Latest Educational News

School trials of times tables check to begin in March

by TES, February 14, 2018

DfE says test will ensure that pupils start secondary knowing tables by heart - but NAHT warns that primary schools are already 'cluttered with tests and checks'
The government is to start trialling its multiplication tables check in selected schools from next month, schools standards minister Nick Gibb announced today.

The on-screen test will be sat by eight- and nine-year-olds in Year 4 and is designed to make sure primary school children know their times tables up to 12 by heart.

The trial comes ahead of a national rollout of the check on a voluntary basis from June 2019, before it becomes mandatory in June 2020.

Mr Gibb said: “Just as the phonics screening check helps children who are learning to read, the multiplication tables check will help teachers identify those pupils who require extra support.

“This will ensure that all pupils leave primary school knowing their times tables by heart and able to start secondary school with a secure grasp of fundamental arithmetic as a foundation for mathematics.”

It is understood that a sample of about 290 schools has been selected to participate in the trials, which will involve around 7,250 pupils. The schools are due to receive their invitation to participate shortly.

An expectation that all pupils will know their times tables by heart at the end of primary school has featured in the Conservatives' past two election manifestos, and last February Mr Gibb confirmed the check would be introduced in 2018-19. The decision to make pupils sit the test in Year 4 follows a consultation on primary assessment held by the government last year.

The government claims the test – which it says will last no longer than five minutes – will “enable teachers to monitor a child’s progress in a consistent and reliable way”.

It insists the check has been “carefully designed to avoid causing additional stress for children and teachers”, and that results will not be published at school-level or used by Ofsted or others to “force changes” in school.

Exclusive: 'First knowledge-based PGCE' will be discontinued

by TES, February 13, 2018

Private university BPP has decided to close the course to new entrants next year, after it was launched last September
A private university has decided to discontinue a course it billed as “the UK’s first PGCE to focus on ‘knowledge-based’ secondary and primary school teaching”.

Five months after BPP launched the course with great fanfare, tutors have been told that it will be closed to new entrants from next year, for "strategic reasons".

A message sent to tutors yesterday from programme director Robert Peal states: "I am very sorry to have to tell you that the BPP programme will not be continuing next academic year.

"I spoke with the deputy dean of education services on Friday, and they explained that BPP had decided to withdraw the programme to new entrants.

"The current cohort will not be affected. They will continue to be taught, assessed and supported in the normal way. The deputy dean was keen to stress that this decision was not related to the quality of the teaching or materials (quite the opposite) but taken for strategic reasons."

Mr Peal apologised about the fact that one module, for which tutors had already prepared materials for, "will now not be taught".

He added: "I have passed on this news at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to ensure that you do not spend any more time (especially during your half term) working on the programme unnecessarily."

Mr Peal asked tutors to calculate how much work they had already undertaken so that "an appropriate financial settlement" could be agreed by BPP's legal team.

Day of reckoning for tuition fees?

by BBC, February 13, 2018

The starting pistol for the review of university tuition fees in England will be fired as early as next week.

Or at least that's the latest claim in the political twisting and turning over one of the toughest domestic decisions facing a fragile government.

The last time Theresa May's review of fees seemed to be approaching, neither the education secretary Justine Greening nor the universities minister Jo Johnson seemed particularly enthusiastic - and within weeks both of them were out of their jobs.

The new team - Damian Hinds and Sam Gyimah - will know they have to deliver, with the prime minister and Mr Hinds expected to lead the charge.

As they head for the weekend TV studios, the next big question is what problem the fees review is trying to solve?

‘Give every 18 year-old £10,000 to spend on their education,’ say academics

by TES, February 12, 2018

All 18 year-olds and every adult who hasn't gone to university should be given £10,000 by the government to spend on accredited courses, academics suggest
Every young person in England should be given state funding of £10,000 to spend on a university, college or training course of their choice when they reach 18, a group of academics has suggested.

The academics say that giving university undergraduates £5,000 a year over two years could be used to cut the cost of their tuition fees, while those who do not want to go to university could use the money to cover the cost of further education or an apprenticeship.

The idea is set out in a new paper, A National Learning Entitlement: Moving Beyond University Tuition Fees, which is due to be published tomorrow by the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), based at UCL Institute of Education.

The authors of the paper say it would cut the cost of tuition, with those on a three-year course, for example, not having to fund the first £5,000 of each of their first two years, but then paying for the third year.

While students would still have to take out government loans to cover the remaining costs, the academics claim their idea would benefit more people than Labour’s proposal to scrap tuition fees, because the half of young people who do not go to university will also be able to draw on the £10,000 entitlement.

DfE allows unlimited resits for teacher entry tests

by TES, February 12, 2018

Ministers insist that the change, in an attempt to tackle teacher recruitment problems, has not lowered the bar for entry to the profession
Ministers have sought to ease the teacher recruitment crisis by allowing unlimited resits of the professional skills tests that must be passed before anyone can enter initial teacher training.

Previously, aspiring teacher trainees were locked out of the system for two years after failing their second resit. The Department for Education is also allowing two extra resits to be taken for free before fees apply.

Teacher-training providers have welcomed the move, saying it will prevent good candidates from being lost to the profession. But critics are likely to claim that ministers have lowered the bar.

More rigorous skills tests for teachers were introduced in 2012 by the government "to ensure teachers have the highest standards of English and maths".

Ministers are responding to claims that the "lock-out" period was preventing capable candidates from entering teaching and putting them under too much pressure on the final resit.

Candidates will now be eligible for three attempts at the tests before they incur any cost, rather than one – a "cash boost" ministers say will be worth up to £77 per candidate.

Quality of NQTs 'at an all-time high'
School standards minister Nick Gibb (pictured) said: "The bar for entrance to the teaching profession remains as high as ever, as parents and pupils would expect, and this is evidenced by the fact that the quality of new entrants into the profession is at an all-time high, with 19 per cent of this year’s cohort holding a first-class degree.

Scottish councils cut education spending by up to a fifth

by TES, February 12, 2018

Education funding has been 'relatively protected' but some Scottish authorities have cut their spending by 20 per cent in real terms, says report
Spending on education by councils in Scotland has fallen by up to 20 per cent over six years, according to new figures.

The figures, published today, show that, since 2010-11, real-terms spending per primary and secondary pupil has fallen by 9.6 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively, which translates as £513 less per primary pupil and £205 less per secondary pupil.

But these numbers mask large variations across Scotland. For example, while some councils have cut spending by as much as a fifth, others have upped their education budgets by 7.8 per cent in real terms between 2010-11 and 2016-17.

The average spend per primary pupil last year was £4,804; at secondary level, the per-pupil spend was £6,817. Here again, the report highlighted “a considerable” variation between councils, “particularly for secondary education”.

In primary education, costs ranged from £4,105 per pupil in Edinburgh to £8,394 per pupil in the Western Isles (£4,105 to £5,775 excluding islands, which tend to spend more on education due their remoteness).

For secondary schools, the range was £5,844 per pupil in Renfrewshire to £11,968 per pupil in Orkney (£5,844 to £8,433 excluding islands).

The report – called the National Benchmarking Overview Report 2016-17 and compiled by local authorities so they can compare their performance – said the variance in per-pupil spend could be explained by teacher demographics, local choices around support staff, teaching assistants, support for children with additional support needs, and the promoted post structure in schools.

Overall, the report said that there had been real reductions in the education budget of almost 3.8 per cent since 2010-11 across Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

It said that education spending had been “relatively protected” – but it also highlighted that in some councils the real reduction in education spending was as much as 20 per cent.

An analysis last month by Tes Scotland of local authority budget proposals found that education may be more vulnerable to budget cuts than at any time in recent memory.

Four-in-10 heads struggle to know which mental health support to provide pupils

by TES, February 9, 2018

More than a third of counsellors and psychotherapists have also found it difficult to provide their services to schools
More than four-in-10 school leaders struggle to know what type of mental health support is needed for their pupils, a survey has found.

The poll also revealed that more than a third of counsellors and psychotherapists report difficulty in providing their services to schools.

The children’s mental health charity, Place2Be, carried out research in partnership with the NAHT heads’ union, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the UK Council for Psychotherapy, to mark Children’s Mental Health Week.

The survey, based on responses from 655 school leaders and 1,198 counsellors and psychotherapists, found that 44 per cent of school respondents said “knowing what type of support is needed” is a barrier to providing mental health support for pupils.

Forty-five per cent said they had found it difficult to commission mental health support and 37 per cent said they did not feel confident in commissioning a counsellor or therapist.

Counsellors and psychotherapists also reported challenges engaging with schools, with 34 per cent of those who work with children and young people saying it was difficult to provide their services to schools.

Common difficulties cited were “schools’ understanding of counselling and psychotherapy for children”, which was reported by 54 per cent of those surveyed, and “expectations not being clear”, which was reported by 30 per cent.

The organisations behind the research urged the government to provide “dedicated funding” so that mental health services could be embedded in schools, echoing a similar call from the Local Government Association earlier this week.

Primary opened by free school pioneer announces closure

by TES, February 9, 2018

Floreat Education blames finances and problems with site for closure of Floreat Brentford
A free school set up by a pioneer of the free school movement has announced that it intends to close.

Floreat Education blamed financial viability and site issues for the proposal to close Floreat Brentford Primary School, which opened in west London in 2015.

The trust said it had “nothing to do with free schools as a policy”, but the free school is one of a number that have been hampered by difficulties securing suitable sites.

Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow Council, said it was "another case of the government’s free school model failing and letting down our children, which is unacceptable to us".

The trust was founded by James O’Shaughnessy, who was director of policy and research for David Cameron between 2007 and 2011 and is now a Conservative health minister in the House of Lords.

It places a high value on character education, saying education is as much about developing “character strengths and virtues” as academic knowledge.

Last year, it said it planned to merge with another trust because of financial challenges it faced.

A spokesperson for Floreat said: “The closure of Floreat Brentford has nothing to do with free schools as a policy. It is entirely due to the authorities’ failure to meet their commitments with respect to a permanent school site. We regret that pupils, parents, and our teachers have had to suffer due to this closure which could have been avoided."

In a statement this afternoon, the trust said the Department for Education had agreed in principle to the school’s closure, although there will be a four-week consultation process.

Floreat’s trustees said: “The school is currently housed in two separate units, sitting under high-rise blocks at opposite ends of a retail parade and opening onto a busy public highway. Our pupils, who are aged 4-7, move between the units throughout the day. There is no outside space and so the children take a walk of up to ten minutes each way to spend playtime and PE lessons in a local park.

Tes Independent School Award winners demonstrate the best of their sector

by TES, February 8, 2018

School that helped out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy is named independent school of the year
They are the schools that show off the very best that the independent sector has to offer.

This evening, the winners of the Tes Independent School Awards 2018 have been announced at a glittering ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

They range from a school that aided a local partner when it suffered the worst imaginable tragedy, to an initiative that saw SEND pupils help restore a canal for the community, and work to preserve sporting opportunities in their city.

The independent school of the year is Latymer Upper School, which one judge described as “putting the best possible case for being a public school in this day and age”.

Testimonials from local schools it works with spoke in sparkling terms about its impact, and when the Grenfell Tower tragedy forced Kensington Aldridge Academy to close its site, Latymer stepped in to offer itself as a base for lower-sixth pupils.

And this year’s award for special services to independent education goes to Peter Bellenger, of Brighton College.

Colleagues cited his passion for chemistry, his exciting practicals and his commitment outside lessons.

The school rallied around him after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and the judges said: “Peter Bellenger is deemed to be an inspirational teacher, supported by his results, and his stoic defiance in the face of a debilitating illness is to be admired.”

Ann Mroz, editor of Tes, said: “We congratulate this year’s winners; all of them should be justly proud of their achievements and success this evening.”

Figures showing EAL pupils outperforming native speakers 'profoundly misleading'

by TES, February 7, 2018

Education Policy Institute estimates attainment data missing for three in 10 children with English as an additional language (EAL) in primary schools – and one in 10 in secondary schools
Average attainment figures showing that pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) outperform native speakers are "profoundly misleading" because they mask "enormous variation" between children with different first languages, a thinktank has said.

In a report published today, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) also argues that statistics on the performance of EAL students are plagued by missing or misleading prior attainment records, and that "better official statistics" are required to prevent the "urgent needs of some sub-groups" being missed.

According to performance statistics published by the Department for Education last month, in 2017 GCSE pupils with EAL outperformed native speakers on all DfE measures for the first time.

The EPI analysed earlier data from 2016, in which EAL pupils had an identical Attainment 8 score to the national average, made greater than average progress during school, and were more likely to achieve the English Baccalaureate than those with English as a first language.

Parents being talked into homeschooling troubled children

by BBC, February 6, 2018

Rogue head teachers are talking parents into homeschooling troubled children at risk of exclusion so their results do not count against the school, it is claimed.

Children's services bosses say a minority of heads in England are persuading parents to take on their child's education so as to avoid an exclusion on their record.

They are said to be worried about poor Ofsted inspections, league table positions and even losing their jobs because of academy takeovers.

The Association of Directors of Children's Services said they were concerned about the growth in elective home education "as an intervention", especially among pupils just ahead of sitting their GCSEs.

In a submission to a Commons committee, the ADCS said "exclusive practices" were being used as a "route to [school] improvement".

Schools should teach all pupils first aid, MPs say

by TES, February 6, 2018

In a debate about statutory PSHE, MPs also call on schools to teach pupils cancer detection
Giving pupils PSHE education could quite literally save lives, MPs heard today.

By including lessons in basic first aid and cancer detection as part of the subject, schools would equip pupils to go out into their communities and help prevent and treat illness, politicians said.

During a cross-party debate about whether PSHE should be made statutory in all schools, Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for Swindon North, said that a one-hour lesson in first aid would “create a generation of lifesavers” and “could save 5,000 lives a year”.

He added: “This is an absolute win-win for everybody. It would slot very easily into PSHE lessons.”

Andrew Selous, Conservative MP for South-West Bedfordshire, said that he would like to see all pupils taught to detect cancer early.

“The golden key to cancer is early detection,” Mr Selous said. “If we teach that to our children when they’re young, they’ll have no embarrassment about examining their own bodies for early detection.

“And, if they then take that message home to their families, and make sure their families do likewise, we can do much better.”

New documentary examines challenges faced by bright disadvantaged pupils

by TES, February 6, 2018

'Generation Gifted' will follow six talented pupils from low-income backgrounds, over three years
It is something that politicians, academics and teachers have debated extensively: what does it take for disadvantaged pupils to succeed at school?

Now, TV documentary-makers are hoping to find the answer that has been eluding educationists for years.

Generation Gifted, a new six-part documentary series, will begin on BBC Two next week. Two episodes will be screened this year, and four more over the next two years.

The aim is to follow the challenges facing six academically promising pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, exploring the challenges that face them as they take their GCSEs.

The first episode, to be screened on Wednesday 14 February, focuses on three Year 9 girls. Anne-Marie, who lives in South Wales, is an avid reader who wants to go to university, but needs help dealing with the idea of sitting exams.

Sats: Most teachers say writing assessment will not produce accurate results

by TES, February 5, 2018

Concerns follow changes to the guidance given to teachers who assess pupils' work
More than four in five teachers think that the current Year 6 writing assessments system will not produce honest or accurate results this year, according to a poll.

The results come after the government made changes to the guidance given to teachers tasked with judging the quality of pupils' work for the key stage 2 writing assessments.

Michael Tidd, headteacher of Medmerry primary in West Sussex and Tes columnist, ran a Twitter poll, answered by more than 2,000 teachers, asking whether the current system would produce honest and accurate results –- to which 84 per cent of respondents replied "no".

Grammar bites: how to teach the difference between a conjunctive adverb and a subordinating conjunction

by TES, February 1, 2018

Our second Grammar Bites advice column tackles a tricky definition task in primary schools
One thing Grammar Bites will regularly do is provide brief primers intended to help you get to grips with the National Curriculum glossary. These will be concrete, to-the-point affairs that generally focus on the exemplary cases of particular features.

What you should remember, however, is that there will almost always be boundary cases that do not neatly fit the criteria discussed. That’s how grammar is and – while it may be frustrating initially – it is something you get used to with time.

Grammar tips
Our first primer deals with something we’ve been asked several times recently: how to tell a conjunctive adverb from a subordination conjunction.

This is a perfectly reasonable question. After all, both features serve the same overall purpose, explicitly linking one part of a text to another.

Thus, in (1), the subordinating conjunction “because” marks the second clause as providing a reason for the first. In (2), the conjunctive adverb “however” marks the second clause as contrastive:

(1) Students like grammar because they love learning.

(2) Some students like grammar. However, other students think it's hell.

Seen in more general terms, therefore, both are instances of cohesive devices: grammatical resources that help fit a text together as an integrated piece of discourse.

Beyond this broad overlap, however, the similarity stops. For, while both can be construed as working to similar ends, the “grammatical” way they do this is distinct.

Here's what we mean.

Teacher shortages: 'Where the DfE got it wrong and how it can put things right'

by TES, January 31, 2018

MPs say the government needs to get a grip on the issue of teacher retention as numbers leaving profession soar
Urgent action is needed to address the "growing sense of crisis" in schools over teacher shortages, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said today.

Its report Retaining and Developing the Teaching Workforce sets out the problems and makes recommendations on how to fix them.

Where MPs found that the DfE got it wrong:
Its response to the “crisis brewing" in England's schools was "sluggish and incoherent"
The department did not understand why more teachers were leaving the profession
It does not have a coherent plan to tackle teacher retention and development.
It has a range of relatively small-scale initiatives but has not communicated these adequately to schools.
The DfE tools to help reduce workload have had a very limited impact – only half of schools have used the tools and a third of these managed to reduce workload.
The DfE does not seem to take into account the impact on workload of efficiency savings schools have had to make – such as bigger class sizes – and of its own decisions to change the curriculum and exams.
The cost of living is the second most significant barrier to teacher retention after workload, and yet schools, which are under financial pressure, are not using pay flexibilities to help recruit and retain teachers.

Creative subjects being squeezed, schools tell BBC

by BBC, January 30, 2018

Creative arts subjects are being cut back in many secondary schools in England, a BBC survey suggests.

More than 1,200 schools provided information - over 40% of secondary schools.

Of the schools that responded, nine in every 10 said they had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject.

The government says increasing teaching of academic subjects is a priority - though not at the expense of arts.

However, schools told the BBC that the increased emphasis on core academic subjects, together with funding pressures, were the most common reasons for cutting back on resources for creative subjects.

Privileged pupils 10 times more likely to attend elite universities

by TES, January 25, 2018

UCAS figures show that students from most advantaged areas are 10 times more likely to take place at Oxford and other elite universities – but gap has narrowed
Pupils from the UK's richest areas are over 10 times more likely to attend some elite universities compared to their peers from the poorest areas, new figures from UCAS show.

According to data for the 2017 admissions cycle published by UCAS today and analysed by Tes's sister magazine, Times Higher Education, the gap in representation between pupils from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds was widest at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Students from the most advantaged fifth of areas in the UK were 11.4 times more likely to take a place at the Scottish university compared to those from the most disadvantaged fifth of areas. At the University of Glasgow, the figure was 11.2 and at the University of Edinburgh it was 10.9. The higher ratio at Scottish universities is likely to reflect the fact that in Scotland there are fewer areas in the poorest fifth of the UK.

In England, Imperial College London had the highest ratio, with a student from the richest areas 10.8 times more likely to enter the university compared to those from the poorest areas. It was followed by Oxford University, where the figure was 10.6, and Kings College London where it was 10.1.

New teacher applications down by 29% since last year

by TES, January 25, 2018

The latest Ucas figures reveal that there were 6,640 fewer applicants for teacher-training courses thus month compared with the same time last year
The number of applicants for teacher-training courses is 29 per cent lower than it was this time last year.

The latest figures from the university-admissions service, Ucas, show that there had been 16,010 applicants for teacher-training courses as of 15 January this year.

This is 29 per cent lower than the same time last year, when 22,650 applicants had applied to train as teachers.

Candidates can apply for up to three courses, meaning that there are more applications than there are applicants. Across all routes, there had been 42,650 teacher-training applications received by January this year, compared with 61,840 at the same time last year: a drop of 31 per cent.

In percentage terms, the gap between this year and last year's applicants is reducing. This time last month, Ucas figures revealed a 33 per cent drop in the number of applicants for teacher-training places. And, in November, the gap was 40 per cent.

However, in numerical terms, the drop is greater this month, with 6,640 fewer applicants for courses than last year, compared with 6,510 fewer in December and 5,530 in November.

School league tables: See how your secondary school has done

by BBC, January 25, 2018

More than one in eight secondary schools in England is below the standard deemed acceptable by ministers, league table data shows.

The secondary school league tables have just been published, featuring the results of the first pupils to sit new, tougher GCSEs in English and maths.

Some 365 schools, or 12%, were below the new tougher floor standard. In 2016 it was 282 schools or 9.3%.

The tables allow parents and pupils to compare the local schools' results.

Schools are judged by two recently new measures, Progress 8 and Attainment 8.

The data shows how many schools have missed the government's floor standard of -0.5 in Progress 8.

London has the lowest proportion of under-performing schools at 6.9%, while the North East has the highest at 20.9%.

The tables use raw GCSE results from last year and a raft of data from the Department for Education to evaluate how well pupils progress in a school.

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