Latest Educational News

Unionists vow to block axing of 11-plus

by Guardian, December 31, 2008

Classified as 11 Plus.

Just as we resolved the issue of policing and justice, there is a challenge to the DUP and Sinn Fein to find a way forward on education to ensure that all of our children can reach their full potential, and none will receive letters in the post branding them failures," he said. "That's what I see as one of our top priorities.

Minister urged to lift cap off university fees

by Times, December 29, 2008

Universities should be free to charge whatever fees they like to improve the quality of teaching, a report commissioned by John Denham, the universities secretary, has recommended.

The study claims that lifting the £3,145 cap on fees would mean that universities would no longer have to concentrate on meeting government conditions to secure funding and would instead be able to spend more on teaching.

Sir John Chisholm, chairman both of QinetiQ, the defence technology company, and of the Medical Research Council, also attacks the proliferation of “diluted science” in his report, which he warns could damage the economy.

Denham is due to begin a review of tuition fees next year; they could be raised from 2011. Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge believe more money and independence will enable British higher education to compete with the far more lavishly funded institutions in the United States.

Pressure grows on grammar places during crunch

by Kent News, December 29, 2008

The growing number of parents pulling their children out of private schools because of the credit crunch is set to increase pressure on the state education system in Kent.

Mark Dance, cabinet member for education at Kent County Council, told Kent on Sunday the “special circumstances” of the economic downturn mean the Government should allow another grammar school to be built in the county.

Peter Read, an independent education advisor working across the county, said: “There is intense pressure on grammar school places in west Kent. There is certainly the capacity for another grammar school, particularly taking into account the children who are crossing the county boundary.

“I think that pressure is going to increase given the current credit crunch because west Kent is where the highest proportion of parents live who send their children to private schools.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) surveyed 150 councils in England and found that 6.2 per cent had already been contacted by parents applying for state school admissions for pupils in private education.

Responses from individual councils were not being released, but Mr Read said his advice service had already experienced a “flurry” of enquiries from people in Kent wanting to switch from private to state education.

He quoted a national newspaper which predicted an “unemployment bloodbath” next year after it was revealed by the Office of National Statistics last week the amount of people claiming job loss benefits had reached more than one million – six per cent of the workforce.

Rebellion dominates education year

by BBC, December 25, 2008

Classified as 11 Plus.

The year was dominated by rebellion in schools: an acrimonious dispute which virtually closed a secondary school for three weeks and the long-running and increasingly bitter battle over academic selection.

The grammar schools mostly attended by Protestant pupils were first to declare that they would set their own entrance exams, if Education Minister Caitríona Ruane did not offer a replacement to the 11-plus transfer tests.

The final tests took place in November 2008.

This spurred the minister to offer what was described as a transitional arrangement allowing three more years of testing, leading to grammar schools phasing out academic selection.

That has not been voted on by the Assembly and, as it stands, it is unlikely to win the cross-community support it needs.

In the meantime, a growing number of Catholic grammar schools have announced they too will run their own independent entrance exams, in the absence of an acceptable and workable alternative.

The governors of the Catholic schools made the decision, despite the Catholic bishops' stated opposition to independent testing.

The things parents do in the name of education

by Telegraph, December 22, 2008

Any parent living within a 100-mile radius of a grammar school could have told you that it is common, middle-class practice to coach a child senseless in the months leading up to the 11+.

Now, a professor has done two studies and what did he find? I say, Sir Humphrey, you'll never believe it, but they're only coaching their children for the 11+. And it turns out that, with the type of exam offered, the right sort of tuition can increase a result by up to 40 per cent.

The few grammar schools that remain argue their position as the best means of promoting social mobility. That certainly was the case. When you look at the post-war generation, and the people who made Britain so intellectually and culturally vigorous, so many – from Harold Wilson to Paul McCartney – came through the grammar school system.

But things have changed since then. In the past generation, The Parent has become a different sort of animal altogether – much more interested, mobilised and demanding for its child when it comes to educational opportunity. This is, of course, a good thing for schools – those with parents who are involved, supportive and, crucially, fund-raising will of course achieve more. But it is also a problem for the social engineers. Because every time they come up with some initiative to help the less advantaged student, the cannier parent is, like Raffles, one step ahead.

Academies are 'damaging standards' in state schools

by Independent, December 22, 2008

The Government's flagship academies can have a detrimental effect on standards in neighbouring schools, according to research published today.

Most academies have higher exclusion rates than the average state school. And while neighbouring schools are often forced to take in some of the excluded troublemakers, academies rarely, if ever, offer places to pupils excluded from other institutions, the study found.

The higher exclusion rates, coupled with the lower number of disadvantaged pupils that academies admit, was a "cause for concern", said Dr Lee Elliot Major, the research director at the Sutton Trust, the education charity which commissioned the research.

The report, written by researchers at the University of London's Institute for Education, concludes that academies are failing to carry out one of the first remits that the prime minister Tony Blair gave to them: to collaborate with neighbouring schools to drive up standards throughout the state sector.

It states that all three political parties may be wrong in backing the academies programme to the hilt.

Private schools in 'price war' row

by Manchester Evening News, December 22, 2008

A private school has gone bust - accusing a rival of sparking a destructive price war.

Governors at the £6,000-a-year St Catherine's prep in Marple, Stockport, have blamed nearby Brabyns School for `aggressive' price cutting.

Pupil numbers at St Catherine's, which teaches children from three to 11, have fallen from 150 to just 90 in the past seven years. The school wrote to parents last week to tell them it won't be open next term.

Falling birth rates were the reason for the decline, but school bosses also blamed increased competition for the smaller market. Pressure on family budgets played a role.

Governor Chris Crookall said: "The other independent school in the area has been very aggressive in its pricing. We are aware the school has offered two-for-one deals if parents of a child at the school place another sibling."

Brabyns firmly denies offering two-for-one deals, although it said discounts were sometimes made available to existing parents.

Spokesman Tayeb Chakera said: "It is not true that we have acted aggressively. Our prices have always been around the same as St Catherine's

Concern at teacher numbers drop

by BBC, December 22, 2008

The number of teachers in Scotland's classrooms has fallen to its lowest level since 2005, sparking concern from unions.

Figures showed there were 56,800 teachers employed by councils in the third quarter of this year, compared with 57,700 at the same time last year.

The figure for 2006 was 57,100, according to the statistics.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Government branded the claims "misleading".

He said the public sector employment estimates included teachers on maternity leave and supply and those statistics did not reflect "the numbers actually in the classroom" at any given point.

The spokesman added: "Overall, the number of people employed in education is 93,300 - compared to 92,600 when this Scottish Government came into office.

Charity Commission guidance at "worst time possible"

by SFS, December 20, 2008

Ms Fieldman warned that these measures could be "as serious for private schools as the credit crunch".

"I can see it being the nail in the coffin for some private schools, especially some of the smaller ones that are already coping with diminishing numbers," she added.

A number of grammar schools have recently reported growing numbers of applicants, attributing this to an increasing proportion of parents who cannot afford independent school fees.

Children get 'extensive' tuition for grammar schools

by RaisingKids, December 20, 2008

Classified as 11 Plus.

Parents fork out for tutors to win places at schools. Many children who pass the 11-plus exam for grammar school have benefited from extensive tuition from tutors or their family, claims new research.

The BBC carried out a study into the after-school help from tutors and family members which some youngsters get in the run-up to taking the 11-plus exam. Nearly 550 parents took part in the survey - of these parents, more than 440 said they had either paid professional tutors or coached their children themselves at home. Many of the youngsters had spent up to a year being coached in exam techniques - they studied for about one-and-a-half hours a week outside school.

England has 164 grammar schools. Places are mainly taken up by middle class children, and education experts have spoken out against extra coaching because families on low income can't afford it so they are penalised.

Social Selection?

by BBC, December 19, 2008

Classified as 11 Plus.

Grammar schools used to be seen as the best way for bright children from poor backgrounds to improve themselves. It is a vision which has inspired teachers such as Stephen Nokes, headteacher, at John Hampden School, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

"My vision for the school is that we address the issue that grammar schools used to do...of advancing social mobility," he explained.

"I'd be very disappointed if we were elitist and we strive not to send elitist signals out," added Mr Nokes.

But some academics believe these hopes are unrealistic in the face of the selection system for grammar schools. Experts such as Professor Brendan Bunting, an educational psychologist from the University of Belfast, argue that there is a relationship between intensive coaching and success in 11-plus verbal reason tests.

Are GCSEs too dull for bright pupils?

by Times, December 19, 2008

We are a grammar school in a South London suburb and take the top 25 per cent of students in terms of ability — we're not super selective. Our students are bright, but they're typical.

With our brightest students, we find there is quite a gap between GCSEs and A levels, or the International Baccalaureate (IB), which we offer. If students want to go on to university to study science, for example, we find that GCSEs don't stretch them enough and don't develop the skills necessary for a university degree.

We are looking for something with a little bit more rigour and the international GCSE (iGCSE) seems to have that. They were developed from the old O levels and command greater attention to detail. They are more technical and academic than normal GCSEs. At the moment you can take iGCSEs abroad and in independent schools. Lots of independent schools are putting their students in for iGCSE courses and other alternatives to GCSEs such as the Middle Years Programme, which leads to the IB.

11-plus exams tuition 'routine'

by BBC, December 18, 2008

Classified as 11 Plus.

Many children who pass the 11-plus exam have had extensive after-school help from professional tutors or family members, BBC research suggests.

Parents of grammar school children who responded to a BBC questionnaire said their children had spent up to a year being coached in exam techniques.

But some academics say coaching excludes children from poor families.

Local education authorities and grammar schools discourage parents from giving their children extra coaching.

England's 164 remaining grammar schools tend to be dominated by middle-class children, according to government indices, such as the number of children receiving free school meals.

Research for the BBC suggests one reason might be because of the lengths many parents go to get their child to qualify for a place.

The BBC commissioned NOP to question parents of grammar school children and 544 completed the questionnaire.

Of these parents, 443 said they either paid professional tutors or coached their children themselves at home.

'Aspiration gap' for white poor

by BBC, December 17, 2008

More needs to be done to raise the aspirations of young people, especially boys, from isolated white working class communities, a government report says.

The Cabinet Office study said young people's hopes for their future varied by gender, ethnicity and social class.

It said living in working class areas, especially in former industrial towns and cities, may stop young people from reaching their potential.

But the problem was not as marked in ethnically mixed urban neighbourhoods.

The report confirmed what official statistics already indicate: that children from deprived backgrounds tend to do worse at school.

It said that poor white boys have the lowest aspirations of all ethnic groups.

School ready to ditch ‘boring’ GCSEs for baccalaureate at 16

by Times, December 16, 2008

One of Britain’s leading independent schools is to poll parents on whether it should abandon the GCSE because the qualification has become too “formulaic” and boring.

Anthony Seldon, the Master of Wellington College in Berkshire, said that he was losing faith in the GCSE system to promote stimulating and exciting lessons. Instead he wants the college to become the first independent school in Britain to enter its 16-year-old pupils for the Middle Years Programme (MYP) of the International Baccalaureate (IB).

At present, more than 150 state and independent schools across Britain offer the IB diploma as an alternative to A level. The MYP, however, is available in only six international schools and one state school: Dartford Grammar School for Boys, in Kent.

Dr Seldon said he thought that if parents voted in favour of the MYP, other independent schools with concerns about the GCSE would follow suit, placing the credibility of the qualification in serious doubt.

800 sit exams

by Halifax, December 15, 2008

More than 800 children put their knowledge to the test during grammar school entrance exams on Saturday.
The 813 youngsters, aged 10 and 11, were competing for 310 places at Calderdale's two grammar schools – Crossley Heath and North Halifax.
Last year 895 youngsters took the test

Maths piloted as 'twinned' GCSEs

by BBC, December 13, 2008

Secondary schools in England are to pilot a "twinned" maths GCSE - in which maths could be taken as a double subject, worth two GCSEs.

This will allow pupils to study the subject in greater breadth and depth, in both pure and applied maths.

The schools testing the idea would begin doing so in September 2010 - with more possibly joining in from 2015.

This week an international study found that secondary pupils in England were in a global top 10 for maths.

Paying the price of 11-plus success

by BBC, December 13, 2008

Classified as 11 Plus.

But for Jonathan, Naomi and Kathleen, from Buckinghamshire, there was plenty of hard work as they prepared for their 11-plus exam in October.

All three, like other classmates were either being coached by their parents or a private tutor.

Naomi, 10, who had already spent the previous nine months receiving coaching with one of Buckinghamshire's leading private tutors, was philosophical, "I suppose you should be playing and having fun because it is the summer holidays but if you want a good mark I suppose you are going to have to put the work in," she said.

Budding actress Naomi is the eldest daughter of Karen, and Pat, who paid £1,800 for private coaching by a tutor - the 11-plus is not part of the National Curriculum.

Karen, who runs her own marketing company, said nearly 80 to 90% of Naomi's year at school were tutored one way or another.

All 164 grammar schools in England have some sort of entrance test similar to the 11-plus.

Lack of clarity over selection confuses pupils and parents

by Belfast Telegraph, December 12, 2008

Classified as 11 Plus.

attended a meeting at Belfast Royal Academy as a parent of a P6 pupil a number of weeks ago, at which the headmaster outlined the new Common Entrance Assessment (CEA).

I left less confused, but more convinced than ever that something has gone terribly wrong.

As a background to this meeting, I had been to my children's primary school where we were told about the revised curriculum. We were told that under no circumstances would the school be permitted to teach to a test, should grammar schools administer one.

Although they were unaware (as we all are) of whether the Minister will employ some form of a test as a phase out from the 11-plus, it was emphasised that students will be taught solely through the revised curriculum.

It seems that if you want your child to go to a school which will be using the CEA like BRA, first your son/daughter will have to take up to three Saturday tests which will be like the 11-plus without the science component.

Poor white boys still lag behind

by BBC, December 12, 2008

Five out of six poor white boys in England did not meet the government's target of at least five good GCSEs including English and maths this year.

This compares to 25% of black boys and 32% of Asian boys of similar backgrounds, the new figures show.

Only one group performed worse - Gypsy/Romany pupils on free school meals.

Schools minister Jim Knight said the groups where children were doing well often shared a belief in the "value of family and education".

He said the challenge was to raise aspirations and improve relations between home and school - and the government was working to do that.