Latest Educational News

‘Extra revision classes don’t have to be a burden’

by TES, June 18, 2018

To me, intervention has always been something that I’ve seen as marginally effective. It wasn’t until I moved schools that I realised the true value of teaching additional sessions outside of prescribed lesson time.

Recently, I came across an article by Mark Enser about why teachers should “say 'no' to revision sessions out of hours”, from December 2017. It got me thinking about why my views on intervention have changed.

Enser raises some really important points about the increased pressures that our profession is facing. He discusses the “race” to equip students with the knowledge they need to succeed in exams, and how out-of-hours revision sessions are helping to make teaching less sustainable.

However, referring to this as the “tragedy of intervention” is, in my opinion, missing the real reasons why some of us choose to put these sessions on for our students.

Which overseas teachers cope best? DfE publishes heads' views

by TES, June 7, 2018

Overseas teachers may struggle with the workload in English schools, according to findings published by the Department for Education.

The research reveals concerns over the relatively short length of time that some international teachers stay in the country, and their willingness to work long hours.

It also found some common themes regarding the perceived strengths and shortcomings of overseas teachers from different countries.

For example, Australian recruits were reported by heads as having good subject knowledge and being confident.

But the report added: “It was commonly reported that they tended to struggle more than some other international recruits (and UK recruits) to adapt to working the long hours needed…One Australian recruit, on leaving their post after one year, was reported to have commented, ‘I’ve never worked so hard for so little’.”

'GCSEs are a stepping stone, so why the pressure?'

by TES, June 7, 2018

It is exam season. Like thousands of others my age up and down the country, I have been glued to a textbook of sorts every waking moment over the past few weeks. Except this is not just a passing phase, a period of hard work for a couple of months. It has been ongoing since September.

My final year of school has been lost to thinking about the next exam: mocks in November, some in January, and later a series in March.

Many of my cohort are going to college or have secured exciting apprenticeships, but it feels as though there is no space to focus on these opportunities. Nobody has the time to think beyond the exams.

We have had no trips for as long as I can remember. No workshops, no talks on taxes, politics or living independently. I know that my school will provide these later, and that our teachers will do everything they can to make sure we are prepared for adult life, but it sometimes feels like these topics should be at the heart of the curriculum, instead of squeezed in at a school’s discretion.

Students want more hours for their tuition fees

by BBC, June 7, 2018

Students want more teaching hours at university - as an annual survey shows that fewer than two in five think they are getting value for money.

The survey of 14,000 UK students found tuition fees, teaching quality and lack of contact hours were the biggest causes of dissatisfaction.

Measures of well-being, such as anxiety among students, have also worsened.

Yvonne Hawkins, of the Office for Students, said the survey was a "clear signal there is more work to be done".

But Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) which produced the report, said the findings on value for money showed more positive views were emerging.

Children face five-year wait for autism check

by TES, June 6, 2018

Pupils and their families are facing a “devastating” wait of up to five years for autism assessments.

The long delays mean pupils are at risk of missing out on vital support at school, according to a national charity.

Across the country, children are thought to be waiting, on average, more than three and a half years for a diagnosis after first raising concerns with professionals.

But in one part of the country, it has emerged that the wait for an assessment is up to five years.

Waiting times have grown in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, after the number of requests for assessments quadrupled, a local government document reveals.

GCSE English: ‘New, exciting’ approaches

by TES, June 5, 2018

The recent reform of the English language GCSE to include pre-20th-century unseen texts means that many GCSE students are now working with 19th-century non-fiction texts for the very first time. Those sitting their exams this week could be grappling with journalism, essays, travel writing, letters and diary entries all written in Victorian times.

The reception of the new English language GCSE has been mixed. The timing was a concern for many, with teachers being asked to change direction within two rather than the usual five years. And while there has always been an unseen element, in the absence of coursework this now carries more weight.

These 19th-century texts are considered more challenging to read for the first time in exam conditions, and teachers have “never before” been asked to teach non-fiction texts from this period.

However, rising to the challenge of 19th-century non-fiction brings rewards for students and teachers alike. As researchers, we see genuine value in accessing new texts from some of the most exciting moments in history.

G&T: ‘We must stretch all students, not a privileged few’

by TES, June 4, 2018

Many years ago I taught a student – we’ll call him Josh – who was an all-round high achiever: strong in academics, an excellent sportsman, and engaged in the classroom. Lately, however, Josh had started to behave differently. When asked if anything was wrong, he explained he had received a letter from the school to let his parents know that he no longer met the criteria for the gifted and talented programme. “Aren’t I clever anymore?” Josh asked, with that typical teenage mix of genuine hurt concealed by a thin veneer of bravado. Unsurprisingly, it was a thought-provoking moment.

Josh did go on to achieve great things, but his reaction is just one reason that our school’s gifted and talented policy is now based on “stretch and challenge” for all students, not just the privileged few.

Privileged is an apt word to use, as evidence shows that higher-attaining students from poorer socio-economic backgrounds don’t make the same progress as their more affluent peers.

Our brains continue to develop and adapt well into adulthood; in adolescence, they are still being moulded. Ability is not genetically pre-determined, but malleable and environmentally dependent. Although prior attainment is a strong predictor of future attainment, it is far from infallible: we believe students should be set mastery goals appropriate for their current attainment rather than performance goals.

Anger over plan for pupils to replace librarians

by TES, June 4, 2018

Plans for pupils to replace school librarians in one Scottish local authority have been roundly attacked and described as “the first step in getting rid of school libraries altogether”.

On Friday, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) sent an open letter to Tracey Logan, chief executive of Scottish Borders Council, after learning of the plans.

The proposals, initially affecting three secondary schools with a view to eventually being rolled out in the area’s six other secondaries, were also challenged by the Scottish Book Trust, Literature Alliance Scotland, parents’ organisation Connect and the EIS and Unison unions.

CILIPS said it had been “inundated with expressions of concern”. In the letter, CILIPS director Catherine Kearney questioned how pupils could replace the professional expertise of librarians and help to drive up attainment.

'Are colleges important to the government or not?'

by TES, June 4, 2018

Any newcomer to the college sector would surely be confused after a scroll through the latest headlines on the Tes FE site. The positive news about new policies and new investment seem to be balanced by a slew of headlines suggesting that this is a sector with major challenges which are not being addressed. Are colleges important to the government or not?

On the positive side, there’s the continued commitment to T levels and the investment needed to implement a major change programme over many years, probably a decade for real success. The announcement to pilot free educations for low-earning adults is a modest step in the right direction to help adults on low pay, who we know usually get stuck in a low-skill, low-pay, no-prospects trap without the means to access skills training which could help them escape.

Read those, and you’d expect them to be part of an overarching strategy; a plan, a concerted effort to invest in colleges to help young people, adults, employers and communities get the education, training and skills they need. Even the most advanced Google searching will not help you here – there is no strategy, despite colleges being more centre-stage than they have been for a long while. What we do have is a long list of isolated and seemingly-unconnected policies, most of which are quite good, but with no sense of how they all fit together.

School meal smoothie ban in obesity fight

by BBC, June 4, 2018

Smoothies and fruit juices could be banned from school canteens, as part of a campaign to tackle childhood obesity in Scotland.

The Scottish government wants to impose lower sugar limits on school meals in a move that would also affect yoghurts and some breakfast cereals.

A consultation is due to be carried out on the plans, which include increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to cut child obesity by half by 2030.

Around 29% of children in Scotland are at risk of being overweight, and 14% are at risk of being obese.

Aim to cut Scots child obesity by half
School meal standards to be reviewed
School dinner chicken 'from Thailand'
John Swinney, Scotland's education secretary, told BBC Radio Scotland that ministers wanted to strengthen the "already very high standards" expected for school meals.

Vocabulary: What does it mean to know a word?

by TES, June 2, 2018

Imagine you wanted to explain to a child what lavender was. How would you do it?

You might tell them the word and then show them a drawing. From this, they would get an idea of the shape, the outline and the purple colour of the flower.

Next, you could give them a piece of plastic lavender. This would helps them to understand that it is three-dimensional, how the petals link together, and a sense of weight (probably inaccurate).

But it isn’t until they encounter a bunch of real, fresh lavender, or see it in a garden, that pupils really understand how it looks, smells and feels. They might notice that it isn’t smooth like the plastic version. They might realise that it feels solid, yet fragile.

One in eight Sats moderators fails training test

by TES, June 1, 2018

One in eight would-be Sats moderators failed to prove they could accurately judge key stage 2 writing this year, Tes can reveal.

The figures come despite a major overhaul of the training process in a bid to resolve the "chaos" of inconsistent moderating.

Moderators check that teachers' assessments of Year 6 pupils' writing are consistent across the country.

They do this by visiting primary schools and checking that teachers’ assessments match a set of national criteria.

After a report from Ofqual found moderation in 2017 was "more inconsistent" than it could have been, The Standards and Testing Agency said it would improve the system in 2018, including by providing more "authentic" samples of pupils' work in the standardisation test taken by moderators.

'Every teacher should volunteer': here's why

by TES, May 31, 2018

The majority of schools pride themselves on providing their pupils with the means to be successful and fulfilled. Our young people are guided by their teachers to become active and responsible citizens who make a positive and valuable contribution to the wider community.

But it’s not just the pupils who should have the opportunity to learn and thrive. Teachers too need the tools, support and budget to take ownership of their professional development. This not only raises educational standards, but it's also a great way to combat the current retention crisis. And volunteering is a good way to offer staff CPD opportunities.

Why volunteering? Well, we already know that the benefits volunteering offers young people are plentiful. But I wholeheartedly believe that offering teachers the chance to develop their skills outside of the classroom – the kind of skills they can’t acquire in a lesson environment – is the missing piece of the jigsaw.

Nine UK unis in top 100 for reputation

by TES, May 30, 2018

Nine British universities have been ranked in the top 100 institutions in the world, as measured by the strength of their global “brand”.

Cambridge and Oxford come fourth and fifth in the list respectively, but the number of UK institutions in the top 100 has dropped from 10 last year.

The annual World Reputation Rankings, compiled by Tes’s sister magazine, Times Higher Education, uses a globally representative survey of more than 10,000 senior academics to identify “the top 100 most powerful global university brands”.

THE says that a university’s brand is vital for attracting talent, strategic partners, philanthropy and investment.

The top-rated institution in the list is Harvard University, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

Hotter years 'mean lower exam results'

by BBC, May 30, 2018

In years with hotter weather pupils are likely to perform less well in exams, says a major study from researchers at Harvard and other US universities.

There is a "significant" link between higher temperatures and lower school achievement, say economic researchers.

An analysis of test scores of 10 million US secondary school students over 13 years shows hot weather has a negative impact on results.

The study says a practical response could be to use more air conditioning.

Heatwave
Students taking exams in a summer heatwave might have always complained that they were hampered by the sweltering weather.

But this study, from academics at Harvard, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Georgia State University, claims to have produced the first clear evidence showing that when temperatures go up, school performance goes down.

Researchers have tracked how secondary school students performed in tests in different years, between 2001 and 2014, across the different climates and weather patterns within the US.

Opinion: Cuts to school funding and music education mean we are failing Bristol's children

by Bristol Post, May 29, 2018

Schools in Bristol are facing huge cuts to their funding, with academies cutting music lessons and arts programmes from their curriculum.

Phil Castang, director of Creative Learning and Engagement at Bristol Music Trust, argues why losing the creative arts is folly.

“Bristol often appears in lists of top destinations to visit and places to live. When colleagues visit Bristol from other parts of the UK they always comment on how rich and vibrant the cultural scene is.

“Music, theatre, festivals, museums, popular entertainment and galleries - you only have to look up at the side of many buildings to experience art. To the rest of the UK and beyond, Bristol is regarded as an independent creative and cultural hotspot.

“In addition to Bristol’s professional or commercial arts scene, there are numerous amateur choirs, orchestras, bands and ensembles of all shapes and sizes. There are amateur theatre groups and artist collectives.

Free schools boost for England's worst-performing areas

by BBC, May 29, 2018

The government's free school programme is being redirected towards the worst-performing areas of England, particularly the North East.

Ministers are targeting the next wave of about 35 new schools in the bottom third of lowest-performing areas.

It comes after criticism that the free school programme has focused on the wealthier South East.

The government will also give councils £50m to create about 740 new school places for children with special needs.

The money could help to build facilities including sensory rooms and playgrounds with specialist equipment.

It is part of £680m which the Department for Education (DfE) has allocated to help create 40,000 more good school places in primaries and secondaries by 2021.

'All GCSE resit students can improve grades'

by TES, May 27, 2018

In her seminal TED Talk on growth mindset, Carol Dweck tells us that “if you 'fail' you’re nowhere, but if you get the grade ‘not yet’ you’re on a learning curve.”

That’s what the GCSE resit policy should have done; in conjunction with an untiered, numerical grading system, and the progress agenda; it should have removed the word "fail" from the vocabulary we use in discussing English. It could have rallied students, teachers and all stakeholders to the flag of persisting with this vital subject until a common standard is reached, rather than just an arbitrary age.

However, the government has not only "failed" to make the case for this policy, or to support it, but it has actually confused matters further by introducing terms such as “strong pass” to something that is not really a pass/fail qualification. Of the 133,790 post-16 entries into GCSE English language last year, 91.6 per cent technically passed. Fact. Go on; check it. But not nearly enough students made progress from their starting point. Despite our best efforts, the policy is not a success… not yet.

Students are all capable of improving
The critics of growth mindset make much of the lack of replicability of Professor Dweck’s original trials. They mock, with justification, the absurd posters adorning classrooms and corridors that suggest anyone can do anything just by believing they can.

Less justifiably, they draw parallels between growth mindset and some of the truly-brainless edu-fads we’ve seen, from learning styles to lollipop sticks. I suspect this negativity arises from a minority of schools and colleges imposing the idea as another tick-box on the observation bingo card or garbling its message in over-simplified assemblies.

I think the negativity is unfair because a growth mindset can only do good. The belief that with appropriate support and enough effort we can get better at something is surely a prerequisite for working in education. Whatever sinister arguments might be made about genetic predestination on the swivel-eyed fringes, we have to keep the faith and keep doing our best for all students because the alternative is unthinkable.

GCSE English resit students are all capable of improving their grade.

A pupil premium for FE
But Tes FE editor Stephen Exley was correct last week to call the Department for Education’s failings over the policy “a scandal”. While promising millions in funding to expand grammar schools, a regressive move and an obvious nod to the nostalgic activists carrying the Conservative Party further from the centre, the bright future of the country as embodied in its diverse, dynamic, and vibrant colleges is quietly suffocated through lack of funding.

Private school head predicts end of all-boys' schools

by TES, May 27, 2018

The "tide is retreating" for all-boys' schools, the headmaster of an independent school has predicted.

Guy Sanderson, who leads Eltham College in southeast London, is reported in the Sunday Times as saying that boys need exposure to girls in order to receive a rounded education.

His school, which opened as a boys’ school in 1842 for the sons of missionaries, will start taking girls at the ages of 7 and 11 from 2020. At present, girls can enter the school only in the sixth form.

According to the Sunday Times, Mr Sanderson said: "The tide is definitely retreating for boys’ schools.

“If we want to prepare students properly for the future, this is the best way of doing it.”

Mr Sanderson also reportedly said he hoped the change would mean that boys noticed more quickly than he had done that girls can be highly intelligent – he only realised this himself when he was 22 and met his wife, a Cambridge graduate who is a senior City executive.

Could knitting help pupils cope with exam stress?

by TES, May 27, 2018

During this year’s Winter Olympics, the news that half of the 102 athletes representing Finland were spending their spare time at the games knitting got the internet talking.

Initially, the discussion was around how odd it was to see competitors sitting at the sidelines with knitting needles and wool. But the debate quickly moved on to how ‘knit one, purl one’ can, unexpectedly, offer an advantage to athletes trying to perform under pressure.

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