Education Update – November – December 2016

Education Update – November – December 2016

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES


Opposition to selection by Faith

A new survey by the British Humanist Association found that even those who identify with a particular religion oppose school selection by faith (

Girls’ literacy problems

A study by testing company GL Assessment of 60,000 children in England and Wales has found that up to 11% of 10 yr. old girls and 12% of 12 yr. old girls have significant literacy problems: scores suggest they may be up to 4 yrs. behind.

Significant number of teachers criticise Prevent Strategy

A TES survey of 450 teachers found that over ⅖ (38%) say the training in the Prevent Strategy, required to be applied in all schools, was inadequate, lasting only an hour.  More than half (53%) felt it was not enough.  Some views were that it was too prescriptive and that it singles out Muslim children in a negative way, rather than identifying other radical views.  A Home Office spokesman responded that schools can determine a range of ways – through e-learning as well as facilitated workshops.  Among educational professionals there is broad support for protecting young people from involvement in terrorism or violent extremism but there are concerns about the Prevent duty for schools.  (For a range of views about the Prevent Strategy see pages 30-49 in TES 01/11/16.)


Possibility of a new National Education Union

A new super-union for education professionals may be a potential result of co-operation of NUT and ATL teaching unions who will ballot their members in the Spring term regarding a potential merger.  If the vote succeeds, the new National Education Union would launch in September 2017

Teacher shortage in Leadership vacancies by 2022

A joint report, ‘The School Leadership Challenge’, published by Future Leaders Trust, Teaching Leaders, and Teach First, warns that a quarter of schools in England will need to bring in more non-teachers to fill “executive roles” if they are to confront a projected shortage of up to 19,000 leaders by 2022.  It believes rural, coastal and derived areas will be the hardest hit.  The study defines leadership roles as heads, deputy and assistant heads, heads of school, executive heads and chief executives.  The DfE said it did not recognise the figures.  Since 2010, it said, the proportion of schools reporting headship vacancies had decreased.


Recruitment – increase in school leaders’ concern

In 2014 just 15% of school leaders said that the rate teachers were quitting the job locally was making it harder to recruit.  In 2016 the figure has increased nearly three times to 42% of leaders expressing concern.  An NAHT survey found that almost 4-in-5 schools have struggled to fill, or failed to fill, vacancies.  Latest government figures show nearly a third of teachers entering the profession in 2010 had dropped out within five years.  A DfE spokesperson commented that more people are entering the profession than are leaving and that they are working to tackle reasons for leaving such as unnecessary workload and pupil behaviour.

Transgender head

The principal of Ashwell Academy in Hull has returned to her post after transitioning from being a male gender.  She is believed to be the only serving headteacher to transition from male to female while in post.

Charity Adoption UK partners with NAHT union to help pupils who are adopted

The Charity Adoption has partnered with the National Association of Headteachers to raise awareness of so-called attachment disorder.  The issue is often associated with children who have undergone trauma prior to entering into an adopted family – such children find it difficult to form relationships with others.

Will the rise of Faith schools deeply divide our society?

Stephen Evans, campaign director at the National Society, argues that the increase of Church of England schools (it plans to run a quarter of all the Free schools the government plan to open before 2020) are adversely affecting social cohesion.  The government plan to give the ‘green light’ to a new generation of religiously selective schools.  Mr. Barber, of the Catholic Education Service, also plans to open 30 to 40 new 100% religiously selective schools.  Stephen Evans argues that the future education policy and practice should be based more on children’s independent interests and building a society based on shared values rather than following the agenda of religious organisations who, he argues, are using schools partly to help their self-preservation.

Has the Wolf report had impact on Schools and Colleges?

Five years ago, the Wolf report set out to make vocational education equal to academic routes.  Has it made progress?  Alison Wolf reports a highly qualified ‘yes’.  Between 2004 and 2010 the numbers of teenagers taking vocational courses rocketed from 15,000 to 575,000.  The report also required students who failed to achieve GCSE grade C inn English or Maths, should be required to retake the subject.  Most educationalists and some politicians’ views are that more needs to be done to improve the system and for it to be given the resources and respect it merits.


Disparity between PISA and TIMSS rankings

Comparisons between the two international education rankings are causing a head-to-head conflict.  Findings from TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) are likely to stress strong differences.  Unlike PISA, TIMSS tests Primary pupils and PISA tests 15 yr. olds in Y11.  Education experts say the studies should work best as complementary research.  Results will be published shortly.

Why disparity between Ofsted grades for Junior schools and infant schools?

TES analysis shows infant schools are 3 times more likely to receive an ‘outstanding’ result from Ofsted than junior schools.  Some heads blame overly generous teacher assessments for 7 yr. olds.  The TES analysis showed that 37% of infant schools were judged ‘outstanding’ compared with just 13% of junior schools whereas 18% of all-through primaries were judged ‘outstanding’.  Ofsted said that the quality of infant schools is ‘very high’.  They suggest one reason for disparity is the transition from infant to junior school.


Reaction to Multi-Academy Trusts

Local School Leaders create a new force as they create new formal partnerships across their areas, creating their own middle tier.  These partnerships refuse to abandon difficult or ‘untouchable schools’ and are very inclusive.  So far, the group numbers 20 partnerships.

Pisa’s latest findings

UK’s scores were down on science, maths and reading.  However, the average scores for developed countries also fell in all 3 subject areas so that UK actually rose to 15th in Pisa rankings for science but came 27th in maths and 22nd inrReading.

Problems for middle leaders

Funding pressures are causing a reduction in deputy and assistant head roles so that deputy heads in primaries are reporting to unions that their time for leadership duties is being reduced.  Secondary schools are experiencing a similar squeeze.  A DfE spokesman stated that a range of professional training and the expansion of Teach First would help meet the need for deputies to be developed into school leaders.

Rebellion against English Baccalaureate

More than ⅘ of school leaders are against government plans to make 90% of pupils take the English Baccalaureate.  They say it should not be mandatory.  Results of the government’s consultation will not be published until summer due to the huge response.

New chief inspector of Ofsted Amanda Spielman

Mrs Spielman comes from Ofqual where she enjoyed her role as Chair.  She claims she has good insight into data and its limitations so believes Ofsted will not be wrongly data-driven.  She wants to listen to heads and teachers and for Ofsted to be a learning organisation.

GCSE numerical grades still create confusion

Findings from Ofqual reveal that more than ⅔ of students and parents do not understand the 9-1 grading system.  More than ⅘, 84% of Human Resource professionals and 76% of small-business owners remain clueless about the worth of a new grade 1.

Sex education reform

The proposed new Children and Social Work bill will make it compulsory to teach sex and relationship education (SRE) for all primary and secondary pupils.  The bill is being proposed by the Education Secretary, Justine Greening.  There is both praise and dissent for this.  Concerns include the view that a ‘best-fit’ curriculum is unworkable and that the present mixture of parent and external sources is best.  It also adds another difficult-to-define job.  Pro-compulsory SRE groups argue that the widespread disparity presently in schools requires a statutory SRE.


Faith discrimination against teachers?

Accord Coalition (a campaigning group for inclusive education) has asked the British Equalities body, the Equality of Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have called for DfE ministers to review the law that allows Faith schools to discriminate against teachers due to their sex, marital status or sexuality.  Faith schools are presently allowed to dismiss or refuse to hire teachers if their conduct is believed to be incompatible with the school’s religious ethos, under the School Standards and Framework Act.

A DfE spokesperson stated that current legislation allows for a faith school to maintain their ethos in this way.  It would necessitate an independent employment tribunal to decide if an individual school has acted unlawfully.

Catholic schools go to court

The Catholic Education Service is going to defend a controversial new admissions procedure which allows over-subscribed schools to demand a priest’s certification of religious practice from pupils.

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Education Update – October 2016

Education Update – October 2016

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES


Teacher recruitment crisis

A TES study of DfE data on teacher recruitment in selective areas shows that non-selective Secondaries in these areas are up to five times more likely to plug gas with temporary staff.  The problem is particularly acute in Kent and Medway.

Latest figures from a recent TES poll found 56% of teachers said they would not be prepared to teach in a grammar school.  Research by Education Datalab showed that non-selective schools in selective areas were more likely to employ unqualified teachers.  A DfE spokesperson said that the government was proposing to create more good schools in more areas and that the number of teachers entering classrooms continues to outnumber those retiring or leaving and that more teachers are returning to the profession year on year.

Minister for Education’s focus

Justine Greening stated at the Conservative Party Conference that her big political priority would be skills and technical education.

Use of Smartphones in school?

In a poll of nearly 3,500 teachers, parents and school children, half of the 700 teachers thought pupils should be banned from bringing Smartphones into school.  44% of school children and 47% of parents agreed.


Secondary Schools Challenged

The proportion of secondary schools with more applications than places rose to 50% this year (figures from ).  Challenges are expected to grow due to the bulge in secondary pupils over the next 5 years.  They include:

  • A lack of finance to cover costs of taking extra pupils
  • Staff spending weeks out of school to deal with appeals prior to exams
  • Difficulties in recruiting extra teachers in core subjects
  • The need to sacrifice staffrooms and office space to make more room for extra classes

A DfE spokesperson reported that 600,000 additional places were created between May 2010 and May 2015 plus £7billion is being invested in new places up to 2021.

Increase in sexual harassment of teachers

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL teaching union, stated that sexual harassment in too many places has become acceptable.  A report by the commons Women and Equalities Select Committee published in September 2016 highlighted a “shocking scale of sexual harassment and violence in classrooms across England.”


Justine Greening’s pledges

The Education Minister, Justine Greening, has revealed that she is abandoning the government’s controversial plans for Year 7 Sats resits and has promised teachers there will be no new national assessments until 2018-19.  She has also promised to launch a new consultation early in 2017 on the future of primary assessment.

Consequences of teacher recruitment: Is the quality of teachers deteriorating?

The annual TES Teacher Recruitment Index research shows that almost three-quarters (72%) of school leaders believe there is a “deterioration” in the quality of applicants for vacant posts since the previous year.

  • Over half of heads were cutting non-core subjects
  • ⅔ of heads and teachers said class sizes had increased this year
  • ¾ of teachers were increasingly being asked to teach subjects in which they were not qualified
  • Nearly 4 in 10 teachers said that a greater number of support staff were taking classes in their schools

DfE spokesperson said that more than 97% of teachers have a degree or higher (up from 94% in 2010) and the number of teacher trainees with a first has almost doubled over the same period.

Design and technology is the toughest subject in which to fill vacancies.


Justine Greening backs University Technical Colleges

The Education Secretary has suggested that Technical schools could provide a suitable route to educational success for many “very different young people” who do not attend grammar schools.  Ms Greening denied that she was advocating a return to an academic education for grammar students and a vocational one for the rest but she did say UTCs – currently for 14-19 olds – were part of the solution to offer parents more choice at this time.

To set or not to set according to ability?

Authors of ‘The Teaching and Learning Toolkit’, Lee Elliot Major and Steve Higgins, suggest that the key to successful setting is to adopt a flexible approach so that pupils move in and out of different ability sets according to different subjects.  Rigid ability grouping crushes the self-belief of pupils in lower sets.  It helps if some of the most effective teachers are assigned to the lowest sets. 

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Education Update – July – September 2016

Education Update – July – September 2016

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES

22nd July 2016

DfE updates

The DfE has informed schools they will not be required to test Year 6 pupils on multiplication as was originally planned.

Schools minister, Nick Gibb, retains his role. He is thought to be the proponent of the phonics screening test and tougher SATS.

Grammar Schools

Under Prime Minister Theresa May, grammar schools are likely to be on the government agenda again. There are 163 grammar schools in England catering for 167,000 pupils. 139 grammar schools became academies in September 2015.

Trainee teachers

A UCAS report reveals 10.7% of Maths graduates in England and Wales applied for teacher-training in 2015. 8.7% were accepted.

27,800 people were accepted to teacher-training schemes in 2015. Applicant numbers were down by 6% from previous years.

29th July 2016

Jewish schools to be diverse

An open letter has been sent to Justine Greening opposing the Rabbi’s call for new faith schools to be able to select all pupils according to their religion.

Review of ‘Prevent’ needed

MPs and Lords argue that the government must ensure referrals are “sensible and proportionate”. The report expresses concerns about the Prevent anti-terror initiative in schools.

DfE exclusion figures

17% rise in permanent exclusions between 2013/14 and 2014/15 i.e. 31 permanent exclusions per day. 1590 temporary bans per day for bad behaviour e.g. violence, racism and drug offences.

32.8% permanent exclusions are for persistent disruptive behaviour. 20,700 exclusions were for physical assault on an adult. 54,370 exclusions were for physical assault on a child.

English Baccalaureate requirements

From next year, pupils will need to score new GCSE grade 5s instead of the easier grade Cs if they are to achieve the English Baccalaureate. Only the highest third of entries in each subject currently achieving a C would qualify for a grade 5 in the new system.

Staffing Crisis in Maths

A new survey by the Mathematical Association reveals that maths departments are increasingly relying on non-specialists, supply teachers and unqualified teachers as pressure and poor pay is driving maths teachers out of the profession. Only 46% of maths teachers said their departments were fully staffed. DfE spokesman reported generous bursaries and scholarships are offered for trainee maths teachers.

12th August 2016

MP Nick Gibb

Nick Gibb has been made Minister for School Standards.

No. 10 scraps education adviser role

Theresa May will no longer have a dedicated education advisor.

Sexual offences treble

Sexual offences in schools has trebled in four years according to the charity Plan International UK which reports that children as young as 5 have been accused of sex crimes. 4,643 sexual offences were reported between 2011 and 2015.

‘Trojan Horse’ school gains a ‘good’

Rockwood Academy, formerly Park View Academy in East Birmingham, has now focused on promoting British Values through a focus on Sport and the Arts and Culture. The school has launched two initiatives to combat radicalisation. 1) a new curriculum called #Extre(me) designed to protect students from online grooming 2) a Combined Cadet Force in association with the British Military.

Significant change for the new Geography GCSE

The new 9-1 GCSE raises expectations: more rigorous content with strengthened requirements for field work; a more demanding place-based study of UK geography requires detailed knowledge and understanding of landscapes, environmental challenge, changing economy and society rather than a case-study approach.

19th August 2016

IGCSE pass rate rises for English Language

IGCSEs are taken by 1 in 3 16 year olds. After falling last year, it has risen again.

EY profiles remain and funding system overhauled

Schools will be required to continue with teacher assessments of 4-5 year olds. This will remain compulsory in 2016-17 school year. Education Secretary Justine Greening plans to overhaul funding for EY providers.

Will GCSE results be raised?

A new pupil-performance test is in the balance. Exams regulator, Ofqual, may soon announce a new ‘national reference test’ (NRT) which could be used as a justification for allowing major rises in GCSE grades to begin again. Some expert advisors to Ofqual however, have raised serious problems about the NRT.

A new teaching apprenticeship?

The Teaching Schools Council proposes a new scheme to allow A-level students to join the profession in an apprenticeship capacity without going to university. It would lead to a degree and a qualified teacher status. The proposal is to be submitted to the government next month.

26th August 2016

Heads threaten to boycott future Primary SATS

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT headteachers’ union, wants action taken to:

  1. Rethink proposals for resits in Year 7
  2. Redesign the reading test
  3. Address concerns about assessment on writing.
  4. In addition, Tim Oates, research director at Cambridge Assessment, called for a government commissioned review of the ‘really demanding’ grammar content in SATS for 11 year olds.

GCSEs have a record fall in pass rate

The proportion of A* to C grades dropped to 66.9%. It is suggested that the fall is linked to government reforms requiring pupils to re-sit GCSEs in English and Maths if they do not attain C grade and also to the introduction of the new school accountability measure: Progress 8. 

College of Teaching

Dame Alison Peacock has been appointed the College of Teaching’s first Chief Executive. The college aims to raise the status of the profession by helping teachers share best knowledge and practice. This new independent and voluntary body hopes (amongst other aims) to accredit teachers, provide continuous high quality professional development for teachers; provide an ambitious career framework via a new ‘Chartered Teacher’ status and offer high quality products and services. Annual membership is likely to be as low as £29. Some in the profession are sceptical that the college will struggle to remain independent of the government.

9th September 2016

A quarter of teachers wish to leave the profession?

A report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) states that 23% (almost a quarter) of teachers are considering quitting teaching compared to 17% in June 2015. This is based on a poll of 2,000 teachers in England. The report also found less than a half of state-school teachers are engaged in their role. The NFER recognises from a series of surveys and interviews with teachers over the last year that ‘workload is at the centre’ of why teachers are considering leaving.

Change in British History GCSE

British History gains a greater emphasis. From this month pupils will learn one British depth study and study one thousand years of British history through the lens of a particular theme e.g. migrants in Britain. A broad sweep of history is covered at Keystage 3.

16th September 2016

Greening scraps plans to drop parent governors

Justine Greening, Minister of Education, has signalled a U-turn over the government’s plan to allow academies to drop parent governors – she has declared a willingness to reconsider.

Consequences of Theresa May’s plan to allow grammar schools

The government wants:

  1. to enable existing grammar schools to expand
  2. to enable the creation of new wholly or partly selective schools in response to ‘parental demand’! A YouGov poll last month showed 59% of the British public support the plans. A White Paper is expected by March 2017.Headteachers predict this will lead to a surge of independent schools seeking to join the state sector. The government plans to allow an expansion of academic selection and remove the cap on faith-based admissions which only allowed 50% of their pupils admission on the basis of faith.The government’s latest Green Paper on grammars proposed that private schools will have to contribute more to the state sector to preserve their charitable status. ( 15,000 and 20,000 Catholic school places may be created once restrictions on admission for new faith schools goes ahead, said the director of the Catholic Education Service, Paul Barber.
  3. Cost: £50 million a year is the only figure committed so far to enable grammars to expand.
  4. Selection, says Theresa May, will make Britain a ‘great meritocracy’. 99% of grammar schools are rated either ‘good’ or better by Ofsted compared with 20% of comprehensives. Pupils who fail a selection test are likely to have an association with ‘poorer educational consequences’.

New Chief Inspector of Ofsted

Amanda Spielman is appointed the new Chief Inspector of Ofsted and will begin her role in January. The reliability and validity of Ofsted’s inspection judgements is the most pressing concern.

23rd September 2016

Cut teaching loads?

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) suggests the long classroom hours are driving people from the profession. He made his comments after new figures revealed that teachers in England and Scotland spend a significantly larger portion of their time in front of pupils than most other developed countries. He suggests the teaching load means teachers have less time for professional development and lesson-planning. He quotes Finland as a positive example where, although salaries are similar to England, teachers have a lot more opportunity to grow in their profession and more career opportunities. Teaching is Finland’s second most prestigious profession.

A DfE spokesman maintained that teaching continues to be a popular career and that unnecessary workload is being addressed.

Church Schools: by Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

The Archbishop explains the nature of C of E education and the challenge society faces. The C of E has 4,500 primary and 200 secondary schools. It educates around 1 million children a day. It is estimated 15 million people alive today attended a Church of England school. The challenge to society today of religiously motivated violence and extremism is unprecedented. “It requires an understanding of religious literacy: the motivations and ideas of those who commit violence is essential, even if we, rightly condemn it.”

In the midst of these challenges, C of E schools aim to provide an education that is ‘deeply and authentically Christian, but also inclusive and embracing of diversity’.

Four basic elements of the church’s approach to education:

  1. To provide pupils with the wisdom, knowledge and skills they need to navigate a complex, often daunting world: equipping them with academic capabilities, creativity and emotional intelligence.
  2. To educate for hope and aspiration (especially important for those with mental issues) offering ‘resources for healing, repair and renewal’.
  3. To provide a ‘hospitable community that seeks to embody an ethos of living well together’ challenging all forms of sectarianism.
  4. Educating in a way that cherishes the dignity and respect of each person.
  5. The C of E is committed to training creative and innovative leaders. Recently the C of E Foundation for Educational Leadership was set up. (See the document ‘Church of England vision for Education: deeply Christian, serving the common good’.

30th September 2016

Governors’ Lack of Faith in Government Policies

A joint research by TES and National Governors’ Association, consisting of over 5,000+ responses, shows that more than 75% of governors have given the government’s performance a negative rating and less than 7% support the government’s policy of universal academisation. The research shows that:

  • Squeezed budgets have forced many schools to shed staff with further reductions expected
  • Teacher shortages seem to be getting worse
  • Schools opting for academy status are not embracing freedom it brings in terms of curriculum or teachers’ pay and conditions
  • Secondary governors are using 11-16 funding to subsidise their sixth forms due to cuts in post-16 budgets
  • The survey reveals that cuts to school funding have already forced 40% of governors to reduce teacher numbers. 29.4% had been forced to cut the number of subjects they could offer to pupils. A DfE spokesperson reported that the grammar schools provide stretching education for the most academically able to make sure they improve the education of pupils in every other part of the system.

Stress causing teachers to take medication

A census-wide survey of more than 1000 primary and secondary teachers finds that more than a quarter of teachers have turned to medication to cope with stress. Nearly a third (31%) have been to the doctor for the same reason. The excessive workload and the high-stakes accountability system is largely blamed by unions and teachers.

School minister promoting Maths Mastery from Shanghai

Nick Gibbs, school minister, has pledged £41 million to circulate the ‘mastery approach’ to at least 8000 primary schools in England. He argues that, because we are lagging behind in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) ratings we should make use of this pedagogy. Primary children in to nations, it is reported, study fewer things in greater depth. The ‘Mastery’ approach calls for whole class teaching and children working through an approved textbook. PISA results show a 3 yr difference between the maths performance of English pupils and pupils in Shanghai. It is planned that 35 maths ‘hubs’, schools already demonstrating excellence in the approach, will lead the training of others and, under the oversight of the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, will result in 8000 primary schools using the programme.

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A new field for HighLight in Nigeria

Lifecause Academy, Lagos

hl-nigeria-1A new contact has been made with Indian Pastor Deepak Dehongde in the city of Lagos here he has just opened Lifecause Academy for under-privileged children in a slum district of the city. Pastor Deepak invited HighLight director, David Freeman, to make an initial on behalf of HighLight visit in the last week of August in order to envision and train his staff. He funded the visit and arranged for David to speak at other schools known to Pastor Deepak.

hl-nigeria-2The week included several very positive sessions with the Lifecause principal and staff who responded with great enthusiasm. A visit was made to the school building which is at present a house in the slum area which has been renovated to provide bright and clean classrooms for the 30+ children aged 3 to 6 These will be divided into a play-school class for 3-4 year olds and a kindergarten class for 4-6 year olds. hl-nigeria-3All education in Lagos is in English so they regaled the visitors with many songs and rhymes and enjoyed a new counting song David taught them. This school is making contact with the parents or guardians of these children who we visited and who are clearly thrilled at the possibility of education for their children.

A striking contrast


Three other schools invited training for their staff. The day before visiting the school in the slum, David was invited to the most prestigious school in Lagos. The British School in Lekki (the privileged district) presently caters for approximately 250 pupils and is situated in 22 acres with many quality classrooms, its own bakery and swimming pool! Quite a contrast! The Principal followed up the session by expressing an interest in his school being involved in some way with Pastor Deepak’s school. What a positive result!
On another day 200 teachers attended the session at The English Language School, whose staff are mainly Hindu. This school caters for nearly 1500 Indian children and has an excellent reputation.

hl-nigeria-6 hl-nigeria-5

Isaac Newton School

A day’s training for 20 staff was requested by the principal of Isaac Newton School. Staff were very enthusiastic and, as in all cases where it was shared, the approach to redemptive discipline, amongst other teaching, was a new concept and warmly welcomed.


Future plans

Pastor Deepak has asked for an ongoing relationship with HighLight and mentoring for his principal of the Lifecause. There was a suggestion from the English Language School regarding a longer seminar on a future occasion. The British School and Isaac Newton School have also both asked for further connection, training and relationship. The whole experience of the Indian community in Lagos was thoroughly enjoyable, making the visit very worthwhile and opening a new field for HighLight.

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Education Update – April – June 2016

Education Update – April – June 2016

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES

1st April 2016

Majority of teachers consider quitting the profession

New research carried out by the NASUNT teaching union reveals that 74% of teachers (as opposed to 45% in 2011) have seriously thought about leaving the profession due to the ‘crushing’ workload level (90% saying this was a problem).  Other factors are continuous curriculum and qualification changes, pupil behaviour, pay and school inspection.

All schools must give a ‘free learning’ hour a day

From September the government plans to require every pupil to have an hour a day where they are free to decide what they learn. The teacher’s role will be ‘a guide on the side’. Government ministers have been inspired by Summerhill, ‘the original free school’. Schools will have freedom to decide whether they introduce ‘free learning’ but will be failed by Ofsted if they choose not to!

8th April 2016

England secondary standards are not deemed ‘world-class’

The think-tank CentreForum has concluded in its report that more than 60% of England’s secondary pupils fail to match their counterparts in the highest-performing education systems in the world. Pupils in top-performing countries like Finland, Hong Kong and Canada, achieve an average of 8 B grades at GCSE. In England only 38% of pupils meet this threshold.

15th April 2016

DfE dropped baseline assessments for 4-year olds

Whilst this was celebrated by many teachers, Heads are warning that the replacement assessments could be very onerous. It is understood that ministers are anxious to find new ways of measuring progress and that parallel proposals for new tests at Stage 1 are possible, including the introduction of national tests for 7-year olds.

A third of Secondary qualifications in the new GCSE and A-levels are not yet approved

With less than a term to go, only 65% of the new specifications have been accredited.

House of Lords’ Report

The House of Lords Committee on Social Mobility has found that 53% of school leavers who opt not to go to university or do A-levels are allowed to ‘drift’ into first jobs or FE with no real prospect of progression. It recommends that the National Curriculum should finish at age 14 allowing students to focus on a career before they leave school.

Legal problems for schools joining a multi-academy trust

The government requires all state schools to become academies by 2022. However, lawyers and headteachers’ leaders warn that schools will lose all independence in legal terms when joining an MAT as they will become mere ‘local branches’ of the trust and legally cease to exist. Legal experts warn that schools will not be able to leave once they join. The DfE said it would consider in future a need for ‘routine periodic’ reviews of MAT arrangements and would look into giving parents the ability to petition their schools move to a different trust.

DfE talks plan a new school leadership college

Ministers are in talks about funding a new school leadership college. The college is the brainchild of Sir Michael Wilshaw, Sir Anthony Seldon (former master of Wellington College) and Free-school pioneer Toby Young. The college, argue the founders of the Buckingham Institute of School Leadership, is needed to tackle a shortfall of good headteachers. Graduates could be placed in headteacher, deputy and assistant headteacher positions after just two years of training. Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, strongly criticised the existing National College of Teaching and Leadership in a letter to Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.

New Smartphone app on Shakespeare

Sir Ian McKellen is launching the new app to enable pupils to hear Shakespearean text delivered by actors. However, he advises that it is best to see Shakespeare in theatre

Academies barred from opening 6th form

Academies will be barred from opening 6th form unless they expect to have at least 200 pupils and offer 15 A-levels according to new DfE guidance. Schools will also have to be rated good by Ofsted and demonstrate the 6th form’s ‘financial viability and value for money’.

29th April 2016

Primary Heads against Government’s Tests

The NAHT Heads’ Union reports that almost all (98%) Primary school leaders believe the government’s testing regime is ‘chaotic and distracting’. The union has called for a review of Primary assessment after a series of mistakes made by government. Many believe the KS2 SATS are deeply flawed. NAHT Heads union has asked members to sign a pledge to oppose the ‘constant chaotic changes to assessment’.

Groundswell of opposition to Government and Academies’ programme

There is increasing opposition to the government’s plan to make all schools academies by 2022. Such a plan will involve changing many structures and it is possible that standards will be less in focus.

6th May 2016

Teachers prefer smaller class size to pay rises

A survey of 4,300 UK teachers by TES Global, a parent company of TES, found that teachers’ top choice was smaller class sizes. 56% chose class size reduction as the best way to improve learning. Better teacher pay was only chosen by 19% as priority.

International Baccalaureate introduces formal exam

For the 1st time the International Baccalaureate middle years’ programme for 11-16 yr olds has introduced formal exams using computerised tests in subjects including language and literature, maths and science.

Pressure on Special Education Needs Staff

The workload of Special Education Needs teachers has rocketed according to NAHT Heads union. Reduced budgets and lack of expertise results in schools faced with long waiting lists to access mental health services. The Report calls for greater focus on SEND in teacher training. A DfE spokeswoman reported that funding has been protected with an extra £80million to support charities and councils working with children with SEND. A record £1.4billion has been invested in children and young people’s mental health and investment into better links with services and schools.


Assessment serves too many masters. In English Primary schools it is used mainly to assess teachers and pupil performance by endless tracking. But Pedagogy and Curriculum should regain prominence and assessment providing crucial information that supports, rather than drives, learning. We do not need rigid baseline or keystage tests. Electronic platforms including video and scanned work examples, would involve the child with a means of celebrating their work and achievement.

  • Peer review within and between groups of schools could use these files to gauge quality of work
  • For children finding learning difficult more detailed records will need to be kept

Recording needs to be simple and carried out throughout the year, not just at the end.

All aspects of work must be covered.

Dame Alison Peacock, Executive Head Teacher, The Wroxham School

13th May 2016

Scrap SATS say Teachers – but pupils think they should stay!

A survey held between 5th-9th May involving 1600 teachers and school leaders, plus parents and pupils found 59% of teachers, 68% of parents think they should be scrapped whilst 56% of pupils said “No”!

Children starting school without necessary skills

Tens of thousands of 4-5 yr olds are beginning school without the language and social skills they need. Almost a third of new starters are not considered ready for the classroom. The research is reported in ‘The State of Education Report’ by school leaders service, the Key.

Plans of Sir David Carter, National Schools’ Commissioner

Sir David plans to identify the 100 weakest academies and bring in a hierarchical system of chains of academies.

20th May 2016

Queen’s Speech announces bill to enforce Academies

The Queen’s Speech announced a new education bill to force all schools to convert to academies where the local authority fails to meet a ‘minimum performance threshold’ alongside the introduction of a new national school funding formula.

Pressure on Heads of Departments re teaching reformed GCSEs

Heads of Departments are finding they need twice the anticipated curriculum time to teach reformed GCSEs, so said Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL teaching union. Teachers in many cases were unable to see the exam boards approved specification until recently.

Pisa testing whether teachers are racist

Under proposals for a new element of Pisa, pupils will be asked whether they think their teachers are racist. This question is to be included in the 2018 round of Pisa surveys. Some teaching unions have reacted with warnings about this approach.

27th May 2016

Increased staff redundancy due to budget cuts

TES research of 429 schools indicates more than ⅔ of schools have had to make staff redundant and 38% are seriously considering doing so. More than half (52%) have cut the number of teachers at their institution. Only 6% of schools reported an increase.

82% of schools reported that teachers were under more stress this year. A DfE spokesperson reported that education is a priority for the government and that billions have been invested; as pupil numbers increase, so will the amount of money into schools.

SATS tests condemned as unfair

Experts and government advisors have condemned this year’s tougher SAT papers as ‘deadening’ and unfair, claiming that some material was pitched at GCSE level. All academies contacted by TES were critical of the new tests. The NAHT have asked Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, for a fundamental review of assessment. A DfE spokesperson claimed that teachers and development experts were involved in the development of the tests to ensure they were appropriate for KS2.

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