Latest Educational News

On-line help for exam takers

by Herts, May 12, 2005

SCHOOLS preparing pupils for summer exams are encouraging them to log on to a revision website to boost their grades.
Schools across the district enjoy a county funded subscription to the SAM learning website, which sets and marks questions across a range of subject areas at GCSE and Key Stage 3 level.

Pupils revise their diet as brainfood sales soar

by Times, May 12, 2005

A demand for food to fuel the brain cells has set supermarket tills ringing as the exam season approaches.
Leading supermarkets are convinced that parents of A level and GCSE candidates have changed their shopping habits to boost their children’s results. Students embarking on finals and end-of-year exams also appear to be investing in food to boost brain power.

Students Buy 'Brainfood' to Help in Exams

by Scotsman, May 12, 2005

Students are turning to memory-improving foods during the countdown to exams, the UK’s largest supermarket said today.
Sales of healthy “brainpower” products such as fish, peppers, spinach, avocado and fresh fruit have soared in recent weeks, Tesco says.

Easy A-level exams need radical reform

by London, May 11, 2005

A-level examinations are much easier than they were 20 years ago, the director of admissions at Cambridge University warns today.
Students can now get top marks without having a single original thought, according to Dr Geoff Parks. He believes moves to make A-levels more "accessible" to "middle-ground" students have worked too successfully.

10-hour day for schools 'will make baby-sitters of teachers'

by Times, May 2, 2005

The leader of Britain’s biggest head teachers’ union accused the Government yesterday of turning schools into a “national baby-sitting service”.



Plans to open “extended schools” from 8am to 6pm all year round would place intolerable stress on heads and condemn children to a 50-hour week away from their parents, Mick Brookes said.

Mr Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, also gave warning that a minority of parents were creating barriers to their children’s education by allowing them to stay up late playing computer games. Pupils arrived at school too tired to pay attention in class because their parents were guilty of “loving neglect” and afraid to say no to them. This often resulted in children behaving badly.

“The vast majority of parents are supportive, concerned and well-meaning. But there is a minority who create huge barriers to learning for their children and others by sending them to school in an unfit state to learn, with negative and violent attitudes to authority, or who simply don’t send them at all. They wash their hands of parental responsibility,” Mr Brookes told the union’s annual conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Oxford sets its own English test as trust in A-levels falls

by Telegraph, April 8, 2005

Oxford University is to introduce a new exam for sixth-formers applying to study English degrees.

The controversial test is the latest in a growing number of admission papers unilaterally set by institutions struggling to distinguish between the brightest candidates in an era when a quarter of pupils gain A grades at A-level.

Its introduction reflects a lack of confidence in the "gold standard" qualification at the most elite institutions, and in Government reassurances that its reforms will make A-levels harder.

The English test will be taken at the end of this year by candidates applying for entry in 2007. Last year, more than 1,100 students sought the 248 places to take English at Oxford - making it the second most heavily subscribed course there.

"The faculty will introduce a written test for English in place of one of the two pieces of work required for the admission procedure," said the university. "It's still being designed but, as with other tests that Oxford uses, it will be testing aptitude rather than learned information."

Secondary schools fear that other universities may follow suit, introducing their own papers in a subject so popular that, at Bristol University, for instance, there are more than 20 applicants for each place.

Schools bill passes, with Tory support

by Guardian, March 15, 2005

The government's controversial education bill tonight passed its second reading but only with the support of Conservative MPs - to the embarrassment of Tony Blair.
MPs voted 458 in favour to 115 against, a government majority of 343. Despite Mr Blair's insistence that this was a "Labour bill that should be supported by Labour MPs". 51 Labour MPs rebelled.

Later the government survived by 10 votes a motion to restrict the bill's timetable which, if lost, would have caused legislative gridlock by allowing MPs open-ended debate on the bill. Earlier Mr Blair had attacked David Cameron's opportunism when the Tory leader said he would vote against the motion at PMQs.

With a working government majority of 69 only 35 Labour MPs were needed to rebel on the main second reading vote before Mr Blair had to rely on the support of opposition MPs.

While the 63 Lib Dem MPs voted against the bill, the Democratic Unionists voted in favour, and the Welsh and Scottish nationalists abstained.

Right up until 7pm Mr Blair, along with his chancellor, Gordon Brown, and senior ministers were attempting to persuade wavering Labour MPs to back them in the division lobbies.

Kelly not for turning on school reforms

by DeHavilland, February 12, 2005

Education secretary Ruth Kelly has urged rebel Labour MPs to back controversial school reforms after they were embraced by Labour council chiefs.

Some 90 backbenchers have threatened to revolt over plans to weaken the powers of Local Education Authorities over independent schools but now the government is prepared to give LEAs a role in admissions policies.

The education white paper is expected to back the establishment of independent "trust" schools, which will have more control over admissions.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the party's spring conference in Blackpool, Ms Kelly said rebels should now back the government.

After the olive branch was offered, Sir Jeremy Beecham, vice chair of the Local Government Association Labour group, also present at the meeting said his organisation would back the reforms to be published in a bill later this month,

But he wanted to see a greater role for local scrutiny of the admissions code and more input from local authorities on 14-19 education.

Ms Kelly was heckled during the question and answer session at the fringe meeting.

After rejecting calls to abolish the 11-plus in grammar schools, cries of "shame" were heard from the floor.

Chancellor backs Blair's schools reform plan

by Guardian, January 25, 2005

Downing Street breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as Gordon Brown publicly threw his weight behind Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly over their plans for secondary school reform. It generated optimism among the prime minister's allies that a combination of flexibility and firmness will satisfy all but hardcore Labour critics.
But the chancellor's supportive interview in yesterday's Sun newspaper was offset by continuing stalemate on the influential all-party education select committee of MPs. Its report on the proposals, due out today, will be delayed until at least Friday.

The delay came amid Conservative claims that the Labour majority has been manipulating the inquiry to help the government, tabling proposals that will make Ms Kelly's white paper acceptable to backbench opponents.

Tory members are threatening to produce their own report if no agreement is reached when they meet today. Tory support for the white paper, which proposes to create independent trust schools, could embarrass Mr Blair because Labour MPs on the committee want significant changes.

Advice from the expert

by Telegraph, January 25, 2005

Thinking of a family holiday this half term? If so, I hope you're feeling rich. We all know that prices go up during school holidays, but nowhere are the hikes scarier than for February skiing holidays. Look at the cost of a seven-night, half-term skiing break in Europe and then compare it with the rates if you travel this month, when snow conditions may be better and pistes less busy. In many cases, you'll be paying more than double the amount.

Take the family specialist, Mark Warner, which offers chalet hotels mostly in French resorts but also Italy and Austria, with a ski programme aimed at families who want crèches and clubs for children up to 12 years. A week at the chalet hotel L'Aiguille Pércee in Tignes over half term will cost £5,076 for flights, transfers, accommodation and food (based on two adults and two children aged between five and 10 in a shared room). The same deal taken about now costs £2,448 - a difference of over £2,500.

School tables 'let off' poor performers

by Telegraph, January 15, 2005

Pupils' ethnic backgrounds and poverty levels are being taken into account to help decide where their school is ranked in new league tables.

Factors such as how many children eat free school meals, live in deprived postcodes and have special needs all feed in to the "contextual value-added" scores, to be published alongside school performance tables this week.

Not speaking English at home or being in care also influences the score. Even the gender balance at the school is taken into account, because nationally girls outperform boys.

The weighting is supposed to recognise the impact on exam results of background factors, over which schools have no control, but critics fear it will be used to excuse "sink schools".

Poorly performing comprehensives could be ranked above schools that have excellent GCSE results but few pupils who are poor or from ethnic minorities, such as some grammar schools.

The approach marks an embarrassing reversal in the Government's position, stated in 2002, that schools should "take disadvantage as a spur to excellence and aspiration", rather than "use it to explain underperformance".

11-plus favours wealthy children

by Guardian, September 1, 2004

Poor children are only half as likely as richer ones to get into grammar schools, even when tests show they are of equally high ability, according to research at Bristol University which identifies a "huge gulf" between the general mix of pupils and the social range in grammar schools.
In the 19 local education authorities in England that keep the 11-plus, 6% of the pupils eligible for free school meals attend grammar schools compared with 26% of other children.

Teachers warn primary school standards success overstated

by Guardian, August 23, 2003

The government has overstated improvements in primary school standards, according to research published yesterday. The warning came from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) as ministers prepared to unveil national test results for seven- and 11-year-olds.
The ATL study called for a new independent body to be set up to monitor national standards.

The research, conducted by Professor Colin Richards, of St Martin's College, Lancaster, concluded that 11-year-olds had improved in English, maths and science between 1995 and 2001. But these improvements were not as great as the government has claimed.

Father's £100,000 battle with public school

by Guardian, August 23, 2003

A man who is taking one of the country's most famous public schools to court for trying to expel his son could face a legal bill of up to £100,000, it emerged yesterday.
In what is understood to be the first case of its kind, Russell Gray is suing Marlborough College because he believes it is trying to bolster its position in the league tables at the expense of his son Rhys's education.

Rhys, 15, will miss the first month of the autumn term while his father fights to get his place back at the school in Wiltshire where Princess Eugenie is a pupil.

The £21,900-a-year school claims Rhys has an "exceptionally poor" disciplinary record and wrote to his family in June saying he would not be invited back to the sixth form regardless of his GCSE results, under a clause in the school rules about pupils"unwilling or unable to profit from the education opportunities offered".

School league table reform attacked

by Scotsman, August 23, 2003

Ministers have been accused of attempting to dodge their commitments to reform school league tables and improve children's basic literacy and numeracy skills.

The current league table system means schools are measured on how many pupils achieve the equivalent of five good GCSEs in any subjects they take.

Exam marking out of date, says national watchdog

by Financial Times, August 23, 2003

The marking system for school examinations is not yet fit for the 21st century, the head of the national testing watchdog has said.


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The latest pass rates for seven and 11-year-olds in reading, writing and maths tests, to be published on Wednesday,and GCSE results, due on Thursday, are likely to renew the debate over whether improved results reflect a genuine rise in achievement. But Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said he believed the national tests were rigorous and had been developed to an “absolutely Rolls-Royce” standard.

Schools system ‘in crisis’ blast

by Blackburn Citizen, September 22, 2002

THE head of a top East Lancashire grammar school has launched a scathing attack on the education system, warning it was in "crisis".

Doctor David Hempsall, head of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Blackburn, said constant examinations had stifled the flair of both teachers and pupils.

In a wide-ranging attack on education policy, he accused the government of overseeing a fall in confidence in exams.

A-level coursework change set out

by BBC, September 22, 2002

Changes are being made to the amount of coursework in A-level exams, as part of a review of the qualifications.
Despite controversy about the extent of cheating, the regulatory authorities are increasing the coursework component in English and in history.

It is being axed altogether in geography, although field trips will still be part of the course.

In most subjects, the number of study units will be reduced from six to four, two at AS-level and two at A2.

'Widespread interest' in A-level alternative

by Guardian, September 22, 2002

State schools have expressed "widespread interest" in an alternative A-level qualification expected to be available to sixth formers next year, the body developing the Cambridge Pre-U said today.
It also emerged today that a representative from the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust is on the liaison committee that is overseeing the development of the new Cambridge Pre-U qualification.

Draft syllabi in 24 Cambridge Pre-U subjects including traditional sciences, classical languages as well as sports science and comparative government and politics - are expected to be available this October when they will go out for consultation

Plan ahead now for your child's schooling

by Scotsman, August 21, 2002

As children throughout the country prepare to start the new term, a surge in the cost of private education is set to hit parents in the pocket.

New fee scales show a 4-5 per cent rise in independent school fees - above the rate of inflation. For a child born this year, who goes on to attend a private day school, the cost of education between the ages of 11 and 18 could now exceed £140,000.

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