Latest Educational News

'Our first year teaching the new GCSE was a facade’

by TES, June 20, 2018

The first years of teaching the new GCSEs have been a facade. We’ve all been confidently pretending to understand the complexities of specifications that were, in fact, quite alien.

In reality, we still do not truly know what a grade 4 looks like, nor what it might take to reach the coveted grade 9 – and we won’t know this until August.

History is an inherently subjective discipline, and teachers and leaders have only been able to make educated inferences this year as to what the new GCSE really wants from our students.

So, has this changed after watching our pupils sit their first exams of this new specification?

Cross-teaching topics
The sheer volume of content that teachers and students were expected to wade through for these new exams was clear from the offset. With coursework relegated, an extra module and the added challenge of the “historical environment” requirement, teaching history has felt even more like a marathon; a never-ending list of events, dates and facts, with little time to fully explore the key concepts and debates.

Dropping parent governors was a ‘mistake’, ex-adviser admits

by TES, June 20, 2018

A policy to remove the requirement for academy trusts to have parent governors was a “mistake”, an ex-Number 10 adviser has admitted.

Rachel Wolf also said the growth of multi-academy trusts (MATs) had resulted in parents becoming more distant from schools, and added that the Department for Education was “terrible” at talking to parents.

Ms Wolf worked as a special adviser to Michael Gove when he was education secretary, before going on to advise David Cameron and Theresa May on education in Downing Street. She now runs a public affairs firm called Public First.

Removing the requirement for academies to have parent governors was set out in the schools White Paper published in March 2016 by Nicky Morgan when she was education secretary, but it was dropped by her successor Justine Greening.

Poor pupils hit hardest by maths teacher shortages

by TES, June 20, 2018

Secondary school pupils in the most disadvantaged schools are being hit hardest by maths teacher shortages in England, according to research.

Students across all year groups in those schools are much more likely to be taught by an inexperienced teacher, the Nuffield Foundation found.

Its report said post-16 maths students in the most disadvantaged schools are almost twice as likely to have an inexperienced teacher as those in the least disadvantaged schools – 9.5 per cent versus 5.3 per cent.

The foundation said there was a shortage of maths teachers in England because 40 per cent of teachers leave during their first six years in the profession, while there is an increasing demand for teachers due to moves to increase participation in maths for 16- to 18-year-olds. Teaching is also competing against higher private sector wages for maths graduates.

It commissioned researchers from FFT Education Datalab to examine how secondary schools have responded to this shortage of maths teachers, and the impact it has on students.

Using data from England's School Workforce Census, researchers found that schools were deploying their most experienced and well-qualified maths teachers for year groups where the external stakes are high: GCSE, A-level and GCSE retakes.

The school children who live in England but are taught in Scotland

by BBC, June 20, 2018

Schools in the Scottish Borders are teaching more than 100 children who live in England.

Many of the pupils attend the secondary schools in Eyemouth and Duns.

One reason for the high number of placing requests may be the legacy of problems at Berwick Academy - although the school's new acting head believes it has now turned the corner.

A total of 103 secondary school pupils with English postcodes are at schools run by Scottish Borders Council.

The largest number are at Eyemouth High and Berwickshire High School in Duns which are within easy travelling distance of Berwick.

The reasons why parents from Northumberland have asked to send their children to schools in the Borders have not been made public.

'Level 2 qualifications are vital for progression'

by TES, June 19, 2018

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ national conference is less than a week away, and delegates will be very keen to hear what skills minister Anne Milton has to say about the apprenticeship reforms. In particular, about the start numbers which are now falling way behind the curve for achieving the government’s 3 million manifesto target.

For us, it is not just about the raw total of starts. The reforms should be about a successful balance of provision from level 2 to level 7, but the proportion of apprenticeship starts at level 2 and for young people has been steadily falling since the levy was introduced. AELP believes that this is bad for social mobility, workforce productivity and for meeting employers’ skills needs with Brexit almost upon us.

It is extraordinary how many policymakers and opinion-formers don’t appreciate how significant level 2 attainment is for both the economy and the large proportion of young people who leave school without it. AELP often has to point out that it’s impossible for a young person to embark on skills training or technical education at level 3 without having access to a level 2 programme first. Whether it is via an apprenticeship or some other form of further education, recognition of achievement at level 2 is vital for motivation and progression.

Fly-on-the-wall grammar to sponsor secondary modern

by TES, June 19, 2018

Classified as 11 Plus.

A London secondary modern school which featured in a recent BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary is to be absorbed into a multi-academy trust by a “forward-thinking” grammar school.

Erith School will be sponsored by nearby Townley Grammar School – both based in Bexley, South London – and renamed "King Henry School".

Townley Grammar's head, Desmond Deehan, first mentioned the plans when the schools were featured in a three-part BBC Two documentary, Grammar Schools: who will get in?, which concluded last week.

Today he confirmed the "ambitious" plan was going ahead with Erith School, which is currently rated by Ofsted as "requires improvement". As part of the process, Townley Grammar has established a multi-academy trust (MAT), the Odyssey Trust for Education, bringing Erith School into it. The Trust will be effective from the 1 September 2018.

‘Testing does apply to the real world’

by TES, June 19, 2018

The testing effect is one of the most fascinating findings in educational research. We are accustomed to thinking of tests as something you do to provide other people with information about your performance. But the research shows that tests can actually have a learning benefit, too.

In a test, you are often trying to recall information from memory, and the very act of trying to recall a fact helps to strengthen your memory of it. So this kind of retrieval practice is actually a good way to learn something, and is the reason why revising with flashcards or quizzing is better than just rereading or highlighting the material you need to learn.

But one criticism of the testing effect is that, while fine for acquiring basic facts, it isn’t that helpful for applying those facts. For example, it’s clear that filling in times-tables grids will help to solidify the memory of the times tables themselves. But what about if your aim is for pupils to apply such knowledge in more of a real-world situation? Does the testing effect help then?

Study or test
A study from 2010 [1] explored this exact question. Pupils aged 9-11 were set the task of learning the names of places on a map. To begin with, they were shown the map with the labelled regions they had to learn, and then they had to revise this information.

More pupils experience 'positive' outcomes

by TES, June 19, 2018

The gap between pupils from the most and least deprived areas who go on to university, college or a job after school is closing, new figures show.

The difference in the proportions of former pupils from the least and the most deprived areas classed as being in a "positive destination" nine months after leaving school has dropped from 11.2 percentage points in 2015-16 to 8.8 percentage points in 2016-17, according Scottish government figures published today.

In 2016-17, 87.6 per cent of school leavers from the most deprived areas were in a positive destination after school, compared with 96.4 per cent from the least deprived areas.

This is an improvement from 2015-16, when 85 per cent of school leavers from the most deprived areas were in a positive destination after school, compared with 96.2 per cent from the least deprived areas.

Overall, 92.9 per cent of last year’s school leavers were recorded as being in a positive destination – the highest figure since 2009-10.

'How art can help students explore mental health'

by TES, June 19, 2018

Mental health issues are on the rise in the post-16 sector, as Tes reported earlier this month. Depression, anxiety and stress appear to be at a record levels, with advice often focused on exercise, a good diet, talking therapies, medication and simply taking a break.

But can art help?

Art allows space for students to explore their lives and experiences. Art pathways are unique in that each student can devise their own projects in which they must demonstrate skills against which they are assessed. This allows an opportunity for students to explore what is relevant to them in an art context. For many, they choose to explore their health and the issues that affect it, from the personal to the global.

By developing projects alongside research into artists’ work, we can explore their ideas and apply them to our own. This process of researching, contextualising, understanding and applying allows students to use an artist’s method as a template. For my students this year, the photographic artist Jo Spence has been a particular influence.

'Impossible' French A-level exam 'a disgrace' say students

by BBC, June 19, 2018

Students and parents want an urgent review after errors in an A-level paper left candidates guessing answers.

Candidates took to Twitter to complain that sound files provided in a French listening exam were jumbled up and did not coincide with the questions.

One student said she was waving "au revoir" to her university chances after the exam.

The board, Eduqas, has admitted mistakes on the paper, taken by more than 800 students in England.

One Twitter user, Ellie, called the paper a disgrace and said it was beyond a joke.

Computing exam changes are a turn-off

by TES, June 18, 2018

Fewer and less diverse students are studying computing due to exam reforms, a new report warns.

The report from the University of Roehampton says that the numbers of key stage 4 students taking any computing qualification declined slightly until last year – and were now on a "cliff edge".

It says that the drop had been expected because the ICT GCSE is being scrapped and other vocational qualifications will no longer count in school league tables.

The report’s authors say that while numbers of students taking the new computer science GCSE have risen until now, computing science and ICT are quite different qualifications and are taken by quite different students.

Data from the Joint Council of Qualifications in 2017 revealed that 64,159 students entered GCSE computing and 59,438 entered ICT computing.

‘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.

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