Education Update – September – October 2017

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES


Concern over decline in PE hours on timetable

A survey by Youth Sports Trust published in 2015 found that the number of hours dedicated to PE lessons in school had dropped below two hours per week. The survey found that 5-7yr olds spent an average of only 102 minutes per week compared to 126 minutes in 2009-10.  Similar drops were recorded at all levels including secondary schools.  Schools have a statutory duty to deliver PE to pupils aged 5-16 but there is no legal level to the amount of time. Whilst some schools are outstanding the survey found as little as 30 minutes a week given to PE.

New Education Union Founded

A new union has been formed from the merger of the NUT and ATL unions – it is named The National Education Union and is the largest education union in Europe and the fourth largest in the TUC. Its creation is designed to strengthen the hand of education trade unionist in a school system fragmented by the rise of academy trusts. According to the latest figures, it will have 462,267 members.  The joint leaders, Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, plan to engage with political parties to tackle present priorities such as Sats and league table policies and funding and teacher workload.


Big increase in Exclusions

Research by the TES reveals exclusions have ‘dramatically increased in some areas of the country.’ In one local authority, Slough, they increased by more than 300% between 2015-16 and 2016-17. In several other authorities, an increase of at least 50% was experienced. Of 118 authorities, an average 12% rise was noted.  Slough, Redcar, Cleveland and Newcastle had increases of more than 200%.  Behaviour expert Jarlath O’Brien belies staff shortages due to budget cuts are part of the reason. Ineffective behaviour management systems and Ofsted are also blamed.   A DfE spokesperson says: “Any decision to exclude should be lawful, reasonable and fair.  While exclusion can be used as a sanction for schools to deal with poor behaviour, permanent exclusions should only be used as a last resort, in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy.” (See also ‘The Law on Exclusion’ from our TES supplement notes for 14th July 2017).

Readiness of Children starting Primary school.

A survey of school leaders by NAHT heads’ union and the Family and Childcare Trust has found that 86% of 780 responses believe the issue has become worse over the past 5 years.

Three major issues (from 520 responses) causing concern are Speech, Language and communication: 95%; Personal, social and emotional development: 94%; Physical development including toilet training: 78%.

Ofsted Chief wants the inspectorate to ‘release the burden’ on schools

Ofsted chief, Amanda Spielman, in an article in this TES, says that Ofsted inspections should not involve weeks of preparation: what inspectors want to see is a true impression of life in the school. The Chief inspector also promised a period of stability as Ofsted is working towards a new framework for Sept 2019 and that there will be no ‘kneejerk reactions’ to outcomes from the latest GCSE results.  A national survey of curriculum in schools and colleges is showing a trend to shorten Key Stage 3 in favour of starting GCSE early; the suspension of wider curriculum to make way for Sats preparation.  Ofsted inspectors are being given a ‘robust package of training and analytical support.’ (Full article p30 in the TES).


Education Secretary Justine Greening speaks out

In an interview with the TES, Justine Greening backs the rights of schools to exclude the pupils they choose to, even if exclusion rates soar, as reported in the 8th Sept magazine. (See above) The minister also argues for classroom teachers’ salaries to remain competitive. One pledge surviving the scrapping of some policies after a disastrous election for the Conservatives, is the manifesto ‘to offer forgiveness on student-loan repayments while they are teaching.’ She also states that, over time, she would like all schools to become academies.

Ex-Education Minister Nicky Morgan’s new book

‘Taught Not Caught’ is where Nicky Morgan speaks out with a battle cry for politicians to look beyond Whitehall’s limited vison.  Schools, she writes, should help prepare pupils for “the tests of life rather than a life of tests”. She prioritises Character Education. She says: “A truly one-nation government must not accept that only some people deserve the opportunities to build character that will help them to get on in life.”

Is ‘Direct Instruction’ likely to increase?

Direct Instruction (DI) was invented by American Educationalist, Siegfried Englemann, in the 1960s.  It favours carefully scripted lessons for teachers to improve pupils’ learning. It is possible that academy chains may favour such a centralised generation of teaching resources. Critics argue that this will stunt creativity. See also the US federal government’s ‘Project Follow Through’ begun in 1968 which, when evaluated in 1977, found that students taught DI had a higher academic achievement than students in other programmes.


Help for schools to spot extremism

A planned new counter-extremism commission will help to train schools to identify signs of radicalisation.  (See

10 adjustments to help pupils with dyslexia

For 10 easy steps that will cause your classroom to be more helpful for pupils with dyslexia (see

Interesting articles

  • ‘The True Path to Social Mobility’ by Jonathan Wai and Frank C. Worrell offers research to show they believe that Theresa May is going the wrong way about this. They argue for more and broader testing (pages 33-37).
  • ‘Does Technology Improve Learning?’ by Lee Elliot Major and Steve Higgins (p47)


Funding cuts

Analysis finds 88% of secondary schools will each lose, on average, a total of £1780,321 despite extra funds pledged by the Government (
World renowned Canadian researcher’s view of England’s educational climate Canadian researcher, Michael Fullan, a worldwide authority on educational reform, is highly regarded by educationalists in England. He is concerned about the ‘depressing’ state of teachers’ moral in this country. Under Blair’s government he worked closely to evaluate New Labour’s numeracy and literacy drive in England. He believes that academies are too piecemeal and he does not think that this strategy will be equitable. He has helped the Californian system to move away from its focus on testing. His desire is for teachers to move away from traditional approaches in order to develop more creativity and critical thinking as well as citizenship, character and communication. His book is ‘Big-City School Reforms’ which reflects on his time in London and other major cities.

Survey reveals Governors’ concerns

An NGA – TES Survey of 5000 governors and trustees (of whom there are 30,000 in total) reveals their concerns about the work-life balance of school leaders and teachers. More than half say it is difficult to recruit new volunteers to the role. Funding has also caused boards to make teaching posts redundant.

Three Related articles of interest

  1. ‘The Rise and Fall of the Text Book’ (TES p12). A TES/YGove Survey reveals that only 1 in 10 teachers say they use textbooks in more than half of their lessons – a drop from 13% three years ago. More staff seem to be using Internet resources due to the reduced budgets of school finance, despite Schools Minister Nick Gibbs’ resistance and ‘anti-textbook ethos’ and the DfE’s promised matched funding for certain textbooks.
  2. See Insight article on textbooks (TES p 16ff)
  3. Pedagogy article emphasising the importance of the teacher’s role as one giving direct instruction. ‘Direct Instruction is not state didactive teaching but it could be in the wrong hands.’


Government plan for ‘English Hubs’

Justine Greening has unveiled plans for the government to create new £12 million network of English hubs in the Northern Powerhouse to further improve early language and literacy.

Most ‘Coasting’ schools avoid becoming academies

Despite the Conservative election manifesto of 2015 which stated the intention to “turn every failing and coasting school into an academy”, none of the nearly 500 maintained primaries and Secondaries have been turned into academies as a result. DfE data reveals that 54% of ‘coasting’ primaries, 55% of Secondaries and 57% of non-academies were told no further action was needed. A DfE spokesperson stated that the work of RSC with these schools has ensured that support is available to secure improvements; also stated was that more formal intervention to becoming an academy was likely to happen in only a minority of cases.

Lord Nash replaced

Sir Theodore Agnew, who has served alongside Lord Nash, has become government minister overseeing much of England’s school system. He is well versed in the world of academies and free schools both from a national and personally involved perspective. He is expected to be a strong advocate of academies. He is also expected to take a businessman’s approach to making the DfE achieve his objectives.

The treatment of the NorthEast schools

The North East has grown tired of an education which chastises them on the one hand, on the basis of national attainment indicators and on the other does little to support a region with challenging societal circumstances. The research of Dr Rebecca Allen, director of Education Datalab, illustrates that the region’s schools are the best in the country, both at primary and secondary level, in terms of positive impact. The SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit takes place in Newcastle on 12th October.

Schools in Special Measures

350 schools were in special measures as of 31st August 2017. On average it takes 308 days (excluding school holidays) for schools to come out of special measures.


Subjects overlooked by Ofsted reports

A TES analysis of existing Ofsted reports has found that subjects other than Maths and English are barely mentioned in the key findings of Ofsted inspectors. History, Geography and languages featured in the key-findings of only 1 in 20 reports.


In 2015-16 6,685 pupils were permanently excluded. The average per day is 35 pupils permanently excluded.

Primary schools lose out in school funding

Justine Greening’s pledge at the start of this term was to give primary schools at least £3,500 per pupil. This came after much lobbying. New analysis carried out by NEU teaching union shows that pupils will attract 5% less cash in real terms by 2020 compared with 2015.

Recommended book

‘How to Think: a guide for the perplexed’ by Alan Jacobs explores factors influencing our thinking and how to improve. The book is published by Profile Books and is recommended by Mark Lehain, director of Parents and Teachers for Excellence.

Significant Article

‘Online Safety Special’ revealing police findings and experiences re: pornography and child abuse, p35ff