Latest Educational News

Ofsted annual report: Primary emphasis on spelling and grammar risks narrowing the curriculum

by TES, December 1, 2016

Report also warns that secondary heads do not realise that the primary curriculum has changed and still think that pupils' progress is measured in levels
The emphasis on reading, writing, spelling and grammar at primary school risks narrowing the curriculum, today's Ofsted annual report states.

This means that subjects such as science and modern foreign languages can suffer as a result.

The report says: “The underlying importance of literacy means that reading, writing, spelling and grammar remain of the utmost importance in the primary curriculum.

“However, this clear emphasis, which has been embraced successfully by the vast majority of primary schools, can create a risk that the curriculum becomes narrowed.”

Nous n'avons pas de temps

Evidence from inspections shows that science and foreign languages end up suffering, because not enough time is available for in-depth study, the report stated.

Foreign languages were particularly affected. None of the primary schools inspected this year spent more than two hours a week on language study. The majority – more than two thirds – spent less than an hour on foreign languages.

Four in 10 teachers said that time pressure was one of the biggest barriers to effective language teaching in primary schools.

And, in a quarter of primaries, inspectors felt that pupils were not well-prepared for continued study of a foreign language after they left.

Muslim families sending children to Catholic schools

by BBC News, December 1, 2016

More than 26,000 Muslim pupils are enrolled in Catholic schools in England and Wales.
For the first time an annual census of Catholic schools has collected information on the number of pupils from other religions.
The biggest group of non-Catholic pupils are from other Christian denominations - but almost a tenth are from Muslim families.
The government has plans to encourage more Catholic free schools to open.
This analysis shows that, overall, nearly a third of the more than 850,000 pupils within the Catholic school system are not Catholic - a total of almost 290,000.
Changing populations
This can reflect local demographic changes and migration - with Catholic schools serving areas with a declining number of Catholic families.
The Muslim pupils are the biggest non-Christian group, apart from the 63,000 who are from non-religious families.

School performance link to Brexit vote, says Ofsted boss

by BBC News, December 1, 2016

The failure to improve schools in some parts of England has contributed to the feeling of being ignored revealed in the Brexit vote, the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.
The Ofsted boss said while standards were rising overall, the number of poorly performing schools in the north and the East Midlands would continue to fuel the sense of a divided nation.
He said the situation was very serious.
Sir Michael publishes his final annual report as chief inspector on Thursday.
In an interview with the BBC in Manchester, he said the economic future of the north of England relied on addressing the poor performance of some schools.
Sir Michael said the European Union referendum result had revealed a wider malaise, with communities feeling their needs were being ignored.
He said parents in Manchester, Liverpool and many towns in the North of England had less of a chance of seeing their children get a good job or go on to university than those in London.

Is the government finally moving away from data as the only way to judge school performance?

by TES, November 30, 2016

Ministers’ over-dependence on annual test results has taken its toll on a generation of heads – and those put off headship because of it – but there are refreshing signs that this could be changing
Within Justine Greening’s recent announcement on assessment there was a very interesting line that has gone somewhat under the radar:

"Because of the changes to primary assessment, I want to be clear that no decisions on intervention will be made on the basis of the 2016 data alone. Regional schools commissioners and local authorities will work together with the current leaders of the small minority of primary schools below the floor or coasting to help and support the schools to move forward in a positive direction.”

The fact that intervention cannot be based on 2016 data alone is a welcome and tacit admission that the results from last year cannot be relied upon to give an accurate picture of school performance. Whilst this will come as no surprise to those working in our primary schools, it is positive to see it being acknowledged by the government. However, the really interesting phrase is: ‘will work together with the current leaders’. If the education secretary’s words are to be taken at face value, this might just be the first steps towards a significant and welcome shift from a policy of heavy-handed intervention to one of genuine support for schools that are struggling.

New money for school improvement, following £600m cut

by TES, November 30, 2016

Heads say money must be distributed fairly
The government has announced £190 million for school improvement work, which will come into effect as it cuts the £600 million education services grant (ESG).

Education secretary, Justine Greening, this afternoon said £50 million would, from September 2017, help local authorities monitor and commission school improvement for low-performing maintained schools.

The money also includes a further £140 million ‘strategic school improvement fund’ targeted at maintained schools and academies “most in need of support" to "drive up standards, use their resources most effectively, and deliver more good school places”.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was transitional funding as the government moves towards an all-academy system where school leaders, working together were responsible for school improvement, rather than councils.

He called for discussions with the Department for Education to ensure the £140 million was distributed fairly, without placing burdens on schools.

He told TES: “The key thing is to ensure that support is targeted where support is most needed. There is going to have to be a very sophisticated process to identify where the need is greatest.

“We would be very concerned if a bidding process was involved, because writing bids takes time away from the teaching and learning in the school, and these contracts tend to be awarded on the basis of the bid, so it’s the quality of the bid rather than the need.”

Ms Greening also said the Education Endowment Foundation had committed to spend a further £20 million over the next two years to build up and disseminate “evidence-based programmes and approaches”.

She said: “I want this investment to not only transform outcomes for children by improving schools, but also to make sure our school-led system learns from that work. That is why the EEF has a key role to play in this project.

“It’s vital that we now pull these two aspects together to get the maximum impact for children and schools.”

Academisation to reach a 'tipping point' by 2022

by TES, November 30, 2016

Schools minister Lord Nash predicts that in five or six years time academisation will start to become the only viable approach - but he supports a 'mixed economy' of academies and local authority schools for now
Facing MPs at the education select committee today, Lord Nash also predicted the possibility of massive multi-academy trusts in the next couple of decades, running hundreds of schools across large swathes of the country.

Here’s what we learned from the session:

1. The rise of massive MATs

Asked whether MATs could emerge in the future resembling local authorities in their size, Lord Nash said it was possible that “in 20 years time we could have a MAT with hundreds of schools in it”.

That would be a big step-up for the biggest players currently in the system. At the moment the largest academy chain in the country, Academies Enterprise Trust, has 67 schools under its control.

The minister said a MAT running hundreds of schools by the 2030s was “unlikely’, but “it could be done”.

2. "Mixed economy" of academies and local authority schools in short term…

Lord Nash said that following its decision to scrap the Education for All Bill, which would have forced schools to become academies in ‘underperforming local authorities’, the government had “settled in a very good place” on academisation.

He admitted that the government had sent out some “mixed messages” on the issue, but said it would now be pursuing a “consensual approach apart from those schools which are inadequate”.

The minister said we would have a “mixed economy” of academies and local authority maintained schools for the next few years.

Primaries are now becoming academies faster than secondaries

by TES, November 30, 2016

A new report finds stark variations in the number of academies in different regions – and discovers where underperforming schools are most likely to be converted
For the first time, primary schools are becoming academies at a faster rate than secondary schools.

But ministers are unlikely to celebrate this as evidence of growing popularity of their flagship policy among primaries, as the conversion rate in both phases slowed over the last year.

That is one of the main findings of a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research, published today.

The study, ‘A tale of eight regions’, examines how school structures have changed in the different areas covered by regional schools commissioners (RSCs) – the powerful civil servants who oversee academies, and, increasingly, non-academies, in their patch.

Here are six key findings:

Academy growth in the primary sector now exceeds the secondary sector
This year was the first time this has happened since the coalition government put "rocket boosters" under the academy programme in 2010. However, it is not because the rate of academisation among primary schools is increasing – it just declined slower than that of secondary schools.
Growth in the secondary sector was 8.4 per cent in 2013 but now stands at 2.9 per cent in 2016. This compares to the primary sector, where growth has fallen from 4.4 per cent in 2013 to 3.7 per cent now.

Low-attaining teenagers 'make more spelling mistakes than 30 years ago'

by TES, November 30, 2016

Students of all abilities are now using less complex sentence structures than in 1980, new research shows
Lower-attaining GCSE pupils are making more spelling errors and using fewer semi-colons than similar students more than 30 years ago, a new study shows.

And teachers focusing on pupils on the C/D borderline and above at the age of 16 may have led to the weakest writers not getting the support they need, an academic has suggested.

Research by exam group Cambridge Assessment, which looks at how writing in exams has changed since 1980, found that correct spelling and the use of semicolons had declined among low-attaining GCSE English students by 2014.

The report concludes: "The advent of electronic media for much everyday writing, with its concomitant reliance on automatic checking and correction against conventions of writing, makes the world of the 16-year old in 2014 very different from their counterparts in 1980."

Today's study also shows that:

• Students of all abilities are using less complex sentence structures;

• There is a marked increase in the use of simple sentences among higher-attaining students;

• Students at most levels of attainment are using more paragraphs than their predecessors.

Young women 'shut out of jobs market' by lack of support

by BBC News, November 30, 2016

Glynn, now 26, got pregnant at 16, and left school with very poor GCSEs.
It was a struggle to get work with a small baby in tow, and a bricklaying apprenticeship ended after three months, due to workplace bullying.
Glynn's story is typical of more than a quarter of a million young women who need more support to find work, according to the Young Women's Trust.
Being shut out of the workforce leads to isolation and depression for too many young women, says YWT in a report.
The latest official figures show 285,000 young women are currently classed as economically inactive (not working and not looking for work), and are also not in employment, education or training.
That is 82,000 more than the figure for young men.
Of these young women, almost a third would take jobs if they could and 86% want to work in the future, suggests the study.
But they face obstacles, such as unaffordable childcare and an expectation among some families that good mothers should stay at home with their children.
And for other young women who are not mothers, caring responsibilities for younger siblings or sick relatives can make paid work impossible.

Thousands of children 'missing' from education

by BBC News, November 30, 2016

More than 30,000 children were missing from schools in England and Wales for substantial periods of time in the 2014-15 academic year, local education authority figures show.
Of these, almost 4,000 children could not be traced by the authorities.
The National Children's Bureau said some may be at "serious risk" of abuse and exploitation, including forced marriage, FGM and radicalisation.
The Department for Education said it had issued "new guidance" to schools.
Ofsted has previously raised concerns that some missing children could be hidden away in unregistered, illegal schools.
'Vulnerable children'
The figures, obtained by the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, show that 33,262 school-aged children were recorded as missing from education in the academic year ending in July 2015. They were collated from a Freedom of Information request to 90 local education authorities in England and Wales.
Children were recorded as "missing from education" if they were of compulsory school age, and the authorities were unable to trace them - typically for four weeks or more, or two to three days in the case of vulnerable children.

Timss: England's pupils do less homework and seven other things we learned from today's study

by TES, November 29, 2016

International tables show how England compares to other countries across many areas of education, including bullying, pupil confidence and how much they like their teachers.
Results from the latest Trends in International Science and Mathematics Study (Timss) published this morning show that Year 5 and Year 9 pupils in England have boosted their scores in maths and science.

However improved results in other countries mean that despite higher scores England slipped slightly in the maths rankings from 9th to 10th place at the primary level and 10th to 11th place in secondary.

In science, 10-year-olds stayed in 15th place and 14-year-olds rose one place to come 8th.

But there is a wealth of other information behind the headline rankings about the experiences of students, teachers and headteachers in England and the 57 other countries that took part.

Here are eight key points from Timss today:

Just 1 per cent of 14 year-old pupils in England spend three hours or more a week on maths homework, less than any other participating country, and 73 per cent say they spend less than 45 minutes a week on homework for the subject. On average, across Timss around 15 per cent of teens spend more than three hours a week on maths homework, but in Russia this rose to 43 per cent.

The gender gap is closing. Timss looked at the 16 countries where 14-year-olds took part in Timss in both 1995 and 2015. Boys outperformed girls in 15 countries in science in 1995 but by 2015, this had dropped to just three countries. In the other 13 countries boys and girls were equal.

'In the new GCSE grading system, schools will once again teach to specific boundaries and lower-ability students will be ignored'

by TES, November 29, 2016

Despite the government introducing a new GCSE grading system, the old problems will remain, one headteacher argues.
Change can often be a force for good. However, too much change causes fatigue, uncertainty and destabilisation ─ and for a long time now, the education world has been in a perpetual state of change.

Change management has always been part of a headteacher’s job, but I am increasingly finding that I am expected to manage changes that I am at odds with.

My latest concern is the new GCSE 1-9 grading system, which we are all learning about bit by bit. Here are just some of the things we now know:

Grade 5 will be the magic number needed for entry to many jobs or further education courses. Grade 5 is broadly equivalent to a top C or a low B, which means that the bar has been raised.
Roughly the same percentage of students will gain grades 4-9 that in previous years have gained A*-C. Yet, the reporting measure will be 5-9.
Grade 9 passes are going to be as rare as hen’s teeth, with possibly only 2 or 3 per cent nationally.
The grade 6 to 7 boundary will be important in terms of points awarded for Progress 8.
Further education colleges are saying that they will accept outcomes between grades 4-6, depending on national outcomes and the specific subject applied for.

‘We need to ensure pupils are ready for the digital world – it’s essential for the future of the country’

by TES, November 29, 2016

Teachers appreciate that they have to make sure their pupils grasp computational thinking. Now we need to help them to make it happen
Young people today are growing up surrounded by tech, and it’s vital that business and education work together to give teachers the support they need to get their pupils truly tech-literate.

Too few young people know how tech actually works, or the role it plays in their lives. That matters in a digital era when tech will underpin their personal and professional prospects. And it’s why we need to build a culture of tech literacy.

Primary school teachers are crucial to that effort, shaping children’s attitudes, aspirations and abilities from an early age. BT, where I work, yesterday published a new study with Ipsos MORI looking at what teachers need to make tech literacy a new cornerstone of modern education in primary schools.

The findings give cause for optimism. Teachers believe tech literacy is vitally important to their pupils’ futures, and feel increasingly confident with what’s required of them by the computing curriculum. However, the study also shows that the education system and the private sector have more work to do – because many teachers don’t feel prepared to equip their pupils for a digital world, and can struggle with the computational thinking concepts that underpin so much of young people’s personal and working lives.

Teachers firmly believe that tech literacy is critical to pupils’ future prospects. Some 78 per cent think it’s as important as reading and writing, and 96 per cent believe all careers will involve tech. There have also been positive developments with teachers' understanding of the computing curriculum, which was introduced in England in 2014. According to a TES and Nesta study from 2014, only 33 per cent of English primary school teachers felt confident with the curriculum. Our study shows that now 81 per cent are.

Timss: England slips in global maths rankings as Asia excels

by TES, November 29, 2016

England holds steady in science but East Asia continues to dominate with Singapore sweeping the board as the world's top-ranked schools system, according to Timss
England has slipped down an international league table based on the performance of primary and secondary pupils in maths, results published this morning reveal.

The Timss (Trends in International Maths and Science Study) shows that England’s maths scores in tests taken by 10 and 14-year-olds rose in 2015, compared with the previous study in 2011.

However, improved performances from other countries meant that England's 10-year-olds slipped from ninth to 10th place, while secondary pupils slipped from 10th to 11th.

In science, England’s scores also improved, and 10-year-olds remained at 15th place in the table while 14-year-olds moved up one place to eighth.

East Asia once again dominated the top places in rankings, compiled from the test results from 580,000 pupils. Singapore came first in both subjects, at both age groups.

Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan took the next four places in maths for both age groups; leaving the same group of five Asian systems at the top of the table as in 2011.

The gap between performance in these countries and the rest of the world is such that teenagers in Japan, which took fifth place in maths, are around a year and a half ahead of the next highest performing country, Russia.

The same five East Asian systems were all in the top six places for science. Russia came fourth in science for 10-year-olds and seventh for 14-year-olds; while Slovenia’s 14-year-olds came fifth.

In the two decades that Timss has been running, more countries have seen scores rise than fall.

Many teenagers 'neglected by disinterested parents'

by BBC News, November 29, 2016

Tens of thousands of teenagers are being neglected by parents who do not check up on them or offer enough support, a charity says.
The Children's Society says as many as three pupils in every GCSE classroom in England could be experiencing neglect.
It says a lack of parental interest can lead teenagers to act more waywardly, by getting very drunk for example.
Teenagers need as much care as younger children, it says, adding that many parents do not see it that way.
The charity commissioned researchers from the University of York to investigate teenagers' experience by surveying a representative group of 2,000 12- to 15-year-olds.

Singapore tops global education rankings

by BBC News, November 29, 2016

Singapore has the highest-achieving primary and secondary pupils in international education tests in maths and science.
But primary school pupils in Northern Ireland were ranked sixth at maths, the highest of any in Europe.
England's performance has not advanced since tests four years ago.
The top places in these rankings are dominated by East Asian countries, such as South Korea and Japan, which are pulling away from their competitors.
These international rankings - Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) - are published every four years, based on tests taken by more than 600,000 students, aged nine to 10 and 13 to 14 in 57 countries.
International competition has been a major focus for changes to England's school system - and researchers say the "most surprising feature of England's 2015 results is how little they've changed since 2011".
"The period between 2011 and 2015, under Michael Gove, saw major changes to school structures, the curriculum, teacher training, and assessment, and so one might have expected to see some impact from these changes," said Ben Durbin at the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Heads call for law change to boost funding for disadvantaged pupils

by TES, November 28, 2016

Headteachers have called on MPs to pass legislation which would boost the amount of funding schools get for disadvantaged pupils.
The NAHT headteachers' union wants politicians to accept an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would allow local councils to share the benefit data they hold with schools.

The change would mean eligible children would be automatically enrolled to receive free school meals – boosting the pupil premium funding which schools receive for such children as a result.

Currently, parents have to apply to their local authority to get the meals for their child.

However, Labour MP Louise Haigh has tabled an amendment which explicitly sets out that councils can share with schools the data they hold on the names of pupils living in households claiming council tax benefit, housing benefit, and other local authority administered welfare.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the NAHT, said the amendment had the potential to improve the uptake of free school meals.

“We know that not all children who are eligible for free school meals claim them,” he said.

“The government can change that by accepting this amendment today.”

Mr Hobby said that as well as ensuring more children got the free meals they are entitled to, the amendment would increase the funding schools receive through the pupil premium.

“At a time when school budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point, and an autumn statement delivers nothing beyond the government’s project of grammar schools, this change could deliver much needed support and money for children and schools,” he said.

Exclusive: Infant schools three times as likely as juniors to get top Ofsted rating

by TES, November 28, 2016

Huge disparity in Ofsted grades between junior and infant schools blamed on manipulation of test results
Infant schools are almost three times more likely to have received an “outstanding” grade from Ofsted than junior schools, a TES analysis shows.

The stark divide has raised questions about perverse incentives for schools to inflate or suppress the test results of different age groups.

Some headteachers believe that overly generous teacher assessments for seven-year-olds help infant schools to get better Ofsted grades, at the expense of junior schools who then find it harder to show that pupils have made enough progress.

One junior school head, who wished to remain anonymous, told TES: “It becomes almost impossible for a junior school to show [the required] level of progress, because of the high level of attainment that children are coming in with.”

A TES analysis of the underlying data for Ofsted verdicts up to the end of September showed that 37 per cent of infant schools were judged “outstanding”, compared with just 13 per cent of junior schools.

Free school meals plan will help more pupils, heads say

by BBC News, November 28, 2016

Head teachers are urging MPs to back a plan to ensure all children from poorer homes are automatically registered for free school meals.
Parents often fail to apply for the meals for older pupils, says the National Association of Head Teachers.
The NAHT wants MPs to add a clause on auto-registration to a bill being debated on Monday.
Ministers said they did not believe that the proposed amendment was necessary "at this stage".
But NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said it would ensure "more children get the support they are entitled to".
Until 2014 families had to apply for their children to have free school meals, which were open only to the most disadvantaged groups.
That year, the coalition government introduced universal free school meals for all children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

Independent School of the Year

by The Times, November 27, 2016

It is time to shine for the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, where a haul of top exam grades this summer has boosted its Parent Power league table ranking to third place – the school’s highest position yet – and scooped our Sunday Times Independent School of the Year award.

Habs’ Boys’ take A* and A grades in their stride. At A-level, only 1.5% of grades were lower than a B this year. GCSE results were extraordinary, too, with 94% A*/As. Headmaster Peter Hamilton is understandably proud that his boys have edged ahead of the high-performing school pack.

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