China’s children leave Britain’s behind
A feature in the Sunday Times looking at education in China and the UK, focusing in particular on the talent of four-year-old child prodigy Mimi Zou. With more British schools opening branches in the Far East and growing numbers of Chinese children coming to study at independent schools here, the newspaper reports that the difference in attitude between British and Chinese pupils is becoming impossible to ignore. Reference is made to Harrow, Dulwich and Brighton College which have opened branches abroad. Barnaby Lenon, chairman of ISC and former head at Harrow, and John Newton, head at Taunton School, are quoted.
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Proposals to scrap AS levels
Head teachers have warned that a return to traditional A-levels would leave pupils unsure about how they are doing and risk them losing places at leading universities. Proposals by Ofqual to scrap modular A-levels, spelling the end for the AS level, were revealed by the Sunday Telegraph last week. Research by Ofqual indicates universities believe the modular structure of A-levels and numerous resits has led to students struggling with degree level work. However they will be opposed by the National Association of Head Teachers and have also been criticised by independent schools. Heads claimed that introducing a single exam at the end of two years, which has the backing of Michael Gove, would be a backward step. Dr William Richardson, general secretary of HMC, is quoted, saying universities valued the evidence of attainment provided by AS grades and they should be kept but reformed. Back to top
Academies failing middle class pupils
A report in the Times in which it is revealed that academies are failing their middle class pupils. According to the analysis by the House of Commons library, the children of middle class parents achieve far worse GCSE results and make less progress than their peers in other state schools. Experts believe the schools’ emphasis on improving the results of pupils from deprived backgrounds has been at the expense of stretching those who come from well-educated households. The findings will disappoint academy supporters who have promoted the schools’ success as a way to draw middle-class children back into inner-city comprehensives and broaden their social mix. The report implies that children from middle-class families may do better if their parents reject their local academy.
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New fines for GCSE and A-level exam errors
New powers to fine exam boards for GCSE and A-level blunders have come into effect. Under new legislation, Ofqual will be able to levy fines totaling up to 10 per cent of an exam board's annual turnover. In recent years serious mistakes have made it impossible for candidates to answer some questions. As exam boards have annual turnovers of up to £200m, this could mean levying fines of £20m. Back to top
U-turn signalled on no-notice inspections
Michael Gove has signalled a U-turn over plans for "no-notice" inspections of schools after an outcry from heads. Mr Gove gave the clearest indication yet that they would be dropped when Ofsted announces its reforms to the school inspection system later this summer. Back to top
Ofsted chief criticised
The new Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has come under attack by head teachers who have accursed him of introducing a "climate of fear" in schools. Back to top
Staying in education makes people smarter later in life
Staying longer in education makes people smarter and results in superior memory skills later in life, according to research by Professor James Banks of Manchester University. The disclosure comes amid mounting pressure on young people to stay in school, college or on-the-job training for longer. From next year, the education leaving age in England increases from 16 to 17, while teenagers will be required to remain in some form of training to the age of 18 from 2015. Back to top
Literacy and numeracy
New literacy tests for primary children under threat
Heads are planning to boycott two new literacy tests for primary school children, putting the future of the tests into doubt. Delegates at the NAHT conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of refusing to co-operate with a compulsory new test of 11-year-olds' spelling, grammar and punctuation, set to be introduced next year by Michael Gove. Russell Hobby, the union's general secretary, also warned that heads would also pull the plug on a new reading test for six-year-olds next summer if there was any attempt to publish school-by-school results. Back to top
Church schools favour Muslims, Jews and other religions
Church schools are giving preference to Muslims, Jews and members of other religions over occasional churchgoers and irreligious families because they consider any faith is preferable to none, the Sunday Times has revealed. The policy means families who go to church only for Christmas, weddings and funerals can be last in the queue at a church school, behind non-Christians. The Church of England has argued however that it is trying to be “inclusive” and reflect multicultural communities.
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Lord Adonis: Give free childcare to poorest children
Free childcare should be provided to the poorest children to encourage their parents to get jobs, according to Lord Adonis, an education minister under Labour. Lord Adonis also said that free nursery places should be extended to all two-year-olds. Addressing the Munich Economic Summit, he said the Labour Government had deliberately taken money from universities to put into education for children under five instead.
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Special Educational Needs
Children wrongly diagnosed with special needs to cover for poor parenting
Experts have warned that children are wrongly being diagnosed as suffering from special needs to cover for poor parenting. Almost 1.7m schoolchildren in England currently have some form of special educational needs requiring special attention from teachers. In some schools, more than half of pupils are registered as suffering from problems affecting their ability to play a full part in lessons or activities. The coverage follows last Friday’s item in the TES examining Ofsted’s claims that schools use special educational needs statements as a way to cover up poor teaching. Back to top
Bankruptcy risk for British universities
Up to 15 British universities could become bankrupt in the next few years because of the introduction of the £9,000 tuition fee. The prediction comes from Peter Dolton, an economics professor from the University of Sussex, in an address to the Munich Economic Summit. He said there would be an unraveling of the market, with more students heading abroad.
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What they said
Steven Gerrard: Make cookery teaching compulsory
The Guardian reports that Steven Gerrard has teamed up with medical experts and academics to demand that cooking and food education should remain compulsory for all children aged five to 14 to help fight obesity. Back to top
Guardian education section
This week’s Guardian education section includes a feature on the Birmingham head teachers who say they are being forced to convert to academy status even though their schools are showing signs of real improvement. There is also feature on body image, looking at a new course aiming to tackle the issue at primary level, and an interview with Professor Patrick McGhee, the new chair of the university thinktank, Million+. Back to top
Millionaire couple seeks tutor for world trip on yacht
The Sunday Times has reported that a millionaire couple are seeking a tutor to join them aboard their yacht to teach their children as they sail the world. The pair are looking for a university-leaver to sail across the world with them as an on-board tutor for their two young children. Included are a tax-free salary and a free berth, clothing and meals on the yacht, the Silver Lining. Adverts have been placed on careers websites at universities including Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and Harvard.
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