Latest Educational News

'Meltdown' warning in FE college finances

by BBC News, July 20, 2015

Classified as General.

There has been a "rapid decline" in the finances of the further education sector in England, warns the public spending watchdog.

A report from the National Audit Office shows that almost half of colleges were in deficit in 2013-14.

Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, described it as a "deeply alarming report".

A government spokesman said its "reforms were focused on achieving the best return on investment".

"And we will provide up to an additional £25m this financial year to help support the creation of three million apprenticeships by 2020," said the spokesman for the Business, Innovation and Skills department.

'Rapid decline'

But Ms Hillier said: "I do not believe it is any exaggeration to say the future sustainability of the further education sector is at risk of financial meltdown."

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office (NAO), said the further education sector, which receives £7bn per year to teach four million students, was "experiencing rapidly declining financial health".

The watchdog says that between autumn 2013 and summer 2015 the further education commissioner had to intervene in 22 colleges because of financial problems.

The report warns that the number of FE colleges in deficit more than doubled in two years, from 52 in 2010-11 to 110 in 2013-14.

MPs to launch inquiry into why UK schools lag behind other countries: 'We want to be the cutting edge of education'

by The Independent, July 18, 2015

Classified as General.

MPs are to launch a major inquiry into school “productivity” to determine why the UK lags so far behind other countries in developing the skills its pupils need to take their place in the workforce.

Details of the inquiry were revealed by Neil Carmichael, the newly elected chair of the Commons Education Committee, in an interview with The Independent on Sunday.

CBI director-general John Cridland has complained that schools are operating too much like “exam factories”, failing to produce the “rounded and grounded” young people with the necessary self-confidence to succeed in the world of work. A CBI report published last year found that 61 per cent of 291 companies surveyed were concerned about the resilience and self-management skills of school leavers, while a third were concerned about their attitude to work. An overwhelming majority of firms (85 per cent) wanted primary schools to focus on literacy and numeracy, with around a third dissatisfied with these skills among school leavers.

Describing the failure to teach workplace skills as “a very long-standing problem”, Mr Carmichael pointed out that Germany had introduced universal secondary education in the 1870s, while the UK had waited until the 1944 Education Act.

“We have been a bit too complacent about taking the necessary action to tackle the problem,” said Mr Carmichael. He said that the inquiry would look at how productive the education system had been compared with countries such as France and Germany.

MPs to launch inquiry into why UK schools lag behind other countries: 'We want to be the cutting edge of education'

by The Independent, July 18, 2015

Classified as General.

MPs are to launch a major inquiry into school “productivity” to determine why the UK lags so far behind other countries in developing the skills its pupils need to take their place in the workforce.

Details of the inquiry were revealed by Neil Carmichael, the newly elected chair of the Commons Education Committee, in an interview with The Independent on Sunday.

CBI director-general John Cridland has complained that schools are operating too much like “exam factories”, failing to produce the “rounded and grounded” young people with the necessary self-confidence to succeed in the world of work. A CBI report published last year found that 61 per cent of 291 companies surveyed were concerned about the resilience and self-management skills of school leavers, while a third were concerned about their attitude to work. An overwhelming majority of firms (85 per cent) wanted primary schools to focus on literacy and numeracy, with around a third dissatisfied with these skills among school leavers.

Why are colleges being shut out of the academies agenda?

by The Guardian, July 17, 2015

Classified as General.

Everything is in place for The Sixth Form College, Solihull to become an academy. The college has made strong links with a local trust, gained support from governors and the backing of the Education Funding Agency. But government bureaucracy is stopping it from making any further progress. A legal technicality means that, unlike state and independent schools, further education institutions can’t join an existing academy trust.
If the rules aren’t changed, however, Solihull will not be the only college left frustrated. At the end of June, 68% of delegates at the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) summer conference voted in favour of exploring the possibility of gaining academy status. It’s not the first time the question has been put to principals, members were consulted on the issue in 2012 but the majority said no. Since then, however, cuts, competition and curriculum upheaval have made further education a much less hospitable sector.

On top of that, sixth-form colleges, unlike schools, have to pay VAT – which costs £335,000 a year on average – something that is being challenged by campaigners.

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the SFCA, says VAT is one of the reasons why the government has yet to reach a decision on whether sixth-form colleges can join trusts, as it would need to reimburse the VAT costs each year for those that convert. There has also been talk of the government needing to pay off the sector’s £126m of debt (in most circumstances 16-19 academies aren’t permitted to borrow money). However, this figure presumes that every sixth-form college wants to become an academy, which isn’t the case, and Paul Ashdown, principal of Solihull, says his college could convert without any debt, as its loans could be covered by reserves.

Caroline Lucas MP calls for compulsory PSHE lessons – weekly news review

by The Guardian, July 17, 2015

Classified as General.

The Green party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas, has called for the compulsory teaching of personal, social and health education (PSHE) in schools. Lucas made the case for this in a bill presented to parliament on Wednesday after prime minister’s questions. She tabled a similar bill in July 2014.
Sending your child to private school may be a poor investment, according to research published by investment advisers Killik & Co. They found that if school fees of £236,000 (paid by parents of day students) were invested, they would return nearly £800,000 over the course of a child’s lifetime. This could go towards university fees and a deposit for a house.
An error at Eton College meant that an email offering places at the elite school was accidentally sent to 400 applicants. The college will launch an internal investigation after the glitch, saying that the acceptance email had been intended for nine families. The error was discovered within minutes and each family immediately notified, the school said.

Nicky Morgan confronted over 'troubling' decline of the arts in schools

by The independant, July 16, 2015

Classified as General.

Arts leaders have confronted the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, about the “troubling” decline of art, music, drama and design education in schools – and said the sector should not be used to aid the Government’s “British values” citizenship agenda.

Ms Morgan said in a speech that claims that the Government did not value the arts were “nonsense” and argued that a cultural education was vital for “a child’s understanding of Britishness”.

But Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, the chief executive of The Place, a leading contemporary dance centre, told the conference that he was “mystified” by her remarks.

He said: “I am not sure I would have chosen Britishness as a fundamental reason why cultural education is important. For me it is what helps us to understand what it is to be fully human.”

What do you enjoy most about the end of term in school?

by The Guardian, July 16, 2015

Classified as General.

The holidays are in sight. But before students (and teachers) can flee the school for the long summer break, they can take pleasure in those last few weeks in school.

Traditionally, this is a time of quizzes, films, present-giving and thank-you cards – as well as an opportunity to do some last-minute admin and learning, of course. To capture what teachers love about the end of term, we’ve gathered their views:

1. Thank-you cards: concrete evidence that teaching spelling and grammar has paid off.

GCSE league tables out early to help parents choose school

by BBC News, July 16, 2015

Classified as General.

Secondary school league tables in England are going to be published earlier this year so parents can compare the most recent GCSE results when choosing schools.
At present, school league tables are published in January - after the application process has finished.
But from this year, the Department for Education will publish provisional GCSE results in mid-October.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said it would provide a more "informed choice".
The plans, announced by the Department for Education, will mean that parents looking at local secondary school places for the following autumn will have the most up-to-date exam results, at least in provisional form.
Rival league tables
At present, families may be shown individual school results from the most recent summer exams, but the official comparisons are based on results from the previous year.

Number of universities charging £9,000 a year is growing, says watchdog

by The independant, July 16, 2015

Classified as General.

The number of universities charging the maxim student fee of £9,000 a year is growing, according to a published report by the universities’ access watchdog.

The study by OFFA, the Office for Fair Admissions, shows the number has gone up from 130 to 139 in the past year - largely as a result of further education colleges running degree courses increasing their charges.
In all, 31 f.e colleges now charge the maximum for some of their courses - compared with just nine a year.

The number of universities charging the maxim for all their courses has also risen - up from 44 to 47 (roughly a quarter of all institutions). It means the average fee has risen from £8,716 to £8, 781 - only £219 short of the maximum.

However, the study which analyses access agreements struck by OFFA with institutions charging more than £6,000 for their courses, also reveals they are planning to invest £750.8 million on measures aimed at increasing the number of disadvantaged students going to university. Of this, £399 million be spent on financial support - including bursaries and fee waivers.

Universities agree to take more disadvantaged students

by BBC News, July 16, 2015

Classified as General.

Universities in England have agreed to take more students from disadvantaged homes, fair access watchdog Offa says.
Institutions have also agreed to spend £750m on outreach activities, bursaries and waiving fees for poorer youngsters.
Offa head Prof Les Ebdon said the new agreements with universities from 2016 would make a "lasting difference".
The government wants to double the rates of the most disadvantaged youngsters entering university by 2020.
Last week, the chancellor scrapped maintenance grants for students, converting them into repayable loans for those from families with low incomes.
Some interest groups fear this could have an effect on the number of students from poorer homes choosing to go to university.

Private education 'costs £286,000' on average

by BBC News, July 15, 2015

Classified as General.

The cost of putting a child through a 14-year private education in the UK stands at £286,000, research suggests.
It indicates average day school fees are now £13,194 per year and boarding fees cost an average of £30,369.
Private schooling from primary age to A-levels totals £286,000 for a day place and £468,000 for a boarder, the report from Killik and Co finds.
London remains the most expensive region, with an average day school place costing £15,500 per year.
The north of England and Scotland were the cheapest, at £10,400 and £10,700 respectively.
In a survey of 250 parents who privately educate their children, over a third (37.2%) said they saw private education as an "investment priority".

Eton College error offers 400 boys a conditional place

by BBC News, July 15, 2015

Classified as General.

Eton College has apologised after sending an email offering a conditional place to hundreds of pupils in error.
The elite college said it "deeply regrets" the system error which led to an email meant for just nine families being sent to a total of 400 recipients.
Those who wrongly received the conditional offer were hoping to attend the school from September 2017.
An internal review is now taking place.
Boys are offered conditional places to Eton College after they have passed an interview, aged 11.
They must then pass the Common Entrance exam in order to confirm their place.
'Regret the confusion'
A college spokesman said: "This error was discovered within minutes and each family was immediately contacted to notify them that it should be disregarded.
"We take this type of incident very seriously indeed so a thorough investigation, overseen by the head master Tony Little and led by the tutor for admissions, is being carried out to find out exactly what went wrong and to ensure it cannot happen again.

73-year-old pensioner graduates with 2:1 degree from Keele University in Staffordshire

by The independant, July 15, 2015

Classified as General.

After four years at university – which included sitting exams, a semester abroad in the US and a stint in student halls – a pensioner has finally graduated with a 2:1 degree.

73-year-old Gerry Watkin, from Nantwich in Cheshire, collected his certificate from Staffordshire’s Keele University following a “challenging six months.”

Speaking with The Sentinel, Mr Watkin described how his dissertation, essays and exams had cranked-up the pressure recently but that he “thoroughly enjoyed” studying for his degree in history and American studies.

Having left Wolstanton Grammar School in Staffordshire as a teen, Mr Watkin’s parents encouraged him to find work after his A-levels instead of pursuing his hopes of university – something, he said, he’d always resented.

He went on to work as a bank manager for 30 years, and as a football referee, before finally deciding to apply at Keele, beginning as a fresher in 2011.

'The assessment system is broken', says school head

by The Telegraph, July 15, 2015

Classified as General.

Exams do not measure the skills pupils require to function in society, a head teacher has said.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Peter Hyman, head teacher at School 21 and former head of communications at Downing Street, said the current assessment system was "completely broken".
He said: “I think we’ve got into a spiral of panic about standards. The result is a system nobody thinks is conducive to a decent education or getting most out of children or staff.”
Mr Hyman’s comments come at a time where GCSE and A-level reform is shifting the qualifications away from modular assessment towards more rigorous end of year examinations.

Make PSHE lessons compulsory, says Green Party MP

by BBC News, July 15, 2015

Classified as General.

Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) should be a statutory subject in all state schools in England, campaigners say.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas is reintroducing a bill in Parliament saying PSHE is a "crucial part" of children's education.
Ms Lucas previously tabled a bill for compulsory PSHE in July 2014.
Critics say the issues covered in these lessons are the responsibility of parents, not schools.
Currently the subject, which covers core issues relating to health and wellbeing, relationships and living in the wider world, is not statutory in England.
But the national curriculum says all schools should make provision for PSHE using high quality teaching resources.

Cost of private education nearing £1 million, study finds

by The Telegraph, July 15, 2015

Classified as General.

The cost for middle-class parents hoping to send their children to private school is set to near £1 million, as fees are the least affordable in recent memory, a new study has found.
The report says professional families “risk being priced out” of private schooling as it reveals fees have more than trebled since 1990.
The findings follow previous analysis that shows school fees at public schools are at their least affordable for the so-called squeezed middle for at least five decades.
The research took a hypothetical family with two or more children attending private schools and found that the cost for children starting school in 2013 and 2015 would run to £890,000 “if current trends persist”. This represents an increase from £831,000 calculated a year earlier.

Is general studies a waste of time?

by The Guardian (DataBlog), July 14, 2015

Classified as General.

Sitting in an exam hall and turning over the first page of a test is usually a daunting prospect. But on starting a paper last month, I felt nonchalant.

Question one asked us to compare two images of a kitchen and suggest why they were different – which drew snorts of laughter from students.

The exam was on general studies, an A-level which, according to exam board AQA, is designed to “broaden minds by encouraging students to develop their thinking skills, capacity to construct arguments and ability to draw conclusions”.

Some schools, including my sixth form, make general studies compulsory as a fifth A-level option. In principle, the subject seems worthwhile: helping students to leave school with a more well-rounded education. But in practice, it feels more like a crash course in how to be a functioning member of society – for dummies.

Department for Education rapped over use of Sats data

by The Guardian, July 14, 2015

Classified as General.

Does becoming an academy improve pupils’ Sats results? That is the implication of much of the debate coming from the Department for Education, as ministers seek to drive more primary schools, in particular, into academy status.

But is this argument statistically valid? Well, last week the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) cast serious doubt on it, in a judgment that suggests ministers may have to rethink how they present data on their flagship reform.

The development centres on a DfE statistical publication, released in December and seized on by ministers repeatedly in advocating more academies. This showed, correctly, that Sats results over 2012 to 2014 improved more quickly in sponsored academies – former local authority schools taken over by a sponsor – than in non-academies.

But sponsored academies generally take over schools with poor results, with perhaps more room for improvement than most non-academies, we thought. So was the DfE comparison fair?

Oxford University Visits Saint Paul’s

by ukeducationnews.co.uk, July 14, 2015

Classified as General.

Students from Oxford University recently visited Saint Paul’s Catholic High School in Wythenshawe to talk to their pupils. The students from Corpus Christi College, Oxford spoke to Saint Paul’s High Flyers about university life and what it could offer them. They discussed the social and financial aspects of university, what life at university actually involves and the unique advantages of Oxford University.

The purpose of the visit was to show pupils, from Years 7-10, the benefits of progressing to Higher Education, and especially Oxford University, from early on in their secondary education. The aim was to raise the aspirations and motivation of the pupils whilst at the same time allowing the pupils to gain a lot of information about university life.

“The aim of the visit was to raise aspirations and encourage our most able pupils to consider University as an option for their futures,” said Mrs Clare Hunt, Assistant Headteacher at Saint Paul’s. “It was an excellent opportunity for our pupils to get an insight into what life at university is like. The pupils were able to spend some time talking to the students and realised that, with some hard work and dedication, university could be a realistic future option for themselves.”

Poorest pupils 'should start school aged two'

by BBC News, July 13, 2015

Classified as General.

The poorest children should be taught in primary schools from the age of two, Ofsted's chief inspector has said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said school-based age-appropriate education could help them catch up with their more advantaged classmates.

Some 260,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education a week, but only 58% of these are taking this up.

Primary schools were best-placed to offer this education, Sir Michael said.

But currently they offer only a small percentage of the places.

In a speech in London, Sir Michael said: "Let me be clear: What the poorest children need is to be taught and well taught from the age of two.

"Children who are at risk of falling behind need particular help. And it remains my view that schools are often best placed to deliver this."

Earlier start

He said schools had more access to the kind of specialists they may need, such as speech and language therapists, behaviour management and parenting support.

And they would be able to track children's progress more readily.

"So put simply, we need to get more of the poorest children into primary schools earlier," he said.

Research suggests that such children tend to do worse at school than their more advantaged classmates.

Ministers launched a scheme to offer free early education to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds in England in 2013 as part of attempts to help them catch up.

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