Latest Educational News

Tackle pupil attainment gap in northern England, IPPR urges

by BBC News, May 23, 2016

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

Part-time postgraduate support in Wales scrapped

by BBC News, May 23, 2016

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

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

by TES Connect, May 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s high time institutions started articulating

by TES Connect, May 21, 2016

The term “articulation” – like much of the jargon in education – does little to set the heart racing. But behind the rather grey phrase hides something truly exciting to anyone with an interest in providing opportunities to Scotland’s young people and addressing the attainment gap.

By allowing college students with HND or HNC qualifications to enter university with credit for their college qualification, it connects different parts of the education system in a way few other schemes could.

Where it operates well, it allows young people who may never otherwise have considered a university career to follow that path by going straight into the second or even third year. Because of that, it is potentially the most successful widening access initiative around.

But it is more than that. When at its best, and there are already examples of this in Scotland (see the news focus on pages 16-18 of this week's TESS), articulation can become an ambition in itself.

Not only does articulation allow students to achieve a university degree in the four years we are so familiar with, it also gives them two years of high-quality vocational training with potentially much more practical experience than they would normally gain at university.

Especially in fields such as engineering or fashion – where hands-on experience will offer them a great advantage once they enter the world of work as graduates – this college-to-university route could become something for young people to aspire to in the same way that prestigious university routes have been for centuries.

Often, they will hear about this route while still in school.

Institutions have something to gain, too. For colleges, articulation can offer a clear progression route for many of their students, creating aspiration and ambition.

It may also, hopefully, help the way colleges are seen by the general public – not as somewhere for those who did not make it to university straight from school, but as an alternative that can lead to an equally successful career path.

Grassroots event will encourage teachers to take charge of primary assessment

by TES Connect, May 20, 2016

Hundreds to attend Sheffield conference that aims to give teachers the confidence to make assessment manageable
Teachers and headteachers have the power to make primary assessment work for them, delegates at a grassroots conference will hear tomorrow.

As many as 500 teachers and school leaders are expected to arrive at Sheffield Hallam University for the inaugural #LearningFirst event. It comes just a few weeks after the chaos surrounding the move to tougher Sats this year prompted unions to call for a total review of primary assessment.

There have also been growing concerns about the workload which comes with increased assessment and marking – and which is now seen as one of the main drivers of the teacher recruitment crisis.

'We can make things better'
But conference organiser Dame Alison Peacock, head of the Wroxham School, a primary in Potters Bar, Hertfordhire, said that she doesn't want to wait for politicans to act before things change in schools.

"We need to work within the landscape we have," she said. "To do something, rather than just railing against it and waiting for someone else to make changes. What can we do to make things better for ourselves?"

Teachers do not have time to learn about research evidence, studies find

by TES Connect, May 20, 2016

While educators understand the importance of using research to inform their teaching, they lack the time and support from senior leaders to put this into practice
Lack of time, insufficient interest and minimal support from senior leadership teams all stop teachers from implementing academic research in the classroom, new studies have found.

Two studies by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) looked at methods of encouraging teachers to implement research findings in schools.

The first study ran for a year in 10 primary schools in Rochdale, in the North West of England. It offered teachers CPD sessions, intended to help them develop a positive view of educational research, and understand the ways that these research findings might help them in the classroom.

However, at the end of the study, there was no evidence that teachers at participating schools were more likely to use research to inform their teaching than they had been before it began.

The EEF report, published today, concludes that there was "a decline in teachers’ perceptions that academic research is not useful to teaching". But, it continues: "Finding time for working collaboratively on implementing research evidence in practice was considered a challenge."

Time pressures
This was reinforced by the second EEF study, which ran for a year in five schools in Kent. A senior teacher at one school was designated a "research champion", and worked with senior leaders at the other schools to promote engagement with research evidence.

However, the report concludes: "There was no evidence that teachers’ attitudes towards research, or their use of research evidence in teaching practice, changed during the intervention."

Teachers said that they found events held to discuss the ways that research evidence could be incorporated into teaching practice valuable.

Falmouth University vice chancellor's £60K rise a 'disgrace'

by BBC News, May 20, 2016

An overall pay rise of nearly £60,000 for Falmouth University's vice-chancellor taking her wage close to £300,000 has angered staff.
Anne Carlisle's pay rise was one of the highest of all UK vice chancellors last year, a study for The Times Higher Education showed.
Lecturers said it was a "disgrace" as they fight a 1.1% pay offer.
But, university bosses said it was "a reflection of the continued growth and success of the university".
Ms Carlisle's overall pay, including performance-related pay and pensions contributions, rose by £57,391 to £285,900 in 2014-15, a 25.1% increase, the university confirmed.
'Double standards'
The average wage in Cornwall last year was £17,340, according to Cornwall Council.
Falmouth University has about 4,200 students and Ms Carlisle's rise means she earns more than the £271,000 paid to Sir Timothy O'Shea, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, which has 35,500 students, according to the study.

End-of-term students risk missing referendum vote

by BBC News, May 20, 2016

UK university students believe the EU referendum is key to their future, but almost two-thirds do not know when it is, suggests research.
And a third of more than 2,000 students questioned feared being unable to get to their polling station on the day.
The referendum, on 23 June, is outside term time, so many students will need to re-register at their home address, says the National Union of Students.
NUS vice-president Richard Brooks urged students "to think ahead".
Postal votes
"The EU referendum is a once-in-a-generation vote," said Mr Brooks.
"The decision made on the 23 June will impact young people and students the most, as they are the ones that will live with the consequences for the longest.
"If students don't want their future decided for them, it is essential that as many as possible get out and vote."
Mr Brooks urged students to think about where they would be on referendum day and to make sure they register or re-register at the right address.
"If they are unsure about where they will be, students can register at both their term-time and home address, providing they only vote once," he said.

Headteachers' leader backs 'creative' solutions to enable cheaper family holidays

by TES Connect, May 19, 2016

Primary lengthens school day to allow longer half-term breaks – and wins support from the NAHT
A headteachers’ leader has supported the idea of making the school day longer in order to give pupils more holiday – saying that schools need to take a creative approach to term times.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, backed Chiddingstone CofE primary school in Kent, which has lengthened its school day by 20 minutes to allow two extra weeks’ of holiday a year.

Back to first principles
Mr Hobby said: "I think it sounds like a really good idea and schools have to be a bit creative about how they schedule their terms across the year, going back to first principles seems a really good idea."

Since January 2016, all year groups at Chiddingstone have begun the day 10 minutes earlier, at 8.45am, and ended 10 minutes later, at 3.30pm.

Headteacher Rachel Streatfeild said: "In consultation with parents and in response to parental feedback, the school has restructured its academic year. It has added an additional week onto the October and May half-terms enabling some parents to take advantage of cheaper holidays.

"We have added 20 minutes on to each school day. In addition, we have also commuted all our Inset days and staff training into a series of twilight sessions during the academic year to free up days to enable longer holidays."

Why residential visits are vital in helping 'mollycoddled' children become independent

by TES Connect, May 19, 2016

A primary headteacher argues that it is beneficial for schools to keep running residential trips, despite the costs and external pressures
My first experience of a residential trip was as a Year 5 pupil in 1972, when 16 of us went to London for four days. I learned lots in that idyllic week; that if you are hungry, you eat what you are given; that it is almost impossible to run down a steep hill in Greenwich at full tilt without falling flat on your face; and that you don’t always get out on the same side of the train that you got in.

This year, I will clock up my 47th residential trip as I take our Year 4 pupils to the Isle of Wight for three days.

I have always been convinced of the value of residentials and I believe it is crucial that they remain part of the primary curriculum, regardless of budget constraints, fears of risk or looming tests.

'Out of their comfort zone'
Many children seem so mollycoddled these days that they rarely have the chance to do things on their own and, consequently, they can become stumped when in a situation that needs some decision-making or initiative.

The increased perceptions of danger in society have led to a lot less risk-taking, so taking children out of their comfort zone for a few days is no bad thing.

University lecturers aren't good enough at teaching, sixth form heads say

by TES Connect, May 19, 2016

Higher education institutions should 'seek help' from schools, survey finds
Nearly nine out of 10 (89 per cent) heads of sixth forms believe that universities should "seek help" from schools on teaching methods, the results of a new survey suggest.

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) said that teaching needed to be taken more seriously in the higher education sector.

The research was completed by Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, as part of a paper for the Social Market Foundation. The news comes as the government has announced new legislation to raise teaching standards in universities.

The Higher Education and Research Bill will lead to a Teaching Excellence Framework to improve the quality of teaching in universities.

Universities minister Jo Johnson has said that he wants to link the standard of teaching to university funding.

'No interest' in school curriculum
The move is likely to be supported by teachers, since the poll of 100 heads of sixth forms finds that two-thirds (66 per cent) believe universities have no interest in school curricula or teaching and learning methods.

Science and languages 'marginalised in primary schools'

by BBC News, May 19, 2016

Pupils are leaving primary school unprepared for the rigours of science and foreign languages at secondary level, Ofsted's chief inspector says.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said the focus on the "three Rs" had pushed other compulsory subjects "to the margins of the curriculum" in primary schools.
Science and languages had become the "poor relations" of the primary curriculum as a result, he said.
The government said more pupils were taking science and languages at GCSE.
Sir Michael said, in his monthly commentary, that the government wanted most pupils who started secondary school last September to take the full suite of English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects, including science and a foreign language, when they sat their GCSEs, in 2020.
The EBacc is a wrap-around qualification that requires candidates to obtain GCSEs in English, maths, history or geography, a foreign language and two sciences.

Science and languages are the 'poor relations' in primary schools, Wilshaw warns

by TES Connect, May 19, 2016

Head of Ofsted admits that his own inspectors' focus on English and maths is partly to blame for science and languages being 'marginalised'
Science and foreign languages have become the “poor relations” in the primary school curriculum due to an over-emphasis on teaching maths and English, Ofsted has warned.

In his monthly commentary, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw says too little time is allocated to the teaching of the two subjects, which have become “marginalised”.

Sir Michael also admits that the watchdog’s own inspectors have added to the focus on numeracy and literacy.

While Sir Michael praises the performance of primary schools across the country, particularly for their achievements in national tests, he warns that heads must offer a broad curriculum to their pupils.

“There is little doubt that the main factor driving this success has been the strong emphasis on improving the basic knowledge and skills of primary school pupils in reading, writing and numeracy,” he writes.

“However, a number of recent studies have suggested that this focus on the so-called ‘3 Rs’ has pushed other compulsory subjects, notably modern foreign languages and science, to the margins of the curriculum in many primary schools.”

Gibb pledges to act over term-time holidays

by BBC News, May 19, 2016

The schools minister has pledged to take all "measures necessary" to overturn the High Court ruling which casts doubt on the term-time holidays.
Nick Gibb says he wants to give schools and councils in England "the power and clarity to ensure children attend school when they should".
The court ruled a man was entitled to take his child out of school on holiday due to her good attendance record.
Mr Gibb was responding to an urgent question in the Commons from a Tory MP.
Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: "Only 8% of school absenteeism is down to family holidays, and when you look at the attainment of those children, there is no drop-off on attainment.
"Family holidays are good for children, they widen their knowledge of their world, they widen their experiences, and the children of families who take them on holiday often perform better as a result."

iPads in the classroom - transforming education or unnecessary distraction?

by Belfast Telegraph, May 19, 2016

A growing number of schools across Northern Ireland are using iPads or other tablets in the classroom, but their use is dividing opinion among parents and teachers, writes Dr Liz Fawcett.

For the past eight months, my teenage son has been required to use an iPad for some schoolwork and much of his homework. And it seems he's not the only one; tablets are now commonplace in schools and some schools are starting to insist all pupils have one.

But there's been little debate about this new development. And that's why the ATL teaching union commissioned a major survey on tablets in the classroom.

A total of 376 parents and teachers from across Northern Ireland responded and there was a clear consensus on a number of issues.

Most (78%) believed tablets do have at least some educational value in the classroom, but there was widespread concern about certain significant potential drawbacks.

Some 82% of respondents were worried about the 'distraction factor' if pupils were expected to use tablets for homework; will children diligently do their homework when they can check messages or play games on the same devices?

US and UK have the world’s strongest higher education systems, say QS rankings

by The Independent, May 18, 2016

America and the UK have the world’s strongest higher education systems as Continenal Europe catches up in this year’s Higher Education System Strength (HESS) rankings.

Three of the world’s top ten are Asian - China, South Korea, and Japan - as European countries emerge as the most-featured than any other continent, with 22 of its nations providing a top-50 university.

US and UK have the world’s strongest higher education systems, say QS rankings | Study Abroad | Student | The Independent

Pupils confused by 'business studies question' in biology GCSE

by TES Connect, May 18, 2016

Teenagers take to social media to complain about the AQA GCSE biology paper
Pupils sitting a GCSE exam were baffled when they found what appeared to be a business studies question in a biology paper.

A question in the AQA biology exam reportedly asked pupils to define an "independent company", prompting streams of children to complain about the paper on social media.

There were more than 100,000 tweets about the exam within hours of the paper being taken, but the exam board has denied there was any mistake.

The candidates' dismay comes after 25,000 people signed a petition claming that the Scottish N5 maths exam – equivalent to GCSE – was "unusually" hard and calling for the pass mark to be lowered.

Poverty in our primaries in 2016: daily we feed and clothe pupils and work relentlessly to help them learn

by TES Connect, May 18, 2016

Our schools are faced with cases of abuse, complex special needs, emotional and behavioural problems, low baseline entry and low self-esteem. The fault lies squarely with poverty. And it’s only getting worse, writes one celebrated primary head
It truly is a sobering thought that in the year 2106, according to the Child Poverty Action Group, we have more than 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK. Translated to an "average" class, this means 28 per cent of pupils – or nine in a class of 30 – are living in poverty. We all know we do not live in an "average" country, which means this proportion is higher in certain schools and lower in others.

Indeed, some areas approach the 100 per cent mark. This can and does impose an enormous burden on some schools and some teachers.

Every day, schools up and down the country attempt, very successfully, to support childen with the plethora of issues which are hidden behind such figures, but, nonetheless, can anyone call this an acceptable situation?

In the summer of 2000 there was an article entitled "A vision of riches" which appeared in TES. It was based around the issues faced at the school where I was the headteacher, and still am. This was a school in the bottom 10 per cent of deprivation in the country. Upon rereading this article recently, as well as realising I hadn't aged as well as I had thought, I was shocked by the similarity in data over that time span.

Complaints over 'cruel' maths paper swamp social media - but one maths teacher says it's just students ranting

by TES Connect, May 18, 2016

A-level students have taken to social media to express their outrage over the "torture” of a difficult mental-arithmetic paper. But a maths teacher insists that only a couple of the questions were difficult.
Even if students left out those questions altogether, he added, they would still be able to achieve an A or B grade.

Students took to social media to complain that the Edexcel C1 maths paper required them to multiply complex fractions in their heads. The questions did not include any whole numbers, which are quicker and easier to multiply and divide without a calculator.

Queen's speech: government confirms raft of reforms in a new education Bill

by TES Connect, May 18, 2016

The Queen sets out her government’s basic plan to turn every school in England into an academy, in a speech short on details about education policy
The government will publish a new education Bill that will contain new laws to force all schools in a local authority to convert to academy status if the council fails to meet a “minimum performance threshold”.

TES understands the new Bill, entitled Education for All, is not expected to be published until the autumn, and will also contain plans to allow local authorities to apply to have their remaining schools converted to academy status if they have reached a “critical mass”.

The Bill will also legislate to ensure “all schools are funded fairly”, aiming to redress “historical unfairness” in school funding by introducing a long-awaited national funding formula.

The new formula will ensure that money is allocated to schools “fairly and efficiently”.

The Bill will also place a responsibility on schools when it comes to the next educational steps of excluded pupils.

In addition, the Queen’s speech set out proposals to put the National Citizens Service on a “permanent statutory footing” – and all schools will be forced to promote it.