Latest Educational News

Good news Friday: fundraiser goes onesie step further

by The Telegraph, May 1, 2015

Classified as General.

The weekend is about to arrive, and that means one thing – another Good News Friday column.
In the news this week, an exam board chief executive from OCR says pupils should be allowed to take Google into their exams to help teachers assess the way students apply information to their learning; leading psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist has said that smartphones are making children borderline autistic as they become less able to engage with facial expression and more concerned with technology; and Cambridge has been named the hardest university to get into in the UK.
• Last time: hanging with puppets at Purcell
Elsewhere, a head teacher came into school dressed as a giraffe to raise money for the science department and pupils at Sydenham High School are calling for politics to be taught to younger year groups. Read on to find out more.

Independent school pupils at record high

by BBC News, May 1, 2015

Classified as General.

The number of pupils at independent schools in the UK is at its highest level since records began.
Figures published by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) show a slight rise in the numbers of privately educated pupils since last year.
The data also shows parents are on average now paying more than £15,500 a year for private schooling.
In total, there are 517,113 pupils at ISC schools this year, according to the council's annual survey of members.
This is up by about 1%, or 5,000 more students, on 2014.
The council says this means that student numbers are at their highest levels since records began 40 years ago.

Schools providing £43.5m of extra support to children due to cuts – poll

by The Guardian, May 1, 2015

Classified as General.

Schools are providing an estimated £43.5m of unfunded support for children from low income families who have been left “high and dry” as a result of coalition cuts, a poll of headteachers has revealed.
According to the survey, published on Friday, eight out of 10 headteachers (84%) who responded said they were providing more support than five years ago, including food, clothes and washing facilities.

Others said their schools were paying for outings, head lice treatment and haircuts, as well as birthday cards and presents for pupils who would not otherwise receive any. Often teachers were paying out of their own pockets to help those most in need.

More than four out of five (84%) identified a change in financial circumstances among parents of those children affected, while 66% said they were having to step in to provide services that would previously have been delivered by health and social services – of which more than seven in 10 (72%) said they were providing mental health support.

Free meals for infants may cost schools millions in pupil premium cash

by TES Connect, May 1, 2015

Primary schools could miss out on tens of millions of pounds in pupil premium funding as a result of free school meals being introduced for all infants, TES can reveal.

Research by the NAHT headteachers' union has found that three-quarters of school leaders believe their school is losing out because of a drop in the number of pupils registered as eligible for the additional cash.

The pupil premium – worth £1,300 per student – is dependent on parents registering their children for free school meals (FSM). But since last September, all four- to seven-year-olds have been entitled to free lunches regardless of their family income, removing a major reason for parents to sign their children up for FSM.

Respondents to the survey estimated that an average 12 per cent of eligible pupils were not registered for FSM, meaning that schools were each missing out on thousands of pounds of government funding.

“The pupil premium and the universal meals are two really good policies that help children, but one is having a negative impact on the other,” said Nicky Gillhespy, school business manager at Cheam Fields Primary School in Surrey.

The three main political parties’ spokespeople for education – the Conservatives’ Nicky Morgan, Labour’s Tristram Hunt and the Lib Dems’ David Laws – are all due to address the NAHT’s annual conference in Liverpool, which starts today. A motion at the conference will call for a national data-sharing system to be set up so that schools are automatically informed of pupils’ entitlement to FSM, rather than relying on parents to tell them.

Meanwhile, a separate NAHT survey published today reveals that schools are spending £43.5 million per year on basic support such as food, clothes and showering facilities for children living in poverty.

Independent school pupils at record high

by BBC News, May 1, 2015

Classified as General.

The number of pupils at independent schools in the UK is at its highest level since records began.

Figures published by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) show a slight rise in the numbers of privately educated pupils since last year.

The data also shows parents are on average now paying more than £15,500 a year for private schooling.

In total, there are 517,113 pupils at ISC schools this year, according to the council's annual survey of members.

This is up by about 1%, or 5,000 more students, on 2014.

The council says this means that student numbers are at their highest levels since records began 40 years ago.

'Remarkable'

There are 10 more schools in the ISC than last year, with 1,267 in total. And comparing only those schools that took part in the survey in both years, there has been a 0.6% rise in numbers.

There were increases in the numbers both of British and international pupils taking up places, the ISC said.

Schools feeding and clothing pupils, say heads

by BBC News, May 1, 2015

Classified as General.

Head teachers are warning that schools are having to act like "mini-welfare states" in having to provide food, spare uniform and even to wash clothes and provide showers for some pupils.

The National Association of Head Teachers says such welfare support is costing £43.5m from school budgets.

Heads' leader Russell Hobby said it was a "hidden national scandal".

A Conservative spokesman said "the number of children living in poverty has fallen by 300,000".

The warning from members of the NAHT, as they gather for their annual conference in Liverpool, is that schools are having to step in with welfare support for pupils, either because of poverty or dysfunctional families.

Washing clothes

The union's report, based on responses from more than 2,000 head teachers in England, found examples of schools supplying food, clothes, PE kit, headlice treatment, transport costs and equipment for lessons.

There were schools which now had facilities for washing clothes and providing showers for pupils.

Private schools in UK attracting record numbers of students

by The Guardian, May 1, 2015

Classified as General.

Independent schools in Britain appear to have weathered the economic downturn with record numbers now attending fee-paying private schools – although the rise is underpinned by increasing numbers of pupils from overseas.

The annual census conducted by the Independent Schools Council of more than 1,200 private schools found 517,000 pupils enrolled in 2015, the highest number since it began keeping records 40 years ago.

But the number of UK-domiciled pupils remains lower than before the financial crisis hit, with the overall total boosted by a 33% increase since 2008 in the number of non-British pupils whose parents live overseas.

Excluding overseas pupils, 490,000 British residents are currently attending independent schools, compared with 491,000 in 2008.

China and Hong Kong provide more than 10,000 of the 27,000 overseas pupils attending British independent schools in 2015, with Russia the next largest contingent with 2,800, followed by Germany with 1,900 and Spain with 1,200.

The numbers are also boosted by the inclusion of nursery schools, with sharp rises in the numbers of children aged three and under at pre-prep and private nursery schools within the ISC’s members, reflecting the recent baby boom and challenge of finding childcare for pre-school children.

The state of the economy appears to have dampened the rate of increase in school fees for the first time in many years. The average annual fee for a day pupil is more than £13,000 a year – a rise of more than 3% compared with last year, but 37% higher than the £9,600 average in 2008.

Inattention at age 7 impacts on GCSEs, study shows

by TES Connect, April 30, 2015

Classified as General.

Children who do not pay attention at age 7 do less well in their GCSEs at age 16, according to a study.

Researchers said the findings highlighted the long-term academic risks associated with children being distracted or not paying attention.

The investigation, carried out by academics at Bristol and Nottingham universities, covered more than 11,000 children. Parents and teachers were asked about pupils’ behaviour at age 7, including inattention, hyperactivity or defiance problems. The results were then compared with the students' GCSE scores at age 16.

The study found that, after taking into account other factors, such as parental education and social class, for every one-point increase in inattention symptoms at age 7 there was a two- to three-point reduction in GCSE scores and a 6-7 per cent increased likelihood of not achieving a minimum level of five good GCSE grades, including maths and English, at age 16.

"Across the full range of scores at a population level, each one-point increase in inattention at age 7 years is associated with worse academic outcomes at age 16," the study concludes. "The findings highlight long-term academic risk associated with ADHD, particularly inattentive symptoms."

Kapil Sayal, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Nottingham, who led the research, said: “Teachers and parents should be aware of the long-term academic impact of behaviours such as inattention and distractibility. The impact applies across the whole spectrum of scores at the population level and is not just confined to those scoring above a cut-off or at the extreme end.”

Google 'should be allowed in examinations'

by BBC News, April 30, 2015

Classified as General.

It is inevitable search engines such as Google will be allowed in public examinations, including GCSEs and A-Levels, the head of an exam board says.

OCR chief Mark Dawe told the Today programme allowing internet use in exam rooms reflected the way pupils learned and how they would work in future.

He said students would still need a basis of knowledge and would have limited time to conduct searches.

The Campaign for Real Education condemned the idea as "dumbing down".

Mr Dawe said: "Surely when they learn in the classroom, everyone uses Google if there is a question.

"It is more about understanding what results you're seeing rather than keeping all of that knowledge in your head, because that's not how the modern world works."

He compared the idea to the debate about whether to have books available during a test, saying: "In reality you didn't have too much time [to consult the book] and you had to learn it anyway."

Mr Dawe suggested some exams may allow internet access and others may not.

He told the Today programme: "It's about understanding the tools they have got available and how to utilise them.

Lib Dem Alexander challenges Tories over welfare cuts

by BBC News, April 30, 2015

Classified as General.

Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said the Conservatives proposed to "slash" child benefit while the two parties were in government together.

Mr Alexander said he was "lifting the lid" on plans including limiting child benefit and tax credit to two children.

He claimed his party blocked the move, which he said was worth £8bn.

The Conservatives said they recognised none of the proposals, which were "definitely not" party policy.

"This set of policies was never proposed or supported by the prime minister and chancellor and would never be proposed or supported by the prime minister and chancellor," a Conservative spokesman said.

He added: "This is desperate stuff from Liberal Democrats who are now willing to say anything to try and get attention."

In other election news, with a week to go before polling day:
David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are preparing for the BBC's Question Time Election Leaders Special, where they will face questions separately from a studio audience

Nick Clegg: Free school meals for 7 to 11-year-olds

by BBC News, April 29, 2015

Classified as General.

Free school meals will be available to all primary school children in England, under a £610m-a-year plan unveiled by the Liberal Democrats.

Infant school pupils are already entitled to a free meal under a policy championed by leader Nick Clegg and introduced in September last year.

But Mr Clegg wants seven to 11-year-olds to also benefit from 2017/18.

The Lib Dem pledge came as the Tories promised not to raise taxes and Labour said it would ensure tax credits rise.

Mr Clegg and his wife Miriam, who runs a food blog, donned aprons and made an apple and blackberry crumble for pupils at a Wiltshire school to promote the measure, which they claim will benefit 1.9 million youngsters and save parents £400 per child on lunches.

Mr Clegg said his policy would also ensure all primary school children enjoyed a nutritious meal rather than a "slice of white bread with chocolate paste on it".

Kitchen improvements

The introduction of free school meals for Key Stage 1 pupils faced criticism over the way it was funded, with some councils raiding maintenance budgets to meet the obligation.

Under the expanded Lib Dem plan, an estimated £100m would be earmarked for improvements to school kitchens and dining facilities in primary schools.

The extension of free school meals to cover children aged seven to 11 would cost £610m a year, including a share destined for the education budgets of areas where power has been devolved.

Judge schools over five-year period, says exam board

by BBC News, April 29, 2015

Classified as General.

Schools in England should be judged by five years' worth of results rather than just one, an exam board says.

A Cambridge Assessment study found "surprisingly high levels" of school results volatility year on year.

Variations in results were of "serious concern" in many of the 150 schools analysed, even after the impact marking quality had been removed, it said.

Heads backed the report's call, saying decisions on schools should not be made on the basis of one year's results.

School league table positions are based on headline GCSE results for one year only.

Under the current system, schools are considered to be failing if fewer than 40% of their students score at least five Cs at GCSE, including English and maths, and they do not meet national averages in pupil progress.

'Complex factors'

The exam board's group director of assessment and development, Tim Oates, said: "Underlying school-level volatility may be an enduring and persistent feature of education."

This meant "that school performance - in terms of exam results - should be judged on a five-year picture rather than one-off annual drops or increases", he added.

'Outsource marking' to cut teachers' workload

by BBC News, April 29, 2015

Classified as General.

Teachers could reduce their workload by outsourcing the marking of pupils' school work to staff overseas, suggests a leading education researcher.

Rebecca Allen, director of Education Datalab, says research has found "incredibly reliable" marking available overseas costing £2 to £3 per hour.

Dr Allen says there needed to be more radical approaches to cutting workload.

But heads' leader Brian Lightman said he would have "serious concerns" about regularly outsourcing marking.

Mr Lightman, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, said: "Marking of pupils' work is an integral part of the professional duties of a teacher."

Dr Allen, speaking at an Education Media Centre event, suggested that even though all political parties backed the idea of cutting workload for teachers, there were few practical measures to achieve this and "radically different ways" should be considered.

She said schools should consider re-thinking some of the most time-consuming activities, such as marking pupils' work.

Cutting workload

"We've got to look elsewhere. We can't just say things like 'paperwork'. I think we need to be realistic and think in radical ways about things like marking," said Dr Allen, who is also reader in the economics of education at the UCL Institute of Education.

UK universities ranked best in the world for six subject areas

by The Guardian, April 29, 2015

Classified as General.

In case you’ve missed the barrage of excited tweets from universities, QS has released its annual subject rankings, showing which universities around the world are rated best across a selection of 36 subject areas.

This year’s tables show a mixed picture in the UK, and suggest that academic excellence is continuing to spread eastwards. But which countries are gaining ground and who is losing out?

The subject tables are dominated by US universities – again

US institutions continue to outperformed their rivals, accounting for more than a third of top 50 places. This isn’t a huge surprise – US universities also did best in the overall institution-level performance table that was released in September last year.

The top US performers are Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – one or other is ranked first across 21 subject areas.

In terms of subject areas, the US did especially well in communication and media studies – where it accounted for 30 of the top 50 institutions. It also dominated the top 50 list for statistics and operational research (24 institutions), as well as the tables for environmental sciences, earth and marine sciences and biological sciences (23 institutions each).

The UK comes second, but some institutions lose out

UK universities rank second to US institutions, accounting for 14% of the top 50 spots available. But it’s a mixed picture – of its subject entries listed, 30% have lost ground, while 18% have improved. Researchers say this is partly because newer, emerging institutions are challenging the dominant countries.

Parents 'puzzled' when new graduates return home

by BBC News, April 29, 2015

Classified as General.

Parents of young adults who return to the family home after university are often "puzzled" about how to manage the relationship, suggests a small study.

Living together again "is often not a strongly positive experience" for parent or child, say London School of Economics (LSE) researchers.

But with up to half of new graduates living at home it may "become a new social norm", they add.

The researchers carried out in-depth interviews in 27 households.

Some 3.3 million UK adults aged between 20 and 34 were living in the parental home in 2013, according to official statistics.

This amounted to a quarter of that age group - but among graduates aged 22 to 24, the proportion rose to about half, according to the researchers.

'Negative feelings'

Returning home was usually prompted more by need than desire, they found, with new graduates facing a relatively weak jobs market and high property prices.

"No returner wanted to live with their parents indefinitely, although some... were in no hurry to live independently," their study said.

And many parents were "anxious as to how long it might continue".

"Some parents experience a lot of tension between supporting their children and successfully 'launching' them as independent adults," said lead author Prof Jane Lewis.

The study found the graduates were largely more positive than their parents, but both groups expressed mainly negative feelings.

Some parents complained the young adults did not contribute sufficiently to household chores and finances, while some young adults were unhappy at the loss of the independence they had gained at university.

Focus on quality of early education, politicians urged

by BBC News, April 29, 2015

Classified as General.

The next government should focus on the quality of care and education received by young children, say campaigners.

Politicians have concentrated on increasing the quantity of free childcare available but its quality is crucial, they say.

In particular, funds should be targeted at quality provision for the poorest children, says the British Association for Early Childhood Education.

They deserve more than good "care", says an open letter from the group.

"They need high quality, professionalised early educators," the letter argues.

"The evidence shows that children who benefit most from high quality early years provision are those whose families are struggling in the most challenging economic circumstances," says the letter.

It adds that the "substantial" economic and social benefits of good early education "are demonstrable for all society".

'Emphasise quality'

The group welcome the focus by politicians on the accessibility and affordability of childcare for working parents but say there needs to be more emphasis on the quality of the care and education provided.

Ofsted inspections harm children's services, says report

by BBC News, April 29, 2015

Classified as General.

Ofsted inspections of children's services are outdated and do not always protect vulnerable children, according to a new report.

A poor rating for a local authority can leave children less safe than before the inspection, say the authors.

They say a new model of help for vulnerable families is needed.

Ofsted argues that while they recognise the challenges facing the social work sector, "independent scrutiny" is crucial.

'Dysfunction'

The paper written by the consultancy group Impower highlights concerns over the inspections carried out by Ofsted on failing local authority services.

Ofsted inspect and regulate services for children and young people in schools, local authorities and childcare settings.

The report authors say there is a "lack of clarity" within the inspection framework and little has been done to work out which approach is best for protecting children.

They argue that a lack of consistency within the inspection process means that a single judgement of inadequate by Ofsted can trigger a "catastrophic spiralling effect" on a local authority.

Their analysis suggests that after a negative inspection in a local authority, work volumes often increase, intervention is reduced leaving children potentially less safe than before and there is a higher turnover of staff.

Report author Amanda Kelly describes the challenges faced by councils and rising demands on services as a "volatile mix".

"Many councils want to go down a preventative route, intervening earlier and working more closely with the police, schools and NHS.

"The challenge at present is the dysfunction in Ofsted."

'How have we got education so disastrously wrong?'

by The Telegraph, April 29, 2015

Classified as General.

As we read of the open letter signed by more than 1,200 teachers complaining that stress is destroying the profession, it might be worth pausing to ask what has happened to make teaching, once the most rewarding and satisfying of jobs, so deeply frustrating and unfulfilling?

How have we allowed so many initiatives done in the name of ‘improving standards’ to wreck havoc on our schools? How, in the interests of trying to improve the quality of the education, have we got it so disastrously wrong?

• Relentless testing leading to schools 'rife with anxiety'

When it comes to compiling a charge list, where to begin? Perhaps with the extension of schools into their extended role as providers of wrap-round care and the extra pressures that has placed upon teachers?

Perhaps with the amount of time required to be given over at inset days and staff meetings to topics as diverse as child protection, safeguarding, e-safety, inspections, changes in legislation, health and safety updates, risk assessments and compliance, all valid in themselves, but leaving no room left to discuss the education of children?

Perhaps in encouraging parents to act as champions for their children without any account of their own responsibilities in raising and disciplining them? Or in society’s expectations that schools are where all social problems should be dealt with?

Perhaps with the quite unreasonable demands placed on teachers to constantly record evidence, work to targets and be subject to endless monitoring, appraisal and inspections?

Perhaps with the ever changing regulations for inspections and compliance designed to keep us on our toes?

Private schools suffer 'more severe' decline in languages than state sector

by TES Connect, April 28, 2015

Independent schools are suffering from a decline in language learning that is “more severe” than that in the state sector, a leading public school languages director has said.

Nick Mair, director of languages at Dulwich College and chair of the Independent Schools’ Modern Languages Association (ISMLA), told a conference today that the rising importance of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) had marginalised foreign languages.

“You all think it’s hunky dory in the ivory tower…[but] it isn’t,” he said, adding that the number of private school pupils taking A-level French fell 10 per cent last year, higher than the national average, and the number taking German fell 9 per cent.

“[If] you think it’s all OK in independent schools, it simply is not,” he said. “It’s simply that the starting point is higher, but the decline is either more severe than, or as severe as, that in state schools.”

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum debate in London, Mr Mair said this was because “every senior management [team] is banging the STEM drum”. Pointing to a newspaper article that described a “war against humanities”, he said he believed this phrase to be accurate.

Teresa Tinsley, author of the Language Trends survey which was published last month, said figures covering both independent and state schools showed there had been a decline in GCSE French and Spanish entries and a “steep decline” in entries for German and French A-levels.

She said this was in part due to the “negative impact” of assessment systems and performance measures, especially in post-16 education.

Mr Mair criticised “severe grading” and “unpredictable grades” in language exams, and said members of the ISMLA had told him they did not understand the grading of language exams.

He said the government’s decision to de-couple AS and A-levels could hit language learning. “It means [students will] not [take] four AS levels and one of them might be a language – and if we teach it well they might stay with it. It means it’s going to be maths, science, something and enrichment. Many schools will not have that slot for a language.”

Mr Mair said part of the solution could lie in adopting the American approach of “STEAM” subjects, in which an art subject was added to science, technology, engineering and maths. Across the pond, he said, “they think scientists and engineers are losing out because they don’t have a language.”

Schools' hidden funding crisis: teachers take drastic action as cuts hit hard

by The Guardian, April 28, 2015

Classified as General.

Dan McAllister is a teacher at a secondary school in South Yorkshire. This is not his real name, because he is worried about the implications for his job if he talks to the Guardian about the financial crisis facing his school. Before Easter, he and his colleagues were summoned to a staff meeting to be told that their oversubscribed academy, rated outstanding by Ofsted, was facing a budget shortfall of £750,000 over the next three years.

Life at the sharp end: five families hit by five years of austerity

The staff gathered that day were horrified. “We were expecting some of it,” McAllister said, “but it was absolutely massive!” They were warned that as many as 10 jobs would have to go to help make the necessary savings, and the harsh reality of the difficulties that lay ahead for them personally began to sink in.

“People are frightened,” he said. “They don’t want to lose their jobs. And schools are desperately frightened – if their reputation goes down, parents will choose to go elsewhere.”

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