Latest Educational News

Parents should be demanding, but not too demanding, study says

by TES Connect, May 20, 2015

Overly demanding parents may be discouraging their children from achieving at school, new research has found.

The attitude of a family towards academic achievement affects how well children perform in school even more strongly than how wealthy they are, the researchers conclude.

Academics from Wayne State University, in the US state of Michigan, point out that previous research has shown that “parental involvement may mediate the effects of poverty, parents’ educational attainment and race on achievement”.

They therefore questioned 146 sets of teenagers and parents to find out how parents’ attitudes – and children’s perceptions of their parents’ attitudes – affected their schoolwork.

Parental attitude was found to predict children’s academic achievement. “The parent’s attitude towards achievement may be viewed as a necessary emotional support system, needed in order for their child to complete college,” the researchers wrote, in a paper delivered to the American Educational Research Association conference, held recently in Chicago.

They found that a range of factors affected how demanding parents were of their children. For example, parents over the age of 50 were notably less demanding of their children than parents of any other age group. Perhaps, the academics suggested, older parents take “a more relaxed approach to parenting, due to possibly having raised children previously”.

Alternatively, they added: “It may be due to a type of wisdom that learning…itself is more important than…a particular grade.”

Can you do the maths puzzle for Vietnamese eight-year-olds that has stumped parents and teachers?

by The Guardian, May 20, 2015

Classified as General.

The latest brain-mangling maths puzzle to hit the news is from Vietnam.

It’s posted above. You need to fill in the gaps with the digits from 1 to 9 so that the equation makes sense, following the order of operations - multiply first, then division, addition and subtraction last.

According to the VN Express, it was set as a problem for third graders in the town of Bao Loc in the Vietnamese highlands.

That’s eight year olds!

There is no complicated maths involved, only basic arithmetic. But it’s not a walk in the park.

“This problem is difficult even for adults good at math, so it will be difficult for students in grades 3, and even more challenging for students in the highlands,” teacher Tran Phuong told VN Express. (Via Google Translate).

He added: “I sent the problem for some people, including a doctorate in economics with mathematics, but they have not given the answer.”

Vietnam does very well in the international PISA tables that compare 15-year-olds’ performance in maths, science and reading. Vietnam ranks 17 in maths and 8 in science, which outperforms many Western countries like the UK (26 and 20) and US (36 and 28).

Girls like digital media while boys prefer print, finds study on reading habits

by The Guardian, May 20, 2015

Classified as General.

Girls have more firmly embraced digital literacy and formats such as Facebook, email and text message, while boys are more comfortable with traditional printed media such as comics, manuals and newspapers, according to a study published by the National Literacy Trust.

The snapshot – based on responses from 32,000 pupils at more than 130 schools in the UK – found that girls continue to outpace boys in their enthusiasm for reading outside school at all age levels, with black girls in particular showing a prodigious appetite for literature.

Girls studying for GCSEs, for example, were more likely to read emails and social network sites than boys of the same age – and were also more likely to read fiction, suggesting that the growth of digital media has not diminished the popularity of literature.

Boys studying for GCSEs were more likely than girls to read print products such as comics, with 38% saying they read newspapers at least once a month compared with 30% of girls of the same age.

Overall, boys reported lower levels of enjoyment from reading than their female peers, according to the figures compiled by the trust. Boys also tended to read less often and think less positively about reading than girls did.

White boys appeared to be the least enthusiastic readers, with nearly one in six saying they had not read a book of any type in the previous month, while only one out of 20 black girls were in the same position.

In contrast, 16% of black girls said they had read at least 10 books or more during the previous month, the highest reported figure among all ethnic groups of the children who responded.

The trust said parents needed to be told how important their engagement is for a child’s development, after nearly one pupil in four agreed with the statement: “My parents don’t care if I spend any time reading.”

'Confusion' over childcare voucher changes

by BBC News, May 20, 2015

Classified as General.

Families may be left "confused" by changes in the system of childcare support taking place later in the year, a charity has warned.

Some 450,000 families in the UK claim support through the workplace voucher system.

These vouchers can be bought by parents from their salary before tax is deducted, but will be replaced in the autumn by new top-up payments.

The Family and Daycare Trust said families had big decisions to make.

Changes

At present, the Employer Supported Childcare scheme allows working parents, who are not self-employed, to claim support to pay for registered childminders.

The vouchers, worth up to £243 a month, can be bought by each parent from their salary before tax. For basic rate taxpayers, this can mean an annual saving of £930.

In the autumn, the scheme will be replaced with a new "top-up" payment, where working families will be able to claim government support worth 20p for every £1 they spend on childcare.

It will be available for single parents with a salary of up to £150,000 or couples with a combined salary of up to £300,000, including self-employed people. However, families where one parent stays at home will not be eligible.

The new Tax-Free Childcare scheme will operate alongside the existing Working Tax Credits, aimed at the lowest-income households, while the voucher scheme will close to new entrants and be slowly wound down.

More pupils 'reading for pleasure'

by BBC News, May 20, 2015

Classified as General.

Increasing numbers of UK schoolchildren are choosing to read in their spare time, with six in 10 having a favourite work of fiction, research suggests.

The National Literacy Trust questioned some 32,000 pupils aged eight to 18.

Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid was the most mentioned favourite work of fiction, followed by The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Children's laureate Malorie Blackman said she was "delighted" more children were enjoying the pleasures of reading.

Enjoyment and frequency of reading are both at their highest levels for nine years, the survey suggests.

◾40.2% thought reading was cool
◾23.2% thought reading was not cool
◾54.4% enjoyed reading "very much" or "quite a lot"
◾35.5% enjoyed reading "a bit"
◾10% did not enjoy reading at all

Foreign students 'boost economy by £2.3bn'

by BBC News, May 19, 2015

Classified as General.

International students coming to London contribute £2.3bn towards the economy, according to a report.

They say migration targets should be reclassified and students should have visitor status and be able to work after graduating.

The Home office says all immigrants in the UK affect communities, housing and public services and should be included in net migration figures.

But the report argues international students are made to feel "unwelcome".

Contribution

The research was commissioned by London First, an organisation representing businesses in London and the accountancy firm PwC.

Students who responded to the study came from about 70 countries and attended 10 of the 39 higher education institutions in London.

As well as contributing to the economy, the study says, international students "support nearly 70,000 jobs" because of the money they spend in the city.

But, a vast majority of the students said it was difficult for them to secure work after they had finished their courses because of the complex immigration system.

Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First said: "International students are made to feel unwelcome because of the anti-immigration rhetoric," and because they are included in the government's net migration targets.

"Students' expenditure here is a modern-day export: they pay substantial fees and contribute significantly to consumer spending."

Nicky Morgan: Academies are a ‘better kind’ of school than local authority ones

by Schools Week, May 18, 2015

Classified as General.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show this morning, education secretary Nicky Morgan agreed that academies are a ‘better kind’ of school than those overseen by local authorities.

Ms Morgan appeared on the show to reval planned government powers for firing headteachers and forcing ‘coasting’ schools – described as those with poor levels of progress – to become academies.

An education bill granting these powers will be outlined in the upcoming Queen’s Speech.

Describing the plans, Ms Morgan said that schools rated as requires improvement by Ofsted, and which could not show a credible plan for improvement, would face intervention. This could include the replacement of headteachers.

“We will look at the academy model, too” she said.

Asked if she believed that academies were a “better kind” of school than those overseen by local authorities, Ms Morgan said: “I do.”

She added: “We can see in the results that students do better in academies, both at key stage 2 – at the end of primary school – and GCSEs.

“I think the best people to run schools are the heads, and the teachers, and the governors.”

The education secretary would not be drawn on her preferred number of academy conversions, saying instead that she had “no targets”.

“I am interested in what works. I want people to make this decision themselves,” she said.

Flags designed by primary school pupils fly in Parliament Square

by Schools Week, May 18, 2015

Classified as General.

Flags designed by 79 primary school children to represent their local communities are flying in Westminster in the week that the new 2015 parliament meets.

Created by pupils in over 450 primary schools from across the UK, the 2015 Flag Project forms part of the Houses of Parliament’s public programme Parliament in the Making.

The programme marks two important anniversaries in 2015: 750 years since the Simon de Montfort parliament in 1265 and 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215.

The project was aimed at introducing children at a young age to the concept of representation.

All the chosen flags were designed by pupils aged 7 – 11 years. Each flag has been chosen to represent one historic county of the UK.

Jonathan Parsons, the renowned flag artist was commissioned as the creative lead on the project. He also designed a flag to represent the project and participating schools.

He said: “It is thrilling to see the culmination of this parliamentary project, which has enabled its participants to learn about their democratic heritage through creative work.”

According to Mr Parsons, the children had “represented their local identities in a variety of imaginative ways”. These included drawing on the natural environment of their area, a local trade or industry, or the area’s myths and legends.

Historian Tristram Hunt, who is MP for Stoke on Trent Central and shadow secretary of state for education, said he was “proud of the very high standard of work demonstrated by all participants”.

Exam season: What you need to know about the top five revision strategies

by TES Connect, May 18, 2015

Now the first exams have been taken, the reality of GCSEs and A-Levels is beginning to fully hit home for students and last-minute revision is (hopefully) in full swing. But which techniques are the most effective? Alex Quigley, director of research at Huntington School in York, has scoured the research to bring you the verdict on the five most common forms of revision:

1. Highlighting

We like to think we guide our students to use highlighters meaningfully in their revision, instructing them to identify important key points. But the seminal Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques, quashes that hope. Highlighting is found to be an ineffective tool.

One of the main problems is that it is a very familiar strategy to students (and teachers), so they employ it without thinking – when revision feels too easy, it usually is.

Verdict: Ditch the highlighters

2. Making revision notes

Making good notes is perhaps the foundation stone of good revision – all other strategies can build on high-quality notes. But much like all good revision, it ain’t what you do, it is the way that you do it. Simply copying out chunks of a text is likely to prove ineffective. The research indicates that elaboration is the key – students need to interpret the information and connect it, drawing out questions and patterns.

Verdict: Thorough guidance, modelling and structuring are required

Pushy parents stress out children, Eton head says

by BBC News, May 18, 2015

Classified as General.

There has been a rise in the number of parents "living their lives through their ambitions for their children", the head teacher of Eton has said.

Tony Little, who is leaving the school, said most parents had been "supportive" but there were now "more pressures on young people than ever before".

And if his pupils failed to conform to parents' "outcome template", it could "add to the stresses" in their life.

Eton employs a full-time psychologist to promote "good mental health".

"For some it feels like a bereavement when something goes unexpectedly wrong, and others recalibrate and pretend things just don't happen as they have," Mr Little told the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference's Insight magazine.

Sarah Welch, who will chair the Independent Schools Association, said the parents at Gosfield School, in Essex, where she is principal, were worried about the amount of stress their children were under from exams, social networking and peer pressure.

"Children don't learn unless they are happy," she said.

More independent schools were employing counsellors and using techniques such as mindfulness, she said.

"Pastoral care is a focus for us, and we are looking a lot more at how we support our young people at school."

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Little also said he was "exasperated" by England's exam system and that learning subjects in "silos" prevented pupils from thinking laterally.

Education Secretary unveils plans to extend the number of academies and free schools

by The Independent, May 17, 2015

Classified as General.

Superheads will be sent to turn around failing and “coasting” schools under powers to be introduced in the Queen’s Speech on 27 May, the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will announce.

The plans would allow the Government to intervene in any school judged to be “coasting” by sending in experts or forcing it to become an academy.

“Just good enough” is no longer good enough, Ms Morgan says. “It is not OK to be just above the level of failing.”

Before the general election, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to “wage all-out war on mediocrity”, pledging that any school that was not judged to be “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted would have to improve.

Head teachers’ leaders criticised the plans, arguing that schools judged as “requiring improvement” were being targeted for intervention even though they were not judged to be failing.

More than 3,300 schools in England are labelled as “requiring improvement”.

Schools that ban mobile phones see better academic results

by The Guardian, May 16, 2015

Classified as General.

It is a question that keeps some parents awake at night. Should children be allowed to take mobile phones to school? Now economists claim to have an answer. For parents who want to boost their children’s academic prospects, it is no.

The effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week’s schooling over a pupil’s academic year, according to research by Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy, published by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.

“Ill Communication: The Impact of Mobile Phones on Student Performance” found that after schools banned mobile phones, the test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4%. The economists reckon that this is the “equivalent of adding five days to the school year”.

The findings will feed into the ongoing debate about children’s access to mobile phones. In the UK, more than 90% of teenagers own a mobile phone; in the US, just under three quarters have one. The prevalence of the devices poses problems for head teachers, whose attitude towards the technology has hardened as it has become ubiquitous.

In a survey conducted in 2001, no school banned mobiles. By 2007, this had risen to 50%, and by 2012 some 98% of schools either did not allow phones on school premises or required them to be handed in at the beginning of the day.

However, some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city’s chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

This view is misguided, according to Beland and Murphy, who found that the ban produced improvements in test scores among students, with the lowest-achieving students gaining twice as much as average students. The ban had a greater positive impact on students with special education needs and those eligible for free school meals, while having no discernible effect on high achievers.

Fear of other parents' driving limits walking to school

by BBC News, May 16, 2015

Classified as General.

Almost two-fifths of parents are put off letting their primary-age children walk to school by other parents' driving, a survey suggests.

Some 39% of 1,000 parents of five- to 11-year olds in Great Britain, surveyed for the charity Living Streets, said school-run traffic was dangerous.

And 42% had witnessed aggression between adults on the school run.

"The risks really worry me," said Catherine Hayes, whose twins were almost hit outside their school.

The children, aged eight, were left shocked and frightened after the incident at the gates of their Essex school.

Ms Hayes said the family was verbally abused when she attempted to remonstrate with the driver.

"People are so frustrated during the school run and the risks really worry me," Ms Hayes told the researchers.

"It's a great shame as walking to school is a lovely way to start the day, but the frustration of drivers makes it very stressful."

Car-free zones

Almost two-thirds of those surveyed would like to see car-free zones outside both primary and secondary schools as well as 20mph speed limits in surrounding areas.

An overwhelming 95% agreed the government should commit to improving children's health and fitness, while 76% said it should encourage more children to walk to school.

Some 82% supported greater use of schemes to make the walk to school safer and easier - for example the charity's Park and Stride initiative which allows families to park in a safe place about 10 minutes from school and walk the rest of the way.

Mobile phone bans improve school exam results, research shows

by The Guardian, May 15, 2015

Classified as General.

Schools that ban pupils from carrying mobile phones show a sustained improvement in exam results, with the biggest advances coming from struggling students, according to research published by the London School of Economics.

The findings calculated that pupils at mobile-free schools benefitted by the equivalent of an extra hour’s teaching per week, meaning many schools would benefit from taking a tough line on keeping phones out of pupils’ pockets.

The large-scale study found schools in Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester that banned mobiles enjoyed a boost in the proportion of pupils getting five good passes at GCSE, compared with schools that allowed pupils to keep their phones, even if switched off.

Richard Murphy, one of the co-authors of the paper, said that the distraction and low-level disruption caused by pupils having mobile phones in school appeared to be behind the results.

Girls shun ‘geeky’ computing AS-levels

by Schools Week, May 15, 2015

Classified as General.

New figures have revealed stark gender divides in certain AS and A-level subjects.

But while the well-publicised gaps in physics and maths feature prominently, computing has the biggest divide between boys and girls.

Ofsted figures, published on Tuesday, show that only one in ten pupils who took the subject at AS-level last year were girls, making up just 707 of the 8,196 intake.

Laura Ferguson, schools team co-ordinator at the Tech Partnership, a network of employers that works to inspire young people into technology careers, said: “These are not particularly surprising figures. Take-up by girls has been particularly low.

“There are a few reasons. Technology and IT are considered geeky and just for boys and some of it has to do with the curriculum not being inspiring enough.”

But she said the new GCSE curriculum was changing the landscape. “We’re already seeing a positive response and a need from schools to use more inspiring resources.”

A new computing curriculum was introduced in September with the aim of teaching children as young as five how to code. The syllabus includes computer science, information technology and digital literacy.

Only four of the 40 A-level computing pupils at Alex Weatherall’s current school in Yorkshire are girls.

The soon to be head of computing at David Young Community Academy, in Leeds, said: “The new curriculum will mean pupils will be introduced to coding at primary school, where there is very little gender separation. Girls and boys tend to try all the same things, there isn’t a stigma.”

Councils with ‘failing schools’ held by Labour

by Schools Week, May 15, 2015

Classified as General.

- Four of five councils labelled “ineffective” by Ofsted remain under Labour control
– Anti-academy campaigners suggest system of directly elected school commissioners

Politicians controlling local authorities branded as failing by Ofsted increased their hold after local elections last week.

Four of five councils labelled as ineffective after school improvement inspections by the education watchdog returned Labour councils in last week’s local elections. In Blackpool and Middlesbrough, the party increased its majority.

The findings cast doubt on arguments made by anti-academy campaigners who say local democracy holds to account those who are failing school children in schools overseen by the local authority.

James Croft, director at the Centre for the Study of Market Reform on Education, said: “Local elections should be something of a day of reckoning for authorities that have failed to improve the quality of the schools they maintain.

“Responsibility for education is splintered across multiple tiers of oversight and governance, and is but one of many varied responsibilities councillors may hold.

“These and other factors peculiar to local elections mean that a council is hardly likely to fail to get re-elected simply because of the low quality of schooling.”

Last year Ofsted found Middlesbrough Council’s arrangements for supporting school improvement to be “ineffective” with attainment levels well below national averages.

The watchdog said none of its secondary schools ensured pupils achieved well.

Legislation on taking over 'coasting' schools planned 'within weeks'

by TES Connect, May 15, 2015

Classified as General.

New laws, which would hand education secretary Nicky Morgan greater powers to intervene in “coasting” schools, will be unveiled in a matter of weeks, TES can reveal.

The plans, due to be announced in the Queen’s Speech later this month, would allow the government to force any school judged to “require improvement” by Ofsted to become an academy or be placed under new leadership.

Before the election, prime minister David Cameron vowed he would wage “all-out war on mediocrity”, promising that any school that was not judged good or outstanding by the inspectorate would “have to change”.

A source close to Ms Morgan told TES that enacting the plans, which have been criticised by headteachers’ and teachers’ unions, would be the Department for Education’s first priority under the new Tory administration.

School leaders have warned such a move would effectively turn requires improvement into a "category" that necessitates intervention. More than 3,300 schools across England are currently rated requires improvement.

“The first thing we will be doing is introducing an education bill, which will feature in the Queen’s Speech, in order to tackle coasting schools as per our manifesto pledge. That is the one that is definite,” the source said.

I want to help my son to revise without being a pushy parent

by The Guardian, May 15, 2015

Classified as General.

Trying desperately to fade into the background, my music is barely audible and I’ve unplugged the vacuum cleaner. Cold bottled water sits perched and ready in the fridge alongside a selection of brain revitalising snacks. I’m doing my bit.

Because it’s revision time, again. When the world stops and tension crackles. Yet, despite having prepared the ground work and laid on what I assume is a perfect environment for studying, my son stands up and insists he’s going to traipse five miles to the school library.

“I just want to spread my books out,” he says. Apparently time spent on the road leads to better, clearer thought. He may be right, but I’m confused. And I am not alone. It appears many parents are of the belief their A-level student is not putting the hours in.

Janet Ellis says her son “seems so easily distracted, sitting at a desk is almost meaningless”. But then of course, I speak for “Generation Parent”, whose idea of exciting distraction was to ponder which hour in the week could be best used to wipe the fluff off a stylus.

Now, instead of watching a circle of vinyl spin, there are computers, ipads and smartphones. Let’s face it, it must be hard to get your mind focused on the periodic table when an exciting virtual life sits so tantalisingly close by.

Yet if sixth formers don’t put these devices away, there’s going to be some unhappy faces come the August results. As my son leaves, it’s like he’s second guessed me. He says: “At school I can’t think about my computer. The library is like a mental cue, I’m going there to work and there’s nothing else I can do except study.”

Updated Ofqual list: GCSEs and A-levels that will begin in 2017

by Schools Week, May 14, 2015

Classified as General.

Ofqual has today released an update for which qualifications will be reformed from September 2017.

The qualifications regulator released an initial list of qualifications in March which could begin teaching in September 2017.

But officials asked for a review into eight qualifications over concerns they did not meet the new reform principles.

Exam boards were invited to prove how they could meet the criteria, and here is the conclusion.

Creative writing A-level spared from Ofqual cull

by TES Connect, May 14, 2015

Classified as General.

A- and AS-levels in creative writing, music technology, and health and social care, along with a GCSE in geology, are being spared from Ofqual’s qualifications bonfire, the watchdog announced today.

But the regulator has said that it will be axing international development A- and AS-levels, along with GCSEs in environmental and land-based science, health and social care and home economics: child development.

The decisions come as part of Ofqual’s ongoing process of rationalising qualifications in preparation for the introduction of reformed GCSEs and A-levels.

The watchdog says that to continue, qualifications must meet certain principles, including whether they can “secure valid assessment” , and have content “sufficiently distinct” from other subjects.

The subjects announced today had initially been rejected by Ofqual for not meeting its rules. The latest decisions were made after the exam boards submitted further information.

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