Education Update – January – February 2017

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES


First government approved free school to operate in the evenings and weekends

The Campus school in Haringey, North London, will serve teenagers who are subject to court orders or who have recently been released from custody.  Young people will be ordered to attend by the courts.  They will be picked up by car and taken to the school before 10am and returned home after 7pm every day of the year, including Christmas and New Year’s Day.

C of E face criticism by headteachers

Nearly 600 church schools in central and southern England educating about 200,000 pupils are likely to be converted into academies.  The control of the schools would be by the school’s diocese, or its representative.  Headteachers are concerned that such plans would erode schools’ autonomy and could amount to ‘forced academisation by the back door’.

Change as Pisa is set to measure social and emotional learning (SEL)

In the next round of Pisa surveys, countries are likely to be judged on how well they prepare students for life in a globalised world including skills like resilience, empathy and self-esteem rather than simply on their cognitive skills in reading, science and maths.  Concerns have been expressed that different cultures may struggle with teaching SEL and may be reluctant to do so, as in Oslo, Norway.


Rural schools face cuts

More than 1000 small schools face cuts that could threaten their viability through having their budgets reduced.  This is despite Justine Greening’s assurance to Parliament than new funding arrangements would ‘protect small schools’.  A DfE spokesperson said that small rural schools will gain on average 1.3% and small and remote primary schools will see 5.3% gains.

Performance tables

Under the government’s floor standard, a progress 8 is a score of below -0.5.  282 secondary schools fell below it and 319 secondaries were classed as ‘coasting’; meaning that fewer than 60% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C GCSEs in 2015 and 2014.

7000 extra teacher examiners needed

Due to the significant challenges presented by GCSE and A-level reform, thousands more teachers are needed to be examiners.

Schools urged to offer CBT to pupils

Psychologists have called for schools to offer cognitive behavioural therapy to pupils facing mental health problems.  It is considered particularly effective in teaching depression and anxiety, which are 2 of the biggest problems facing pupils today.  CBT helps to change negative thought patterns by breaking them down into smaller parts.

ICT survey reveals lack of protection for pupils from online radicalisation

A survey of more than 1300 ICT lead teachers in schools show that 51% of teachers in primary schools and 49% in Secondaries ‘need training in e-safety issues’.


Measuring character: by a new app

Pendle Vale College in Lancashire is the first school in the UK to attempt to measure pupils’ character, including ‘grit’ and problem-solving.  Staff and students will be able to give pupils instant credit for certain behaviours through a system called Lengo.  It works by pupils carrying a computer chip that teachers can scan with a mobile device to record how they have behaved.  Credits can be issued immediately if the desired skill or character trait is exhibited.  The system can work in the playground too.  In January policymakers, advisers, academics and campaigners from 19 countries came together to discuss the best methods for assessing non-cognitive skills.  Concerns were expressed about the accuracy of tools used.

New Chartered College of Teaching

More than 1000 teachers had joined the College a few days after its official opening last week.  Dame Alison Peacock wants to encourage teachers to engage with research-informed pedagogy.  Her ambition is for the college to be “massive” and self-sufficient by 2021 and no longer reliant on government funding.  The college aims to be voluntary, teacher-led and to support professional development, promote and share evidence-informed practice and to recognise excellence.  An early priority is to develop a ‘chartered teaching’ programme which is intended to provide “high-quality professional development beyond your initial teacher training years”.

TES study on the ‘skewing’ of the government’s proposed national school funding formula

A TES analysis reveals that the government’s national school funding formula would fund deprived pupils in secondaries at a rate which is nearly a third higher than in primaries.  It is calculated this will cancel £385 of extra pupil premium money that primary school pupils currently receive.


Pisa boss warns about funding pressures damaging schools in England

In December, The National Audit Office warned that schools will face cuts to make savings of 8% by 2019-20.  Andreas Schleicher, education director of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which publishes pupils Pisa world rankings, voiced concerns over schools struggling to cut budgets by 8% to cope with increasing cost pressures.  The DfE said it had protected ‘core school funding’ and it is at a record level.  It added that it will help schools facing cost pressures and will provide advice and support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways.

It is estimated a minimum of 1,101 small rural schools will lose out on ministers’ proposals.

Nearly a third of secondaries to cut mental health support

Almost a third of secondaries are cutting back on the mental health support they offer pupils.  31% of secondary leaders in an NAHT headteachers’ union poll, reported there would be a reduction in the services provided.  67% were reducing mental health support due to budget pressures.

New book on assessment

‘Making Good Progress?: The Future of Assessment for Learning’ by Daisy Christodoulou (published by OUP).  “Assessment should improve learning, not just measure it.”


Phonics re-sit plans dropped

The DfE is dropping plans for Year 3 pupils taking resits of phonics tests after a trial found that nearly half failed for a third time.

Are some secondary schools distorting GCSE statistics by some pupils being ‘managed’ out of main stream schooling?

Education Datalab has published research suggesting that unnamed secondary schools have moved pupils from their schools to boost league-table positions.  Reasons given by some of 35 secondaries who gained up to 7 percentage points through early leavers were ‘high pupil turnover’ and the ‘mobility’ issue.  Mary Bousted, General Secretary of ATL teaching union has demanded action.  The DfE stated that statutory guidance on exclusions must be followed when taking any decisions to remove pupils.


Grammar Schools warning

The Grammar School Heads Association (GSHA) has warned that, if the government’s funding proposals go ahead, they will be forced to abandon or curtail their work with disadvantaged primary school pupils.  This is in spite of the government’s Green Paper which wants Grammar Schools to take part in this sort of outreach to “raise aspirations, improve educational practice and promote wider access” in primary schools.

More than 25% of school leaders preparing to quit

A YouGov survey of findings commissioned by the Education Support Partnership Charity, exclusively shared with TES that 27% of senior school leaders said they did not expect to be working in education beyond the next 2 years unless workloads are reduced.  Of the 865 teachers and school leaders, 43% did not expect to be working in the education sector beyond 5 years.  A DfE spokesperson reported that the DfE is focusing on unnecessary workload and the management of poor pupil behaviour.  The spokesperson also reported that teacher retention has been “broadly stable for the past 2 years”.  However, no reference was made to school leaders.

GCSE High flyers – the male/female divide

Of the 2,500 pupils achieving 10 or more A* grades in 2015’s GCSEs, almost ⅔ were girls.  In addition, out of the 26,914 students achieving at least 5 A* grades, again 60% were girls.

Professor wants government to recognise Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Professor Barry Carpenter wants recognition on FASD and guidance for teachers on this disorder.  FASD encompasses a range of birth defects and neurodevelopmental disorders caused by maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.  Children with FASD may have learning difficulties and other distinctive facial or physical abnormalities.