Education Update – April – May 2013

Selected items from the National scene as reported by TES

5th April 2013

SPAG tests

Government primary school grammar tests for Y6 pupils (SPAG tests) are the result of a major review of KS2 assessment.  However, experts view the tests as seriously flawed and argue that this will not be the best way to teach grammar.  NUT called for a boycott of the SPAG and Phonics tests for 6yr olds.  The SPAG tests are still to be implemented by the government despite the criticisms.

International tests available to compare students’ standards against a global network

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is enabling single schools to take the assessment exam for the first time.  It is called the International Student Assessment and will be run in the USA and the UK.

12th April 2013

Continued controversy over Gove curriculum

Secondary heads have rejected the focus of the government’s proposed curriculum and want delay beyond 2014.  Primary heads complain they have no room to innovate.  However, a spokesperson from DfE said, “The draft national curriculum is challenging and ambitious.  Extending the consultation period would delay implementation.  A whole year of pupils would miss out on a more rigorous, knowledge-focussed curriculum.”

Teach First

The education charity placing high-performing graduates into schools is to be extended into Early Years with the intention of attracting talented individuals.

New “Studio Schools” for 14-19 yr. olds

Thirteen new “Studio Schools” which specialise in aspects such as environmental studies, engineering and hospitality will open from September 2014 approved by DfE.

19th April 2013

Concern over ethnic disparity in Early Years test

A pilot research from DfE Standards and Testing Agency has discovered that only 41% of children were judged as ‘good’ under the new standards compared with 64% under the old system.  All ethnicities tested (apart from the Chinese) found achievement in writing and numbers the most difficult but black children particularly struggled to reach a good level in numbers.  Teachers’ common complaint was that the content of the goals was too broad and ambiguous, making it difficult to assess pupils exactly.  The new EYFS profile has been slimmed down from a cumbersome 156 goals over 13 areas to 17 areas with 3 points in each.

Streaming – it’s up to schools to decide

Despite comments in the past advocating streaming by ability from David Cameron, Michael Gove and Ofsted Chief Inspector Wilshaw, the government has chosen not to advocate streaming.  “It is for schools to decide how best to organise the teaching – including whether to group and set pupils by ability – as they know exactly what their students need” a spokesman said.  Ofsted also says it “doesn’t have a view on whether setting or streaming is a good idea or not”.

26th April 2013

Consequences of Performance – related pay in schools?

Legal experts predict a rise in cases of fraud and sexual and racial discrimination claims by teachers. In September schools are free to set their own criteria for salary increases.

Ofqual makes it easier!

To compensate for the removal of the exam section on Speaking and Listening (approximately 20% of GCSE marks). Ofqual may set the A*-C grade boundaries “one or two marks lower”.

Academies over budget

The Academies program has cost £1 billion more than budgeted for, according to the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

IGCSEs increase

Since 2011 figures show that the state schools using IGCSEs has risen more than fivefold. This means the state sector now is now nearly 75% of the 1339 UK schools offering the Cambridge International Examinations version of the IGCSE. Until 2012 the majority of school suing it were in the independent sector.

Catholic Schools to help secular schools

Catholic schools which are high-performing will, under plans being drawn up by the Church and government, be given considerable influence over the way secular school are run. The growth of the academies programme has facilitated this. The Catholic Church wants to make a “greater contribution” to the wider school scene.

3rd May 2013

Sex education encouragement

Ofsted warns that frequently poor sex and education lessons leaves young people vulnerable to sexual exploitation or inappropriate behaviour. Ofsted wants secondary schools to teach pupils more about pornography, relationships and staying safe – not just the mechanics of reproduction.

Teachers have a role in Youth Justice

Chris Grayling, the UK Justice Secretary, is calling on teachers to help plan new youth prisons, to be known as “secure colleges”. He believes teachers have expertise in handling badly behaved students and suggests schools might run a ‘secure unit’ alongside their own institution. This is already the case in California.

A Royal College of Teaching?

The frustration caused by politicians to many educationalist professionals have led to calls that the creation of a Royal College of Teaching might be set up to promote outstanding educational practice and professional development. The project has been supported by the Prince of Wales educational charity, “The Princes Teaching Institute (PTI)”.

10th May 2013

Ofqual is suggesting a radical change to its standards identifying low performing 11-18 schools. It is asking education ministers to consider pupils’ performance in English and Maths, instead of raw exam results, as the central factor in the decision leading to schools being assessed in this way.

17th May 2013

Irish Republican Catholic Schools

80% of all Primary schools and 50% of Secondary schools are run by the Roman Catholic Church.  Education minister, Mr Quinn, has criticised the time spent preparing pupils for their first confession, communion and confirmation and wants more devoted to Science and P.E. which are allocated one hour each per week.  Research by the Irish National Teachers Organisation shows a reduction in the numbers of teachers willing to teach R.E. from 61% to 49%.

Successful project in N. Ireland which reconciles Protestant and Catholic Schools

Senior pupils from Protestant Ballycastle High School and the Catholic Cross School are now sharing lessons and extra-curricular activities.  This has been funded by the Sharing Education Programme (SEP) which encourages collaboration between schools divided by religion.  Since it began in 2007, 162 schools and more than 12,500 students have benefited.

Primary Schools in England facing recruitment challenge

Primary schools face a challenge in recruiting principals.  In January 2013 26% were forced to re-advertise and in London, 44%.  The National Association of Headteachers is to launch its own school inspection service “Instead”.  Ofsted inspections are cited as a stressful aspect of the job.

24th May 2013

Pornography Concern

Pornography has a link with high risk behaviour in children according to a review by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England.  Explicit material is now available on mobile phones affecting children’s attitudes to sex and their beliefs.  Ofsted expressed concern that, in Secondary schools, not enough emphasise was placed on the influence of pornography and that sex and relationships education needed improvement in more than a third of schools.

Performance Pay

Principals are able to introduce performance-related pay schemes from September.  However, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools in England, has warned that this will result in larger classes because it is impossible to have highly paid staff with smaller classes.

Free Schools

102 new free schools have been approved to open from 2014 raising the total number of free schools to 292.  5% of new schools are being set up by parent groups.  28% of the new schools are being established by academy chains; another 27% by existing mainstream schools or academies.

31st May 2013

Task force against Extremism

The British government is establishing a task force to combat extremism and wants schools as well as prisons, colleges and universities, to be given a key role in identifying and tackling radicalism.  Professor Ted Cantle is urging that extremism be made a statutory part of school curriculum.

Summer-born children suffer?

Major research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), based on an analysis of 48,500 children in England suggests summer-born children are twice as likely to be identified with Special Educational needs. They call for national test scores to be adjusted for age.