Education Update – February – March 2013

Selected items from the National scene as reported by TES

1st February 2013

Concerns over English Baccalaureates

MPs raised concerns from the Cross-party Commons Education Select Committee that reforms should slow down due to education experts’ warnings.  There are fears that EBCs could narrow the curriculum – there were also concerns about the effect they may have on the 40% of lower attaining pupils.

Computer Science is to be added to the EBC league table measure for GCSE level exams in 2015.  Pupils need to pass two science options to achieve an EBac.

Latest ranking for England in international tests

Secondary Maths                    10th of 42 Timss (27/65 in 2009 Pisa)

Secondary Science                  9th of 42 Timss (16/65 in 2009 Pisa)

Primary reading                      6th of 40 Pearson Global Index (11th of 49 2011 Pirls)

(Timss: Trends in International Maths & Science Study; Pisa: Programme for International Student Development; Pirls:    Progress in International Reading Literacy Study; Pearson Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment)

The Catholic Church’s guidance on personal lives of school leadership

“Christ at the Centre”, issued by the Catholic Education Service, has caused strong criticism.  If heads, deputies or heads of departments enter “non-chaste” relationships outside of the church-approved forms of marriage, “their ability to govern or lead and model Catholic life and faith with ecclesiastical integrity may cease.”

8th February 2013

SEN review

A University of London’s Institute of Education review has found that on average children with SEN statements spend more than 25% of their time away from a qualified teacher and are often entrusted to teaching assistants.  They have half as much contact with their peers.  Concerns are raised by the report that current practice is not meeting the needs of SEN children.

Local councils to face Ofsted inspections

Ofsted confirms that councils that are failing to raise school standards will face inspections.

PISA expert’s concerns (PISA: Programme for International Student Assessment)

Andreas Schleicher warns that there is no clear evidence that Mr Gove’s plans to introduce performance-related pay in schools will have significant benefits.  He also warns that the academics programme risks creating wider gaps between best and worst-performing schools and may reduce co-operation between schools.  He believes schools should become ‘hubs’ of cutting-edge research into education to enhance innovation.

Stress statistics from Teachers Support Network

  • 96% of teachers say their health and well-being are affected by their workload.
  • On average teachers work 48.3 hours a week during term-time.
  • 55% of teachers are working over 56 hours a week (survey of 1,600 teachers by TES website)

7th February 2013 – National News

Ebacs plan completely dropped by Mr. Gove.  He now plans to improve the standards of GCSEs.

15th February 2013

Michael Gove drops EBac plans

Although the plans for EBac exams and that title have been dropped, Michael Gove is determined to raise the standards in existing GCSEs.  He especially wants a ‘C’ grade ‘pass’ to be tougher to attain. He wants longer and tougher questions, a new grading structure, the end of bite-sized modules and better preparation for ‘A’ levels.  The proposed 100% external assessment has been adjusted to require that internal assessment be kept to a minimum. The following have been dropped: the plan for a single exam board and statements of achievement for pupils who do not attain to a pass.

New GCSEs and A levels are to be introduced simultaneously from September 2015 – this is causing concern as it follows only 12 months after the start of the requirement to teach a new national curriculum.

New ‘floor standards’ for schools

The current standard expected of a satisfactory school of 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths is to be replaced.  Firstly, the proportion of pupils in each school attaining a GCSE ‘C’ or equivalent in their English and Maths will be assessed.  Ministers are proposing a new system of annual sample tests in English, Maths and Science.  Secondly, the new standard will be based on a points score set by pupils’ achievements in 8 qualifications with credits given for every grade. Schools not meeting these may be required to become academies, to meet other government measures or even to face closure.

OFSTED report on PE

Ofsted found that the School Sport Strategy espoused by Michael Gove has led to considerable improvement in PE and sport in schools but that there needs to be an investment by ministers into a new sports programme to capitalise on the inspiration to pupils from the last Olympic Games. Ofsted recommends that all school leaders should allocate 2 hours of core PE in all key stages.

22nd February 2013

Trainee teacher numbers decline

Applications for PGCEs in IT in England, Wales and Scotland have declined from 459 in January 2011 to 218 in January 2012.  In England alone the drop is 189 to 125.  This could jeopardise government plans to revolutionise Computer Science in schools.

Grants for SEN teachers

SEN teachers and support staff can make bids up to £3,500 to deepen their subject knowledge and develop their skills.

Free School Status

180 schools have made applications to convert to Free School Status since 2010.  (500 bids were made in all: 1 in 4 from religious groups.)  Liverpool College has also been given the go-ahead to receive state funding.

1st March 2013

Ofsted Annual Report cards for all State Schools

Ofsted is producing annual report cards for schools to provide data on pupil attainment, progress and attendance, leaving governors no excuse for not holding schools to account.

Challenge for government re keeping 17 year olds in education

New census figures show that there are more than 40,000 additional 16-17 yr olds not in education and training.  Instead of just under 80,000, there are more than 120,000.  Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock, plans the development of the traineeships programme earlier this year.  It is felt these might help if they could work as a means towards a longer apprenticeship.

Latest brain research

Dr. Paul Howard-Jones, a researcher in neuroscience and education at the University of Bristol, believes that regular reward and sanction becomes less effective in encouraging achievement than when there is an element of randomness.  Classroom games challenging pupil teams with multiple-choice questions introduce an element of risk and gamble that seems to work.

There is no research evidence that children learn better if taught in their preferred visual, auditory or kinaesthetic style.  All learners benefit from a variety of teaching methods.

The best study techniques have been found to be those which are more active.  Retrieving information from memory also strengthens long-term knowledge.  Revision and the spacing out of sessions also strengthens recall.

Howard-Jones believes working memory is one cognitive approach we have power to enhance.  Working memory is the process that enables us to retain and process multiple pieces of information.

8th March 2013

Payment by Results

Next week, at the third International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Amsterdam, a document on performance pay in schools from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development will be circulated to ministers.  This states evidence that payment by results can be contentious and potentially divisive and has a mixed impact.

GCSEs with higher standards v requirements

As reported in TES 15/02/2013, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, desires to raise the standards required by GCSEs.  Ofqual has been asked by him to analyse 13 exam systems in 12 countries and especially examine the teaching content, assessment and the structure of education systems.  Mr Gove believes England’s exams are below international standards but Ofqual reported in October 2011 that English ‘A’ levels compared well.

IBAC results in positive attitudes

The NFER study involving 309 pupils and 74 teachers in the UK found that the International Baccalaureate Middle Years programme for pupils aged 11-16 years is more likely to result in students having positive attitudes to global and civic mindedness. It covers content similar to GCSE and IGCSE course but is more integrated and includes thinking skills.

Breaking down barriers in Northern Irelands

The Queen’s University Sharing Education Programme is playing an important role in breaking down the divide between Catholics’ and Protestants’ communities and reducing prejudice in pupils.  (95% of Northern Ireland’s pupils are still educated in Catholic or Protestant-only schools.)

15th March 2013

Ofqual challenges Gove’s GCSE plans

Concerns are expressed by Ofqual over whether the system can cope with the reformed GCSEs and A-levels simultaneously in September 2015 as Mr Gove plans.  Further questions are still being asked about whether the current GCSE approach can be abolished and new tougher single exam GCSEs introduced.  Decisions about A-levels are expected to be made in the next few weeks.

Teach First

A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that Teach First could better target areas most in need if it changed its criteria.  The government has pledged to double funding for Teach First to £33.5 million and approx. 2,000 trainees a year by 2015-6.  IFS suggests Teach First should select schools where 30% of students have received free meals over the last 3 years rather than the present criteria of 50% of students living in poorest communities.

Reality TV is changing many young people’s attitudes to academic education

See TES article ‘Reality as seen on TV’

Many young people are naïve about gaining fame quickly through shows like the ‘X Factor’ and this undermines academic ambition.

22nd March 2013

Ofsted inspectors and their teaching experience

One of the private firms Ofsted draws its inspectors from had admitted last year that at least 5 of its Lead Inspectors did not have qualified teacher status.

Last week it was announced that 51% of Inspection Teams now include a serving-school leader.

Between October and December 2012, 9% of inspections resulted in an ‘outstanding’ grade; 55% resulted in a ‘good’ grade; 31% required improvement; 6% resulted in an ‘inadequate’ grade.

Concerns about new curriculum

100 academics in education have written to Michael Gove with concerns that the curriculum demands too much rote learning and will not help children’s ability to think or solve problems.

Government AS levels shelved

Admitting to concerns that children with dyslexia and other special educational needs may be disadvantaged in the plans to overhaul GCSEs, the government has also dropped its plan to increase the intellectual demands of AS levels from 2015.  Mr Gove remains committed to AS level reform in the future, and wants AS levels to be a ‘standalone’ qualification.

Pressure of large numbers of school places needed by 2014

The National Audit Office has warned that the DfE needs to examine the funding available due to a heightened demand for many thousands of extra primary places which will be required because of a large increase in the birth rate.  By September 2014 an estimated 256,000 extra places will be needed.

Free Schools and Faith

25% of applications for Free Schools were submitted by faith-based groups in the last 2 years.  The country’s first Greek Orthodox state secondary school will open in London in September as St. Andrew the Apostle School.

29th March 2013

Teacher Training

A dearth of applicants means places on Schools Direct Programme will not be filled.  The Schools Direct Programme replaces the Graduate Teacher Programme and is seen as a revolution in teacher-training.  Mr Gove is keen to move the focus away from university PGCE courses in favour of schools-based training.  A DfE spokesman stated the Schools Direct Programme was ‘overwhelmingly popular’ but in several regions places will not be filled.  Ofsted Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, praised schools-based training.  Universities have criticised the programme and are afraid it will lead to closure of faculties of education.

Performance related pay

This government move will not take place until a year later than expected – affecting pay packets in September 2014.  This will abolish automatic rises and abolish the main pay scale.  It is expected to face severe criticism at the NUT and NASUWT annual conferences.