Latest Educational News

Kelly to defend white paper on school visit

by Guardian, January 26, 2006

The education secretary, Ruth Kelly, will defend her controversial plans for school reforms today.

Ms Kelly will set out what she sees as the practical benefits to schools of the proposals set out in the government's white paper as she visits a school in Essex that would be one of the first to implement the plans.

Thorpe Bay school, in Southend-on-Sea, has agreed to work with a local college to become an independent trust school as proposed in the white paper. The minister will announce further details of the arrangement amid the continuing opposition to the plans from a group of around 100 Labour backbenchers and senior party figures.

Critics of the white paper - including the former Labour leader Lord Kinnock and the former education secretary Lady Morris - argue that the new trust schools could exclude children from the poorest homes.

MPs challenge Blair school reforms

by Scotsman, January 26, 2006

Tony Blair will face a fresh challenge to his controversial school reforms on Friday from an influential committee of MPs.

Councils must given the power to ensure poor children can get into new independent state schools, the Labour-dominated Commons education committee will say.

The Prime Minister has already rejected the move and is expected to be backed by a minority report from Tory committee members.

Chairman Barry Sheerman said on Wednesday the Conservatives had clearly been "organised by their front bench".

Number of failing institutions rises sharply

by Guardian, January 26, 2006

Tougher monitoring of English secondary schools which treat pupils from poor families unfairly when handling admissions at the age of 11 will be at the heart of a blueprint published tonight designed to break the stalemate over Tony Blair's controversial "trust school" concept.
MPs on the Commons education select committee abandoned hope of reaching a cross-party consensus yesterday and opted to advocate a non-compulsory model for greater independence for state schools - the "trust" issue which has stirred up to 90 backbench Labour rebels.

Blair faces renewed pressure for compromise on schools

by Financial Times, January 26, 2006

Tough new powers for local authorities and safeguards against academic selection will form the basis of a possible compromise between Tony Blair and his backbench critics over his contentious school reform plans.

The prime minister will come under renewed pressure to give ground tomorrow when the Labour-dominated Commons education committee demands far-reaching changes to the education white paper, the first time Labour MPs have called for specific concessions.

The three Conservative MPs on the committee have refused to back the demands, which they say would emasculate Mr Blair's reforms. He is facing a rebellion by Labour MPs when the education bill containing the reforms comes to the Commons in March. His backbenchers are furious about the overhaul, the centrepiece of which is a new breed of trust schools independent of local authority control. Labour MPs, including John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, fear trust schools will favour the middle classes at the expense of poorer pupils.

Prescott backs deal on schools reform and denies criticism

by Independent, January 26, 2006

John Prescott has made it clear he is backing Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, in an effort to reach a compromise over Tony Blair's controversial plans for reforming schools, as further evidence of division and confusion over the proposals emerged yesterday.

The Commons Education Select Committee, dominated by Labour MPs, is to make a call tomorrow for strict legal controls over schools' powers on pupil admissions, despite fierce opposition from Tory MPs serving on the same body.

A meeting of the committee to agree its report broke down yesterday when the three Tory members refused to endorse it. They have drawn up their own minority report backing Mr Blair's proposals. The Bill is expected to be discussed in Parliament next month.

The Deputy Prime Minister will discuss room for a possible compromise today in the margins of the regular cabinet meeting with Mr Blair and the Chancellor. Mr Prescott was described by allies as "livid" that remarks in an interview criticising city academies had been "misinterpreted" as an attack on all independent trust schools proposed in the White Paper. He is against any return of selection and has reservations about the White Paper, but has told friends he will not play a part in defeating the Government's flagship Education Bill, or bringing down Mr Blair.

Kelly 'keen for school plans deal'

by Harrow, January 26, 2006

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has said she is keen to reach agreement with the critics of her controversial schools White Paper.

But the head of a project Ms Kelly hailed as a reason to back her reforms said his new college would go ahead regardless of the White Paper plans.

In an interview with the Press Association, Ms Kelly praised the "serious" work of the Commons education select committee, which is due to publish a report on the proposals.

Although she stressed she had not yet seen the committee's recommendations, the minister said she hoped the report would be "a huge contribution to the debate".

Kelly seeks common ground on schools reform

by Guardian, January 26, 2006

The education secretary, Ruth Kelly, said today she was keen to reach agreement with the critics of her controversial schools white paper.
But the head of a project Ms Kelly hailed as a reason to back her reforms said his new college would go ahead with its plans regardless of whether the white paper was implemented or not.

In an interview with the Press Association, Ms Kelly praised the "serious" work of the Commons education select committee, which will publish a report on the white paper tomorrow.

Although she stressed she had not yet seen the committee's recommendations, the minister said she hoped the report would be "a huge contribution to the debate".

Ms Kelly was speaking amid continuing opposition to government plans for reforming schools, which include giving schools much more independence to control their own pupil admissions.

About 100 Labour backbenchers and senior party figures - including the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, and the former leader Lord Kinnock - have expressed fears that the plans will lead to more academic selection in schools.

It's full steam ahead for the new timetable

by Belfast Telegraph, January 26, 2006

Clearing the decks for new political talks is proving to be as controversial as the voyage itself. One reason why the virtual amnesty for on-the-runs and others was dropped so abruptly was that Tony Blair saw it as an obstacle to getting talks moving as early as next week, far more quickly than the NIO were expecting.

When Blair summoned Peter Hain to Chequers for a New Year stock take, he swept aside all thought of a more leisurely timetable starting in the spring, hopefully reaching a climax late this year with the first sitting of the 2003 Assembly.

This would be followed by agreement on a power-sharing Executive to take office after a May 2007 election for a new Assembly.

Nothing doing, Blair told Hain, I want it now.

While many will regard Blair's ambition as a pipe dream, we may assume he is now working seriously on his legacy. Bertie Ahern, not yet ready to signal withdrawal from the political fray and certain to lead Fianna Fail in next year's election, is eager to cash in voters' approval of his handling of the talks process. By timing tomorrow's Dublin summit in advance of next weekend's IMC report, both premiers have shown they care less about the details of the report than the broad trends.

That, in turn, means they concede it will take more than a single IMC report before the DUP comes under serious pressure to clinch a deal with Sinn Fein.

Low-attaining schools deprived of maths teachers, research shows

by Guardian, January 26, 2006

Pupils in low attaining schools are more likely to be being taught maths by teachers who are not qualified in the subject, according to research published today.
Just over one-fifth (21%) of maths teachers working in schools in England with the lowest GCSE results did not hold a post-A-level qualification in the subject, a study published today by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found. In higher achieving schools the figure dropped to 9%.

Around one-third of maths teachers in schools with a higher than average number of pupils eligible for free school meals - an indicator of the social make-up of a school - and with higher numbers of pupils with special educational needs, had a degree in the subject, compared with more than half of those working in schools with the lowest eligibility levels.

failing schools have doubled

by Telegraph, January 26, 2006

More than twice as many schools were judged to be failing last term as in the corresponding period the previous year, according to new figures from Ofsted, the school inspectorate.

Four in 10 of 2,054 schools visited were graded "no better than satisfactory" of which 192, or nine per cent of the total, were "inadequate".

The figures released yesterday by Maurice Smith, the Chief Inspector of Schools, undermine the Government's claim that standards are rising in state schools but the Department for Education said Ofsted had "raised the bar".

Choice increases segregation, schools research shows

by Guardian, January 25, 2006

Further embarrassing evidence for the government that promoting parental choice will exacerbate social segregation in schools has emerged from London University's Institute of Education.
Tony Blair is staking his leadership of the Labour party on pushing through reforms to give schools control over admissions and promote parental choice. He is being backed by the Conservatives but critics on his own backbenches have been handed plenty of ammunition from a string of recent academic studies.

Research by the Institute of Education, which has done studies for the Department for Education and Skills, shows that one in five secondary pupils in England has been placed in a school according to parental choice.

Rebecca Allen compared the existing situation with a simulation in which all pupils went to their nearest school and found that schools were more socially segregated under the present arrangements.

Religious comprehensives had a more advantaged intake than the average for their surrounding areas, she found. Segregation was greater in cities and areas with grammar, voluntary aided (faith) and foundation schools.

Unionists Back Battle Against End Of Selection

by News Letter, January 25, 2006

North Down councillors joined the battle against the end of academic selection yesterday with the launch of a petition against the Government reforms of secondary education.

In a campaign they hope to see replicated across Northern Ireland, Ulster Unionist Marion Smith and the DUP's Peter Weir called on people in the borough to back the fight against an act of "educational vandalism".

With the highest proportion of graduate residents in the Province and healthy competition for places at the main grammar schools, Mrs Smith, who proposed the petition, said there was a clear majority in favour of retaining selection.

'It's pleasing our success has been recognised

by Watford, January 25, 2006

PUPILS and teachers across south west Hertfordshire were celebrating on Thursday, January 19, after the release of league tables, which showed the performance of many local schools had improved.

The most dramatic turnaround was at Francis Combe School and Community College, in Garston, which recorded a 23 per cent increase in GCSE exam results.

The figures showed the number of 15-year-olds at the school achieving five or more A* to C GCSEs had increased from 16 per cent in 2004 to 39 per cent in 2005.

Overall, 39 per cent of pupils at Francis Combe achieved five or more A* to C GCSEs in 2005. Headteacher Sylvia Moore was delighted with the result.

She said: "Ever since my first days at the school I have had absolute faith in the ability of Francis Combe's pupils and staff to produce exam results that we can be proud of.

"This year saw many years hard work pay off. We have created state-of-the-art learning facilities, we have a team of extremely dedicated teachers who will always go that extra mile for their students and we have gifted, energetic and dynamic students.

"It is this combination of strengths that has created such a pleasing set of results."

The school's deputy headteacher Geoff Carr said one factor that had boosted the school's performance was the decision to stop giving study leave to its Year 11 pupils.

He said: "Our pupils were able to take full advantage of good quality teaching and revision sessions right up to the wire.

Blair and Adonis are taking our schools back to the 30s

by Guardian, January 25, 2006

Fairness in education demands either entry by catchment area or selection by exam. The current plans offer neither.

Death to all modifiers, cried Yossarian in Catch-22. Quite right too. Modifiers are a politician's let-out. They bridge the gap between the promise and the lie.
When Labour came to power David Blunkett said, "Read my lips, no more selection". Tony Blair repeated the pledge: "No return to academic selection." Ruth Kelly chimed in: "It will be illegal to select by academic ability." The Tories' David Cameron agreed: "No going back to 11-plus selection."

A normal person might take that as final. But we are dealing with politicians. The devil is in the modifiers.

The spin on Blunkett's pledge turned out to be not "no more selection", in the sense of not selection any more, but no more selection than there is now. So the system could stay riddled with it. In the case of Blair and Kelly the relevant modifier was "academic". To understand this we need to turn back the page of history.

The 11-plus examination was, of course, not academic. It was introduced in 1944 on the basis of a mass of theory purporting to give local councils an objective measure of educational "aptitude", not achievement. The 11-plus was an intelligence test not an academic test. Pupils were to be allocated by suitability between three types of school, grammar, technical or "modern". The aim was to eliminate class bias from the transfer to the new secondary system. With roughly 30% of places in grammar schools, access should not depend on parental choice or income, nor on the quality of a particular primary school. Though much of 11-plus theory was fanciful, many bright working-class children were admitted to grammar school as a result, and some dud middle-class children were rejected.

MPs 'split over school White paper'

by Scotsman, January 25, 2006

Tony Blair's hopes of reaching a compromise on his controversial school reforms were damaged when it emerged that a powerful committee of MPs are split over the plans.

Labour and Conservative members of the Commons education select committee were understood to have failed to reach agreement on their inquiry into the schools White Paper.

The Labour-dominated committee will criticise key elements of the White Paper and call for more safeguards to stop schools excluding pupils from poor families.

But Conservative MPs have drawn up their own rival report, backing the Government's plans, sources told the Press Association.

Labour MPs attack education plans

by BBC, January 25, 2006

Ministers should back down on English school reforms to prevent "back door" selection, Labour members of the Commons education select committee say.
A report seen by the BBC says councils should get powers to set "benchmarks" to ensure balanced intakes at planned independent "trust" schools.

This demand has been explicitly rejected by the prime minister.

Tory members of the committee refuse to accept the report and have compiled their own, backing government plans.

'Inspection is only as good as the difference it makes'

by Guardian, January 25, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen, as I am sure you are all aware, in September 2005, following extensive development and piloting, Ofsted implemented new inspection arrangements for maintained schools. Now is an appropriate point to look back on the first term of the new inspections, look forward to the second and take stock. I am going to speak about what these inspections involve; how they are going; what they are telling us about schools and how much difference they are making. I'm also going to say something about the next steps in the process: how we are planning to make school inspections even more proportionate and even better value for money in the future.

High fliers 'want to be teachers'

by BBC, January 25, 2006

One in five new teachers quit a high-flying role to work with children and one in 10 is aiming to be a head or deputy, according to a poll.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools said over a third of new maths teachers and 29% of science teachers had given up a managerial post.

The TDA also said 10% of the 893 new teachers questioned were aiming to be a head or deputy head within five years.

However it added that there was still a shortage of teachers in some key areas.

Of those who made the switch into teaching, 79% said they wanted to make a difference to people's lives.

Parents Set For Legal Fight To Save 11-Plus

by News Letter, January 24, 2006

Government plans to scrap the 11-plus and introduce a comprehensive education system could face a battle in the courts after the launch yesterday of a fighting fund to challenge the move under human rights legislation.

Speaking at Stormont, North Down MLA Bob McCartney accused the Government of putting unsound ideology before hard evidence to destroy a grammar school system envied throughout the UK.

Council bid to keep academic selection

by Belfast Telegraph, January 24, 2006

One of Northern Ireland's councils today launched a petition against plans to scrap academic selection in Ulster schools.

Councillors from North Down Borough Council are urging ratepayers across the borough to add their name to a call for Education Minister Angela Smith to stop her "education vandalism".

The petition also demands that account is taken of the aptitude and ability of pupils in any new system.

The 11-plus test is due to be scrapped in 2008 and replaced by a non-academic Pupil Profile which will inform parents in their choice of post-primary school for their child. Public consultation on the controversial Draft Education Order ? which includes banning selection by academic ability ? is due to end on March 7.

Ulster Unionist councillor Marion Smith, who proposed the petition, said: "While there is acceptance that parts of our current education system need reviewed and improved, there is little support for the 'one-size fits all' comprehensive education system proposed by Angela Smith.

"It will blight the educational prospects of future generations and have disastrous implications for our community.

"The petition that Council is promoting gives residents in North Down the opportunity to express their concerns and calls upon the Government to reconsider its proposals."