Latest Educational News

School's replacement for levels spans early years to GCSE

by TES, June 7, 2015

A Hampshire secondary school has developed an assessment system to run from its primary cluster’s early years classes right up to GCSE.

Bay House School in Gosport has spent the past 12 months working on its "mastery" system in response to the government's scrapping of levels. The methodology was originally devised for its own students only.

“We started with the achievements of our pupils and set an ambitious target beyond the limitations of the A* grade at GCSE. We then discussed the knowledge and skills someone achieving this target would need to possess,” writes Aislynn Matthias, writing in the 5 June issue of TES.

Cricket is all out at top school

by The Times, June 6, 2015

Never again will the knock of leather on willow be heard on the playing fields of Strathearn in Perthshire after a leading independent school decided to abandon cricket because of the “complicated” rules, and wet weather postponing play.
Morrison’s Academy in Crieff, which had the sport as part of its curriculum for more than a century, also cited the ever-increasing demands of the exam timetable and a short summer term.

Top independent school Cheltenham Ladies' College is considering getting rid of homework

by Independent, June 6, 2015

Cheltenham Ladies' College, one of the country's most prestigious independent schools, is re-assessing its homework policy, in an effort to tackle the growing problem of depression and other mental health issues amongst young people.

The school, which charges £7,405 a term for day pupils and £11,030 a term for boarders, will undergo a five-year review on whether it should stop giving its pupils homework, The Times has reported.

Why predicting primary pupil progress is as imperfect a science as forecasting the weather in 2016

by TES Connect, June 6, 2015

Classified as General.

The weather app on my phone tells me that currently there is a thunderstorm in Tuvalu, that New Delhi remains under a hazy heatwave and it is partly cloudy in London – which I can verify by looking out of the window.

But the Met Office can also tell me that between six and seven hours from now, there is a 30 per cent chance of rain in London. To do this, it has a £97m supercomputer that undertakes more than 16,000 trillion calculations per second on hundreds of thousands of measurements of temperature, pressure and wind speed.

But even this computing leviathan loses precision as you ask it to predict further and further ahead. Forecasting weeks ahead, it will be pretty precise on the general picture, but not a specific area or hour.

Primary pupils are less chaotic than the weather, mostly. But not by much.

Look at the country as a whole – with around 600,000 children in each year group – and you can be pretty precise quite a long way ahead.

Previously, the starting point for the primary value-added measures was the levels children were given in reading, writing and maths at age 7. Four years later, where will those children be? They were expected to have made two levels of progress – which around 90 per cent managed.

Fine for the 600,000 year group as a whole, but taking an individual child’s ability to add two two-digit numbers at seven and using it to forecast whether they will be able to solve multi-step problems in May 2018 is not precise. In other words, you may be able to predict fairly accurately that it will be fairly warm, but not whether it will be 26C in Winchester.

And the new baseline test for primaries will stretch the forecast further by starting with maths, language and literacy at age 4.

It is, of course, worth trying to predict progress. We need to find out who is progressing and who is not – which can lead us to what impacts on progress and what does not. This week, the Missing Talent report from the Sutton Trust told us that bright children on free school meals are making less progress than similarly bright, but wealthier classmates during secondary school. An important finding.

School funding overhaul could start this year

by TES Connect, June 6, 2015

Classified as General.

A major overhaul of the school funding system, which could redistribute money from inner-London schools to those outside the capital, is a priority for the government, TES understands.

The first steps towards the introduction of a fair funding formula, which would radically alter the way the national education budget is allocated, are expected to be taken this year.

A source close to the Department for Education told TES that they expected the formula to be introduced over a three-to-five-year period, with “floors and ceilings” built in to ensure that no school gained or lost more than a fixed percentage of its budget.

“Funding will go from Labour areas [in London] towards Conservative ones,” the source said. “That’s not the purpose of the formula, but that’s what’s going to happen in effect.”

Chris Healy, headteacher of Balcarras School in Cheltenham, which is one of the lowest-funded areas, said he was pleased about the prospect of a new funding formula. At current funding levels, Mr Healy said, his school faced insolvency by 2018.

“It doesn’t make any sense that funding at the moment is based on historical factors that go back decades,” he added.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “We recognise there is still work to do over the coming months. We will be looking at what needs to be done to ensure that all local areas are funded justly.”

Scotland to remain free of national primary testing

by TES Connect, June 5, 2015

Classified as General.

Fears that national testing might be reintroduced to Scottish primary schools have been allayed.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon recently refused to rule out the reintroduction of national testing, while Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has talked up the move as a way of helping schools to improve.

But this afternoon, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan revealed that he had been given “categorical assurance” by the Scottish government that it would not pursue national testing.

Criticism of the Scottish education system has ramped up in recent months, with opposition politicians zeroing in on apparent failures around literacy.

Addressing his union’s annual conference, Mr Flanagan accused detractors of “seeing crisis where it doesn’t exist”.

“The recent Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy results are a case in point,” he said. “It has become commonplace to hear politicians and journalists talking about standards dropping, in a lazy, ill-informed manner which does a disservice to the hard work and success of our schools and our pupils.

“Some of the comments made recently have felt like a punch to the solar plexus, a low blow, for teachers who have worked flat out to deliver Curriculum for Excellence in the most difficult of circumstances.”

Mr Flanagan said that Scottish education was clearly not perfect, but he called for “more considered analysis” that acknowledged, for example, that nearly 90 per cent of P7s are performing well or very well in literacy.

“There was a headline drop in the figures, true, which is always disappointing, and it was seized upon by the glass-half-empty brigade to say that all is doomed,” he added.

How retirees could soon be cruising into classrooms

by TES Connect, June 5, 2015

Classified as General.

Teachers who face the prospect of working into their late sixties could be forgiven for planning to spend their retirement as far away from the classroom as possible.

But educationalist and philosopher Baroness Warnock believes that bringing recent retirees from other professions into schools could raise the status of teaching and ease staff shortages.

Lady Warnock is proposing a new scheme called Teach Last, inspired by the Teach First programme that has brought thousands of young graduates into teaching. Skilled retirees from a range of backgrounds could teach as a “second profession”, she said.

“It does seem to me that there’s a tremendous waste of talent,” she told TES. “Society hasn’t really caught up with the fact that people retire when they’re at the height of their powers these days. There’s such a lot of energy, imagination and capacity for work left after most retirement ages.”

Lady Warnock said that, under her scheme, retired professionals would be given “in-service training”, during which they would observe teaching and then deliver lessons under observation, in a “compressed” version of the school placements undertaken by PGCE students. The retirees could then become paid teachers, working largely on a peripatetic basis with local schools.

Teach Last teachers would tend to have a degree in their subject, Lady Warnock said, but not a teaching qualification. She said she was particularly keen for the programme to be taken up by language teachers, especially in minority subjects such as Russian, because the decline in language learning at secondary schools had been a “disaster”.

“The people I’m thinking of to fill these gaps would be retired diplomats and business people, for example,” she said. “Quite a lot of these people have acquired talent through their professional life because they know how to communicate with people. I think they would be the most marvellous teachers.”

The 91-year-old said she wished the scheme had existed when she retired. “I could easily have gone into teaching Latin and Greek, which is how I started…In fact, I’d have loved it.”

Hannah's sweets solution: the GCSE question that stumped Britain's students

by The Independent, June 5, 2015

Classified as General.

After the date of Cheryl’s birthday left people all over the world stumped, now a GCSE Maths exam has done the same.

Students taking Edexcel’s GCSE Maths paper took to Twitter to vent their frustration over a problem involving how many sweets a girl called Hannah has.

But what actually was the problem and how hard is it to actually solve?

ADVERTISING

Well, here it is – but don’t read below the images if you want to work it out yourself.

Hannah has 6 orange sweets and some yellow sweets.

Overall, she has n sweets.

The probability of her taking 2 orange sweets is 1/3.

Prove that: n^2-n-90=0

^ is “to the power of”

The number of students posting about the tricky problem caused the question to trend on Twitter and although they may not have got the marks in the bag, they certainly got their memes spot on.

Hannah’s was just one of the many supposed “real life” problems that the students were required to tackle.

Keeping it old school: Pupils swap iPads and Xboxes for reading and board games

by The Independent, June 5, 2015

Classified as General.

Pupils at a Shropshire school face the start of a weekend with a difference. Until Monday their iPads and Xboxes will go untouched and the television will sit unwatched as children discover the delights of reading, sewing, cycling, board games, cricket and walks in the woods.

Since Monday, pupils at £11,775-a-year The Old Hall School in Telford have been taking part in a week-long “digital detox” after their headmaster, Martin Stott, grew concerned that youngsters were too dependent on technology and were losing the ability to concentrate and follow complex instructions.

He conducted a survey of pupils aged eight to 11 last month and found a strong correlation between high use of digital devices, poor reading progress and unhappiness.

Students who spent more than two hours a day on digital devices and games consoles spent two hours less time reading each week than classmates who were low users of technology.

Tricky GCSE maths exam sees pupils take to Twitter

by BBC News, June 5, 2015

Classified as General.

A tricky GCSE maths question stumped thousands of students - but inspired them to take to Twitter to vent their anger and frustration.

The equation in Thursday's Edexcel exam was on the probability of taking two orange sweets from a bag.

By the afternoon the topic was trending on Twitter and online petitions were set up calling on the board to lower the grade boundaries when marking.

Edexcel's owner Pearson said it aimed to "test the full range" of abilities.

But it said it would ensure students were "treated fairly" when the papers are marked.

It is understood that Edexcel stands behind the difficulty level of the exam paper, and that the sweets question was targeted at students aiming for A and A* grades.

Some pupils complained the sweets question appeared to be of a higher standard to those in past papers they had used to revise.

One student, writing on the Change.org petition website, said: "All past papers were similar in a way and they are the resources... that were used by students all through the country to help them with this paper... a lot of people have done badly and would appreciate a retake of a new test or lower grade boundaries."

About 500,000 teenagers sat the exam across England, and some took to Twitter to say they felt all was going well until they began the second paper in the maths non-calculator exam.

Ban phones and tablets before school, parents urged

by BBC News, June 5, 2015

Classified as General.

Parents should ban children from using tablets and smartphones before they set off for school in the morning, an expert has said.

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair said use of such devices early in the day could harm concentration in class.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, she also suggested teachers minimise the amount of homework that needed to be carried out on computers.

She said parents could set an example by limiting their own screen use.

Mrs Blair, author of The Key to Calm, said requiring children to do homework on computers itself contributed to children becoming tired and unfocused.

Computers and other screens emit a blue light that has been shown to reduce levels of melatonin - a chemical produced by the body that aids restful sleep.

Family time

They are also said to raise the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which makes it harder to concentrate.

She said: "It makes me mad because a lot of schools are doing screen homework. It's so stupid - I wish they wouldn't do that."

She acknowledged that limiting screen use "was not a popular move", but added that it could transform things for young people.

"I encourage people to try it for a couple of days."

Mrs Blair also encouraged families to "establish one point in the day where the family focuses on each other".

"That used to be called dinner. All screens are off and you actually talk to each other.

"They will moan but 10 years from now they will remember it and thank you.

"You have to set limits. Kids have got to know how to manage their screens and be in control."

Teenagers' 'promising futures at risk' from cuts

by BBC News, June 5, 2015

Classified as General.

Further council funding cuts will put thousands of youngsters' "promising futures" at risk, say town hall bosses.

A Local Government Association survey of councils in England, says 90% have cut services for teenagers not in education, employment and training.

Local authorities have seen funding cuts of 40% since 2010, and their responsibility for careers advice and further education has been removed.

The government said the teenage Neet rate was now 64,000 lower than in 2010.

And it highlighted that it is investing £7bn "to fund a place for every 16- to 18-year-old in England who wants one".

Since 2012, local councils in England have no longer had control over careers advice, which has switched to schools.

Local authority-run Connexions services were one of the first areas to be cut under the previous coalition government.

Councils have also lost control of post-16 education and schemes to tackle young people's disengagement.

But the LGA points out that local authorities still have a duty to encourage 16- to 18-year-olds to remain in education, employment or training and ensure there are enough opportunities available locally.

It says local councils are best-placed to oversee support for 14- to 21-year-old Neets because they know what is needed on the ground.

And it warns the advances that it has made could be lost with further cuts ahead.

One in three university students wish they had chosen a different course, says study

by The Independent, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Nearly half a million university students believe they may have chosen the wrong course to study, according to a major new study.

One in three told researchers that - knowing what they now know about their university - they would have chosen a different course.

As the study - carried out for influential university think-tanks, the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy points out: “Given that there are 1.4 million full-time undergraduates, this suggests there could be nearly 500,000 full-time students who believe they are on a sub-optimal course.”

A breakdown of courses shows students who are studying architecture or business and administration courses that are the unhappiest - with 43 per cent saying they “definitely” or “maybe” should have chosen a different course.

The happiest students are those studying medicine and dentistry - where only 14 per cent would consider swapping courses.

One of the reasons students cite for their dissatisfaction is that they were not given enough information about their course before they signed on for it - 21 per cent saying the information they received was “vague” while a further 10 per cent said it was “misleading”.

Too many disadvantaged university students dropping out despite rise in acceptance rates, says watchdog head

by The Independent, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Too many disadvantaged students are still dropping out or failing to get top degree passes despite a rise in their acceptance rates, the head of the universities’ fair access watchdog has said.

Professor Les Ebdon, director of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), said “the tanker seems to be turning” at Britain’s most elite universities as they were now taking in more students from poorer households.”

“There’s been a 28 per cent increase in the number of students from disadvantaged groups in the most highly selective universities,” he said in an interview with The Independent. The rise followed “ten years of stagnation” in which figures had failed to improve.

However, he added: “Although there are record-breaking rates of entry among disadvantaged groups, too many of these entrants are still getting lost by the wayside. Some will never graduate and those who do are more likely to underachieve than students who are the same in every respect apart from different backgrounds, gender or ethnicity.

Ofsted should inspect character development, report says

by TES Connect, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Ofsted should place the same importance on the way schools teach “character development” as it does on attainment measures when assessing schools, the think tank Demos has said.

The call comes in a report published today by the think tank and the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham.

The report, Character Nation, said character education should be embedded in the UK’s educational curriculum. Ofsted inspectors should look at the way in which students participate in “civic activities” within their communities, it said, and initial teacher training (ITT) courses should cover the delivery of character education.

It called for a greater emphasis to be placed on monitoring and evaluating character education so that the “real-world impact” of schools can be highlighted in league tables.

The report said “strong character attributes” such as “moral, intellectual, performance and civic virtues” were linked to higher educational attainment, employment outcomes, and positive mental and physical health.

These attributes, it said, could be “developed and taught with the right guidance”.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has spoken of her commitment to helping schools develop students’ “character, resilience and grit”. In December she announced a £3.5m fund for character education programmes, citing as good practice a scheme run in Stratford, east London, in which students are given time in the school day to “master” personal goals such as an instrument or a language.

Universities increasing outreach but offering fewer bursaries, report finds

by TES Connect, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Universities are spending more money on improving access for students from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds – but fewer students are receiving financial help, research shows.

A report published today by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) reveals that about 358,000 students from low-income and under-represented groups received a financial award in 2013-14, down from 401,500 in 2012-13. The figures relate to those studying at higher education institutions and further education colleges with access agreements.

Although fewer students received financial help, those who did tended to receive larger sums, the report found, with the average value rising from £1,268 in 2012-13 to £1,638 in 2013-14.

It also found that universities had significantly increased their budgets for “widening participation activity” in ways that did not include financial support. These included programmes to raise aspirations among potential applicants and to mentor and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds once they had entered university.

The report said total investment in widening participation through access agreements, including financial support and other activities, stood at £628 million in 2013-14, up from £564 million the previous year. However, it found that the proportion of this spent that was on financial support had fallen to 69 per cent, from 74 per cent in 2012-13.

“We were pleased to see this continued refocusing of access agreement investment away from financial support and towards outreach and student success activity, as this was in line with our guidance, which emphasised the contribution of these activities to improving the diversity of the student population,” the Offa report says.

The report also finds that universities and colleges had met, or were on course to meet, 90 per cent of the targets that they set themselves in their 2013-14 access agreements – documents that set out how they will promote fair access to people from lower income backgrounds, which are a condition of being allowed to charge higher fees.

New grades for English speaking and listening tests unveiled

by TES Connect, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Students starting their English GCSEs in September will take a separate speaking and listening test assessed by their teachers and graded under a new system, Ofqual has revealed.

Alongside the new English language GCSE, students will be awarded a separate grade of either "distinction", "merit", "pass" or "not classified" for speaking and listening. This replaces the current grading system used for the speaking and listening component of the existing GCSE, in which students receive a grade from 5 (the highest) to 1.

This follows a change in the overall grading system for GCSEs, with the A*-G system being replaced by a new scale of 9 (the top grade) to 1.

Documents published by Ofqual today also reveal that teachers will be asked to submit audio-visual recordings of a sample of their students’ tests, rather than of all students’ tests as was originally suggested.

The documents set out the details of how the new speaking and listening tests will work after Ofqual announced in 2013 that the tests would no longer count towards overall GCSE grades. The watchdog said this was because of "inconsistency" in how schools marked the tests.

Under the new system, the speaking and listening mark will be listed separately on pupils’ grade certificates. Ofqual has decided to use a "not classified" grade instead of a "fail" for students who do not meet the criteria.

Spoken language tests will take place “in a formal setting, before an audience and require preparation to have been undertaken by the learner,” Ofqual has said.

Schools will have to provide a statement to exam boards confirming that they “have taken reasonable steps to secure that students complete the spoken language assessment”.

George Osborne announces fresh cuts to education budgets

by TES Connect, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Chancellor George Osborne has announced almost a billion pounds of in-year spending cuts to the budgets of the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Mr Osborne said today that the DfE and BIS would each make an extra £450m of savings in the 2015-16 financial year, totalling £900m in reductions.

Few details of the new savings have been announced, but a statement from the Treasury said there would be “savings in higher education and further education budgets in BIS, and savings in the administration of arms lengths bodies in the Department for Education”.

It said the DfE savings would be from non-schools spending, adding that savings would come from Whitehall efficiencies and from “tightly managing departmental budgets in-year, so that instead of spending up to budget, departments deliver underspends”.

The spending cuts are part of a series of measures to bring about £4.5bn of deficit reduction this year, Mr Osborne said. This includes £3bn in Whitehall savings, including from the DfE and BIS, and an estimated £1.5bn from the sale of the government’s remaining shares in the Royal Mail.

A spokesman for the DfE said: “These savings will come from a variety of measures including expected departmental underspends in demand-led budgets, efficiencies and some small budgetary reductions.”

A BIS spokeswoman insisted that priority areas such as apprenticeships would be protected, and added that a "significant" proportion of the savings would be made through "surrendering underspends, making efficiencies and reducing lower value spend".

"It is right that as the nation tightens its belt on public spending, the FE sector plays its part in ensuring value for money for taxpayers by finding savings," she added. "We will be asking Skills Funding Agency for advice on how savings can best be achieved in line with ministers priorities around apprenticeships and priority FE participation funding, and whilst safeguarding the resilience of the sector."

Students doubt fees value for money

by BBC News, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Many students are unconvinced they have received value for money from their university courses, according to an annual survey.
And a large majority do not think they have been given enough information about how tuition fees are spent.
The survey suggests students average 12 hours per week "contact" time, when they are taught by staff.
The findings are part of a survey of 15,000 students in the UK, carried out by higher education think tanks.
The Student Academic Experience Survey, carried out by the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy, examines levels of consumer satisfaction among undergraduate students.

Dissatisfied students want more contact time with teaching staff

by The Guardian, June 4, 2015

Classified as General.

Students who get limited contact time with university staff are less likely to enjoy the student experience – and those who don’t work hard enough don’t have a good time either.

A survey of more than 15,000 full-time UK undergraduates found that on average students spent more time studying independently than they did with teaching staff, leaving some feeling unsatisfied with their experience of university.

The research, carried out by Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA), found that students were less satisfied when they had fewer than 10 contact hours a week and class sizes of more than 50 students.

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