taught from September.

It has now emerged that the watchdog is also planning to carry out additional checks on science papers. These qualifications will be taught from 2016, but schools aiming to offer a course over three years could begin teaching in September.

There are fears that the discovery of any problems similar to those in the sample maths papers could cause significant disruption for schools.

The reformed GCSEs have been designed to be more demanding than the qualifications currently in use. A Department for Education source told TES that ministers would be “keeping a close eye” on standards in the science qualifications.

Ofqual decided to order sample maths papers to be re-written after research it commissioned – which involved thousands of pupils taking mock exams – suggested that three of the boards had set exams that were too tough and the fourth had produced a paper that was too easy.

When TES asked Ofqual chief executive Glenys Stacey how the watchdog knew the problems in maths wouldn’t be replicated in other subjects, she admitted that extra checks would have to be carried out.

“We are looking ahead already to the new GCSEs in science and the individual sciences – where incidentally there is quite a lot of maths – and considering the sort of scrutinies that we will want to run alongside our usual processes,” Ms Stacey said. “This is a new era of regulating.”

Teachers in Scotland 'work an extra 11 hours', EIS survey finds

by BBC News, May 29, 2015

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Teachers in Scotland are working an additional 11 hours a week on top of their contracted hours, according to a survey by a union.

The EIS asked 3,500 primary and secondary teachers across the country to record their working hours over a two-week period.

It found that the average teacher works 46.5 hours per week. They are contracted to work 35 hours every week.

The union said teachers were being burdened with a "crippling" workload.

It described the situation as "unsustainable" and called on the Scottish government and local authorities to act.

The Scottish government said it was working with teachers' representatives, local authorities and other partners to address concerns around workload.

A spokesman said: "The report by the Working Group on Tackling Bureaucracy (set up by the government) identified specific areas where changes need to be made and how we can make sure teachers have the freedom they need to carry on delivering our world-class curriculum.

"We are committed to making sure councils have the right number and highest quality of teachers in our schools which is why we have offered councils £51m including an additional £10m over and above last year's settlements to support teacher numbers".

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