Education Update – August - September 2013

Selected items from the National scene as reported by TES

2nd August 2013

Possible new reforms re bullying

Exclusion from school may not be the only sanction open to principals.  Reforms presently going through Parliament recommend that principals in England and Wales should have the right to request court injunctions against abusive children.   ‘BeatBullying’ researchers have found that 44% of suicides among children aged 11 to 14 are linked to bullying.

9th August 2013


First created by PhD student Thomas West at the University of Delaware, algorithms entail studying the 1st grade reports on students to identify those likely to drop out of school in later years.  What was discovered from West’s research was that reasons for dropping out later were that a 1st grader was twice as likely to drop out if they had missed 3 or more days, or if they underperformed in reading and mathematics.  However, they were 5 times more likely to drop out if they had a bad behaviour record.  The UK government is now also focussing assessment on children at the start of school more closely.  It needs to be noted that West’s research identified 47% of students who adjusted during school but correctly identified more than 75% of future drop-out students accurately.

16th August 2013

A-level results show fall in top grades again

For the second year running the top grades in this year’s A-levels were achieved by fewer students.  Only 7.6% of students gained A* grades.  This was a decrease from 2012 when it was 7.9%.  2012 was the first year to show a fall in the top grades for 20 years.  The decrease was also reflected in the number of students gaining ‘A’ grades (26.6% in 2012; 26.3% this year).  The dropping results coincide with a clampdown by Ofqual – England’s exams regulator – but the decline in top grades requires more answers.

Child Protection

The UK’s Crown Protection Service (CPS) has published new guidelines and proposing a new approach to counteract an ‘over cautious’ approach by teachers and calling for police and prosecutors to take accusations more seriously.  See the consultation on

Increased prescriptions for drugs to treat behaviour conditions

Since 2007 prescriptions for drugs (such as Ritalin) to treat behaviour disorders have increased by 56%.  The Care Quality Commission blames the increased diagnosis of ADHD in children and adults.  The Commission is also concerned that students are using such drugs to enhance their academic performance.

23rd August 2013

Migration to IGCSE

Huge increases have been recorded this year for entries to IGCSE in Foreign Languages, Geography and History with an increase in Chemistry, Biology and Physics.  Exam boards believe that combined GCSE and IGCSE statistics are a more accurate measure of students’ performance.  The migration to IGCSE is reckoned to partly account for the drop in A*-C grades from 69.4% to 68.1%.


After the death of student Smith as a result of abuse from using the website, David Cameron has asked parents and students to boycott the site.  He has also put forward plans to block access to online porn sites.  A report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner found that porn causes high-risk behaviour among children, including violent attitudes and behaviour and casual and unprotected sex.

30th August 2013

Performance-related pay causing chaos

The introduction of this measure is causing thousands of school confusion about how to reward their staff.  1 in 5 governors reported in a survey that their school has not decided how to introduce it.  Performance-related pay is in use in the US, Finland and Sweden.

Cyber bullying

Mr Gove has called for cyber bullying to be tackled by teachers.

Axing fees in the Irish Republic

More than 1 in 5 private schools are considering axing fees and becoming fully state-funded after a drop in enrolments.  Private secondary schools already receive government funding to cover teachers’ salaries.

Threatened strike disruption

Teaching unions NUT and NASWT are preparing for regional strikes over pensions, pay and working conditions and a national walkout in November.

Increase in students over the next 2 years

Due to a dramatic rise in the birth rate, schools will be under pressure to find more classrooms or make classes larger.

13th September 2013

Query over Ofsted effectiveness

There is a query over the effectiveness of Ofsted’s approach and the Teach First programme by Professor Robert Coe, director of Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring.  Ofsted Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, dismissed the claims, saying ‘there has recently been a 9% rise in the proportions of schools judged to be good or outstanding’.  (78% of all schools inspected by Ofsted are judged to be good or outstanding)

Gay teachers get backing

Of 3,000 people surveyed, 8 out of 10 think it is acceptable for a gay person to reach in a school.  NatCen Social Research carried out the poll and repeated that, when last surveyed, over this issue it was 5 out of 10.


The Programme for International Student Assessment now evaluates the school systems of 34 countries in reading, mathematics and science abilities.

Eton’s alliance with East London

Eton College and Gallions Primary School in East London are pioneering an alliance for 15 and 16 year old Eton students to work as teaching assistants and to experience education in the state sector.  Eton is also involved in other partnerships including Hollyport College, a new state boarding school near Maidenhead.

27th September 2013

New UK Primary Curriculum

A leading expert, Professor Robin Alexander (Chair of Cambridge Primary Review Trust), believes new Primary Curriculum encourages a ‘neo-Victorian’ focus on the 3 Rs at the expense of other subjects.

Row over PISA continues

PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment, is providing a problematic and unrepresentative portrayal of assessment in parts of the developing world, where language problems and other issues are no taken into account by PISA.  This is the view of a paper from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  It highlights the ‘non-representative sample of 15 year olds’ in some countries as a main challenge for PISA.  Although PISA have introduced optional test booklets with easier questions, most countries have refused to use them because of the perceived stigma.

Fear of numbers

A report from the Royal Statistical Society ‘A World Full of Data’ suggests many students have a fear of data due to the English education system, affecting their studies in Maths, Science, Computing and Economics.  The report asks for changes at A-level and identifies the loss of coursework as detrimental.  Education officials are working on the introduction of new maths qualifications for students with minimum grade of ‘C’ who do not want to pursue A-level courses.