Education Update – January – March 2014

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES

10th January 2014

Online Games can increase gambling attraction

Leading academic, Professor Griffiths (a world authority on gambling) in his Paper ‘Education and Health’, warns that the increase of young peoples’ online computer games could attract teenagers to gambling.  He believes teachers have a vital role in ensuring children understand the risks of gambling.  The UK organisation Gamble Aware said the equivalent of 60,000 secondary students in Britain aged 11-15 already had trouble controlling their gambling urges.

USA conflict over assessment

There is a conflict in the USA between digital assessment and pen and paper assessment.  From 2015 tests for PISA international assessment and International Baccalaureate will all be computer-based.  However, concerns in the USA are expressed that there should be a possibility of pen and paper assessment because some testing centres have insufficient capacity to deliver only computer-assessment.

17th January 2014

Creationism: a threat in schools?

Regulations banning the teaching of Creationism n Science in state schools should be extended to independent schools, says Professor Alice Roberts, President of the Association for Science Education (ASE).  The President maintains pupils are in danger of ‘indoctrination’ by religious groups  However, headteacher Paul Medlock said it was wrong not to allow debate on education: “closing down the options and saying there is only one thing – evolution is a form of extremism in itself.”

High Intelligence is a special need

Gifted children need individual attention the same as those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) say US academics.  David Lubinski of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee is author of a research paper on 300 gifted children.  Without special attention, he argues, gifted children become bored and don’t realise their potential.  Julie Taplin, of the charity Potential Plus UK which supports gifted children, agrees. Mr. Lubinski argues this need not necessitate vast extra expense as the advanced material for such pupils is already available.

24th January 2014

PISA includes student feedback for the first time

PISA has endorsed the written feedback of students about their teachers.  The UK’s influential shrink tank Policy Exchange is calling for student feedback to be a part of determining teachers’ pay alongside test scores and classroom observation.  Mary Bousted, secretary of the UK Association of Teachers and Lecturers, pointed out that there is a complete difference between taking the student voice seriously and having that affect teacher pay decisions.

7th February 2014

Autonomy is not necessarily best for pupils

PISA’s findings show that it is wrong to believe that greater school freedom results in better academic results.  This contradicts earlier PISA reports from 2010 which have influenced education ministers.

Cyber bullying

Cyber bullying bears similarities to other forms of bullying although it can attack people around the clock.  Research appears to show that existing anti-bullying measures can be effective.  KiVa, an anti-bullying measure developed by Professor Christina Salmivalli of Finland’s University of Turku, has proved to have a positive impact.  Factors like school climate, the presence of peer-monitoring and social skills training can also be effective.  Australia has Cybersafety Help Button available on the internet with counselling, a report service and educational resources available.  11th February in the UK is ‘Safer Internet Day’ related sources at  NSPCC has  Parents’ information available in a Safer Internet sheet from (Full TES article by Ian Rivers)

14th February 2014

Teach students “Character and creativity” as well as academics

Tristram Hunt (Labour party Education Spokesman) says character is best taught positively in the classroom, rather than through adversity (a traditional vies).

Setback for Free Schools in England and New York City

Mayor de Blasio,( New York) has decided to re-direct Free School funds to Early Years provision.  In England, two are facing imminent closure because of low standards.  Two others, Derby and Bradford, are also under threat.

21st February 2014

Avoid Creationism, alienate students

Research from the University of York suggests that the number of students in the UK who were sceptical about the idea of Life developing on earth without divine intervention was greater than many teachers would expect.  Whilst Creationism cannot be taught as face in Science, it can certainly be mentioned in the context of Darwin’s opposition to the religious orthodoxy of his day.  Research proved that 1 in 3 pupils in non-faith schools thought God played some part and 10% believed in Creationism.  In faith schools between 60 and 80% of students surveyed believed in Creationism.  Professor Reisse of Science Education at the University of London suggested that the survey implied that teachers should be respectful of pupils’ beliefs but also explain that science bases its views on only empirical evidence and does not “stray from this narrow line”.

28th February 2014

Action against female genital mutilation

Education Secretary Michael Gove will communicate to all primary and secondary schools highlighting official guidance on the issue of F.G.M.  Guidance provides guidance and materials for teachers to tackle the issue in age-appropriate ways.

Official guidance on Sex and Relationships

The Sex Education Forum and the PHSE association have drawn up the guidance which is backed by the DfE.  It recommends helping students to differentiate between “distorted images of sex” and real-life relationships, rather than advising abstinence or attempting to stop teenagers watching pornography online.

7th March 2014

Teachers’ ‘unstainable’ hours

The Teaching and Learning International Survey to be published in June 2014 by the DfE, found that English Primary school teachers work 59.3 hours a week on average, compared to 50.9 hours in 2010.  Teachers in maintained Secondary schools and academies work over 55 hours a week rising to 63.3 hours for school leaders, compared to 57 hours in 2010.  In France, teachers’ average 39-43 working hours.  In the US teachers across all schools were working an average of 53 hours a week.

14th March 2014

The link between maths and the UK economy

Research from National Numeracy claims that poor Maths skills are costing the UK economy £20 billion per year.  The Maths skills of 17 million adults are only at Primary level.  Research by Pro Bono Economics claims raising skills to lower-secondary level would increase UK income by £20 billion.

Unnecessary drugs

Too many children with learning difficulties, hearing or sight problems are regularly diagnosed as ADHD and prescribed unnecessary drugs.  Richard Saul, a behavioural neurologist from Chicago, in his new book ‘ADHD does not exist’ recommends children with learning difficulties should first be diagnosed for physical problems.  European behaviour consultant, Fintan O’Regan, disagrees and claims ADHD is “a recognised disability”.


Approximately 10% of children in the UK suffer from depression.  Depression is defined as a persistent lowered mood lasting two weeks or more.  The American Psychiatric Association states that a person must exhibit five or more of the following signs over a minimum two-week period to meet the criteria for clinical depression:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
  • Significant weight loss or gain; changes in appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little nearly every day
  • Feeling agitated; slowed thinking or movement that others can see
  • Fatigue or low energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Loss of concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

If these signs or other major changes in students are noticed they should be reported to whoever is responsible for student welfare in your school.

21st March 2014

The importance of RE

Tom Bennett, a teacher at Raine’s Foundation School in East London and a TES behaviour expert, defends the importance of RE although he doesn’t personally believe in God.  He claims the subject is being marginalised in schools and “nothing could be more dangerous, nothing more nurturing of fundamentalism and misunderstanding.  If religion were only about piety and devotion to an ideology, I would exile it from the classroom.  But the study of religion wrestles with aspects of human existence that are unavoidable.  It tackles the whys and whats.”  All faiths in the UK have access to funding and learning about faith in part of being a democracy and lack of RE will cause ignorance to bloom, Bennett believes.  He argues that it is impossible to understand how the world works without understanding religion.

28th March 2014

Premature children experience more maths difficulties

Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick researched young people born at less than 32 weeks’ gestation are three and a half times more likely to experience difficulties in maths.

Good RE can defeat extremism

A report issued by MPs in the UK argues that good religious education can defeat extremism and promote a deeper respect for the differences between young people.  The subject improves community relations by helping students understand different viewpoints on religious, ethical and philosophical issues.  A recent report by Ofsted found that RE was not allocated enough time on the curriculum.

PISA criticised by Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson, (world-renowned education and creativity expert) has hit out at the PISA, the world’s trusted league table.  He believes that PISA’s focus on only 3 subjects (Maths, Science and Reading) is detrimental to other creative areas being given time on the timetable, leading to a lack of breadth in education.