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Academy and News Update October 1-31 2014

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  • The careers guidance available to young people has become a “postcode lottery” that hinders social mobility, a leading charity has said. The Sutton Trust says the National Careers Service – which offers telephone and web-based advice to schools – should also provide students with face-to-face advice from specialist careers advisers. The call comes as a new report for the trust shows that where schools provide guidance of a high quality, there are improvements to GCSE results, attendance and access to leading universities. The research compares schools that have received a “quality award” for their careers guidance with those that have not. After controlling for other factors, the study finds that at both GCSE and A-level, quality awards are associated with improved academic performance. The report calls for the National Careers Service to be strengthened, giving schools access to professionally qualified advisers. The DfE should continue to improve the quality of the destination data that it collects on where students go to after their GCSEs and A-levels, it adds.
  • Figures released by the government show that there will be 17,609 places for School Direct trainees in 2015 and 15,490 higher education postgraduate places. This year there were 15,254 School Direct places and 16,342 higher education postgraduate places. The total number of teacher training places has risen from 41,549 in 2014 to 43,516 in 2015.

Universities say that While School Direct has been more successful in recruiting trainee English and history teachers, it has been less successful for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, a report says. “This has contributed to a shortfall in the number of trainee teachers recruited into several subject areas, such as mathematics and physics,” it says. “There are concerns, therefore, that, as the government pursues its ambition for a school-led system, the pace of change could create teacher supply issues in the future if university-delivered training becomes unsustainable.”

  • Extremist groups will make further attempts to impose their ideologies on schools, as they did during the Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham, the education secretary has warned. Nicky Morgan said British values such as democracy and tolerance must be “woven” into the curriculum to counteract attempts to promote extremist views.
  • Schools should be forced to publish the number of girls that study the sciences up to and beyond GCSEs in a bid to increase the take up of the subjects, say the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE)
  • Leading figures from some of the world’s largest tech companies have written to education ministers across the EU warning that more needs to be done to teach students to learn how to code. The signatories praised the path taken by England in establishing a computing curriculum that went further than teaching kids how to use a computer, but they voiced concern that a recent poll showed teachers felt unprepared to deliver the new syllabus.

The new computing curriculum does not go far enough to properly prepare young people for the future world of work in the technology and engineering industries, new research warns. Teachers, parents and employers should not assume the new computing curriculum, which was introduced in September, will act as a “panacea” for the growing skills gap between education and the world of work, it adds. Students will need to take part in extra-curricular classes, competitions, coding clubs and digital summer camps if they are to have the necessary skills to compete for work. “School alone will not prepare young people to be successful… We need to support non-formal and informal digital-making experiences if we are to ensure young people benefit,” the document states. “The link between learning to code and employability is unproven and unclear,” it adds. According to the report, 750,000 “digitally skilled” workers will be needed by 2017, but many young people who show flair with digital skills do not take their interests further as they are confused over what job opportunities are open to them. Schools, the research adds, should also do more to promote “digital creativity” and go beyond just “coding in the classroom”.

  • A “crack squad” of teachers would be set up under a Conservative government so the “top talent” in the profession could be swiftly despatched to classrooms that are not judged up to scratch, the Prime Minister has said. New powers to impose tough classroom discipline and immediately sack school leaders at failing state schools would be also be introduced if the Tories win the next election. The government would target 500 unidentified schools, educating 100,000 pupils. Regional School Commissioners (RSCs) – former heads who oversee all free schools and academies – will be given wider powers to immediately intervene in any state school ruled inadequate by Ofsted. They will be able to order immediate personnel changes to governing bodies, introduce punishments for bad behaviour and bring in behaviour experts to implement new policies on classroom discipline, school uniform standards and homework. The Conservatives would also set up the National Teaching Service (NTS), funded centrally, that would be made up of high-quality teachers ready to be sent out to poor performing schools.
  • A snap poll suggests that teachers overwhelmingly reject the idea of members of the profession taking a Hippocratic-style oath at the start of their careers. Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, used the Sunday newspapers to float the idea, arguing that it would help build the esteem of the profession.
  • Teachers should have the courage to step outside the curriculum to give students a deeper understanding of their subject, according to a chief examiner. Despite the straitjacket of outcomes, data and accountability, there is still scope for teaching that goes beyond the confines of the exam syllabus “I would encourage teachers to have the confidence and the courage to teach in more rich ways and avoid the pressure to go down the spoon-feeding route.” He said this could include occasional discussions of the philosophy behind different concepts and a cross-curricular approach that looked at links between different subjects.
  • Schools will have to “cut their cloth” to adapt to an increasingly tough financial climate after the next election, schools minister Lord Nash has warned.  “Education in schools has operated in a relatively benign financial climate for a long time. But a new generation of school leaders is going to have to emerge to cut their cloth to drive efficiencies. “This is one of the biggest challenges facing the school system: schools will increasingly have to do more with the same money.” Savings could come through more effective purchasing, economies of scale, a more efficient use of teachers and teaching assistants and a better use of IT, he said. He added that one of the routes taken by some academy chains was to standardise lesson plans and spend more time on delivering the lessons instead. “We all know that teachers spend a lot of time preparing lesson plans rather than focusing on how well they deliver those lessons. This is a complete waste of time,” he said.
  • Lord Adonis has said that the government should provide incentives to encourage schools to work more closely with business. Every school should have a full-time director of enterprise and employment in its senior leadership team, whose role would be to engage with employers to make workplace experience and lessons in enterprise part of mainstream education, the Labour peer said.
  • Efforts to help children on free school meals are being undermined by ministers’ own reforms, according to the government’s pupil premium champion. Sir John Dunford said policies including the downgrading of vocational qualifications, the English Baccalaureate accountability measure and counting only first exam entries in league tables were disproportionately affecting the most disadvantaged pupils. The latest government figures show that 37.9 per cent of FSM pupils gained the equivalent of five or more A*-C GCSE grades, compared with 64.6 per cent of all other pupils. The decoupling of AS and A-levels, which meant students had to look two years ahead instead of one, plus the abolition of the education maintenance allowance and cuts to the careers service, created a disincentive to stay on at 16 that was particularly acute for disadvantaged pupils, he added.
  • Schools need to brace themselves for accountability reforms that could turn league tables upside down, an expert analysis reveals. New official “floor” targets are on course to raise the number of secondaries at risk of government intervention and possible closure by nearly three-quarters. The new regime could also place scores of previously safe schools into the danger zone, a study using the latest available GCSE results data suggests. But the pressure would lift for a similarly large number of secondaries that would have their efforts in improving the progress of lower-attaining pupils recognised, as they would be raised above the new floor standard. The analysis of the impact of the Progress 8 accountability measure being introduced in 2016 has been carried out by the Fischer Family Trust (FFT) Mike Treadaway, research director for the FFT, said the work showed that Progress 8 would mean “substantial changes” for schools.

A copy of the FFT report can be read at

and on the above website, Documents- Latest Documents


  • No-notice inspections will not be rolled out for all schools, Ofsted has revealed. At the launch of a consultation into what the watchdog described as “some of the most far-reaching reforms to education inspection in the last quarter of a century”, it revealed that plans for all schools to receive snap visits from inspectors have been scrapped. Last month, the watchdog unveiled a wave of 40 unannounced inspections after widening the criteria that could trigger the intervention, with Sir Michael insisting he was “still considering” whether to use them in all schools. But the chief inspector has signalled another U-turn, as he announced no-notice inspections would not be included in the consultation on the new framework for schools, early years and learning and skills providers. “I have already broadened the criteria Ofsted uses to judge whether an unannounced inspection is required for particular schools,” he said. “After careful consideration, I have therefore concluded that we do not need to consult on moving to routine no-notice inspections at the present time.”

Several other significant changes to school inspection have been put forward. These include the proposal that schools and providers rated good should be subject to more frequent but shorter inspections.  “The time has come to introduce frequent but shorter inspections for good schools and further education and skills providers. These inspections will be different to what has gone before. They will have a much clearer focus on ensuring that good standards have been maintained.” Good schools will be visited every three years, with the inspection, typically led by one or two inspectors, lasting for around one day. The shorter inspections, as originally outlined earlier this year, were initially envisaged to take place every two years. Currently, schools are notified the afternoon before their inspection starts.

The consultation will also propose broadening the existing criteria on which schools and other providers are graded. The existing “quality of teaching” category would be renamed “teaching, learning and assessment”, while “achievement of pupils” would become “outcomes for children” and “behaviour and safety of pupils” would be expanded to cover “personal development, behaviour and welfare”.

“I believe that our new inspections should place emphasis on safeguarding, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in further education and skills, and the quality of early learning,” Sir Michael said. “Only then will we be able to make sure that all children and learners are properly safeguarded and prepared for life in the modern world.”

The consultation on the proposals, which would come into effect in September 2015, ends on 5 December.

To be found on the above website, Documents- Latest Documents are;

  The consultation document

  The Associated questionnaire

  Sir Michael Wilshaw’s speech

  • Much of the phenomenal success of East Asian pupils in international education rankings cannot be explained by the quality of their school systems, according to new research which shows that East Asian pupils who are second generation immigrants in Australia perform better than almost everyone else in the world despite being taught in an “average” ranking education system. The findings pose serious questions for governments in countries such as the UK who have placed a major emphasis on trying to learn from East Asian pedagogy, organising expensive teacher exchange programmes with China. The OECD, which produces the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings, has also encouraged the world to learn from schools in Asia. But John Jerrim, author of the new research, said: “Western policymakers should not expect there to be an easy way to replicate East Asian students’ extraordinary educational success. “The reality is that this may only be possible over the very long-term, requiring a cultural shift where all families instil a strong belief in the value of education amongst their children (along with the realisation that hard work and sacrifice may be needed to achieve it).”
  • Shanghai’s position at the top of the global education rankings has led to a scramble to uncover the secret of Chinese teaching methods, prompting academic investigations and government-funded visits. But one expert believes there could be more straightforward ways for England’s schools to close the gap with China and other successful East Asian states. Professor Lianghuo Fan, a former maths teacher and teacher trainer in China, argues that lower teacher workload and better classroom discipline are also key to Shanghai’s stellar performance in the most recent Pisa study. Teachers in England “must spend more time on academic and subject matters in the classroom in each lesson”
  • The ordeal of dragging teenagers out of bed in the morning could be a thing of the past if the first large-scale trial of moving the start of the school day to 10am is successful. The £696,000 project is one of six announced today by medical research charity the Wellcome Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation. It will explore how neuroscience can help students to learn. The sleep and attainment study, run by researchers from the University of Oxford, aims to recruit 13,800 15-year-olds from more than 100 schools to test whether having a school start time of 10am will lead to better GCSE results.
  • Children with even minor disabilities, such as asthma, find it difficult to adapt to the “structured social concept” of schools, resulting in a higher chance of suffering hyperactivity and depression in later life, new research has shown. The study, which looked at more than 6,700 children, showed that behavioural problems, such as hyperactivity, emotional problems and getting on with peers, worsened once SEND pupils entered full-time education. In addition, children with “long-standing limiting illnesses”, including asthma and diabetes, were far more likely to exhibit negative behaviour traits between the ages of 3 and 7 than their non-disabled peers. “Our findings suggest that some early school environments may exacerbate behavioural problems for disabled children in ways that cannot solely be solved by learning support – because the underlying issue is behavioural rather than cognitive,” the researchers said.
  • Work experience may be put beyond the reach of the people who need it most as schools increasingly charge to arrange placements, according to careers experts. The government’s decision to withdraw funding for work experience has led some schools either to drop it or to introduce a charge for parents. The fee typically ranges from £35 to £50 to cover administration costs and a health and safety inspection, but experts warn that even small sums could exacerbate existing social inequalities.
  • Schools have been attacked for not doing enough to improve poorer pupils’ exam results by a critical new report on social mobility. There is a “shocking gap” in performance between schools, according to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. The report analysed the GCSE results of secondaries with similar proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals and found that in the best performing schools more than 70 per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths. By contrast, only 20 per cent did so in the weakest. “Some schools are proving that deprivation needn’t be destiny. They have cracked the code on how to improve social mobility by helping disadvantaged children to excel in education. If some schools can do it, there is no excuse for others not to.” The report says that low expectations among some teachers may be part of the problem. A poll of more than 1,100 teachers carried out for the commission found that most had high expectations of their pupils. But more than a fifth (21 per cent) agreed that colleagues at their school had lower expectations of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Secondaries in London and Birmingham dominate the group of schools that have high proportions of disadvantaged pupils and do well with them, the report has found. The high-performing schools are also “very ethnically diverse”, with most having a majority of students from ethnic minority backgrounds. The report also warns of the impact of reforms to exams. “Constant changes to the examination system are making it more difficult for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed,” it says. “These issues need to be addressed as part of the response to this report. There are no simple answers to tackling disadvantage.”

It also suggests that Top-flight teachers should be paid 25 per cent more to work in schools in some of the country’s most disadvantaged areas in order to close the attainment gap between the poorest children and their better-off classmates. 2,000 high-performing teachers should be offered a “Teachers Pay Premium” to teach in “the most challenging schools in hard-to-recruit areas”. The document highlights again recent figures showing that six out of 10 disadvantaged children “don’t achieve the basics at GCSE” and average children from better off families overtake high ability children from poor families by the time they sit their exams at 16. Closing the attainment gap, it says, should be “a priority” for all schools so that, by 2020, more than half of children entitled to free school meals achieve five good GCSEs, rising to two-thirds by 2025.

  • Schools could be largely replaced by online learning by 2030, with the traditional role of the teacher rendered obsolete, according to a survey of education experts. Fewer than half (42 per cent) of the global specialists polled by the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) believe that academic knowledge will remain a fundamental part of education in 15 years’ time. A similar proportion (43 per cent) of the 600 experts surveyed believe that the most important source of knowledge will be online learning, with fewer than a third (29 per cent) expecting that the physical school building will remain the primary location for learning. Accordingly, less than a fifth (19 per cent) of those surveyed argue that a teacher’s most important task will be to “deliver knowledge”. Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) say the job will instead entail “guiding students along their autonomous learning paths”. “No more ‘teachers’, lectures or imposed curricula,” says the WISE report. “Henceforth, the brick-and-mortar school will no longer be a place where students are taught theoretical knowledge, but instead a social environment where they receive guidance, enabling them to interact with their peers and build a diverse toolkit that will better prepare them for professional life.”
  • Maths teachers see students’ enjoyment of their subject as an added bonus, thought about only when they are sure that curriculum requirements are being met, according to new research. Practical lessons are viewed by some as an enjoyable time-waster rather than an important way to enhance pupils’ understanding and motivation. The majority of teachers choose to give examples of the relevance of maths to real life as a way of engaging students. Teachers also talked about drawing on students’ personal interests as a way of making maths more relevant to them.  But many felt that fun, engaging maths lessons were distinct from classes in which pupils genuinely learned something. Often, the value of practical tasks was not considered important: they were simply there to allow pupils to enjoy themselves for a while. “It was therefore unlikely that these strategies motivated students internally or long-term”. “Several teachers perceived that teaching mathematics content and completing curriculum requirements was their main responsibility, even when they were aware that student understanding and engagement would be compromised.” Some of the teachers interviewed said that whether or not their students enjoyed maths was beyond their control. Several blamed pupil boredom on primary schools, peer pressure, or parents who made their own dislike of the subject very clear. “Teachers perceived these external factors as obstacles that would be difficult to overcome”. “This appeared to…limit the efforts they made to promote sustained engagement.”

With an international study placing the UK 26th out of 65 countries for maths, one factor holding many back is “the cultural acceptability of saying ‘I can’t do maths’

  • Local authorities should take a hard line with school governing bodies and use new regulations to get rid of “passengers” who are not performing to high enough standards, a schools minister has urged. According to Lord Nash, many governing bodies are too big to provide effective leadership to schools and should be slimmed down. All maintained schools need to adopt the new arrangements, allowing greater flexibility in the size and structure of governing bodies, by September 2015. Lord Nash said that no existing governor need stand down, but added: “Treating transition as a paper exercise would waste an ideal opportunity for each governing body to review its effectiveness, membership and structure.” He said that governors should be appointed for their skills, not on the basis of who they were or who they represented. “Your priority must be to see every governing body constituted with governors who have the relevant skills to contribute to effective governance, encouraging ineffective governors to stand down and be replaced by new strong governors,” he said.
  • Teachers are likely to face two extra years of disruption from exam reform if there is a change of government next year, Ofqual has warned. The timetable for introducing new GCSEs and A-levels already means that schools will have to cope with continuous exam change until 2019. But Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, said that Labour’s policy to “recouple” A-levels to AS-levels was “not a simple task” and would take an additional two years to complete.
  • An independent review to establish a new set of professional standards for teaching assistants is to be set up, the Department for Education has announced. It wants a new set of standards to be “clearer and more concise” than the current version, and to reflect the “diversity of the existing schools system”. They will be used to assess the performance of teaching assistants and their professional development needs, and will focus on their relationship with teachers. The standards “are designed to inspire confidence in teaching assistants and ensure that schools use their skills and expertise to best effect”, the DfE has claimed.

The call for evidence and more details can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents

  • A new English A-level, condemned as “rubbish” by the government for including the study of comedian Russell Brand and other celebrities, has been given the go-ahead by Ofqual. The English language and literature qualification is part of the new wave of exams that Michael Gove said would bring more “rigour” to schools when they are introduced from next year. But the DfE was unhappy when exam board OCR unveiled the content for the new A-level earlier this year.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV and Aids, are to be included in the new GCSE curriculum as a result of pressure from sex education organisations. The new science curriculum for key stage 4 (KS4) has been revised to include lessons on sexual health and information about HIV and Aids. But experts say that these will only be effective if they build on lessons taught well before the final years of secondary school.
  • Almost a third of free schools have employed non-qualified teachers, according to government research which claimed that the newly created schools were using their freedoms to be more innovative.
  • Ofqual is advising teachers to look out for students who are cheating by submitting coursework completed by online essay writing companies. The essays are sold to pupils on the basis that they are “model answers” to be used as “learning aids”, but Ofqual is concerned that students are cheating by submitting them as their own work.
  • Teacher leaders have criticised a Conservative minister for claiming the UK has some of the most “illiterate and innumerate” young people in the developed world. Sam Gyimah, minister for childcare and education, told a meeting at the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham yesterday that too many young people were leaving school without the basics of education.
  • Education in England is suffering the consequences of a “rushed revolution”, with academies suffering from patchy results and mismanagement, according to the former chair of Ofsted. Baroness Sally Morgan said the government’s attachment to the market had led to an “aversion to anything that smacks of national strategy”. She particularly criticised the academies programme, saying that quality control had been “poor” and there were no incentives for strong-performing schools to help weaker ones. “Patchy results, mismanagement and occasional scandal have been the inevitable result”. The “perceived obsession” with free schools had also not helped, she said. “In the rush to disrupt the prevailing order, unsuitable groups were allowed to open schools and the Department [for Education] now has to deal with the consequences,” she added.
  • Research into coastal academies shows that staff recruitment and retention are a major problem. “These areas have high unemployment and there’s real disadvantage. You are trying to attract high-calibre teachers, but what employment is there for a spouse?” Another common feature is the lack of parental engagement in the school. Many parents will have had a poor educational experience themselves and will have left with few qualifications Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools who has highlighted the plight of isolated seaside schools, was in Norfolk this month where he once again mentioned the problems of coastal deprivation, small schools and teacher recruitment and retention.
  • The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, has clashed with the members of the House of Commons education committee over her decision to block inspections of managers and sponsors of academy school chains, with the committee labelling Morgan’s decision “absurd”. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted and chief inspector of schools, has repeatedly said that the regulator should be given additional powers to inspect and grade the management of academy chains, as it already does with local authorities. Michael Gove refused to grant the extra powers, but last week Wilshaw said he felt he was winning the argument in his discussions with the DfE. Morgan’s response to the education committee members suggested that she and Wilshaw differed, with Morgan telling MPs that Ofsted’s powers to inspect individual schools was sufficient.
  • The number of pupils taken out of school to go on family holidays dropped by almost a third in England since last year, following the government’s crackdown on term-time vacations. The number of school days lost to term-time holidays has been cut from 3.3m last year to 2.5m this year. Absences overall are at their lowest level since comparable records began in 2006, according to figures released on Wednesday. Government figures revealed that the overall absence rate has dropped by more than a quarter since 2009-10, from 6% to 4.4%, with 176,850 fewer pupils persistently missing school in the autumn and spring terms of the 2013-14 academic year than in 2009-10, dropping from 439,105 to 262,255. And the number of school days lost overall to absence has dropped by 10.1m days – from 45.8m to 35.7m. Illness accounted for 61.3% of all absences and 2.7% of possible sessions missed; family holidays, meanwhile, accounted for 6.9% of all absences.

Cheaper holidays “don’t fit the bill” as a reason for taking children out of school, the leader of the headteachers’ union has said, announcing new guidance on absences.  Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the body would be issuing new guidelines for heads on what constitutes “exceptional circumstances” in which children can be allowed time off.  The Local Government Association has called for the rules to be overturned, pointing out parents looking to go abroad during school holidays could find that costs were double that of travelling during term time.

Under the current system, parents who take children out of school without permission could face a £60 fine per child, rising to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days. Those who fail to pay can face prosecution, with a maximum fine, if convicted, of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.


  • The DfE and Birmingham city council are failing to quickly repair the schools damaged in the Trojan Horse scandal, after a series of snap inspections found little progress at five of the schools involved, Ofsted’s chief inspector Michael Wilshaw has said. The inspections, carried out only a few days into the start of the school year, highlighted weak management, mistrust among staff and continuing gender segregation among students at some of the schools, as well as reactions from parents at collective Christian worship being imposed on the largely Muslim student body. In a letter to education secretary, Nicky Morgan, accompanying the inspection reports, Wilshaw said the government needed to take more rapid action to fix problem academies, and criticised Birmingham city council for failing to reveal its plans.
  • Headteachers are breaking the rules to feed children and their families because they say they cannot ignore the signs of poverty

The co-architect of the government’s school food programme has urged ministers to tackle “holiday hunger” faced by hundreds of thousands of children from low-income families who struggle to eat healthily outside term time. John Vincent said children living in poverty dropped further behind their better-off peers when schools closed and they had no access to free school meals, and they were often physically and mentally unprepared for learning when they returned.

  • Michael Gove considered replacing Sir Michael Wilshaw as chief inspector of schools amid deep-seated frustrations over his performance, an internal Whitehall memo reveals.
  • Offering rewards such as cash payments or free trips make pupils work harder in class but fail to improve their exam results, according to an intensive £1.6m study involving 10,000 children.
  • Schoolchildren would learn about the risks of sexting, cyber bullying and pro-anorexia websites under Liberal Democrat plans to educate young people about the realities of mental illness The party wants an overhaul of the national curriculum in England to make personal, social and health education (PSHE) lessons mandatory, including lessons about conditions such as anxiety and depression.
    • One of England’s largest academy chains, which has told of its tough approach to headteachers, has lost another, only a year into his job. Ben Smith left shortly after the start of term at Thomas Bennett community college, the flagship secondary among eight schools in Crawley, west Sussex, run by the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT). In January, TKAT told a committee of MPs that it had removed almost two-thirds of heads at its schools within weeks of taking over. Even newly installed heads were not safe, its submission implied, as those failing to hit improvement targets would be dispensed with.
  • Teachers worried about problems in schools do not know how to raise the alarm because of the expansion of free schools and academies, according to a report published today by Public Concern at Work. With many schools now outside local authority control, a charity which advises whistleblowers has reported a sharp rise in the number of cases brought to it last year.
  • The government’s own advisers on A-level reform have warned that de-coupling the AS-level could “seriously damage” the uptake of mathematics. The A-level content advisory board, a body set up by the government to advise on the content of the new A-levels has stepped outside its remit to attack the policy, which will see the AS-level uncoupled from the A-level and turned into a standalone qualification. One member said the effect on further maths, in particular, could be “absolutely devastating”.

The de-coupling of AS and A-level exams will result in thousands of “overambitious” sixth-formers applying to Oxbridge when they have no chance of winning a place, Cambridge’s head of admissions has warned with students likely to make “several unfortunate choices” during the admissions process, said Mike Sewell. He said the AS exam currently acts as a “reality check”, sparing teenagers the “upsetting” experience of applying to Oxbridge when they do not have a realistic chance of getting in. Without it, leading universities could be inundated with applications from pupils who take a string of top GCSEs taken at age 16 as a sign that they are Oxbridge material, it was claimed.

A growing number of independent schools are considering ditching A-levels in response to the turmoil over reforms to the qualification. Dissatisfaction over elements of the changes – particularly the government’s decision to “decouple” AS- and A-levels – has led some schools to consider alternatives, including the international A-level.

  • Three reading schemes – using coaching, free books and specialist teaching to bridge the gap between primary and secondary literacy levels – made no difference to children’s progress, with one even leaving students lagging behind their peers, research has shown. The trials, which received £1 million of funding from the Education Endowment Foundation charity, also revealed the difficulty of coordinating help for struggling readers during the transition from primary to secondary. The schemes were; the TextNow Transition programme; Summer Active reading programme delivered by Booktrust.; Vocabulary Enrichment Intervention
  • The introduction of universal free school meals for infants could mean the loss of thousands of pounds for disadvantaged pupils, headteachers fear. They are worried that pupil premium funding – worth £1,300 per child – will not be allocated because it depends on parents registering their children as eligible for free school meals (FSM). From this term, all four- to seven-year-olds are entitled to free lunches regardless of their parents’ income, so a major reason for registration has been removed.
  • The DfE has published detailed guidance on 16-19 accountability measures. The new accountability measures apply to students starting two-year courses in September 2014, whose 2016 examination results will be reported in January 2017. The guidance is to be reviewed in 2015 after a trial run. Five headline measures will be published in the 16 to 18 performance tables in 2016:
    • Progress
    • Attainment
    • progress in English and maths
    • retention
    • destinations

There is much detail, including the important aspect that students completing AS courses will be counted as retained even if they do not progress to A- level.

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents-Latest Documents

  • The DfE has updated its list of what a school/academy must have on its website

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents-Latest Documents


  • Ofqual, the exams regulator, is changing the way it regulates vocational qualifications. Ofqual’s new approach to regulation will see higher expectations of awarding organisations and the quality of their qualifications. As part of the changes Chief Regulator, Glenys Stacey, has announced that the accreditation requirement for most qualifications will be removed from 3 November. Instead of accreditation, vocational qualifications in England and Northern Ireland will come under scrutiny at various stages. Risk-based quality checks will be made to make sure that qualifications are valid and good quality at the design, delivery and awarding stages. The move follows a recent public consultation. Changes to the regulation of vocational qualifications include qualification validity audits, which are already taking place, and the proposed removal of the Qualifications and Credit Framework rules. Glenys Stacey said: “Accreditation is a check at just a single point in time, generally before a qualification is delivered. It is easy to assume that an accreditation process provides a lifelong seal of approval for a qualification, but it does not. We know that developing a qualification is only the beginning and we want to be sure that it is of a high standard at every stage after that. “The changes we are making do not provide awarding bodies with a licence to put poor qualifications into the system. We’re adding additional risk-based checks to make sure that poor qualifications are identified and removed and action taken if necessary. Qualifications must comply with our General Conditions of Recognition and awarding bodies can expect to have their qualifications checked at any time. “The accreditation requirement for GCSE and A level qualifications will remain, but this doesn’t mean that we see them as more important. Because of the nature of the qualifications, GCSEs and A levels have detailed and specific criteria to which they must be checked againstwhich is why they will continue to be accredited.
  • Nurseries and other child carers must do more to help toddlers learn, Childcare and Education Minister Sam Gyimah has said, after statistics published show too few young children are ready for school. The statistics show that overall 60% of children aged 5 are making good progress against the early years foundation stage profile (EYFSP). However, the gap between those from the most disadvantaged areas and their peers has remained static at 12%.

The EYFSP statistics also show:

  • 53% of children in the most deprived areas achieved a good level of development compared with 65% of their peers
  • 66% of children achieved at least the expected level of development in literacy and 72% in mathematics
  • girls continue to outperform boys with 69% of girls achieving a good level of development compared with 52% of boys – particularly in writing
  • Data shows that for 16- and 17-year-olds in June 2014:
    • 1,033,732 were in education or training, a rise of more than 6,000 young people since the previous year
    • more than 9 out of every 10 of last year’s school leavers (16-year-olds) stayed on in education or training for a further year
    • the proportion of young people in education and training has increased in more than two-thirds of local authority areas compared to last year.
  • Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has approved 35 new free school applications, creating more than 22,000 additional school places for children across England.
  • The DfE has published its response to the consultation on the Draft programme of study for science for key stage 4:

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Subject related document – secondary national curriculum

  • Ofsted has issued an interesting document which is a clarification for schools/academies about what they do and do not expect from them during Ofsted inspections- it is well worth reading

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents


  • Hundreds of trainee teachers who failed to gain qualified status are working in classrooms, official figures reveal. Statistics published by the DfE show that more than 300 trainees who were unable to achieve QTS still managed to find work in schools, with nearly half employed in the primary sector.
  • Teaching dos and don’ts based on research, have been published by the Sutton Trust

Seven teaching don’ts:

  • Use praise lavishly.
  • Allow learners to discover key ideas for themselves.
  • Group learners by ability
  •  Encourage re-reading and highlighting to memorise key ideas.
  • Address low confidence and aspirations before teaching content.
  • Present information to learners in their preferred learning style.
    • Ensure learners are always active, rather than listening passively, if you want them to remember.

Six teaching dos:

  • Have deep subject knowledge.
  •  Ensure quality of instruction, such as good use of questioning.
  •  Insist on a demanding classroom climate/expectations.
  •  Have strong behaviour/classroom management.
  • Have firm beliefs about why teachers adopt certain practices.
  • Illustrate professional behaviours such as reflecting on and developing professional practice.

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents

  • The number of children who have admitted to attempting suicide increased by 43 per cent in a single year, according to figures. ChildLine has revealed that nearly 6,000 children had told counsellors during 2013/14 that they had attempted suicide. Online bullying is said to be a frequent cause according to a new report published by the charity
  • The government does not have proper oversight of the country’s schools, despite investing more than £380 million each year in taxpayers’ money, a damning report from the government spending watchdog has found. Officials have little understanding of what interventions work to improve schools, meaning the system of oversight is not achieving value for money, the report adds. The assessment was made in a National Audit Office (NAO) report, which claims that, despite an overall improvement in education, a “significant” number of children were still being taught in “failing” schools. The watchdog estimates that around 1.6 million children were being taught in schools not rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, but said despite the DfE being clear about what constitutes unacceptable performance, it had little idea of how it worked at school level. Despite having a “fit and proper persons” test for governors in new academy trusts, neither the DfE nor the Education Funding Agency had made checks on governors to prevent risks, such as individuals being put up to the job by organisations seeking to gain power and influence, the watchdog added. When it came to academies, the department did not know why some sponsors achieved improvements in schools and some did not.
  • Charities funded by the government are to be sent into schools to educate teachers and their students about the harmful effects of homophobic bullying.  Nicky Morgan is funding a £2 million programme that will see charities and voluntary groups run projects on the harm caused to lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender children by bullying.  Research published by NatCen Social Research to coincide with the launch of the anti-homophobia programme showed that schools were successful in stamping out bullying if they introduced “whole school” approaches to the issue, and properly trained school staff to deal with it.
  • More than half of cash-strapped families are being forced to cut back on food, clothing and heating to pay for school-related items, a major new report reveals.  According to research released today, one in four families have had to borrow money to pay for school equipment as parents shell out around £800 a year per child on school basics such as uniform, school meals, textbooks and field trips. The figures show that around two-thirds of UK families – the equivalent of more than three million – said they have struggled to meet the costs of school. The report, compiled by the Children’s Commission on Poverty, warns that some children in poor families are being bullied due to their parents not being able to afford certain items, and adds that many children are unable to make the most of their education.  It adds: “Too many children are missing out on the opportunity to make the very most of their education, because they struggle to afford the costs of school life.” The report is based on a major inquiry into the impact of poverty on school life. Around 52 per cent of parents admitted they had cut back on clothing, food or heating to meet a school-related cost, while 25 per cent said they had borrowed money. The commission concluded that overall, families are spending about £6.4 billion a year on school costs – £800 for every primary or secondary age child. “Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not right.”
  • All schools should operate in groups because there are not enough “outstanding” headteachers, according to England’s national schools commissioner. Frank Green, appointed by ministers to head their academies and free schools programme; he has also warned that free schools will struggle to survive in isolation.  “I don’t think any school should be an academy on its own”. “I think we should always put them into groups.” He said that no more than a third of academies were currently in formal multi-school groupings and a quarter of new free schools approved by ministers would operate without being part of multi-academy trusts. But Mr Green argued that staying outside of larger groupings would threaten their very existence. “I think as free schools develop, particularly if they are only small, they will find it difficult to survive on their own,” he said.  “We have got to put one outstanding headteacher in charge of every three schools, three schools at a time, and we will get outstanding education. Mr Green’s call comes after Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said last month that he wanted all schools to be forced by law to join a cluster or a federation in a bid to drive up standards.
  • Education secretary Nicky Morgan said she will do “everything I can” to reduce the workload of teachers, as she gave a speech in which she described the profession as “heroes”. Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Ms Morgan said she would be going out to schools across the country to try and understand how she might be able to alleviate the workload burden on teachers. Her speech was a clear attempt to continue the charm offensive toward teachers – signalling a move away from her predecessor Michael Gove’s more combative approach. She described the current crop of teachers as “world class”.

Nine out of 10 teachers have considered quitting the profession due to workload in the last two years, according to an NUT survey.

  • Nicky Morgan has launched the “Workload Challenge”. Before the end of November, the DfE wants you to tell it what the problems are and what could be done to solve them. Once you have shared your views and experiences, the DfE will take action.  The DfE says
    • Send us your solutions and strategies for tackling workload – we want to hear about the good practice already in schools.
    • Tell us about the unnecessary tasks that take you away from teaching, and where these come from.
    • Let us know what you think should be done to tackle unnecessary workload – by government, by schools, or by others.

To take part in the Workload Challenge, fill in the survey, (, or email

Many teachers and others are responding


ASCL has produced 10 suggestions for reducing workload

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents


  • More than a quarter of schools are planning to increase the amount of time spent teaching maths next year, according to a survey. Ahead of the introduction of a new maths GCSE next September, half of schools say they are introducing training programmes for staff, while more than a third are aiming to recruit more maths teachers.
  • Hundreds of secondaries could have dropped down the league tables after the government initially decided that AQA and WJEC IGCSEs in English Literature would not count fully for 2015 performance tables. This decision has now been reversed.

If students took combined English GCSE and also English literature GCSE, the DfE has decided that, because there is overlapping content, they discount each other and first entry rules therefore apply. In May and June 2014 the English Literature exam was before the combined English exam so any students who took both exams will have only their literature result counted in the tables. This is currently being challenged

In 2015 and 2016 GCSE statistics will now be counted in an ‘open’ slot of Progress 8, regardless of whether or not a pupil has also taken an Ebacc mathematics qualification. The DfE will review this position for the 2017 performance tables in light of decisions made on the extent of overlap of GCSE statistics with the new GCSE in mathematics, to ensure that the measure continues to promote breadth of study.

  • Schools, nurseries and childminders will receive extra funding to help disadvantaged infants catch up with their peers, the government announced today. Three and four-year-olds from low-income families will attract an additional £300 in funding to help close the attainment gap by the time the start school.  Trials of the early years pupil premium (EYPP) will start in seven areas in January 2015 and the funding will be introduced nationwide from April 2015.
  • The DfE has issued national figures showing that the proportion of candidates gaining five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths (5ACEM) for all schools has fallen by 6.6 percentage points, from 59.2 to 52.6 %.  This figure is national average for all schools at first entry and with the new rules on only 2 vocationals counting. It would be 56.0 if they took best entry and ignored the vocational rule. It would be 54.3 if they took best entry but followed the new vocational subject rules.
    The state schools only figure is higher because many private schools took the type of IGCSE that doesn’t count in performance tables. The state schools figure at first entry is 55.9. The figure for best entry but taking account of the new vocational subjects rule is 57.7. Many private schools are furious that they seem to do badly in performance tables because their IGCEs don’t count, ( the proportion of private school pupils achieving the main five A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths, nearly halved from 54.4 per cent in 2013 to 28.4 per cent this summer).

Provisional GCSE results for state-funded schools in the academic year 2013 to 2014 show 38.7% of pupils entering EBacc subjects like science, history or geography while 23.9% achieved the EBacc measure – a rise of 3.2 percentage points and 1.1 percentage points respectively.

On the above website, Documents, latest Documents, are provisional Nat statistics for;

GCSE and equivalents

KS2-KS4 transition matrices

A-level and level 3

KS2 tests

EYFS profile


  • The childcare minister, he called for more primary schools to offer nursery education.  Currently, just under half (44 per cent) of primary and infant schools in England have nursery classes, but only a few hundred take funded two-year-olds – those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Schools will be given extra freedom to enrol children aged just two under new legislation designed to drive up standards of early education. A law passing through Parliament scraps bureaucratic hurdles that prevent schools automatically opening their doors to the youngest pupils. The proposals mean head teachers can effectively register two-year-olds as pupils – in the same way as normal school-age children – rather than classifying them as part of separate early years provision. The existing cut-off is the age of three. Ministers insist it will cut red tape and make it easier for schools to admit the youngest pupils into nursery classes.

  • The number of students who had GCSE and A-level grades changed after appeal has soared by nearly 20 per cent in a year, according to Ofqual.  Figures released by the exams watchdog reveal a 48 per cent increase in exam scripts being returned for re-marking this year compared with 2013. In total, 304,500 GCSE papers were returned by schools to be re-marked, up 56 per cent on last year, and 145,150 A-level scripts were sent back, up by 34 per cent. Challenges by schools led to a 19.1 per cent increase in grades being changed this year, and headteachers said the figures showed there was a growing lack of confidence in the exam system.
  • Too few schools are spending extra cash made available for sport on boosting the health and well-being of obese and overweight pupils, Ofsted has said. In a report, the watchdog says that the primary PE and sport premium is being used to good effect on the whole, but that more needs to be done to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents

  • Ofsted is struggling for credibility among parents and councils because of its erratic judgment and needs to be overhauled, according to the Local Government Association in a criticism of the schools and children’s services inspectorate. The LGA said it was “calling for an independent review of the schools watchdog’s operations, to understand what has gone wrong and to re-establish the credibility of an organisation which seems to have become media-driven, rather than focused on the experiences and outcomes of children and young people”.
  • The DfE has shelved plans for a code of practice for some religious schools which operate outside of mainstream education. It was recommended by the government’s Extremism Task Force to ensure children were not exposed to intolerant views. Home Secretary Theresa May suggested the code should be mandatory following the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham. But the government now says more can be done within existing regulations.
  • The shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, has said there is a case for Ofsted to be allowed to inspect religious education in faith schools, saying schools may be exacerbating religious and ethnic segregation in English cities. Hunt confirmed Labour will end the free schools programme, saying much of it is “used by an ever smaller number of narrower schools not actually delivering broad curriculum”. Labour would continue to allow good and outstanding schools to convert to academy status. However, he made it clear that a Labour government would be unlikely to give subsidies to schools seeking to convert – as has happened with the Coalition Government.
  • The number of schools in England that are converting seems to be slowing, with new academy conversions in the secondary sector dropping dramatically. The total number of new academies in the year to 1 October was 889, a fall of 11% compared with the same period in 2012‑13. In the secondary sector, only 125 schools became academies over the period, compared with 215 in 2012-13, 436 in 2011‑12 and 707 in 2010-11. In the primary sector, the number becoming academies in 2013-14 was virtually unchanged from the previous year, at 708 – 4% of the total number of primaries. With 56% of secondaries now academies, and only 13% of primaries, at the current rate it would take at least until 2020 for all secondary schools to become academies – said to be the government’s aim.
  • Ofsted has announced that it is launching an independent investigation into allegations that schools overseen by Dame Rachel de Souza had advance knowledge of inspection dates. Three days after the schools inspectorate had said it would not reopen an inquiry into the allegations, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said that fresh email evidence discovered by Ofsted had forced his hand. In a statement, Wilshaw said the emails had been unavailable to Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted’s director of quality and training, when he examined these claims previously concerning three schools.
  • School leaders should rein in huge salaries to ensure more public money is spent on “frontline education”, according to Nicky Morgan. The Education Secretary said the heads of academy chains – groups of independent state schools – needed to “think very carefully” about levels of pay. She admitted there were “some very big numbers” being handed out to school leaders and governors needed to ensure they were fully accountable for the use of public money. The comments follow the publication of figures last week showing that more than 40 head teachers are now earning more than the Prime Minister’s £142,500 annual salary. It was up from 31 the year before.
  • It is alleged that more than £1m of taxpayers’ money has been spent on proposals for free schools that never opened, with £50m being spent on free schools either declared inadequate by Ofsted, or requiring improvement;  £1.043m was spent on applications that were cancelled or withdrawn.
  • Britain’s schools need more support to cope with an “influx” of immigrant children, Osted’s chief schools inspector has said. Sir Michael Wilshaw said it was a “big issue” for Government if schools are being faced with a large number of new pupils from other countries without the resources to deal with them.
  • A campaign that aims to tackle the “dangerously” low literacy levels in the UK has today received backing from all three political parties who have pledged to tackle the issue head on. The Read on, Get on campaign, launched in September by a coalition of charities, educational organisations and publishers, aims to ensure that all 11-year-olds can read well by 2025. The National Literacy Forum, one of the campaign’s partners, has published its Vision for Literacy , highlighting the steps needed to ensure that all children born this year will have the literacy skills they need by the time they finish secondary school. The charity will make recommendations regarding early years policy, support for teachers, reading outside the classroom and the role of business.

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents

  • More than 250 teachers have been banned from the classroom in the last four years following a government crackdown on abuse, cheating and incompetence, new figures show. The number of teachers given permanent bans since the Coalition came to power is more than double that seen in the previous decade under the last government. More teachers have also been subjected to temporary banning orders before a full hearing of the profession’s new regulatory body, with numbers soaring five-fold in the last 12 months alone. In recent months, teachers have been barred for offences including swearing at children, punching pupils, falsifying school exam results, fabricating their own professional qualifications and encouraging students to copy each other’s work.
  • The DfE has issued its response to its consultation on proposed changes to the Schools Admissions Code

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents

  • The DfE is consulting on the practical use and implementation of statutory teacher assessment performance descriptors at the end of key stages 1 and 2 for the academic year 2015/2016. Final performance descriptors will be published in the autumn term 2015. This is essentially a consultation over what should replace NC levels in the primary phase

A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents

  • The DfE has published details of the qualifications that count towards the TechBacc measure and the funding that will be available from 2016 to 2017.
    • A copy of the document can be found on the above website, Documents, Latest Documents

Latest Published Documents

The following documents can be found on the above website, Documents-Latest Documents

  • DfE guide, School Attendance
  • DfE guide Keeping children safe in school
  • DFE guide Handling Strike Action
  • Education Services grant- guide for 2014-2015
  • DfE guide, Universal Infant FSM
  • Guide to Governors as charity trustees
  • National Curriculum Framework, as revised Oct 2014
  • Ofsted early years inspections
  • DfE guide Preventing bullying
  • DfE guide  School support for bullied children
  • DfE guide  Charging for school activities

Tony Stephens

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