Latest Educational News

Poorest children 'falling behind'

by BBC, December 31, 2007

Children from the most deprived areas of England are falling further behind in school compared to more affluent pupils, say the Conservatives.
Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove highlighted figures showing a widening of the social gap in achievement.

The figures show a 43.1% gap between the proportions of wealthy and deprived pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths in 2007.

In 2006, this gap in GCSEs, in favour of the wealthiest, had been 28.4%.

This social divide in exam results shows "the education system is letting down the poorest," says Mr Gove.

Rich pull away from poor in the classroom

by Times, December 31, 2007

The colonisation by the middle classes of the best state schools has led to a dramatic widening of the gap in educational performance between rich and poor children in the past year, new figures indicate.

An analysis of government data by the Conservative Party shows that the achievement divide between pupils in the 10 per cent richest and poorest areas of England has grown by more than ten percentage points, compared with fractional increases of less than one percentage point in previous years.

The figures also show that the attainment gap between rich and poor continues to widen as pupils progress through school. At age 7, the performance gap between pupils in the 10 per cent richest and poorest areas was 20 percentage points in 2007. At age 16, however, the gap had more than doubled to 43.1 per cent, suggesting that far from being a leveller, school was increasing the disparity.

The figures underscore the massive influence of parental background on school success. More than 65 per cent of children in the wealthiest group achieved at least five good GCSEs, including English and maths, this summer but the figure for children from the poorest backgrounds was less than 26 per cent.

Unsettling year for education

by BBC, December 30, 2007

2007 has been an unsettling year in education.

Special schools were badly affected during a strike by classroom assistants, the government backed a plan which could close many small schools, the grammar sector fears the end of academic selection, while parents fret over what will replace the 11-plus.

The dispute over the job evaluation of classroom assistants began with unanimity, but ended in bitter recriminations between the unions involved and with previously sympathetic school principals running out of patience.

Turnaround school head to be knighted

by Guardian, December 29, 2007

The head of an east London school praised by both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is to be knighted for his achievements. Under Alasdair Macdonald results at Morpeth secondary school in Bethnal Green have climbed dramatically against a local background of poverty.
Blair visited the school in the borough of Tower Hamlets the month after his election as prime minister in 1997 as a setting to lay out his education plans, and praised the jump in pupils getting five good GCSEs from 11% three years earlier to 39%. Since then the proportion of pupils achieving this has risen to 75%, although many come from families who do not speak English as a first language.

He tells parents that one of the school's strengths is a good mix of girls and boys from all the different ethnic groups in the borough and attributes the improvement in exam results to high quality teaching and an ethos that values learning. Macdonald was one of a select group of headteachers invited to a Downing Street seminar on school improvement with Blair.

In July this year, within his first two weeks as prime minister, Brown visited Morpeth school with the children's secretary, Ed Balls, for the first meeting of the new National Council for Educational Excellence.

Top school will ask leavers to boost bursaries

by Financial Times, December 29, 2007

Pupils at a top private school will be canvassed to sign up as donors before they have even left the gates as part of a novel scheme aimed at boosting bursaries for poor children.

The innovative idea from St Peter's School in York comes at a time when independent schools are under pressure to increase aid to students from humble backgrounds.

Tougher "public benefit" rules imposed by the Charity Commission next year will require private schools run as charities - the bulk of the sector - to show they are helping low-income families.

Pupils in their final year will be asked to make a "leaving gift" by signing up for regular donations as young members of the 627 Society. Young members start at only £6.27 a year, but can gradually upgrade over their lifetimes into foundation patrons paying £627 a month: 627 was the year the school was founded.

The idea attracted "over 10 per cent" of final-year students when it was launched just a few weeks before the end of the last school year, according to Annabel Arkless, director of the St Peter's School Foundation.

Teachers leaving "worrying trend"

by In The News, December 28, 2007

Teachers have been leaving the education profession in vastly increasing numbers in recent years, according to the Conservatives.

According to figures published by the Tories today, double the number of teachers have left between 2000 and 2005 than five years earlier.

Conservative education spokesman Michael Gove said the trend, which saw about 100,000 teachers leave in the first five years of this century, was a "worrying" one.

He accused the government of overseeing a profession which is in deteriorating health and losing much of its talent.

Children 'must get unlimited time to do tests' says government advisor

by Daily Mail, December 28, 2007

Pupils should be given as much time as they need to complete crucial national tests, says the Government's exam watchdog.

This would ensure the children, aged 11 to 14 and sitting Key Stage tests, do not become stressed, says a report by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

The proposal will reignite accusations that examinations are being dumbed down and an "all must have prizes" system is being encouraged.

Critics argue that time limits are a vital feature of tests.

The Government has already revealed a shake-up of the Key Stage tests, which will mean shorter but more frequent exams as early as 2009.

Now a report commissioned by the QCA claims that giving 11 and 14-year-olds more time would prevent them becoming stressed about deadlines.

Revealed: How the best state schools insist on traditional uniform

by Daily Mail, December 28, 2007

Pupils in seven out of ten of England's top State schools wear blazers and ties, research revealed last night.

Figures published by the Tories show that the majority of the 100 comprehensives and grammars with the best results impose a traditional uniform policy.

Education spokesman Michael Gove said it provides compelling evidence that a smart dress code leads to academic success - as well as helping teachers enforce discipline.

Stubborn teachers 'must be sacked'

by Channel 4, December 27, 2007

Stubborn teachers who hold back classroom progress must be sacked as the first step in tackling failing schools, according to a new report.

Unruly pupils should face immediate action under tough measures to restore discipline, the study from a leading headteachers' association said.

The report is based on the Government's own research and advice into the benefits of weak comprehensives being taken over by top schools to improve standards.

Ivy League generosity is luring brightest away from Oxbridge

by Times, December 24, 2007

A record number of talented British teenagers are snubbing Oxbridge and applying to Ivy League universities, lured by more substantial American bursaries. Students from families whose household income is £90,000 qualify for financial assistance at Harvard. It also recently raised its threshold for free tuition and board for the poorest students.

Leading British schools say that some of their highest-achieving pupils no longer see Oxford and Cambridge as the pinnacle. Instead they are attracted by the broader curriculum and supposedly superior facilities at Ivy League universities – an elite group of eight in the northeast of the United States. It raises fears that the cream of British students will increasingly look abroad, potentially undermining the global standing of our top universities.

The number of British students applying to Harvard was 197 five years ago. By last year it had risen to 290. Applications to Yale from British teenagers have more than trebled from 74 in 1997 to 234 last year.

Harvard students whose parents’ income is less than £30,000 have all tuition fees, accommodation, living expenses and flights home paid by the university – a package worth almost £25,000. Those with household earnings of between £30,000 and £90,000 have to contribute only between 4 and 10 per cent of their income.

Grey pound is paying for private schooling

by Financial Times, December 24, 2007

Grandparents, flush with cash earned in the property boom, have become so important in funding the school fees of their grandchildren that independent schools have started to hold special “Grandparent Days”.

Martin Stephen, high master of St Paul’s in London, one of the top schools for children from the age of 13, said: “An increasing number of grandparents are contributing towards school fees.” Some even joined school tours to help decide where to educate their grandchildren.

Call to probe school funding system

by Channel 4, December 24, 2007

The public spending watchdog has been urged to investigate the funding of schools amid concerns that those in Labour areas have been allocated the most cash.

The Liberal Democrats called on the National Audit Office to look into the issue as they condemned the present system of distributing money.

Figures released to Parliament by ministers show large disparities in funding increases between different areas.

Good riddance, Sir Cyril

by Guardian, December 24, 2007

Two great salesmen boarded a train from London to Darlington in December 1996, and one of them exerted all his skills on the other. By the time they arrived, Sir Cyril Taylor had a convert in the man who was by then almost certain to be the next prime minister. Tony Blair got off the train certain that specialist schools were the answer, and Sir Cyril was the man to deliver them.

In the same month as his momentous train journey with Sir Cyril, Blair saw an article in the Observer headlined "Let Blair be his own education chief". It began: "Tony Blair should take two posts in the next Labour government: prime minister and education secretary." If he did not want to take the title, Blair should at least control the policy. He could find a cipher to implement his policy: "Enter David Blunkett." Blunkett was Labour's education spokesman. Blair appointed the clever young journalist who wrote it - Andrew Adonis - as his education adviser.

So in that month, the team was brought together which, for the 10 years of Blair's premiership, dictated what happened in the British education system. Now Sir Cyril has been fired. It's a seminal moment, arguably even more significant than if Adonis had been fired.

Education funding 'skewed towards Labour strongholds'

by Daily Mail, December 24, 2007

Billions of pounds are being spent on schools in Labour strongholds at the expense of pupils in areas controlled by other parties, new figures reveal.

Almost all local authorities which have got the biggest hikes in spending since 1997 are dominated by Labour councillors and Labour MPs.

Seven of these have seen rises of 50 per cent or more.

The foreign language GCSE you can pass without speaking a single word

by Daily Mail, December 22, 2007

Students will be able to gain a GCSE in a foreign language without speaking a word of it, exam chiefs revealed yesterday.

New "short" GCSEs in French, Spanish or another language will simply test candidates' reading and writing skills.

An alternative short course focuses on speaking and listening, meaning students can get a qualification without being able to read or write the language.

Schools review 2007

by Guardian, December 22, 2007

It was a year of big changes and a dizzying array of policy initiatives for education. It began with one government department and ended up with two plus a new National Council for Educational Excellence.
The year started quietly enough, with a consultation on a pilot to test children when ready, and a review of the national curriculum in secondary schools, which promised teachers more power and flexibility.

In March, Lord Dearing recommended modern language GCSEs be made easier and a compulsory part of the primary curriculum in his review of languages in schools. Last week ministers said they wanted to see this happen by 2010.

In the same month, the government announced its intention to legislate to make young people stay in education, employment or training until 18. It took until October to publish the education and skills bill.

April saw the launch of a revamped school inspection service - the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills - under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

But it was Gordon Brown's appointment as prime minister in late June that set a series of structural changes in motion. The biggest of which, for the sector, was the splitting of the former Department for Education and Skills into the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Decline in respect for teachers

by Times Educational Supplement, December 21, 2007

survey has revealed that young Scots’ trust is on the wane

Young people’s trust in and respect for teachers has fallen sharply over the past four years, according to a survey of 11- to 25-year-olds living in Scotland.

But teachers still rank third in young Scots’ trustworthy groups, behind parents and friends.

YouthLink Scotland, which conducted the survey, and Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People blamed child protection issues for the decline in respect. They claimed pupil-teacher relationships have become more “formal” and “stilted” in recent years, due to a decrease in after-school clubs and school trips.

They also suggested fear of allegations of child abuse were making teachers wary of forming close bonds with pupils. Being Young in Scotland 2007 is the third biennial report that asks young people what it is like being young in Scotland.

The report, which includes the views of more than 2,500 young people, found that the proportion of school-aged children (11-16) who identified teachers as the group they would most trust and respect has dropped by eight points since 2003 to 32 per cent.

Ministers muscle in on curriculum

by Times Educational Supplement, December 21, 2007

England’s qualifications and Curriculum Authority is to be abolished in its current form, it was announced this week, with ministers taking a more direct hold over the curriculum.

The authority is to be replaced by an as-yet unnamed agency, taking on many of the curriculum and national test and exams development functions of the QCA.

Meanwhile, an independent body, likely to be known as Ofqual, will be set up to carry out the QCA’s other functions: to regulate qualifications and to check on test and exam standards.

For the first time, this will allow schools to call on an independent appeals panel if they are unhappy with the marking of national tests.

Bite-sized GCSEs you can keep resitting until you get a pass

by This is London, December 21, 2007

GCSE courses are to be split into bite-size chunks, with teenagers able to bump up their marks by resitting sections as they go along.

Pupils will be able to walk into final exams at the end of two-year courses with 60 per cent of their marks already in the bank.

The overhaul unveiled yesterday by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority follows similar changes to A-level, which are said to have fuelled grade inflation and have now been partially reversed.

The GCSE shake-up will also axe coursework in almost all subjects to prevent cheating; make exam questions harder amid evidence they have become 'predictable', and reverse a decline in the lesson time devoted to British history.

Under the new arrangements, planned to take effect from 2009, exam boards will be encouraged to split GCSE courses into separately tested units.

Pupils would be able to take individual units as they progress through their courses, leaving as few as 40 per cent of the marks for final exams.

Teachers force changes to GCSEs

by Times Educational Supplement, December 21, 2007

Teachers have forced the Government’s exams watchdog into drastic changes to revision of GCSEs in many subjects from 2009. Already-trailed alterations to the 20-year-old exams, such as the introduction of tighter controls on coursework and the possibility of more modular courses, remain in place.

But the final criteria for the new GCSEs in 28 subjects, published today, show many detailed changes from what was proposed when they appeared in draft form in June. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s decisions follow a consultation with 1,865 teachers.

A TES analysis of the new criteria has revealed that not being able to speak French, German or other languages will no longer be a barrier to gaining a GCSE in the subject. Pupils will be able to choose to study a short course in either speaking and listening or reading and writing. The change is in line with Lord Dearing’s review into language learning published earlier this year. This pointed out that the current GCSE short course, which covers all four skills but has less content than the full GCSE, was not popular.