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Academy and School News Update, March 16 – April 7 2015

 

Documents mentioned below can be found on http://tonystephens.org.uk

 

 

Availability of unreformed GCSEs and A levels in 2015

Once a new qualification is introduced the existing or ‘legacy’ version will no longer be available. Ofqual has decided that this must happen as soon as possible in subjects where legacy qualifications have a direct replacement in the reformed qualifications for first teaching in 2015. For example, the existing GCSE mathematics will be replaced directly by the reformed GCSE mathematics. Summer 2016 will see the final award of those qualifications that are being replaced by reformed versions to be first taught from 2015; so the last teaching of a two-year course in these legacy subjects began this autumn.

Ofqual has decided that a small number of qualifications will also be withdrawn, in addition to those being replaced directly by reformed ones. This is because the qualifications in these subjects are too similar to one or more of the subjects being reformed for first teaching in 2015. These subjects are:

  • AS and A levels in applied art and design
  • AS and A levels in applied business
  • AS and A level in human biology
  • AS and A level in economics and business (combined course
  • GCSE digital communication.

It is recognised that this decision comes at a time when schools and colleges may already have planned which subjects they will offer next year. It has therefore been decided to phase the implementation of this withdrawal. This is to allow those schools and colleges that are already teaching these qualifications, and may need to make changes to what they plan to teach, the opportunity to do so; this opportunity will only be available to this limited group of schools and colleges. This means any school or college that has offered these qualifications previously can continue to do so for one further year, if their exam board plans to continue to make this qualification available. Schools or colleges in this position should contact their exam board to confirm whether they will continue to offer specific qualifications they want to teach. This means that the final awards of these qualifications will be in summer 2017, but that this will only be available to schools and colleges that have previously offered them.

In Ofqual’s consultation it listed a number of subjects that could be withdrawn because they overlap with subjects in which reformed qualifications will be offered from 2015. Ofqual has decided that not all of these subjects will be withdrawn. The subjects concerned are the AS and A levels in:

  • applied science
  • environmental studies
  • humanities
  • science in society.

These subjects may continue to be offered by exam boards. However all GCSEs and A levels will need to be reformed in time for first teaching from 2017 or they will be withdrawn. This means that if exam boards wish to continue to offer them, they will need to decide to develop reformed qualifications in these subjects. If reformed qualifications are to be offered in these subjects in future, they will need to be developed to meet all the expectations for new GCSEs and A levels

   Reforming GCSEs, AS and A levels for 2017

Ofqual announced in December 2014  that any subject not reformed for first teaching in 2015 or 2016 must either be withdrawn from 2017 or be reformed for first teaching in 2017. This means that all GCSEs, AS and A levels in subjects that either have not been reformed for first teaching in 2015 and 2016, or that exam boards have not proposed for reform by 2017 will be withdrawn from 2017 onwards.

Ofqual has now agreed that Exam Boards can go ahead and draft specs in these subjects, although they will only be accepted for full delivery if they prove to meet all the Ofqual requirements:

GCSE

  • Ancient History
  • Astronomy
  • Business
  • Classical civilisations
  • Economics
  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Film Studies
  • ICT
  • Media Studies
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Statistics

A/AS

  • Accounting
  • Ancient history
  • Archaeology
  • Classical civilisations
  • Critical Thinking, (AS only)
  • Electronics
  • Environmental Science
  • Film Studies
  • General Studies
  • Geology
  • Government and Politics
  • History of Art
  • ICT
  • Law
  • Media Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Quantitative methods
  • Statistics

Proposed subjects still under review

For the subjects listed below, Ofqual do not at this stage have confidence that content can be developed that will meet its principles. It has invited exam boards to submit additional evidence to support their proposals for these subjects. Once it has reviewed that evidence, it will confirm whether it has sufficient confidence in these proposals for subject development to proceed.

GCSE

  • Environmental and land based science
  • Geology
  • Health and social care
  • Home economics- Child development

A/AS

  • Creative writing
  • Health and social care
  • International development
  • Music technology

 

Subjects that will not be reformed in 2017

GCSEs, AS and A levels in subjects that have either not been reformed for first teaching in 2015 and 2016, or that exam boards have not proposed for reform by 2017 will be withdrawn from 2017 onwards. Exam boards have not put forward proposals to develop reformed content requirements for the subjects listed below. This means that qualifications in these subjects will not be available for teaching from September 2017 onwards. Unreformed qualifications in some of the subjects listed below will be withdrawn sooner than 2017 because they are being replaced by reformed qualifications that will be introduced in 2015 or 2016.

GCSE

  • Additional and further additional science
  • Additional applied science
  • Applied business
  • Applied science
  • Business and communications systems
  • Business studies and economics
  • Catering
  • Digital communications
  • Environmental science
  • Expressive arts
  • Home economics- food and nutrition
  • Home economics- textiles
  • Hospitality and catering
  • Human health and psychology
  • Humanities
  • Leisure and tourism
  • Law
  • Manufacturing
  • Performing arts

A/AS

  • Anthropology
  • Applied art and design
  • Applied business
  • Applied ICT
  • Applied science
  • Citizenship studies
  • Communications and culture
  • Economics and business
  • Home economics- food, nutrition and health
  • Human biology
  • Humanities
  • Leisure studies
  • Media- communication and production
  • Performance studies
  • Performing Arts
  • Pure mathematics
  • Science in society
  • Travel and tourism
  • Use of mathematics, (AS)

 

Withdrawing unreformed qualifications in 2017

Ofqual has decided that existing or ‘legacy’ GCSE, AS and A levels offered in subjects that are not being reformed for 2017 will be withdrawn from September 2017. This means that unreformed qualifications will be assessed for the last time in summer 2018. The last cohort of students taking these qualifications will begin their studies in September 2016. For subjects in which reformed qualifications are being developed, the legacy version will be withdrawn when the new, replacement version of the qualification is introduced. For example, the existing GCSE psychology qualifications would be replaced directly by reformed GCSE psychology. In subjects being reformed for 2017, legacy qualifications will be withdrawn at the same time as qualifications in those subjects that are not being reformed. So again, this means that the last cohort of students taking these qualifications will begin their studies in September 2016.4 The last exam date for these legacy qualifications will be 2018 for students taking GCSEs and A levels, and 2017 for students taking legacy AS qualifications.

Withdrawing unreformed qualifications in 2016

Once a new qualification is introduced, the existing, or ‘legacy’ version will no longer be available. New GCSEs, AS and A levels are being introduced for a number of subjects for first teaching in 2016. Legacy qualifications currently offered in these subjects will be replaced by new qualifications based on updated content requirements. The last cohort taking one of these legacy qualifications will begin their studies this September (2015). Ofqual has also decided that when reformed qualifications are introduced in these subjects in 2016, a small number of unreformed qualifications will also be withdrawn, in addition to those being directly replaced. These are:

GCSE

  • Additional applied science
  • Catering
  • D and t- food technology
  • Expressive Arts
  • Home economics- food and nutrition
  • Human health and psychology
  • Humanities
  • Performing arts

A/AS

  • Performance studies
  • Performing Arts

Note

Ofqual is currently considering the rules about re-sits for subjects being withdrawn and will consult on these later this year.

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  • Ofqual has published a consultation proposing a new framework describing all regulated qualifications in England and vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland. This consultation follows its decision announced last year to withdraw the rules governing the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), which, the evidence showed, often inhibited good qualification design. It is proposing that in the future all regulated qualifications should be described by a new ‘Framework of Regulated Qualifications’. Under the proposed new approach, qualifications would no longer have to be unitised or credit-bearing, but could be if that was the best way for the qualification to meet its purpose. Each qualification would be allocated a level to help students, colleges, employers and others to understand its level of demand. Qualifications would also be allocated a size, providing clear information about the typical time it should take to complete the qualification.

A copy of the consultation is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

  • Ofqual has announced that it has selected the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to develop and deliver the new National Reference Tests. Ofqual is introducing the new National Reference Tests to provide additional information to support the awarding of GCSEs. The purpose of the tests is to provide evidence on changes in performance standards over time in GCSE English language and mathematics in England at the end of Year 11. The tests will provide an anchor for GCSE standards and should make it possible to see over several years if there is genuine change in how students perform. Pupils from about 300 schools a year will be asked to sit these extra tests in maths or English in the final run-up to their GCSEs,
  • Schools and local authorities across England will collectively save around £4 million after a copyright deal was struck for rights to the use of music in schools. Previously licences for the use of music had to be bought individually by schools and local authorities. Now the government has agreed a deal to hold the copyright licences centrally. The copyright licences will cover a wide variety of uses of music, including the recording of pupils’ performances on CD and DVD, school discos, radios in the staffroom and even holding music for telephones. The latest deals follow previous agreements over the past 2 years on rights to use films, TV shows and newspapers in schools. The total potential savings for schools and councils as a result of dealing with copyright centrally will be up to £16.5 million per year. The new deals – which will come into effect from next month – have been struck with the Performing Right Society (PRS), Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) and CCLI. Meanwhile, the Copyright Licensing Agency licence, the Schools Printed Music licence and the Newspaper Licensing Agency licence have been extended for a further 5 years.
  • Leading graduates with PhDs are being offered salaries of up to £40,000 to work in schools, in a government drive to attract some of the best brains into the classroom on to the 2-year on-the-job school training programme, Researchers in Schools. Applications for the 2015 to 2016 recruitment window are open until Monday 4 May.
  • Overall student absence rates have decreased from 5.3 per cent in 2012/13 to 4.5 per cent in 2013/14. This is due to a decrease in authorised absence rates from 4.2 per cent in 2012/13 to 3.5 per cent in 2013/14. Unauthorised absence rates have remained stable at 1.1 per cent. The number of pupil enrolments classified as persistent absentees has also decreased The percentage of pupils classified as persistent absentees has decreased by 1.0 percentage points from 4.6 per cent in 2012/13, to 3.6

A copy of the summary of 2013-2014 attendance figures is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

  • One in 10 children has a diagnosable mental health disorder – around 3 children in every classroom. The DfE has announced in response:
    • new guidance for schools, produced in conjunction with the PSHE Association, which will help schools provide age-appropriate teaching on mental health problems from anxiety and depression to eating disorders and self-harm.  The association will be publishing lesson plans covering key stage 1 to key stage 4 next term for first use in schools by September 2015. The guidance and lesson plans are not statutory – it will be for schools to decide how to use and incorporate them within their existing curriculum
    • a new blueprint for schools on counselling services, developed in conjunction with children and young people, which provides headteachers with practical advice on how to deliver top-quality school-based counselling services that meet the needs of those it intends to support
    • a multi-million-pound funding injection for voluntary organisations to boost support on offer for young people struggling with mental health – a new funding commitment worth £4.9 million – through the government’s voluntary and community sector funding programme

A copy of the guidance and also DfE guidance on mental health and also counselling are available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

  • A central list of post-16 courses which will make it easier for young people to make choices about their future has moved a step closer to reality after a guide for providers was published by the DfE. From September 2015, the post-16 courses database will hold comprehensive details of education and training courses across the country. The operational guide as published sets out the information education and training providers must supply for the database.

A copy of the guide is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

  • Schools are to publish childcare provision alongside school performance tables. The information will include what childcare is on offer in primary and secondary schools: ranging from full-time nurseries to holiday and after-school provision. Information on schools’ childcare will be gathered by the department and their performance tables will be updated with this information from next year. The provision of childcare will not be included in the assessment of a school’s performance. The DfE is supporting Teach First to increase the number of Early Years trainees it recruits for 2015 to 2016 from 38 to 82. The government is also working with digital developers to create a new website or app to provide a one-stop-shop for parents in finding childcare arrangements.
  • Plans to support the creation of a new, independent college of teaching and a new fund to champion more high-quality professional development for teachers, have been announced by the DfE, including:
    • making funding available to the ‘claim your college’ consortium – a coalition of leading organisations in the education sector – to support them in their endeavour to establish an independent college of teaching, which will be owned and led by the teaching profession
    • providing up to £5 million to establish the first phase of a new professional development fund – to support more high-quality, evidence-based and rigorously evaluated professional development programmes, delivered by the growing network of 650 leading teaching schools
    • establishing an expert group to develop a new standard for teachers’ professional development, helping teachers to become better informed about the types of professional development that make a real difference – the group will be chaired by David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust
    • working with the sector to develop and deliver a new online professional development portal – allowing teachers to access and share properly evaluated and quality-assured evidence and research about the approaches to professional development that will deliver the most impact
    • it is expected that the new college of teaching might take on greater responsibility for areas such as professional standards and continuous professional development, should it so wish, thus moving stewardship of the profession out of the hands of the government and to the profession.
    • teaching schools will be able to bid for funding of up to £300,000 to design and deliver projects working in partnership with other schools – particularly those that need the greatest additional support. Evaluations of these projects will be made freely accessible to all teachers, helping to build a strong evidence base.
  • The NEET figures for each LA for 2014 have been published. Overall, the figures show the proportion of 16- to 18-year-olds NEET has fallen by 0.6 percentage points to 4.7% in the last 12 months.

A copy of this document is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

 

  • More than £1 million to help schools across England recruit highly-skilled governors has been announced. The funding, provided by the DfE will support a new partnership between SGOSS – Governors for Schools and the Education and Employers Taskforce, to recruit and place more high-calibre governors in schools. An online tool will be developed to help more schools search for suitable volunteers and more bespoke support will be available to the schools that find it the hardest to recruit the experienced governors they need. SGOSS – Governors for Schools and the Education and Employers Taskforce are founding members of the Inspiring Governors Alliance – an initiative launched by the DfE in May 2014 to inspire more high-calibre people to:
    • volunteer as governors
    • raise awareness among employers about the benefits of supporting their staff to be governors
    • encourage more governing bodies to actively recruit governors based on their skills

The alliance and its aims are supported by the school leaders’ unions ASCL and NAHT, as well as the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and employer bodies including the CBI.

  • The DfE has revised, “Working together to safeguard children- A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children”

A copy of this document and other new safeguarding documents are available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

 

  • The DfE has issued, “The constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools-  statutory guidance for governing bodies of maintained schools and local authorities in England”

A copy of this document is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

 

  • The DfE has issued, “Careers guidance and inspiration in schools, statutory guidance for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff”

A copy of this document
is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

 

  • The DfE has published, “Progress 8 measure in 2016 and 2017- guide for maintained secondary schools, academies and free schools

A copy of this document is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

  • Ofsted has published, “Inspecting safeguarding in maintained schools and academies- briefing for section 5 inspections” This briefing paper aims to support inspectors in reviewing schools’ safeguarding arrangements when carrying out section 5 inspections.

A copy of this document is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

 

 

  • The government is once more making scholarships available for school business managers (SBMs) to receive funding towards an accredited SBM programme. To be eligible, applicants must undertake their studies with an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) approved provider (see the ILM website), be employed in a state funded school in England as SBM/bursar or equivalent, and intend to start the programme in spring/summer 2015. The scholarship covers part of the programme costs; candidates will need to fund additional costs. Closing date is 10 April. The application form and guidance notes can be found on the NCTL website
  • Funding guidance for 2015-16 has now been published by the EFA. A significant change is the qualifying period for a student to count for funding. Previously it was six weeks for programmes of 24 weeks or more and two weeks for programmes of less than 24 weeks; a six week qualifying period to any programmes of 450 hours or more, even if they are less than 24 weeks, is now being applied.

A copy of this document is available on the above website, Documents- Latest documents

 

 

NUT Conference

  • The union’s executive has proposed a ballot on strike and non-strike action, should the next government fail to address school funding cuts. All of the main political parties’ spending plans could lead to job losses as schools struggle to balance the books, the NUT has warned. But the union rejected a call for a “calendar of escalating national strike action”, as well as public campaigning inspired by the Chicago teacher strikes of 2012. This saw tens of thousands of teachers take to the streets of America’s third largest city and go on strike for seven working days in a row.
  • An amendment put to the NUT conference demands a doubling of designated planning, preparation and assessment time to 20 per cent of a teacher’s timetable, as well as a £2,000 pay rise for all teachers and maximum class sizes to be introduced.
  • The NUT has voted to ballot for a boycott of new baseline assessments for four-year-olds.
  • The NUT conference also heard the exam reforms in the secondary sector had resulted in “excessive workload for teachers and poorer life chances for the students in their care”.
  • A separate motion criticised GCSE reforms. From 2017, students will be graded from 9-1 instead of A*-G. The move, the conference heard, was “flawed, disingenuous and a clear attempt to encourage an elitist education system which seriously disadvantages some of our most vulnerable students”.
  • The union also criticised the £241 million spent on 42 free schools “in areas with no forecast need for extra places”, as well as the fact sixth-form colleges are liable for VAT costs which schools are exempt from.
  • Family holidays are becoming the “preserve of the middle classes” because of new penalties for parents that take children out of school in term time
    • Headteachers are to be urged to increase the number of black and ethnic minority teachers they employ in the wake of figures showing few are coming forward into teaching. The NUT is to write to every headteacher in England and Wales asking them to ensure their teaching staff reflect the communities they serve.
    • Students’ potential is being “wasted” due to a rising number of parents pulling their child out of GCSE based on the cost of expensive field trips or equipment – rather than on their academic ambitions.
    • Teachers are under pressure to be “frontline stormtroopers” and spy on students suspected of extremist links. The Prevent strategy was “shutting down debate” in schools, with teachers reluctant to discuss controversial topics with their students. Prevent is the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy. Launched after 9/11 it aims to get teachers and other professionals to work together to stop young people becoming sympathetic to extremism.  The focus on British values by Ofsted was also proving detrimental to schools, delegates were told.
      • Pupils should be taught a “positive portrayal” of same sex relationships in school sex education policies as a means of promoting equality. Delegates overwhelmingly approved the motion on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) rights, asking that “a future government must tackle the embedded homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that exists in schools and create a positive climate of understanding about sexuality and gender fit for the 21st century. “This must include a commitment to make it easier to discuss ideas about sexuality and gender so that students and teachers are more confident to identify as LGBT and work in schools without fear of prejudice.”
      • The union warns it will take industrial action against bullying headteachers, claiming many school staff are working in an “atmosphere of fear”. School leaders are resorting to bullying tactics due to pressure from government, Ofsted and league tables. The union passed a resolution raising concerns about “the growing hostility by some headteachers to elected union secretaries and officers in other associations”.
      • Parents should be seeking to find out whether their children’s school contains asbestos now deaths from the disease are rising. Figures show the number of UK teachers dying from mesothelioma has risen to 22 a year – the highest rate in the world.  This is up from just three in 1980. In addition, expert advice given to the Commons select committee on education estimate up to 300 former pupils a year die of the disease through contact with asbestos at school.

·         A combination of poor pay, rising house prices and massive student debts are making it hard for teachers to have decent living conditions

NASUWT Conference

  • Teachers are increasingly concerned about the use of CCTV and video equipment to “spy on” their lessons
  • A survey by the union has found almost one in four teachers had personally brought in food for hungry pupils. Fifty-six per cent said their school had given food to pupils and 69 per cent said they had seen pupils coming to school hungry. Some 32 per cent said they had taught pupils who were living in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels.
    • The union leader has called for an end to headteachers paying themselves “six-figure sums” while blocking teachers’ pay progression. General secretary Chris Keates claimed two-thirds of teachers had been refused pay progression in schools while heads were increasing their salaries in secret
    • The union unanimously passed a motion in support of potentially backing “continuing industrial action” over teachers’ pay, if the issue is not addressed by the next government.
    • NASUWT delegates unanimously passed a motion condemning “excessive workload and working hours”, which it said was adversely affecting teachers’ health and wellbeing and contributing to a “growing crisis” in recruitment.
    • A motion was passed which says:  “All children and young people across the UK are entitled to be taught by qualified teachers.”
      • Most teachers do not know how their school is spending money from the government’s pupil premium fund, and are not involved in helping decide this
      • Parents and students are increasingly targeting teachers with racist, sexist, homophobic and abusive comments on social media, according to research by the NASUWT teaching union. A survey found that 60 per cent of almost 1,500 respondents had been victims of negative comments online, up from 21 per cent last year. And there had been a “significant” rise in comments made by parents, the union said, with the proportion of teachers who had been abused online by parents at 40 per cent, up from 27 per cent last year.
      • “Tyrannical” marking regimes that dictate how often schoolwork should be marked and in what colour pen are “undermining” teachers’ professionalism; schools are using fear of Ofsted to impose highly-prescriptive marking policies.  “Conference should be gravely concerned that in too many schools over-engineered, imposed and impossible marking regimes are being used in support of highly subjective and out-of-context judgements of teachers to unfairly and unscrupulously deny pay progression,”
      • Supply teachers face “exploitative” practices, are “bullied” by agencies and often struggle to find work. This comes after a survey by the union found 66 per cent of more than 1,000 supply teachers said they had been asked to sign agreements with offshore firms or umbrella companies. The union claims some supply agencies use these arrangements to avoid paying tax and National Insurance, and to “engage in exploitative employment practices”. The survey also found 77 per cent of teachers working for supply agencies said they had chosen to work for agencies because this was the only way they could find work. More than half (51 per cent) said they had faced problems in finding work, and 17 per cent said they had had to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance. Almost four in ten (38 per cent) said the amount of work available had declined since September 2010. The survey found 49 per cent of supply teachers were paid less than £120 per day. The union claims most schools are charged “well in excess of £180 per day for their services”.
      • The union claims teachers are increasingly facing “home invasion” in the form of an expectation that they will check and respond to emails outside working hours and during sick leave. A separate NASUWT survey of 1,500 teachers found 73 per cent received work-related emails outside school hours, up from 69 per cent in 2014. Almost half (49 per cent) received emails during sick leave, up from 43 per cent last year. Thirty-two per cent said they were expected to communicate with parents or carers by email in their own time, up from to 25 per cent in 2014.
      • Teachers are afraid to ask for support to deal with badly behaved pupils because of a “blame game” in which they fear being personally criticised when students misbehave; some schools had an “endemic” culture that “seeks to cast blame on the teacher when a problem occurs”.
      • On 8 occasions last year, the union held ballots in schools where teachers voted not to teach violent or disruptive students who had not been expelled
      • Drinks such as Red Bull make children hyperactive in class, and there is a call for more restrictions on the drinks

 

ATL Conference

  • Schools with growing numbers of students who speak English as an additional language (EAL) will face an “unfair burden” unless they receive extra funding
  • Funding cuts could leave schools and colleges unable to meet their legal obligations to support disabled pupils. The warning came after research by the ATL found schools were providing a growing amount of support for disabled pupils, but were concerned that staff did not have the expertise or training to properly meet the needs of these children
  • Schools are increasingly using unqualified support staff to teach lessons, including GCSE maths and English. The union passed a resolution raising concerns about the “misuse of support staff in schools to cover for teachers at short notice and for protracted periods”.
  • The union decided not to back a proposal in support of industrial action over pay
  • Almost two-fifths of teachers drop out within a year after finishing their training, as trainees realise teaching is “no career to enter”. According to the ATL’s analysis of government figures, in 2011, around 38 per cent of teachers were not in teaching a year after gaining qualified teaching status (QTS) – either never entering the profession in the first place or leaving after just 12 months. This compared to 20 per cent in 2005.
  • Teachers cannot always prevent the “horrific” abuse of children and should not be “criminalised” if they are unable to do so
  • Teachers also used the conference to raise concerns about the government’s demand for schools to promote “British values”.
  • More than a third of teachers say a colleague in their current school has been the victim of a false allegation by a student, according to a survey by the ATL union.  Over a fifth of teachers say a malicious accusation has been made by a pupil’s parent or family member, the poll adds.  The figures have prompted the union to demand that the government grant teachers and college staff anonymity until they are charged, in order to protect their reputation.
    • A survey by the ATL found that ninety per cent of those surveyed said they received no training on how to support young carers.
  • Pressure caused by league tables, floor targets and Ofsted inspections creates “anxious, stressed and disaffected pupils”, according to a new report. The research led by Merryn Hutchings, emeritus professor of education at London Metropolitan University, also argues that the current accountability system means students “receive a narrow education at the expense of a broad and balanced curriculum”.
  • School inspections produce inconsistent results and are too reliant on data, according to a respected former head of Ofsted. Sir Mike Tomlinson, chief schools inspector between 2000 and 2002, wants to see a debate about the future of inspection, raising new questions for the embattled watchdog.
  • More needs to be done to attract men into teaching, the head of Ucas has said, after figures revealed that women are still more than twice as likely to apply to enter the profession as men.
  • Top headteachers say they are being “penalised” by Ofsted for doing what the government wants and helping to turn around struggling schools. But Ofsted’s official policy is not to take this work into account when grading the quality of leadership during school inspections. The headteacher of a school in Stevenage, has worked with his leadership team to secure improvements in his own school and pull another secondary out of special measures within in a year. But despite this “crippling” effort, his school’s leadership grade dropped in its last Ofsted report. “Why would anybody work with another school?” he said.
  • Schools should brace themselves for cuts of up to 12 per cent over the next Parliament, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which says that commitments made by all three of the main parties were “much less generous” than suggested and could mean that spending would fall by 7 per cent in real terms between 2014-15 and 2019-20. But the cuts could rise to 12 per cent once increases in National Insurance and pension contributions and the likely growth in public sector earnings were taken into account.
  • More than half of secondary schools are planning to make staff redundant, axe courses or increase class sizes to stave off financial “disaster”. A poll of more than 1,000 secondary headteachers and senior leaders lays bare the financial pressures faced by schools across the country. More than four-fifths of respondents said their schools would not have enough funding to meet “essential needs” over the next 12 months. Some could even be forced to reduce opening hours to avoid insolvency. Planned savings over the next year included redundancies, a reduction in the number of courses on offer and increasing class sizes. Many schools are also proposing to cut spending on equipment and teachers’ CPD.
  • Ministers are calling on exam boards to re-consider their decision to axe a series of GCSEs and A-levels covering “non-traditional” languages. The AQA board has said it will scrap A-levels in Bengali, Modern Hebrew, Panjabi and Polish. OCR is to stop offering the A-level in Biblical Hebrew, and both GCSEs and A-levels in Dutch, Gujarati, Persian, Portuguese and Turkish. The boards say they have to make the cuts, due by 2017, because of low or declining entry levels and a shortage of the experienced examiners needed to set and mark papers.
  • Thousands of teachers across the country are to be given training and support to help them tackle homophobic bullying in schools. The government has pledged £2 million to help eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. The money will be used to finance teacher training, as well as projects to help pupils understand the dangers of prejudice.
  • Nicky Morgan has rejected calls for an independent commission of teachers and education experts to set the core curriculum. Ms Morgan said it was right for politicians to decide what was taught in the classroom because they were democratically accountable.
  • Ofsted would support a move towards a radically overhauled system in which it no longer carried out front-line school inspections, a senior official has said. Sean Harford, the watchdog’s national director for schools said that, in in 10 years’ time, schools could be assessed by each other under a peer-review system, rather than by inspectors. In this system, he said, Ofsted’s role would be to “moderate” judgements and to make sure the system was rigorous rather than being based on “cosy fireside chats between colleagues”. Mr Harford said Ofsted’s decision to dramatically increase the number of teachers that carried out its inspections “could be seen as a key staging post on this journey towards a fully realised self-improving system.”
  • Schools are increasingly preventing their lower-ability pupils from studying foreign languages, amid concerns that the courses are more difficult than others and less important than maths and science, according to new research.
  • The “Trojan Horse” affair revealed more problems with Ofsted and the DfE than it did with actual extremism within schools, an influential Parliamentary committee has concluded. As he launched the Commons Education Select Committee’s report into the affair, committee chairman Graham Stuart said: “One incident apart, no evidence of extremism or radicalisation was found by any of the inquiries in any of the schools involved. “Neither was there any evidence of a sustained plot, nor of significant problems in other parts of the country. “The Trojan Horse affair is less about extremism than about governance and the ability of local and central agencies to respond to whistle-blowers and to correct abuses of power within schools.”
  • Bright but disadvantaged teenagers are almost half as likely as their richer classmates to study – and get good grades – in the A-level subjects that will help them to gain places at the UK’s to universities, a study shows. They are also much less likely to get three A-levels in any subjects. The research also suggests that going to a decent nursery, reading for pleasure, attending an outstanding school, taking part in school trips and doing homework every day can boost a disadvantaged pupil’s chances of getting good results.
  • Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers have agreed to consider changing regulations that have led to school staff being banned from the classroom because of offences committed by relatives, spouses and flatmates.
  • Schools in the lowest-funded parts of the country will receive about £1.9 million less next year than those in the best-funded areas – enough to pay for 40 extra teachers, according to the Association of School and College Leaders.
  • Concerns have been raised after primary schools with poor rates of free school meal uptake missed out on a share of £8.5m in funding to support the improvement of kitchen and dining facilities – while others, who did not ask for the cash, have triumphed.
  • Primary school pupils could outnumber places in almost 40 per cent of council areas by September 2016, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned. Analysis by LGA of the Dfe’s school capacity and census surveys show that one in three (38%) local authorities are facing primary school place shortages in 2016/17. This figure increases to almost one in two (49%) in 2018/19. Including areas with middle schools the problem increases even more, with 61% of all areas facing place shortages by 2018/19.
  • New rules demanding governors publish a register of their interests online – including relationships with school staff – have been cautiously welcomed. Governors in local authority maintained schools will have to publish the register on their school’s websites from September. It includes relevant business interests, other schools they govern and relationships between governors and school staff, including spouses, partners and relatives. Any governor who fails to reveal the information could be suspended for bringing the governing body into disrepute. Academy governors have been required to publish a register since September last year.
  • The DfE has proposed measures for rating the performance of academy chains and local authorities, which would be published on an ongoing basis. Under the proposals, out for consultation, chains and councils would be given a score for the value they add to pupil attainment between key stages 2 and 4. The length of time an academy has been part of a chain would also be factored in, to account for the growing influence of an academy as time passes.
  • A document from the Budget says: “In education, evidence shows that the best performing schools focus their spending on teachers over the ‘back-office’. However, spending on back-office costs varies from £202 to £1,432 per pupil, and between 2003 and 2013 back-office spending per pupil in maintained schools increased by about 60 per cent in real terms. The Government intends to provide benchmarking information so that schools can compare spending, tools for parents to access spend information, and a pilot cost-comparison tool aimed at helping schools identify a target price for commonly purchased items. The report also proposed a secondary legislation change enabling academies to claim up to £750 more in gift aid through an increase in the ceiling for the gift aid small donations scheme (GASDS). The change increases the maximum amount that can be claimed through the GASDS, open to all charities including academies, from £5,000 to £8,000 per donor from April 2016.
  • Negligent schools and councils were forced to pay tens of millions of pounds in compensation to teachers last year, new figures show. The NASUWT teaching union alone secured compensation of £19.7m for its members during 2014.
  • New research suggests that 60 minutes of homework will bring the best results. In fact, forcing youngsters to continue working for more than 90 minutes could actually make their grades worse.

“Our data indicate that it is not necessary to assign huge quantities of homework, but it is important that assignment is systematic and regular, with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-regulated learning,”.

“Homework should not exclusively aim for repetition or revision of content, as this type of task is associated with less effort and lower results.”

  • There is evidence of the ATL and NUT working more closely together, and rumours that they could possibly merge sometime in the future

Tony Stephens

 

 

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