Education Update – November – December 2016

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES


Opposition to selection by Faith

A new survey by the British Humanist Association found that even those who identify with a particular religion oppose school selection by faith (

Girls’ literacy problems

A study by testing company GL Assessment of 60,000 children in England and Wales has found that up to 11% of 10 yr. old girls and 12% of 12 yr. old girls have significant literacy problems: scores suggest they may be up to 4 yrs. behind.

Significant number of teachers criticise Prevent Strategy

A TES survey of 450 teachers found that over ⅖ (38%) say the training in the Prevent Strategy, required to be applied in all schools, was inadequate, lasting only an hour.  More than half (53%) felt it was not enough.  Some views were that it was too prescriptive and that it singles out Muslim children in a negative way, rather than identifying other radical views.  A Home Office spokesman responded that schools can determine a range of ways – through e-learning as well as facilitated workshops.  Among educational professionals there is broad support for protecting young people from involvement in terrorism or violent extremism but there are concerns about the Prevent duty for schools.  (For a range of views about the Prevent Strategy see pages 30-49 in TES 01/11/16.)


Possibility of a new National Education Union

A new super-union for education professionals may be a potential result of co-operation of NUT and ATL teaching unions who will ballot their members in the Spring term regarding a potential merger.  If the vote succeeds, the new National Education Union would launch in September 2017

Teacher shortage in Leadership vacancies by 2022

A joint report, ‘The School Leadership Challenge’, published by Future Leaders Trust, Teaching Leaders, and Teach First, warns that a quarter of schools in England will need to bring in more non-teachers to fill “executive roles” if they are to confront a projected shortage of up to 19,000 leaders by 2022.  It believes rural, coastal and derived areas will be the hardest hit.  The study defines leadership roles as heads, deputy and assistant heads, heads of school, executive heads and chief executives.  The DfE said it did not recognise the figures.  Since 2010, it said, the proportion of schools reporting headship vacancies had decreased.


Recruitment – increase in school leaders’ concern

In 2014 just 15% of school leaders said that the rate teachers were quitting the job locally was making it harder to recruit.  In 2016 the figure has increased nearly three times to 42% of leaders expressing concern.  An NAHT survey found that almost 4-in-5 schools have struggled to fill, or failed to fill, vacancies.  Latest government figures show nearly a third of teachers entering the profession in 2010 had dropped out within five years.  A DfE spokesperson commented that more people are entering the profession than are leaving and that they are working to tackle reasons for leaving such as unnecessary workload and pupil behaviour.

Transgender head

The principal of Ashwell Academy in Hull has returned to her post after transitioning from being a male gender.  She is believed to be the only serving headteacher to transition from male to female while in post.

Charity Adoption UK partners with NAHT union to help pupils who are adopted

The Charity Adoption has partnered with the National Association of Headteachers to raise awareness of so-called attachment disorder.  The issue is often associated with children who have undergone trauma prior to entering into an adopted family – such children find it difficult to form relationships with others.

Will the rise of Faith schools deeply divide our society?

Stephen Evans, campaign director at the National Society, argues that the increase of Church of England schools (it plans to run a quarter of all the Free schools the government plan to open before 2020) are adversely affecting social cohesion.  The government plan to give the ‘green light’ to a new generation of religiously selective schools.  Mr. Barber, of the Catholic Education Service, also plans to open 30 to 40 new 100% religiously selective schools.  Stephen Evans argues that the future education policy and practice should be based more on children’s independent interests and building a society based on shared values rather than following the agenda of religious organisations who, he argues, are using schools partly to help their self-preservation.

Has the Wolf report had impact on Schools and Colleges?

Five years ago, the Wolf report set out to make vocational education equal to academic routes.  Has it made progress?  Alison Wolf reports a highly qualified ‘yes’.  Between 2004 and 2010 the numbers of teenagers taking vocational courses rocketed from 15,000 to 575,000.  The report also required students who failed to achieve GCSE grade C inn English or Maths, should be required to retake the subject.  Most educationalists and some politicians’ views are that more needs to be done to improve the system and for it to be given the resources and respect it merits.


Disparity between PISA and TIMSS rankings

Comparisons between the two international education rankings are causing a head-to-head conflict.  Findings from TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) are likely to stress strong differences.  Unlike PISA, TIMSS tests Primary pupils and PISA tests 15 yr. olds in Y11.  Education experts say the studies should work best as complementary research.  Results will be published shortly.

Why disparity between Ofsted grades for Junior schools and infant schools?

TES analysis shows infant schools are 3 times more likely to receive an ‘outstanding’ result from Ofsted than junior schools.  Some heads blame overly generous teacher assessments for 7 yr. olds.  The TES analysis showed that 37% of infant schools were judged ‘outstanding’ compared with just 13% of junior schools whereas 18% of all-through primaries were judged ‘outstanding’.  Ofsted said that the quality of infant schools is ‘very high’.  They suggest one reason for disparity is the transition from infant to junior school.


Reaction to Multi-Academy Trusts

Local School Leaders create a new force as they create new formal partnerships across their areas, creating their own middle tier.  These partnerships refuse to abandon difficult or ‘untouchable schools’ and are very inclusive.  So far, the group numbers 20 partnerships.

Pisa’s latest findings

UK’s scores were down on science, maths and reading.  However, the average scores for developed countries also fell in all 3 subject areas so that UK actually rose to 15th in Pisa rankings for science but came 27th in maths and 22nd inrReading.

Problems for middle leaders

Funding pressures are causing a reduction in deputy and assistant head roles so that deputy heads in primaries are reporting to unions that their time for leadership duties is being reduced.  Secondary schools are experiencing a similar squeeze.  A DfE spokesman stated that a range of professional training and the expansion of Teach First would help meet the need for deputies to be developed into school leaders.

Rebellion against English Baccalaureate

More than ⅘ of school leaders are against government plans to make 90% of pupils take the English Baccalaureate.  They say it should not be mandatory.  Results of the government’s consultation will not be published until summer due to the huge response.

New chief inspector of Ofsted Amanda Spielman

Mrs Spielman comes from Ofqual where she enjoyed her role as Chair.  She claims she has good insight into data and its limitations so believes Ofsted will not be wrongly data-driven.  She wants to listen to heads and teachers and for Ofsted to be a learning organisation.

GCSE numerical grades still create confusion

Findings from Ofqual reveal that more than ⅔ of students and parents do not understand the 9-1 grading system.  More than ⅘, 84% of Human Resource professionals and 76% of small-business owners remain clueless about the worth of a new grade 1.

Sex education reform

The proposed new Children and Social Work bill will make it compulsory to teach sex and relationship education (SRE) for all primary and secondary pupils.  The bill is being proposed by the Education Secretary, Justine Greening.  There is both praise and dissent for this.  Concerns include the view that a ‘best-fit’ curriculum is unworkable and that the present mixture of parent and external sources is best.  It also adds another difficult-to-define job.  Pro-compulsory SRE groups argue that the widespread disparity presently in schools requires a statutory SRE.


Faith discrimination against teachers?

Accord Coalition (a campaigning group for inclusive education) has asked the British Equalities body, the Equality of Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have called for DfE ministers to review the law that allows Faith schools to discriminate against teachers due to their sex, marital status or sexuality.  Faith schools are presently allowed to dismiss or refuse to hire teachers if their conduct is believed to be incompatible with the school’s religious ethos, under the School Standards and Framework Act.

A DfE spokesperson stated that current legislation allows for a faith school to maintain their ethos in this way.  It would necessitate an independent employment tribunal to decide if an individual school has acted unlawfully.

Catholic schools go to court

The Catholic Education Service is going to defend a controversial new admissions procedure which allows over-subscribed schools to demand a priest’s certification of religious practice from pupils.