Latest Educational News

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.

Top 10 countries for university education

by The Guardian, May 18, 2016

Rankings which assess the quality and accessibility of higher education in countries across the world, have been published today by QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Fifty countries across six continents have been represented, with researchers looking at access, system strength and a country's top performing institution to compile the tables. Here are the top 10.

Careers talks 'boost future earnings' - research

by BBC News, May 18, 2016

Careers education given to pupils in secondary school can be linked to higher earnings in adult life, according to researchers.
A study published in the Journal of Education and Work suggests that better-informed teenagers are likely to make more advantageous career choices.
It measures the earnings benefit as an extra £2,000 per year for every six careers sessions when aged 14 to 15.
Researchers used the British Cohort Study tracking 17,000 people.
The research, commissioned by the Education and Employers charity, found that once other factors were taken into account, such as exam results and economic background, there were higher earnings for those who had received sustained careers advice in school.
The study, by Christian Percy and Elnaz Kashefpakdela from the University of Bath, used data from the British Cohort Study which has been tracking the health, wealth and education of people since 1970.
It concluded that there was a long-lasting employment impact from careers talks and lessons.

Petition over 'unusually hard' maths exam gathers nearly 25,000 signatures

by TES Connect, May 17, 2016

Signatories say the paper ruined their 'futures and dream careers' and are calling for the pass mark to be lowered
A protest petition launched after Scottish pupils sat the N5 maths exam – the equivalent to GCSE – on Thursday has won the support of tens of thousands of signatories.

On the same day as the exam, a student launched a petition on claiming that Paper 1– the non-calculator paper – was “unusually hard” and had left pupils “very worried” about their results.

It said students were in “fear” of subsequent exams and facing the possibility of not getting on to their chosen university courses.

The petition calls for the pass mark to be reduced or for the results of continuous assessments throughout the year to be taken into account.

Some of the 24,748 signatories have said they were left in tears after the exam and accused exam body the Scottish Qualifications Authority of ruining their “futures and dream careers”.

A common complaint was that the exam bore little or no resemblance to past papers and exemplar papers.

The petition comes only a week after TES reported that 11-year-olds in England were leaving their Year 6 Sats reading test in tears because it was harder than expected.

One signatory, teacher John Sweeney from Glasgow, commented on the petition: “I am a teacher and know when something is wrong with an exam.”

Academy trust told to revise admissions policy over plans to prioritise the children of staff across the chain

by TES Connect, May 17, 2016

Priority can be given to the children of teachers working at a particular school, but not everyone employed by a MAT, adjudicator finds
A multi-academy trust has been told to revise an admissions policy that prioritised giving school places to children of all the chain's employees.

The Enquire Learning Trust has been warned that its admission requirements "do not conform" with national rules.

The trust, which has 23 primaries in the North of England, planned to give greater priority to children of all staff employed by the MAT – rather than just the school in question.

The trust finalised its admission arrangements for September 2017 in February. But Lincolnshire County Council raised concerns about the priority given to children of all MAT staff in the oversubscription criteria for one of the chain's schools, Keelby Primary Academy in Grimsby.

'Entitled' to a place
When the trust was asked to clarify its arrangements, it said that "all staff who have a permanent contract" with the MAT are "entitled to place their children in [its] schools", according to a report from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator published yesterday.

But adjudicator Phil Whiffing ruled that the School Admissions Code "does not allow any priority to be given to other employees of the trust and certainly does not give any ‘entitlement' to a place for any child as suggested by the trust".

The code prohibits giving priority for places to children based on the occupation of their parents. However, priority can be given to children of staff of an individual school if they have been employed there for at least two years. Priority can also be given if they are recruited to fill a post for which there is a demonstrable skill shortage.

Mr Whiffing added: "I have looked at the school’s funding agreement and can find no derogation which allows priority to be given to children of all staff employed by the trust."

'Reforming assessment so it primarily helps pupils' – and four other urgent problems ministers must resolve

by TES Connect, May 17, 2016

Writing ahead of tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech, one headteachers’ leader outlines five policy areas that need speedy resolution
It is good that Nicky Morgan has listened to the profession. And it is eminently sensible to drop the requirement for all schools to be academies. Now the government needs to listen even more carefully.

Before the election, the Association of School and College Leaders published the blueprint for a self-improving system, which describes our vision from the point of view of 2020. It is of a system that has moved away from central direction by the government to one in which school and colleges have greater autonomy and work collectively to drive system-wide improvement and "unleash greatness".

Now, together, we must make this vision real. This involves solving some stubborn problems. We need the collective expertise of our profession, government and policy-makers to respond to these challenges and take action.

Here are the top five priorities that need our coordinated and urgent attention.

1. Enough teachers and school leaders

School leaders are extremely concerned about teacher supply. There are shortages across an increasing range of subjects and severe recruitment problems in some parts of the country. Without the right number of high-quality teachers and leaders, the system will fail.

There are some sound proposals in the White Paper to get more teachers and leaders into the system, but these plans do not go far enough or fast enough. We must persuade graduates that teaching is a great profession. Of course, those of us who are teachers and leaders know that it is. There is nothing more rewarding than making a real difference to children’s lives.

So how might we work together to ensure that we have the teachers and school leaders we need?

School closure inquiry to begin after summer holidays

by BBC News, May 17, 2016

An independent inquiry into the schools crisis will begin after the summer holidays, the City of Edinburgh Council has confirmed.
Recruitment is underway to find an independent chair to investigate why 17 schools were closed amid building safety fears.
Council leader Andrew Burns said it is important the chair commands respect within the construction industry.
He wants lessons to be learned not just in Edinburgh, but across Scotland.
Declared safe
The schools, built under the same public private partnership project between 2002 and 2005, closed in April after investigations found structural defects centring on missing wall ties.
Alternative arrangements were put in place for 7,600 pupils and 740 nursery children.
Three schools are expected to reopen next week, when declared safe, five more in June and a further nine after the summer holidays.

Sats are nothing to do with writing well, children's authors tell pupil who is 'in bits' after the tests

by TES Connect, May 17, 2016

They rush to convince an aspiring writer that the Spag test has nothing to do with his ability to tell stories – as most of them would probably fail
Once upon a time, there was a Year 6 boy who dreamed of becoming an author.

As in all the best stories, however, his dreams were threatened by a seemingly insurmountable evil: key stage 2 Sats.

But, if there is one thing authors know how to do, it is to ensure a happy ending. And so they took to Twitter en masse, to provide our hapless hero with the ending he deserved.

Tom Avery, author of Not As We Know It and My Brother's Shadow, said that he "stil carnt rearly" spell. He added:

Two children in every class experience language disorders, study suggests

by TES Connect, May 17, 2016

Change in diagnosis reveals language problems are more widespread than previously thought
Around two children in every Year 1 class will experience a significant language disorder that affects their learning, according to a new study on language impairment in young children.

The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found that children with unexplained language disorders have more social, emotional and behavioural problems, with 88 per cent failing to achieve early curriculum targets.

The study, led by Professor Courtenay Norbury, of University College London (UCL), looked at whether a change in the way language disorders are diagnosed had affected the number of children who could get help from specialist services.

Under previous methods, children needed to show a significant discrepancy between their verbal and non-verbal abilities to be defined as having a language disorder.

This definition led to some children who had language needs, but also had low non-verbal abilities, not being eligible for specialist services.

Pupils facing exams system 'lottery', Reform Scotland claims

by BBC News, May 17, 2016

Pupils face a "lottery" in the number of exams they can sit at Scottish schools, Reform Scotland has claimed.
The think tank uncovered an "inequality of opportunity" for children taking National 4 and 5s, which replaced the old standard grade exams in 2014.
Freedom of information requests found that some pupils were permitted to sit eight exams in S4, while others were limited to five.
The Scottish government said councils made their own decisions.
A spokesman said this ensured that they best met the needs of their pupils.
Reform Scotland said it was "ironic and disappointing" that Curriculum for Excellence reforms, brought in to broaden pupils' education, were in fact narrowing it and placing some young people at a disadvantage.
'Inequality of opportunity'
Keir Bloomer, a member of the Reform Scotland advisory board and chairman of the Commission on School Reform, said: "Our research shows that inequality of opportunity is now built into our examination system, not by the SQA but by decisions made mainly at council level.

Supply teacher spend exceeds £800m

by BBC News, May 17, 2016

Primary and secondary schools in England struggling to recruit teachers spent £821m on supply staff last year, it has emerged.
Analysis by BBC News shows the equivalent of £168 was spent on each child in order to hire in extra staff to cover vacancies and absences.
Teachers unions say the amount of money spent reflects a "serious teacher recruitment and retention crisis".
The government said the number of quality teachers was at a record high.
The latest data for schools in England shows spending on supply teachers accounted for 6% of the total amount spent on teaching staff wages. The overall figure spent on supply teachers fell by £18m on the previous year.

Brexit 'risks international student recruitment'

by BBC News, May 17, 2016

UK universities could find it harder to recruit international students if the UK leaves the EU, suggests a survey.
Of 1,763 would-be students who had contacted or applied to UK universities, almost half said Brexit would make UK study less attractive.
But 17% told international student recruiters Hobsons that Brexit would make UK universities more attractive.
The Vote Leave campaign said it was crucial to ensure there were enough places for young people from the UK.
Hobsons managing director Jeremy Cooper said: "A vote for Brexit would represent a further challenge.
"For universities in the UK, the conditions for recruiting international students are tougher than ever before."
The survey participants had applied for or enquired about study at 15 UK universities - including two from the elite Russell Group and seven new universities.
Three-quarters were from countries outside the EU, two-thirds were interested in post-graduate study, just over half were female and almost two-thirds were aged under 24.

All secondary schools 'should have on-site mental health support'

by The Guardian, May 16, 2016

All secondary schools should have access to a mental health professional on site at least one day a week to help combat the growing number of children with conditions such as anxiety and depression, according to a study.

The Institute for Public Policy Research report said secondary schools faced a major problem as demand from young people with mental health problems increased while funding for NHS and local authority early intervention faced cuts.

The government has promised £1.4bn for mental health services for children and young people up to 2020. But the thinktank said too little was being spent on school-based provision despite evidence of growing need and the benefits of early intervention.

Hand schools £500m of NHS funding to deal with mental health 'crisis', says report

by TES Connect, May 16, 2016

Half a billion pounds should be funnelled away from the NHS to pay for mental health professionals in every secondary school in the country, according to a report released today
The move would be part of wider efforts to place schools at the heart of mental health services, in an attempt to tackle a growing "crisis" in mental health among young people, the study adds.

The research also calls for Ofsted inspectors to pay closer attention to mental health provision in schools, with just a third of inspection reports making reference to mental health and wellbeing.

The recommendations form part of a report published today by the thinktank IPPR, which calls for every secondary school to be guaranteed access to an expert in mental health.

IPPR research fellow Craig Thorley said that not enough of the government’s new funding in chldren’s mental health was finding its way to where it was needed most.

“Schools are particularly well placed to be the hubs from which early intervention support for pupils with emerging mental health problems can be based,” Mr Thorley said. “But schools must be able to regularly access high-quality specialist support from mental health professionals and counsellors.

“Without these very affordable changes, the life chances of the next generation will continue to be needlessly blighted by mental ill-health.”

The report states that, on average, three children in every classroom have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition, and that 90 per cent of headteachers have reported an increase in such problems over the last five years.

The recommendations come just weeks after the Department for Education “dumped” Natasha Devon as its mental health champion.

New exams have created 'unsustainable' workload for teachers and pupils, report finds

by TES Connect, May 16, 2016

Government review acknowledges huge pressure caused by new Scottish qualifications
New qualifications in Scotland have led to an “unintended and unsustainable level of work for learners and teachers”, the government group set up to review the exams has admitted in a report.

The yet-to-be-published document, the contents of which TESS is able to reveal today, stresses “the need to take action to address the very real pressures on teachers”.

The report has been produced by a review group set up by education secretary Angela Constance in January to look at concerns over excessive workload associated with the new qualifications.

The document spells out the problems around suspending mandatory unit assessments, which are carried out internally by teachers.

Review of assessment requirements
A review of the assessment requirements in every subject under the new qualifications is now being carried out by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the report says. More than 40 schools will be visited and findings will be reported at the end of the month.

The report adds: “At present, aspects of the introduction of new National Qualifications have involved an unintended and unsustainable level of work for learners and teachers. The Scottish government, Education Scotland, the SQA, teachers, schools, colleges and local authorities all have an important role to play in reducing this workload.”