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Academy and School News Update February 1-28, 2014

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  • Education Minister Elizabeth Truss has led a delegation on a fact-finding mission to Shanghai’s schools to see how children there have become the best in the world at maths. An OECD study recently concluded that: “In the United States and the United Kingdom, where professionals are among the highest-paid in the world, students whose parents work as professionals do not perform as well in mathematics as children of professionals in other countries – nor do they perform as we as the children in Shanghai, China, and Singapore whose parents work in manual occupations.”
  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer and Education Secretary have announced a new £500,000 fund to train teachers in software coding. The government will provide match funding from industry and business, allowing new and existing teachers to be trained by the experts. This will equip schools to teach the new computing curriculum introduced this September and designed with input from the Royal Society of Engineering, and industry leaders such as Google and Microsoft. The funding announcement has been made as ministers launch the Year of Code, a campaign which will run throughout 2014 to get young people excited about the power and potential of computer science.
  • A scheme called the Hour of Code has also been launched this month and has already seen over a million students undertake 60 minutes of computer programming. It was introduced in the UK off the back of a highly-successful campaign in the US, which saw nearly 20 million students give coding a try in just a single week, and garnered support from celebrities, sports stars and even the US president Barack Obama. The UK’s version comes as part of a wider initiative to get young people interested in coding ahead of the introduction of the new computing curriculum this September. This change will mean that every student in England’s schools will learn the subject of computing, including the discipline of coding, from the age of 5 until at least the age of 14. Codecademy, a New York-based education start-up, which backs the US Hour of Code and is currently advising the Department for Education (DfE) on how to train the teaching workforce to deliver the new curriculum, said that coding was an essential skill to learn.
    • All the above is in the context that there is said to be a “rising tide of panic” among teachers who are expected to deliver the new computing curriculum this September, according to an expert on computing from the Royal Society
    • Barnfield College claimed nearly £1 million in government cash for students it had no record of teaching, an investigation into the FE institution in Bedfordshire has found. The College, which sponsors more than half a dozen academies and free schools, had been the subject of a government investigation by both the Skills Funding Agency and the Education Funding Agency over allegations of financial mismanagement. As well as claiming for so-called “ghost students” the report also revealed the college also lost £1.25m in failed projects. It is understood police are “assessing” two government reports into the Barnfield Federation in Luton for possible criminal activity. The news is likely to be the source of embarrassment for both Michael Gove and David Cameron who have previously heaped praise on Sir Peter Birkett, the former Principal of the College and Director General of the Federation.
  • Frequent school moves can lead to adolescents experiencing psychotic symptoms that include hallucinations and delusions and are associated with suicide later in life, a new academic study has found.
  • The NUT has been left in a “difficult” position by the NASUWT’s decision not to take part in a joint national strike next month. The NASUWT has confirmed that it would not be going on strike on 26 March alongside the NUT, despite the unions’ recent programme of joint industrial action following their “historic” joint declaration last year.
  • Plans to overhaul A-level geography have been delayed by a year after academics raised serious concerns that the qualification is not yet “fit for purpose”. A new A level in the subject was due to be introduced to schools and colleges in September next year as part of a major government overhaul of the exams system. But a group of academics, led by Professor Mark Smith, vice-chancellor of Lancaster University, has warned of “fundamental issues” with the content of the qualification, and called on ministers to delay reform of the A level so that these can be addressed. It means that the qualification will now not be brought in until September 2016 – at the same time as new A levels in maths and languages are due to be introduced.
  • A total overhaul over the exam appeals system is needed to stop schools gaming the system, according to a warning from Ofqual. The exam regulator said that the current system was devised in a “more innocent era” and needed to change. The importance of a C grade at GCSE or an A grade at A-level to both students and schools means that appeals spike when students fall a few marks short of the required boundary. In a review of marking quality published today, Ofqual states: “A high volume of enquiries about results are, we believe, motivated by a speculative attempt to improve results, for whatever reason. This is not what a system of redress is intended for.”
  • Michael Gove’s plans to radically overhaul teachers’ working conditions and cut school holidays have suffered a “huge blow” from the latest report from the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), unions have claimed. The STRB, which advises the government on pay and conditions, has rejected calls from Mr Gove to remove key regulations that restrict teachers’ working hours and how they spend their time. Their report agreed to retain the limit to teachers’ working hours of 1,265 hours and 195 days, as well as current regulations which give teachers 10 per cent of their timetable dedicated to planning, preparation and assessment time.

The DfE’s evidence to the STRB had called for schools to be given more flexibility to deviate from these regulations. “There is a strong case for a reform of the current working time provisions… to give schools more scope to determine how they organise the school day and the school term in the best interests of children, parents and teachers,” its submission had argued. Mr Gove has previously argued that current term times and holidays should be reformed. Speaking last April, he said that the present system was “designed at a time when we had an agricultural economy,” to allow children to work in the fields. “That world no longer exists and we can’t afford to have an education system that essentially its hours were set in the 19th century,” he said. He added that the country should seek to emulate high-achieving East Asian education systems where “school days are longer, school holidays are shorter”.

The STRB also recommends that the current regulation that teachers should “only rarely” provide cover for colleagues – cited as a “cause for concern” by the DfE – should remain in force. Teacher and learning responsibility payments and special educational needs allowances should also be retained, the STRB said. However, the report agreed with the education secretary’s proposals to scrap a list of 21 tasks that teachers are currently banned from carrying out, including bulk photocopying and filing.

It also proposed changes to school leaders’ pay, giving schools more flexibility to set higher salaries. The report calls for the “removal of unnecessary rigidities in form of spine points and differentials” and “formal headroom above the current leadership range for the biggest leadership roles in large multiple schools”. Heads’ pay will remain linked to school size but governing bodies, the STRB argues, should be given discretion to “set pay 25 per cent above the broad bands, and exceptionally beyond if supported by a business case”.

The DfE says it will accept all the recommendations

  • Primary schools must work together to develop a consistent way of assessing children after the abolition of the current system of national curriculum levels, heads’ union the NAHT has said. The DfE has announced that the levels presently used to grade pupils will be phased out, describing them as complicated for parents to understand. Schools will be able to introduce their own assessment systems, which the DfE says should “support pupil attainment and progression”. But Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said that it was crucial for schools to devise a common means of judging pupil performance. “The idea of 20,000 different models of assessment is not a good one,” he said. “We want schools to use broadly similar systems. Although levels weren’t brilliant, complete fragmentation is not good either.”

Almost two-thirds of headteachers believe the abolition of national curriculum levels will have a negative impact on monitoring student progress, a survey shows. Just 7 per cent believe that removing levels will have a positive impact, while academy headteachers are slightly more optimistic, with just over one in 10 backing the move which shows the extent of anxiety felt by headteachers over the government’s decision to scrap levels.

  • Schools should aim to instil “character and creativity” in pupils, as well as teaching academic subjects, according to Labour’s shadow education secretary. Tristram Hunt today rejected the traditional idea that character is best taught through adversity, and said research had identified techniques for teaching it in the classroom. In a speech, he called for teacher training to include methods for helping children to develop “grit, determination and the ability to work in teams in challenging circumstances”. His comments came after a report this week from the All-party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, which said schoolchildren should be taught character and given the resilience and determination to overcome setbacks in life.
  • Children should also be taught “attentiveness” skills to help combat the influence of social media, the shadow Education Secretary has said. “They need to learn the ability to concentrate for sustained periods – especially in today’s world of short attention spans. I think young people need help with being able to do that.”
  • Ofsted is to place greater scrutiny on the training offered to new teachers which could include more emphasis on how trainees dress.  The schools watchdog said that it intends to overhaul the way initial teacher training partnerships are inspected in a bid to raise standards, and will be seeking views on a range of issues, such as new teachers’ “professional dress and conduct”.  Sir Michael Wilshaw, described it as a “national scandal” that 40 per cent of new teachers left the profession within five years. “We need to ask some serious questions about the effectiveness of our current system of teacher training. Is it as good as it should be?” he said in January.
  • Michael Gove has taken the highly controversial decision to remove Baroness Sally Morgan as chair of Ofsted.  Mr Gove is facing a mounting backlash following his move with both Liberal Democrats and Labour MPs claiming it was politically motivated. The head of Ofsted said he pleaded with Michael Gove not to remove the chair of schools’ inspectorate, adding that he felt she was “very good” at the job.. The rising tensions between the DfE and Ofsted stem from concerns within Mr Gove’s team over Ofsted’s criticism of some free schools. Sir Michael is believed to have expressed concerns that the appointment of Theodore Agnew, a former party donor and academy sponsor, who has been strongly linked with the vacancy for Ofsted’s next chair, could undermine the organisation’s independence.
  • Sir Michael Wilshaw stressed the importance of England improving its performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) league tables, in which the UK was placed 26th out of 65 territories for maths, 21st in science and 23rd in reading. Sir Michael told MPs that the main factor holding the country back was regional variation, with the Eastern region singled out as lagging behind the top performing areas. In contrast, he praised London as one of the highest performing cities in the world. “If we’d put in London [independently], we’d have been right up there,” he said. He argued that China had been “pretty crafty” by only submitting data for its best educational systems. Shanghai finished top of the tables for maths, reading and science. It was closely followed by the Chinese regions of Hong Kong and Macao, which overall were placed third and sixth respectively.
  • A poll of 2,000 12- and 13 year-olds found that 28 per cent of girls would drop maths if they could, but only 17 per cent would drop English. Boys thought that maths was more important, with just 22 per cent saying they would stop the studying the subject up to the age of 16 were it not compulsory. Slightly more – 26 per cent –  said that they would drop English. The survey also found that less than half of students could work out what change to expect from £100 if they had bought shopping worth £64.23.
  • A commission has been created to develop plans for a College of Teaching The goal of the politically-independent organisation is to give teachers greater say over education policy, professional standards, curriculum and assessment, as well as offering support in developing their own teaching skills.
  • Headteachers have raised serious concerns over Labour’s proposals to hand parents the power to sack school leaders over results and standards. The policy was unveiled by Labour leader Ed Miliband ahead of a wider speech he gave on the subject of public sector reform. Under the plans, parents will be able to call in a specialist improvement team, which will be separate from Ofsted. It will have the power to intervene in all schools, including free schools and academies, and even remove failing heads. Mr Miliband will say in his speech later today that the new measures will bring about a “new culture of people-powered public services”. But the proposals have had a cold reception from heads’ leaders, who have called for Labour to engage with the profession rather than chasing headlines.
  • A second free school has been ordered to close by ministers due to concerns over the quality of education on offer, it has emerged. The secondary school at the ailing Al Madinah free school in Derby is to shut at the end of the academic year but primary provision will continue at the school. It becomes the second free school the DfE has been forced to shut – albeit partially – in almost as many months, after the Discovery Free School in West Sussex was told to close its doors in December.
  • Ofsted should be given greater powers allowing it to inspect academy chains, schools minister David Laws has said, as the rift between him and his Conservative colleague Michael Gove deepened yet further this week. Mr Laws called for the schools watchdog’s power to be extended, giving it full access into academy chains, just as it has with local authorities. Until now, the DfE has resisted calls to allow inspectors into academy chains, with academies minister Lord Nash stating that officials already held sufficient information on sponsors. The Liberal Democrat’s comments are the latest in the growing spat between him and education secretary Michael Gove, after he was incensed by the education secretary’s decision to dismiss Ofsted chair Baroness Sally Morgan. Mr Laws was said to be “furious” over the decision to sack the Labour peer, and claimed that the move was an “attempt to politicise” the schools inspectorate.
  • As, Michael Gove, and minister David Laws apparently battle it out over whether Ofsted should inspect academy chains, news comes in that, it seems, the watchdog has already begun co-ordinated inspections of schools within chains. Ofsted – keen to prove its independence from any “political agenda” over academies – has carried out near-simultaneous inspections of 16 schools run by England’s sixth-largest academy chain in the first of what may be a series of co-ordinated probes into “weaker” academy providers. Just under half of the 34 academies within the E-Act chain were inspected last week and the week before, with at least one – Hartsbrook E-Act free school in Haringey, north London – understood to have been rated inadequate.

The move follows a statement in December’s annual report by Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured below), chief inspector of schools that Ofsted planned to “co-ordinate the inspection of the constituent schools in some weaker academy trusts”. The inspection blitz on E-Act focused on individual schools. But it will still put the performance of the chain in the spotlight. Five of the 17 E-Act schools that had been inspected before last month’s visits were already rated as inadequate. Last year, the chain was given a “financial notice to improve” by the DfE’s Education Funding Agency. Hartsbrook would be the third free school to fail an Ofsted inspection if the unofficial verdict of inspectors is confirmed. An Ofsted spokeswoman confirmed: “Ofsted has just completed a series of scheduled inspections over a two-week period of 16 schools which are part of the E-Act multi-academy trust. “During these visits, inspectors have been asking additional questions to ascertain the extent to which the support and challenge provided by the trust is helping to raise standards for pupils.” She would not say whether more chains would be inspected, or which ones.

Later in the month, E-Act, was stripped of nearly a third of its schools due to concerns over standards, with the DfE confirming that the sponsor would be handing back control of 10 of its 34 academies following these Ofsted inspections that raised concerns about standards, and that new sponsors would be sought for these academies.

Another academy is to cut its intake of students by 45 per cent this September in a bid to improve “inadequate” standards. The Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham announced yesterday that it would be reducing the number of Year 7 students from 270 to 150.

  • Primary schools in England will receive an extra £750 million for PE and sport between now and 2020, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced. Mr Cameron said the £150 million-a-year premium launched last September as a legacy of the Olympic games would be extended for a further five years. The premium goes straight to headteachers, who can decide how best to spend it to provide sporting activities for their pupils. A typical primary school with 250 pupils received £9,250 this year, the equivalent of around two days a week of a primary teacher or sport coach’s time. Mr Cameron also confirmed that from this month, primary schools across England will be able to apply for a share of an £18 million fund to improve outdoor spaces for PE and sporting activities. The Lottery-funded scheme will be run by Sport England, with priority given to schools with limited outside space and a strong commitment to PE and sport. The schools are expected to receive an average of £30,000 each to help them improve their provision.  The prime minister also announced an additional £11 million investment for the School Games.
  • Schools in England are being urged to grasp the wider academic and health benefits of PE and sport to help tackle a “crisis of inactivity” among young people. Baroness Sue Campbell, chair of the Youth Sport Trust, said that while some schools understood the impact that PE and sport could have on pupils, many are still missing the opportunity.
  • Teachers and parents actively discourage pupils from pursuing a vocational education by telling them they are “too clever” for hands-on subjects, new research has revealed. Just a quarter of parents believe that vocational education is worthwhile, the survey found, with the majority of schools also actively discouraging young people from pursuing technical qualifications.
  • The first strike to take place in a free school was held this month, following a row over controversial plans to introduce what has been described as a “zero-hours” contract for teachers. NUT members at the STEM Academy Tech City in Islington, north London, voted for a series of strikes after the school warned of “legal consequences” should staff not agree to new contracts issued before Christmas. The NUT claimed that a paragraph in the contracts equated to a zero-hours deal, with the school reserving the right to “temporarily lay [teachers] off from work without normal contractual pay or to reduce your normal working hours and reduce your pay proportionately”. The row also centred on the school’s refusal to officially recognise the teaching unions.
  • The Catholic Church is reluctant to invest in new free schools and academies because they will have to accept a large proportion of children from different backgrounds, a former minister has claimed. Tory MP Mark Hoban said that senior figures within the church felt it was too easy for the schools they control to lose their religious focus. Under the current rules, new faith-based free schools or academies must admit at least 50 per cent of their children from different religious backgrounds if they are over-subscribed.
  • Teachers and parents are “struggling” to keep up-to-date with the latest employment trends and may be stifling children’s career aspirations as a result, it is claimed. The Association of Colleges (AoC) said that young people could be missing out on careers opportunities because they are not getting the best possible advice from those they consult. New research by the AoC and The Skills Show, published today, shows that 70 per cent of young people turn to parents and 57 per cent to teachers for careers guidance, but the advice they are given is often out of date.
  • A left-wing activist is to challenge Christine Blower for the leadership of the NUT.  It has emerged that she will be challenged by Martin Powell-Davies, one of the most prominent figures on the left of the union.
  • Michael Gove has made a wide-ranging speech, in which he laid the gauntlet down to state schools to rival their private sector counterparts. He said he wanted to break down the “Berlin Wall” between private and state schools and that it was his ambition to raise standards in state schools so they were indistinguishable from their fee-paying counterparts. The speech included;
  •  proposals for a training programme for non-specialist teachers to teach state school students Classics; Mr Gove wants all state school students to learn Latin
  • a call for state schools to try out the Common Entrance exam used by leading independents to select their pupils, in the context of introducing more tests in state schools to help monitor pupil performance between assessments already taken at the end of primary school and GCSEs,
  • plans for schools to stay open longer to offer extra-curricular activities;  he would like to extend the school day to ensure that state schools followed their independent counterparts with days lasting nine or 10 hours
  • that English state education is starting to show a sustained and significant improvement.”
  • a proposal for schools to get tougher on poor behaviour by calling for schools to force misbehaving pupils to carry out school community service, (See below).
  • the idea that schools should also consider taking Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests, which are used to create international league tables.
  • his attack on the educational establishment as he claimed that trade union leaders were “complicit” in falling standards in schools in past decades. He criticised trade union leaders and members of university education faculties for tolerating failure
  • his attack on what he calls the “blob”. The “blob” stands for the “bloated educational bureaucracy”.
  • that the UK is “poorer” because private school educations are being “rationed overwhelmingly to the rich”
  • Misbehaving school pupils should be made to do lines, write essays, run around a playing field or pick up litter, according to guidance issued by the DfE

A copy of the Guidelines can be found on the above website

  • Schools are to be given a much greater incentive to encourage pupils to study English literature and achieve good grades.  From 2016, if pupils do well in the subject, then their GCSE result could count double towards their school’s league table position. In October when the DfE first unveiled radical changes to the way secondary school league tables will be calculated, it opted to give English language GCSE priority over the literature GCSE. But now it says English literature is to be given equal status with English language – though the subject will still not be compulsory.
  • Nottingham University Samworth academy has been warned over low standards and the Academy ordered to improve as percentage of pupils receiving at least five A*-C grades in GCSE exams falls to 32%. About 40 academies have been sent pre-warning notice letters since September 2011. The letters warn the schools to raise their game or face action – which could ultimately include being taken over by a different sponsor.
  • The chairman of governors at an academy under investigation for alleged financial irregularities has resigned. In addition, the head teacher of Glendene Arts Academy in Easington Colliery, Co Durham, has been on sick leave since a whistleblower triggered an investigation into its finances. It is claimed that both were involved in setting up a private company at the centre of investigations into the academy’s financial affairs. Police are investigating allegations of serious financial mismanagement at the academy, a specialist visual arts academy for two- to 19-year-olds with special education needs. The Education Funding Agency, is seeking to recover £162,000 claimed to have been misspent by the academy. Whistleblowers claimed the money was used to pay the salaries and running costs of a private company.
  • An investigation into allegations of financial irregularities at a primary school run by one of the country’s most prominent “superheads” has uncovered concerns over the way the federation it belonged to ran its financial affairs. Greg Wallace, who was one of the “Magnificent Seven” superheads praised by Education Secretary Michael Gove in a speech extolling the virtues of good head teachers, resigned from his post as executive head of five primary schools in Hackney, east London, once the investigation got under way. He has now been officially dismissed over the affair.
  • Schools have six months to get free meals for infants up and running, and many face logistical problems of space and facilities
  • The government’s chief science adviser has warned the prime minister that the next generation of British scientists risks being deskilled if marks for practical experiments stop counting towards final grades for A-levels in physicschemistry and biology.
  • The campaign to persuade, Michael Gove, to help end female genital mutilation by telling headteachers in England to educate parents and children about the practice has gathered more than 200,000 signatures in eight days .Gove agreed to meet the campaign leader, the 17-year-old student Fahma Mohamed, a Bristol teenager from a Muslim Somali family, who wants the issue to be flagged up in schools before this summer’s “cutting season”. Although many girls are being taken abroad to be cut, others are being mutilated in Britain, according to campaigners. Michael Gove is now to write to every school in the country about female genital mutilation, reminding headteachers of their duty to protect schoolgirls.
  • Confidence in the leadership of the DfE is plummeting among its own civil servants, the latest annual staff survey of 3,113 DfE officials suggests. Only 32% agreed with the statement “I feel that DfE as a whole is managed well”, while 16% agreed that “when changes are made in DfE they are usually for the better”. Responses were more negative than in the previous survey, in 2012.
  • A free school that opened only 18 months ago is in talks about making up to eight members of its staff redundant because of a budget crisis caused by a failure to recruit pupils. The Hawthorne’s free school in Sefton, Merseyside, replaced two secondaries that were closed by the local authority in 2012 because of an oversupply of school places. The Hawthorne’s has revealed its plans after pupil numbers shrank from 432 on opening in September 2012 to around 350 last term. Now, with the school reporting only 44 first parental preferences for year 7 in September, it is planning to cut three lunchtime supervisors, a home-school liaison officer and up to four teachers, though it is set to retain eight senior managers.
  • Compulsory national testing for four- and five-year-olds in England from 2016 is to be introduced as part of sweeping changes being proposed to early years and primary education. The tests will take place in the first weeks of reception class, when most children will be aged four, and will be designed to give teachers and schools a clearer idea of each child’s abilities at the start of their formal schooling. The tests are to be carefully crafted to estimate a child’s “baseline” abilities in very basic literacy, reasoning and cognition, rather than testing their knowledge as in a traditional examination.
  • Teachers should be obliged to take part in extra-curricular activities such as sport and drama, according to an influential MPs’ report out today. Participation should be included as a formal aspect of a teacher’s contract of employment, says a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on social mobility. They also say that teenagers should be issued with official school leaving certificates marking out their achievements in a range of extra-curricular activities as part of a drive to improve pupils’ “character and resilience”, according to a Government-backed report. All children should be given a report card – in addition to exam grades – listing their contribution to school life, including membership of sports teams, work experience placements, community work and attitudes towards education.
  • Schools across Britain will be encouraged to extend opening hours to allow parents to leave toddlers there for the whole working day, and accept children as young as two. Liz Truss, the education minister, is writing to every council in England to suggest that school nurseries should extend their opening hours Ministers are also floating proposals to make it easier for nurseries to open their doors to two-year-olds.

There will be an updated version of the EYFS coming into force in September 2014 and will include the changes to legislation set out in the DfE   response to the ‘Regulation of childcare’ consultation published today. Elizabeth Truss has set out plans for ‘sweeping reform’ to change the perception of what a school day is by making it easier for schools to open from 8-6.

Ms Truss said that because schools were ‘smart about their sessions, their staffing and their costs’ they were able to save money. The minister said that she wants school nurseries to collaborate with private nurseries and childminders to raise standards.

The reforms set out today include:

  • Aligning the staffing and qualification requirements for out-of-hours care for children in Reception and five-to- seven-year-olds with those governing the school day, ie sufficient staff as for a class of 30.
  • Out-of-school providers will no longer need to meet the learning and development requirements of the EYFS for Reception class children
  • Increasing the amount of time that a child can be looked after informally from two to three hours a day before a provider needs to register
  • Allowing providers to register multiple premises in a single registration process, for example, so that a nursery group can notify Ofsted that it is opening a number of new settings in a single registration process.
  • Enable childminders to operate on non-domestic premises for part of the working week, for example provide care at a school from 3-6pm
  • Remove the requirement for local authorities to approve childminder training to open up the market to improve access to training, including from childminder agencies
  • Align the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the Early Years Register and the General Childcare Register
  • Rename the GCR as the Child Safety Register
  • Extend the 1:13 ratio for three- and four-year-olds to anytime when a teacher (or EYP or equivalent) is present. Currently this flexibility is only available between the hours of 8am and 4pm.
  • Leaders of the country’s sixth-form colleges claim they have lost more than £100 million in funding over the past three years, with the result that courses in core A-level subjects – whose importance Mr Gove has been anxious to champion – are being axed. The survey reveals that almost half (48 per cent) of the country’s sixth-form colleges have cut courses, while 78 per cent have been forced to reduce staffing levels, resulting in larger class sizes. The country’s 93 sixth-form colleges educate more than 150,000 pupils, most of whom are studying for their A-levels.
  • Following a review of complaints made against independent appeal panels (IAPs) for admissions to academies the Education Funding Agency (EFA) said it received 245 complaints about maladministration by IAPs, which are often where parents turn if they feel the local admissions system has let them down, between April and October last year. Of the 117 complaints investigated and concluded by October, 33 (28 per cent) were upheld or partially upheld, the same percentage as in the previous year.

The EFA said its review found that IAPs made“a number of common mistakes”. Among its findings were;

  • evidence of poor record keeping, including instances where the clerks’ records of appeal hearings were incomplete or illegible;
  •  lack of impartiality by the panel and procedural errors during the hearing;
  • errors on paperwork and paperwork not sent to appellants in good time ahead of hearings; failure to accurately record what was said at the hearings, and decision letters being unclear, poorly written or containing mistakes.

It said clerks must be fully trained in admissions law, should properly understand and address each case on its individual merits, must make full records of proceedings, and should provide ‘plain English’ decision letters, making very clear why the appeal has not succeeded.

The EFA is soon launching a new online complaint form and fact sheet for appellants to make the process clearer.

  • Two out of five graduates are still looking for work six months after completing their studies, and one in four are still job hunting a year after graduation – leaving many of them asking whether they made the right choice by pursuing academic studies instead of an apprenticeship. A survey of 676 graduates by jobs website found that a third were applying for more than 20 vacancies every month, and almost half (44pc) said they regretted not having studied a more vocational subject.
  • Teachers should adopt a “common sense” approach to health and safety to boost the number of school trips and expose pupils to risks, according to new guidelines. Schools in England have been told to dramatically cut back on levels of red tape because of concerns that too many outings are being cancelled amid fears staff will be sued over accidents. Guidance issued to head teachers says that health and safety rules should “not stop them” embarking on a range of outings to museums, adventure centres, parks and trips abroad. The document from the DfE says that legal action is rare and schools can protect themselves by taking care of pupils “in a way that a prudent parents would have done”. It is unnecessary to carry out separate risk assessments or seek parental consent for every outing, guidance says. All staff can be given necessary health and safety advice without attending costly and time-consuming training courses, it says, adding that “basic instructions” are often the only necessary requirement.

A copy of the guidance can be found on the above website



  • Top head teachers who act as advisers to other struggling schools should be paid more to stop bright children being “failed” by the state system, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said. He wants to see “exceptional” head teachers who try to raise standards in “challenging” primary and secondary schools rewarded for looking “beyond the school gates”.
  • The majority of state schools are failing to push bright pupils from poor families towards top universities amid fears they are full of “posh” students, according to Government research. Many teachers are reluctant to encourage teenagers to apply to Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities because they “don’t want to be elitist”, it was claimed. A study commissioned by the DfE found evidence of negative perceptions towards highly-selective institutions among large numbers of pupils. The report – based on surveys and interviews with individual teachers and children – found that some high-achieving ethnic minority pupils believed that they would not fit into Oxford and Cambridge because they were for “white middle-class Eton people”.
  • The Future Scholar Awards aim to help schools raise the aspirations of their high achieving pupils. These are based on the previous Dux Awards which ran in 2012 and 2013 but there are some key differences:

Schools can now nominate up to five year 9 pupils to attend the events.

While retaining the focus on high achieving young people, the DfE particularly wants to include those who have the potential to attend a top university, but may not consider doing so. This may be pupils without someone who has been to university in their family; those from lower income backgrounds, those entitled to the pupil premium, those in care, and those in other disadvantaged circumstances. It will still be up to schools to choose the Future Scholars.

Schools will be able to register for the scheme from 10 February to 14 March 2014,

  • Ofsted says that its inspection findings raise serious concerns about the quality of secondary education in Cumbria where too few secondary schools are good. And the picture is not improving There is too little evidence to suggest that the council is providing an effective and shared strategy to improve the quality of education across the county. This needs to be urgently addressed. The local authority needs to provide greater challenge and support and extend partnership working.
  • The Chief Inspector of Ofsted has announced the start of a rolling programme of unannounced visits to schools where standards of behaviour are giving cause for concern. Sir Michael Wilshaw has vowed to tackle what he calls ‘a culture of casual acceptance’ of low-level disruption and poor attitudes to learning which he believes is holding back too many of England’s schools.
  • Following publication of the new National Curriculum, the assessment arrangements for Key Stage 3 were disapplied from 2013. This means that in 2014 there will be no requirement for schools to report Key Stage 3 teacher assessment to the DfE or to collect and submit data to the Standards and Testing Agency via the NCA tools website. There is also no requirement to report key stage 3 assessment to parents.
  • Secondary schools can now apply for funding for this year’s Summer Schools Programme for Pupil Premium students. Summer schools provide an excellent opportunity for secondary schools to help disadvantaged new pupils understand what and how they will be studying in Key Stage 3. It is also an opportunity for schools to help disadvantaged pupils who are behind in key areas such as literacy and numeracy to catch up with their peers.

Details are on the above website


  • The new secondary national curriculum (except for Key Stage 4 English, maths and science) is available for schools ready for first teaching to begin in September 2014. Schools should now be preparing for implementation of the new curriculum. This should include reviewing and developing the school curriculum and assessment model in the context of the recent reforms, and, if required, accessing information and support available on implementation.

New GCSE subject content for English language, English literature and mathematics is available for schools ready for first teaching in 2015. The new mathematics GCSE has broader and deeper content and is likely to require more teaching time. There is an increased weighting in spelling punctuation and grammar in English language, and wider and more challenging reading is expected in English literature. Schools should be aware of this new subject content and they should start contacting individual exam boards about planned support and resources for the teaching of the new specifications when they are released later in the year.

  • The number of secondary schools using “lotteries” and banding to decide which students to admit is on the rise, a new report reveals, showing that a “small but growing number” of schools – predominantly sponsored academies – are using the practices of ability banding and random allocation in their admissions criteria. Ahead of the results of secondary school applications being announced on March 3, the report also shows that the majority of schools still rely on the distance between a student’s home and the school, as well as whether they have already admitted any siblings, to decide who to offer places to.
  • The term “dyslexia” should be scrapped because it is educationally meaningless and could even lead to educational inequality, a new book claims. Professor Joe Elliott, from Durham University, says that resources should be put into helping all children who struggle with literacy, rather than diagnosing and treating only a “dyslexic” group. He adds that the definition of the condition is so broad it is impossible to make a meaningful separation from others with reading difficulties. The treatment for dyslexia is identical to those used for children with a whole range of reading problems, so a diagnosis has no educational value, according to the educational psychologist.
  • Mixed-race children can become isolated from other children when they enter secondary school and new friendship groups are formed, a report warns. While children’s parentage is not an issue in primary level, at secondary school – when children make new friendship groups – mixed-race children are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and racism, a new study for the the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) claims.
  • Parents should lobby their schools to change their term dates rather than take their children out of school during term time if they want to avoid expensive holiday prices, Michael Gove has said. The education secretary entered the debate around holiday companies raising their prices during school breaks, saying it was “wrong” for parents to remove their children in the middle of term. His comments come as an e-petition has attracted more than 170,000 signatures raising concerns that holiday companies are “cashing in on school holidays”.
  • Maths and science are facing real pressure in terms of teacher supply in the context of the coalition’s plans to encourage more students to take up science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, at a science conference this afternoon.
  • It is argued that applying video gaming technology to education will allow students to learn ten times faster and retain knowledge “forever; by making learning as addictive as video games it can dramatically reduce the time it takes to teach the curriculum. An American firm says that it has the software right now that is teaching subjects 10 times faster than classrooms and that once it is finished students will be able to do four years of high school in about six months,”  According to the BBC, such technology has already garnered “remarkable results”. One experiment reportedly saw 100,000 students being taught Spanish. They were divided into two groups. The first was taught through video games and remembered 1,500 words. The second was taught conventionally and retained just 150 words.
  • A third of teachers have spent more than half of the half-term break on school work, a survey has found. The poll of more than 1,000 teachers reveals the extent to which school staff use their week out of the classroom catching up with planning, marking and bureaucracy. Rather astonishingly, one in 10 teachers say that they have spent more than 70 per cent of their time off on school-related work

Teachers are more likely to work unpaid overtime than employees in any other sector, new research has revealed. Analysis of the 2013 labour force survey carried out by the TUC  shows that employees in education clock up more hours of overtime than those in almost every other profession. The TUC has calculated that 54.2 per cent of teaching and educational professionals regularly work unpaid overtime, a figure only matched by research and development managers. On average, teachers and educational professionals worked 12 hours unpaid each week.

  • From 2015, PISA will examine a fourth strand alongside science, reading and maths – “collaborative problem-solving”. Some commentators believe the international “league table” will look very different in the future. This may sharpen the debate between Michael Gove, champion of a traditional, knowledge-based style of learning and the growing band who want a more child-centred, skills-based approach which, they say, can equip pupils for life.
  • Pupils may be prevented from staying on at their schools post-16 because of the introduction of reformed A-levels, new research suggests. Nearly a third of sixth-form heads plan to toughen their admission requirements when the new linear A-level courses come in next year, according to a poll by the AQA exam board. There is a concern that this could close off opportunities for some students if there is not an adequate range of alternative [qualifications] that have equal status. The exam board’s survey reveals that the majority of schools and teachers are still unprepared for the new A-levels, which will start to be introduced from 2015. It also suggests that nearly a third of sixth-form heads expect to students to choose subjects where A-levels have yet to be reformed, in a bid to escape the new linear courses.
  • Plans to make 11-plus tests less “coachable” to avoid wealthier parents snapping up the bulk of selective school places are under discussion between the Government and grammar school heads.
  • Record numbers of children will be taught in the same state school for up to 16 years under plans for a new generation of “all-through” academies. Figures show that the number of combined primary and secondary schools will soar by a quarter over the next two years in response to increasing parental demand.
  • The proportion of young people aged 16 to 24 not in education, employment or training (NEET) is the lowest it has been since 2008 – figures for the final quarter of 2013 show. Statistics show that between October and December 2013 there were 45,000 fewer NEET young people in England than in the same period in 2012. The most notable reduction comes for those between the age of 16 and 18 with the figures for October to December 2013 at their lowest since comparable government records began in 2000.
    • 14.2% of people aged 16 to 24 are now NEET, a fall of 45,000 since the same quarter in 2012
    • 7.6% of those aged 16 to 18 are NEET, the lowest since records began
    • the number of 19 to 24 year olds who are NEET fell by 38,000 when compared with the same quarter in 2012
  • Ofsted has issued guidance to inspectors – “Why do Ofsted inspectors observe individual lessons and how do they evaluate teaching in schools?” – stating that when observing lessons, they should not give an overall grade for the lesson and nor should teachers expect one.

Inspection is about evaluating the quality of education provided by the school, by considering a range of evidence, and not about evaluating, individually or collectively, the performance of teachers through short lesson observations.

It would seem good advice for schools being inspected at the moment to clarify this at the outset of the inspection with the lead inspector

This is such an important note that it is  Appendix 1

 A copy can also be found on the above website


  • The DfE has issued another note about the Progress 8 measure, and is Appendix 2


A copy can also be found on the above website





Appendix 1



Why do Ofsted inspectors observe individual lessons and how do they evaluate teaching in schools?

A summary by Mike Cladingbowl, National Director, Schools.

There are many misconceptions about why, and how, inspectors observe and gather evidence about teaching, and how that contributes to the overall judgement on the quality of teaching in a school.

Much of this arises from a lack of understanding of how the approach to inspection, and inspecting teaching, has changed over the years. Before 2009, evidence forms required inspectors to provide an overall grade for the quality of each lesson or part-lesson observed:

Typically, inspectors would visit a series of lessons or parts of lessons, gathering evidence on different and observable elements – teaching, standards and so on – and the lesson grades awarded would be collated and used to arrive at overall judgements about the school.

Since 2009, inspectors have been instructed not to grade the overall quality of a lesson they visit. As you can see from the most recent version of the form (below), the box for a graded ‘judgement on the overall quality of the lesson’ has been removed.

In the current form, there is a box to grade quality of teaching and it is here that much of the confusion lies. Inspectors may use this box to record judgements gathered from a wide variety of sources – not just lesson observations – for example, when looking at pupils’ work or when looking at marking.

So why do we observe lessons at all?

It’s just one piece of a jigsaw of evidence about the work of the school that includes: the school’s own observations and self-evaluation, joint visits to classrooms with the headteacher or other staff, evidence about how teaching has improved, the quality of work seen in books, teachers’ marking, discussions with pupils and staff and, of course, test results and so on. In my view, inspectors must always spend time in classrooms when they inspect. It’s where the main business of the school happens. But the way we use the evidence we gather in classrooms has changed.

Why is this change important?

Inspectors do not judge the overall lesson. But it is still possible for an inspector to record a graded evaluation on an evidence form under one or more of the four main judgement headings, including teaching, where there is sufficiently compelling evidence gathered by observing routines, looking in books, listening to students and so on. It might be possible, for example, to see evidence of the impact of a recent decision taken by the leadership, which has improved behaviour.

But this is categorically not the same as judging a teacher, or even the teaching, and especially not a lesson overall, by evaluating the performance of the teacher in a lesson or a part of a lesson. Making a judgement about the quality of teaching, based on a wide variety of evidence gathered in the classroom and elsewhere, is not the same as judging how well a teacher performed. I know this may sound like splitting hairs – but it is an important difference.

Inspectors should not grade an aspect such as teaching, unless circumstances are exceptional, without considering the broad range of evidence that they can gather during a visit to a lesson – for example, the behaviour of the students and how well they are managed, subject knowledge, the standard of work completed in books, the quality of marking and so on – and use this to come to a view about what teaching is like for those students and its impact on their learning over time.

I was speaking to a colleague today, one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors. He reminded me it is all about outcomes and that it does work both ways. In a classroom he was in recently, a teacher produced, literally, an all-singing, all-dancing lesson. There was music, comedy, costumes, games, ‘thinking hats’, and all with clear objectives on the whiteboard. He recorded a teaching quality grade of inadequate. Not because of the ‘performance’ on the day but because students’ graffiti-strewn books hadn’t been marked for six months and work was shoddy or incomplete. In contrast, he graded teaching as outstanding in a classroom where students sat reading in silence because of the exceptional quality of students’ work and the teacher’s marking in exercise books. He told both teachers what his conclusions were.

Moreover, inspectors will visit lessons for a variety of reasons. This can include looking at whether good literacy is promoted, to check on particular students’ standards, following a group of students to check on their attitudes to learning in different contexts, or how effectively additional staff support students with special educational needs. They can also gather evidence about teaching outside of lessons – and frequently do – by speaking to students, looking at planning, undertaking work scrutiny and talking to senior leaders.

And however the evidence about teaching across the school is gathered and evaluated, inspectors must not simply aggregate the grades awarded when evaluating teaching. It says this very clearly in the published handbook for inspectors. They must take a view based on what they have seen in the school during the inspection alongside, for example, the school’s own view of teaching across the school and other performance data.

So in short:

n  Inspectors should not give an overall grade for the lesson and nor should teachers expect one.

n  If asked, inspectors will provide feedback to individuals on what they have observed, including the evidence they have gathered about teaching.

n  They can share the grade for the evidence gathered about teaching, or other aspects, with an individual teacher. In most instances, it should include evidence about what is routine rather than one-off.

n  Inspectors must ensure that this feedback does not seem to constitute a view about whether the teacher is a ‘good’ teacher or otherwise, or if they ‘taught a good lesson’ or otherwise. The feedback they give is confidential.

n  Teachers need to understand this too, as they often clamour to know what ‘grade’ they got. I understand why they want to know, and it can be difficult to differentiate between a grade for teaching and a grade for the teacher. I accept that we may need to do more here.

n  Evidence gathered directly or indirectly about individual teachers by inspectors should never be used by the school for performance management purposes.

n  Inspection is about evaluating the quality of education provided by the school, by considering a range of evidence, and not about evaluating, individually or collectively, the performance of teachers through short lesson observations.

Too often, it seems to me, inspectors’ visits to lessons are confused with the ones carried out by headteachers whose purpose may be to identify professional development needs or performance management. This is particularly the case with newly qualified teachers, where inspectors and course tutors or mentors are not gathering evidence for the same purpose. Inspectors need to know what the quality of teaching is like across a whole school, and how teachers are supported.

On average, inspectors may spend only 25 minutes or so in each lesson. It would be nonsensical to suggest that an Ofsted inspector could give a definitive validation of a teacher’s professional competency in such a short time. We are not in the business of handing out badges that say ‘You are an outstanding teacher’ or the opposite. We leave that to others, who will use their own and other evidence to come to a conclusion. We would not expect any other professional, for example a surgeon, to be judged by peers on a single 25 minute observation of their work.

We have set much of this out in in our inspection handbook and guidance to schools and inspectors alike. But, if needed, we will revisit this in the next few weeks to make it clearer still for inspectors, teachers and heads.

Finally, if instructing inspectors to feed back on the range of evidence used to arrive at a judgement without giving a numerical teaching ‘grade’ would help, or even removing the grade for teaching on the evidence form altogether, then I am prepared to consider it. We might, for instance, just ask inspectors to note all their evidence gathered about teaching, and then bring it all together at the end of the inspection in a plenary before discussing the single overall judgement on teaching with the school.

Mike Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s National Director, Schools. 



Appendix 2




Factsheet: Progress 8 measure

2014 and 2015

In 2014 and 2015, the Department will continue to publish a similar range of information as included in the current performance tables. The headline accountability measure will be five A*-C grades, including in English and mathematics.

In 2014 and 2015 the reforms recommended by the Wolf Review will apply to performance measures. In particular, this means that no qualification can count for more than one GCSE, and no more than two approved high-value vocational qualifications can count in performance tables.

Progress 8

Progress 8 will be introduced for all schools in 2016 (based on 2016 exam results, with the Progress 8 score showing in performance tables published in late 2016/early 2017).

The Progress 8 measure is designed to encourage schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum at KS4, and reward schools for the teaching of all their pupils.  The new measure will be based on students’ progress measured across eight subjects: English; mathematics; three other English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects (sciences, computer science, geography, history and languages); and three further subjects, which can be from the range of EBacc subjects, or can be any other approved, high-value arts, academic, or vocational qualification. From 2016, the floor standard will be based on schools’ results on the Progress 8 measure.

Other information will be available about schools, including the following headline measures of performance:

–       Attainment 8 – showing pupils’ average achievement in the same suite of subjects as the Progress 8 measure.

–       English and mathematics – the percentage of pupils achieving a C grade or better in both English (either Language or Literature) and mathematics.

–       The EBacc – showing the percentage of pupils achieving good grades across a range of academic subjects (further information about this measure is below).

Schools will be able to ‘opt in’ to the new accountability system, so that they are held to account based on new performance measures one year early (based on 2015 exam results). Further information about this will be available shortly.

How many qualifications will count towards the Progress 8 measure

Although Progress 8 encourages students to take eight qualifications, this is not compulsory.  If a student has fewer than eight qualifications or the qualifications they do sit are not on the list of subjects which count towards Progress 8, they will score 0 points for the unfilled slots.

The Progress 8 score will always be determined by dividing the points total by 10 (the eight qualifications with English and mathematics counting double), regardless of how many qualifications the student sits or in which subjects.

It can be of more benefit to less-able students to strive for good grades (and hence score more points) in fewer subjects, with the emphasis on doing well in English and mathematics, than to take more subjects but achieve lower grades overall.

Qualifications that will count towards the Progress 8 measure

All full-course GCSEs count towards the Progress 8 measure, along with approved, high-value qualifications.

English Baccalaureate qualifications

Only qualifications that count towards the EBacc can be included in the Progress 8 slots reserved for English, mathematics, and the three ‘EBacc slots’.

There are no stipulations about the types of EBacc subjects which can count in the three EBacc slots. Any combination of EBacc subjects can be used to fill these slots, e.g. biology, chemistry physics; computer science, French, German; history, geography, Spanish.

For a list of qualifications that count towards the EBacc, see: English Baccalaureate: eligible qualifications.  This list will be amended shortly to show the qualifications eligible for 2016 performance measures – the amended list will be similar, but will take into account new qualifications that meet the criteria to be included for the EBacc and it will include acceptable English Literature qualifications.

Other approved qualifications

Up to three vocational qualifications can count towards the Progress 8 measure. As the Progress 8 measure will comprise eight subjects rather than the five in the current headline measure of school performance, it is proportionate to increase the number of vocational qualifications that will be allowed from two to three.

In the open group of subjects, any GCSE can count, or any of the high-value, approved vocational and academic qualifications shown at this link: Vocational qualifications for 14- to 19-year olds.


Discounting codes will apply to qualifications that cover similar subject matter.  For further information about discounting, see: RAISEonline: further details of the revised performance tables qualifications and discount rules from 2014.

Double-weighting of English

If a student sits both English Language and English Literature, the higher grade is double-weighted.  The lower grade will still count in the ‘open group’ of subjects (not in the EBacc slots).  The combined English Language and Literature qualification will be available for the last time in 2016 and will count double in the Progress 8 measure on the basis that there is an element of Literature study in the qualification.

Science subjects

All students have to study some science up to the age of 16. The KS4 science curriculum is compulsory in maintained schools and academies are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum (including English, mathematics and science up to the age of 16.)

Double science will count as two slots, and core and additional science GCSE will take up one slot each in the Progress 8 measure.  Core science GCSE alone will only count as one slot.  Separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry, physics and computer science each count as one slot.  All these qualifications will count in the EBacc slots in this measure. Students who are capable of achieving good grades should be encouraged to sit individual science subjects.

Changes to science GCSEs

From 2016, there will be no GCSE Single Award in Combined Science, and so this qualification will not be reported from 2018 performance tables onward.  The Department will be consulting on new science GCSEs in spring 2014 for teaching from 2016.  It is expected that these will offer more challenging content than the present courses.

EBacc measure

The EBacc measure will continue to be reported once Progress 8 is in place.

The EBacc recognises the success of those young people who attain GCSEs, or accredited versions of established iGCSEs, at grades A*- C across a core of academic subjects – English, mathematics, geography or history, the sciences and a language.  To fulfil the EBacc, a pupil would need A*-C in English, mathematics, two sciences, a humanities and a language.

To achieve the science element of EBacc, students need to achieve A*-C in core and additional science or be examined in three of biology, chemistry, physics and computer science and achieve A*-C in two of these subjects.  Computer science has recently been added to this list.

Further advice on secondary accountability reforms

For the government response to the consultation on secondary school accountability published on 14 October 2013, see: Consultation response: secondary school accountability consultation. Also available on this webpage is the January 2014 government update on the Progress 8 measure, including information about the point score system and position of English Literature in the Progress 8 measure.

The final methodology for calculating the Progress 8 measure will be published later this term.

© Crown copyright February 2014

Tony Stephens

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