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Academy and School News Update April 1-30 2014

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  • ‘London’s Biggest Breakfast’ has been established aiming to raise awareness and funds to support more breakfast clubs in the capital’s primary schools, ensuring that children from deprived areas start the day with a free, healthy breakfast and are ready to learn. Their survey also found that 97 per cent of the heads saw evidence of children starting their day without breakfast and more than nine in ten said they provided children with food in the morning because “they see evidence of hunger”. Half said that said children were ill during the school day because they were hungry and “85 per cent believe that there is a food security issue with their pupils i.e. families are living in hunger or fear of starvation”, the poll found. The NASUWT union has also released the results of a survey of nearly 4,000 teachers which found that more than a quarter had to bring food to school to help hungry pupils and more than one in five had had to lend or give money to students hit by poverty.

Pupils in state schools are having to ditch arts subjects at GCSE because they can no longer afford the cost of studying for them, a second report on the impact of poverty in the classroom has said. The study of 400 young people says more than one in four pupils on free school meals (27 per cent) have had to ditch subjects like art, music, photography and textiles because of the cost of equipment. Amongst other children from low income families, one in seven said they were choosing their study options on the basis of cost. Children from poorer families were also less likely to be able to afford to go to after-school activities or clubs, largely as a result of transport cost, with 57 per cent of children from low income families were missing out on school trips. Even 28 per cent of those from better-off homes said they had missed at least one school trip a term because of the cost. In addition, one in three children entitled to free school meals (35 per cent) said their families could not afford the full set of the school uniform, and one in five (21 per cent) reported not having the full set of books necessary for their studies.

  • From the NASUWT conference
  • Teachers are being forced to share toilet facilities with pupils in growing numbers of schools. The NASUWT said the situation in new school buildings was compromising the dignity of staff and pupils, and leaving teachers vulnerable to accusations of inappropriate behaviour.
  • Classroom teachers could miss out on deserved salary increases because their heads are about to make a “dash for cash”, a union fears. The NASUWT is concerned that new freedoms over heads’ pay due from September will see school governors rubber stamping large wage rises. It says pay in cash-strapped schools has become a zero sum game and that its members could strike in schools where teachers lose out financially at the expense of their leaders. The union also wants the government to force schools to publish their heads’ salaries every year, to open up what it says is a ‘secret garden’.
  • Parents and pupils are using social media to publicly insult and abuse teachers, leaving them traumatised and risking their health, a union said today. A  NASUWT survey of 7,500 teachers found that 21 per cent had had negative comments posted about them on the internet. The survey found that 64 per cent of the teachers abused on social media had had comments posted by pupils, 27 per cent by parents, and 9 per cent by students and parents. More than a quarter of the teachers who reported comments on the internet said that videos or photos taken without their consent had also been posted. When social media abuse was reported to the police no action was taken against the pupils or parents in more than three quarters of cases, the survey found. The Union says: “Schools need policies which prevent abuse and identify sanctions which will be taken against parents and pupils who abuse staff in this way. Schools should also be supporting staff in securing the removal of the offensive material from social media sites and encouraging the staff concerned to go to the police.”
  • The Union said that teachers were being “swamped” with work related emails from senior staff outside school hours. Nearly half of teachers in the survey said there was an expectation that they would respond even though they were not supposed to be working. One teacher said they were expected to write pupil reports while off sick. Another said they had had “bullying emails” after 11pm, asking for work the next day. There was also a report of a school encouraging parents and pupils to email teachers with any concerns and another where teachers where expected to communicate online with pupils in the evening. The Union said such practices represented “home invasion on a grand and unacceptable scale”.
  • The NASUWT has left open the option of another joint national strike with the NUT this summer .Delegates voted unanimously to threaten to escalate its dispute with the Coalition to strikes at school, local, regional and national level, “as appropriate”.
  • Supply teacher agencies are denying teachers their “basic legal rights” by using offshore companies to avoid paying tax and national insurance, a union warned today. The NASUWT has surveyed more than 1,400 supply teachers and found that two-thirds had been asked by an agency to sign a “contract or agreement with an umbrella or offshore organisation”. The NASUWT said supply teachers are also underpaid, with 56 per cent of respondents to the poll saying they were “not paid at a level commensurate with their experience level”. The union also denounced some unnamed companies and agencies for using zero-hour contracts “which impact detrimentally on the lives of supply teachers and their families”.
  • Teachers say that CCTV cameras originally introduced into schools as a safety measure are now being used to spy on them. The NASUWT has conducted a survey of around 7,500 teachers and found that nearly one in ten (8 per cent) have CCTV installed in their classrooms. Of those teachers, 89 per cent say they cannot switch the cameras off, 55 per cent said that recordings were monitored by school management, and 41 per cent said that CCTV had been used to form judgements of staff performance. The union is warning that it could take industrial action in schools where it believes that cameras are being misused by school management.
  • More than half of teachers responding to a union survey say that there are unqualified staff teaching in their schools, it is revealed today, as opposition to the deregulation of the profession was stepped up. Both of the biggest classroom unions are using their Easter conferences to attack new freedoms for state-funded schools to employ teachers without qualified teacher status (QTS) – a policy also condemned by Labour.
  • Teachers are being unfairly denied pay rises because they fail to volunteer to run lunchtime clubs, drive the minibus or help with digging the school garden, the Union claims Headteachers have been given greater power by Michael Gove to decide who receives pay increases and why. But some schools are “making it up as they go along”. Staff meeting agreed teaching targets are being presented with new objectives linked to the extent to which they make a “wider contribution to school life”. Cases being dealt with by her union include one teacher who was told she would not be moved up the pay scale because she had failed to volunteer to organise and run a school club, and another whose absence was noted when the staff and parents formed a painting team to redecorate a classroom. “Teachers are being told, ‘Yes, you have met your teaching and learning objective but we don’t think you have made a wider contribution to the school.’ But teachers are not told in advance what that wider contribution needs to be,”.”We have people penalised for not volunteering to run clubs, maintain the school garden and drive the minibus when the person that normally does it was off sick.”
  • From the NUT conference
  • The NUT conference has backed plans for a national strike in the w/c June 23, unless government talks lead to a breakthrough in the union’s protracted dispute over pay, working conditions and pensions.. A stronger proposal committing the union to two further strikes of at least two days in the autumn term was rejected
  • The NUT could consider a boycott of new baseline tests for four-year-olds in order to defend a play-based early years curriculum, a motion saying that it should “investigate the possibility of a mass campaign of principled non-compliance with any policies which erode children’s right to play in the early years”. The main focus of the union’s ire is the introduction of a new test for children in their first term of primary school, against which their academic progress can be assessed. It is due to be introduced in 2016.
  • The You-Gov study, commissioned by the Union found that 50 per cent of parents believe that the government’s impact on education has been negative.
  • NUT members have hit out at “jingoistic, xenophobic and nationalistic interpretations” of the First World War that they say are being promoted in the centenary year of the conflict.
  • Growing numbers of schools are introducing Section 28-style bans on promoting homosexuality in the classroom, delegates told conference – at least 46 schools – including a number of academies – had words similar to the previous legislation in their school policies.
  • Older women teachers are being singled out for the sack while they go through the menopause, teachers’ leaders declared on Sunday. Delegates heard there was “an increasing trend” towards targeting teachers over 50 for dismissal – either on grounds of a lack of competence or through redundancies.
  • From the ATL conference
    • Mary Bousted, general secretary, used her speech to launch an outspoken attack on Ofsted, which she claimed was “designed to inspire fear and loathing” in schools. She said that that Ofsted was a “laughing stock” among teachers, and “so damaged, so tarnished that it has to be radically and completely transformed”. “The problems of the quality control of its inspection teams will not go away, and that is a cancer eating at the heart of what should be a robust inspection system.” “The inconsistencies and incoherencies within Ofsted are now too big to be ignored,” she added  Ofsted can no longer claim that its inspection reports are worth the paper they are written on … We know that, frankly, it’s a lottery which depends on which Ofsted inspection team turns up – one that has a clue, or one that is clueless.”
    • Dr Bousted also claimed that, due to the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers, the union was “hearing stories of banks refusing mortgages to teachers because their future pay is so uncertain” or at least many were reluctant to agree to a long-term financial commitment “because they have no idea what they are going to be paid”.
    • Members voted for a motion calling for training materials and policies on applying neuroscience to education and for further research on how technology can be used to develop better teaching.
    • An ATL survey found that the majority of its members think children should start school later than they do under the current system. Of those surveyed, 71 per cent said children should start school at five years or older, while less than a quarter (24 per cent) thought that the current school starting age of four was appropriate.
    • Concerns were raised about the numbers of schools asking parents to pay for textbooks and stationery in order to make ends meet. Research carried out by the union found that a quarter (26 per cent) of its members in state schools and colleges who were surveyed said their employer had asked for voluntary contributions towards text or revision books More than one in 10 (13 per cent) said parents had been asked for money towards the cost of school stationery such as pens and paper, with 90 per cent requiring contributions towards curriculum-related school trips.
    • According to technology experts and academics, computer tablets can revolutionise education and help engage disaffected students. Research published last year found that devices such as iPads could help students become more creative and independent learners. But teachers have warned that the mobile devices can do more harm than good. The ATL conference heard that tablet “addiction” can actually lead to “poor performance” in the classroom, which can result in learners “losing educational opportunities” as a result.
    • Too many teachers are missing out on lunchtime breaks as schools scrap staffrooms and increase teacher workloads Many teachers are denied a break away from pupils, either because there is no staffroom available or because they are “required to do more in the same amount of time”
    • Heads who take on jobs running tough disadvantaged schools risk “committing career suicide“. Ofsted was wielding a “Sword of Damocles” over “any senior leaders foolish enough to think that they will be sufficient to undertake the tricky work of turning round schools with seriously entrenched problems,”

 

 

  • Labour has pledged a “swift reversal” of the government’s decision to stop AS marks counting towards final A-level grades. Tristram Hunt, shadow education secretary said that Labour would not continue with the controversial policy of “decoupling” AS and A-level qualifications “When we assume office in May 2015, there will be a swift reversal of this policy and I am giving teachers and school leaders clear indication of that today,” he said. But an exam board head said that the reversal would take years to achieve. By the time the next general election is held schools and exam boards will already be on their final preparations for the major reforms needed to remove AS-levels from the A-level, turning it into a linear qualification. The first new 13 A-levels are due to be introduced for first teaching in the classroom in September 2015 – just four months after the next general election.

Meanwhile, teenagers could find it harder to get into university after it emerged that AS-level exams would be downgraded as part of the higher education admissions process. A new points system drawn up by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) proposes cutting the value of the AS exam sat in the first 12 months of the sixth-form. At the moment, the qualification is worth exactly half a full A-level. But from 2017, it is proposed that the value of the AS will be cut to 40 per cent as part of a shake-up of the university entrance system.

  • A teacher awarded £110,000 after falling into a pothole in her school’s driveway was among hundreds of school staff who received record payouts of more than £26 million last year. The money was handed to hundreds of teachers as the result of compensation claims for injuries and attacks, as well as in compromise agreements and employment tribunals.  The cases included claims for unlawful deduction of wages, unfair dismissal, breach of contract and discrimination on the grounds of sex, disability and age.
  • Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws has called for greater consensus between teachers and politicians, and warned of a “deep divide” between his party and the Conservatives over the issue of unqualified teachers. Mr Laws has also announced the creation of a teachers’ reference group at the DfE, which will meet termly with him to “improve engagement on issues of key interest.
  • The number of unqualified teachers in England’s schools has jumped by 16 per cent in the last year. There were more than 17,000 unqualified teachers in all state schools in November 2013 – up from just under 15,000 in 2012 – while the number of unqualified teachers in academies and free schools had increased by nearly 50 per cent over the same period. The figures come from the Department for Education’s School Workforce Survey published today, which also showed 900 headteachers were earning more than £100,000 a year, a rise of more than a quarter in two years. The data also shows a rise in the number of teachers in England’s schools with more than 9,000 joining the profession in the last year.
  • A decision to stop practical science work from counting towards overall A level grades has triggered a wave of opposition from leading scientists, universities and teachers. Ofqual, the exams regulator, has announced that it is going ahead with the plan – which will see a separate pass/fail grade for practical skills – despite agreement from less than a fifth of those responding to its consultation. Opponents to the plan say that it risks downgrading practical skills. But Ofqual argues it will also put in place measures that will actually improve the quality of practical science work in schools. The new A-level exams will contain questions designed to test pupils’ knowledge and understanding of practical work. Schools will also be subject to visits from exam boards to check that laboratory experiments take place. Ofqual chief regulator, Glenys Stacey, said that practical skills were “absolutely integral to science”. “Those who don’t do enough practical work at the moment should have a much greater incentive than they have now to teach science experimentation,” she said. “Our arrangements are designed so that if schools do not do sufficient and sufficient varied experiments… then their results will suffer.” She added that Ofqual was “very attracted” to using the same approach for GCSE sciences.

New GCSEs and A-levels

  • The government’s already ambitious exam reform programme is gathering pace and being extended to more subjects including the arts, technology and PE, it has been announced. Michael Gove outlined plans for nine new GCSEs and six new A-levels, all with “more demanding content” and all to be introduced in 2016, alongside previously announced changes in several other subjects.

New tougher GCSEs, with grades set at 9-1 instead of A*-G, will be introduced in art and design, music, drama, dance, citizenship, computer science, design and technology, PE and religious studies. The DfE has already said that reformed GCSEs in languages, history, sciences and geography will come in from 2016 and their finalised content has been announced, (see below). Content for overhauled English literature and English language and maths qualifications that will reach schools a year earlier from 2015 was published in November, (accessible from the website below, subject related documents). Ofqual has launched a consultation on the structure and assessment of new modern foreign language GCSEs . The regulator intends to adopt a uniform format with reading, writing, speaking and listening components each accounting for a quarter of marks.

Tiering was a practice that Michael Gove said he wanted to end when he first set the current GCSE reforms in train, arguing that it represented a “cap on aspiration”. But despite Ofqual’s commitment to introduce untiered GCSEs wherever possible, more than half of the subjects where new structures have been finalised will be tiered.

Reformed A-levels in music, drama, dance, design and technology, PE, and religious studies will be introduced in 2016, it has also been announced. They will come in alongside reformed A-levels in maths, further maths, languages and geography.

The DfE said that content for GCSEs and A-levels as announced would be developed by exam boards, advised by “subject experts” such as Dyson, the Arts Council England, the Design and Technology Association, the Incorporated Society of Musicians, the British Computer Society and the Religious Education Council. A-level content will also be based on the advice of university academics.

An earlier raft of reformed A-levels in art and design, business, computer science, economics, English literature, English language, English language and literature, history, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology and sociology will be taught from September 2015. Content for these subjects has now been announced, (see below)

The final 2017 reforms are likely to include subjects like media studies and law.

The newly announced content of GCSEs and A-levels can be found on http://tonystephens.org.uk, Subject related documents

Schools thus face five continuous years of exam reform. Teaching unions argue the pressure will still be too great. The timetable also means that schools will have to cope with using different GCSE grading systems – A*-G and 9-1 – for four years, between 2015-18.

One of England’s main exam boards has called for official talks with PISA on how to set new GCSEs to international standards. Ensuring that the reformed exams will have “an increase in demand, to reflect that of high-performing jurisdictions” is a government requirement for the revised GCSEs being introduced next year. But Ofqual which is responsible for setting the standard on the reformed GCSEs, has already admitted that: There is no international standard that we can benchmark to.

Despite confessing its inability to make a direct comparison with top performers, Ofqual has still said that the standard for its proposed grade 5 will be “internationally benchmarked”. Indeed, it has gone as far as suggesting this standard will be “about a half to two-thirds higher than that required for a current grade C”.

The current seven-point A*-G grading system will be replaced with a new nine-point scale, with nine as the top grade and one the lowest. Crucially, the new grades won’t simply map directly onto the old ones, and Ofqual is consulting on just how the boundaries will fall.

  • A key goal is to provide more differentiation, particularly among the highest achievers, and among the many students who “bunch” in the middle grades.
  • The reform is also intended by ministers to toughen the marking system by raising the standard of the benchmark midpoint grade. The boundary for the new grade five will be set at about half to two thirds of a GCSE grade higher than the current requirement for a grade C. The aim is to bring England’s exam benchmark up to the level of students in in the world’s leading economies such as China, as measured in the international Pisa education survey.
  • The bottom of a new grade four will correspond to the bottom of a current grade C. This means that broadly the same proportion of candidates will achieve a grade four or above as currently achieve a grade C or above. However, under the changes those candidates will be spread among six different grades (four up to nine), and not four (C up to A*) as at present, helping to distinguish between middle and top performers and giving pupils heading for grade C a higher goal to aim for.
  • Ofqual is considering several options at the top end of the grade scale. It suggests the new grade seven boundary could be equivalent to the current grade A baseline, providing three top grade bands instead of two. Instead or in addition, grade nine could become a supergrade to mark exceptional performance by confining it to only the top half of those students who currently achieve the highest grade of A*. Both proposals are up for consultation.
  • At the bottom end, Ofqual proposes that the proportion of students who achieve a grade one in the new GCSEs will be about the same as those who currently achieve either a grade F or G. Very few candidates gain a G grade currently, but examiners want to recognise that it represents real progress for some students.
  • The changes will be introduced for students starting year 10 in September 2015 and taking exams in summer 2017. New GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths will be introduced first and marked under the new system, with more subjects following in September 2016.
  • A new national reference test will also be introduced to provide extra information about a year group’s performance and to ensure that any changes year on year are reflected in the grades awarded. This test will cover English and maths, and be applied to a representative sample of year 11s across the country shortly before they take their GCSEs. If, overall, students’ performance in the reference test is better than in previous years, then the proportion of students in the national cohort achieving higher grades in that year may be increased accordingly. Such evidence is not currently used when GCSE awards are made by exam boards.
  • The first cohort of students will be graded on a one-off basis to match the proportions of each grade the previous year, to compensate for expected lower overall performance in the introductory year of new exams.
  • The DfE has published the new assessment and reporting arrangements for KS1, accessible from http://tonystephens.org.uk, Latest Documents
  • An academy has been swindled out of more than £1m after it fell for an online scam. St Aldhelm’s Academy in Poole, Dorset, was conned out of £1.1m when staff were duped by an email fraud last year.

Police have arrested three people in connection to an alleged fraud at the Glendene Arts Academy in Durham, it has emerged.

The Greenwich Free School “requires improvement” according to an Ofsted report which condemns its teaching, pupil achievement and leadership for being below the required standard. The news could be particularly awkward for Mr Gove as the flagship school was co-founded by his senior policy adviser, Tim Shinner, and Jonathan Simons, head of education Policy Exchange, a think-tank the education secretary helped set up.

Four free schools have been rated “inadequate” by the inspectorate, of the 41 that have had judgments published as of the end of last week. This is 9.7% Another free school, not included in these figures, visited by Ofsted in February, has also been placed in special measures

  • Teach First has received funding from the DfE to place 50 graduates in the early years sector, with children in low income communities, thus tripling the number of places on offer.
  • According to data released by the DfE today, there are now 1,983 primary academies nationwide, 570 of which are forced conversions by government officials. The rise in primary academies means more than 500,000 pupils are now taught in such schools, with 30,000 teachers working in them. In total, the number of academies has surpassed 4,000, including free schools, studio school and University Technical Colleges, with 12 per cent of primaries now academies and 58 per cent of secondaries.
  • Early years education for children as young as two should be provided by schools to prevent youngsters from deprived backgrounds falling behind, Ofsted has claimed. Ofsted’s first annual report on early years provision claims that thousands of youngsters are being “let down” by the poor quality of education they receive from nurseries and childminders, resulting in many having inadequate counting and language skills. Just a third of children from low-income homes have achieved a “good” level of development by the age of five, the report argues. In order to combat this, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured) has called for more school-based provision to teach two-year-olds the basics of literacy and numeracy. The report highlights a significant gulf in attainment between children from disadvantaged families and their more affluent peers. This divide grows as they progress through the first years of schooling, it says.
  • All new converter academies will be banned from teaching creationism and be obliged to give lessons about evolution, according to a new government document. The schools will also have to promote principles that support “fundamental British values”, including respect for democracy and equality, a move understood to be aimed at countering extremism. The changes, contained within a new “model funding agreement” for academies and free schools, will counteract criticisms from secularist campaigners who complained that legal loopholes left children vulnerable to religious and political indoctrination in school. The move will bring new academies into line with free schools which have already been explicitly banned from teaching creationism for the past two years.
  • The introduction of the School Direct teacher training scheme has created “instability and turbulence” in the system that needs to resolved, according to Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership. Under the new system, more responsibility has been given to schools rather than universities to recruit new teachers and organise their training. The training is often done in partnership with universities, but the lack of certainty over how many trainees they will be working with from year-to-year has caused serious concerns in higher education. Last year, both the University of Bath and the Open University announced they would close their PGCE programmes in summer 2014, with School Direct cited as a factor.
  • Campaigning chef Jamie Oliver has demanded a crackdown on the “crazy” policy of fast food premises opening near schools, as part of a renewed drive to tackle childhood obesity.
  • More pupils are attending fee-paying schools now than at the start of the economic downturn in 2008, according to the latest census in independent schools. There are 511,928 pupils at 1,257 schools belonging to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), compared with 508,601 pupils at 1,223 schools in 2013 and exceeding the pre-crash numbers for the first time.
  • DfE officials are concerned that a regulatory black hole involving free schools and academies means the government lacks powers to intervene in their running, and have advised ministers that further legislation may be required to fill the gap. In a leaked briefing paper on improving the management of free schools and academies, ministers are advised that plans to devolve oversight to new regional schools commissioners (RSCs) will expose how little sway the department has over existing free schools and academy schools in England. Michael Gove, argues that free schools and academies benefit from freedom of oversight from local authorities. But the document suggests that Gove’s department fears that the pendulum has swung too far and that more regulation is needed. DfE officials warn that the “political ramifications of any more free schools being judged inadequate are very high and speedy intervention is essential”.

The briefing paper also reveals that ministers will keep a grip on politically sensitive issues surrounding free schools, even after the setting up of RSCs, which are supposed to lift the bureaucratic burden off the DfE. Specifically, ministers will retain direct control over what the document calls “extremism” in free schools, as well as decisions over which schools open and close, and major capital spending such as the purchase of sites.

  • The new regional schools commissioners (RSCs) start work from September. RSCs will approve or reject DfE intervention plans in “underperforming” academies, recruit academy sponsors and “pause” the expansion of those not felt to be doing well. They will also consider academy requests to change their admissions arrangements. They will also be “advocates for the academies programme” as a whole. Their powers relate specifically to existing academies and free schools, though any struggling school is likely to feel RSCs’ influence in cases where academy status is forced on governing bodies. Among the RSCs’ tasks will be to “build relationships with key players in their region – Ofsted directors, sponsors, dioceses, local authorities, teaching schools and alliances”.

If a school decides not to accept DfE moves for it to become a sponsored academy, the next step is for the DfE to decide whether to use formal intervention powers to force a decision. Then whatever happens, the process just reverts back to the DfE, to communicate its choice of sponsor with the school.

The new Commissioners are;

National Schools Commissioner – Frank Green, (ceo of Leigh Academies Trust)

NE London and East of England   – Tim Coulson, (Director of Education at Essex CC

South West- Sir David Carter, (ceo Cabot Learning Federation Academy Group)

West Midlands – Pank Patel, (Head of Wood Green Academy)

Lancashire and West Yorkshire – Paul Smith, (Exec Head of Parbold Douglas C of E Academy)

North West London and South Central Region   – Martin Post, (Head of Watford Grammar School for Boys)

East Midlands and Humber – still to be appointed

North – still to be appointed

  • Inspectors working for one of England’s three privately run school-inspection firms have been warned that if Ofsted finds any problems with the quality of their reports and therefore orders a re-inspection, they may end up paying for it out of their own pockets. “Where the performance of an inspector is such that Tribal becomes liable to pay any sum of money to Ofsted, Tribal reserves the right to recover such amount from the inspector together with any costs,” the letter says. It also seems that Ofsted has a three-grade scale for judging the quality of reports on schools.
  • The academy chain Oasis has used some of its 41 schools as a base to set up its own network of churches, some of which operate rent-free on their premises, following a Freedom of Information disclosure.
  • Almost 15,000 adopted children, many of them teenagers, will miss out on a £1,900 “pupil premium” for publicly funded schools in England, to provide extra help for them, according to the support group Adoption UK. The payments will only be for those adopted after 2005 but the organisation wants the scheme to be extended to all such children up to the age of 16. It argues most had been adopted after suffering abuse and neglect.
  • Schools in Bolton will be encouraged to fly the union flag and sing the national anthem in assemblies to foster patriotism in the young after the council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the idea.

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  • Exam chiefs should review the GCSE and A-level timetables to avoid clashes with Ramadan that could jeopardise Muslim students’ grades, teachers have warned.
  • England’s first national offer day for primary school places was marked by a decline in the number of parents receiving their first choice in some parts of the country, as councils race to open new classrooms to accommodate swelling school rolls. More than 600,000 children were chasing reception class spots in thousands of state primaries across the country – with some cities and boroughs under greater pressure from population flux and the highest birth rate since the postwar baby boom of the 1950s. However, the situation varied from region to region, with no clear picture nationwide

The children‘s commissioner has warned that the effective age to begin compulsory education is in danger of becoming two rather than four as parents try to gain advantage in winning places in coveted primary schools by putting their infants in the school’s nursery provision. In a separate poll of parents, almost half said they had used nurseries strategically to improve chances of getting a place at a particular school.

  • Cuts to mental health and other services for young people mean teachers are increasingly having to fill the gap, even though schools do not always have the resources or training to provide the extra support pupils with mental or emotional issues may need. Child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) have been particularly hard hit.
  • Parents are coming under increasing financial pressure as schools offer students increasingly expensive trips and visits, which students want them to pay for so that they do not miss out
  • Twenty-five schools in Birmingham are now under investigation by the City Council, Ofsted and the DfE following 200 complaints received by the council in relation to allegations of Islamist “takeovers”,
  • More than 20% of parents say they have been fined for taking their children on unauthorised holidays during the school term, while a majority of parents have lied to avoid getting into trouble, a national survey has found.
    • Reforms to GCSE discount codes mean that GCSEs in dance and drama will no longer be grouped as one qualification in school league tables
  • More than 2,700 schools – about one in three assessed so far – will have to improve their kitchen facilities if they are to provide free meals for infant schoolchildren, figures revealed.
  • Schools desperate to encourage pupils to stay on for the sixth form are binning brochures sent by post-16 colleges, arranging school outings to coincide with open days at rival institutions and offering incomplete careers advice, according to members of the Association of Colleges.
  •  Almost two out of three children would either be relieved or “not bothered” if the competitive element were taken out of school sport. A study of 1,000 eight- to 16-year-olds and a similar number of parents reveals that mothers and fathers are often more anxious about the result of school games than their children are.
    • Talking is just an important a skill to learn as reading and writing to combat the image of the “grunting, monosyllabic teenager It is the key that could unlock the door to helping young people find their way in the world and to employment, it is argued. Talk is “an undervalued area of literacy” which wrongly received less time in the curriculum than reading and writing.
  • One in 10 teenagers bullied at school have attempted to commit suicide, according to research published today. In addition, a further 30 per cent go on to self-harm. The study, by the anti-bullying pressure group, Ditch The Label, shows that 45 per cent of 13- to 18-year-olds have experienced bullying by the age of 18, with the majority saying the primary reason was their physical appearance.
  • Unruly behaviour in schools is far worse than inspectors and official government reports indicate, according to a major study of classroom disruption out today. Even teachers in the most popular, oversubscribed state schools have to work hard to avoid their classrooms getting out of control, it adds. Hardly any schools are free of disruptive behaviour. The report coincides with a new survey by unions which warns of rising mental-health problems among teaching staff – with 40 per cent of those saying they have such problems citing poor pupil behaviour as the cause. Researchers at the University of East Anglia claim official reports have underestimated the amount of disruption in schools. Their report, which looks at four studies over 10 years covering 350 teachers and more than 700 pupils, concludes that the education-standards watchdog, Ofsted, and Sir Alan Steer, the behaviour tsar to the previous Labour government, may have seriously underestimated the problem.
  • Starting salaries for graduates have fallen over the last five years, fuelling fears students will be discouraged from going to university because of the poor return in wages for the fees they have paid. A study published today shows that the average starting salary for graduates in professional employment has fallen by 11 per cent – from £24,293 a year to £21,702.
  • Sir Michael Wishaw has made a commitment to review the inspection scheduling of RI schools with new or relatively new leadership because he recognises that the headteachers of these schools need to be given sufficient time to address the various difficulties that face them, and also because Ofsted needs to play its part in encouraging our best and most ambitious leaders to go into our most challenging schools. He is asking recently appointed headteachers of ‘Requires Improvement’ schools to contact, in writing, the relevant Ofsted Regional Director to describe the context of their school’s present position. The Regional Director will then allocate an HMI to the school to discuss with the headteacher the most appropriate scheduling for the next inspection.
  • The process to identify schools to lead around 30 new Maths Hubs is now underway, with the names of the successful schools due to be announced in early June. The programme, funded by the DfE, is being coordinated by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM). While each hub will be led by a single school, that school will lead a collaborative effort among other local institutions and individuals with expertise in maths education. If a school, feels it can contribute to this collective effort in its locality, the NCETM will be happy to put you in touch with the lead school in your area. Email mathshubs@ncetm.org.uk
  • The DfE has produced a guide for schools on detail about early entry and performance tables. It can be accessed on http://tonystephens.org.uk, Latest documents
  • The Ofsted School Data Dashboard has been updated for 2013 KS4 results
  • ·
  • New standards for headteachers to reflect the growing diversity of the school system will be drawn up under a review announced today by the DfE. Many governing bodies use the current standards – last reviewed in 2004 – to inform headteacher recruitment and performance assessment
  • The DfE has published updated statutory safeguarding guidance for schools and colleges – ‘Keeping children safe in education’. Effective immediately, it has been sent to all schools and colleges and replaces ‘Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education (2006)’. It can be accessed at http://tonystephens.org.uk, Latest documents
  • A guide to atheism is to be sent to every secondary school in England and Wales in a move reminiscent of Michael Gove’s decision to give a copy of the King James Bible to all schools. The book, called The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life without God, is being sent to school libraries today (29 April) by the British Humanist Association (BHA).
  • Labour has vowed to eliminate some of Michael Gove‘s education system. The plan, devised by Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, and the former education secretary David Blunkett, is for commissioners to be responsible for raising standards, for handling failing schools and for deciding on proposals for new schools, instead of the present system in which free schools, academies and academy chains are managed by Whitehall The reform plan, which represents the most important statement on Labour education policy for 10 years, aims to assimilate New Labour education reforms, and the way in which those reforms have been developed and altered by Gove, the education secretary.The plans are likely to be attacked by the Labour left as giving insufficient importance to the traditional role of local education authorities and by the right for lessening the autonomy of academies and free schools. Labour, however, claims the scheme brings a renewed focus on improvements to school standards through collaboration and co-operation between schools, rather than keeping a system of competition

Blunkett’s proposal accepted by Hunt, is that a director of school standards, responsible for driving achievements, is established. It is expected there would be 40 to 80 directors located in cities and within groups of local authorities. The independent directors, appointed by local authorities on a fixed-term five-year contract from a short-list approved by the education department, would be empowered to intervene locally in all state schools, including free schools, faith schools and academies. This would happen especially if the school inspectorate Ofsted found they were failing, mediocre, fragile or coasting. Parents would also have the power to call for intervention by the local director. It says the models that improved standards via the London Challenge and Manchester Challenge educational programmes could be improved across cities by setting up a structure for collaboration between schools. The school standards directors would also be statutorily responsible for permitting new schools to open. Groups including faith, state, and free schools wishing to open an establishment would have to persuade the director, and compete on the basis of quality and cost effectiveness, rather than the ideological values of the secretary of state, Labour says.

Labour’s reforms would also:

  • Allow Ofsted to inspect academy chains, a power the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has sought but not yet been granted by Gove.
  •  Review the structure of academy chains, giving academies freedom to move between chains.
  •  Give all schools freedom over the curriculum, the school day and buying in appropriate services.
  • Require all schools to audit and publish accounts online, including contracts’ costs over £10,000 and beneficiaries of the deals.
  • The DfE has issued a consultative document which makes suggestions on cuts to expenditure that Las and schools/academies could make,” Savings to the Education Services Grant for 2015-16”, accessible at http://tonystephens.org.uk, Latest documents

The document sets out recommendations on how councils could make savings as government funding for education support services – which also includes school improvement, education welfare and therapy services for pupils – is cut from £116 per pupil in 2013-14 to £113 (though it will remain at £140 in academies) in 2014-15.

This includes the suggestion that local authorities to cease funding music services to schools. It says music education services provided by councils should be funded from individual school budgets – which are not increasing – or through music education “hubs”. The ISM says councils paid £21m towards funding music in 2011-12, but that this is now likely to be lost. The hubs – which are taking on much of the work of local authority music services – are receiving £63m this year, compared with £83m of national funding in 2010-11.

  • Schools must improve teachers’ work-life balance if they are to avoid losing staff to other professions, research suggests. While most teachers report enjoying their jobs – only 9% do not – almost three in ten (29%) would consider leaving the profession for a career elsewhere, according to the survey of more than 2,000 teachers.
  • A document put to the National Association of Head Teachers’ annual conference includes a move to make it the duty of every NAHT member to become a school inspector.
  • Teachers and special educational needs (SEN) support staff are able to apply for funds from the National Scholarship Fund worth up to £1 million to develop their specialist knowledge and skills. Teachers can bid for up to £3,500 while SEN support staff can bid for up to £2,000 to fund training which will improve the support available to children and young people with special educational needs. The application window for the fourth round will open for 4 weeks from 30 April.
  • A deal to allow schools to buy defibrillator machines at a reduced price will be sealed in time for the autumn term, the DfE has announced. The government is working to identify a supplier who will offer defibrillators – which cost around £1,000 – to all schools at a competitive price.
  • The National Centre for Social Research has been awarded a contract to take forward the first stage of a project to help drive out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools  The first phase of the project is a full review of all the available evidence and existing practices currently in place in schools to tackle this issue. This work is now under way and NatCen will report back in the summer.

Timeline of A-level and GCSE reforms

Date Current GCSEs New GCSEs A levels

Academic year 2012/13

June 2013 Final summer exams ofunitised (modular) GCSEs. Marks awarded for spelling, punctuation and grammar in English literature, history, geography and religious studies exams. Consultation on reformed GCSEs.
July 2013 Consultation on reformed GCSEs.
August 2013 Results for final, unitised (modular) GCSEs. First results for the new biology, chemistry, physics and additional science GCSEs. Consultation on reformed GCSEs.

Academic year 2013/14

September 2013 First teaching of the new specifications for history and English literature.
October 2013 Consultation on new A level requirements(ends midnight 17th January 2014).
November 2013 Final re-sits for unitised (modular) GCSEs in maths, English and English language. All students must‘cash in’ results for certificates. Publication of thedesign details of new GCSEs.Technical consultation on the implementation of GCSE reforms. Consultation on new A level requirements.
December 2013 Consultation on new A level requirements.
January 2014 No exams.Results for final re-sits for unitised (modular) GCSEs in maths, English and English language. No exams.
Consultation on new A level requirements ends.
March 2014 No exams.
June 2014 All exams & assessments for GCSEs in this series. New GCSE geography exams. All students must ‘cash in’ results for certificates.
August 2014 First results for linear GCSEs (where the exam is at the end of the course) including the new geography GCSE.

Academic year 2014/15

September 2014 Specifications for new GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths with schools from September 2014 onwards. Specifications for the new AS and A levels in the first group of subjects with schools from September 2014 onwards.
November 2014 Resit exams for linear maths, English and English language only. All students must ‘cash in’ results for certificates.
January 2015 Results for November’s re-sits in linear maths, English and English language.
June 2015 First new history and English literature exams.
August 2015 First results from new history and English literature GCSEs.

Academic year 2015/16

September 2015 First teaching of new GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths. First teaching of the new, standalone AS qualification and linear A levels in the first group of subjects.
June 2016 Final exams for current GCSEs in English, English language, English literature, maths. Last exams for unitised (modular) AS and A levels in the first group of subjects.First exams for AS as a linear, standalone qualification in the first group of subjects.
August 2016 Final results for the above GCSEs. Last results for unitised (modular) AS and A levels in the first group of subjects.First results for linear, standalone AS in the first group of subjects.

Academic year 2016/17

September 2016 First teaching of other new GCSEs. Teaching of linear AS and A levels in a second group of subjects.
November 2016 Last chance to re-sit maths, English and English language exams.
May/June 2017 Final exams for many current GCSEs including biology, chemistry, physics, science, additional science, additional applied science, history and geography. First exams for new GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths. First exams for new A levels in the first group of subjects.First exams for standalone, linear AS qualification in the second group of subjects.
August 2017 First results for new GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths. First results for new A levels in the first group of subjects.First results for standalone, linear AS levels in the second group of qualifications.Last results for unitised (modular) AS and A levels in
the second group of subjects

Academic year 2017/18

November 2017 Opportunity to take new GCSEs in English language and maths (for students who were 16 or over on 31st August 2017).1
May/June 2018 First exams of new GCSEs in other subjects including physics, chemistry, biology, combined science (double award), history and geography. First exams for linear A levels in the second group of subjects.
August 2018 First results of new GCSEs in other subjects including physics, chemistry, biology, combined science (double award), history and geography. First results for linear A levels in the second group of subjects.
November 2018 Opportunity to take new GCSEs in English language and maths (for students who were 16 or over on 31st August 2018).

1 We are still considering whether November exams should be available in other subjects for students of this age.

Tony Stephens

 

 

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