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 â…” 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.