Education Update – July - September 2016

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES

22nd July 2016

DfE updates

The DfE has informed schools they will not be required to test Year 6 pupils on multiplication as was originally planned.

Schools minister, Nick Gibb, retains his role. He is thought to be the proponent of the phonics screening test and tougher SATS.

Grammar Schools

Under Prime Minister Theresa May, grammar schools are likely to be on the government agenda again. There are 163 grammar schools in England catering for 167,000 pupils. 139 grammar schools became academies in September 2015.

Trainee teachers

A UCAS report reveals 10.7% of Maths graduates in England and Wales applied for teacher-training in 2015. 8.7% were accepted.

27,800 people were accepted to teacher-training schemes in 2015. Applicant numbers were down by 6% from previous years.

29th July 2016

Jewish schools to be diverse

An open letter has been sent to Justine Greening opposing the Rabbi’s call for new faith schools to be able to select all pupils according to their religion.

Review of ‘Prevent’ needed

MPs and Lords argue that the government must ensure referrals are “sensible and proportionate”. The report expresses concerns about the Prevent anti-terror initiative in schools.

DfE exclusion figures

17% rise in permanent exclusions between 2013/14 and 2014/15 i.e. 31 permanent exclusions per day. 1590 temporary bans per day for bad behaviour e.g. violence, racism and drug offences.

32.8% permanent exclusions are for persistent disruptive behaviour. 20,700 exclusions were for physical assault on an adult. 54,370 exclusions were for physical assault on a child.

English Baccalaureate requirements

From next year, pupils will need to score new GCSE grade 5s instead of the easier grade Cs if they are to achieve the English Baccalaureate. Only the highest third of entries in each subject currently achieving a C would qualify for a grade 5 in the new system.

Staffing Crisis in Maths

A new survey by the Mathematical Association reveals that maths departments are increasingly relying on non-specialists, supply teachers and unqualified teachers as pressure and poor pay is driving maths teachers out of the profession. Only 46% of maths teachers said their departments were fully staffed. DfE spokesman reported generous bursaries and scholarships are offered for trainee maths teachers.

12th August 2016

MP Nick Gibb

Nick Gibb has been made Minister for School Standards.

No. 10 scraps education adviser role

Theresa May will no longer have a dedicated education advisor.

Sexual offences treble

Sexual offences in schools has trebled in four years according to the charity Plan International UK which reports that children as young as 5 have been accused of sex crimes. 4,643 sexual offences were reported between 2011 and 2015.

‘Trojan Horse’ school gains a ‘good’

Rockwood Academy, formerly Park View Academy in East Birmingham, has now focused on promoting British Values through a focus on Sport and the Arts and Culture. The school has launched two initiatives to combat radicalisation. 1) a new curriculum called #Extre(me) designed to protect students from online grooming 2) a Combined Cadet Force in association with the British Military.

Significant change for the new Geography GCSE

The new 9-1 GCSE raises expectations: more rigorous content with strengthened requirements for field work; a more demanding place-based study of UK geography requires detailed knowledge and understanding of landscapes, environmental challenge, changing economy and society rather than a case-study approach.

19th August 2016

IGCSE pass rate rises for English Language

IGCSEs are taken by 1 in 3 16 year olds. After falling last year, it has risen again.

EY profiles remain and funding system overhauled

Schools will be required to continue with teacher assessments of 4-5 year olds. This will remain compulsory in 2016-17 school year. Education Secretary Justine Greening plans to overhaul funding for EY providers.

Will GCSE results be raised?

A new pupil-performance test is in the balance. Exams regulator, Ofqual, may soon announce a new ‘national reference test’ (NRT) which could be used as a justification for allowing major rises in GCSE grades to begin again. Some expert advisors to Ofqual however, have raised serious problems about the NRT.

A new teaching apprenticeship?

The Teaching Schools Council proposes a new scheme to allow A-level students to join the profession in an apprenticeship capacity without going to university. It would lead to a degree and a qualified teacher status. The proposal is to be submitted to the government next month.

26th August 2016

Heads threaten to boycott future Primary SATS

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT headteachers’ union, wants action taken to:

  1. Rethink proposals for resits in Year 7
  2. Redesign the reading test
  3. Address concerns about assessment on writing.
  4. In addition, Tim Oates, research director at Cambridge Assessment, called for a government commissioned review of the ‘really demanding’ grammar content in SATS for 11 year olds.

GCSEs have a record fall in pass rate

The proportion of A* to C grades dropped to 66.9%. It is suggested that the fall is linked to government reforms requiring pupils to re-sit GCSEs in English and Maths if they do not attain C grade and also to the introduction of the new school accountability measure: Progress 8. 

College of Teaching

Dame Alison Peacock has been appointed the College of Teaching’s first Chief Executive. The college aims to raise the status of the profession by helping teachers share best knowledge and practice. This new independent and voluntary body hopes (amongst other aims) to accredit teachers, provide continuous high quality professional development for teachers; provide an ambitious career framework via a new ‘Chartered Teacher’ status and offer high quality products and services. Annual membership is likely to be as low as £29. Some in the profession are sceptical that the college will struggle to remain independent of the government.

9th September 2016

A quarter of teachers wish to leave the profession?

A report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) states that 23% (almost a quarter) of teachers are considering quitting teaching compared to 17% in June 2015. This is based on a poll of 2,000 teachers in England. The report also found less than a half of state-school teachers are engaged in their role. The NFER recognises from a series of surveys and interviews with teachers over the last year that ‘workload is at the centre’ of why teachers are considering leaving.

Change in British History GCSE

British History gains a greater emphasis. From this month pupils will learn one British depth study and study one thousand years of British history through the lens of a particular theme e.g. migrants in Britain. A broad sweep of history is covered at Keystage 3.

16th September 2016

Greening scraps plans to drop parent governors

Justine Greening, Minister of Education, has signalled a U-turn over the government’s plan to allow academies to drop parent governors – she has declared a willingness to reconsider.

Consequences of Theresa May’s plan to allow grammar schools

The government wants:

  1. to enable existing grammar schools to expand
  2. to enable the creation of new wholly or partly selective schools in response to ‘parental demand’! A YouGov poll last month showed 59% of the British public support the plans. A White Paper is expected by March 2017.Headteachers predict this will lead to a surge of independent schools seeking to join the state sector. The government plans to allow an expansion of academic selection and remove the cap on faith-based admissions which only allowed 50% of their pupils admission on the basis of faith.The government’s latest Green Paper on grammars proposed that private schools will have to contribute more to the state sector to preserve their charitable status. ( 15,000 and 20,000 Catholic school places may be created once restrictions on admission for new faith schools goes ahead, said the director of the Catholic Education Service, Paul Barber.
  3. Cost: £50 million a year is the only figure committed so far to enable grammars to expand.
  4. Selection, says Theresa May, will make Britain a ‘great meritocracy’. 99% of grammar schools are rated either ‘good’ or better by Ofsted compared with 20% of comprehensives. Pupils who fail a selection test are likely to have an association with ‘poorer educational consequences’.

New Chief Inspector of Ofsted

Amanda Spielman is appointed the new Chief Inspector of Ofsted and will begin her role in January. The reliability and validity of Ofsted’s inspection judgements is the most pressing concern.

23rd September 2016

Cut teaching loads?

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) suggests the long classroom hours are driving people from the profession. He made his comments after new figures revealed that teachers in England and Scotland spend a significantly larger portion of their time in front of pupils than most other developed countries. He suggests the teaching load means teachers have less time for professional development and lesson-planning. He quotes Finland as a positive example where, although salaries are similar to England, teachers have a lot more opportunity to grow in their profession and more career opportunities. Teaching is Finland’s second most prestigious profession.

A DfE spokesman maintained that teaching continues to be a popular career and that unnecessary workload is being addressed.

Church Schools: by Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

The Archbishop explains the nature of C of E education and the challenge society faces. The C of E has 4,500 primary and 200 secondary schools. It educates around 1 million children a day. It is estimated 15 million people alive today attended a Church of England school. The challenge to society today of religiously motivated violence and extremism is unprecedented. “It requires an understanding of religious literacy: the motivations and ideas of those who commit violence is essential, even if we, rightly condemn it.”

In the midst of these challenges, C of E schools aim to provide an education that is ‘deeply and authentically Christian, but also inclusive and embracing of diversity’.

Four basic elements of the church’s approach to education:

  1. To provide pupils with the wisdom, knowledge and skills they need to navigate a complex, often daunting world: equipping them with academic capabilities, creativity and emotional intelligence.
  2. To educate for hope and aspiration (especially important for those with mental issues) offering ‘resources for healing, repair and renewal’.
  3. To provide a ‘hospitable community that seeks to embody an ethos of living well together’ challenging all forms of sectarianism.
  4. Educating in a way that cherishes the dignity and respect of each person.
  5. The C of E is committed to training creative and innovative leaders. Recently the C of E Foundation for Educational Leadership was set up. (See the document ‘Church of England vision for Education: deeply Christian, serving the common good’.

30th September 2016

Governors’ Lack of Faith in Government Policies

A joint research by TES and National Governors’ Association, consisting of over 5,000+ responses, shows that more than 75% of governors have given the government’s performance a negative rating and less than 7% support the government’s policy of universal academisation. The research shows that:

  • Squeezed budgets have forced many schools to shed staff with further reductions expected
  • Teacher shortages seem to be getting worse
  • Schools opting for academy status are not embracing freedom it brings in terms of curriculum or teachers’ pay and conditions
  • Secondary governors are using 11-16 funding to subsidise their sixth forms due to cuts in post-16 budgets
  • The survey reveals that cuts to school funding have already forced 40% of governors to reduce teacher numbers. 29.4% had been forced to cut the number of subjects they could offer to pupils. A DfE spokesperson reported that the grammar schools provide stretching education for the most academically able to make sure they improve the education of pupils in every other part of the system.

Stress causing teachers to take medication

A census-wide survey of more than 1000 primary and secondary teachers finds that more than a quarter of teachers have turned to medication to cope with stress. Nearly a third (31%) have been to the doctor for the same reason. The excessive workload and the high-stakes accountability system is largely blamed by unions and teachers.

School minister promoting Maths Mastery from Shanghai

Nick Gibbs, school minister, has pledged £41 million to circulate the ‘mastery approach’ to at least 8000 primary schools in England. He argues that, because we are lagging behind in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) ratings we should make use of this pedagogy. Primary children in to nations, it is reported, study fewer things in greater depth. The ‘Mastery’ approach calls for whole class teaching and children working through an approved textbook. PISA results show a 3 yr difference between the maths performance of English pupils and pupils in Shanghai. It is planned that 35 maths ‘hubs’, schools already demonstrating excellence in the approach, will lead the training of others and, under the oversight of the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, will result in 8000 primary schools using the programme.