Latest Educational News

'Getting parents to engage with their kids' education must become a national priority'

by TES, October 9, 2017

Ministers spend billions tinkering with education – but do little to boost parental engagement, says charity director
In my recent conversations with headteachers, one issue has cropped up repeatedly: growing problems with engaging parents in their child’s education. Most people understand that, on some level, parents are an integral part of a child’s education – and this commonsense intuition is supported by evidence.

Professor Charles Desforges, professor of education at the University of Exeter and expert on parental engagement, found that parental involvement can account for a huge part of the variance in educational outcomes (up to 30 per cent), significantly more than differences in schools (around 5 per cent).

Yet while the government continues to focus heavily on tinkering with the education system, spending huge amounts of money overturning school structures, changing exams and tweaking performance measures in pursuit of better outcomes, the world of policy and research pays precious little attention to driving evidence-based practice in meaningful parental engagement. Hence, we have little in the way of robust, longitudinal studies showing what works and what doesn’t in this regard.

This doesn’t mean, however, that school leaders should shy away from talking about the impact of parenting and looking at what they can do to help parents work better with their children at home. We do have some indications of best practice, such as Ofsted’s 2011 review of parental engagement, that show how schools have varying degrees of success when tackling this difficult issue. Too often, it is the pupils in greatest need of support who receive the least support at home.

Ofsted: A rethink on lesson observations, and eight other plans revealed today

by TES, September 29, 2017

More inspections for 'outstanding' schools and multi-academy trusts, and a focus on social mobility are also part of Ofsted's plan for the next five years
This morning, Ofsted published its new corporate strategy for 2017-22. Here are its main points:

A rethink on lesson observations
Ofsted will be re-examining the validity of its lesson observations. An international seminar at the start of November will bring together experts in lesson observation from around the world. Ofsted will then look at the different systems being used, and debate which is the most valid, and how it might incorporate these systems into what it does.

Inspections for multi-academy trusts
Ofsted has said that it wants to work with the Department for Education, to look at how it can best scrutinise multi-academy trusts, possibly inspecting them in the same way that it currently inspects individual local authorities. Current legislation does not allow for MAT inspections.
Luke Tryl, Ofsted’s director of corporate strategy, said: “If decisions are being taken at a certain level of accountability, it probably makes sense to look more at that level of accountability.”

Mixed-ability groupings help us all learn together

by TES, September 29, 2017

Children learn from each other when they are not unintentionally excluded by teachers
One of the things that troubles me, when I think about inclusion in schools, is unintentional exclusion.

I don’t mean exclusion in the official sense – rather the way we divide children through setting and intervention. We “other” children without even meaning to.

Every time we send a child to work exclusively or in a small group with a TA, we do it. We also do it when we give disabled children – and by this I mean children disabled by the school environment and the curriculum, not necessarily those in wheelchairs – preferential treatment, without explaining why to the rest of the class.

We do these things with best intentions to make the world a better place for the most disadvantaged, but we know, as recent research by Rob Webster and Peter Blatchford shows (, that it is against their best educational interests, even though it might make our lives easier.

When you think about it, it’s obvious. Children learn from each other – I’m looking at fidget spinners, dabbing, bottle flipping, the cup song and any number of other crazes that sweep the playgrounds at the speed of light without any intervention from adults apart from exasperation.

Almost half of all young people in England go on to higher education

by The Guardian, September 28, 2017

Tony Blair’s pledge that half of all young people should go on to higher education is within a whisker of becoming true as official figures revealed that 49% of those in England are expected to have entered advanced studies by the age of 30.

The government’s measure of higher education participation has reached its highest level since the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees in 2012, equalling the previous record of 49% since the annual estimates were first produced in 2006.

The figures show that the participation rate rose by 1.4 percentage points last year, thanks to a 10,000 rise in the number of those aged 17-30 going to university for the first time in 2015-16, including full-time and part-time learners.

Sats: Rise in 7-year-olds passing reading, writing and maths

by TES, September 28, 2017

Phonic check pass rate climbs to 92 per cent
More pupils have reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths this year, but almost one in four did not reach the expected standard in reading.

The proportion of six and seven-year-olds reaching the expected standard in reading has risen to 76 per cent from 74 per cent last year and in maths, 75 per cent of pupils reached the expected standard compared to 73 per cent last year.

The lowest pass rate was in writing where 68 per cent of six- and seven-year-olds reached the expected standard in writing up from 65 per cent last year, according to the key stage 1 Sats results published today.

Four ways to really make peer-coaching work in your school

by TES, September 28, 2017

Defining good coaching is about as clear as mud – but it's an essential tool of CPD and it can really work
Coaching is to professional development as the word "the" is to English speakers. A familiar and vital tool, but about as hard to define as the ghost of a snowman in thick fog.

In some schools, it’s a euphemism for "the unpleasant process before you get your P45", in others, it’s "having a nice chat with the assistant head who read a book about coaching and thinks he’s an expert".

But coaching, done well, does have a real role to play in schools and is featured in many a good practice case study. Coaching, like religion, inspires a thousand different definitions and each sect believes that their approach is the One True Way. It’s therefore with no little trepidation that we offer this definition:

Coaching is the facilitation of a reflective conversation to stimulate learning and growth.

Outraged experts may now start throwing rotten tomatoes. For the rest of you, here’s four key ways to make it work in your school.

Reading gap widens for poorer children – and 3 other findings from today's KS1 results

by TES, September 28, 2017

Fewer free school meals pupils pass phonics check this year than in 2016
The gap in reading and writing scores between poorer children and their more advantaged classmates has widened slightly at age 7, according to statistics released today.

The figures for key stage 1 teacher assessments show that just 61 per cent of pupils on free school meals reached the expected standard in reading by age 7, compared to 78 per cent of other pupils - a gap of 18 percentage points, up from 17 percentage points last year.

The overall percentage of pupils reaching the standard was 76 per cent.

The gap has also widened by one percentage point in writing, where 52 per cent of pupils on free school meals reached the expected standard by age 7, compared to 71 per cent of other pupils - a gap of 19 percentage points.

The gap in maths, where 60 per cent of pupils on free school meals reached the expected standard compared to 78 per cent of others, has stayed the same at 18 percentage points.

What can my child eat at school?

by BBC, September 28, 2017

A school in Bradford has banned "unhealthy" foods such as sausage rolls in pupils' lunchboxes - a move which has divided opinion among parents.
So what can your child eat at school, whether in a packed lunch or for a school dinner?
Packed lunches
It's pretty straightforward - there are no official rules as it's down to individual schools in England, the Department for Education says, to decide what their policy is on food brought in from home.
So while some schools might take a strict line on inspecting lunchboxes and banning certain foods, others may take a more hands-off approach.
But when it comes to school meals, the rules are a lot stricter.

Headteachers warn parents: there is not enough money to fund schools

by The Guardian, September 27, 2017

Thousands of headteachers across England are writing to parents to warn that there is “simply not enough money in the system” to fund schools properly, as their costs continue to rise and budgets come under severe pressure.

The letter from more than 4,000 heads will tell around a million families that the government’s new national funding formula still means their children face an unfair “postcode lottery”, with some schools able to afford class sizes of 20 but similar schools in other regions forced to have classes of 35 pupils.

The heads argue that the proposed national formula – designed to iron out historic disparities in funding – will do little to solve the funding crisis affecting many state schools.

“The finances of very low-funded schools are still insufficient to provide the service that your child needs,” the letter, due to be sent on Thursday to parents of children in 17 counties, will say.

'In school, but learning nothing'

by BBC, September 27, 2017

Six out of 10 children and teenagers in the world are failing to reach basic levels of proficiency in learning, warns a hard-hitting report from the United Nations.
The UN describes the findings as "staggering" and representing a "learning crisis".
Much of the focus of international aid in education has been on the lack of access to schools, particularly in poorer countries in sub-Saharan Africa or in conflict zones.
But this new research from the Unesco Institute for Statistics warns of the lack of quality within schools - saying more than 600 million school-age children do not have basic skills in maths and reading.

Fake exam certificate website shut down

by BBC, September 26, 2017

Exam boards have revealed that they have succeeded in shutting down a website selling "fake examination certificates".
The body representing the exam boards - the Joint Council for Qualifications - says the website was selling fake GCSE and A-level certificates for £400.
The website is now showing details of an injunction ordered earlier this year.
Michael Turner, head of the JCQ, says it sends a "strong message".
The exam boards say the website is now legally barred from providing fake certificates and that there had been a "flagrant infringement of the trademark".
"This is part of an ongoing campaign to stamp out the trade in fake certificates," says Mr Turner.

'Why we need more open questions in maths exams'

by TES, September 25, 2017

The closed questions that make up the bulk of our maths exams could be limiting students' experiences of how maths works in the real world, argues one member of the Cambridge Mathematics team
This year is the first year that an awarding organisation has provided free access to students’ GCSE and A-level maths exam scripts online. Consequently, as the dust settles after GCSE results day, many teachers will be poring over the scripts of their erstwhile Year 11s, looking for marking errors that may boost a student over the boundary and into a higher grade. Although this is completely understandable, given the accountability structures teachers operate in, I have to wonder: do maths exams with such objective mark schemes result in an assessment that benefits students? Wouldn’t it be better if we started to assess, at least in part, through more open questions?

£1.4m mental health project to help school pupils

by BBC, September 25, 2017

Pupils who are showing early signs of anxiety, depression or self-harm will be able to receive specialist help at school.
A pilot scheme is being launched in Wales where NHS staff will be on hand to give better mental health support.
They can help spot problems early and ensure a child has the right care.
The £1.4m, two-year Welsh Government trial will take place across north east and south east Wales and Ceredigion.
A week ago, the National Education Union urged the Welsh Government to introduce wellbeing officers into schools.
In the 12 months to October 2016, there were 19,000 referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Wales - a 3,000 rise on the previous year.

Four in 10 parents 'asked to give to school funds'

by BBC, September 22, 2017

Four in 10 parents are being asked to contribute regularly to school funds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a survey suggests.
Schools have often asked parents for contributions to a school fund at the start of the year, the Parent Teacher Association UK said.
Its survey of 1,507 parents found a third regularly gave to school funds in the last year.
The Department for Education said no parent was obliged to contribute.
It added that schools were forbidden from charging for education or materials provided during school hours.
But they are well within their rights to ask parents to make voluntary contributions.
Those that do may ask for a lump sum or for a direct debit to be set up.
They can also ask parents to contribute towards the cost of extra-curricular activities and school trips.
The PTA UK survey also revealed that more than three-quarters of parents think the cost of sending their child to a state school is increasing.

Exclusive: Teachers are spending hundreds of pounds a year on classroom supplies

by TES Connect, September 22, 2017

Some teachers are setting up direct debits and donating more than £1,000 in cash to their schools
The vast majority of teachers are having to pay for essential classroom supplies themselves, because their schools lack sufficient funds, a Tes survey reveals.

Many of them are spending hundreds of pounds of their own money to ensure that their classrooms are properly stocked.

A Tes survey of more than 1,800 teachers, conducted jointly with the NEU teaching union, reveals that 94 per cent are having to pay for school essentials such as books, stationery and storage equipment.

And two-thirds of the teachers polled said that they had been forced to pay for items or contribute cash because their schools were so short of funds.

“This is a terrible indictment of where we are, in terms of school funding,” said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. “that teachers are paying for this out of their own pockets – and we all know about teachers’ pay. It shouldn’t be like that.”

Parents pay £129k premium to live near 'top' state school

by TES, September 20, 2017

Homes near popular state schools cost almost £416,000 on average, new analysis shows
Parents in England face paying a premium of nearly £129,000 for a home near a top state school, according to a new analysis.

Properties near top state schools have an average house price of £415,844 – which is £128,615 or 45 per cent higher than the average house price across the country.

This average house price of £415,844 near a top state school equates to nearly 11 times average annual earnings, according to the study from Lloyds Bank.

House prices near top state schools were found to have surged at a faster rate than the national average over the last five years – by £116,696 or 39 per cent, compared with £51,624 or 22 per cent across England as a whole.

GCSE reform: 'Why I loved teaching without grade boundaries'

by TES, September 20, 2017

Teaching the new maths GCSE has been a challenge, but this teacher found the lack of grade boundaries freed students to focus on the content of her lessons rather than what grade they might get
Teaching the new maths GCSE this past year has brought many highs and lows. Many of us have struggled with the concept of teaching without grade boundaries, aiming between unknown goal posts. This made the choice of whether students would sit higher or foundation papers particularly challenging. Students would often ask “what grade am I going to get?” and I had to accept that I couldn’t answer that question.

So, is it strange to say that I’ve loved teaching more than ever this past year? Having no grade boundaries felt freeing. It got rid of the complacency that some students seem to have coming into the examination period when they believe they have learnt enough to get the grade they want. This years, students needed to continually improve and reconsider their mindsets, because they had no idea if they had done enough to achieve the grade they wanted. Of course, teaching should never be towards grade boundaries to begin with, but if you put a boundary in front of anyone, it’s only natural that this is what they will aim for.

Quarter of 14-year-old girls 'have signs of depression'

by BBC, September 20, 2017

A quarter of girls and nearly one in 10 boys show signs of depression at the age of 14, say UK researchers.
The government-funded study of over 10,000 young people looked at how many experienced the signs of depression not a clinical diagnosis of one.
Being from a poorer background or being of mixed or white ethnic background appeared to raise the risk.
Surveys with their parents, however, suggested many were not attuned to the true anxieties of their children.
Parents often underestimated daughters' stress and had concerns about sons that the boys themselves did not voice.
Lead investigator Dr Praveetha Patalay, from Liverpool University, said teenagers, and particularly girls, were facing more mental health difficulties than previous generations - although the study did not look at this.

Most primary classes 'get less than two hours of science a week'

by TES, September 19, 2017

Three in 10 primary teachers did not receive any support to teach science last year, according to Wellcome Trust study
Many UK primary schools are teaching science for the equivalent of less than two hours a week, according to a study.

A report commissioned by the Wellcome Trust argues that the subject is not being given enough priority or time by most of the nation's primaries.

Wellcome also identified a number of barriers to teaching science in primary schools, including a fear among teachers that children would ask a question they would not know the answer to, and a belief that science is messy, expensive, time-consuming and/or reliant on lots of heavy facts.

Research carried out by CFE Research and the University of Manchester calculated that, on average, primaries dedicated an hour and 24 minutes of regular classroom time each week to science.

The amount increases as pupils get older and move up through school.

On average, across all primary school year groups, 58 per cent of classes did not get two hours of science a week, the report concludes.

It says that once additional activities are included – such as school science weeks, or science-related school trips – the subject is taught, on average, for the equivalent of one hour and 42 minutes a week.

On this measure, 54 per cent of primary school classes did not get the equivalent of two hours' science education a week.

'Tests for four-year-olds as soon as they start school are harmful'

by TES, September 19, 2017

The government is ploughing on with its attempts to introduce baseline assessment – ignoring the fact that it's impossible to develop a fair test for children of that age, writes one former primary teacher and inspector
Let’s be clear: a test is a test is a test – even if it is called a teacher-mediated baseline assessment by the Department for Education.

And it is to be administered to four-and-five-year-olds in the very first half-term of their entry into school when some of them will only have just turned 4.

The government believes that such testing is necessary, not for the good of the individual children in the here and now, but to provide a means of evaluating their primary schools around seven years on through the establishment of so-called "progress measures".

Do we have the know-how to devise a reliable and valid test for children at such a young age? Many of us in education don’t think that we do.


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