Education Update – January – February 2017

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES


Academy chains’ plan to open ‘pupil premium grammars’

Academy chains are considering opening these schools dedicated to disadvantaged children.  The first new selective schools could be opened in one of 12 ‘opportunity areas’ set out by the government.  These areas have been named as Blackpool, Bradford, Derby, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridge, Hastings, Ipswich, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, Stoke-on-Trent and West Somerset.  These areas will share £72 million funding.

Many overseas schools will lose UK badge of quality

More than 100 British International Schools will lose their British School Overseas ‘Kitemark’ quality because they cannot comply with the new requirement to promote the rights of gay people.  The UK government believes it right to hold overseas British schools accountable to the same measures as The Independent School Standards, which require all institutions to ‘actively promote’ British values.

To instruct or not?

For years, there have been opposing views about direct instruction by a teacher to a class versus an enquiry-based approach.  East Asian countries, where the former method is favoured, tend to have more success in International League tables.  However, others argue that it stifles creativity.  Professor Yong Zhao argues for both sides to acknowledge the effects and defects of instruction.


Pisa admits changes may make results incomparable

Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) has admitted that making the tests computerised for the first time in 2015 may have meant it is now possible results with those done on paper may be incomparable.  Students taking the computerised tests are unable to return to previous questions if they wished to revise their answers.  The changes may also have affected the apparent decline in the ability of East Asian Maths super-powers such as South Kores, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

“Behaviour Tsar” wants funding for inclusion units

Schools running internal inclusion units for challenging pupils have found them effective but cuts in funding mean some have had to close.  Government behaviour advisor, Tom Bennett, has made this one of his recommendations in a new report, commissioned for the DfE, called ‘Creating a Culture – how school leaders can optimise behaviour’.  His report is only advisory.  It also emphasises the importance of a strong culture of good discipline, initiated by the headteacher and running throughout the school.  Tom Bennett also recommends that data on behaviour across schools should be collected – this would be useful for Ofsted.


More assessment changes for teachers

Primary teachers can expect more changes in the way they assess pupils 2018.  Ofsted is apparently reluctant to use this year’s writing assessments again this year.

Grammar schools ‘jump’ to admit more disadvantaged pupils

Before the demand is made on them by the government, more than 36% of existing grammar schools are planning to increase the numbers of disadvantaged pupils; some are lowering the entrance pass mark.

Trainee teachers need more preparation in safeguarding issues

The NSPCC believes trainee teachers are not enough aware of these issues and research by the charity shows that trainees have barely more than a day of instruction in how to handle safeguarding issues.


New grading system

New GCSEs being graded 9-1 (with 9 as top A* grade) will be introduced over a 4-year period.  First exams are being set this summer in English Literature, English Language and Maths.  There has been concern that the top 9 grade will be achieved by a very few as it will be harder to achieve than the current A*.  Exam regulator Ofqual predicts that about 20% of all grades above level 7 will be awarded a grade 9.  Tim Benton, a Cambridge Assessment researcher, believes level 9 is not much harder than A*.  Justine Greening, Education Secretary, last week announced that grade 5 (equivalent to a high C or low B) would be classed as a strong pass and a grade 4 as a standard pass.  In English Baccalaureate only a grade 4 will be needed to pass.

Finland’s new core curriculum

Finland, regarded as worthy of emulation in educational terms has made the following changes to its core curriculum: –

  • Familiarisation with computer programming
  • Developing where children learn (both in the real world, getting out into nature, visiting museums or businesses) and the virtual world (where games should be recognised more often as learning environments)
  • An hour each day of physical activity for every pupil
  • At least one multi-disciplinary learning module a year – which pupils participate in planning
  • An emphasis on 7 cross-circular competencies within each subject – including ICT competence and entrepreneurship

The new core curriculum will be in place till 2024.

Fewer new teachers are being trained

Ucas figures show that 10,350 trainees had places on training courses in England for Primary by the end of September.  This is 10% fewer than the government’s 11,489 target. The overall target was for 29,176 trainees to start post-graduate training courses last September but 24,950 began teacher training in England, a 14% shortfall.  Only 2,340 people were placed on Maths teacher training courses this year, three-quarters of the 3,102 target.


New national director of Ofsted

Mr Sean Harford is the inspectorate’s new national director, who is to make Ofsted ‘more open and approachable’ says James Pembroke, TES’s Data Doctor.  Mr Harford became an Ofsted inspector after graduating as a science teacher and becoming assistant head.  He was regional director for the East of England.  He is seeking to move the inspectorate away from over-reliance on data and says “Data is the signpost not the destination”.


Bullying still a major issue in UK

Programme for International Assessment (PISA), based on a survey of 15yr olds, has shown that, whilst 18.7% of pupils are bullied on average across developed countries, the figure for UK rises to 23.9%.  Bullying may be more physical for boys, whilst for girls it tends to be bullying through the spreading of ‘nasty rumours’ about them.