Latest Educational News

Childcare recruitment 'catastrophe' looms, say campaigners

by BBC News, April 25, 2016

The requirement for new nursery staff in England to have good GCSE passes in English and maths will lead to "catastrophic" staff shortages and should be scrapped, campaigners say.
From September, new recruits must have at least GCSE C grades in the subjects, with alternative equivalent qualifications no longer accepted.
The Save our Early Years campaign says recruitment has already been hit.
But the government says numeracy and literacy skills are "essential".

Tory MPs 'challenge academy compulsion'

by BBC News, April 25, 2016

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has defended her plans for all schools in England to be required to become academies.
But unconvinced backbench Conservative MPs want the element of compulsion to be dropped before giving it their approval.
Mrs Morgan was pressed by MPs on whether good and outstanding schools would be forced to become academies.
The education secretary said she would not "leave the job half done".
The government's White Paper on schools has proved controversial with some of its own leading backbenchers - who are expecting changes before it progresses through Parliament.

'Grave risk' over academy plans, warns County Councils Network

by BBC News, April 24, 2016

There is a risk plans to turn all state schools in England into academies will not raise school standards, a group representing 37 largely Conservative local authorities has warned.
Councillor Paul Carter, from the County Councils Network, said the government was pursuing change with "undue haste".
Under draft government plans, all state schools in England will have to leave the oversight of councils by 2022.
A Department for Education spokesman said the concerns were "misplaced".

Curtailment of 30,000 student visas each year sparks row

by BBC News, April 23, 2016

More than 30,000 non-EU students a year have had their visas curtailed by the Home Office in the past three years, figures obtained by BBC News show.
And 410 educational establishments had their licences to sponsor international students revoked in the same period.
The Home Office said it was cracking down on immigration abuse.
But the National Union of Students said international students were being "scapegoated" in order to meet targets on net migration.
The Home Office count incoming and departing international students when setting its targets on net migration, despite fears from some leading politicians that this risks harming UK universities.
The figures, released by the Home Office under Freedom of Information rules, show 99,635 students had their visas curtailed in the three years to the end of December 2015:
33,210 in 2013
34,210 in 2014
32,215 in 2015

Poorer pupils' results 'vary greatly' at primary schools with similar intakes

by TES Connect, April 22, 2016

More than twice as many disadvantaged children achieve good maths results in some schools compared with others, according to an Education Endowment Foundation analysis
Research has revealed a large gap in the performance of primary schools with similar intakes, with more than twice as many disadvantaged 11-year-olds achieving good maths results in some schools than in others.

Analysis by the Education Endowment Foundation shows that 90 per cent of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds achieved a level 4B or higher in maths at some schools. But for others schools with a similar intake, the proportion was just 40 per cent.

Achieving a level 4B means a pupil is deemed to be on track to score a good GCSE pass.

The analysis is from Families of Schools, a database published by the EEF today, which groups primary schools into “families” that are statistically similar. The EEF published a version of the database for secondary schools in 2014.

Schools in the same “family” can be in different areas of the country but have similar proportions of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, similar proportions of pupils speaking English as an additional language and similar levels of average prior attainment.

'Exam boards urgently need to find new methods of detecting injustice at the level of individual candidates'

by TES Connect, April 22, 2016

Things go wrong with exams. But, time and again, the default is for the boards and the regulator to close ranks. What about the individual candidates, asks this leading headteacher
Schools have known since last summer that something went badly wrong with the 2015 Cambridge IGCSE qualification in English language. The Association of School and College Leaders estimates that several thousand candidates received suspect grades.

Last week, two independent-schools groups – the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Girls’ School Association – published an enquiry into the pattern of results awarded to around 30 per cent of the candidates entered for one of the versions of this IGCSE.

What did this show? That top-end grades for this subject were wildly out of kilter with the achievement of the same candidates in comparable subjects.

'Let’s get back to enjoying learning for what it is, and then see what the results are'

by TES Connect, April 22, 2016

Our children are the most examined in Europe, and it's squeezing the joy out of learning. Let's just strip away the entire system and start again, says this history teacher
Terry Pratchett once said that “the difficulty with people who rely on systems is that they begin to believe that nearly everything is in some way a system and therefore, sooner or later, they become bureaucrats”.

It is fair to say our education system has become more and more systematic in its approach to delivery, content and assessment. System overload is a symptom of the status afforded these days to the exam. Its power and allure dwarfs that of anything and everything else. And we have so many exams, it’s staggering.

We are now, according to Andrew Thompson, head of the history faculty at the University of Cambridge, the most examined country in Europe. In many other European states, they might rely purely on teacher assessment at 16 or 18: a presentation performed in front of a board of teachers, but with judgments already formed by the class teacher over a long period of time.

Workload: Teachers spend longer administering tests than analysing the results

by TES Connect, April 22, 2016

One in three say their pupils take at least seven tests per year, survey finds
Four in ten teachers say that they are spending more time on administrative tasks linked to pupil assessment than on interpreting and acting on the results of the tests.

An online poll found that 43 per cent of teachers said they spent longer administering assessment than going through the results, prompting concerns that schools were unnecessarily adding to teachers’ workloads by running too many tests.

On average, the teachers in the study said that their pupils took four tests or assessments per year. But 34 per cent said that their pupils took seven or more tests per year and 15 per cent said that their pupils took 10 or more.

Three-quarters of the respondents said that assessment data had highlighted issues that they had not previously been aware of, such as pupils who were coasting in class or had unidentified special educational needs, such as dyslexia.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT heads' union, said: “Assessment needs to be robust, but it also needs to be insightful. Too often, we sacrifice one for the other.

“While it is good teaching that raises standards, good assessment helps to support better teaching. Data needs to be used to understand students’ needs rather than simply as a crude measure of whole-school performance or a proxy for classroom accountability.”

Shakespeare's 'original classroom' revealed

by BBC News, April 22, 2016

The original classroom where William Shakespeare is believed to have studied and seen his first plays opens to the public for the first time this weekend.
The classroom is owned by the King Edward VI school, the direct successor to the grammar school in Stratford-upon-Avon attended by Shakespeare from about 1571.
It will be open to visitors after a £1.8m lottery-funded renovation.
Among the discoveries was a hidden pre-Reformation wall painting.
Bennet Carr, headmaster of the modern day grammar school, says of the atmospheric building: "If I'm on my own in there sometimes, the hairs stand on the back of my neck."
His school is now going to share the classroom with visitors, with the renovated building opening on Saturday, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.
The schoolroom where Shakespeare studied from the age of seven was the upper floor of the town's half-timbered medieval guildhall.

Students threaten to split from NUS over new president

by BBC News, April 22, 2016

Students from several universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, are threatening to vote to break away from the National Union of Students.
It follows the controversial election of new president, Malia Bouattia, the NUS's first black female Muslim leader.
Ms Bouattia has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks - including calling the University of Birmingham "something of a Zionist outpost".
She has insisted her argument was political rather than one of religion.
Harry Samuels, an NUS delegate from the University of Oxford, told BBC Newsnight the appointment of Ms Bouattia was undemocratic, as she was not elected under a system of "one member, one vote".
"It's not just about Malia in particular," he said.
"Obviously her election enshrines the fact that NUS no longer represents all students, but there are other grievances we have with the rest of the organisation, there are other reasons we think that the organisation is no longer reformable.
"It's the mixture of those reasons why we're campaigning to leave."

Sats primary school spelling test scrapped after blunder

by BBC News, April 22, 2016

The government has been forced to cancel its controversial new spelling and grammar test after it was accidentally put online by officials.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the incident was "clearly regrettable".
Half a million seven-year-olds in England had been due to take the tests next month, as part of their Sats.
Head teachers' leaders had called for the test to be scrapped as it had been used as practice by an unidentifiable number of schools.
On Thursday, the BBC News website reported that a spelling test from this new additional paper had been available on a Department for Education website, for use as practice material, since January.
'Human error'
The blunder was initially spotted by a teacher at one of 700 schools that was carrying out an official trial of the test, using the paper that was to be taken by pupils around England.
Russell Hobby, the leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We have no way of knowing how extensively it has been used by schools and parents."

University hopefuls urged to keep applications 'personal'

by BBC News, April 21, 2016

University applicants are overly reliant on a few "hackneyed phrases" in their personal statements, says the admissions service UCAS.
The organisation has published a top 10 list of the most frequently used opening lines.
It found that "From a young age I have (always) been..." was the most popular opening line last year.
"The personal statement is supposed to be personal," warned chief executive Mary Curnock Cook.
"Learning to write about yourself in a compelling way is a vital skill when applying for jobs; using hackneyed phrases is not the best way to stand out," she added.

Sats spelling test was on practice paper

by BBC News, April 21, 2016

A Sats spelling test due to be taken by half a million seven-year-olds in England next month was accidentally published as a sample test months ago.
The error was discovered when a school running an official trial of the new national spelling test saw that pupils recognised all the words being tested.
Teachers then found the exact same test was among practice papers on the Department for Education (DfE) website.
The government said it was a "serious error" and was investigating.
Around half a million of the test papers are already with schools, in sealed envelopes, in preparation for Sats tests in the first week of May.
Tests and assessments are taken by every seven-year-old and every 11-year-old in the country, and the results are used to hold schools to account.
However, the spelling and grammar test results are not used to rank the schools.
The DfE publishes sample papers via its website and schools - or parents - are free to use them to help their children gain useful practice in the run-up to the tests.
A school in south-east England, which did not wish to be identified, was one of a number taking part in a trial of the new paper.

Out-of-school sports clubs may boost primary maths

by BBC News, April 20, 2016

Children who took part in out-of-school sports and dance were one-and-a-half times more likely to do well at maths, study finds
Out-of-school activities can help improve primary children’s educational attainment, a new study has found.

Children who took part in organised sports or other activities, such as dance, at the ages of 5, 7 and 11 were almost one-and-a-half times more likely to reach a higher than expected level in key stage 2 maths, according to researchers from NatCen Social Research, Newcastle University and ASK Research.

The study of more than 6,400 English children, was funded by the Nuffield Foundation. No general relationship was found between organised sports or other activities and KS2 English and science scores.

The study found that formal sports club activity was dominated by children from more well-off families, with almost two out of five of disadvantaged seven-year-olds taking part, compared to four out of five of those from wealthier homes. But, in contrast, roughly equal numbers of children from both backgrounds were involved in after-school clubs.

Nicky Morgan attempts to reassure schools over academisation plans

by TES Connect, April 20, 2016

Education secretary says academies will not be forced to join chains and can continue to work with local authorities
Nicky Morgan has countered criticism of her controversial academisation plans by stressing that schools will still be able to work with local authorities and that no academies will be forced to join academy chains.

The education secretary also suggested that a fully academised system was inevitable because, on current trends, three-quarters of secondary schools and a third of primaries "would have converted to academy status by 2022 anyway" without government intervention.

"That trajectory makes it impossible for local authorities to manage expensive bureaucracies with fewer and fewer schools," she told heads at the Academies Show in London this morning.

Catalyst for success
Ms Morgan said she understood that "academy status doesn’t raise standards as a matter of course".

But she said school leaders could use academy status to "propel schools to success". Good schools would have to become academies "so they can become sponsors and support those schools which are not meeting the high standards pupils need", she told heads.

The government's schools White Paper makes it clear that it expects "most schools" to be part of multi-academy trusts (MATs).

Final decision on whether borough will have no A-levels

by BBC News, April 20, 2016

Academy governors will meet this week for a final decision on closing a sixth form, which would mean an entire borough would have no schools with A-level places.
Halewood Academy in Knowsley says its sixth form is not financially viable and has announced it should be shut.
But its closure would mark the end of the last A-level places in the borough.
Parents at the school who are protesting say: "This is letting down the children of this community."
On Wednesday, school principal Gary Evans said that parents would be told of the outcome as soon as the decision is reached this week.
'Who is accountable?'
Last month the governors at Halewood Academy announced that the sixth form should be closed because of funding cuts which made it financially unsustainable to continue with a sixth form for about 80 students.
Since this was the last remaining school in the borough offering A-levels, it would mean the entire A-level provision in Knowsley, in Merseyside, would cease, and pupils would have to seek places in schools in other authorities.

Academy accounts 'uncertain', warns spending watchdog

by BBC News, April 20, 2016

The Department for Education has been severely reprimanded by the National Audit Office for failing to properly account for spending by academies.
The DfE has just published its accounts for 2014-15, nine months after every other government department.
The NAO says there is a level of "misstatement and uncertainty" that means the truth and fairness of the accounts cannot be verified.
The DfE says academies are subject to a "rigorous system of accountability".
While there is no suggestion that academies have misspent money, the NAO report warns that the rapid expansion of the academies programme in England has made it difficult to keep track of spending and land.
It also says the situation is likely to get worse given the government's drive to turn all schools in England into academies by 2020, or for them to have a plan to do so by 2022.
The report says: "The department's policy of autonomy for academies brings with it significant risks if the financial capability of the department and academies are not strengthened.

University tuition fees of £9,000 do not reflect 'quality of teaching', says leaked Government memo

by Independent, April 20, 2016

Government ministers are questioning whether tuition fee costs of up to £9,000 at some of the UK’s top universities can be justified given the “quality and intensity of teaching.”

As reported by The Telegraph, the revelation has come to light after images of a private memo were leaked on Monday as an unnamed official carried meeting notes from Number 10 to the Cabinet Office.

Muslim pupils taking exams should be told they can be exempt from Ramadan fasting, head teachers' union says

by Independent, April 20, 2016

Muslim schoolchildren taking exams this summer should be advised they can be exempted from Ramadan fasting and “made aware that Islam does not require them to put their futures in jeopardy”, the head teachers' union has urged.

The intervention by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) representing head teachers and college principals comes ahead of a Ramadan month of dawn-to-sunset fasting that will clash with summer GCSE and A-Level exams in a way that has not occurred in the UK since the 1980s.

England children's social worker posts almost 20% vacant

by BBC News, April 20, 2016

Almost a fifth of all children's social worker jobs in England are vacant, despite a rise in recruitment.
Councils are relying on agency workers to cover nearly 4,000 out of 5,500 otherwise empty posts.
Social workers say they are under constant pressure because of media coverage and criticism of their role in high profile cases such as the death of Ayeeshia Jane Smith.
Local authorities say social workers leave for better pay as agency staff.